Five times Royal Caribbean changed its mind after announcing something


Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean announced Allure of the Seas would sail not be able to sail from Galveston in 2021, and offered limited options for guests booked on Allure. An avalanche of negative feedback to the cruise line resulted in Royal Caribbean changing its policy and adding more options to rebook guests.

This example of Royal Caribbean shifting its stance on something it had already announced is not unprecedented. In fact, Royal Caribbean is not shy about changing its mind even after announcing a change.

To its credit, guest feedback has played a major part in "getting it right", and there have been some very public examples of when Royal Caribbean decided to completely change direction based on guest feedback.

While this list is not the entire collection of policy shifts by the cruise line, it is a look back at some notable one-eighties by Royal Caribbean in the recent past.

To buffet or not?

A very recent example occurred when in May Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke to travel agents and alluded to the idea of getting rid of the Windjammer buffet entirely due to the global pandemic.

Speaking about the sort of changes guests can expect to see on a cruise ship once sailings resume, Mr. Bayley indicated the Windjammer buffet concept was all but gone.

"I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet in the beginning, that's how I see it. It depends again upon the timing. We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability it won't be a classical buffet. It will be something more akin to a restaurant."

Fast-forward a week later, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain walked back the notion that there would be no buffet.

"It doesn't mean that you don't have a buffet. I think it's very likely that you're not going to see that on land or sea."

We still do not know what the final result will be, but it was an example of a change to something previously talked about.

Not getting rid of Majesty of the Seas

In 2014, Royal Caribbean announced Majesty of the Seas would be transferred out of the fleet in 2016, joining her sister vessels that had already left the fleet.

Her last sailing was scheduled for April 29, 2016 and then she would be off to join Pullmantur Cruises.

Fast-forward to July 2015, and the cruise line suddenly announced Majesty would remain in the fleet due to "popular demand."

Instead of leaving, Majesty would undergo a drydock to receive a number of enhancements.  

One of the additions to Majesty that was announced, but removed, was free and unlimited Voom internet onboard.

Extending the Oasis Class neighborhood perks

In September 2019, Royal Caribbean announced it would discontinue the extra benefits it offered to guests who booked Boardwalk Balcony and Central Park Balcony staterooms on Oasis Class ships. 

The change initially meant guests who sailed January 1, 2020 and after, following the announcement, would not receive the neighborhood perks anymore.

Many cruisers were upset that they had booked these cabins based, in part, on the idea of receiving extra benefits and so three days later, Royal Caribbean grandfathered in anyone who had a booking made prior to the discontinuation of the neighborhood benefits.

$18 Drink Package

The saga of the $18 drink package blunder of 2019 is one of the prime examples of a complete flip-flop on a decision.

In July 2019, Royal Caribbean accidently put its unlimited alcohol package on sale for $18 per day, which was a substantial price mistake. Usually, the Deluxe Beverage Package runs somewhere between $40 - $52 per person, per day when purchased in advance.

Royal Caribbean apologized for the error, but said it would not honor the price mistake. Instead, the package purchase will be canceled and refunds will be issued.

That decision did not sit well with guests, and following a large amount of guest feedback, Royal Caribbean relented a day later and announced it would own the error and honor the price.

Dynamic Dining

Perhaps the most significant policy change in recent memory is the rise and demise of Dynamic Dining.

In 2014, Royal Caribbean was looking to shake up its complimentary dinner offerings on its Quantum (and later Oasis Class) ships by adopting a new approach called Dynamic Dining.

The core concept of Dynamic Dining is removing the main dining room completely and instead offering a number of smaller complimentary and specialty (cost extra) restaurants for guests to choose from.

Passengers can book specific times for any of these restaurants in advance, prior to their cruise or opt to book reservations onboard the ship.

Off the bat, Dynamic Dining ran into some problems on Quantum and Anthem of the Seas and Royal Caribbean attempted to save it by adopting a new rotational dining program that would seek to address some of the primary concerns guests were having with the new concept.

Feedback on Dynamic Dining was so negative, that at one point the cruise line gave guests $100 each for the trouble they had endured.

Guests never warmed up to the idea, and in September 2016, Royal Caribbean announced that Dynamic Dining would be abandoned in favor of a return to traditional dining.

