The vessel will be the third in the class, but unlike its sister ships has been specifically designed with the Chinese market in mind. As a result, Ovation will feature a number of “subtle differences”, said Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean UK and Ireland sales director.
This includes added retail space, which will be “more high end, with big brand names featured”, while the ship will also have a larger casino space and no music hall. Johnny Rockets hamburger joint will also be replaced by a “Kung Fu noodle bar”.
“There will also be some other changes to the restaurants and food offering in Windjammer,” Bouldin added. Despite this, he insisted the differences would be small, and that the ship would still be an attractive proposition for the UK market wanting something different. “I think there is a mindset challenge,” he conceded.
“I want to reassure UK agents that the product is still Royal Caribbean. Yes there are subtle nuances for Chinese guests, but not in a way that would put UK guests off.
“You can get Chinese food onboard, but it’s not restricted to Chinese food – the ship still has the essence of a western product.”
Onboard announcements will also be made in English as well as Mandarin, he added. Bouldin said he was subsequently planning a “full-day event of interactive games” onboard Ovation to showcase the ship and reassure the trade that it still caters for UK guests.
There will be 15 teams of 10-12 people – including a team from TTG. “We will be going out to our top agents in the UK to ask them to nominate a team to represent their brand and company. We want to draw out the Chinese theme in the games,” he said, adding that the prize for the winning team would be “significant”.
“Sourcing to that part of the world is not massive right now, but there’s a big opportunity. A lot of itineraries can often be quite similar – what better way to give your customers a chance to see a part of the world they haven’t seen with a partner they trust? They know that Royal Caribbean will look after them. It’s making customers see it as a positive, rather than a negative.”