Royal Caribbean International has rocked the industry with the announcement that its most innovative ship will go to the Asia market, following an inaugural season in New York. The 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas will homeport in Shanghai after alterations for the Chinese market during its repositioning sailing.
“The world is changing, sourcing is changing,” said Christopher Allen, AVP of global deployment and itinerary planning for Royal Caribbean International.
Royal's plans to place its newest and most innovative ship in China shows huge faith in the Asia market and changes to come for the North America market.
Royal executives emphasized balanced planning in rolling out hardware, but clearly the game is really changing.
It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the announcement, which will increase Royal’s capacity in Asia by 66 percent.
For years, we have been hearing about the enormous potential for cruising in China, and that in the future, the Chinese could dramatically dominate the market, but we also have heard that China is a slow developing market, and that the changes would likely take years.
Apparently, Royal has great confidence in Asia, and executives on an April 17 conference call said the move may be strategic as much as, or more than, purely financial. It certainly gives Royal a dramatic competitive advantage and will serve as a challenge to other lines if Quantum is successful.
“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,” Royal Caribbean Cruises president and COO Adam Goldstein said. “We will have to be nimble, but the ability to move fast is one of our strengths.”
This is clearly the thin edge of the wedge, as North America will have to accept its diminishing role as the only dominant source for cruising. According to one Royal executive, “North America may have to share the wealth a little bit.”
When Quantum leaves New York, Liberty of the Seas will homeport there until Anthem of the Seas, the second Quantum-class ship, arrives to homeport in Bayonne, New Jersey. This means that South Florida will not have a Quantum-class vessel, although Anthem was originally scheduled to sail from Port Everglades. And there are no immediate plans for putting a ship on the West Coast, where Allen cited the limited deployment choices.
This post was written by TAW Cruise Editor Marilyn Green.