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I got more than a little excited when I saw the post from @Matt about the Royal Amplified fleet upgrade schedule, which included some new details on what each class of ship was getting as part of its refurb. In particular, I saw that Freedom class is getting all of these features from her bigger Oasis-class siblings, and Symphony in particular: Sky Pad (what I call "the bounce house") The Perfect Storm water slides Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade Sugar Beach Laser Tag Escape Room Fish & Ships Emphasis on Playmakers and Escape Room is mine. I'm wondering where Playmakers would go, given that Freedom class doesn't have an outdoor space like the Boardwalk on Oasis. Maybe the space where Johnny Rockets currently sits on deck 11, right next to the existing kids' arcade? It wasn't very busy on any of the days I'd walk by there on my recent Freedom sailing, and Playmakers would clearly replace the burgers-and-fries offering of JR. Plus, by putting it right in the space next to an existing arcade, they can refurbish that arcade space with newer games and maybe increase the size a little. Would be some effective use of the space, and anything on the burger front should be better than JR. Even on land, I'm not a fan of JR burgers. The escape room -- I wonder if this would be like on Anthem, where it's just the Teen Club space repurposed for part of the day, or if they might do it like Escape the Rubicon and other dedicated rooms that Oasis-class ships get? I'd really prefer the latter, as a purpose-built space for escape rooms is so much better than just slapping some props into an existing room for a couple of hours on one or two days. But what space would they replace if they did this? Apart from JR, I can't say I noticed any other really "dead" spaces on Freedom. I'm assuming Laser Tag would be done the same way as on Symphony, with walls and other props set up in the Studio B ice rink. Sugar beach -- probably replacing the current cupcake store in the Royal Promenade. Fish & Ships -- NO idea on this one, but I'm surprised (and a little disappointed) they're doing this and not putting in an Izumi like they did on Adventure. There's already the Bull & Bear Pub that could be used as a fish & chips place, keeping the overall theme of British Pub going; why install another restaurant that sort of duplicates a theme already in place? Especially when the marketing material clearly shows the pub is not going anywhere? Overall, this is kind of exciting to see, especially when it's coming in 2020. I really liked sailing on Freedom, and while I'm not a huge sports bar fan, if it improved the beer selection so I could choose something other than Paulaner Salvator or Guinness Draught cans, I'd be very happy to sail her again and try out all the new shiny. Maybe even forego the Europe trip I've been mulling and sail her instead.
A lot of discussion is happening right now around the Coco Cay updates that are planned, because they're big and splashy and (at least for some) controversial. I'd like to ask about the other part of the announcement, the Royal Amplified program. I'm putting a lot of inference into this one line from Matt's blog post on this program and the updates to Coco Cay (italics mine): This now makes two Voyager class vessels (Mariner being the first) that are being repurposed from longer itineraries in the Southern Caribbean and more esoteric voyages to Eastern or Western, to short 3- and 4-night outings. Nothing has been said about the plans for the Freedom class ships, so maybe there's a whole lot of nothing for me to be worrying about. But if once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern -- let's just say that I'm getting worried that a pattern is about to emerge. What I'm afraid I'm seeing is that these mid-size ships are being repurposed to be nothing but "gateway drugs" to 7-night Oasis sailings. This super refurbishment is being applied to all of the Freedom and Voyager class vessels, as well as the two oldest Oasis ships. If the mid-size ships become wholly repurposed to short voyages with the goal of getting people to book longer trips on bigger ships, where are the longer itineraries to more esoteric destinations going? I do hope this is totally ungrounded fear. Maybe Freedom class will continue to serve the entire Caribbean and the Mediterranean on 8-12 night itineraries. Maybe just Navigator and Mariner are getting this "special" repurposing to short-trip vessels as a way to supplant Empress and Monarch, and the remaining Voyager class will continue in their past roles. And of course, the Vision class are nowhere in this schedule; but I've seen enough comments here about how tired and old looking those are that I'm wondering if they're going to be "put out to pasture", doing the cruises that the refurbished ships are now "too good for". Anyone else feel this way? I kind of hope not, and that I'm just being a "ship hypochondriac".