FORT LAUDERDALE — Two years ago, during the dark days of the pandemic, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley proposed that the cruise line do a 274-day world voyage.

Colleagues were more than skeptical.

“Everybody hated the idea,” Bayley said on stage Thursday at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld 2022 in a conversation with Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service.

Freed said she was one of the skeptics.

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“We’re more of a three-, four-, five- and seven-day operator; now you come up with the longest world cruise that any brand has ever done. What was your thinking? Some of us, including me, said, ‘I think 274 days may be just a bit too long.'”

Bayley said that he ended up “persuading a few people” at Royal Caribbean that the Ultimate World Cruise was a good idea. He wanted to inject some excitement and anticipation for better days ahead.

“We were still deep in the pandemic. It was a terrible, depressing time,” he recalled. “We knew at some point it was going to end. The idea of the Ultimate World Cruise was, here you go, the pandemic’s over, go do something on your bucket list. Take the Ultimate World Cruise, go to every single continent on the planet.”

Bayley’s idea was a winner, as the world cruise has sold well. After Royal Caribbean opened the reservation books for the sailing on the Serenade of the Seas, travel advisors Theresa Graham and Gary Smith sold the most expensive accommodation, the Royal Suite, for nearly $800,000.

The world cruise is scheduled to depart Miami on Dec. 10, 2023.

A lot riding on Icon of the Seas

In addition to the Ultimate World Cruise, Bayley talked about the “ultimate family vacation” that Royal Caribbean is promising with the Icon of the Seas.

In October, Royal Caribbean showed the world what the Icon will look like and provided some details about the ship’s spaces. It generated tremendous buzz — and bookings. Bayley said 45,000 cruises were sold in the first week the Icon went on sale.

“Compared to every first ship in a class over the history of our business, this has just blown it away,” Bayley said.

The CEO said he is confident that the Icon will live up to Royal’s vow to deliver the ultimate family vacation. “As you know, if you say something like that, people are very quick to remind you if you don’t deliver.”

Royal Caribbean has “thought about every single possible dimension, experience and element for multigenerational families,” Bayley said.

“We’ve got experiences that tick the box for everybody, including the concepts of thrills and chills. On Icon, you’ll probably never see your kids until the end of the cruise.”

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