In a move that at least one South Florida cruise industry specialist calls “shocking,” Royal Caribbean International announced late Wednesday plans to base its newest ship in Shanghai, China in May 2015.
The 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, which is set to debut this November, will spend its inaugural season sailing from Cape Liberty, N.J. before being redeployed to Shanghai for three-to-eight night sailings to Japan and Korea.
Quantum -- originally expected to be based year-round in Cape Liberty for Caribbean sailings -- will join Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas in Asia, increasing the Miami-based cruise company’s capacity in the region by 66 percent.
“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,” said Adam Goldstein, President and COO of the line’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “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.”
Equally surprising is Royal Caribbean’s change of plans regarding Quantum’s sister ship Anthem of the Seas, launching in April 2015.
Last November Royal Caribbean announced Anthem would head to Port Everglades in late 2015 for winter sailings to the Caribbean after completing its inaugural European season sailing from Southampton, U.K.
Now the ship will instead head to Cape Liberty in November 2015 to “continue Quantum-class cruising to the Bahamas and Caribbean for the winter 2015-16 season,” Royal Caribbean said in a press release.
In a statement responding to Anthem’s deployment change, Royal Caribbean said: “Port Everglades is a valued port partner. With Quantum of the Seas now being deployed to China for its second season, we have had to make some tough decisions on the deployment of some of our other ships. We are committed to being a part of Port Everglades ongoing success as we continue to homeport the world's largest and most innovative cruise ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas there, among many other Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises ships.”
Of note, Allure of the Seas is set to head to Barcelona, Spain for summer sailings in 2015. Starting May 24, the 5,400-passenger ship will sail 7-night itineraries calling on several ports in Europe.
Port Everglades offcials could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
For Miami-based cruise specialist Stewart Chiron of CruiseGuy.com, the changes to the Quantum ships’ deployments means seaports in Fort Lauderdale and Miami will have to wait longer to see this new and innovative class of ship.
“This is huge,” said Chiron, of Wednesday’s news, adding Port Everglades was sidestepped by Royal Caribbean.
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