Royal Caribbean and Ben & Jerry Part Ways

In what appeared to be a fairly sudden change, Royal Caribbean announced this week that they are removing Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shops from all remaining ships. In an email to travel agents, the line shared that, “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop onboard 13 of our ships will be moo-ving out and making way for something sweeter!”

Royal Caribbean and Ben & Jerry Part Ways
Unilever. The original uploader was Beefkidney at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Some online noticed that the ice cream shop had been removed from at least one of the ships earlier this month causing questions about the future of the brand. In comments, many have speculated it has to do with the politics of the founders. While that may be part of it, I think there’s a financial play.

To partner or not to partner?

When Carnival announced it’s Fun Ship 2.0 ship refurbishment program in 2011, they rolled out the red carpet on named-brand partnerships. The comedy club would be known as Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez, the sports bar would carry the EA SPORTS brand, and burgers would feature recipes from Guy Fieri.

Fast forward a dozen years later, and the only brand that remains is Fieri. Carnival dropped George Lopez when his contract was up, renaming it simply to the Punchliner Comedy Club. The line also replaced the EA branding years ago. In 2019, they even began rolling out their own sports bar brand, Heroes Tribute Bar.

So it’s not a huge surprise to hear Royal Caribbean moving away from Ben & Jerry’s to have a more generic ice cream shop. In a post-pandemic world, where cruise operators are paying hundreds of millions of dollars just in interest repayments to the loans taken out during the pandemic, leadership has to ask the question: Does a brand name really add something to this venue?

In the case of celebrity chefs, the trend over the past decade seems to indicate that’ll continue. In fact, many cruise lines have even expanded their celebrity partnerships when it comes to their food programs. But a commodity like ice cream? Comedy? Sports bars? Why pay royalties to house a brand when passengers are likely to eat there anyway.

The end of Ben & Jerry’s on Royal Caribbean

With little fanfare, and nothing more than an email to travel agents, we say farewell to a partnership that had been in place for many years. Personally, I don’t think most cruise passengers will even notice the change. When I have a hankering for ice cream or something sweet, the logo outside the shop isn’t going to convince me to come in or not.

Some online shared that Ben & Jerry’s should have paid Royal Caribbean marketing royalties to get their brand exposure to millions of guests every year. That’s one way to catch a CFO’s attention: marketing profit on top of ice cream profit! However, I have a feeling the profit margin Royal Caribbean will see with a generic ice cream parlor still would exceed that of bringing on a corporate brand partnership.

What do you think?

Will this change make you think twice about getting an ice cream cone or sweet treat on your next cruise? Do you think it was financially motivated or a political move? Or did you maybe not even realize Ben & Jerry were even on Royal Caribbean ships? Let us know in the comments below!

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