The world’s second-largest cruise line, Royal Caribbean International began in the late 1960′s as a group of Norwegian ship owners who wanted to get in on the rapidly expanding American market. Ever since its first ship, the brand-new Song of Norway, which debuted in 1970, the company has prided itself on introducing new shipboard innovations. After completing its first three ships by 1972, Royal Caribbean upgraded its first two ships and built the much larger Song of America in 1982. These early Royal Caribbean ships became the prototype for virtually all cruise ships since.
In recent years, the big news at Royal Caribbean has been ever larger ships. In 2006, the line debuted Freedom of the Seas, an enlarged, enhanced version of the Voyager-class design that introduced new features like a water park and onboard surfing to the array of Voyager-class amenities. Freedom of the Seas also narrowly reclaimed the title of “largest passenger ship” for Royal Caribbean, surpassing Queen Mary 2 in tonnage.
Then, in fall 2009, the line launched the 225,282-ton, 5,400-ton Oasis of the Seas. A year later, sister ship Allure of the Seas debuted. At over 40 percent larger than Freedom of the Seas, Oasis and Allure once again mean that a Royal Caribbean ship is the biggest cruise ship in the world. (Only a few supertankers exceed the size of Oasis- or Freedom-class ships.) The strategy of increasing size with each class will come to an end when the 158,000-ton, 4,100-passenger Quantum of the Seas, launches fall 2014.
Royal Caribbean operates one of cruising’s most intriguing fleets. Ships range from mid-sized, middle-aged ships (which have received major upgrades), state-of-the-art and on-the-cusp mega-ships, to the two biggest ships in the world Oasis of the Seas and sister ship Allure of the Seas.
The line is constantly innovating with its new class of ship Quantum Class, which arguably sets the bar even higher. Quantum of the Seas is bringing out Royal’s wow factor with firsts at sea including a skydiving simulator, the first bumper cars at sea, etc.
While not gourmet, Royal Caribbean’s food is usually good enough to please most of their passengers. Royal Caribbean ships offer the choice of traditional two-seating dining schedule or flexible dining for dinner, with open seating in the dining room for breakfast and lunch.
Most Royal Caribbean ships have at least one alternative restaurant, the Italian-themed Portofino, and many also have the Chops Grille steakhouse. Reservations are required for their alternative restaurants.
Daytime activities aboard Royal Caribbean ships tend toward the active. Every Royal Caribbean ship has a rock-climbing wall, some have mini-golf courses. All ships have vast main pool areas. All ships have a wide variety of spa and fitness facilities.
Royal Caribbean attracts a wide variety of mostly North American passengers, mostly between the ages of 30 and 55 on the seven-night and shorter cruises, and 50 and over on cruises longer than seven nights. Seven-night and shorter cruises are also very popular with families, especially during American school vacation periods.