Saturday, 30 August 2014

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas really does 'change everything' but will it crush P&O's Britannia?

Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain proudly shows off his new toy

It's not just the first-of-a-kind sky-diving simulator and dodgem cars at sea. It’s not even the gimmicks like robot bartenders and full-sized “virtual balconies” in every inside cabin.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas really does promise to live up to the slogan “This Changes Everything.”

The 4,180-passenger ship will be here for a brief visit to the UK at the end of October. Identical twin sister Anthem of the Seas makes Southampton its home for cruises to the Europe and the Med throughout next summer.

Anthem will be in direct competition with P&O’s Britannia, launching in March and with a capacity of 3,600 passengers. Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain told Travel Weekly editor Lucy Huxley this week: “It’s my objective to crush our competition in the UK market with Anthem.

“Having said that, any improvements are good for the whole industry. Oasis of the Seas was good for Royal, but the size of the ship and publicity around it improved overall demand and made other vacation companies up their game.”

Among Royal’s latest announcements is an exclusive deal with an internet satellite network to provide more bandwith on Quantum than on all the other cruise ships in the world put together.

Unlike most cruise ships these two won’t have one huge main dining room – there are four big venues catering for everything from French cuisine in The Grande (where every night is formal night) to comfort food in the American Icon Grill. Among the other 14 choices on board are a Jamie’s Italian and a Johnnie Rockets burger bar.

The headline show in Quantum’s main theatre is a full-length version of West End musical Mamma Mia! Anthem will get the Queen tribute We Will Rock You.

While Royal were hosting journalists and travel agents from around the world at a German shipyard this week, P&O announced some rather more home-spun “luxury spa firsts” which include a menu of hair treatments and a VIP deck area offering cold flannels.

P&O marketing director Christopher Edgington hit back at Fain’s bold assertion by claiming that Britannia will offer “the most contemporary and refined holiday experience appealing to a whole new generation.

“No gimmicks, no robots; we have experts delivering the best of the best, whether that’s a heavenly cocktail, an artisan beer, or an awe-inspiring shore excursion. Combine these with tailor-made activities for every member of the family and you have the recipe for the most memorable holiday.”

Will it be enough to see off the invaders? Time will tell. But we can be sure of an intense battle for the hearts, minds – and wallets - of British holidaymakers.

Captain Greybeard's column, reproduced from today's Daily Mirror