In a stunning announcement that surprised travel agents and travel media alike, Royal Caribbean International announced that its newest ship, the 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, will make Shanghai (Baoshan), China, its home port, for spring/summer 2015.
After its launch this fall, Quantum of the Seas will sail Caribbean voyages from Cape Liberty, NJ. But in May 2015, following that inaugural winter season from the New York area, the ship will reposition to China, where it will join sister ships, Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas in also operating Asian cruises.
Costa Cruises pioneered home porting in China less than a decade ago. Since then, other brands have also positioned ships there but with older tonnage.
But the announcement about Quantum of the Seas was dramatic in that it's first time a major new mega-ship has been home ported in China by a North American cruise line.
|A map of upcoming deployments // Infographic by Royal Caribbean|
Cruise company leaders -- including Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), the parent company of Royal Caribbean International -- spoke about Asia's cruise potential at the recent cruise3sixty conference in Greater Fort Lauderdale earlier this month.
The executives said they see both tremendous opportunities and big challenges. The Chinese market is huge, but the population knows almost nothing about cruising so the lines have a huge education lesson in explaining what a cruise vacation is all about. Plus, the lines must deal with significant government regulations.
“Consumers in China have grown to expect the best the world has to offer, and Quantum of the Seas meets that standard like no other ship,” said Adam Goldstein, president and COO, RCCL. “We are ready to accelerate the growth of this vital market with a ship that will capture the imagination of travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.”
Beginning late June 2015, the 167,800-ton ship will sail three- to eight-night itineraries year-round from Shanghai to Japan and Korea. Royal Caribbean was clear in its press statement that it believes it's out in front of the competition with the positioning of the new ship in China.
With the addition of Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's capacity in the Asian region will jump by 66 percent. “Every trend we are seeing in China tells us we can achieve real long-term competitive advantage and appealing returns on our investments in this fast-growing market by accelerating our presence there,” Goldstein said. He acknowledged that the line will have to be nimble and views the brand's ability to move quickly as positive.
Goldstein said the company was able to make the move because its new-ship pipeline will keep the New York region supplied with amenity-laden ships. “We are very mindful of the importance of New York," Goldstein emphasized, nothing that's why the brand will bring Liberty of the Seas, a Freedom-class ship, and then Anthem of the Seas, another Quantum-class ship, to the market.
After Quantum of the Seas departs for China, Liberty of the Seas will then arrive at Cape Liberty to operate Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Canada and New England for the 2015 summer and autumn seasons. This ship is the company's newest and largest to offer Bermuda cruises from New York.
Then after Anthem of the Seas, launching in April 2015, completes an inaugural European season from London (Southampton), U.K., she'll arrive at New York to continue Quantum-class cruising to the Bahamas and Caribbean for winter 2015-16. That's a change, as previously the company had said this ship would sail from Port Everglades, FL, for that winter season.
Speaking about the Quantum-class product, “these incredible ships will meet the sophisticated expectations of consumers in Shanghai, New York and London," said Dominic Paul, vice president, international, Royal Caribbean International. "Our mantra for the new Quantum-class of ships is ‘this changes everything’ – and upping our game in these key markets achieves just that."
Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, will debut Ripcord by iFLY, a heart-pounding skydiving experience; North Star, a thrilling adventure that transports guests more than 300 feet in the air; new venues including SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars and roller skating; and the cruise line’s largest, most advanced staterooms.
Guests also will enjoy “Dynamic Dining,” a new flexible culinary experience with 18 different restaurant concepts. Specialty restaurants will be created ith partner-chefs Jamie Oliver, Devin Alexander and Michael Schwartz.
For more information on Quantum-class, visit http://www.RoyalCaribbean.com/QuantumoftheSeas.