Your thoughts

Is there an example of a time Royal Caribbean completely changed its mind that deserves to be on the list? Which one of the examples in this post do you recall? Share your memories in our comments!

Look back: Passenger lists from Sovereign of the Seas


Cruising has changed a lot over the years, and while some traditions remain a part of the experience (formal night), others have gone away.

It is interesting to look back at how cruising used to be, and what norms then seem odd now.  One of those "not a thing anymore" cruise experiences was a passenger list.

Similar to a phone book, Royal Caribbean would compile a list of guests and crew on a given sailing and distribute it across the ship. It would include the name of each guest, and their home town.

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.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Bret Chafe shared a copy of one such passenger list from Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas sailing he sailed on back on September 23, 1989.

Take a look at who the ship's purser was on this sailing. Yes, the man that would eventually become Royal Caribbean International's President & CEO, Michael Bayley!

Not only was the passenger list an accumulation of names, titles and locations, it included some facts about the ship and the sailing.

The bulk of the publication was a listing of guests and their names, which by today's standards sounds a bit odd to share this information among guests.

So what happened to passenger lists? The evolution of cruises, along with an added desire for privacy among guests, saw the passenger list become obsolete. 

When passengers were given the choice of listing their names or not, many opted not to be included, and thus a list of only some passengers was not useful. In other cases, cruise lines removed it as an option in order to save time and money required in the purser’s department that might be better used elsewhere.

Would you want to see passenger lists still available on cruise ships? Or did these go away for a good reason? Did you ever sail on a ship that had one? Share your thoughts on this throwback to cruising's past in our comments!

Royal Caribbean celebrates one year anniversary of Perfect Day at CocoCay opening


It may be hard to imagine, but it has been exactly one year since Royal Caribbean officially opened its revamped private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In the year since Perfect Day at CocoCay opened, it has quickly become a favorite destination of so many cruisers, even those who questioned the massive overhaul concept.

In celebrating the anniversary of the opening, I thought it might be fun to look back at the highlights from the first year of paradise.

The announcement

At a ceremony in March 2018 in New York City, Royal Caribbean announced its plans to expand its private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.

The $200 million transformation (later it increased to $250 million) was part of an even bigger announcement to reveal the Royal Amplified fleet upgrades.

Originally, the timeline had an early opening in September 2018 with the completion of the pier, followed by the majority of the island will launch spring 2019. This timeline changed quite a few times in the months to come, but the objectives remained in tact.

Royal Caribbean hoped this destination would offer guests more than just a beach day experience.  A water park, zip-line, cabanas, dining venues, and even an upgraded luxury beach option were part of the initial plans.

“It’s true that our ships are technological and engineering marvels in their own right and offer a multitude of unexpected experiences; but our destinations are an equally important part of the cruise vacation,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “We are introducing the Perfect Day Island Collection to deliver the most memorable vacation for adventure seekers on land and on board our ships. Once completed Perfect Day at CocoCay will be the ultimate family destination in the Caribbean.”

Pre-opening - March 2019

Royal Caribbean took a phased approach to opening its private destination, beginning with opening its new pier, along with the Oasis Lagoon pool, Snack Shack and Chill Grill.

On March 16, 2019, Mariner of the Seas docked at CocoCay, marking the first time a Royal Caribbean ship docked and disembarked guests on the island.  

While the water park and other venues were still under construction, guests got their first look at what Royal Caribbean had in mind.

The largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, Oasis Lagoon,offered a massive complimentary pool day for guests to enjoy. This included a swim-up bar, fountains and in-pool seating.

Two dining venues opened as well, Snack Shack and Chill Grill. These venues served up more than hot dogs and hamburgers, with the largest variety of private island food Royal Caribbean has ever had.

The Artisan Market was also revamped and opened, where Bahamians could sell guests their many wares in a straw market environment.

April 2019 - Splashaway Bay and Skipper's Grill open

A few short weeks after the initial venues opened, Royal Caribbean opened up two new areas: Splashaway Bay and Skipper's Grill.

Splashaway Bay is a complimentary aqua park for kids that features geysers, drench buckets, sprays and more. A complimentary option, it is a real hit with younger kids who enjoy non-stop splashing.

