Ben Bouldin said he did not want to focus future ex-UK Royal Caribbean capacity entirely in Southampton, explaining he did not “necessarily think that’s the optimal location to have it all”.
“I think [homeporting ships away from Southampton] means some of the season can afford to be more niche and can be shorter,” he said. “We’re even looking at doing split seasons [with two ports], so there are lots of opportunities.”
Bouldin was speaking to TTG onboard the newly relaunched Independence of the Seas during a two-day trade and media sailing this week. The revamped ship will be based out of Southampton this summer and again in 2019. Navigator of the Seas will also homeport at Southampton this summer, but will be replaced by Explorer of the Seas next year.
Asked whether Liverpool – which last month greenlit plans for a new cruise terminal – could be chosen as a Royal Caribbean homeport, Bouldin said the city was “not one of my preferences”.
“There are other ports that I’m more interested in,” he said. “The problem with any northern [homeported] itinerary is that 80% of our itineraries go south, and if you are going north we would want to do it from the east side of the country.”
He added the Port of Tyne could be an option: “It is an accessible port for the northern half of the country… so that would feel like a more obvious opportunity for us than Liverpool.”
Bouldin did not rule out a return to Harwich, after the line ceased homeporting there in 2014.
Elsewhere, Bouldin told TTG that Independence was being booked earlier and at a higher price point than ever before, adding customers should expect prices to be “around a couple of hundred pounds more per person” this summer, compared with 2017. “Customers need to be mindful that waiting for late space with Royal Caribbean is not going to bear fruit any more,” he said. “Our model will favour those who book early… this ship is sold out until the end of July.”
Looking at future deployment out of the UK, Bouldin said he would want to retain Independence of the Seas in 2020, and any extra ex-UK ship that year would “most likely” be Anthem of the Seas.