8 ways Royal Caribbean changed the cruise industry


Royal Caribbean is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with a milestone of that magnitude, it seems fitting to review the cruise industry firsts that figuratively put Royal Caribbean on the map.

Innovation is a byproduct of competition among the cruise lines, and Royal Caribbean has brought about a number of changes to its ships with the goal differentiating it from other cruising choices that have since set the new standard for what guests expect onboard.  As guests, we love seeing what Royal Caribbean comes up with next.  It is what makes the cruise line different, special and most importantly, a heck of a lot of fun.

Here are our list of the top eight innovations Royal Caribbean brought about that have since changed the cruise industry.

1. First ship built for warm-weather cruising

In 1970, when the fledgling cruise line launched Song of Norway, it was the first ship designed specifically for warm-weather cruising.  By launching cruises from ports in south Florida and the Caribbean and flying passengers in from cities in the North, Royal Caribbean allowed its passengers to spend more time cruising in warm weather than would have been the case had the cruise originated in New York or Boston.

Prior to the launch of Song of Norway, cruise ships were built for point-to-point ocean transportation with significantly less open space.

The design of the Song of Norway was unique in a number of respects, not the least of which was its Viking Crown cocktail lounge cantilevered from its smokestack. Today most Royal Caribbean cruise ships feature a Viking Crown Lounge. The Song of Norway was also notable for its open pool and lounging area, which since has become an industry standard.

2. World’s first “Megaship”

We take for granted today the variety of amenities and activities available on cruise ships, but Royal Caribbean invented the category of a megaship with the launch of Sovereign of the Seas in 1988.

At 73,192 tons, the ship featured a five-deck Centrum, glass elevators, fountains in marble pools, and sweeping staircases. 

Sovereign of the Seas demonstrated that it is possible for a modern cruise ship to offer a balance of beauty and function and be something more than a container carrier or a ferry. 

3. Ice skating and rock climbing walls

Historically, cruise ships were built following the model set forth by ocean liners of the classic period of transportation.  These ships were designed to be a floating hotel that offered rest, relaxation and a great view.  But as times changed, guests wanted to do more onboard and have a greater variety of choices with it.

The launch of Voyager of the Seas in 1999 added the first ice-skating rink at sea, as well as the first rock climbing wall at sea.These were onboard activities that was previously not available on a cruise ship.  More importantly, it introduced the concept of guests being able to do physically activities onboard that were never considered previously.

The rock climbing wall became incredibly popular with guests and was expanded to all ships in the fleet, becoming a staple of a Royal Caribbean cruise experience.

4. Flowrider

With guests demonstrating an appetite for signature activities to enjoy onboard, Royal Caribbean added the first surf simulator at sea in 2006 when Freedom of the Seas debuted.

Similar to a lap pool, it creates waves and simulates current by passing 30,000 gallons of water over the ride surface.

The addition of a Flowrider was a cruise industry game-changer, because it offered more for families to do onboard.  

Freedom of the Seas also introduced the first full-size boxing ring at sea, which was inaugurated by Roberto Duran and Joe Fraser.

5. Oasis of the Seas

Perhaps no cruise ship in modern times has done more to change up the cruise industry than Oasis of the Seas did in 2009.

Oasis of the Seas introduced so many industry firsts and shifts in the cruise ship experience, including offering seven distinct neighborhoods, the first AquaTheater at sea, the first zip line at sea and an entire park filled with 12,000 plants.

Not only was Oasis of the Seas the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuted, her sister ships still sit atop the pantheon of largest cruise ships in the world to this day.

6. World's first smartship

When you introduce a ship like Oasis of the Seas, how do you outdo that accomplishment? The Quantum Class set to do just that.

Quantum of the Seas debuted in 2014 and brought forth a number of firsts, including the distinction of being the world's first smartship that integrated technology in a way cruise ships had never seen before.  Chief among those accomplishments was true high-speed internet, that allowed guests to use the internet onboard in the same way they would on land, and at a fraction of the cost that onboard internet had traditionally been charged.

Quantum of the Seas also introduced North Star, RipCord by iFly, the Bionic Bar and the SeaPlex. These venues continued the tradition of innovation Royal Caribbean had made a name for itself in years past.

7. Tallest slide at sea

When Royal Caribbean announced Harmony of the Seas would feature the tallest slide at sea, a lot of people too notice.

The Ultimate Abyss set the record for being the tallest slide at sea, with a ten story plunge that begins 150 feet above sea level. The Ultimate Abyss is a pair of side-by-side 100 ft- high slides that guests can ride down multiple decks of the ship. 

Royal Caribbean commissioned Spark Cooperative to push the envelope of what a cruise ship can contain and build on the cruise line's innovative reputation with a brand new, thrilling experience.

The end result was a slide experience that offers multi-sensory channels, including spontaneous audio effects, bespoke ride mats and custom uniforms and accessories.  The attraction is designed to thrill guests while maintaining a sense of heart-pumping anticipation.

8. A new kind of private island

Appropriately enough, in the same year Royal Caribbean is celebrating its 50th anniversary the cruise line revamped its private island in the Bahamas that has become the new gold standard in what a private island experience is all about.

Perfect Day at CocoCay officially opened in May 2019 and boasted the tallest waterslide in North America, the highest vantage point in the Caribbean, the largest wave pool in the Caribbean and the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean.

The Perfect Day at CocoCay makeover blends a combination of relaxation and adventure with plenty of space to enjoy time at the beach or pool, along with a waterpark, cabanas, helium balloon and more.

Your thoughts

Which innovations do you think Royal Caribbean deserves recognition for the most? Is there something that stands out in your mind? Tell us about in the comments.

Meet the Oasis of the Seas that never was


When Royal Caribbean designs its cruise ships, they consider a lot of ideas and possibilities.  Any company that designs a product or service will go through many iterations or concepts before settling on the final design.

This week, we take a look at an early design for Royal Caribbean's Oasis class cruise ships that incorporates many concepts that never made it to the final cut.

Boston-based Wilson Butler Architects was a key creative force behind many of the features on what would become Oasis of the Seas. Wilson Butler has worked with Royal Caribbean since 1997, and responsible for the main theater designs for Royal Caribbean’s Voyager-class ships and theaters on its Radiance-class of ships, including the 900-seat Aurora Theater on the Radiance of the Seas, and the 915–seat Pacifica Theater on the Brilliance of the Seas.

A few years before Oasis of the Seas would debut, the firm had an idea for what was then referred to as Project Genesis.  It was an early design for the ship meant to introduce the neighborhood concept.

Design by Wilson Butler Architects

Wilson Butler proposed the design, which has a number of areas offering different attractions.  Some of these ideas would make the final cut (albeit in different forms), while others never made it.

"Studio Sea" and "The Midway" are two ideas that would be a part of the eventual final ship design.  Studio Sea would become the AquaTheater, while The Midway would be renamed The Boardwalk.  Interestingly, "The Midway" featured additional features not seen in the Boardwalk, such as a Lighthouse and Aquarium Light.

Arguably the most intriguing idea was "The Ocean Pass," which appears to have a blue whale at the top and a number of decks designed to look like an under the sea area.

The two areas of "Market Pier" and "The Coral Strand" are also interesting places, with each offering dining choices, separated by something called "The Coral Arch".

Design by Wilson Butler Architects

Another early design by Wilson Butler had an area known as "Great Blue Way," which sounds like a play on words for Broadway's nickname of The Great White Way. 

The design has two lounge ideas not seen on Oasis of the Seas today.  The Speak-Easy is likely what we now know as Jazz on Four, and Inferno sounds like a nightclub.

Which design element do you wish Royal Caribbean would put on a ship? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Five odd facts about Royal Caribbean that you might not have known


Royal Caribbean is a cruise line rich with stories and fun facts that have accumulated over the years.  As students of its history, we decided to share five interesting facts you might not have known about Royal Caribbean. 

1. Royal Caribbean owns a trademark on "of the Seas"

Royal Caribbean owns trademarks on quite a number of phrases and logos, but you might not have known that it owns the trademark on "of the Seas".

All of its cruise ships currently follow a naming pattern where the ship's name is followed by the phrase, "of the seas."  Oasis of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, etc. Interestingly, Royal Caribbean registered in November 2014 the phrase, "of the Seas" to presumably guard against any other company trying to hone in on that pattern.

2. Royal Caribbean's headquarters looks like its logo

Royal Caribbean's corporate offices and headquarters are located in Miami, Florida, and if viewed from the sky, the building is actually designed to look like the Crown and Anchor logo.

The cruise line's headquarters is cleverly designed as a three dimensional version of its Crown and Anchor Logo.

3. Vision of the Seas was not the first Vision class ship

Usually, the first ship of its class is also the namesake of that class.  Oasis of the Seas is the first ship in the Oasis class, Freedom of the Seas is the first Freedom class ship and Quantum of the Seas is the first Quantum class ship.  The Vision class ships are actually, the opposite of that.

Vision of the Seas was the last Vision class ship built in its original grouping. Part of the reason is technically speaking, the Vision class consists of three pairs of sister ships and is not a "class" of ships like other Royal Caribbean groupings.

4. 3 ships have been cut in half

Did you know that three Royal Caribbean ships were actually cut in half at one point?  In an effort to add more options and activities onboard, Royal Caribbean cut three of its ships in half and then added a new section between, and welded them all together.

The three ships are

  • Song of Norway
  • Nordic Prince
  • Enchantment of the Seas

The practice fell out of favor, because it is quite an expensive process.

5. Enchantment of the Seas was supposed to get a "hinge" put onto the bow

Back in 2004, Royal Caribbean announced plans to have Enchantment of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas fitted with a hinged bow, like many European ferries have, to allow the ship to pass through the Panama Canal.

The plan was for Enchantment's bow to be hinged so it can fold up during Panama Canal transits.

Obviously this never happened, primarily because Royal Caribbean had no plans for Enchantment of the Seas to actually pass through the Panama Canal, and the hinge project was put on hold.

Song of Norway cruise ship sold for scrap metal


The Song of Norway, Royal Caribbean's first ever cruise ship, has been sold for scrap metal according to a report by Maritime Matters.


Song of Norway was retired from Royal Caribbean's fleet in 1996 when she was sold to AirTours but prior to that, she was the pride of Royal Caribbean's young fleet.  She was built in 1970 and revolutionized cruising, becoming one of the first ships to be widened.

The ship's owner, ISP, was using the ship for private charters in recent years bit was sold to the scrap yard, which will result in the ship being broken up in China sometime in 2014.

It's a sad day to see part of Royal Caribbean's history go.