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The last of Royal Caribbean's original cruise ships is going to be scrapped

18 Nov 2023

A piece of Royal Caribbean's early history is headed to the trash heap.

Song of America

Celestyal Cruises confirmed it is going to scrap Celestyal Olympia, which started her cruising life as Song of America.

Song of America was Royal Caribbean's fourth ever cruise ship.

Evidently the old ship will be replaced by a ship that Celestyal just bought that was built in 2003. The 42,000 ton ship from AIDA Cruises will take over offering short three- and four-night cruises around Greece.

Up until now she was the last of Royal Caribbean's original fleet to still be in service somewhere.

Read moreWhat happened to Royal Caribbean's first cruise ships?

Song of America aerial

Ordered in 1979 and built in 1982, Royal Caribbean’s Song of America cruise ship was over twice the size of Sun Viking at 37,584 GT. Song of America had a capacity of almost1,500 people, and was one of the Royal Caribbean’s largest ships at the time.

At the time of her launch, she was the third largest passenger vessel afloat.

She was built at the Wartsila shipyard in Helsinki, Finland.

She was the first ship to be built with the Viking Crown Lounge providing 360 degree views around the ship.

Read more8 ways Royal Caribbean changed the cruise industry

Song of America pool deck

Song of America's expanded sun bowl, featured for the first time on any Royal Caribbean ship, two swimming pools.

Another first for Song of America was the first ship to introduce the concept of putting staterooms towards the front of the ship and public spaces towards the aft so that cabins were furthest from the ship's engines.

Song of America

Song of America initially sailed Caribbean cruises from Miami to Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas, but she later ran cruises from New York to Bermuda.

She spent 17 years with Royal Caribbean until 1998 when Song of America was sold to Sun Cruises, although the ship was chartered back to Royal Caribbean until 1999.

Renamed the MS Sunbird, the former Song of America was based in the Mediterranean. She was sold to Louis Cruise Lines in 2004 and operated under the name MS Thomson Destiny.

In 2012, she began operating under the name Louis Olympia, homeporting from Piraeus, Greece.

Celestial Olympia

In 2014, Louis Cruise Lines re-branded to become Celestyal Cruises and the ship was renamed Celestyal Olympia.

A launchpad for the future

Sovereign of the Seas concepts

In many ways, Song of America was the catapult Royal Caribbean would use to reach the modern era of cruising.

While the 1970s had been a boon for Royal Caribbean, the 1980s were a slower time for the company. Royal Caribbean wanted to recapture the leadership edge it had achieved in the early 1970s.

In 1984, Royal Caribbean had 11% of the cruise market share, whereas NCL had 14% and Carnival had 15%.

Song of America sailing

The success of Song of America led the cruise line to ponder what would be next. Economies of scale, already realized onboard Song of America, were clearly the wave of the future.

Miami management felt that if anything, they should proceed cautiously, producing a slightly larger Song of America with a 1,600-passenger load. But the committee overseeing the construction of a new ship argued for even greater expansion, constructing a larger ship altogether. 

That larger ship would end up being Sovereign of the Seas, and Song of America was used as a base for where to start planning such a ship.

The passenger count, which started at about 1,800, would be 2,673 total occupancy, more than double of Song of America's capacity.

Sovereign would also inherit the Viking Crown Lounge concept that was first introduced on Song of America.

16 vintage photos of a Royal Caribbean cruise in its '90s glory

14 Oct 2023

The 1990s was the decade when cruising reached the masses, and it's the decade that would see Royal Caribbean launch so many cruise ships that would come to distinguish it to this day.


Royal Caribbean International, which was founded as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1968, has some of the world's largest cruise ships at sea today. When they started, however, their first ship only measured around 23,000 gross registered tons!

By 1991, the company had considerably grown and touted a fleet of seven ships, including Monarch of the Seas, who made her grand debut that year. 

To think about the growth of cruise ships throughout the 90s, Monarch of the Seas measured around 73,900 gross registered tons, while Voyager of the Seas, the first-ever Voyager Class ship that launched in 1999, measured over 130,000!

Have you ever wondered what it was like to sail onboard a Royal Caribbean ship in the 90s? TikTok user @tikittytalk posted a promotional video from 1991 that gives a glimpse into what cruising then would have been like. 

Read morePhotos show what it was like to cruise on Royal Caribbean in the 1980s

The original video is small and grainy, but you get the idea of what it looked  like to cruise in the early 1990s on Royal Caribbean.

The video starts with passengers boarding in San Juan, Puerto Rico


Guests embarking on this specific voyage departed from San Juan on a Sunday evening.

As soon as they stepped foot onboard, they were waited on hand and foot. Crew members wearing white gloves are shown assisting passengers with their carry-on luggage. 

Some onboard amenities weren't that different


On the ship, guests could visit the salon to be pampered. Plus, the narrator states that everyone was "wined and dined virtually around the clock," with the Main Dining Room featuring a different international flavor each night. 

This is pretty similar to today, as Royal Caribbean launched new menus in January 2023 that highlight a different cuisine and cooking style each night, from Caribbean flavors to upscale French cuisine and even Mexican and Asian dishes! 

Aside from that, it's easy to find food (and drinks) around the clock while onboard Royal Caribbean ships. While newer ships have the most complimentary options, you'll always find a Windjammer Marketplace (aka the main buffet) and 24/7 cafe onboard even the oldest vessels, such as Grandeur of the Seas. 

The video then cuts to a cabin attendant preparing a cabin for guests 


Do you remember when Royal Caribbean cabin attendants used to leave nightly chocolates in your stateroom? 

Unfortunately, this, along with twice daily service, is no longer offered. Today, you are asked by your attendant when you'd like your cabin to be attended to. You may tell them in the morning or evening; however, they will not service your stateroom twice anymore.  

Moreover, the video shows this specific cabin attendant dressed as though they're headed to formal night. While cabin stewards are still required to wear a specific uniform, they are much more casual today. 

It is also interesting to think about how most cabins only had a window! Promotional videos today tend to show a balcony or multi-level suite. Back then, however, this was not the case. Suites were not as large, and there were very few, if any, standard balconies onboard. 

Monarch of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's ship that launched in 1991, only about 5% had private balconies onboard. 

In comparison, Wonder of the Seas, who currently holds the title for largest cruise ship in the world, has over 2,000 staterooms, including suites, with balconies onboard, which amounts to roughly 70%. 

