Royal Caribbean’s experiment of sailing year-round from the UK is over. The wide open spaces of the Independence of the Seas‘ upper decks with the H2O Zone water park for kids, the FlowRider surf simulator, and the whirlpool baths cantilevered over the side of the ship 112 feet above the waves, are apparently not best suited to chilly days in the Bay of Biscay.
The winter 2012-13 deployment for the 154,000-ton vessel has it sailing six and eight-night Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale instead of heading for the Canaries and the Med from Southampton.
The 3,640-passenger ship will continue to be based in the UK this winter and throughout the summer, but next November it will make a re-positioning crossing of the Atlantic, and will not return until April 2013.
The switch in operations comes at a time when P&O are reducing their presence in the Caribbean during winter, and Fred Olsen are withdrawing altogether; both lines will have more ships sailing year-round from the UK instead.
Jo Rzymowska, Royal Caribbean’s associate vice president and general manager for UK and Ireland insists that Independence “has performed well during the winter months.
“However, having listened to guest feedback we believe that the sunshine of the Caribbean in the winter season is currently the best deployment for the ship.”
Which, with deals for 11-night cruises to the Canaries available for £799 and less, I would translate as meaning “we can make more money with the ship in the Caribbean.”
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean’s 1,800-passenger Splendour of the Seas has entered dry-dock in Cadiz, Spain, for a $35 million makeover which will see it gain many of the features which have proved so popular on newer and bigger sisters such as Oasis and Allure of the Seas.
Several new restaurants, including Chops Grille, Izumi, Chef’s Table will be installed, along with a Park Cafe (though the ship does not have a Central Park) and a Boardwalk Dog House (without a Boardwalk).
A new children’s nursery is to be provided, and 124 cabins will have balconies added. Wi-fi will be provided throughout the seven-year-old vessel, and it will be provided with an outdoor cinema and the touch-screen system which helps passengers find their way to cabins and tells them whether there is space in specific restaurants.
I’ll be travelling to the Navantia yard later next month to see how work is progressing, and I hope to have pictures of the improvements then.