Big ship: The Liberty of the Seas has room for 3,600 passengers and will start coming to Bermuda in 2015. *Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean
Big ship: The Liberty of the Seas has room for 3,600 passengers and will start coming to Bermuda in 2015. *Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean’s decision to send its newest and biggest liner to China instead of Bermuda is a major blow for the island’s economy.

It may also be evidence of a worrying trend that is seeing major cruise lines begin to look to the rapidly growing Asian cruise market.

But it’s not all bad news — instead of getting the Quantum of the Seas the island will welcome the Liberty of the Seas in 2015.

And there is a chance that the Quantum’s sister ship — Anthem of the Seas — will come to Bermuda in 2016.

Next year the Liberty of the Seas will be the firm’s largest liner to offer cruises to Bermuda from New York.

However, the Freedom Class vessel holds just 3,600 passengers — 500 fewer than the Quantum is but 500 more than Explorer, the ship it is replacing. 

This means the island’s economy will miss out on tens of thousands of dollars in head taxes and the extra visitor spending as well as the prestige of having the Quantum in Bermuda.

The Sun understands that Royal Caribbean’s decision to send Quantum to China in 2015 was influenced by the fact Bermuda’s existing shipping channels can not safely accommodate the ship as well as the lack of action to address the situation.

In April 2013 the Bermuda Sun revealed that Government was in talks with Royal Caribbean about getting the Quantum to Bermuda for its inaugural summer season.

And in July Royal Caribbean’s website stated that the ship would include Bermuda in its itinerary.

But at the end of last year the Bermuda Sun revealed the Quantum was too big for the existing shipping channels and dredging would be required.

Since then no action has been taken to widen the channels to accommodate the Quantum and the new era of cruise liners.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said: “The decision was made based on the fact that this is a win-win move: 

“We gain clear competitive advantage in Asia while generating appealing returns on our newest, most innovative ship.

“Additionally, Liberty of the Seas becomes the company’s newest and largest ship to offer cruises to Bermuda from the New York-metropolitan area.

“We continue to work with the Bermuda government on a suitable resolution to the dredging issue.”

The Bermuda Sun contacted the Ministry for Tourism Development and Transport as well as the Ministry for Works and Engineering for comment on this story. But no response was provided.

Meanwhile, Bill Hanbury, CEO of the Tourism Authority, said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority is delighted at the news that Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas will be making visits to Bermuda for the 2015 summer season.”

“Royal Caribbean is an extremely valued partner to Bermuda and is considered a leader in the global cruise market.

“This latest announcement is a welcome endorsement of Royal Caribbean’s continued commitment to Bermuda and its tourism industry.”

BTA Chairman David Dodwell added: “The Liberty is significantly newer than the ship it will replace, the Explorer of the Seas. This illustrates that Bermuda remains an important part of the major cruise lines’ deployment strategy.”

“We continue to get high ratings from cruise visitors and cruise lines alike.”

Referring on the decision to send Quantum to China, the spokesperson for Royal Caribbean added: “We are taking advantage of unique-in-the-industry assets — Quantum of the Seas and the Royal Caribbean International brand — to aggressively pursue the opportunities for profitable growth in China. China is already among our most profitable markets. Quantum of the Seas will be the industry’s most innovative ship at launch and will drive interest and demand in cruising in China and Asia.”

There is now speculation that the Quantum’s sister ship — Anthem of the Seas — could come to Bermuda in 2016.

Although this move will depend on whether the channels have been dredged as both ships are the same size.

The Quantum Class spans 18 decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,090 staterooms.

The spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said: “Anthem of the Seas, Quantum’s sister ship, launches from Southampton in April 2015 for a season of European sailing, then repositions to New York for a winter of cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean beginning in November 2015.

“We have not yet announced details of Anthem of the Seas’ itineraries past October 2015.” n