10 Things Royal Caribbean does differently from any other cruise line
If you're already a Royal Caribbean fan, we don't need to tell you why the line is great.
But if you're searching for information before booking your first cruise under the crown and anchor, here are 10 areas in which Royal Caribbean offers unique experiences you won't find with other lines.
Of note are the line's Oasis-class inward-facing Boardwalk and Central Park balconies, as well as AquaTheater Suites, which offer views of the venue of the same name and the vessel's wake. Since their debut in 2009, Royal Caribbean is still the only line to offer these types of accommodations.
Royal Caribbean was also the first mainstream cruise line to introduce cabins that rise two decks. Known as Loft Suites, they fall under the Royal Suite Class -- some of the line's most lavish (and expensive) rooms -- found on most Oasis- and Quantum-class vessels.
In 2018, the line debuted the Ultimate Family Suite on Symphony of the Seas. Also spanning two floors, it sleeps up to eight passengers in two rooms -- one for parents and one for kids. The latter includes a slide down to the first-floor living area, which is stocked with tons of games.
2. Outdoor Thrills
Freedom of the Seas greeted the world in 2006, boasting a free onboard FlowRider surf simulator, which is now a standard part of all ships that followed. (Some even have two.)
As subsequent vessels were constructed, the line also outfitted some of them with for-fee RipCord by iFly simulated skydiving and the gratis Ultimate Abyss, a dry tube slide that spirals down 10 decks.
On a couple of its older vessels, the line also went back and added complimentary Sky Pad bungee trampolines that incorporate bungee-assisted trampolining and virtual-reality game play.
As mentioned above, the Oasis Class of ships made Royal Caribbean's AquaTheater famous. Featuring high-diving acts and aerial acrobatics that will draw gasps from the crowd, shows at this outdoor venue feature the ship's wake as a backdrop.
The line was also the first to add Broadway and West End shows to its list of onboard productions when "Hairspray" took the stage onboard Oasis of the Seas in 2009.
Since then, the line expanded its Broadway titles and has changed some out over the years. Despite other lines' now featuring similar shows, Royal is the only one to present "CATS," "Saturday Night Fever" "Grease" "We Will Rock You" and Mamma Mia!" at sea.
4. Muster Drills
During the 2020 global cruise shutdown, Royal Caribbean developed Muster 2.0, a system that allows passengers to avoid crowding into small spaces for traditional in-person muster drills.
Instead, cruisers are able to review all of the relevant safety information and life jacket demonstrations via cell phone app or in-cabin TV before reporting individually to designated locations to verify that they have complied.
The Rising Tide Bar first appeared as a curiosity during Oasis of the Seas' debut and has found a home on other vessels since. It moves up and down as a "floating" platform from the Royal Promenade, stopping at a few of the decks above.
In need of something new for the 2014 launch of Quantum of the Seas, the line dreamed up the Bionic Bar, at which passengers order drinks via tablets.
They are then mixed by one of two robotic arms -- no human interaction required.
Read more: Dining at Bars on a Royal Caribbean cruise
North Star, a giant 15-person pod attached to a 135-foot mechanical arm, came as something new on Quantum of the Seas, the first Quantum-class ship.
Found on other vessels in the class, it allows passengers to enjoy the sweeping vistas that surround their ship, for a fee.
For more high-flying fun, Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island experience includes an added-charge hot air balloon-style helium balloon ride that takes riders 450 feet into the air for the highest view in the Bahamas.
Read more: 5 secrets to Royal Caribbean's North Star
7. Private Islands
Speaking of private islands, Royal Caribbean operates two: Labadee in Haiti and Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas.
While they both offer travelers a fun and relaxing time ashore, Perfect Day at CocoCay is the result of CocoCay's $250 million 2019 makeover, which outfitted the island with the tallest water slide in North America, the Caribbean's largest wave and freshwater pools, a zipline, several bars and more.
When Oasis-class ships were developed, they were the largest afloat -- so large, in fact, that Royal Caribbean divided them up into seven neighborhoods to organize the plethora of things to see, do and eat.
Perhaps the most notable are the Boardwalk and Central Park. The former comprises a carousel, a sports bar and arcade, the AquaTheater, the Ultimate Abyss, an overhead zipline and several snack venues, such as Johnny Rockets and a candy and ice cream shop.
The latter -- featuring a wine bar, a stop for the Rising Tide Bar, the onboard steakhouse and upscale restaurant 150 Central Park -- is also home to thousands of live plants, cared for by a resident gardener.
9. Indoor Fun
Cruisers will find SeaPlex, introduced on Quantum-class vessels, serving in different capacities during each sailing.
One minute it might be a bumper car arena, while other times it's used for roller skating, basketball, soccer or circus school. Trapeze classes, anyone? (Fees may apply.)
The line has also had free ice skating available on select ships since it launched its Voyager Class the mid-1990s. Some vessels (including newer ones) still have skating rinks in Studio B, where passengers can participate or take in ice shows, complete with performing crew members and choreographed drones.
10. Kids Clubs and Activities
Royal Caribbean excels with its complimentary Adventure Ocean children's programming.
Kids are divided into age-appropriate groups where they can participate in everything from science experiments and video game competitions to dance parties and acting classes with Adventure Ocean Theater.
For kid-centric activities outside of the kids club, look no further than the line's Cupcake Cupboard on select ships. In addition to offering tasty treats for purchase, it also runs a selection of extra-fee cupcake decorating classes for kiddos (and adults).