Cruise Exec Spotlight
President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley, is happily back where his career began.
IT’S A TALE FIT FOR A STORYBOOK. IN 1981, A 22-YEAR- OLD STARTS his cruise industry career as assistant purser on Nordic Prince and three decades later, he’s named president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. Yet, in December 2014, that’s precisely what happened to Michael Bayley, now back at the brand where his career began.
“I grew up with Royal Caribbean, and when I think about how my life is intertwined with it, progressing from boy to man, I’ve been with Royal Caribbean through every journey, every new innovation, every new destination, and every new region,” he emphasizes. During his 11 years of shipboard service, he worked on multiple ships as chief purser, director of shipboard human resources, hotel director, and other positions.
In 1992, he moved shoreside into cruise line management, before a stint with Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino. Cruising pulled him back, though. Over the years, he’s held many executive positions with Royal Caribbean International, plus has served as executive vice president in several Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. roles. Most recently, he was Celebrity Cruises’ president and CEO.
“I’m so happy to be back at Royal Caribbean,” says Bayley. “I love the brand. It’s elevating, relaxing, very friendly, vibrant, and colorful. You start to feel very relaxed and happy from the way the ships are designed to the colors, the spaces, crewmembers, entertainment, and the breadth and depth of dining.”
One of his first tasks as president was showing off the updated Freedom of the Seas for guests and travel partners. After boarding, he was in a Celebrity mindset, “but after a few hours, I was back to the Royal ‘mojo.’ This wonderful, energy that Royal Caribbean has as a brand … Guests can have a different experience every night simply by catching the elevator.” Bayley says Quantum
of the Seas’ high-powered bandwidth, Dynamic Dining, and other first-at-sea features are also doing what the industry needs: attracting new cruisers. “We’ve created a new paradigm, and what we did with that ship was really cutting edge,” he says. “It will help reshape the industry.”
Yet, he also acknowledges each new ship is a learning experience. Based on vocal past guest feedback, the line has added back a traditional dining option for both early and late seating aboard the new Anthem of the Seas; guests who so choose will rotate nightly through the four main dining rooms with the same waiters.
Bayley says “growing up in the brand” has been both an honor and a privilege. “We think our position is good,” he says, indicating guests likely won’t see any major shift in the brand approach. “We just
need to keep evolving, developing, and moving forward.”
So what does Bayley like most about his ships? When traveling for business, he gravitates to Chops, noting that “I’m not a big meat eater but if I’m going to eat meat, I’m going to eat the best steak in the world.” He’s a Windjammer fan when traveling with his two children, and recently dined at Sabor Modern Mexican, enjoying “the nice twist to Mexican cuisine with a contemporary edge.”
On ships, he enjoys visiting new destinations across the globe, but always has a soft spot for iconic locales. “It never breaks my heart if I have to go to Rio, it never makes me mad if I have to go to Rome, and I never get distressed if I have to go to Venice,” he says with a touch of humor.
When sailing for pleasure, he’s a “relaxation seeker.” Nothing pleases him more than spreading out in a suite, enjoying the spa, and having his children happy and occupied in Adventure Ocean or with other activities. Bayley’s day on board? “I like to have a late breakfast, then amble down to the spa, perhaps have a little nap, have a Windjammer lunch with a nice window sea view, and then head to the pool.”
Living in Miami, “I like to walk and think,” he says, often ambling around his neighborhood or the Royal Caribbean’s Miami campus.
A native of the United Kingdom, Bayley graduated with a degree in business administration from the University of Bournemouth in England, and has attended several management programs. When asked how employees would describe him, Bayley quips: “I would say, ‘He’s a real pain.’ ” That said, he believes in building trust, business relationships, and teamwork, but becomes very hands-on if he thinks things aren’t going the way they should be.
Now settling comfortably into his new leadership role, Bayley says, “I love the feel, pace, tempo, atmosphere, and culture. I’m Royal through and through.”
Bayley enjoys visiting new destinations across the globe,
but always has a soft spot for iconic spots.
ROYALTY ON BOARD Michael Bayley’s typical day at sea includes a late breakfast, time in the spa or a nap, lunch at Windjammer, and relaxing by the pool.