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Why do cruise ships float?


Royal Caribbean operates the biggest cruise ships in the world, and a ship that is twice as high as the Washington Monument might leave you wondering how it doesn't sink.

Symphony of the Seas has water slides, an ice skating rink, and an entire park. She can accommodate up to 6,680 guests and weighs 228,081 gross tons (GT).

Whether you have been on a cruise ship, or simply seen a photo of one, you might have wondered how such a big ship can float in the water.

How does a cruise ship float? And why doesn't it fall over when the wind blows?

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are amazing pieces of technology, maritime tradition, and innovation, but they are not magic.   It is all about physics.

The concept of buoyancy is what keeps a cruise ship like Symphony of the Seas upright and floating.

The science of buoyancy was discovered by Archimedes in 246 BC, when he developed Archimedes' principle.

"Any object, totally or partially immersed in a fluid or liquid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object."

Essentially, cruise ships can stay above the water as long as they are displacing an equal amount of water to their mass.

A cruise ship displaces an amount of water equivalent to its own mass. The pressure of the sea pushes up against the vessel’s hull to counter the downward force of the ship’s mass. Unlike air, water cannot be compressed, so the combined forces create buoyancy.

As the cruise ship moves forward, water is pushed away and that water tries its best to return to fill the displaced space and that energy forces the ship upward.

While the ship is indeed quite heavy, there is a lot of open space onboard and that empty volume means the ship is not like a giant rock in the water.

When a cruise ship is designed, engineers pay careful attention to keep the average density of the ship (considering both the physical weight of the vessel as well as all the air) less than the average density of the water. 

The ocean is vast and extremely dense.  So if the cruise ship can have less of a density than the ocean, that it floats on the surface.

If you ever meet an engineer, they will often talk about a ship's displacement, rather than its weight. Ships float because they weigh less than the weight of the water they displace.

One other thing you might notice about a ship like Symphony of the Seas is her wide hull.  That design choice is no accident.

When Oasis Class ships were designed,the engineers chose a wide hull to disperse the weight across it.

Think of the hull as the body of the ship, and the part that is below the main deck is usually quite wide and has a deep bottom (known as a base line). Cruise ships (and other large vessels) usually have displacement hulls, or hulls that push water out of the way, to stay afloat.

Another major difference between a cruise ship and a boat is the design of the hull.

Boats have a "v-hull", which means if you took it out of the water and looked underneath, the bottom resembles the letter "v".  Cruise ships have a hull that looks like the letter "u".

Round-bottom hulls move through the water and make them much more stable and seaworthy than a v-shaped boat hull.  This is primarily why cruise ship passengers feel much less rocking or motion compared to a boat.

However, that stability comes at a price: speed. Boats move through the water much faster than cruise ships.

So with all of that said, I have not yet tackled how a cruise ship is going to float.  Why is there only 30 feet below the water and over 200 feet above the water, and how do they keep the upside up?  

It is a matter of weight distribution.  The engines and other machinery, fuel tanks, water tanks, and ballast tanks are all low in the ship, while lighter, less dense spaces are up higher.

The wider hull helps a lot with stability.  Symphony is nearly as wide as she is tall.  That’s why a strong wind hitting the side of the ship doesn’t tip it over.  This is calculated as a wind heel moment and is a large part of the stability calculations for any vessel.

If Yoda had been an engineer, he might have said, "Size matters not. Judge me by my buoyancy do you."

5 plans Royal Caribbean will and won’t be able to do in 2021


Before the cruise industry shutdown due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean had big plans for 2021 and like so many other things in life, their plans had to be changed.

Much of Royal Caribbean's big ticket spending had to be paused in order to conserve cash and be as fiscally responsible as possible.

In 2021, there are still some plans that will go ahead and others that have been delayed.  Here is a look at what we can and cannot expect from Royal Caribbean next year.

Still happening

New cruise ship: Odyssey of the Seas

Photo by Jeroen Houtman

Delayed from launching in 2020, Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship will instead be delivered in 2021.

Odyssey of the Seas is under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany and will be the cruise line's second Quantum Ultra Class ship.

Originally Odyssey of the Seas was going to start cruises in November 2020, but a combination of Royal Caribbean's financial turmoil and issues at the shipyard contributed to a delay.

