Royal Caribbean Sets the Stage for Anthem of the Seas' US Debut
PHOTO: Anthem of the Seas, a Quantum-class ship, will homeport in Bayonne, New Jersey, starting in November. (Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)
With roughly 100 days to go before Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas begins sailing out of Port Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey, the cruise line is working to build excitement around the Nov. 4 arrival in the U.S. of its newest and most high-tech ship.
At an evening event for media and travel agents on July 15 at the New York Times Center in New York City, Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO, and Mark Tamis, senior vice president of hotel operations, gave a multimedia presentation on Anthem’s innovative features. They also unveiled even more innovations and plans for the rest of the fleet.
Anthem’s U.S. Debut: The focus for this event was the 4,180-passenger (double occupancy) Anthem of the Seas and its impending arrival in the U.S. Starting Nov. 4 and for the foreseeable future, it will homeport at Port Liberty in Bayonne, just across the harbor from Manhattan.
The vessel, which Bayley and Tamis joked still has a “new ship feel,” since it was christened in April, has been sailing in Europe out of Southampton. As the newest and most technologically advanced vessel in the Royal Caribbean fleet, Anthem has all the features that are already on its sister ship Quantum of the seas, currently sailing out of Shanghai, but the line has made adjustments to make the guest experience even better.
Passengers can enjoy the Ripcord by iFly sky diving experience, the Northstar glass enclosed capsule offering scenic views high above the ship, and a robotic bar. Anthem also will offer state-of-the-art venues, including Two70, where a combination of live performers and technology deliver multidimensional shows, and The Royal Theater, home to the ship’s two main shows, “We Will Rock You” and “The Gift.”
An all-new Dynamic Dining experience allows guests to select from among 18 restaurant concepts, including five free main dining restaurants, as well as specialty dining venues from world-renowned chefs like Jamie Oliver, Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander. Guests have the flexibility to choose between Dynamic Dining Choice, which allows them to decide when, where, and with whom to dine each evening, and Dynamic Dining Classic, which is designed for those who prefer a more traditional experience.
Anthem will debut in early November with a series of three two-night preview sailings for media, travel agents and other guests. It will then go into full service on Nov. 10 with cruises from Port Liberty to Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Super Fast Internet Service: Anthem also features Voom, which Bayley was quick to describe as the fastest Internet service at sea. He said one Royal Caribbean ship with Voom has more capacity than entire cruise industry fleet. Right now the service, which costs roughly $22.50 for two devices per day, is on Anthem, Quantum, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
Voom also will be on the new Ovation of the Seas (another Quantum-class ship) and Harmony of the Seas (another Oasis-class ship), both set to debut next year. It also will be rolled out across the fleet during a revitalization program. And it will be offered for free on Majesty of the Seas when that ship returns from its revitalization next spring.
New Accommodations: Beyond high-speed Internet and Anthem’s debut, Royal Caribbean has a number of innovations and new experiences set to debut across its fleet. For example, Tamis said the line will introduce more virtual balcony staterooms, which are inside staterooms with a video wall projecting a live feed of the ocean outside.
Royal Caribbean also will debut more new studio staterooms for solo passengers, new family connected staterooms which can hold up to 10, and a four-bedroom Penthouse suite. And in a bid for more of the luxury market, Royal Caribbean will introduce, within the next 30 days, a new program called the Royal Suite Class, though Tamis would not reveal more details, except to say it would give the line’s guests the ultimate luxury experience.
Promoting Private Islands: Royal Caribbean also is launching a new program to better promote its private island experiences in Labadee, located on a peninsula in Haiti, and on CocoCay, an island in the Bahamas.
Labadee is a 260-acre wooded peninsula at Pointe Ste. Honore about six miles from Cape Haitien on the northern coast of Haiti. It has five distinct neighborhoods—Adrenaline Beach, Columbus Cove, Buccaneer’s Bay, Nellie’s Beach and Labadee Town Square. Attractions include the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line, which at 2,600 feet is the longest zip line in the world over water; the Dragon’s Tail Coaster, a high-speed ride through 2,232 feet of the destination’s tropical flora and rock formations; Dragon's Splash Waterslide, a 300-foot long saltwater slide; and Arawak Aqua Park, which features floating trampolines, inflatable iceberg shaped slides and water seesaws.
Labadee also offers a variety of water activities ranging from snorkeling and kayak adventures, to floating beach mats and banana boat rides. Suite guests can enjoy exclusive amenities, including private cabanas along the water’s edge and within the hillside areas.
