Romance With a British Accent

Independence of the Seas is targeting the growing U.K. market

By: By Marilyn Green

Fast Facts

Holds up to 3,634 guests, double occupancy
1,360 crew members
14 passenger elevators
32 wheelchair accessible staterooms

Kids at Sea

Two of Royal Caribbean International's biggest ships — the 160,000-ton Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas — called at Grand Cayman together for the first time Wednesday, Aug. 13. The sister ships disembarked approximately 9,000 passengers at Georgetown, more than a third of them children sailing on a Nickelodeon theme cruise on Freedom of the Seas. It was the first time the twin ships had visited a port of call together.    

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism organized live music and cultural displays, as well as an appearance of Diego, the cartoon companion of the popular Nickelodeon character and show "Dora the Explorer." 

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Scroll down to read about Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas' Nickelodean

Mariners say that every ship has a soul and a personality. If that is the case, Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) new Independence of the Seas is a romantic cruise ship with a strong British flavor. Although it is third in the Freedom-class vessels series, the new-build, christened April 3 in Southampton, England, has a distinctly romantic character.

Alhambra Theater on RCCL’s Independence of the Seas // (c) Royal Caribbean International
Alhambra Theater on RCCL’s Independence of the Seas 

Onboard, the artwork is a salute to the British market and calls upon the work of more than 35 British artists with roots in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. A trompe l’oeil Italian tapestry in the wedding chapel and a fabulous, hand-decorated flamenco curtain in the 1,350-seat Alhambra Theater drew excited comments from guests. The romantic theme continues in the Shakespearean dining rooms: Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and King Lear. Entertainment, too, is one-of-a-kind, with shows like "Invitation to the Dance," in which the cruise guests are the stars, and a spectacular ice performance, "Strings!," follows the course of a Stradivarius violin’s travels.

Even the food in the Windjammer buffet has romantic inspiration, with figs and cheese, Mediterranean stew with rice and curries appearing alongside standard fish, chicken, beef and salad selections.

The Independence’s naming ceremony reflected both its U.K. connection and the romantic theme onboard. A procession of pipes and drums, a breathtaking Celtic dance performance by Celtic Feet and a moving speech by godmother Elizabeth Hill were highlights of the show. Hill was chosen in a search that led to more than 1,700 nominations of ordinary women doing extraordinary things.

Targeting a Growing Market

Independence of the Seas is a part of an unusual trend toward captivating the British market this year. The size of the U.K. cruise market has more than doubled in the past 10 years, and the Passenger Shipping Association forecasts that 1.6 million British passengers will cruise in 2008, a 14 percent increase over 2007. With Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is catering to both the British market and to the large number of North Americans who like to visit the U.K.

Independence will be based in Southampton during the summer season for two years, sailing to Ireland, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. She will winter in the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The move gives RCI seven ships that call or homeport in the U.K. And, according to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line chairman and CEO Richard Fain, next to the U.S., the British market is the company’s largest.

With America and the U.K. known as two countries separated by a common language, there’s a glossary onboard to enlighten both sides, translating French fries to chips, potato chips to crisps, dessert to pudding and eggplant to aubergine. Other British touches are electric kettles and china cups in the staterooms for tea, and bacon is cooked the British way. Brits, who like their bacon as juicy as ham, were pleased, and Americans onboard seemed to take it in stride. Everyone was happy that the onboard spend was in U.S. dollars.

Family groups, which are being targeted in the U.K. as well as North America, are a main focus on the ship, with significant attention to the children’s program, which is divided into seven groups from 6 months to 17 years, and family accommodations, all the way up to the Presidential Family Suite, which sleeps 14 and offers four bedrooms, four baths and an 810-square-foot outdoor living area. An onboard boxing ring, Pilates reformers, sports activities and entertainment also pleased multi-generational travelers. And, due to cooler climates in the Baltic region, both the pool and children’s waterpark are heated on Independence, allowing passengers to enjoy these features even on chilly days.

The number of European cruisers overall is predicted to rise to over four million by 2010 and RCI president and CEO Adam Goldstein commented, "Independence is not only part of our European effort but of a global strategy. The North American market is central to our success, but we are becoming truly global, with the international market rising rapidly from under 15 percent to more than 25 percent."