When they sail into South Florida ports in the next several weeks, the region’s four newest cruise ships will be floating superlatives. They’re their line’s biggest, costliest, classiest, grandest — the list of -est’s goes on and on.
The latest additions, which debuted in Europe earlier this year, will make their journey to Florida for the Caribbean winter season. Each new ship represents the first local opportunity in several years for most of the lines to take what they do best and do it better. Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista, Holland America’s ms Koningsdam and Regent Seven Seas’ Seven Seas Explorer introduce innovations that cater to their line’s particular niche, allowing the brands to express their personalities with an exclamation point.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista departs Crete, Greece. The ship is the largest and most innovative in Carnival’s 25-ship fleet. Andy Newman Carnival Cruise Line
This hyper focus on cementing each line’s identity through the new ships means positive returns both for the cruise companies — most headquartered in South Florida — and for consumers, said Tony Peisley, a UK-based cruise industry analyst.
“If they can establish their own brand and what it stands for, passengers have their expectations at least met — if not exceeded — because they are on the right ship for their needs,” Peisley said. “Then if you get that, you can charge more for it. People really want to go on your line, and they will pay for it, to some extent.”
The ships will start sailing from PortMiami and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale in November and December, rounding out a year that has seen more new ships than any year in recent memory. South Florida will play host to each of the four lines’ newest, partially because the area feeds the still-dominant Caribbean market and partially because South Floridians know cruising and they’ll line up to try the latest, experts said.
Miami-based Royal Caribbean International, known for innovation, has for seven years graced Port Everglades with the world’s largest ships, its Oasis-class floating cities of 7,000-plus passengers. But South Florida missed out on its latest twists when Royal Caribbean deployed its Quantum class of vessels — the largest class of passenger ships behind the Oasis class on a gross tonnage basis — in New Jersey, Australia and China.
Aerial image of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, featuring the FlowRider surfing simulator and Ultimate Abyss, a 10-story slide. Michel Verdure Royal Caribbean International.
“We learned a lot in building [Oasis-class ships] Oasis and Allure, we learned a lot building [the] Quantum [class],” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises. “We put all that together and that ended up with Harmony.”
The 6,780-passenger Harmony of the Seas, the world’s biggest ship, fuses together some of the Oasis-class’ noteworthy features — such as its neighborhood concept that divides the ship into seven distinct areas — with the latest amenities from the Quantum class, such as the Bionic Bar, manned by robot bartenders. The ship also includes another new feature for the Royal Caribbean fleet: its 10-story Ultimate Abyss slide, the tallest at sea.