Read moreWhat happened to Royal Caribbean's first cruise ships?

On sea days, you could expect a lot of fitness-related activities to be offered


On the top deck of the ship, Shipshape Aerobics were offered in the morning. According to the narrator, "They [were] a great way to get warmed up for all the activities ahead."

Plus, attending these classes would help you earn Royal Caribbean shipshape dollars, which were good for t-shirts and other prizes! Additionally, they'd have morning walkathons. 

While the fitness center onboard Royal Caribbean ships is known as the Vitality Fitness Center, it was called the Shipshape fitness center in the 90s. Inside, guests could find free weights and access the most popular machines, much like you can do today!

Alternatively, you could start your day with breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe


Whether you wanted to work up an appetite or sleep in, the narrator claims that you could "enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast with friends at the casual but captivating Windjammer Cafe,...which presents a decor that's as refreshing as the meals it serves you."

Today, you will not find indoor waterfalls inside the Windjammer, but that does not mean it still is not a great place to go to enjoy a quick breakfast before heading ashore. 

There weren't any shops or bars lining a single main thoroughfare 


Instead, you could browse through the shops of the Centrum. The popular Royal Promenade wasn't introduced until Voyager of the Seas launched in 1999. Before then, the main hub of the ships was the Centrum, which can still be found onboard some older Royal Caribbean ships today, such as Vision of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas

The Centrum onboard Royal Caribbean ships is an open air area that spans several decks of the ship. In the middle, you'll find a set of elevators, and various bars, lounges, shops, and dining venues are spread out on the higher decks overlooking the Centrum. 

The narrator says that you can find anything from designer fashions to elegant fragrances, fine arts, and souvenirs. 

The TikTok ends by talking about developing film


That's right! At one point, you could have film developed while onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. You could even buy cameras and film if you forgot either at home!

Today, you can still buy cameras like Go Pros to use during your trip. However, they're pretty costly. 

Moreover, professional photography services were offered in the 90s, too.

Photos show what it was like to cruise on Royal Caribbean in the 1980s

22 Sep 2023

Royal Caribbean started as a company in 1968, and by the 1980s, had made a name for itself with a small fleet of impressive cruise ships and had become an increasingly popular cruise line.

What it was like to cruise in the 1980s

Song of Norway, Nordic Prince, and Sun Viking had lead the way for the company, and Song of America & Viking Serenade joined the fleet in 1982. By the end of the 80s, the new Sovereign Class would redefine what a cruise ship consisted of as it ushered in the first megaships.

Though the 1970s had concluded optimistically, the 1980s were ushered in by a recession in the United States. The cruising public became more cautious about their disposable vacation income, and the cruise lines began advertising strenuously, anticipating and countering rival company offers. Discounting, free airfare and the necessity to increase onboard revenues emerged as urgent cruising realities of the harsher 1980s.

Despite these challenges, the cruise industry managed to grow in the 1980s and Royal Caribbean found itself right in the middle of a struggle with competitor lines for building ever-increasingly larger ships. Song of America had proven the economies of scale was the future of cruise ships, and it would send Royal Caribbean down the path of building a ship as massive as Sovereign of the Seas.

Read moreWhat happened to Royal Caribbean's first cruise ships?

1980s cruise ship

As the decade came to a close, Royal Caribbean had positioned itself perfectly for the immense growth the 1990s would bring.

Here's what it was like to cruise on Royal Caribbean in the 1980s.

Nordic Prince

Before even looking at the onboard experience, cruise ships in the 1980s were smaller than today.

Nordic Prince was 18,346 GT and 552 feet long, whereas Wonder of the Seas is 236,857 GT and 1,188 feet long.

Nordic Prince aft aerial

A lot of the marketing material for a cruise in the 1980s was centered around the good times you could have onboard a cruise ship. They were selling what we would call today "a vibe" of being away from it all and enjoying time on a floating oasis.

Pool deck from the 1980s on Royal Caribbean

Similar to today, the pool deck was the epicenter of activity on a cruise ship. A holiday spent tanning and enjoying the warm Caribbean sun was a major selling point.

People on a cruise in 1980s

Of course, dining was an important aspect of a cruise in the 1980s as well. In the marketing material, Royal Caribbean said La Chaine de Rotisseurs (a French international gastronomic society), "thinks our food is consistently superb."

"Our cuisine, in fact, could be one good reason the readers of Travel/Holiday magazine voted our ships among the world's best."

Food on a 1980s cruise

Just like today, ships had their own bakeries onboard. And a cruise in the 1980s still had a midnight buffet in the dining room, which was slowly phased out by the 2000s.

Food buffet in 1980s

The main dining room was a focal point of dining, as specialty restaurants wouldn't become an option for another decade.

Main dining room in 1980s


Couple at dinner in 1980s

Royal Caribbean wanted to offer the kind of vacation where everything was made available and not as much thinking as a land trip.

People on a cruise in 1980s

They also marketed a cruise as a great way to celebrate, "As tensions disappear at sea, relationships flourish. Which means those starry-eyed couples aren't all newlyweds. Some may be celebrating silver and golden wedding anniversaries. Or even second honeymoons. You'll also find that about a third of our passengers are single."

1980s stateroom

What was a cruise ship cabin like in the 1980s? Decor style aside, they had a lot in common with a cabin today.

Cabin in 1980s

Royal Caribbean staterooms vary in size, in price, and in location. Some are even available with connecting staterooms to accommodate four or five people. Others offer third and fourth Pullman beds.

All cabins had:

  • Individual room temperature control
  • Private shower and bathroom facilities
  • 110-volt/60 cycle U.S. current for hair dryers and shavers
  • Three-channel radio
  • Reading lights
  • A dressing table and full-length mirror
  • Plenty of drawer space
  • A full-length wardrobe closet
  • Wall-to-wall carpeting
Cabin in 1980s

 An interesting selling point was the entertaining aspect of having your own room, "Since most accommodations have beds that convert to sofas, you can use your stateroom for more than sleeping. You can use it for entertaining. Passengers very often invite friends to their staterooms to enjoy champagne or drinks before dinner. Or for a bon voyage party before sailing."

In terms of service in a cabin, a lot has changed since the 1980s. Room stewards do the same basic services you can expect today, but the marketing material advertised  more offerings, "Every stateroom has a steward, who performs a little shipboard magic every evening. When you go out for dinner or dancing, you'll leave a pleasant sitting room."

