Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: Where The Ship Is A Destination
By: Bruce Parkinson
Some cruise lines focus on the destinations they visit, with their ships offering a comfortable base for exploration. At Royal Caribbean International, the ship is a destination, packed with options for food, drink, play, entertainment, relaxation and enrichment.
The line’s 25-strong fleet includes the largest cruise ship in the world – and five others that formerly held the title
The current record-holder is Wonder of the Seas, which debuted in 2022. Carrying up to 7,000 passengers and 2,200 crew members, the world’s largest cruise ship made a big splash with features including 18 decks, eight distinct ‘neighborhoods,’ the tallest waterslide at sea, more than 20 dining options, multiple entertainment venues and much more.
If you love the mega-resorts of the Caribbean or Las Vegas, you’re sure to love a Royal Caribbean cruise. You can do as much as you want, or as little as possible, settling in by the resort-style top-deck pools with a cold drink nearby.
Fifty Years Of Pushing The Boundaries Of Ship Design
Royal Caribbean International has been delivering innovation at sea for more than 50 years.
Each successive class of ships is a new architectural marvel featuring the latest technology and experiences for today’s cruise lover. Not only do the ships get bigger, each iteration brings things you never thought you’d see on a floating vessel – like a surfing simulator, an indoor skydiving experience, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, towering water slides – the list goes on.
The last quarter century has seen Royal Caribbean revolutionize big-ship cruising. In 1999, new Voyager Class ships made headlines for the skating rink and rock-climbing wall, but another major development was the Royal Promenade – a main boulevard of shops, restaurants and lounges that runs the length of the ship.
In 2006, Freedom Class pushed the boundaries with the first FlowRider surf simulator at sea, the H20 Zone aqua park and cantilevered whirlpools suspended 112 feet above the ocean.
The year 2009 marked another milestone, when Royal Caribbean’s renowned Oasis Class ships first hit the high seas. As each class member debuted over the past 13 years, Oasis, Allure, Harmony, Symphony and Wonder of the Seas have all been recognized as the largest cruise ships in the world.
They tout the cruise line's signature neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas – eight on the new Wonder of the Seas -- which include Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone. Wonder of the Seas adds a Suite Neighborhood for premium-paying passengers.
Royal Caribbean followed up Oasis Class with the 2014 introduction of Quantum Class, which added more ship design innovation, thrilling activities, cutting-edge technology and multidimensional entertainment. Now guest favorites, the ground-breaking features on Quantum Class ships include North Star, the glass capsule that takes guests more than 300 feet above the ocean; Two70, an immersive, multimedia entertainment venue; and robot bartenders at Bionic Bar.
Next up was Quantum Ultra Class, which debuted with Spectrum of the Seas in 2019 and Odyssey of the Seas in 2021. Smaller than the Oasis-class ships, these vessels are still packed with attractions, and saw the debut of RipCord by iFly, a thrilling skydiving simulator.
Later this year, Royal Caribbean International will present Icon of the Seas, the first of four ships in the new Icon Class. Carrying 5,600 passengers, Icon-class ships will be propelled by clean-burning liquid natural gas and contain extensive alternative energy features, like the use of fuel cells to produce electricity and fresh water.
Building Towards A Clean-Energy Future
Each successive ship is more energy- and fuel-efficient than its predecessors, as Royal Caribbean puts a strong focus on reducing emissions and waste in all forms.
The cruise line installs sustainable features such as energy-efficient appliances and LED fluorescent lights that use less energy. Several ships have shore power connectivity, so they can plug in while at port, reducing emissions. Technological advancements mean that Royal Caribbean produces 90% of the water used on its ships and at its private destinations. Plus, over 85% of waste generated on the ships never reaches a landfill.
Royal Caribbean’s next major step in building a clean-energy future will come with the 2023 debut of Icon of the Seas, the first of a new Icon Class of ships. It will be RCI’s first vessel powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG is considered the cleanest-burning fossil fuel available, which will make for virtually zero sulfur dioxides and particulates, among other benefits.
Royal Caribbean’s constant innovation has not gone unnoticed. Among dozens of awards, the line has been voted “Best Cruise Line Overall” for 19 consecutive years in the Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards.
Perfect Ports & Perfect Days
While each Royal Caribbean ship is a destination in itself, part of the thrill of a cruise vacation is visiting new ports. Royal Caribbean offers plenty to choose from – an amazing 240 destinations in 61 countries on six continents.
Where would you like to go next? Royal Caribbean’s large fleet enables it to follow the sun to destinations across the globe. Major cruise regions include Alaska, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Canada & New England, Latin America, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Asia and Hawaii.
While its ships sail almost everywhere, Royal Caribbean’s heaviest presence is in the Caribbean and Europe, with seasonal strength in Alaska. In North America, Royal Caribbean ships have a big homeport presence at Port Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and Tampa in Florida. Other homeports include Galveston, Texas, Bayonne, New Jersey, (for New York City) Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, Vancouver, Alaska’s Seward and Puerto Rico’s San Juan. In Europe, Royal Caribbean ships use homeports including Southampton, England, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Civitavecchia (the closest port to Rome) and Ravenna, (close to Venice.)
Royal Caribbean created its own private beach destination on a picture-postcard Bahamian island back in 1988, but it raised the ante substantially with a $250 million transformation that opened in 2019. Perfect Day at CocoCay offers guests an iconic day-at-the-beach experience.
