The Germans are not noted for their sense of humour. The Americans do not normally have a refined sense of irony. So there was plenty of room for misunderstandings at the ceremony today when cruise ship Ovation of the Seas was handed over from builders Meyer-Werft to Royal Caribbean.
The event involved much signing of paperwork, shaking of hands, raising and lowering of flags, and sipping of Champagne – before 10 o’clock in the morning.
It also involved the handing over of a ring-binder containing all the essential paperwork. It was presented by shipyard owner Bernard Meyer (above right) to Richard Fain (above left), chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. He passed it to Michael Bayley, president of Royal Caribbean International, who finally handed it to Captain Henrik Loy, master of the vessel.
Somehow, Fain was still not satisfied. With a funnybone honed over a number of years living and working in London some years ago, he expressed his disappointment to the assembled ship’s crew.
“We have just completed an €800 million deal, and all I get is a book,” he said. “I could do better on Amazon.”
A flicker of a smile passed briefly across Bernard Meyer’s face. As well it might. These two titans of the cruise industry know each other well. Ovation is the 17th ship that the German yard has built for Royal Caribbean. There are more on the order book.
As Fain had pointed out earlier, the contract was made in May 2013 on the basis of a handshake. The paperwork came later.
While steel-cutting and assembly took place in Meyer-Werft’s giant construction sheds, it was not until March 2015 that the first block was laid in dry-dock. The ship was floated out two months ago, and made its way to the sea – travelling 28 miles backwards down the River Ems – in March.
Now it is ready for its first fare-paying passengers. Almost.
While I remain on board this weekend for the crossing from Bremerhaven to Southampton, an army of boiler-suited contractors are still adding the finishing touches.
Crew in fresh-pressed uniforms are attending last-minute briefing meetings throughout the ship.
We will arrive in Southampton on Sunday afternoon. On Monday Ovation welcomes media and travel trade guests for a one-off event. Then come the paying passengers, making the most of the three short sailings from the UK before the ship sets off for her new home in the Far East this summer and Australia in the winter.
Bernard Meyer will be heading back to his headquarters where – if he wants to prove that the Germans DO have a sense of humour – he can plan something more significant than “a book” to present to Richard Fain at the next handover ceremony.