"But when you come back, you'll find a cozy bedroom. With fluffed-up pillows. Turned-down covers. And fresh fruit in the basket on your dressing table. This is the kind of attentive service you'll get every single night.

"And every single day, we'll make your stateroom neater than you left it. We'll also leave clean towels and a bucket of ice. Pick up and return your laundry. Deliver a schedule of activities and coming events, along with ship news and weather forecasts. And provide beverage and snack service, 24 hours a day. "

Viking Crown

While the Viking Crown concept is retained in many of Royal Caribbean's ships today, the feature was designed initially for Song of Norway. Royal Caribbean made a name for itself with its signature space, the Viking Crown Lounge.

Entertainment on a 1980s cruise

Entertainment on a cruise in the 1980s included a variety show that had a ventriloquist, comedian, cabaret singer, or big-band era music.

Entertainment on a 1980s cruise

There was also passenger talent night and masquerade night on cruises of this era. On passenger talent night, guests would sing, dance, make magic, or just about anything else they were brave enough to demonstrate for their fellow guests and crew.

Masquerade night is just what it sounds like: it is an old-fashioned costume gala.  Prizes are given for Most Humorous, Most Original and Most Artistic costume.  Guests were encouraged to bring a costume, but the staff could provide necessary materials to build their own onboard.

Beach excursion in the 1980s

Once your ship made it to port, it was time for a shore excursion. There were 7-night cruises from Miami that went to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and Cozumel, Mexico.

Beach in 1980s

An Eastern Caribbean itinerary sailed from Miami to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and St. Thomas.

Bermuda 1985

Bermuda runs in 1985 included four days in Bermuda before returning to New York.

Sun Viking

If you preferred a longer cruise, Nordic Prince and Sun Viking sailed 10-night cruises from Miami down to the Southern Caribbean, going as far as Barbados.

1980s ten night cruise

Longer cruises offered a more traditional cruise experience to get to more exotic ports, and they were still a staple of the industry. Today, 7-night cruises are the norm, and longer sailings tend to be outliers, especially in the Caribbean.

Workout class on 1980s cruise

Being the 1980s, ships had certain features that no longer are a thing.  Royal Caribbean advertised access to cable, Telex, and regular news bulletins. There was also a "Chinese laundry".

Activities on a 1980s cruise

Skeet shooting off the back of the ship was still offered, where guests were given shotguns to shoot clay pigeons into the ocean.

Workout class on 1980s cruise

The core cruise experience is largely the same then as it is today. The primary difference is what's offered onboard ships now, as well as the immense size difference.

Cruising as evolved since its early days, and some fads come and go, while other aspects of cruising remain the same today.

Read more10 Ways Cruising Has Changed in the Last 30 Years

What happened to Royal Caribbean's first cruise ships?

02 Dec 2022

Royal Caribbean currently has 26 cruise ships–soon to be 27–but did you know that the cruise line once owned an additional 11 ships?

When Royal Caribbean was founded in 1968, the cruise line ordered three ships: Song of Norway, Nordic Prince, and Sun Viking. These cruise ships, while small by today’s standards, were record-breaking vessels that led the way for today’s mega ships like Wonder of the Seas and Icon of the Seas.

But as more and more cruise ships came to be over the next few decades, older ships retired, were sold to other companies, and later met their fate at the scrapyard.

So what happened to Royal Caribbean’s first ships?

Song of Norway

Ship's fate: Scrapped

Royal Caribbean’s first cruise ship, the Song of Norway, was launched in 1970, as one of the first large ships to be built specifically for Caribbean cruising instead of a converted ferry or ocean liner.

Related: What happened to Royal Caribbean’s first cruise ship?

The ship is an important piece of the cruise line’s history, as she set the way for Royal Caribbean’s major success throughout the next five decades.

The Song of Norway originally weighed 18,000 gross tons and had a capacity for only 724 passengers. She was lengthened in the late 1970s to increase capacity to 1,024 passengers. Following the ship’s lengthening, she sailed 7 and 14-night cruises from Miami.

Related: The story of how Royal Caribbean cut a cruise ship in half and lengthened it

Cruising in the 1970s was quite different from cruising today. Song of Norway had its own radio station, guests received a passenger list of everyone onboard, there was a midnight buffet, and skeet shooting was available on sea days.

Related: What it was like to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the 1970s

After 26 years of service for Royal Caribbean, the former Song of Norway was sold to Sun Cruises in 1996. She operated as the Sundream until 2004, when she was sold to Caspi Cruises as the MS Dream Princess. She was sold several times again and operated under the names Dream, Clipper Pearl, Clipper Pacific, Festival, and Ocean Pearl.

The Song of Norway’s last operations were under the name Formosa Queen as a floating casino in China operated by Hong Kong’s Star Cruises.

In 2014, the former Song of Norway (Formosa Queen) was scrapped in China.

Nordic Prince

Image credit: Raether

Ship's fate: Scrapped

The Nordic Prince was the second ship built for Royal Caribbean. She launched in the summer of 1971, offering cruises from Miami. After being lengthened in 1980, however, Nordic Prince offered cruises around the world.

She operated for Royal Caribbean until 1995, at which point she was sold to Sun Cruises with the new name Carousel. In 2004, she was sold once again to Louis Cruise Lines (now Celestyal Cruises) and was renamed Aquamarine.

After being chartered to Transocean Tours for five years under the name Arielle, she was returned to Louis Cruise Lines in 2008 and operated as the Aquamarine until being sold to Ocean Star Cruises in 2010.

The former Nordic Prince operated as the Ocean Star Pacific under Ocean Star Cruises until May 2012. She was then acquired by PV Enterprises International, who changed her name to Pacific (and later the Pacific Victory).

She encountered many technical and engine difficulties during her later years of service, from a gash on the hull above the water line in 2008 to a fire in the engine room in 2011. In 2014, she ran aground in the Philippines en route to India for ship breaking.

The Pacific was decommissioned and scrapped in 2015.

Sun Viking

Ship's fate: Scrapped

The Sun Viking is the last of three original ships ordered by Royal Caribbean. At 18,000 tons, she would be dwarfed in comparison to today’s largest cruise ships (with Wonder of the Seas at 236,857 tons).

Sun Viking sailed in the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera, and she operated under Royal Caribbean until being sold to Star Cruises in 1998. She was renamed the SuperStar Sagittarius and later sailed for the Hyundai Merchant Marine as the Hyundai Pongnae and Asia Cruises as the Omar III.

Once again renamed to the Long Jie and later the Oriental Dragon, the former Sun Viking operated as a gambling ship in Asia in her later years.

She was retired in 2021 and the former Sun Viking was beached in Pakistan in January 2022.

Song of America

Image credit: CeeGee

Ship's fate: Sailing under another brand

Launched in 1982, Royal Caribbean’s Song of America cruise ship was double the size of its previous ships at 37,584 GT. She was the first ship to be built with the Viking Crown Lounge providing 360 degree views around the ship.

Song of America initially sailed Caribbean cruises from Miami to Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas, but she later ran cruises from New York to Bermuda.

She sailed under Royal Caribbean until 1998 when Song of America was sold to Sun Cruises, although the ship was chartered back to Royal Caribbean until 1999.

Renamed the MS Sunbird, the former Song of America was based in the Mediterranean. She was sold to Louis Cruise Lines in 2004 and operated under the name MS Thomson Destiny. In 2012, she began operating under the name Louis Olympia, homeporting from Piraeus, Greece.

Today the former Song of America is operating under Celestyal Cruises as the Celestyal Olympia in the Greek Isles. She is the oldest former Royal Caribbean ship still in operation.

Viking Serenade

Image credit: Mark Goebel

Ship's fate: Scrapped

The Viking Serenade is the only former Royal Caribbean ship that was not originally built for the cruise line.

She launched in 1982 as the largest cruiseferry in the world, the MS Scandinavia, for Scandinavian World Cruises. After several years of service as the MS Scandinavia and MS Stardancer, she was sold to Royal Caribbean in 1990.

The Viking Serenade was converted into a cruise ship from a cruiseferry in 1991, when she began sailing for Royal Caribbean. Just 11 years later, however, Viking Serenade was transferred to Island Cruises, a former subsidiary of Royal Caribbean, and was renamed the Island Escape.

She sailed for Island Cruises until 2009, when she joined Thomson Cruises. In 2015, she was sold to Floating Accommodations, a US-based company that provides housing needs for short and long term projects. The ship was renamed the Ocean Gala.

The Ocean Gala was contracted by the Swedish Migration Agency in 2016 to be used as a floating hotel for asylum seekers, but plans did not materialize. 

The ship spent 2017 in limbo, first near Suez and later in Abu Dhabi before being scrapped in India in 2018.

Bonus: The retirement of modern ships

Royal Caribbean’s first five cruise ships were a starting point for the cruise line, but the ships that came later were game changers in the cruise industry.

And just as it’s hard to imagine mega ships like Oasis of the Seas or Odyssey of the Seas being scrapped, it was once just as difficult to picture Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign and Vision Class vessels at the scrapyard.

Six of Royal Caribbean’s more modern ships have been retired from the fleet, each of which has encountered a different fate.

Sovereign of the Seas

Ship's fate: Scrapped

Sovereign of the Seas, despite being considered a small ship by today’s standards, was once the largest cruise ship in the world. At 73,529 gross tons and with a capacity of 2,850 passengers, she was much larger than Royal Caribbean’s previous cruise ships.

As the first Sovereign Class cruise ship, her maiden voyage was in April of 1988, and she was the first Royal Caribbean ship to feature the cruise line’s signature suffix “of the Seas.”

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

Sovereign of the Seas sailed for Royal Caribbean from 1988 to 2008, when she was transferred to Pullmantur Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean. She was renamed the MS Sovereign and sailed for Pullmantur Cruises until they filed for reorganization in 2020.

The vessel was scrapped in Turkey from August 2020 through February 2021.

Monarch of the Seas

Ship's fate: Scrapped

Monarch of the Seas was a Sovereign Class cruise ship that launched in 1991. Like sister ship Sovereign of the Seas, she was one of the largest cruise ships in the world.

She sailed for Royal Caribbean for twenty two years, and was the first ship in the world to be captained by a woman, Karin Stahre-Janson from Sweden.

In 2012, it was announced that Monarch of the Seas would be transferred to Pullamantur Cruises, and she officially transferred to the subsidiary in April 2013 as the MS Monarch.

Monarch was scrapped in 2020 alongside Sovereign of the Seas.

Splendour of the Seas

Ship's fate: Sailing under another brand

Spendour of the Seas, a Vision Class cruise ship, was launched by Royal Caribbean in 1996. She sailed for the cruise line until 2016, offering some of the most unique itineraries by the cruise line to destinations including Brazil, Oman, and Abu Dhabi.

In 2015, she was sold to Thompson Cruises/TUI cruises and she sailed her last Royal Caribbean itinerary in April 2016. She then began sailing under the name TUI Discovery for TUI Cruises.

Just one year later, though, Thomson Cruises announced it would be renamed Marella Cruises, and the ship was renamed once again to the Marella Discovery. She currently operates as the Marella Discovery and offers cruises to the Caribbean, Greek Isles, Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey.

Legend of the Seas

Ship's fate: Sailing under another brand

The second Vision Class ship to be sold by Royal Caribbean was Legend of the Seas. Legend of the Seas was the most traveled ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, having been based in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, the South Pacific, Alaska, Central America, Caribbean, the Baltic, Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

She sailed over 600 cruise itineraries during her 18 years in service for Royal Caribbean.

It was announced in June 2016 that Legend of the Seas, like sister ship Splendour of the Seas, would be sold to Thomson cruises. The last sailing of Legend of the Seas departed on March 13, 2017.

Legend of the Seas is currently operating under Marella Cruises as the Marella Discovery 2. She offers itineraries to the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Holy Land, and Egypt.

Empress of the Seas

Ship's fate: Sailing under another brand

Empress of the Seas (originally the Nordic Empress) was launched in 1990 as the sole ship in the fleet’s Empress Class.

After her launch in 1990, Empress of the Seas sailed for Royal Caribbean until 2008, when she was transferred to Pullmantur Cruises. In 2016, however, she was transferred back to Royal Caribbean.

She sailed for Royal Caribbean until the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, and it was announced she would be sold to Cordelia Cruises in December 2020.

Related: A last look at Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas

Cordelia Cruises is a new Indian cruise line offering cruises to Mumbai, Kochi, Goa, Lahkshadweep, Chennai, and Visakhapatnam in India. Empress of the Seas (now named Empress) currently operates as the cruise line’s only ship.

Majesty of the Seas

Ship's fate: Sailing under another brand

Majesty of the Seas was launched in 1992. As a Sovereign Class ship, she had a capacity of nearly 2,800 passengers and weight of 73,941 gross tons.

She sailed for Royal Caribbean for 28 years, but in December 2020 it was announced that Majesty of the Seas had been purchased by Seajets, a Greek and Cypriot ferry company.

Related: A last look at Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

She was renamed Majesty of the Oceans, but it’s not clear if she is currently operating voyages, as there is no information about the vessel on the Seajets website. It appears she is in Greece, but plans for the ship are unclear.

Interested in more Royal Caribbean history? Check out these articles:

Former Sun Viking cruise ship has been scrapped

28 Jan 2022

One of the first Royal Caribbean cruise ships has been scrapped.

According to a report by The Maritime Executive, the ship formerly known as the Sun Viking was beached this week in Pakistan to be broken up and recycled.

The ship had mostly recently been operating as the Oriental Dragon, where she operated as a a gambling ship in Hong Kong and Penang, Malaysia.

A part of Royal Caribbean's roots

Sun Viking was one of the three original cruise ships ordered by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as part of their early fleet.

Sun Viking was the last of the original Royal Caribbean ships to launch when the company was first formed in the early 1970s.

With two vessels in service, Royal Caribbean waited another year for its third. Her first keel plates had been laid on May 18, 1971, with completion scheduled for December of the following year.

Photo by Glenmore1971

Contractually, Sun Viking's general arrangement differed from that of her predecessors. Although her underwater dimensions were identical, forward above the waterline she had been changed. The bow was a deck higher, allowing seven more passenger cabins.

The bridge screen as well as the verandas flanking the pool had been given a rounder, more streamlined form, and the painted blue waist encircling the hull has been raised, nestling directly beneath the public-view rooms. Her external look was, admittedly, more "massive" than the first two, but overall, the profile seemed an improvement.

The ship was 18,000 tons (compared to Wonder of the Seas, which has a gross tonnage of 236,857t) and had a capacity of 724 passengers.

She was named Sun Viking by Bergljot Skaugen, who was Sigurd Skaugen's wife. Sigurd Skaugen was one of the Norwegian families that formed Royal Caribbean in the late 1960s.

Photo by Terry Hammonds

She entered service in 1972, and like Song of Norway and Nordic Prince, was purpose built for Caribbean cruising instead of being a converted ferry or ocean liner.

Sun Viking would not only sail the Caribbean waters, but also offered 7-night cruises to the Mexican Riviera as well as being homeported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Departure from Royal Caribbean

Photo by Joseph Hollick

She would sail with Royal Caribbean for 26 years until the late 1990s when she was sold to Star Cruises.

The last Sun Viking cruise sailed in 1998.

She was renamed the SuperStar Sagittarius, and then went on to operate and be sold to other lines as a gambling ship.

She was later renamed Hyundai Pongnae in 2003, sailing for the Hyundai Merchant Marine Company, before being renamed Omar III for Asia Cruises

Her final years were spent in Penang, Malaysia.

Richard Fain leaves Royal Caribbean with legacy of innovation and growth

10 Nov 2021

Richard Fain announced he will step down as Royal Caribbean Group CEO in January 2022, leaving behind an incredible legacy over his 33 years at the helm.

With Mr. Fain moving away from the day-to-day operations of the company, it makes sense to look back on some of his many accomplishments.

Mr. Fain joined the company at a time when Royal Caribbean was still deeply rooted in the beginnings of modern cruising, and ushered in innovations and changes that fundamentally changed what the public thinks a cruise ship can be.

There is no way to perfectly encapsulate all of Mr. Fain's accomplishments in one post, but as Royal Caribbean and the industry wish Mr. Fain a fond farewell, we look back at some of his major achievements.

How Fain joined Royal Caribbean

In the 1980's, Royal Caribbean was a middleweight contender in the cruise industry, and it quickly reached a crossroads of what to do next.

Song of Norway had ushered in a new era of cruising, but by the end of 1983, the company was considering what expansion would make sense.  Economies of scale, already realized onboard Song of America, were clearly the wave of the future.

Like any sensible enterprise pondering its next step, Miami's management went shopping for advice, turning to the Cambridge-based consulting firm of Arthur D. Little.

The highly respected organization was asked to undertake a survey of the cruise industry with an eye to determining Royal Caribbean's position and potential within it.

At the time, Richard D. Fain was the vice-president of finance for one of the original investors in Royal Caribbean, Gotaas-Larsen.

In the 1970s, Fain had served as treasurer for both Gotaas-Larsen and its parent company, International Utilities, becoming increasingly involved in Royal Caribbean's financial operations.

Richard Fain chaired that committee, an appointment to which two of the founding families of the cruise objected (Skaugens and the Wilhelmsens) because his chairmanship would give Gotaas-Larsen double representation.

But Fain, in turn, promised to remain impartial. Fain discovered that by holding meetings in Miami, he was able to guarantee the attendance of key corporate personnel, who had a wealth of information to enrich Arthur D. Little's accumulating data.

As of 1984, the report pointed out, Royal Caribbean had an eleven percent market share, compared with NCL's fourteen percent and Carnival's fifteen percent. Although the conclusions were the result of a strategic thought process and were not motivated by the importance of being big, immediate expansion was recommended: additional newbuilding and/or a merger with another cruise line.

Sovereign of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Expansion" was the operative word, expansion not only of Royal Caribbean's next class of vessel but its size of operations as well. 

This report galvanized Royal Caribbean, and in 1984, the world's largest purpose-built cruise ship, Sovereign of the Seas, was conceived. And the committee that bad been assembled to assist with the Little report evolved into Royal Caribbean's Steering Committee, with Fain remaining in the chair.

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas makes maiden call at Manila, Philippines | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain began his career as the CEO of Royal Caribbean right around the time Sovereign of the Seas launched, and the cruise world was once again changed when Voyager of the Seas redefined what a mega ship is.

He realized that the image problem the cruise industry had among the public of being outdated, boring and, as an industry joke put it, full of "the newlywed and the nearly dead".

Mr. Fain believed to attract a new kind of customer, he needed a new kind of ship. To build it, he hired Harri Kulovaara in 1995, a Finnish naval architect who made a name for himself designing passenger ferries. 

Oasis 4 Keel Laying | Royal Caribbean Blog

Kulovaara was brought onboard to help run the company’s shipbuilding department.

Originally, Royal Caribbean was looking to commission a carbon copy of Sovereign of the Seas. "We’re not going to build that, Harri,” Fain told him. “We need something better."

That "better" idea ended up being Voyager of the Seas.

Voyager of the Seas launched in 1999, and introduced the first ice-skating rink at sea, the first rock climbing wall at sea, and indoor promenade. It was also 75% bigger than the previous-largest cruise ship, exceeding Panamax – the width of the Panama Canal, an industry-standard measurement.

Photo report: Voyager of the Seas in Auckland, New Zealand | Royal Caribbean Blog

"You wanted things that helped convey that this [cruising] was an unusual activity, that you could do what you wanted," Fain said. He said Voyager of the Seas was instrumental in continuing to shift the idea that cruising was for everyone.

Like Song of Norway and Sovereign before her, Voyager of the Seas would innovate ship design for decades and become the new standard going forward.



Turning the cruise industry on its head is something Richard Fain started getting good at, and history would repeat itself yet again with the most ambitious project yet for Royal Caribbean with Project Genesis.

Six years before Oasis of the Seas would be launched, Mr. Fain and the team at Royal Caribbean started out with the concept of wanting to do something new and different. 

We decided to start with a blank sheet of paper and said, "What do we want our guests to do? What activities do we want to offer them?” The name of this project was Project Genesis. The idea was to indicate that this was a fresh start in terms of design. We didn’t actually start out intending to build something quite so large."


"The whole thesis was to give people more choice. So instead of one large pool deck divided into two we wanted to have a series—one just for families, one just for adults, one just for sports … When we added up all the things we wanted to provide for people to do, it turned out the ship was much bigger than originally expected, as we were also able to provide much more in terms of activities and amenities. "

Royal Caribbean brought in architects and designers to help take all the ideas the company had and create a revolutionary cruise ship.

At 225,000 tons, the Oasis of the Seas weighs as much as four Titanics. 

Beyond her size, Oasis of the Seas introduced the crowd-control concept of "neighborhoods", with seven in total.  Oasis also was the first ship to have a split-back design that opened the back of the ship up (Boardwalk), as well as an open-air park featuring 12,000 plants in the middle (Central Park).

Then there's the first AquaTheater at sea, the first zip line at sea and much more.

In short, Oasis of the Seas continued Royal Caribbean's legacy of revolutionary cruise ship design.  Any new mass-market cruise ship built since has had to compare itself to the game-changing Oasis of the Seas.


Richard Fain | Royal Caribbean Blog

There is no way to talk about Mr. Fain's legacy without also acknowledging the tremendous work he did publicly and behind the scenes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

No company was properly prepared for the government mandated shutdown of the cruise industry, which was the only industry to voluntarily shut down on its own but then face stiff opposition to prevent it from returning.

From the onset of the shutdown, Mr. Fain began producing short videos posted online for travel agents that shared his outlook on the situation, as well as hope for the future.

Royal Caribbean new cruise ship health protocols include masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

While these videos may have been intended only for the trade, they became a beacon of hope in a shroud of unknowns. For many cruise fans, it provided helpful insight into what may come next, as well as much needed optimism.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Fain championed the creation of the Healthy Sail Panel, a group of renowned health experts who established safety and wellness protocols to restore confidence in cruising safety.

It was fitting he announced stepping away as CEO in a video update for travel agents, bringing his tenure to a close in the same way he provided updates for more than a year.

Video: Royal Caribbean holds 9/11 tribute on its cruise ships

11 Sep 2021

All across the United States, memorials are being held to remember the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which includes touching tributes on Royal Caribbean ships.

Saturday marks 20 years since the terrorist attacks, and on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, a special event was held for all the passengers to commemorate those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and Arlington, Virginia.

On Serenade of the Seas, a flag ceremony was held in the ship's Centrum and was videotaped by RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Ron Hiller.

A flag procession was held, along with a single guitar player who performed while passengers around the ship stood and remembered those lost during the attacks.

Similar moments of commemoration were held on other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, as well as around the world.

President Joe Biden visited the sites of each of the sites where hijacked planes crashed in 2001 to honor the the victims of the devastating assault.

All across the United States, cities and towns held their own tributes. Cruise ship passengers who may have been on vacation took time from the fun to join in their own way of remembering those lost.

What it was like to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the 1970s

05 May 2021

Cruising has changed a lot over the years, but comparing a cruise today to what it was like fifty years ago is incredible.

Royal Caribbean began cruising in 1970 with Song of Norway, and added two more ships before halfway through the decade.  Those ships began the tradition of what a Royal Caribbean cruise is all about, and today we have a look back at what it was like on a sailing back then.

I recently ran across a pamphlet distributed to passengers sailing on Song of Norway in the early to mid 1970s.  There is no date listed, but it references the three ships in the fleet, so it was printed no earlier than 1972 when Sun Viking was added to the fleet.

The pamphlet is entitled, "Velkommen: A Guide to Cruising the Royal Caribbean", and includes a list of the facilities, activities, and services available on Song of Norway.

Browsing through the document, I found the most interesting and different things that do not exist on a cruise today.

The ship had a radio station

We all think of cruise ships as incorporating a great deal of technology, but in the 1970s, radio was still king.

Song of Norway had its own radio station where you could send radiograms or make ship-to-shore telephone calls.

A radiogram is a formal written message transmitted by radio. Kind of like an analog email, radiograms use a standardized message format, form and radiotelephone and/or radiotelegraph transmission procedures. 

The message format for communications transmitted to sea-going vessels is:

  1. radiotelegram begins: from . . . (name of ship or aircraft);
  2. number . . . (serial number of radiotelegram);
  3. number of words . . . ;
  4. date . . . ;
  5. time . . . (time radiotelegram was handed in aboard ship or aircraft);
  6. service indicators (if any);
  7. address . . . ;
  8. text . . . ;
  9. signature . . . (if any);
  10. radiotelegram ends, over

Souvenir Passenger List

Something hard to imagine now is Royal Caribbean would give you a list of all the passengers onboard.

Passenger lists were a vestige of the early days of cruising. They were provided in order to make introductions among fellow guests easier, as well as serve as a souvenir from the voyage. They were given to all passengers aboard liners and cruise ships until the 1970s and 1980s.

They included everyone's name and home town.

Read morePassenger lists from Sovereign of the Seas

Midnight buffet (and other specialty meals)

Perhaps the best known, but no longer served, meal on a cruise ship was the midnight buffet.

Before ships had an overwhelming amount of places to eat, the midnight buffet was available every night in the main dining room.

Song of Norway also offered:

  • Sun Worshipper's Lunch: Luncheon served outdoors on the aft of the Promenade Deck.  Hamburgers, sandwiches and hot dogs were served with no dress code.
  • Afternoon Tea: Tea and pastries at the Verandah Cafe every afternoon.
  • Mid-Morning Bouillon: Traditional late-morning pick-me-up at Verandah Cafe on sea days.

Banquets and parties

Evening entertainment on a cruise ship is still offered today, and it was a big deal on Song of Norway.

On passenger talent night, guests would sing, dance, make magic, or just about anything else they were brave enough to demonstrate for their fellow guests and crew.

Casino night was held on two-week cruises, and the crew would allow guests to run the games.  They lowered the bets to very low amounts (10 cents a bet) and gave passengers a chance to see what it was like to be a blackjack dealer or croupier.

Masquerade night is just what it sounds like: it is an old-fashioned costume gala.  Prizes are given for Most Humorous, Most Original and Most Artistic costume.  Guests were encouraged to bring a costume, but the staff could provide necessary materials to build their own onboard.

Things you can't do anymore

Perhaps most surprising is some of the things Royal Caribbean used to let passengers do onboard.

Bridge visits were regularly available on sea days.  There would be open times listed in the Cruise Compass when you could walk up to the ship's bridge and explore.

Another event that I cannot recall ever seeing is Ladies Night, which has four rules:

  1. Ladies must ask gentlemen to dance they must not refuse
  2. Ladies must escort the gentlemen to the dance floor and return them to their seats
  3. Ladies must buy the gentlemen drinks
  4. Ladies must light the gentlemen's cigarettes

Something you might do at an office party today is a white elephant auction. At the end of every cruise, Royal Caribbean would hold a White Elephant Auction Sale where you could bring an unwanted goodie to the main lounge.  

An auctioneer would then try to sell it to someone else onboard.  If they cannot sell it or beat the price you listed, it gets returned to you.

There were two events held onboard that used to be staples of a cruise that could never be done today. On sea days, you could engage in a golf driving contest at the Aft Restaurant deck.  

In addition, skeet shooting was available on sea days where you could shoot clay pigeons off the back of the ship.


Just like today, gratuities were part of the cruise experience.

The suggested gratuity rate for a cruise in the 1970s were as follows:

  • Dining room water: $1.50 per passenger, per day
  • Busboy: $0.75 per passenger, per day
  • Cabin steward: $1.50 per passenger, per day

Customarily, on a 7-night cruise, gratuities are given on the Friday evening before returning to Miami.  On two-week cruises, it is the custom to extend one half of your gratuity at the mid-point of the cruise and the remainder on your last Friday evening at sea.

What you can't bring back

Part of the customs process when returning to the United States included a few things you cannot bring back.

  • Cuban cigars
  • Merchandise originating from North Korea, North Vietnam, or Cuba.
  • Fruits, vegetables, plants, cutting, seeds or unprocessed plant products.
  • Haitian animal skins and products made from these skins (i.e. rugs, purses, bongo drums, etc)

Read the whole thing

If you prefer, you can read the whole pamphlet, including what you should wear onboard, what the ranks mean among the officers, and which brand of cigarettes sponsored the cruise!

10 Ways Cruising Has Changed in the Last 30 Years

13 Feb 2021

With 2020 forcing the sale of several iconic cruise ships and new regulations threatening to disrupt the onboard experience as we know it, I've been thinking a lot about how the cruise industry has changed over the past three decades. 

Change is inevitable part of life, and it includes cruise ships.

Temperature checks, mask wearing and bubble excursions aside, here are some of the key ways that cruises have evolved since 1990. 

1. Technology

Technology has taken over life in a big way, and cruises have kept up the pace. Onboard internet capabilities have gone from nonexistant to unreliable to nearly the same as what you'll find on land, allowing passengers to stay more connected than ever. 

Beyond that, room keys have progressed from manual styles and keycards to wearables and cell phone apps that make opening your cabin door a snap. Giant screens near elevator bays on the latest ships allow cruisers to easily find their way around their vessel, check the daily schedule and make dinner reservations. 

Mix in arcades that feature virtual-reality simulations and cutting-edge systems on the bridge that allow the captain to keep the ship in one place without using an anchor, and it's easy to see how today's experiences might have seemed like something out of "The Jetsons" several decades ago.

2. Size

From 1990 to 1995, at more than 76,000 tons and carrying nearly 2,500 passengers, Norwegian Cruise Line's SS Norway was the largest ship afloat. 

In 1995, a megaship boom began with Princess Cruises' Sun Princess (nearly 77,500 GRT, 2,000 passengers), which unseated SS Norway in terms of tonnage. Progressively larger vessels emerged from Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean, causing the title of largest ship to change hands every couple of years into the early 2000s. 

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels dwarfed anything the cruise world had seen. Fast forward to 2021, and the largest ship at sea is now Symphony of the Seas, which is a massive 230,000 tons and can carry nearly 7,000 cruisers -- roughly three times the tonnage and passenger capacity of SS Norway.

3. Activities and Entertainment

Think back to family vacations and honeymoons of yore, and you might remember shooting skeet or driving golf balls off the back of the ship into the wake. To say nothing of the dangers of handing shotguns to passengers, cruise lines have curtailed these activities as environmental regulations have tightened. 

Beanbag games also seem to have gone the way of the dodo, but you'll still find shuffleboard courts on most modern ships, along with other diversions you have to see to believe. 

Among the impressive list of offerings are simulated surfing, skydiving and racecar driving; rock climbing; ropes courses; multiple pools with adrenaline-pumping waterslides; and even a roller coaster. 

In terms of shows, no longer are you limited to steel-drum bands, solo crooners and crusty Las Vegas-style performances. Cruise lines have traded in the feathers and sequins for the stunning costumes of Cirque du Soleil, and Broadway revues have been replaced by full-on Broadway productions.

While comedians and magicians remain, these days cruisers will find everything from acrobats and modern hip-hop performances to ice skaters backed by choreographed drones

4. Dining

Remember when everyone was assigned a set dining time at the same table with the same waiter each night, and the only choices were the main dining room, the buffet or room service? 

Now passengers have dozens of choices (both free and for a fee) that let them choose when and where they eat, with venues dedicated to a variety of cuisines that range from Italian, Asian and French to seafood, steak and pub grub. 

Quirks abound, as well. Among the choices on select ships are restaurants and bars where you'll order from a tablet instead of a standard menu, dinner theater that includes a show with your meal, interactive experiences where you can watch miniature chefs cook your food, and delightfully prepared themed dishes that feature surprises in every course.

5. Dress Codes

Over the years, vacations have become less about putting on airs and more about comfort and relaxation. In that vein, many modes of travel -- including cruising -- have adopted a more casual vibe. 

Most mainstream lines have made formal nights optional, even changing the terminology to comprise monikers like "cruise elegant" and "evening chic." Where once only tuxedos and cocktail dresses were acceptable, cruisers can now get away with suits or blazers with slacks, or skirts with blouses.

Further, current daytime attire onboard has trended toward shorts or jeans with tank tops or T-shirts. It's also not uncommon to see sneakers, flip-flops, bathing suits with cover-ups, and baseball caps in all areas of the ship.

6. Extras

Although most mainstream cruise lines were never all-inclusive, they have found more ways than ever to give passengers add-ons to buy. 

From pricey booze, trendy specialty coffee and custom shore excursions to art auctions, unique spa treatments and priority boarding perks, there's always something extra to increase the overall cost of your voyage. 

The most recent of these added-fee draws include laser tag and escape rooms, cooking classes, top-deck diversions and even big-name land-based brands like Starbucks, Victoria's Secret and Tiffany's as additions to vessels' onboard shops. 

7. Cabins

The early days of cruising mainly consisted of ocean liners that crossed the Atlantic to transport passengers between the U.S. and Europe. Class systems were heavily enforced onboard, meaning that there were hard separations between those booked in first-, second- and third-class cabins. 

Modern cruising did away with such systems, but in the early 2010s, cruise lines began exploring the concept of "ship within a ship" enclaves to provide wealthy cruisers with lavish suites, exclusive perks and access to private areas. 

All cabins have seen facelifts in recent decades. Old, boxy analog TVs were replaced with flat-screened digital ones, and color palettes have largely moved from gaudy, tacky tropical hues to neutrals, accented by jewel tones. 

Decor aside, certain staterooms stand out from the crowd with spaces that span two decks, feature private hot tubs and saunas, include virtual balconies and portholes, and provide foosball tables and slides for kids

More widespread modern touches include USB ports for charging electronics and light switches that only work if you insert your room key.

8. Environmental Friendliness

Cruise ships are some of the planet's biggest polluters, but the industry has made meaningful strides to protect the environment in recent years. 

For decades, cruise ships operated on diesel fuels that contaminated the air with little regulation. In 2009, cruise lines were told they would have to reduce their ships' emissions within designated North American emission control areas by 2015. 

As a result, fleets underwent the expensive addition of scrubbers to filter particulates and harmful gases from vessel funnels. Several cruise lines have also started building new ships that run on liquefied natural gas -- a cleaner-burning fuel -- and even battery power. 

Onboard, crew sort and recycle just about all waste, and old linens are donated ashore. Most mainstream cruise lines have also undertaken efforts to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic straws, cups and utensils.  

9. Safety and Security

As with flights, cruises have tighter security measures since 9/11, which mean you now have to book more than two days from the sailing date, your luggage will be scanned before you board, and you're no longer allowed to bring guests onboard in port.

Additionally, open-bridge policies have become significantly more strict. Special permission or a guided tour (often for a fee) is generally the only way to access the main control center. 

For safety reasons, the list of banned items for some lines has also grown to include newfangled contraptions like sneakers with built-in roller skates, certain hairstyling tools, drones and e-cigarettes. 

10. Smoking

Speaking of e-cigarettes, the policies for lighting up at sea have changed quite a bit since the '90s. Smoking of all types -- cigarettes, pipes and cigars -- was commonplace on most lines' ships back then. 

In 1998, Carnival Cruise Line launched Paradise (now Carnival Paradise), the first completely nonsmoking vessel. Five years later, in 2003, the line removed the designation, claiming that it was losing out on revenue from smokers, who apparently also like to drink and gamble. 

Although the original concept fell flat, cruise lines began phasing out smoking in most public areas in the early 2010s. Now, most vessels no longer allow passengers to smoke on their stateroom balconies or in the casino and, instead, require them to head to a limited number of designated outdoor areas.

The time a U.S. President attended helped launch a cruise ship

03 Nov 2020

Did you know a U.S. President attended the naming ceremony of a Royal Caribbean, and a First Lady is the ship's godmother?

In honor of election day in the United States, I thought it would be worthwhile to hop into the RoyalCaribbeanBlog time machine and go back to 1988 when a U.S. President attended the christening of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

President Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter presided over the first mega ship to be built, Sovereign of the Seas, in Miami on Friday, January 15, 1988.

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.

Mrs. Carter and President Carter 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.

After the speeches and a solemn blessing, Mrs. Carter and Royal Caribbean Chairman Eigil Abrahmsen climbed atop the launch platform. 

"I christen you Sovereign of the Seas. May happiness and smooth seas follow," Carter said.

The music stopped. A hush fell over the spectators.  In a clear voice, Rosalyn Carter gave the official christening benediction and smashed a record-size bottle of Taittinger Champagne against its hull.

One of the ceremonial bottles of champagne was sent to the Carter museum.

The Carters had brought their family to the occasion, and one of Mrs. Carter's grandchildren told Chairman Abrahmsen his grandmother was not only the godmother, but now the company's namesake, "This young man told me that he knew what RCCL stands for," the chairman informed his audience. "It stands for Rosalynn Carter's Cruise Line!"

The Carters visiting the shipyards on July 9, 1987. Photo by Ouest France Archives

The presidential couple went on to sail aboard Sovereign's maiden voyage, along with their family.

"I looked forward to this day a long time," Rosalynn Carter said in one of the ship's two theaters. "The ship is so wonderful and so large, it took something special to christen it."

he Carters visiting the shipyards on July 9, 1987. Photo by Ouest France Archives

"It's nice to be away from speeches and work ... to be captured with your family," the former first lady said.

"It's just a romantic place to be," said Jimmy Carter. "Kind of like a second honeymoon."

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