Instead, she is scheduled to be delivered in Spring 2021, with her first sailings in April 2021.

Galveston terminal construction beginning

Just like Odyssey of the Seas, the new cruise terminal in Galveston was scheduled to begin construction in 2020, but is now scheduled to begin on April 1, 2021.

The new Terminal 3 in Galveston will be built on 10 acres of land at Pier 10, and will be used exclusively by Royal Caribbean.

The new cruise terminal is the linchpin in Royal Caribbean's plans to bring an Oasis Class cruise ship to the Galveston cruise market.

According to the Port of Galveston Trustees, Royal Caribbean asked to delay the start of construction by a year, and is "very much insistent" that they will begin work in 2021.

Likely not happening

Antigua Beach Club

In late 2019, Royal Caribbean announced a new kind of development that would be a sort of small scale private enclave for cruise guests.

The Royal Beach Club was described as the ultimate beach experience, which would offer guests unique features and flavors of each destination.

The first Royal Beach Club was to be built in Antigua, which will open along a half-mile of beachfront near Fort James and was scheduled to open sometime in 2021.

Since everything shutdown in 2020, there has been absolutely no mention by the cruise line of the Antigua Beach Club, or any Royal Beach Club. Moreover, Royal Caribbean Group informed investors it would conserve cash by reducing capital spending through 2021.

"We have reduced our planned capital spending through 2021, which may negatively impact our execution of planned growth strategies, particularly as it relates to investments in our ships, technology, and our expansion of land-based developments."

So while Royal Caribbean has not provided any kind of official update on the fate of the Royal Beach Club, the likelihood of the Royal Beach Club project moving ahead for 2021 seems unlikely.

Ship upgrades

Just like the Beach Clubs, spending on ship upgrades also Royal Caribbean hit the pause button.

Once it became clear the shutdown was going to last a while, Royal Caribbean postponed its upcoming amplifications until further notice.

Two Royal Caribbean ships were scheduled to be upgraded in 2021 as part of the Royal Amplification process: Adventure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.

Planned upgrades for Allure of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas that were scheduled to take place in 2020 also never happened and are also on hold.

New cruise ship: Wonder of the Seas

Similar to Odyssey of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's next Oasis Class ship delivery was delayed.

Wonder of the Seas was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2021, but will instead be delivered sometime in 2022.

Under construction in France, Wonder of the Seas had to be delayed in order to spread out spending. She is still scheduled to sail exclusively in China.

Where are Royal Caribbean's ships right now? December 2020


During this period where nearly all Royal Caribbean cruise ships are not operating, many cruise fans are curious where the fleet of ships are located.

Royal Caribbean has dispersed its fleet around the world in order to keep ships strategically located near resupply ports that are friendly to cruise ships coming in and out for provisions.

Most of the time, Royal Caribbean's ships are stationed off shore in a particular region, and come into port periodically for new supplies, crew member pick up/drop off, etc.

Throughout the shutdown, the fleet has mostly stayed in place, but a few ships have moved around.

This information was gathered, and accurate, as of December 11, 2020.

Map courtesy of


  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Explorer of the Seas (en route from Southampton to CocoCay)
  • Harmony of the Seas (enroute from Barbados to Miami)

St. Maarten

  • Independence of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas

St. Kitts

  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas


  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas

Southampton, England

  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas

Crete - Anchored off the coast

  • Empress of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas

Papenburg, Germany

  • Odyssey of the Seas


  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Radiance of the Seas
  • Spectrum of the Seas
  • Voyager of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas (enroute from Philippines)

What are the cruise ships doing during the shutdown?

Aside from Quantum of the Seas, the fleet of cruise ships are in a state of "warm lay up", which means they are at reduced crew levels with no guests onboard and essentially keeping the ship operational.

The purpose of keeping ships in warm lay up is it allows them to potentially return to service very quickly.  If they were to go into "cold lay-up", it would reduce short term costs but make restarting operations more difficult.

Periodically, Royal Caribbean has shuffled some vessels around between ports, but they fleet has remained mostly in-place for the last few months.

Every so often, a ship will dock in a nearby port to receive new supplies and unload waste. In the United States, PortMiami has been the most commonly used destination for ships nearby to resupply.

