Onboard surfing and rock-climbing walls are so last decade.
At an event in New York City Tuesday, Miami-based Royal Caribbean International unveiled the offerings aboard its next new cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, which includes activities that range from skydiving to bumper cars designed to appeal to thrill-seekers and scaredy-cats alike. The ship launches in November 2014.
One thing Quantum of the Seas won’t offer: South Florida departures. Royal Caribbean’s previous two new ships, the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, both sail from Port Everglades. The new 4,180-passenger vessel will be based in New Jersey’s Cape Liberty, about seven miles south of Manhattan.
“This area is clearly one of the most critical population centers of the world,” said Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Adam Goldstein. “And clearly we’ve put significant new capacity down into the Florida-Caribbean basin in the last few years with Oasis class. We felt like there was an opportunity in the market to bring state-of-the-art capacity to the New York area going forward.”
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Royal Caribbean has only announced deployment plans for Quantum, which is under construction in Germany, through winter of 2014/15; the company has not yet said where sister ship Anthem of the Seas, which debuts in spring of 2015, will be based. The company has said only that Quantum of the Seas will sail 7- to 12-night voyages; cruises go on sale to loyalty program members May 27 and to the public on June 4.
Brand new to the industry are a simulated skydiving experience called RipCord by iFly and a Ferris wheel-inspired capsule, North Star, that takes passengers hundreds of feet in the air. Both will be included in the cost of a cruise. The ship also includes an indoor SeaPlex with a circus school, bumper cars and roller skating; a multi-use room with 270-degree sea views and a live music venue, Music Hall.
New to the brand: 28 studio staterooms for guests traveling alone, which rival Norwegian Cruise Line introduced in 2010, and 373 “virtual balconies” — 80-inch screens recessed into the wall framed with curtains — that display live outdoor views in interior rooms. Disney Cruise Line included virtual portholes on the Disney Dream in 2011, but the Royal Caribbean version will be significantly larger. There will also be up to 16 connected staterooms designed for groups or multi-generational families.
Sister ship Anthem of the Seas, scheduled for delivery six months after Quantum, will include the same features.
Royal Caribbean has a history of introducing new concepts on cruise ships; in past years, those have included a simulated surfing machine, zip line, ice-skating rink and rock-climbing wall.
“We clearly are focused on cultivating a position in the marketplace where people expect surprises and delights and new experiences and to try things that they might not otherwise have tried — things they may not try on land, but we provide the time and opportunity to try them at sea,” Goldstein said. “It’s an important part of what we do.”
Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners - American Express Travel, a home-based travel agent network headquartered in Coral Springs, said that while attention-getters like skydiving and the North Star were the kind of “wow factors” that the industry has come to expect from Royal Caribbean, a humbler feature interested her more.
“What I really think we’re excited about as a travel community were the new staterooms,” she said, singling out the studios and interiors with virtual balconies. “You know when it’s raining, you know when it’s overcast, you don’t feel like you’re sleeping in a closet. Those are the things that change the way people cruise.”
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of the website CruiseCritic.com, said Royal Caribbean stands to attract a new crowd of cruisers by basing its newest vessel in the Northeast. Norwegian Cruise Line is already targeting that market, launching its brand new Norwegian Breakaway in New York City next month.
“You have to start sending the interesting ships around, because that’s how you’re going to grow the market,” she said. “They’re not looking for the people who already go to Miami.”
Spencer Brown said the Quantum news also may appeal to another crowd that might be wary of cruising in general because of months of negative headlines about mishaps aboard ships owned by rival Carnival Cruise Lines.
“Where I think the impact of something like this is really crucial is in the new-to-cruise travelers who might be a little bit leery at the moment,” she said. “And they’re seeing something that’s really something they’ve never seen before, and that will change the conversation.”