The largest passengers ship in the world has seen over £5m (€6.6m, $7.3m) invested in Southampton ports and could deliver a boost to the local economy worth three times as much every time she visits the south coast city.
The Harmony of the Seas arrived in Southampton last week ahead of its maiden voyage, which began on 22 May, almost a year since it first floated, and will take her to Barcelona. The launch of the 226,963 -tonne ship has seen Royal Caribbean, the US-based group which own the ship, invest some £5.5m in infrastructure around the docks in Southampton
"Southampton is one of the most important ports in Europe, which is why we base two ships there in the summer," Stuart Leven, Royal Caribbean managing director for the UK and Ireland, told IBTimes UK.
"It's important that our customers have an exceptional customer experience when they arrive to go on their holidays, and that's why we work with the ports authorities to invest in the local area."
However, the economic return on the local communities of the cities visited by Harmony of the Seas could be bigger still.
"We anticipate that every time a ship like Harmony of the Seas comes into port at Southampton for a turnaround, she brings £15m into the local economy," Leven adds. "You'll see a similar figure brought to any port in the world with this type of ship, but during the summer Harmony of the Seas will be spending her time in the UK and around Europe. That's a massive investment but also a massive vote in confidence in countries that the ship visits, such as the UK, Spain, France and Italy."
Data released on 26 May showed the UK economic slowdown in the first three months of the year, while reports published earlier this month indicated UK consumers have changed their spending patterns. No longer do customers splash money on big ticket items, these days the so-called "experience economy" is at the forefront of consumer spending.
"Whilst the economic indicators within the UK are steady but not showing much buoyancy, we're seeing a very different behaviour in the holiday market," says Leven. "Even in the short term, we see a strong growth in the number of people taking holidays."
The introduction of Harmony of the Seas promises to add a new, incredibly shiny, string to the UK cruise sector's bow. The £700m vessel includes 23 pools complete with waveriders and waterslides, 20 restaurants, an ice rink and a theatre. The omnipresent casino, gym and spa are also featured, alongside an ice rink, a nursery, a hospital and even a jail and a morgue.
The ship can host a total of 8,890 people including crews and passengers and Royal Caribbean expects a lot of the latter to be hailing from Britain. "The reason we have invested so heavily in the UK is because it is a mature market with lots of traditional cruisers, but also has one of the fastest growing new cruise markets, especially amongst families and younger couples," explains Leven.
Younger generations, he adds, are attracted by the prospect of a trip on board the largest passenger ship in the world as it is "more of an adventure than your traditional cruise and really has something for everyone."