Before Quantum of the Seas arrived at its new homeport of Shanghai on June 24 to begin serving the burgeoning new Asian cruise market, some changes were deemed necessary for the nine-month-old vessel.
Unlike other current uses, the term wasn’t referring to a new world order or related global political matters. It was about making Chinese cruisers comfortable, coddled and contented.
“The driver is a difference in culture,” says Fabien Teissonniere, director of revitalization operations for Royal Caribbean International. Some of the changes may seem obvious – such as replacing the 1950s American diner-style Johnny Rockets restaurant with a Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop and its family-style pan-Asian fare.
Others, like removing Dynamic Dining, require some explanation. The program, which was introduced on Quantum of the Seas, replaced the tradition of set dinnertimes at the same table and with the same companions each night with a freestyle approach that encouraged guests to choose among several onboard restaurants for nightly variety.
However, the decision to switch to traditional dining for Chinese guests was practical.
“People come on board with a group leader, they eat in large groups, they do everything in pretty large groups,” Teissonniere explains. “Dynamic Dining wouldn’t have worked.”
Retail shopping options were also a key component of Quantum of the Seas’ Chinafication.
“The Chinese are very fond of premium brands,” Teissonniere says. “Luxury goods in China are taxed very highly, and I believe on cruise ships they’re able to get a big rebate from the tax. They not only shop for themselves, but they typically shop for friends, family, people at work.”
So an onboard duty free store, for example, was relocated to make room for a luxury leather boutique. A sunglasses shop was replaced by a high-end Italian footwear retailer. Branded marketing inserts in some existing store windows were swapped out to comport with Chinese tastes.
And Quantum of the Seas’ entertainment model also required some market-specific changes.
“Quantum had a very long show, two-and-a-half or three hours, which wouldn’t work in Asia,” Teissonniere says. “We put a one-hour show called ‘Sequins and Feathers’ – pretty dancers, long legs, a lot of feathers, Broadway style.”
“Now we’ve done all these conversions and the ship is doing fantastic. The casino is really generating revenue, the retail spaces are really working well, the food and beverage operation is working well, so we’re very pleased with the outcome.”
While Teissonniere estimates that 95 percent of Quantum of the Seas’ Chinafication is complete, a few tweaks remain for late this year or in early 2016.