Skipper's Grill is another complimentary dining option on the island that provides lunch and snacks to guests.

In addition to the newly opened venues, it appears Royal Caribbean has expanded its Voom internet access to the island, marking the first time any of its private destinations offer internet access on the island.  

Up, Up and Away goes up for the first time

About a week later, one of the signature attractions Royal Caribbean added to Perfect Day at CocoCay launched.

The Up, Up and Away helium balloon takes guests 450 feet above Perfect Day at CocoCay, providing the highest vantage point in The Bahamas.

May 4 - Grand Opening of Perfect Day at CocoCay

Fourteen months after being announced, Royal Caribbean officially opened Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Guests sailing on Navigator of the Seas were welcomed to Perfect Day at CocoCay, where a number of new venues, activities and offerings were officially open for guest use.

Among the many options now available to guests, Thrill Waterpark was highly anticipated and open as well. 

Thrill Waterpark is home to Daredevil’s Tower, where guests can try a number of single-rider waterslides of various heights, including the 135-foot-tall Daredevil’s Peak – the tallest waterslide in North America.

Additional highlights are the twin Dueling Demon drop slides, launching riders from a vertical position; the Manta Raycers, where friends can race down twin open flume slides; the high-speed, fully vertical Screeching Serpent; and the coiling Green Mamba, a massive aqua tube slide.

Younger kids could enjoy the complimentary Captain Jill’s Galleon, which is an interactive play structure loaded with swashbuckling thrills.

Royal Caribbean also revamped its beach offerings with the dedication of Chill Island.

The 1,600 foot zipline opened as well, marking yet another fun activity for families to try.

Summer 2019: Late night stays & Two-stops

Off the bat, Perfect Day at CocoCay was such a hit with guests that Royal Caribbean announced it would add select sailings that visit Perfect Day at CocoCay twice, along with late night stays.

Beginning September 30, 2019, Royal Caribbean began to offer 4-night itineraries to the private island destination across nearly 40 sailings. 

In addition, three one-of-a-kind cruises with late-night visits to the island were offered on Navigator of the Seas. These visits included traditional Bahamian-inspired activities, including a Junkanoo Jam Up Party, an island barbeque and performances by a calypso band and fire dancers, topped off with unforgettable farewell fireworks before setting sail.

The official beer of Perfect Day at CocoCay!

In the fall, Royal Caribbean teamed up with Funky Buddha Brewery to create an exclusive beer for Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The Chilla Thrilla beer is available only at the island, and offers a fun and different option for guests to enjoy while spending the day there.

Coco Beach Club opens - January 2020

The final phase of Perfect Day at CocoCay opened on January 31, 2020 with the grand opening of the Coco Beach Club.

The Coco Beach Club is a exclusive area of Perfect Day at CocoCay that offers an oceanfront infinity pool, upgraded cuisine and the only floating cabanas in the Bahamas. Plus, there is a complimentary restaurant at Coco Beach Club featuring lobster, snapper, and steak— plus a buffet of soups, salads, and starters. 

Entry to the Coco Beach Club requires an additional cost. Guests can choose between a day pass to the Coco Beach Club, as well as the option to reserve a cabana or floating cabana.

The attention-grabbing floating cabanas also debuted, which sought to bring a bit of Bora Bora to the Bahamas.

The 20 luxurious cabanas feature a private slide into the ocean, overwater hammock, dining area, freshwater shower, wet bar and an unbeatable ocean vista.

Have you visited Perfect Day at CocoCay yet? What is your favorite spot on the island? Share your memories, tips and advice in the comments!

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


One of the truly incredible engineering feats is when a cruise line cuts a cruise ship in half, adds a new section in the middle, and welds the halves back together. 

While not a common practice anymore, Royal Caribbean endeavored to lengthen its first cruise ship, Song of Norway, in 1977.

The story of lengthening Song of Norway comes from the out-of-print book Under Crown and Anchor.

Why stretch?

If you are wondering why any cruise line would stretch a cruise ship, then you must understand the term, "economy of scale".

The quintessential economy for all cruise lines is a watchword chiseled in stone, an elementary shipboard truism identified as economy of scale.

