There’s a tide in the affairs of cruise ships, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune – to paraphrase Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Each spring, a fleet of them make their way to Europe and spend the summer sailing the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and the Norwegian fjords. Each autumn, when the days shorten and the temperatures drop, those ships turn round and head back to the warm waters of the Caribbean.
Next year there’s one ship which won’t be heading west. Not just any ship either; it’s the Independence of the Seas (pictured above in Southampton) which arrives back here this weekend and which, until November at least can still lay joint claim to the title of biggest cruise ship in the world.
From 2010, the 4,000-passenger Independence will be sailing from the UK year-round, spending the winter sailing a total of 15 cruises to the Western Med and the Canaries, with a handful of short breaks thrown in.
By then it will have lost its “biggest” crown to Royal Caribbean sister ship Oasis of the Seas, which will carry 6,300 passengers. And it is precisely because Oasis will be cruising from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean year-round that Independence is being relocated to a different market.
Royal Caribbean are placing great faith in their ability to find another 60,000 passengers a year to sail out of UK, but with a floating resort – complete with a FlowRider surf reef, a climbing wall, ice rink, theatre, casino, spa and luxury restaurants – which combines the attractions of Center Parcs and a theme park they should be able to pull it off.
It can only be good news for British cruise passengers.
Incidentally, the full Shakespeare quote continues: “On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Quite appropriate really. I wonder if Royal Caribbean’s Richard Fain has been reading his Julius Caesar.