(9:05 a.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas will homeport in the UK and sail its first European season in summer 2015.
The cruise line's latest announcement is an amendment to the original plan which would have seen sister ship Adventure of the Seas based in Southampton. The near identical ships are both 137,308-ton, 3,144-passenger Voyager-class vessels, with Explorer being launched in 2000 and Adventure the following year.
Explorer will spend a month in dry dock for an ‘extensive revitalization' before arriving in the UK in late-April, 2015, where it will sail on three- to 16-night roundtrip itineraries through September 2015. Itineraries include three- and eight-night Northern Europe sailings, 11- to 16-night Mediterranean itineraries or 10- to 14-night Canary Islands cruises.
Adventure of the Seas will remain at San Juan, Puerto Rico, to sail seven-night Caribbean cruises throughout the 2015 summer season.
In a statement announcing the new plan a Royal Caribbean spokesman said: “Explorer of the Seas will complete an extensive, month-long dry dock revitalization before starting seasonal service and boast a wide range of new innovative features to offer guests an unforgettable onboard experience.”
These include a new FlowRider surf simulator, 3D movie theatre and a new range of onboard restaurants. There will also be refurbished staterooms and suites, plus the line's new ‘virtual balconies' that bring live ocean and destination views to inside cabins. The Voyager-class ships were the first to introduce Royal Caribbean's trademark active cruising, with features such as a rock-climbing wall, real ice-skating rink and full-size basketball court.
Explorer of the Seas will be joined in Southampton by Anthem of the Seas, the second of Royal Caribbean's three 167,800-ton, 4,180-passenger next generation Quantum-class cruise ships. Anthem, launches in spring 2015, and last week it was revealed that the Quantum ships would showcase all-new MDR-less Dynamic Dining, offering passengers a flexible dining experience in a choice of 18 restaurants. The line's 90,090-ton, 2,112- passenger Brilliance of the Seas will complete the UK trio and homeport in Harwich.
--by Jeannine Williamson, Cruise Critic Contributor