Royal Caribbean's Cruise Ship Shuffle: What You Need to Know

April 17, 2014
quantum-of-the-seas-cruise-bayonne-cape-liberty-asia-china (4:30 p.m. EDT) -- As Cruise Critic reported yesterday, Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, which will make its debut in Bayonne in November, will only be stationed there for six months before redeploying to Shanghai.

The Asia market is growing, and although RCI will increase its presence on the continent by 66 percent -- fleetmates Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas are already there -- it hopes to keep the brand experience relatively similar to what cruisers would find on ships that cater to the Western market.

Changes to retail, casino gaming and menu options are planned to appeal to the local market, but details haven't been released.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for us and for the marketplace," says Christopher Allen, the company's associate vice president of global deployment and itinerary planning.

So, what happens when Quantum leaves Bayonne? Liberty of the Seas, currently stationed in Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades, is poised to take its place as the first Freedom-class vessel to sail from the port. It will offer five-night Bermuda and nine-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries that include calls on ports like San Juan and Labadee, the line's private island. Near the end of its tenure in Cape Liberty, the ship will offer four nine-night Canada and New England sailings, slated to include stops at Portland, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; Bar Harbor; Halifax; and Boston. Liberty of the Seas' Cape Liberty grand finale is a 12-night sailing from Bayonne to Galveston -- including Curacao, another first for a Freedom-class vessel -- where it will sail seven-night Western Caribbean voyages during the winter season.

The obvious void left by Liberty's departure from Bayonne will be filled by none other than Royal Caribbean's second Quantum-class ship, Anthem of the Seas, which will make the transatlantic trek to the Big Apple area from Southampton, where it will be based for the first part of its career. It will then stick around for at least the winter 2015/2016 season to sail seven- to 12-night Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries, including a brand-new Western Caribbean itinerary that includes maiden calls on Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Costa Maya and Roatan.

You might also be wondering what will happen to Galveston's current year-round resident, Navigator of the Seas, when Liberty of the Seas arrives on the scene. Navigator will make its way to Fort Lauderdale to embark on a series of six-night Eastern Caribbean and eight-night Western Caribbean cruises. (We've asked whether Navigator's repositioning will in any way affect the fate of Majesty of the Seas, the line's oldest ship; Royal Caribbean says it won't.)

After all the ship swapping, the biggest question remains whether the U.S. market feels slighted.

"We've tried to take a balanced view of the hardware we have all over the world," explains Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Royal Caribbean's executive vice president of operations. "Sometimes our decisions are strategic, not just financial. North America is at the forefront of everything we think about."

Cruise Critic members are split on the issue. While some say it offers a way to experience both Quantum-class ships and a Freedom-class ship from Bayonne, others are more skeptical.

"Can we believe Anthem will stay in Cape Liberty?" asks member BND.

"At this point, I am not believing ANYTHING ...." says megr1125.

"This news saddens me greatly," adds Laney219. "Why tease the [Northeast]? Just send [Quantum] to China now!"

Quantum-class ships will bring to the sea innovations like a sky-diving simulator, the North Star -- a jewel-shaped glass capsule that extends 300 feet above the ship for 360-degree sea views -- the Seaplex sports and entertainment complex and Dynamic Dining, a concept that dispatches with the traditional main dining room in favor of multiple, more flexible options.

--By Ashley Kosciolek, Copy & Ports Editor