Words by Genice Phillips

This is not the Caribbean.

It’s one of several messages being rolled out by the popular cruise line Royal Caribbean in a new, multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at enticing a younger generation of travelers who want a dynamic cruise experience.

“Come Seek” is the distinct title of the company’s advertising and marketing campaign, daring the adventurist or pleasure excursionist to not be a tourist in the typical sense, but to explore and vacation with discovery in mind.

With 30-second commercials and 5-second teasers displaying picturesque seascapes, Carnival celebrations and other cultural offerings from the many islands (including Antigua, Jamaica, St. Maarten) the cruise line visits, the company plans to heavily market their campaign across several media platforms. TV ads, billboards, and live streaming of cruises via Periscope are just a few ways Royal Caribbean will be featured in U.S. and international markets.

In partnership with creative agency Mediahub, their campaign strategy seeks to rid the Royal Caribbean of the “cruise” label and increase their reach to millennials. By dispelling any misconceptions about cruise environments the company instead plans to highlight the fun, personal experiences of a getaway.

“The ‘seeker’ mindset cuts across demographics, but the largest concentration is in the maturing millennial segment,” said Royal Caribbean CMO Jim Berra in an interview with AdWeek. “Their perception is that you can’t have unique and unexpected experiences while cruising. We’re tackling that misperception head on. The campaign is all about giving them a preview of what they can look forward to humbly bragging about when they sail with us.”

Using phrases like “You are not a tourist” and “This is not a cruise”, Royal Caribbean is attempting to, no doubt, differentiate themselves from other competing cruise lines. But they could possibly fall foul of beguiling their targeted demographic (who would, in fact, be tourists on a cruise) with inaccuracies. They could also be alienating themselves from Caribbean Tourist Boards.

Some may take the message “This is not the Caribbean. This is the Royal Caribbean” (contained in all of their video ads) as a subliminal shot, or might at least, question the basis of the claim, especially when images of a Jing Ping band, Junkanoo dancing, zip-lining and surfing are interspersed throughout one of the commercials. Not to mention the same ad is soundtracked with “Bun up the Dance”, a Moombahton-inspired track by electro producers Skrillex and Dillon Francis, and also features popular Dominican-born singer Maluca Mala.

By using the very elements that are intrinsic to Caribbean life and culture, one is essentially representing it. The logic of the Royal Caribbean statement just doesn’t seem to fit.

Hopefully, a whiff of cultural appropriation isn’t wafting through the sea breeze. Whilst using specific, cultural experiences as their principal theme to benefit and promote their brand, Royal Caribbean must give credit where it’s due, especially if their excursion sales see an uptick.