In its simplest terms, economy of scale is a principle that argues for reducing the number of crew per passenger to a comprehensive minimum. Imagine, for a moment, a pool of 1,500 Royal Caribbean passengers waiting eagerly at Dodge Island to embark. They can be divided in half so that two groups of 750 each board Song of Norway and Nordic Prince.

Now count the crewmen who must look after those 1,500 passengers on two separate ships. Each vessel requires a master, a staff captain, a chief engineer, a cruise director and so on, all the way down the operational hierarchy.

Suppose instead, we embark those 1,500 on board a single ship. The manning requirements per passengers are reduced dramatically. Only one master, one staff captain, one chief engineer, one cruise director and so on are required to look after the same number of passengers on the larger vessel.

This is economy of scale at work. Such resounding financial advantage encourages—nay, mandates! the construction of larger, more commodious vessels. Medium-size cruise ships, yesterday's typical 20,000-Conners accommodating 600 passengers, are now endangered species. It is the megaships, vessels with passenger loads in the thousands, that make economic sense today.

But economy of scale has an inevitable flip side: The market must always continue to expand. Mammoth ships require continuous large passenger loads. In fact, the relentlessly increasing tonnage of today's newbuilding exactly parallels the situation on the North Atlantic a century ago when increasingly bigger ocean liners were launched in response to an apparently unending demand for emigrant berths. Giant ships the size of Olympic, Aquitania, Imperator, France and Rotterdam were rushed into service, towering, multiclassed hulls designed with a broad-based pyramidal load factor in mind. While several hundred first- and second-class passengers were comfortably accommodated above, down below, humble but profitable emigrants were jammed into high-density berthing compartments.

Stretching Song of Norway

In the fall of 1977, Royal Caribbean decided to stretch Song of Norway.

She would return to the shipyard that built her to have a specially built midsection added into the middle of her hull, increasing the overall length from 550 to 635 feet, while increasing passenger capacity by 328.

Wärtsilä estimated the cost for the 8-year old ship to be $12 million, only $1.5 million less than the original cost of the ship!

Work began on stretching the ship in December 1977, with completion scheduled for slightly less than a year later.

The work took place within a shipyard fixture new since Song of Norway's launch, a huge gray-green shed called the Building Hail, completed in 1978. At the dry dock's end, a towering assemblage of prefabricated sections was welded together until there arose a self-sustaining section of hull, looking from afar like a giant rusted Rubic's Cube.

The conversion work was, in effect, a miniature ship, with neither bow nor stern but ragged transom ends. Each side boasted Song of Norway's familiar fenestration, spray-painted white. Only the company's customary blue racing stripe was missing; that would await the subsequent attachment of stout longitudinal two-inch steel straps that, above and below the waterline, would sustain the rejoined hull like tape around a parcel.

At the midsection's raw open ends, which would be married to the exposed faces of Song of Norway halves, plywood blockades were erected to protect interior corridors from the weather. On the lowest decks, chest-high bulkheads kept water out of open-ended provision rooms at the after end. In effect, the configuration of that surreal vertical slice of ship com-prised a logistically complete passenger-ship cross section: From top to bottom, there was an out-thrust bulge of sun walk enclosing a new swimming pool, some upper deck cabins, two-thirds of an enlarged dining room and a shop extension on Restaurant Deck, standard cabins below that, crew cabins underneath and, at the very bottom, provision rooms and then layers of ballast and freshwater tanks.

On August 19, 1977, the last passengers were offloaded in PortMiami and preparations began for the crossing to Helsinki.

Among the Finnish shipyard workers that boarded the ship was Mogens Hammer, the ship's interior designer, to oversee the dismantling and storing of all works of art.

Making the cut

Among other preparatory work, the passenger galley was stripped down to steel; all crew and Finnish workers ate on D Deck forward, in the crew mess. Additionally, carpeting, paneling and ceiling in the way of the proposed cut were stripped, and the cut mark chalked on the naked steel. 

As the vessel tied up at Wärtsilä's fitting-out basin on September 1, just outside the Building Hall, workers with oxyacetylene torches initiated the monumental cut, following chalk line to waterline. They had to slice not only through the outer hull and superstructure but through every deck and interior wall as well.