When will Royal Caribbean ships sail again?

In the short term, only two ships have plans for a restart.

Quantum of the Seas has already begun sailing from Singapore, where she is offering 3- and 4-night "cruises to nowhere" that are open only to Singapore residents.

Unlike the rest of the fleet, Royal Caribbean did not cancel Spectrum of the Seas sailings from Shanghai, which points to the chance that ship could restart in January 2021. 

The rest of the fleet is shutdown through the end of February 2021.  Royal Caribbean has a new goal of restarting on March 1, 2021, but that is anything but a certainty.

All cruise lines are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to receive permission to restart sailings.  The CDC has laid out a framework for cruise lines to demonstrate they can operate in a safe manner through a variety of new protocols.

Thus far, there has been no indication on what, if any, progress has been made with regard to attaining permission to sail again.

The reality is no one really know when exactly cruises will start, and that means Royal Caribbean's ships will remain idle around the world until the company is ready to start operations up.

When they do start cruising again, do not expect all 26 ships to resume sailings immediately. Royal Caribbean has said repeatedly it expects to start with a few ships that can sail to its private destinations first, and then expand operations from there.

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer shared restart plans during the company's last earnings call with investors, "We are currently planning for a very limited initial return and a gradual ramp up during the first half of 2021."

Mr. Liberty emphasized that the first cruises back will be focused on short sailings, "Deployment of spring is expected to be highly focused on short sailings from key drive markets in both the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions."

Typically, "key drive markets" references cruises that depart from ports where most of the customers can drive to the cruise ship, as opposed to guests who fly to their cruise ship.

This boils down to a handful of ships beginning at first, with a phased approach to bringing the entire fleet back.

Top 5 odd annoyances on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship


Cruise ship design is not simple, and far be it for me to claim I could do a better job, but there are definitely a few decisions made regarding Royal Caribbean cruise ships that make you scratch your head.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are marvels of modern engineering, and the New Build team at Royal Caribbean spends an incredible amount of time planning out every inch of the ship.

However, there are a few puzzling design choices on a few ships that some guests have wondered for a while why is that way?

Here is a look at the top five odd annoyances on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that you may have encountered yourself.

Elevators that don't go to every floor on Majesty of the Seas

While Majesty of the Seas is one of the oldest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, I think people in the early 1990s still expected elevators to go to every floor.

Unlike most other ships, Majesty's elevators only go to certain floors.

The aft elevators only go from Deck 5 to Deck 14.

Mid ship elevators only go from Deck 3 to Deck 7.

Forward elevators go from 1 to 11.

On other Royal Caribbean ships, an elevator not going to a certain deck is quite rare, but Majesty's are the exception.

No public bathrooms near Main Dining Room on Vision Class ships

If you are having dinner in the My Fair Lady dining room on deck 5 of a Vision Class ship, you will have to go down a deck to access the restroom.

The Main Dining Room on Vision Class ships encompasses Deck 4 and 5, but there are only restrooms outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 4.

So you will have to either go up to deck 6 or down to deck 4 to visit the restroom from the dining room.

Remote Concierge Lounge location Quantum Class ships

They say everything is relative, including how far of a walk you have to the Concierge Lounge.

The Concierge Lounge is the hub of activity for suite guests, where they can speak to the Concierge host or enjoy time chatting with other suite guests and enjoy complimentary beverages and hors d'oeuvres.

On most Royal Caribbean ships, the Concierge Lounge is located near an elevator, and more or less central on the ship.  On Quantum Class ships, the Concierge Lounge is located at the far end of Deck 12.

This means suite guests must traverse the entire length of Deck 12 to get to the Concierge Lounge, and then walk back when complete. 

Can't cross the ship on certain decks

This annoyance is one that always gets me because I usually remember I am about to run into a dead end by the time it is too late.

Certain decks on Voyager or Freedom Class ships are not passable between the aft and forward sections because of public venues that are in the way.

The most common one is on Deck 3, where Studio B essentially cuts that deck in half preventing going from one end to another.

The conference center on Deck 2 also makes getting across a problem.

Can't cross the deck on Deck 7 of Oasis Class ships

If you happen to be near the aft staterooms on Deck 7 of an Oasis Class ship, you cannot get from the port side to the starboard side of the ship.

