PEEK INTO THE FUTURE: In this section, Raini Hamdi asks industry leaders to pen their thoughts on what the future will bring. Here is Adam M Goldstein, president & chief operating officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises on the future shape of cruise ships
People sometimes ask me if there will ever be a cruise ship larger than our Oasis-class ships. My answer is yes. It’s clear from history that ships get larger over time. There may be a longer-than-usual hiatus as Oasis-class represents a significant increase in guest occupancy (5,400) and GRT (225,282), but it is highly unlikely that there will never be a bigger ship.
The only certainty is that cruise ship size and design will respond to consumer preferences. Over the last 15 years the average size of cruise ships has expanded rapidly. While economies of scale result from increases in size, at least to a point, this efficiency goal has not been our focus. The primary driver has been the desire of customers for ever more options, choices and variety. The proliferation of specialty restaurants, entertainment venues, themed bars and action-oriented experiences is the visible manifestation of this insistent pressure.
I’m comfortable forecasting that this consumer-led desire for diversity of experiences will continue. I’m considerably less comfortable predicting what these experiences will be. After all, when Royal Caribbean began in 1970 with the first purpose-built ships for warm weather cruising, no one could have imagined rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, surfing, sky diving, digital signage or pervasive Wi-Fi, not to mention the elimination of the main dining room as on the forthcoming Quantum of the Seas with its Dynamic Dining concept.
I’m also comfortable forecasting that four critical elements of ship design and construction will continue to play a crucial role in the cruise industry’s development.
First, technology will be ubiquitous. In less than 20 years we have transitioned from marketing the benefits of disconnecting from daily life to calling out improvements to online connectivity. This is the beginning of a revolution in the guest and crew experience with unforeseeable developments ahead.
Second, safety and environmental sensitivity will continue to be front and centre. We take responsibility for our guests and crew every time a cruise ship leaves port and this will not change. Nor will our need to protect the oceans on which we sail. Continuous improvement in this domain must be unceasing.
Third, fuel efficiency will only grow in importance but how this quest will manifest itself in terms of types of fuels, propulsion and power generation is unpredictable.
Finally, destinations will continue to emerge around the world, especially in Asia, over the upcoming decades. These new ports-of-call will often lack the ability to handle the largest cruise ships early in a port’s maturity curve. So it’s highly likely there will continue to be a variety of ship sizes and a need for appropriate tendering services as well as permanent docks, regardless of the size of the source markets that produce the customers.
Taking all of the above into account, it’s clear Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry will continue to push the boundaries of cruising as we have known them. It will be exciting to see the innovations unfold.
This article was first published in TTG Asia, August 8, 2014 issue, on page 10. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.