Sky-diving on the high seas? Looks like cruising doesn't have to be all high tea and bridge, after all.
It's no secret that serious cash is being pumped into the cruise industry and Royal Caribbean International has upped the ante. Its Ovation of the Seas, currently being built in Germany, will be the single largest investment in Australia by any cruise company, at more than a billion US dollars.
Ovation is the latest Quantum class vessel in Royal Caribbean's 23-ship fleet, and when it arrives here via Shanghai in December 2016, it will be the largest, newest and most technologically advanced ship to visit Australia.
It's 23 per cent bigger than its sister ship, Voyager of the Seas, currently the biggest cruise ship in Australia.
The 348-metre ship will carry 4,905 passengers and 1,500 crew for a five-cruise program covering Australia and New Zealand.
"The vast bulk of Australians have never been on a cruise," says Gavin Smith, the company's regional vice president, Asia Pacific. "Ovation reimagines the way that an Australian family might cruise. "
Along with the usual buffet, bridge and Broadway entertainment, a holiday on Ovation might include cocktails at the Bionic Bar, where robots make the drinks, or a surf-simulation lesson. The SmartShip, as it's called, will also offer WiFi, radio-frequency wristbands (rather than keys), and an iQ-style app for guests to manage their activities.
Other world firsts include skydiving at sea, and the North Star aerial observatory experience, where guests will be lifted by a robotic arm more than 90 metres above sea level, then out to sea for a 360-degree view. Dining won't take a back seat, with 18 restaurants including a Jamie's Italian and eateries by Americans Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander.