Take a look back to a Sovereign of the Seas cruise in 1998


Royal Caribbean's cruises are temporarily suspended around the world, so if we cannot go on a cruise today, how about a look back at cruising over 30 years ago!

Pack your Calgary Winter Olympics sweater, refrain from discussing the Iran-Contra affair, and turn up the Kylie Minogue because we are headed back to 1998 onboard the Sovereign of the Seas!

Sovereign of the Seas is one of three Sovereign Class cruise ships, and was operated by Royal Caribbean beginning with her maiden voyage on January 16, 1988 from PortMiami.

You migh tnotice that in addition to the option of Italian dinner in the Kismet and Gigi dining rooms, there is the much ballyhooed midnight buffet between midnight and 1am to enjoy.

There is plenty to keep you busy on this 73,192 ton ship.  In addition to the five-deck Centrum, glass elevators and fountains in marble pools, you can choose between karaoke, 70's disco party, live music and bingorama!

Sovereign of the Seas served in Royal Caribbean's fleet until November 2008 when she joined Pullmantur Cruises.

It is interesting to note that Sovereign of the Seas was the first Royal Caribbean ship to feature the now well-known suffix "of the Seas".

The name of the vessel was suggest and vehemently argued by Mortis Skaugen. "He literally shook the name into me," Richard Fain observes. There have been two prior ships called Sovereign of the Seas. The first, the price of King Charles I, was a towering, intricately carved Royal Navy warship of 1637. The second Sovereign was launched 200 years later from an American yard, a swift clipper ship built by Donald McKay. A handsome model of each vessel decorates the current ship's Schooner Bar.

Although on first hearing the name seemed overlong, it imparted exactly the right sense of royal occasion. Of course, the vessel's workaday generic would, predictably, be abbreviated to Sovereign; "___ of the Seas" would serve as an invaluable class-identifying suffix integrated into the names of both successors.

The first sea trials took place on September 5, 1987, which was a weekend.  Weekends were always selected for sea trials so that removing the vessel doe snot idle the workforce.

Sovereign of the Seas' naming ceremony was held in Miami on Friday, January 15. 

Taittinger had created a huge new champagne bottle - the largest ever blown - specifically called a sovereign in honor of the ship - the largest of its kind ever built.

President and Mrs. Carter were onboard the ship, as the crowd, serenaded by a large orchestra, took their seats on the pier. It was a festive throng, caparisoned with hats, flowers, company ties, and always, multitudes of cameras.

Led by Chairman Eigil Abrahmsen, Mrs. Carter and the President emerged from the crew gangway and trod a red-carpeted path to the dignitaries' platform. The former First Lady had chosen a yellow suit, prettily matched by a chrysanthemum alee lining her right of way.

Of the many Carters on hand, one of the youngest had shared with Chairman Abrahmsen the ultimate grandmother's accolade. "This young man told me that he knew wat RCCL stands for," the chairman informed his audience. "It stands for Rosalynn Carter's Cruise Line!"

After the speeches and a solemn blessing, Mrs. Carter and the chairman climbed atop the launch platform.  The music stopped. A hush fell over the spectators.  In a clear voice, Rosalynn Carter offered the traditional benison, named the vessel and cut the launch cord.

The maiden voyage of Sovereign of the Seas had only one glitch, while she was tied up in San Juan. That same evening, an inbound container vessel, Long Beach, grounded in the channel, bottling up Sovereign and keeping inboard cruise ships at sea.

Near noon, the captain of the port ordered tugs to stop trying to pull the grounded vessel off the sandbar, pushing her farther on instead in order to clear the channel.  Because of the delay, Sovereign missed her maiden St. Thomas call but - delightful compensation - scheduled a beach day at Labadee instead.

We timed this sailing quite well, because we will be able to watch Super Bowl XXXII between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. The rules of time travel strictly forbid placing bets to profit from the outcome of the game!

Unfortunately, our trip to the past must come to an end. I hope you enjoyed this retro look back at one of the most important ships in the history of Royal Caribbean!

Founder of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line dies


Royal Caribbean announced one if its founders passed away over the weekend. Edwin Stephan died November 8. He was 87.

In 1969 Stephan founded the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and his contributions helped create the modern cruise industry we know today. Under his leadership in 1970, the company launched Song of Norway, the first ship purpose-built for warm-water cruising. Since that initial voyage, Stephan’s fledgling company has grown into the world’s second largest cruise line, a multi-billion-dollar global company of six brands, operating 63 ships across seven continents.  

Stephan retired in 2003, when he was vice chairman of the board of directors.

Royal Caribbean announced to celebrate his memory, flags will be flown at half-mast on the cruise line's ships this week.

A look back at 50 years of Royal Caribbean dining with Linken D'Souza


Royal Caribbean is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and a great deal of Royal Caribbean's legacy is based in the culinary offerings. Dining on Royal Caribbean has transformed over the years, with more and more new options, innovations and approaches to delivering outstanding cuisine. From the dining rooms, to the buffet, to the pizza and even robot bartenders, Royal Caribbean is never one to shy away from pushing the envelope with what can be delivered to ships.

At the heart of Royal Caribbean's food and beverage operations is Linken D'Souza, Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage. 

He and his team have the task of making the food, drinks and meals onboard an unforgettable experience for guests. Mr. D'Souza has worked for Royal Caribbean in this capacity for about two and a half years, and his team carries a tradition of striving to serve up the best dining experience.

"What hasn't changed is the ability of our staff to produce just an amazing product, amazing service to along with it, and I think that's what has kept us so strong as an organization."

"I think the key to research is to understand the guests, creating a product that they really want, and then taking their feedback. We're in the process of creating the new Giovanni's restaurant that will launch in the next little while, and in fact yesterday, we did a tasting onboard the ship with our guests to really get a sense of what they liked, what they didn't like. That's just one step. We'll go through three or four iterations before we launch Giovanni's Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar on Freedom of the Seas."

Of course, plenty has changed in Royal Caribbean's 50 years of operations, and the options guests have to dine at has grown every year.

"If we wind back time to 1969 with the Song of Norway, and you think about the two venues we had onboard, which was the dining room and the Windjammer, which was essentially a window that served burgers and hot dogs, to Symphony of the Seas, our flagship here in the United States. Sixty-five food and beverage venues onboard, that's a huge evolution."


To commemorate Royal Caribbean's 50 years, a limited edition hardcover book was created and given to guests sailing on Symphony of the Seas this week as part of the 50th Anniversary Birthday Cruise.  All guests can read the book for free by downloading the eBook.

Mr. D'Souza looked at the evolution of dining, explained the research that goes into a new restaurant and even talked about they pick a featured dish that eventually ends up on the menu. Listen to episode 327 of our interview with Linken D'Souza in its entirety below.

Be sure to subscribe to the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Podcast at Google Podcasts, Apple PodcastsTuneIn, and Stitcher.

Download Royal Caribbean's anniversary Food & Beverage ebook for free


In celebration of Royal Caribbean's 50th Birthday, the cruise line is offering a free download of its commemorative Food & Beverage ebook.

"Taste of History" is a journey through time to learn surprising facts about Royal Caribbean's culinary history, learn some trivia and find recipes to create these favorite dishes and beverages at home.

Royal Caribbean offered a copy of this ebook to its guests as part of the cruise line's 50th Birthday celebration.

What is your favorite restaurant or bar on Royal Caribbean? Let us know in the comments!

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.