Cruise ship interview - - Royal Caribbean - Grandeur of the Seas - Hotel Director Francois Wache
In 2012, Grandeur of the Seas underwent the Royal Advantage. More than a revitalization program, the Royal Advatage seeks to enhance the ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet by bringing popular elements of Royal's giant Oasis class ships to the rest of the fleet.
For Grandeur, one of six Vision class ships in the Royal fleet, the Royal Advantage was transformative. Hotel Director Francois Wache was part of the team that brought Grandeur into service in 1996. In the years that followed, he worked on many other Royal Caribbean ships including Legend of the Seas, the Radiance class ships, the launch of Oasis of the Seas and the development of Quantum of the Seas. As a result, he did not return to Grandeur until after she had gone through the Royal Advantage.
“My memory of the Grandeur was very much the Grandeur of 1996. I think there is no question the food offerings and the options that you [now] have with the enttertainment make a significant change. It really gives you a totally different experience as a cruiser from what it was in 1996.”
Prior to the Royal Advantage, the food offerings on Grandeur were essentially limited to the main dining room and the buffet restaurant, the Windjammer. After the program, Grandeur boasts three specialty restaurants: Chops Grille, an elegant American-style steakhouse; Giovanni's Table, a relaxed but upscale Italian-themed venue; and Izumi, an Asian-inspired resturant. In addition, Grandeur offers the Chef's Table experience in which a chef and a sommelier guide a small group of guests through a multi-course meal with wine pairings. Also, taking the place of the small Solarium Cafe, is the more extensive Park Cafe where guests can have complimentary made to order salads, paninis, and various other items by the Solarium pool.
“These are the things that really make the experience. The food offerings have given it a totally different experience.”
But the food offerings are only one element of the transformation. “This generation of ship was designed with a theater and most of the entertainment was there. Really, the objective for us has been to give it double, triple dimensions.”
To that end, the ship's central atrium, the Centrum, was radically altered. Prior to the Royal Advantage, this space was dominated by a large mobile sculpture that hung from the ceiling. A few events were held in the Centrum but the lobby at the base of the atrium was multi-tiered and did not lend itself to entertainment.
Now, the mobile is gone and in its place there is rigging that supports aerialist performances. The lobby is now one level and the staircase has been structured so as to act as a mini-stage. As a result, shows can now be stage in the Centrum with singers and dancers as well as aerialists. Royal Caribbean calls it the “Centrum Wow.”
“It is a different activity and it really gives a different life, a different dynamic to the vessel.”
Also in the lobby is a new bar, the R Bar. Here, guests can order traditional cocktails, develop their own cocktail or have a new creation developed especially for them.
“The R Bar is also a great experience. I think the R Bar is a little more of a contemporary product. So I think depending on the cruises, the seasons of the year, the itineraries that we have, it is received with different levels of success. When we are on our Bahamian itinerary, we have a crowd that is more orientated toward family and younger demographics, so the R Bar resonates more significantly to those demographics.”
Speaking of lounges, Grandeur received two specialty lounges during the Royal Advantage. The Concierge Lounge was carved out of the Viking Crown area at the top of the ship and thus offers panoramic views. Access is limited to guests staying in certain suites and to the top levels of the Royal Caribbean loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society. Along the same lines, the Diamond Lounge is limited to guests who are Diamond level and above in the Crown and Anchor Society. It overlooks the stern and is located within the ship's secondary entertainment venue, the South Pacific Lounge.
Another new entertainment offering is the big outdoor LED screen by the main pool. This To allows Grandeur to offer movies under the stars as well as various other types of video programming.
Yet another element of the transformation was the revitalization of the staterooms. “By the end of the day, the stateroom represents the largest chunk of the space onboard. A significant amount of the time that the guests spend onboard [is in the staterooms].” To make this time more enjoyable, Royal replaced the televisions with flat screen TVs and redid the bathrooms. Carpets and other fabrics were also renewed.
“With the Royal Advantage you get some of the DNA of the biggest vessels, you find almost the same thing that you would find on the Oasis and the Allure. The entire hardware is not the same but some of the most contemporary and recent things that we do on our newest vessels, you find them here. Yet, you have the coziness and the spirit of some of the smaller vessels, which I think is very important.”
The other half of the story
While the Royal Advantage has enhanced the cruise experience on Grandeur, it is only an ingredient in what makes up the cruise experience on Grandeur.
“We are in the happiness business. People come here to be happy. Royal Caribbean, I think everyone will admit, has built some great hardware. But in the hospitality business, having great hardware is only 50 percent. You have to have the humanity, the passion. That is why I am very pleased to hear that the crew are providing the recognition, the humanity.”
“I really believe it is part of our DNA to be a cruise line that is focused on the friendliness. What I admire in American service is the ability to be professional, formal, yet have a level of interaction and friendliness that doesn't make it stuffy. I think that is very much what we have. We believe in happy crew makes happy guests.”
“I think the scale of the vessel certainly helps. The fact that you have 2,000 guests probably helps compared to the more recent ships that carry significantly more. When you have ships of this scale, it is easier to make it a family environment. Our crew members have the ability to see the guests more regularly, interact with the same guests more often.”
The atmosphere aboard Grandeur has attracted a loyal following. “On any given cruise, I believe, this vessel has between 2,100 and 2,200 guests. On those seven day cruises, 50 percent of the guests are repeat guests with Royal Caribbean. The longer itineraries, that can go to even more significant numbers.”