Friday, April 18, 2014

China Syndrome: Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas is Shanghai’ed

With its bumper cars, entertainment offerings that include the Broadway hit Mama Mia!, and newly announced dining options all rolled out with great fanfare, it seemed that Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas was designed with features to specifically appeal to North American cruisers. The line even has had popular American television interior designer Genevieve Gorder collaborating on some of the décor. Additionally, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey approved Royal Caribbean’s plans to build a new $70 million cruise terminal and parking facilities at Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey to prepare for the highly anticipated ship’s arrival.

However, in a startling twist, Royal Caribbean has tossed a “gotcha” into the future homeporting of their newest vessel—beginning in May 2015, Quantum of the Seas will make its homeport in Shanghai (Baoshan), China, ‘to bring the company’s most innovative ship to the world’s fastest-growing cruise market.’ Quantum of the Seas will reposition to China in May 2015, following her inaugural winter season sailing out of Cape Liberty to the Caribbean. In China, Quantum of the Seas will join Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas in Asia, increasing the company’s capacity in the region by 66 percent.

“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, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “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. 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. We will have to be nimble, but the ability to move fast is one of our strengths.” In addition, Goldstein noted that the company was able to make the move because its new-ship pipeline will keep the New York region supplied with top-rated ships as well. “We are very mindful of the importance of New York, which is why we are bringing Liberty of the Seas and then Anthem of the Seas to this market.”

Does that mean that North Americans do not “expect the best the world has to offer” in the minds of Royal Caribbean executives? It’s a here today, gone tomorrow scenario—with cruise travelers accustomed to sailing on the newest ships from South Florida suffering the brunt of the implied insult because, at least for the immediate future, there will be no Quantum-class ship based there as Anthem of the Seas will homeport in Cape Liberty instead of Fort Lauderdale as previously announced. For Royal Caribbean to disappoint their loyal passengers—who looked forward to sailing a second Quantum-class from North America—and to snub the South Florida region that has traditionally been the world’s cruise capital is a striking development.

“These incredible ships will meet the sophisticated expectations of consumers in Shanghai, New York, and London. Our mantra for the new Quantum class of ships is ‘this changes everything’ and upping our game in these key markets achieves just that,” said Dominic Paul, Vice President International, Royal Caribbean International. “Our distinctive style of high quality innovative cruises has become known to travelers around the world and we will continue to deploy our most technologically advanced ships where the demand is, with the expectation of winning new converts to cruising.”

Is there no demand in North America for top-rated and technologically advanced ships? We doubt that inferred assumption, as well as the unsaid suggestion that North America—outside the northeast region—is no longer a key market, but only time will tell.

Quantum of the Seas will debut in November 2014, and spend its inaugural season sailing from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ, before repositioning to China in May 2015. Beginning late June 2015, the ship will sail 3- to 8-night itineraries year-round from Shanghai to Japan and Korea. Liberty of the Seas will then arrive to Cape Liberty to sail to Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Canada and New England for the 2015 summer and autumn seasons. The Freedom-class ship will be the company’s newest and largest ship to offer cruises to Bermuda from the New York-metropolitan area. Finally, Quantum of the Seas’ sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, which launches in April 2015, will complete her inaugural Europe season from London (Southampton), UK, before arriving to Cape Liberty in November 2015 to continue Quantum-class cruising to the Bahamas and Caribbean for the winter 2015-16 season.

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