THE Meyer Werft Shipyard has dominated the landscape in this corner of north-western Germany for centuries.
The gargantuan hangar which has been the birthplace of so many cruise ships towers over the uniformly flat landscape near the city of Papenburg, and is an almost-continual hive of activity with three liners finished there each year.
Next to the hangar sits Quantum of the Seas, the jewel in cruise line Royal Caribbean Cruise’s crown and the world’s first “smart” liner.
Work still continues at a pace on board Quantum, and although much of the ship is still a construction site it is already apparent that this will be no ordinary ship.
It has been five years since Royal Caribbean last launched a ship – the longest gap in the company’s history – and the excitement is palpable among company chiefs as they lead tours around the soon-to-be-finished Quantum.
The 167,800-ton, 4,180 passenger vessel is set to depart the yard in Papenburg on September 21 and sail up the River Ems for sea trials off Bremerhaven.
Then, on October 31, cruise-lovers and residents alike will get their first glimpse of the £800m vessel when she docks in Southampton ahead of her inaugural journey to New York.
Her sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, is currently under construction in the hangar next to Quantum, and will have Southampton as her home port when she launches next year.
Royal Caribbean says the new craft has been fitted with a smorgasbord of gadgets, gizmos and ground-breaking technology in response to ever-increasing demand from passengers.
They have dubbed it the world’s first smart ship, saying passengers will enjoy the fastest Internet on the high seas due to new mid-orbit satellites launched by tech partner O3b Networks which mean the ship will enjoy high bandwidth anywhere across the globe.
Guests will be able to use the new technology to complete boarding documents online, meaning they can go from the shoreside to their cabin in ten minutes.
New “WOWband” wristbands will also allow them to navigate the ship, buy items and serve as the room key while new apps will allow guests to book dining reservations and excursions on to dry land, and to have a calendar allowing guests to keep track of their reservations.
The vessel’s 1,500 staff will also enjoy the results of the investment in new technology, with apps allowing them to keep up to date with passengers’ preferences, and new Microsoft tablets
handed out to each of them to keep, which can help them keep in touch with their loved ones.
The advances also stretch to sustainability, with new technology helping to reduce the vessel’s fuel consumption, and to on-board entertainment. Robots are some of the most eye-catching features which will be enjoyed by guests.
Two70, a multi-purpose entertainment room at the ship’s stern that cost more than Royal Caribbean’s first liner, Song of Norway, houses six Roboscreens boasting definition eight times that of normal High Definition.
Mounted on large arms, they will move around in a variety of sequences, often in sync with live performers, while the vast glass windows in the room can also be transformed into various backgrounds using projectors.
Passengers will also be able to experience the sensation of sky diving in the Ripcord by iFly simulator, go surfing in the FlowRider pool and take in breathtaking views from the North Star viewing platform at the end of a 300ft arm that will tower over the ship.
A large indoor area called the SeaPlex will feature entertainment ranging from bumper cars and basketball to a circus school and video gaming, while even the bedroom suites will have an innovative flourish, with virtual balconies accurately representing the view outside meaning even interior cabins will be able to have a glimpse of the world passing by.
And there will also be 18 different restaurants ranging in style from classic French and Italian to American grill and pan-Asian, as well as a series of bars including the Bionic Bar, starring robotic bartenders who can get through 120 cocktails in an hour.
Speaking at a special launch event held in Papenburg this week, Royal Caribbean vice president Dominic Paul said: “We think Quantum changes everything and takes the cruise industry to a whole new level – it’s a whole new category.”
And when asked what the new liner will offer its passengers, the company’s managing director for UK and Ireland, Stuart Leven, said: “You could spend a two-week holiday on board this ship, trying things you will never try on land and you will never run out of new experiences to try.”