The president of Royal Caribbean has given his strongest hint yet that the UK could see a new ship home-ported out of Southampton within the next few years.
Speaking onboard Harmony of the Seas - the line’s latest addition to the fleet – Michael Bayley insisted the UK and Ireland remained “very important” to the line. “It always has, and it always will be,” he said.
“We have the fourth Oasis-class ship being delivered in 2018, and we’ve got Quantum 4 coming in 2019, and we haven’t decided where they’re going yet.
“The UK market is very important for us and I can pretty much guarantee that the UK will be getting a brand new ship in the next few years,” he added.
Bayley refused to reveal whether this would be a Quantum or an Oasis-class vessel, however he insisted that the UK “could fill an Oasis-class ship”.
Asked whether this meant an Oasis-class ship was subsequently on the table to homeport in Southampton, Bayley admitted: “It could be”.
It comes just a day after Royal Caribbean announced a new £5.5 million, seven-year deal with the Port of Southampton, for the City Cruise terminal to remain “the official UK home of Royal Caribbean International”.
The line said the investment had “so far enabled Associated British Ports, owner and operator of the Southampton port, to prepare the terminal for a new generation of ships, heralded by the arrival of the latest addition to Royal Caribbean’s 25-strong-fleet”.
Meanwhile Richard Fain, chairman of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, confessed he never believed the line would ever build a second Oasis-class ship, let alone a further two.
“When we built the first Oasis-class ship, I really thought there would only be one and I can’t believe we’re now on Oasis 3,” he said. “When we were building our fourth ever vessel [in the fleet], we were genuinely concerned that there wouldn’t be enough ports for it – it seems strange to think that now.”
Elsewhere Bayley dismissed concerns that the size of Harmony of the Seas –now the biggest passenger ship in the world, larger than both its sister ships Allure and Oasis of the Seas – could put people off cruising.
“When you look at the bookings from the UK and Ireland markets, they are outstanding. We’re pretty much sold out for Harmony – the demand is there for this class [of ship] and product. It’s a remarkable success, and that’s why we build this class of ship, and why we will continue to do so.
“At Royal Caribbean we have many brands – Azamara is small and boutique, if you don’t like the big ship experience you can go on this, and Celebrity is a phenomenal cruise line,” he added.
“People have a perception that often dissipates when they come onboard and see and experience the product.”
Fain admitted however that he did not believe the line would make any ships larger than the Oasis-class. “I can’t really see them getting bigger,” he said, but added: “I’ve said that before and I’ve been wrong before.”