Robot Bartenders and Virtual Skydiving: Smart Ship Cruises Into AsiaMelissa Cheok and Daryl Loo
Robot bartenders mixing your cocktails, 360-degree views from an observational pod, and having the option of "skydiving" at sea. That's the experience promised by what Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. calls the world's smartest ship.
The $1 billion Ovation of the Seas is joining the fight for market share in Asia, the world's fastest-growing cruise market, and looks to set itself apart with high-tech entertainment. Royal Caribbean took delivery of the ship in April , and it is on a 52-day voyage to its home port in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
Asian cruise passenger volume nearly doubled to almost 1.4 million in 2014, from 775,000 in 2012, according to a report by the Cruise Lines International Association.
"There is no doubt that the Asia Pacific region from Beijing through Sydney, through Auckland, through Singapore, is the fastest growing cruise segment," said Gavin Smith, Senior Vice President of Royal Caribbean's International division.
The German-built ship looms large at 1,141 feet, more than triple the length of a soccer pitch. The latest in Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class, a fleet of high-tech ships, the liner made its stopover in Singapore on Wednesday.
Travelers who head to the ship's bar would be met with "bionic mixologists," robotic arms that can make and serve two cocktails a minute for more than 4,900 passengers the ship is built to carry. They can also try the world's first simulated skydiving experience offered at sea, or while away the hours in the largest indoor sports and entertainment space among Royal Caribbean's entire fleet.
The ship has 2090 rooms, of which 1,571 have balconies, while the interior cabins are fitted with nearly 7-foot-tall HD television screens that serve as virtual balconies, offering real-time views of the ocean. For a bird's eye view, there is an observation capsule that rises and rotates 300 feet above sea level, providing guests with 360-degree visibility.
The 24/7 Wi-Fi service matches internet speeds on land, the company said in a press release.
Ovation of the Seas is also fitted with power-efficient features including energy-saving appliances and a wastewater system that discharges purified water.
Singapore, which has ambitions of becoming a cruise hub in Southeast Asia, saw passenger traffic rise 14 percent in 2015, according to the Singapore Tourism Board.
"Over the next three to four years, we are quite optimistic that we could see a five to eight percent compounded annual growth rate for the cruising industry in Singapore," said Annie Chang, Director of Cruise Development for the city state's tourism agency.