The names of CocoCay’s ‘neighborhoods’ tell you most of what you need to know: Thrill Waterpark; Coco Beach Club; Oasis Lagoon; Chill Island; and South Beach. The Thrill Waterpark definitely deserves the name – it is home to the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean and the tallest waterslide in North America – Daredevil’s Peak.
Soon after its 2019 reopening, Perfect Day at Coco Bay became Royal Caribbean’s favorite destination, as chosen by cruisers.
Fun For The Whole Family & A Range Of Budgets
Is a Royal Caribbean cruise for you? If you’re looking for a fun-filled vacation, with dozens of activity choices and many options for dining and entertainment, you’re a strong candidate. If you’re a social person who loves meeting new people, it’s great for that too.
But really, there’s something for everyone on a Royal Caribbean ship, which makes cruising a great option for couples, families, multi-generational groups and gatherings of friends. More single travelers are cruising today too, as Royal Caribbean has increased the number of solo cabins on its newer ships.
With each new Royal Caribbean ship, the top decks become even more of a resort-style playground. Depending on the ship, there are sprawling pools, play areas for kids, bars and snack venues, miniature golf courses, rock climbing walls, zip lines and basketball courts.
If you or members of your group are looking for more chill than thrill, Royal Caribbean has lots of options for that too. For those who love to spend quiet hours reading a book, there are serene places far from the crowds, like the popular Solarium adult-only retreat found on every ship. And while you may be sharing your ship with a few thousand others, Royal Caribbean ships are so large and well-designed that you rarely feel crowded.
Families are a big part of Royal Caribbean’s market, and there are options and opportunities for kids from six months to 17 year-olds. There are extensive kids’ programs, and many attractions aimed at tweens and teens, some of the toughest groups to please.
Many loyal guests believe that cruising with Royal Caribbean offers the best value for the price of any vacation option. The product appeals to a wide range of budgets. For one fare, travelers enjoy accommodations, several included dining options and an array of entertainment and activity options. There’s a wide range of stateroom and suite choices, with prices depending on size, location and if they have balconies.
For those with more to spend, Royal Caribbean can deliver a true luxury travel experience, with high-end suites and services. There are fine dining specialty restaurants that come at a surcharge, and guests can purchase speciality dining and drinks packages.
Royal Caribbean offers everything from compact and efficient interior cabins without a window to massive multi-room suites, some of them two decks high. There are many stateroom categories to choose from, based on your budget and personal needs and desires. But you can be sure that each one delivers the comforts of home – at sea.
Fine Dining & A Show – Every Night Of Your Vacation
Every Royal Caribbean ship has a main dining room where dedicated crew serve multi-course a la carte evening meals. The main dining room also serves breakfast and lunch on some days. Each ship also features a three-meal casual buffet eatery – the Windjammer Café -- with a huge range of choice. Both of these are included in the cruise fare, and you can eat very well without spending a penny more.
Many ships also offer no-surcharge options like Sorrento’s pizza parlors, snacks at coffee bar Café Promenade and Mediterranean cuisine at the Solarium Bistro. Extra-charge restaurants focus on specialties like steaks, seafood, chef tasting menus, Italian and Asian cuisine and much more. There are also firm low-surcharge favorites like Johnny Rockets diner, serving burgers, shakes and fries.
Entertainment is another mainstay for cruise value. On a Royal Caribbean ship, when dinner is done, the night has just begun. The line’s biggest ships offer multiple entertainment venues, including theaters, comedy clubs, live music venues, casinos and full-service spas. There’s also a wide range of bars, lounges and nightclubs.
Live theater entertainment – including quality renditions of famous Broadway shows – is one of Royal Caribbean’s key selling points. You can see iconic productions like ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Cats,’ at no charge over the cruise fare. Compare that to the price of a night out with a restaurant dinner and tickets to a big city theater.
With ice skating rinks on 13 Royal Caribbean ships, fast-paced exhibitions with world-class skaters are a major attraction for guests. Oasis-class ships have another big draw in the form of ‘aqua theaters’ where exciting high-dive shows are performed. In another Royal Caribbean innovation, Quantum-class ships boast Two70, a high-tech theater where
Quantum-class ships have Two70, an extraordinary, high-tech theater featuring shows that combine video projection, robotics and human artistry.
Many cruise lovers enjoy spending some time at the slots or tables, and every Royal Caribbean ship features a casino. Some are major operations, like the Casino Royale on Oasis of the Seas that features 450 slot machines, 27 table games and a poker room.
Summing Up: Royal Caribbean Presents A Vacation Like No Other
Whether you’re a solo traveler, couple, family or group of friends, if you enjoy an action-packed vacation with great value for money, a Royal Caribbean International cruise is right for you. You can visit several destinations while unpacking just once, and your ship is so much more than transportation – it’s a floating resort overflowing with fine food, drink and exciting activity and entertainment options. That’s why millions of people around the world return again and again to experience the wonders of the seas, Royal Caribbean-style.
Expert Author: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce has written about the travel industry for over three decades, focusing on ocean and river cruising in recent years. Currently Senior Editor for TravelPulse Canada, Bruce is also a travel communications consultant and contributor to the popular CruiseRadio.net.