While the cutters worked below, colleagues atop the vessel removed that portion of the funnel above the Viking Crown Lounge, enabling Song of Norway to fit beneath the Building Hall's lintel. All the vessel's dozen lifeboats were removed as well. Then, on September 4, yard tugs nudged Song of Norway inside the Building Hall. 

Workers had welded stout supporting pontoons beneath both the counter and bows while Song of Norway was still afloat. Once the dock was drained, the vessel and her cumbersome pontoon extensions settled down onto keel blocks. Only then could the final separation be completed. Crouched awkward-ly in the mucky, noisome crawl space beneath the hull, cutting teams finished chair gargantuan slice beneath the double bottom, while coworkers above and inside concentrated on the tank tops. By the end of the day, suddenly and soundlessly, Song of Norway had been separated into two parts.

Putting her back together

The new midsection, parked nearby, was prodded inside and snugged with winches as tightly as possible aft of the immobilized bow. The ultimate reentry was the stern section's; once inside the Building Hall, it was positioned firmly up against the midsection's after end.

Although one cut had separated Song of Norway, two joints would be required to make her whole again. And rejoining, in the shipyard as in life, is more demanding. Compounding the difficulty, each section floated at maddeningly different depths: The stern, containing the engines, rode lowest. So Wärtsilä engineers had to play a patient juggling game, with ballast tanks and winches, scrupulously aligning their trio of disparate floating craft into one seamless, horizontally aligned whole. The stern and midsection were joined first, then finally the bow section was winched aft to complete that historic reassembly.

Once the bow was tightly in place, there was more fine-tuning inside. Throughout the hull, bridging and shrinking gaps between adjacent decks, powerful hydraulic pull jacks drew each reluctant deck level to its neighbor, close enough for a welding bead to seal them together forever. After all three sections had been completely united, stout longitudinal steel strapping was welded along both flanks and to either side of the keel, binding those disparate thirds irrevocably into one. Inside the hull, electrical junction boxes were hooked up, illuminating the new section's formerly gloomy labyrinths. Ancillary improvements were added to Song of Norway. To serve her longer hull, a second bow thruster was installed paralleling the original. 

The midsection's 328 new occupants would trigger a host of "mores": more crew, more air-conditioning, more linen, more laundry, more fresh water, more electricity, more galley capacity, more waste water and sewage disposal. 

The new Song of Norway

By November 24, Song of Norway had completed her sea trials and been handed over to Royal Caribbean.

Following a brief stop in Rotterdam for a press tour, she began her crossing back to Miami.

As they cleared the channel and the first Atlantic swells were encountered, those on the bridge could tell that their lengthened vessel rode well: The longer hull negotiated the oncoming parade of waves with an easier pitch. But best of all, after a few days at sea, positive engineering feedback came from below. Chief Engineer Johan Tranvaag reported elatedly to Captain Andreassen that Song of Norway's fuel consumption had increased only marginally. These were indeed invaluable technological and navigational dividends realized from a pioneering engineering investment.

Song of Norway resumed her normal cruising schedule on Saturday, December 16, having been out of service slightly less than four months. She sailed out of Miami with her passenger capacity increased by a remarkable forty-four percent. 

The story of how Royal Caribbean got its name


Did you ever wonder why Royal Caribbean was the name picked for the cruise line? After all, it is not named after the founder of the company or the country or town it is based in, so why was this name chosen?

The name of the cruise line was achieved after a length discussion among the founding families.

As you might imagine, there were other names suggested and ultimately rejected. These include Pleasure Cruise Line, Holiday Cruise Line and Crown Cruise Line.

Royal Caribbean Line had been considered and rejected because the word "cruise" had to appear in the title.

The working title Royal Cruise Line aroused opposition from those who feared that it hinted at government involvement.  However, Ed Stephan and the partners felt that the word "royal" was essential, signifying a high level of service; moreover, the word had marketing appeal among republic-minded but royalty-conscious Americans.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line touched every base the partners wanted splendidly.

As a result, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line A/S - familiarly reduced to RCCL - came into formal being on January 31, 1969.

Picking the Crown and Anchor Logo

Now that the name was chosen, what about the Crown and Anchor logo? 

In the days when Song of Norway was being designed, Royal Caribbean adopted its hallmark logo, the anker med krone, or crown that became the company house flag.

Morits Skaugen had asked a designed to sketch an original that was instantly accepted by all partners in March 1969.

Examples of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor in various stages of design development

A crowned anchor is featured in the cap badges of both the Norwegian Navy and Merchant Navy. Avoiding infringement of those necessitated a different design, so Royal Caribbean's crowned anchor is abstract, yet, at the same time, deftly stylized.

Obtaining permission from the authorities was not easy. Oslo's royal family is reluctant to franchise crown facsimiles as trademarks. Some said that final permission was given the personal imprimatur of His Majesty King Olav V.

The crowned anchor has proved widely and successfully applicable, whether adorning funnel, cufflink, calling card or doorplate.

Arne Wilhelmsen's impact on the origins of Royal Caribbean


Over the weekend, Arne Wilhelmsen passed away, a key founder of Royal Caribbean. His passing reminds us of his contributions to the cruise line that millions have enjoyed ever since.  

Arne grew up as the son of Anders Arnt Wilhelmsen, who was one of Norway's preeminent maritime leaders, and owner of Anders Wilhelmsen & Company.

Along with Arne's brother, Gjert, became a partner in his father's firm.  Arne was a graduate of Harvard Business School and had a solid grounding in New York shipping.

During Arne's tenure in the United States, he recognized new trends in American lifestyles, which became an important factor when his father was approached about a partnership to build two cruise vessels for the Caribbean.

Before a final decision could be made, Arne joined others in this proposed new partnership on a trip to Miami and met with retired Admiral and Miami port director Irwin Stephens.  The group discussed plans that would ultimately create the world's largest passenger port.

Fast-forward to April 1969, when the keel for Royal Caribbean's first ship, Song of Norway, was laid and eight months after that, the hull was launched. The launch marked an inexorable Miami countdown; delivery was less than a year away and the public had no idea that a new cruise line with a new kind of ship was coming.

The man to decide the marketing of Royal Caribbean fell to Arne Wilhelmsen.  He had many concerns, such as what customer groups should be targeted? What prices should be charged? How would travel agents best be enrolled? Which areas of the United States should be most assiduously cultivated?

Wilhelmsen urged an optimal price-payload balance even if ticket prices prevented the vessel from always sailing at full capacity. Pricing and product should match consistently, with only seasonal fluctuations taken into account.

Wilhelmsen, along with other executives, began their marketing campaign in person.  There were cocktail meetings, promotional film screenings, and persuasive sales talks.  Wilhelmsen also called on travel editors to help curate the Royal Caribbean message.

The launch of Song of Norway started off quite well. The first six cruises were kept purposefully below capacity to fine-tune hotel operations. But starting with the seventh, capacity shiploads were the norm. So insatiable was the demand that officers, compensated accordingly, often relinquished their cabins to passengers.

The fledgling cruise line enjoyed an incredible public response; positive word of mouth spread like wildfire. Advertising was unnecessary. Song of Norway's high degree of passenger satisfaction did the rest.

Over that first year, Song of Norway excelled, an incomparable debut. The company, its inspired first vessel and a cruising legend were off and running.

Royal Caribbean has come a long way since the debut of Song of Norway, and its success today can be traced back to the work of men like Wilhelmsen and the other families that worked to make a Caribbean cruise line into a reality.

Who owns Royal Caribbean?


This blog is dedicated to Royal Caribbean International cruise line, but did you know that they are owned by another company and are among a few different cruise lines operated by an umbrella corporation?

Royal Caribbean International is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

It can be confusing to make the distinction between Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) because the names are very similar, and decades ago, Royal Caribbean International used to be known as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which means the acronyms are even confusing at times.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd is the full or partial owner of a few different cruise lines:

  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Azamara 
  • Silversea
  • Pullmantur (49% stake)
  • TUI Cruises (50% stake)

Richard Fain (left) and Michael Bayley (right)

There are many people that make up the executives in Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, but Richard Fain is the most visible member, acting as the Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Michael Bayley is the President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, and manages the cruise line operations.

The lines between the cruise line and the parent company can be confusing at times, as policies, news and announcements come from both companies.

A Brief History of Royal Caribbean

The full history of Royal Caribbean is too long to compile, but here is a breakdown of how Royal Caribbean Cruise Line went from a cruise line to a parent company.

In 1968, Royal Caribbean International was founded, with Song of Norway launching as the industry's first ship built for warm-weather cruising.

In 1997, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line purchased Celebrity Cruises. The decision was made to keep the two cruise line brands separate following the merger; as a result Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was re-branded Royal Caribbean International and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. was established as the new parent company of both Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

In November 2006, Royal Caribbean Cruises purchased Pullmantur Cruises based in Madrid, Spain.

Azamara Club Cruises was created in May 2007 as a subsidiary of Celebrity Cruises.

Royal Caribbean also has an interest in TUI Cruises, which began operations in 2009 aimed at a German-speaking market.

In July 2018, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. completed the purchase of over 66.6% of shares of Silversea Cruises.

Royal Caribbean founder Arne Wilhelmsen passes away at 90


Royal Caribbean announced one of the men responsible for the founding of the cruiose line died on Saturday, April 11, 2020, in Palma, Spain. He was 90 years old.

Arne Wilhelmsen, with sons Preben and Alex as Song of Norway pull away from Oslo

Wilhelmsen worked closely with Royal Caribbean's first CEO, Edwin Stephan, to help bring Royal Caribbean into the cruise industry and establish itself as a major player.

Born on June 15, 1929, in Oslo, Norway, Wilhelmsen earned his MBA at Harvard Business School and worked as a chartering assistant for Norway’s EB Lund & Co. and later as a shipbroker in New York. After joining the family business in 1954, he became its president in 1961.   The scion of a leading Norwegian shipping concern – Anders Wilhelmsen & Co AS – he spent most of his life in the family business, including an early stint as a deckhand.

1970: Harry Irgens Larsen, Mortis Skaugen, Gjert Wilhelmsen, Brynjulf Skaugen, Sigurd Skaugen, Arne Wilhelmsen

Wilhelmsen saw the potential for cruising to become the fastest growing segment in a growing vacation industry. 

Wilhelmsen's primary contribution was building new ships uniquely designed for cruising in warm weather. He saw potential in offering cruises from Miami, instead of New York, where Royal Caribbean could offer a completely different kind of vacation for its guests.

Arne Wilhelmsen, Miami's Port Director Admiral Irwin Stephens and Ed Stephan inspecting Dodge Island passenger terminal

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said it, "extends its heartfelt condolences to the Wilhelmsen family."

11 Old-School photos of Royal Caribbean


As Royal Caribbean ships are shutdown for at least the next six weeks or so, I wanted to take a peek at what cruise ships looked like years ago.

Cruising has evolved over the years, and Royal Caribbean has changed with the times.  Looking back on the first few decades of Royal Caribbean's existence shows some interesting choices and amusing contrasts to today.

All these photos are from the out of print book "Under Crown and Anchor: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, the first twenty-five years".

We begin with this look at the Song of America's expanded sun bowl, featuring for the first time on any Royal Caribbean ship, two swimming pools.

This is an interesting contrast with Oslo's sail-training ship Christian Radich side by side in the Caribbean with the newly lengthened Song of Norway.

Here is a look at the compact, but complete standard cabins on Song of Norway.  These were tailor-made in 1970 for passengers comfort and convenience.

Thorough maintenance has always been an important aspect of Royal Caribbean's dedication to its craft.  The chair colors bring back memories.

Check out the shaping of Royal Caribbean's logos.  These are examples of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor in various stages of design development.

Speaking of designs, here is a look at some early ideas for the configuration of the Viking Crown Lounge.

How can you not enjoy interior decorating in the 1970s? Here is the embarkation lobby in 1970 on Song of Norway.

Speaking of interior design, here is a look at Song of Norway's The King and I Dining Room.  

Interiors were "perhaps a little loud in the matter of color, but this was necessary to make an impression," said Gjert Wilhelmsen, a member of one of the original families that helped form Royal Caribbean.

"Sail a Skyscraper" was the call to action in this promotional poster that advertised the Viking Crown Lounge as a major reason to cruise.

Here is a look at Song of Norway after being stretched.

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!