The Nation of Why Not
Royal Caribbean International has always offered exceptional value for money on their cruise itineraries and the company prides itself on introducing new shipboard innovations. Their earlier ships became the prototype for virtually all new cruise ships. A major feature of Royal Caribbean ships is their signature Viking Crown Lounge offering spectacular panoramic views.
The Original Sovereign Class
Sovereign of the Seas, launched in 1988, was the first cruise ship with a large open, multi-storey centrium at the heart of the ship. The larger Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas, both 74,000 tons carrying around 2700 passengers and 850 crew, soon followed to form the Sovereign Class. The smaller Sovereign of the Seas has since been withdrawn from the fleet.
The Vision Class
The Vision Class was introduced in the 1990s with Legend of the Seas in 1995, built with larger cabins. Five sister ships followed: Grandeur of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas, and Vision of the Seas including the now ‘stretched’ Enchantment of the Seas. A striking feature of the Vision Class was the amount of natural light the design allowed into the ships with many skylights and floor to ceiling windows. The mini-golf course was introduced and the impressively designed adults only Solarium, an adults only indoor/outdoor pool area with a sliding glass roof which can be adapted depending on weather conditions. There are three sizes of this class varying from 70,000 tons to 78,000 tons carrying between 2000 to 2500 passengers with 720 to 760 crew.
The Radiance Class
The Radiance Class introduced in 2001 with the Radiance of the Seas was a modernised larger version of the Vision Class with further new novel features. There are three sister ships in the class: Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas, all 90,000 tons carrying 2500 guests with 860 crew.
The Voyager Class
Voyager of the Seas, an exciting new mega ship, launched in 1999, was followed by four sister ships: Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas. The Voyager Class introduced ice rinks, rock climbing (now on most of the ships), and many more exciting features to resemble a resort. All five ships are 138,000 tons carrying over 3000 guests with over 1000 crew.
The Freedom Class
Freedom of the Seas, was introduced in 2006 and is a larger version of the Voyager Class, with new features such as a water park and surfing. There are now two sister ships in the Freedom Class: Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas. All three ships are 160,000 tons carrying over 3,600 guests with over 1,300 crew.
The Oasis Class
Project Genesis made further history with the launch of Oasis of the Seas, 40% larger than the Freedom Class; only a few tankers exceed the size of Oasis. It was followed by its sister ship the Allure of the Seas to form the Oasis Class. Both ships are 220.000 tons carrying over 5000 guests.
Launched in 2009, this is the largest and most innovative cruise ship in the world, with many more exciting ideas and new design features. To create some intimate public areas, the ship is divided into a series of ‘neighbourhoods’, such as Central Park and the Boardwalk. Royal Promenade, in the centre of the ship, is a gathering place for shopping, eating and entertainment. Aqua Theatre is used for sunbathing by day and dramatic theatrical performances by night. Other facilities include two 43ft rock-climbing walls and the first zip-line at sea.
Dining with Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of dining, both formal and casual, as well as dining in your stateroom. An alternative to the traditional dining choice of early sitting or late sitting in the main dining room, clients can opt for My Time Dining (open seating in the main dining room) offering guests the choice of time when they would like to dine, normally between 6pm and 9.30pm; reservations can be made online before your cruise or onboard. For My Time Dining, guests must prepay gratuities. Informal dining is available 24 hours a day at the Windjammer Cafe with main meals normally served 7am to 10pm, with buffet and table service and includes some specials from the main dining room. Other smaller venues are available depending on which ship you are on, like the Solarium Cafe or Sorrento’s Pizzeria. On Radiance, Voyager and Freedom Class ships there are speciality restaurants on offer; Portofino’s and Chops Grille which have a small cover charge of around $25 per person. On the Oasis Class ships there are 22 alternative dining options within the 7 different neighbourhoods onboard – some carry a cover charge.
New Dining arrangements for guests on new Quantum Class Ships
Instead of the traditional dining room, with fixed or open seating, the new vessels – Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas – will have 5 different complimentary restaurants with a pre-booking reservation system available for all guests, even those not prepaying gratuities.
Special Family Dining Arrangements
My Family Dining allows family guests to have their children with them for the first 45 minutes of an early dinner, usually at 6pm, after which they are taken away by fully trained staff to the Ocean Club allowing parents to finish their dinner in a relaxed environment. The line also has an extensive children’s programme (Adventure Ocean Youth Programme) with six different age groups being catered for, ranging from 6 months to 17 yrs; children 6 months to 3yrs can only attend with parental supervision.
Royal Caribbean introduces the Quantum Class Ships
The company is never short of new ideas and design features which it is proving yet again with the introduction of its next generation of Quantum ships; Quantum of the Seas is due into service in autumn 2014 and will carry over 4000 passengers. The new ‘skydive’ experience called the RipCord by iFly will propel guests more than 300 feet in the air inside a vertical wind tunnel. Another new feature, the North Star, is a glass capsule which will transport guests more than 300 feet above the ocean and over the sides of the ship offering 360-degree views. The new SeaPax is claimed to be the largest indoor active space on a cruise ship and will include a circus school with flying trapez and basketball court. In evenings it is transformed into a bumper car and rolling-skate area with a floating DJ Booth above it.
Interior staterooms include virtual balconies with real-time views of the ocean and destination_blogs. There will be a larger range of staterooms including studio rooms, some with balcony, for single travellers. There will also be larger loft suites onboard.
The second Ship Anthem of the Seas due in spring 2015 is to be based in Southampton and will host the world’s top acts at sea. Two new music venues will be introduced – Two70 and the Music Hall – and a 1,500-seat theatre. The former takes its name from its 270–degree panoramic sea view. It will have floor to ceiling glass, a three storey bar and entertainment area. It will also feature 100-inch screens suspended from the ceiling. Music Hall will be an intimate area where the ‘world’s top acts will perform’.
The third Quantum class ship, Ovation of the Seas, is due to be delivered autumn 2016 and will include more ground breaking features.
Refurbishment of older ships
RCCL has an ongoing programme of ship refurbishment bringing many new features to the older vessels at the same time – they are too numerous to list here.
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Photos: Allure of the Seas (RCCL) 75