Royal Caribbean International has announced that it will base a ship there, a departure from its usual European homeports of Venice, Barcelona, Rome and Southampton. For the summer of 2011, the 74,140-ton, 2,446-passenger Grandeur of the Seas will operate seven-night cruises out of the Mallorcan capital.
This is the first time Royal Caribbean will base a ship in the Mallorcan capital, though it's already dabbled in Spain -- Adventure of the Seas will begin sailing from Malaga this summer.
"Our research has found that Royal Caribbean International is now the brand of choice for families choosing to cruise," said Jo Rzymowska, associate vice president and general manager, Royal Caribbean International, U.K. and Ireland in a press statement.
Just a minute, though: There's a ring of familiarity about this. A family-friendly ship, sailing seven night cruises out of Palma, aimed at a U.K. audience? Could Royal Caribbean be trying to fill the gap that will be left by Ocean Village? The popular, informal Carnival brand is, after all, in its last season; Ocean Village's swansong this summer will be a series of nine cruises out of Palma, its home port for the peak school holiday season of July and August.
"Ocean Village's move had no impact on our decision," Rzymowska told Cruise Critic today. "We now know the strength of our brand and are able to look at other embarkation points for the British market apart from Southampton. We would be doing this even if Ocean Village were still there. But yes, we are very much targeting the 14-night family market over the main summer period."
Itineraries for Grandeur have yet to be revealed, although we're told that there will be one Italian Mediterranean and one Spanish Mediterranean itinerary. Royal Caribbean hints in its press release that there will be "greater access to smaller ports along the French Riviera, Italian coastline and Balearic Islands." There won't be long to wait, in any case, as the Palma season goes on sale in March this year.
So 2011 is shaping up to be a bumper year for Mediterranean cruising, what with recent announcements from NCL and Carnival that Norwegian Epic and Carnival Magic will be sailing out of Barcelona. The new Palma programme is a sign of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity's continuing confidence in the U.K. market; the two brands have already invested heavily in U.K. departures for 2010, with both Independence of the Seas and Celebrity Eclipse will operate out of Southampton.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor