As much of the UK media attention is focused on the historic celebrations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Queen Mary 2, a small ceremony is today taking place over in the shipyard that gave birth to the iconic Cunarder.
STX Saint Nazaire in France is the site of the keel laying ceremony for the third in the gargantuan Oasis class of mega ships, the largest passenger carrying vessels that the world has ever seen. The ship- with no name as yet- is scheduled to enter service in the spring of 2018, and is the first of the trio not to be built in Finland.
And, in a move which will surprise few, Royal Caribbean has just announced an order for a fourth vessel in the class, also from STX.
While many people expressed surprise at Royal Caribbean going to STX Saint Nazaire for the new behemoth, the two companies actually have a shared history.
Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was Saint Nazaire that produced the first class of mega ship for Royal Caribbean. The Sovereign Of The Seas was first in January of 1988, and was soon followed by two almost identical sisters, Monarch Of The Seas and Majesty Of The Seas, in 1992.
This first generation of super ships were, in their day, every bit as groundbreaking and technically advanced as their siblings of the Oasis class. All three are still in service, though only the Majesty Of The Seas is still with Royal Caribbean.
The French yard also built the Nordic Empress, originally ordered for Admiral Cruises but then completed for Royal Caribbean, back in 1990.
It is true that Royal Caribbean has been associated with Finnish and German yards such as Meyer Werft in Papenburg over recent decades. The new ships from STX join a construction roster that includes a pair of new, twin sister ships for MSC Cruises. After years of playing second fiddle to Germany, the French shipyard has certainly come out swinging.
The most fascinating thing about the new Royal Caribbean ships will be in seeing how much they will differ from their earlier sisters. With both Oasis Of The Seas and Allure Of The Seas due to make their first European cruises- in 2014 and 2015 respectively- the huge European market is obviously being primed for the potential, perhaps year round deployment of one of these innovative, ground breaking new giants.
Exciting times for future cruises in Europe, to be sure. As always, stay tuned.