(12:00 p.m. EST) -- Royal Caribbean will base its newest ship Anthem of the Seas in Southampton, U.K. from April 2015 -- as Cruise Critic members predicted back in September.
The 158,000-ton, 4,180-passenger ship -- which is still being built in the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany -- will replace Independence of the Seas, which has been based in Southampton since 2008.
Anthem -- the second in the Quantum class of new builds -- will divide its time between Southampton, offering Mediterranean cruises; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offering Caribbean cruises during the winter months.
The line would not say where Independence would be deployed after its winter 2014/15 itineraries in the Caribbean. Nor would it be drawn on giving more detail on Anthem's itineraries.
However, if the predictions are correct, the ship will offer identical itineraries as Independence, offering short cruises to France and longer itineraries to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.
Royal Caribbean's VP International, Dominic Paul, told Cruise Critic: "We have a long history of activity in the U.K. market, we have been investing in the U.K. for 20 years. We have seen good quality growth in the U.K. market and Independence has proved very popular here. Anthem is the next step in that investment."
Paul emphasised that Royal continued to pursue the new to cruise market aggressively, and Anthem -- he hoped -- would help drive that.
Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive of Royal Caribbean International, said: "Our business has a long history with the port of Southampton, and over the last ten years we have annually increased the number of cruise opportunities from the port. We are now eyeing more growth with the introduction of Anthem of the Seas to the UK market in spring 2015."
When asked whether Anthem would have any unique features compared to Quantum, Goldstein said: “Fundamentally Anthem is the sister ship to Quantum, but it's possible it may have a few tweaks. It's still a little too early in the game, we're still hard at work on Quantum. We continue to consider various options, we're always willing to do that."
The ship's launch happens just after Carnival Corp.-owned P&O Cruises' newest ship, Britannia, makes its debut in Southampton.
When asked what he thought about going ‘head-to-head' with Britannia, Goldstein said: “We compete with brands across the world and we welcome the competition.”
Anthem is the second in the Quantum class of ships being built. Sister ship Quantum of the Seas debuts in autumn next year.
Quantum (and Anthem) will feature a number of “firsts at sea”, such as a skydiving experience and a pod that extends 300 feet above the ocean and over the sides of the ship, North Star.
It will also include the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, Seaplex, which will include bumper cars and roller skating. It will also feature the industry's first virtual balconies in inside cabins, which will debut on Quantum next year.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor