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Royal Caribbean Makes a Change Passengers Will Love

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Cruise ships have an endless array of food and beverage choices. Passengers on a ship from Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, or Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report could literally eat their way around the world without leaving the buffet. When you add in other onboard, free and added-fee dining, the choices become truly astounding. 

On the newer ships like Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas (the world’s largest cruise ship) the choices are truly overwhelming. Passengers can eat pizza, Mexican, hot dogs, a selection of cafe favorites (at two cafes), dine from two buffets, and eat at least two (three on sea days) meals per day at an expansive main dining room without spending an extra dime.

If you’re willing to open your wallet, you get access to a steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, an upscale Italian eatery, a fine dining venue, a southern-themed restaurant, sushi and hibachi, a restaurant just for suite passengers, and one themed to Alice in Wonderland.

Beverage choices might even be more overwhelming, with most of those dining establishments having attached bars. Wonder of the Seas also hosts a robot bar, a bar that moves up and down between floors, another that cantilevers over the sea, and countless others.

Partaking of these beverage venues, however, requires either paying per drink (even soda costs extra) or buying a drink package. A drink package (either one that includes alcohol or one that includes everything but) always had one notable exception — they don’t include the onboard Starbucks (SBUX) – Get Starbucks Corporation Report location. Not every Royal Caribbean ship has a Starbucks, but the ones that do charge an extra fee for the well-loved coffee (and other) beverages the chain is known for.

Beverage packages instead covered specialty coffee at various spots on the ship that included espresso-based Starbucks-like drinks — but not actual Starbucks beverages. That’s something that has notably changed on Wonder of the Seas.

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Royal Caribbean Gives Its Passengers Added Value     

Wonder of the Seas has a Starbucks location on the Royal Promenade on Deck 5. That’s a location at the heart of the action on the ship, and drinks at the actual Starbucks still cost extra, even if you have a beverage package. The location has more or less the full menu and it costs about what an expensive land location costs (think Las Vegas or an airport).

That’s a nice treat for anyone who wants it, but the cruise line also offered Starbucks-style (but not using Starbucks coffee) drinks at its prominent Cafe Promenade destination located at the heart of the ship. This location offers espresso-based drinks and frozen beverages that aren’t quite Frappuccinos. Those drinks are included in most drink packages, but they’re not quite the real thing.

On the Wonder, however, Royal Caribbean serves Starbucks coffee — and actual Frappuccinos — at Cafe Promenade. That means that anyone with a drink package can get a drink made with real Starbucks coffee. The menu is more limited than the full onboard location (there’s no cold brew or cold cream) but it’s a Starbucks drink (sort of like when a hotel serves Starbucks but isn’t quite a Starbucks.

Why Is This Royal Caribbean Change Nice? 

It seems small, but at least on one ship (likely as a test for further rollout), Royal Caribbean has given its passengers, at least those who buy a drink package, better coffee. And access to actual Frappuccinos offers a much better experience than the frozen blended coffee drinks served before.

This may cost the company some sales at Starbucks, but people who had a beverage package likely opted to not pay extra for Starbucks. 

Now, they get better coffee, which may lead to happier customers and more customers buying the drink package (which is not a small source of revenue for the cruise line).   

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