CocoCay is a 140-acre island located in the Bahamas’ Berry Island chain between Freeport and Nassau. Previously known as Little Stirrup Cay, the island is exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests. CocoCay features a variety of exhilarating activities and features, such as Caylana’s Aqua Park, a floating playground for kids of all ages; parasailing 400 feet above the island; and water sports of every kind, including snorkeling, waverunners, kayaking, floating beach mats, banana rafts, scuba diving, inflatable water slides and paddleboats.
New Shore Excursion Options: Royal Caribbean also is introducing an enhanced shore excursion program featuring nearly 3,000 shore excursion options that have been grouped into seven special interest categories designed based on guest’s interest and vacation needs. These include Active Adventures, Family Connections, Royal Tour Challenge, Culture and Sights, Culinary Delights, Caring Discoveries and the Royal Premium Tour Collection.
Active Adventures include high-energy activities at every level, from riding a dune buggy and boat rides to zip lines and rappelling through small waterfalls. Family Connections are aimed at creating lifelong memories that kids, parents and grandparents can enjoy together. Royal Tour Challenge guests can spend their days in port with challenge-based activities designed especially for families and groups.
Culture and Sights are for travelers looking to explore history and culture with local experts. Culinary Delights showcase excursions that introduce guests to local chefs, specialties and purveyors. And Caring Discoveries are for guests who want to make a difference in the places they visit by selecting tours that help wildlife, the environment and local communities.
Fleet Revitalization: Royal Caribbean has had an extensive plan in place to revitalize its fleet. That effort will continue next year when Liberty of the Seas is revamped at a yard near Galveston, where the ship will homeport. Liberty will get a number of innovations, including a new waterpark at sea and new extreme water slides.
Similarly, Majesty of Seas also will be revitalized next spring with the addition of more waterslides, family-friendly Jacuzzis, a poolside movie screen, and new entertainment, including the Dreamworks Experience featuring activities and entertainment with Shrek, Fiona and other favorite characters from the animation studio’s movies. An enhanced casino will guests a variety of the latest popular slot machines and table games.
Some of the new culinary options onboard will include Izumi Japanese cuisine with sushi rolls and sashimi, and the Sabor Taqueria featuring authentic Mexican dishes, as well as a new Chef’s Table gourmet dining experience.
But perhaps the most innovative feature on Majesty will be the installation of the Voom high-speed Internet service, which will be free for guests, unlike on the other ships of the fleet. Bayley said Royal Caribbean is exploring offering the service for free on other ships, but for now it will only be gratis onboard Majesty’s three- and four-day sailings out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas.
Finally, Jewel of the Seas will be revitalized in April 2017, with new features to be announced early next month.
New Ships in 2016: Beyond revitalization, Royal Caribbean also is introducing two brand new ships next year. In April 2016, the line will debut its third Oasis-class ship, the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, its largest vessel to date with many new features. Chief among them will be a new trio of waterslides called Cyclone, Monsoon and Typhoon.
Harmony also will have what Royal Caribbean calls the biggest showstopper yet: a 10-story vertical drop waterslide called The Abyss, located in the stern near the existing Aqua Theater.
And once guests get over that massive drop, they can take advantage of new specialty restaurant concepts, including Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, featuring a new teppanyaki menu, and the Sabor Modern Mexican restaurant. The new Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine will give guests the chance to experience a culinary adventure when Royal Caribbean chefs offer never-before-seen fare onboard a cruise ship.
Harmony will begin the spring in Europe, but will move to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in November 2016.
In May 2016, Ovation of the Seas will debut as the third Quantum class ship. It will be based in Tianjin near Beijing, as the second Quantum vessel to serve the China market after Quantum of the Seas began sailing out of Shanghai this spring. It’s all part of a growing fleet that Royal Caribbean claims is the biggest in the China market.
Indeed, when the line last year announced that Quantum, then its newest vessel, was going to move to China just a few months after being introduced in the U.S., many travel agents wondered about the strategy. Royal Caribbean had put so much marketing muscle behind Quantum’s launch that it seemed counterintuitive to move the ship to what many viewed as an emerging market
On the other hand, the China market may already have arrived. Bayley pointed out that Royal Caribbean now has three ships in China, with a fourth, Ovation of the Seas set to enter service there in 2016.
Beyond 2016, Royal Caribbean isn’t exactly standing still: It will introduce its fourth Oasis-class ship in 2018 and its fourth Quantum-class vessel in 2019. So between all the line’s new ships and its revitalized fleet, the line will have even more product to sell and will be able to cater to more markets worldwide, from North America to Europe to China.
More by James Shillinglaw
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