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Royal Caribbean CEO: New smaller cruise ship could be announced in 2024

05 Jan 2024
Allie Hubers

There’s a new update on the rumored smaller new Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

A new class of smaller Royal Caribbean cruise ships could be announced within the next year, according to a recent comment made by the cruise line’s President and CEO Michael Bayley.

Although Royal Caribbean is known for building the biggest cruise ships in the world, many loyal cruisers have been wondering about the possibility of a new ship class that could feature smaller vessels. Rumors have been circulating for years that Royal Caribbean might have plans to build a new cruise ship, although this has never been directly confirmed.

On Facebook, Royal Caribbean CEO and President Michael Bayley responded to one cruiser’s inquiry about the possibility of building new smaller cruise ships. In an exchange on Facebook, Bayley suggests the company is currently working on a new ship class with smaller vessels that could be announced this year - but details still need to be finalized.

Vision of the Seas sailing away

In a comment to Bayley on Facebook, Thomas Budzyn writes, “Mr Bayley, you said years ago that Royal Caribbean was going to come out with smaller ships to get to smaller ports that people want, but the ships get larger and larger - and it’s repetitive for CocoCay. It’s time to listen to guests who have stayed loyal for over 30 years. People want different ports”

In response, Bayley commented, “The Royal team is working on a new class and I hope if all the needed hurdles are tackled, we can announce something this year. It is a journey. Don’t forget, Serenade just sailed on the Ultimate World [Cruise] with 274 days of global adventures! Lots of new ports.”

The comment from Bayley comes just a few weeks before Royal Caribbean launches the brand-new Icon of the Seas, which is the biggest cruise ship in the world. The massive cruise ship can hold upwards of 10,000 people onboard, including crew members. Later in the year, Utopia of the Seas will launch as the newest Oasis-class ship and will be followed by Star of the Seas in 2025, which is the next Icon-class ship.

As Royal Caribbean continues to build bigger ships than ever before, the comment from Bayley alludes to the cruise line making plans to build a new ship class that would feature smaller cruise ships.

While mega cruise ships are becoming the norm, these larger cruise ships are limited when it comes to visiting certain ports. Some ports simply cannot accommodate larger ships due to size restrictions. Therefore, the idea of a new and smaller cruise ship from Royal Caribbean is exciting, to say the least.

This isn’t the first time that Bayley has alluded to a new smaller ship class coming.


Photo credit to Jon Evans

While rumors have been circulating about a new ship class for a while, CEO and President Michael Bayley commented on the same topic over the summer. In July 2023, Bayley was sailing onboard Allure of the Seas for the President’s Cruise when he was asked about the possibility of a smaller Royal Caribbean ship being built. 

The audience member asked, “We are excited about Icon, but we were wondering the other ports where you can't have these large ships at, are you going to make other smaller ships?"

In response to the question, Bayley said, “It is something that's certainly deeply in our consideration and our planning at the moment that we have a lot of conceptual work going on. I think when we're ready we can we can announce steps that will take to to do just that.”

During the President’s cruise, Bayley shared how Royal Caribbean is a brand that focuses on innovation and growth. With this in mind, the cruise line is constantly looking at ways to expand their fleet and build revolutionary cruise ships. Bayley shared how the cruise line is essentially always in a state of growth with new ideas constantly being considered.

However, Bayley was clear that nothing was set in stone and he could not confirm the new ship class.  He clarified, "It's very much in the forefront of our minds. We understand that we need to think and act on this. But we're in no position to make any statements or comments about it for obvious reasons.”

At the time, Royal Caribbean’s official order sheet showed the cruise line ordered Utopia of the Seas and three Icon-class ships. Of these three, we know this includes Icon of the Seas and the recently-announced Star of the Seas, which will debut in 2025. The third vessel name has yet to be released for the Icon-class.

In the same conversation, Bayley acknowledged that most of Royal Caribbean’s smallest ships are starting to show their age.

Enchantment and Brilliance of the Seas in Cozumel

Bayley said, ”We recognize that we have classes of ships now that are, you know, getting a little up there in the years," likely referring to the Vision class ships that are more than 20+ years old. Royal Caribbean’s oldest ship class is the Vision-class, which debuted in 1995. Grandeur of the Seas is the oldest vessel still sailing for Royal Caribbean. The ship is 27 years old and holds around 2,400 passengers.

The next smallest ship class for the cruise line is the Radiance-class, which is where you can usually find Royal Caribbean’s more interesting itineraries that feature smaller ports. These ships are around 90,000 gross tons while Vision-class ships are smaller at 70,000 gross tons.

In this way, Bayley’s most recent comment references Serenade of the Seas visiting new ports for the cruise line this year. Serenade of the Seas is a Radiance class ship currently sailing on the company’s first world cruise.

Serenade of the Seas in Amsterdam

While the voyage is visiting plenty of new and exciting ports across Europe, South America and Asia, the cruise is not necessarily accessible to the everyday cruiser. Even with individual segments available to book, each itinerary is only offered with one available date. The cost to embark on Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise for the entire 274-day cruise was anywhere from $60,000 to more than $100,000 per person. 

Although the biggest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet receive most of the hype and attention, smaller vessels still play an important role. Some cruisers prioritize sailing on more interesting itineraries to unique ports - and prefer smaller ships for this very reason. 

For instance, Royal Caribbean's upcoming deployment schedule shows fewer ships sailing to Europe in 2025 with more itineraries sailing to the cruise line's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Instead, the cruise line announced that it would be sending bigger vessels to sail around Europe to maintain passenger capacity in the region. 

As mentioned earlier, larger vessels are restricted with their itineraries due to size issues with smaller ports. Because of this, there are fewer itineraries available to book in Europe for Royal Caribbean cruisers. Having a smaller, newer vessel would allow Royal Caribbean to offer cruises to more unique destinations.

While Bayley alludes to there being a real possibility of a new ship class coming for Royal Caribbean, rumors have been swirling for years.

Rumors about a new ship class have been floating around for years. Many Royal Caribbean passengers have heard rumors from crew members that Royal Caribbean was allegedly planning a new ship class with smaller vessels. The rumored name of the proposed class was called Project Discovery with a new class potentially being named the Discovery Class.

As recently as May 2023, Radiance of the Seas’ Captain made a comment that the cruise line was planning to build a new cruise ship called Discovery of the Seas that would be similar in size to Radiance-class vessels.

Although Royal Caribbean has never directly confirmed this rumor, it appears that the cruise line is certainly considering a new ship class with smaller vessels. With Bayley’s recent Facebook comments, Royal Caribbean fans can look forward to a potential announcement about a new, smaller Royal Caribbean ship in 2024.

Allie Hubers has been cruising since she was a tiny toddler. What started as a yearly vacation with family quickly turned into a passion for travel, cruising and adventure. Allie's been on nearly 30 cruises all over the world. She even studied abroad on Semester at Sea, sailing the world on a ship while taking courses for college and visiting 4 continents.

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