The world’s biggest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, will be based in Barcelona next year, Royal Caribbean announced today.
The 220,000-tonne giant, which carries 5,400 passengers, will do a full season of seven-night cruises between May and October with calls including Mallorca and Marseilles and ports for Pisa and Rome.
The four-year-old ship, which has been based in Florida, boasts zip lines, a water theatre, central park and boardwalk among its ground-breaking features.
In an exclusive chat with me, Stuart Leven, the MD for UK and Ireland, and International VP Dominic Paul said the move showed Royal Caribbean’s commitment to Europe.
Sister ship Oasis is being based for a short season in Barcelona this year, including a visit to Southampton in October. New ship Quantum of the Seas – featuring bumper cars and skydiving – will also call in to the British port during November. Then next year Quantum’s sister ship Anthem will be based in Southampton from April.
Basing Anthem and Allure this side of the Atlantic would mean ‘two of the world’s most exciting ships’ would be in Europe, said Paul. But he denied this meant a move away from US-based sailings as the Caribbean was the ‘heartland’ of the company.
He believed Americans would fly to Europe to experience Allure but Royal Caribbean was not just relying on the US market – Allure would attract people ‘from all over the world’.
And he said the company had done ‘a lot of work’ to ensure Mediterranean cities could cope with the arrival of thousands of passengers from one ship. He added: ‘It’s a very big deal for the ports.’
However, he refused to be drawn on where the forthcoming third Oasis-class ship would be based – or whether there would be an Oasis 4, adding that Royal Caribbean ‘is very focused in continuing global growth’.
Paul said that having Allure as a fly-cruise destination and basing Anthem in Southampton ‘really underlines our investment in the UK long term’.
Leven said he wasn’t worried that the number of British cruise passengers seemed to be flatlining this year after a decade of growth. It was all about attracting people who had never cruised before by providing exciting ships like Anthem and Allure, he said.
‘Our big opportunity is to talk to people who take traditionally land-based holidays and educate them about the experience they can enjoy on our ships where the view from the window changes every day.’
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