Cruise operator Royal Caribbean has cut its profit forecast for the year following a dip in quarterly revenue. But with the launch of a new ship hailed as the most technologically-advanced vessel ever built, the firm is betting on a new breed of passenger to boost sales. Ivor Bennett reports from on board the Anthem of the Seas.
Forget the tea dances and shuffleboard, cruising has literally turned on its head. Passengers now able to float on air rather than around the ballroom. This sky-diving simulator is one of several hi-tech additions on board the Anthem of the Seas. A new cruise ship hailed as the most technologically advanced in the world. Captain Claus Andersen. SOUNDBITE (English) CLAUS ANDERSEN, CAPTAIN, SAYING: "We call it a smart ship. It's the smartest ship in the world. We have all the technology, we have the fastest internet that you can find on the seas, reaching a speed of 115 megabytes per second, so even for land this is really fast." The thirst for connectivity reflects the changing face of the clientele. Crosswords and bingo replaced by iPads and live-gaming. At the bionic bar, passengers are even served cocktails by robots. The automatic arms taking orders via tablets, capable of mixing any drink of your choice. SOUNDBITE (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "You'd have thought there's not much they could do with the view. The seas looks the same from all sides right? Well not from up here. I'm in what's called the North Star - a glass capsule that raises guests to nearly 100 metres above the water. It's an amazing view, but not for the faint hearted." Neither though is the cost. A two week cruise setting you back up to 5000 dollars a head. It was expensive for the company too. Royal Caribbean International spent 1 billion dollars building the ship. Despite a slight sinking in quarterly revenue, Vice President Dominic Paul is expecting the investment to pay off, pointing to the buoyancy of the UK market. SOUNDBITE (English) DOMINIC PAUL, VP, ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL, SAYING: "Whilst the cruise market has grown a lot over the last ten years, 1.7 million people is still a relatively small number compared to how many people take a land-based holiday. So we think the opportunity for the cruise market to continue to grow over the next five to ten years is significant." The company's biggest growth though is in China, where passenger numbers surged 70 percent in the last year alone. In Southampton, it was all hands on deck ahead of the Anthem's maiden voyage. Despite all the technology, some things still have to be done the old way.