(1:15 p.m. BST) -- Following the shock announcement of Indy being pulled from the UK in 2020, we sat down with the head of Royal Caribbean UK, Ben Bouldin, to get some answers to the questions Cruise Critic members have been asking.
Q: Why was Independence of the Seas pulled at such short notice?
A: Perfect Day at CocoCay is proving so popular that we don’t have enough capacity in Florida and the Caribbean to meet demand. Independence of the Seas, having received a multi-million pound makeover last year, proved to be a knock out success in the Caribbean this winter and consequently it was the obvious solution to our capacity challenge.
Once this decision was made it was important to us to communicate the change as soon as we could to help minimise the inevitable disruption to guests’ holiday plans.
Q: Why is there just one ship in the UK next year? Is this because the UK market is “soft” – as many members are claiming, a lack of ships or something else?
A: We are incredibly excited that Anthem of the Seas will be returning to Southampton in 2020. As a Quantum-class ship, she has a much larger capacity than our Freedom-class ships, so we didn’t feel the need to disrupt another ship in the fleet for the 2020 season.
**Q: Many Cruise Critic members are saying that Anthem sailings are booked up. Is that the case? Are you managing to get people rebooked?
A: No, it is not the case that Anthem of the Seas sailings are fully booked and we are working closely with our guests to get them booked onto Anthem or an alternative sailing if that is something they wish to do.
Q: Here is a sample post from the Cruise Critic Boards: "Wow... I am so upset. I waited for nearly a year for these sailings to open, booked on one of the first days they were open to get the exact room I wanted (a balcony off the back of the ship) for the Canaries/North Africa cruise in Sept 2020 which was over my 40th birthday and which was also planned to coincide with a London trip. The ONE remaining itinerary on Anthem during that time period doesn't have the room type I wanted available and doesn't include some of the stops that I really wanted (Morocco, Normandy, etc).
"I know this is totally #firstworldproblems but damn, I am really really upset. This was a huge trip for me (a bucket list 40th birthday trip) that I've spent dozens and dozens of hours researching and planning. Now that's all in the drain and I have to figure out something else.
We appreciate you won’t want to respond direct to this specific situation, but it’s indicative of how many feel. Do you have a message for those people who have booked a cruise to celebrate significant events?
A: We know that the news is disappointing, particularly for guests who had already booked onboard Independence of the Seas in 2020 and we are very sorry for this. We hope the full refund and future cruise credit goes some way to demonstrating to our guests that we absolutely value them.
Q: Tell us about Anthem -- why will this ship appeal to UK cruisers? What can UK cruisers look forward to?
A: Anthem of the Seas is a fantastic family ship with lots of indoor space making it ideal for ex-UK sailings.
What I particularly love about Anthem is the huge amount of entertainment offered onboard which is all included in the price, meaning an Anthem of the Seas sailing is incredibly good value for money. For example, she has the North Star which takes guests 300ft above sea level for 360 degree views across the ship and ocean; Ripcord by iFly where guests can free-fall in a skydiving simulator -- something my kids absolutely love doing; and the first-ever dodgems at sea in our Seaplex area which also houses a Circus School, table football, a full-sized sports court, Xbox Live and table tennis!
I’m excited that the Royal Theatre will continue to show West End hit musical "We Will Rock You", particularly after the recent success of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" film, and having seen it a couple of times before I’d say the technology is just as impressive as the production itself.
Anthem also has Two70, which is unique to our Quantum class, and offers panoramic views across the ocean during the day, transforming to an epic performance space at night.
**Q: And if people still want to get onto Indy there is always the ship's Caribbean sailings and Perfect Day. Can you tell us about that?
A: Perfect Day at CocoCay really is next-level in terms of private islands and massively challenges people’s expectations of what can be done in a holiday destination. We’ve designed the island to offer the perfect mix of ‘thrill’ and ‘chill’; we have the tallest waterslide in North America, the Up, Up and Away helium balloon that floats up to 450 feet above the island, offering the highest vantage point in The Bahamas, and the Caribbean’s largest wave pool, to name just a few things that will keep thrill-seekers entertained.
For guests looking to chill out, we have Oasis Lagoon, which is the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool; an infinity pool spanning 2,600-plus feet and the first ever overwater cabanas in The Bahamas which each have its own slide into the ocean, overwater hammock, shower and dedicated attendant.
Q: What can you tell us about 2021? Will Indy be back and be joined by another ship?
A: It’s certainly my appetite to get back to two ships in the UK as soon as we can and I know our loyal UK guests feel exactly the same way!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add to reassure Royal passengers/CC members regarding Royal’s commitment to the UK?
A: The UK is a key market for Royal Caribbean and we know our Miami-based colleagues remain absolutely committed to us, as evidenced by the fact we have Anthem of the Seas returning to the UK next year -- which is a huge coup for us.