SouthFlorida.com
Hungry for a good conversation? Join our Facebook group "Let's Eat, South Florida" where our readers and writers share tips about restaurants, recipes and more.

Florida loses out to China for new Royal Caribbean ship

The Ovation of the Seas will be heading to China when it debuts in 2016

There's no Quantum love for Florida as Royal Caribbean has announced the home for Ovation of the Seas, and it's in China.

The third Quantum-class ship in the fleet is due in April 2016 and will join four other Royal Caribbean ships cruising the Asian market including sister ship Quantum of the Seas, which debuted sailing out of the New York market last fall, but is repositioning to China in May.

Anthem of the Seas, which will debut in April and was originally destined to come to Port Everglades, is instead taking over New York duties out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, N.J. in November after sailing European itineraries this summer. That leaves the Caribbean market lacking for what many consider the most advanced cruise ship on the market.

"Cruising has become very popular for Chinese consumers and Royal Caribbean is already capturing their imaginations with our industry-leading cruise ships," said Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley at press conference in Beijing. "We are furthering our commitment by bringing two of the world's newest and most advanced Quantum-class cruise ships to the region."

While Florida isn't getting any of Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships, it will be sending its newest Oasis-class ship, the Harmony of the Seas to Port Everglades and migrate the Oasis of the Seas up the coast to Port Canaveral.

And Florida is going to be the home to several other new ships from other cruise lines including the Norwegian Escape due in November, the Carnival Vista coming in December 2016 and the MSC Seaside in November 2017. All of those ships will sail out of PortMiami.

"PortMiami is still the world's busiest cruise port and we don't really see that changing," said Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of CruiseCritic.com. But she did say the China might be in the discussion when cruise lines decide where to send their newest ships.

"I think it's a little early to say who's going to be getting first dibs, but I would definitely say China is in the mix for getting newbuilds in the future," McDaniel said. "It's really a large market for the cruise lines. The market has doubled in size from 2012 to 2014. Virtually everyone is considering and talking about deploying their ships over that way."

Royal Caribbean's three other ships sailing out of China are Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Legend of the Seas. The five ships will homeport among four cities - Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and Xiamen - and sail 3- to 12-night trips to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. The 4,180-passenger Ovation, currently under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany, will have a 52-night trip before beginning its Asian voyages taking it from Southampton, England to Tianjin, China.

These are made up of a seven-night England to Barcelona cruise departing May 3, 2016 from Southampton, a 16-night Barcelona to Dubai cruise via the Suez Canal, departing May 10, a 14-night India and Southeast Asia cruise departing May 26 from Dubai to Singapore, a three-night Malaysia cruise departing June 9 on a roundtrip sailing from Singapore and a 12-night Exotic Asia cruise from Singapore to Tianjin.

The summer after Ovation debuts in 2016 along with Harmony of the Seas, the line will have 23 ships in service, meaning almost one-fourth will be based in China. The line is also investing in training with the Tianjin Maritime College to help staff the ships and has already hired more than 3,000 graduates. In addition, the line is looking into drydock options in China with the reviatlization of Legend of the Seas coming as early as 2018.

"I think calling it an experiment is inaccurate," McDaniel said. "They're committed to it. They're seeing great potential."

rtribou@tribpub.com, 407-420-5134

Copyright © 2018, South Florida
51°