Mariner of the Seas in Cabo San Lucas on January 12, 2010.
Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders

Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that the days spent off the sunny Pacific coast of Mexico are numbered for Mariner of the Seas.  Come January 2011, Mariner will sail around South America to be homeported in Civitavecchia, Italy – the main port of embarkation for Rome.  In the winter, she will return to North America – to Galveston, Texas, bumping current resident Voyager of the Seas to New Orleans.
West Coast cruisers are shocked and saddened to see the ship go.  In addition to being the largest ship to operate in the area, she is also the only Royal Caribbean vessel to operate year-round.  With her departure, Royal Caribbean has pulled out entirely of the Mexican Riviera run.
NCL recently announced it was redeploying the Norwegian Star after 2011 – leaving that line with no ship on the West Coast either.  The remaining lines are few: Carnival, Holland America and Princess.
Mexican Riviera cruises suffer from one major problem: in order to offer a 7-day voyage, lines are limited to calling at three ports: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.  Most of these voyages leave on the same day – Saturdays and Sundays – leaving lines trying to undercut each other in an attempt to lure passengers onboard.
The biggest issue, though, was the decision to send Mariner of the Seas to LA.  It was a mistake.
The much smaller Vision of the Seas used to operate this run for Royal Caribbean – a ship only capable of holding 2,435 guests.  Mariner is capable of a whopping 3,114 guests – more if third and fourth berths are full.  It doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but multiply that by fifty-two sailings per year – that’s a lot of extra passengers to entice onboard.
It’s arguable that a smaller ship, like Radiance of the Seas, may have done better on this run – or at least allowed Royal Caribbean to fill the ship without having to resort to the deep discounting that marked so many Mariner sailings.
From a business perspective, the decision is sound.  The ship wasn’t making money, and can make more money elsewhere.  To not move it would be financially irresponsible.
From a cruise traveler’s perspective, Royal Caribbean’s total abandonment of the Mexican Riviera market deprives many of their loyal cruisers looking for a West Coast departure of that option. 
Therein lies the risk: Royal Caribbean is gambling that its passengers will hop on airplanes and fly to Texas or Italy to cruise onboard Mariner of the Seas, or fly elsewhere to cruise on one of their other ships.

How many frustrated cruisers will give their business to Carnival or Holland America instead?


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