In its quest to come up with unique and unusual dining options at sea, Royal Caribbean International has a new entry: a virtual train ride in a mixed-reality dining experience.
The experience is planned for its sixth Oasis-class ship, the Utopia of the Seas, which will be delivered next June, and will be designed to resemble a train dining car using some real train parts, steam and a train platform.
Once inside, guests looking "out" the train's "windows" would see footage from the American West, France, the Baltics or other destinations gliding past. Food offerings will match the location.
"Trains go through tunnels, so it allows you to move magically from destination to destination," said Jay Schneider, the brand's chief product innovation officer. "We could take you through a multicourse, multisensory experience that would allow you to visit multiple destinations through a culinary journey, visually see it and do it in a train experience on a cruise ship."
According to Royal's customer research, Schneider said, the two most consistent reasons people book a cruise are for the destinations and food. The dining car concept speaks to both of those desires, he said.
Trains are growing in popularity, too. Travel advisors and suppliers have said they've seen a boost in train travel bookings since the pandemic.
The train ride follows other immersive and mixed media dining concepts at sea, such as several Disney restaurants and Princess Cruises' 360: An Extraordinary Experience, which feature use of screens and interactive storytelling.
On Royal's train ride, the windows featuring the countryside or cityscapes of various destinations will show authentic footage, though occasionally CGI overlays can be added -- like a large man in a red coat fixing his sleigh, who might make an appearance during holiday sailings.
Schneider said Royal didn't want the windows to be merely screens. "We want it to be a window into the world through a train car," he said.