There’s been a lot of talk around here lately about mergers and brands getting friendly with each other. I have also seen this phenomenon in action recently! I just had the pleasure of taking an inaugural cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s new beauty, Allure of the Seas. While on board, I got a sneak peak of what excited cruise-goers will experience as the largest ship in the world sets sail in December. While everything on the ship was nothing short of amazing, one aspect which left me very wowed was the on board ‘brand experience’ available to the passengers. Put a little less fancily – the ship boasted many brand-name restaurants, shops and even entertainment productions, which was something I’d never seen on a cruise ship before.
It seems that Royal Caribbean is ahead of the co-branding trend as it acts as host to some of consumers’ favorite brands.
Day 1: I boarded the ship wide eyed and excited. While I would have been content enough with being out of the cold Chicago climate and into the warm Caribbean sun, I suddenly became even more excited. Why? Starbucks. That’s right: Starbucks had a front-and-center location on the Allure’s main stretch, the Boardwalk.
I’m a die-hard Starbucks fan and therefore am well versed in the thousands of locations the chain has on almost every street corner, but Starbucks at sea? I never saw that one coming! It turns out I wasn’t the only passenger on board who was delighted with Starbucks’ presence, because no matter the time of day Starbucks was always a hot spot and usually had a line to wait in – proof that people still want their Peppermint Mocha Latte even while on a cruise!
Day 2: One of the greatest parts of the Allure is the vast array of food choices. Gone are the days that a cruise equals buffet-style dining halls. The Allure of the Seas has around 24 options for hungry passengers, not to mention an additional 12 or so bars located around every corner of the ship. The choices range from Cupcake Cupboard to a Boardwalk Dog House and even a Brazilian Chop House!
The choices for food were endless and it was a tough decision, but guess where I ended up? At the branded restaurant, Johnny Rockets. Despite all of the great dining options on the ship, Johnny Rockets had a continuous stream of guests. Maybe because of the great food or maybe because of the central location on the main deck, but my guess is because of the recognizable name. People know Johnny Rockets and the diner-style American staple food (cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes) the establishment is known for. This was co-branding at its finest and was definitely reflected in the 45 minute wait I endured for lunch!
Day 3: The final day of paradise brought yet another brand experience to my fingertips. I had already explored a good portion of the ship but had yet to do one of my favorite things – shopping. So off I went to the main boardwalk area of the ship. The Allure played host to about 20 different stores on board so I could even take a break from the sun and get my shopping fix in.
To my surprise, brand name stores were also on board. Everything from Guess ® to BRITTO Art Gallery to Coach ® was at my fingertips. Though I was tempted to purchase the leather bag from Coach that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, I refrained from the temptation but indulged in the opportunity to window shop on an excellent “mall at sea.” After my shopping escapade I made my way to the ship’s ice arena – (yes, you read that correctly) to watch the ice show “How to Train Your Dragon,” a DreamWorks Entertainment production. In addition to the ice show, characters from DreamWorks’ hit film “Madagascar” were everywhere on board. They played an integral role in the aqua show and even mingled with guests on the ship!
So, what’s the lesson to be learned from my Allure of the Seas cruise? Co-branding is everywhere, even miles out from land in the middle of the ocean! Aside from all the examples I already mentioned, Allure of the Seas also offers CHICAGO: The Musical in their Amber Theatre to really make the co-branding experience complete for its guests. Brandweek.com actually picked up on the unique branding efforts done by Royal Caribbean and noted its impressive efforts to allure customers on board. While these on-board brand names aren’t expected to be a deciding factor for consumers when choosing which ship to cruise on, the brands are expected to “entice passengers to spend more money while on board.”
Have you traveled the ocean blue on the Allure of the Seas? What do you think of these incredible co-branding efforts? We can’t wait to read your comments!