The Boardwalk sign blocks access between port and starboard on deck 7. Instead, you have to go up/down a floor, cross over, and then up/down a floor back.

This means you have to choose wisley which elevator bank you select to get off on the same side as your room.

Your thoughts

What head scratching features, impediments, or funky ways to do things on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship have you noticed? Share your (un)favorites in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean has not ruled out selling any cruise ships


Royal Caribbean could still sell a cruise ship during its shutdown, assuming it makes financial sense.

During an earnings call with Wall Street analysts on Thursday, Royal Caribbean Group executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty spoke on the topic of supply growth, and what Royal Caribbean might do with existing and new vessels.

Mr. Liberty noted that Royal Caribbean Group would sell about one to two ships in a typical year, but with everything changing this year, anything is possible.

"We're being very opportunistic about the situation," Mr. Liberty said on the topic of selling or scrapping ships. 

In terms of when it makes sense to sell, it sounds like only if a particular cruise ship "does not fit strategically" within the brand would they then look at options.

New cruise ship capacity


Selling or scrapping a ship may also come to offset new ships joining the fleet.

Right now, Royal Caribbean expects its cruise ships on order to continue ahead, although "delayed by probably eight to 10 months", according to Mr. Liberty.

Nonetheless, new ships growth will continue.

"I think we do expect that will be slower newbuild growth probably towards the latter part of four or five years from now....I think we expect to continue to try to come online."

Royal Caribbean International has a few ships on order, including Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.  Both ships have been delayed, but will debut in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

No change in Royal Caribbean's ship selling strategy

Today's comments on Royal Caribbean having no firm plans to sell any ships continues the company's general strategy since cruises shutdown in March.

In August, Mr. Liberty said Royal Caribbean Group was still evaluating options in selling ships, but had nothing firm to announce.

"This time we are evaluating opportunities to to sell ships or to take other actions with ships."

"We're valuating all all options, but of course, we've put a lot of money into these ships. These ships do exceptionally well, and so it's a difficult decision to depart with ship because they generate so much cash."

Why scrap or sell a ship?

The question of if Royal Caribbean will sell more ships or not is partly based in finances, and partly due to what competitors have been doing.

Carnival Corporation has been far more aggressive in selling ships of its brands, having announced a total of 18 cruise ships across its brands will be sold soon (if not already).

Royal Caribbean Group chose to scrap its fleet of Pullmantur Cruises ships, including the former Monarch and Sovereign of the Seas, when that cruise line went into bankruptcy.

Besides getting rid of ships and the overhead they bring, new cruise ships tend to break-even with less guests and are more efficient with generating onboard revenue.

How to tell if your Royal Caribbean ship is almost full


It can be very helpful to know if the Royal Caribbean cruise you have booked (or are thinking of booking) is getting close to selling out, and there are some easy ways to get a ballpark idea of what to expect.

Why should you care if ship is close to full?

Reading this post, you might be curious why someone might want to know their cruise is almost full, and there are a few good reasons.

If you are on the fence about booking the cruise, depending on how full the ship is will determine how much time you have to decide to book the cruise or not.

In addition, prices tend to go up as rooms get booked, so a ship that is less than half full means prices may not fluctuate that much in the short term, whereas a ship nearing selling out likely will not see any price drops soon.

How to tell if your cruise ship is almost full

There is no exact method for knowing precisely how sold out a ship is or not, because Royal Caribbean does not divulge that information to the public.

However, there are some good strategies for getting a ballpark idea of how close to selling out a cruise is.

Making a mock-booking on Royal Caribbean's website is a very easy and simple way to get an idea how many rooms are left to book.

By going through the website and pretending to book a cruise, you will end up on the stateroom choice page, where you can see which categories are sold out, and drilling down from there, see how many cabin options come back as bookable.

Another website that claims to track how booked up a sailing happens to be is I cannot vouch for how accurate their site is, but many cruise fans refer to this site for quickly figuring out how booked up the cabins are onboard.

A good travel agent can also provide insight into what is available by having them check on their site for availability. 

Everything can change at final payment

If you are looking this up, keep in mind that the final payment date can drastically change how booked up a cruise is or not.

Prior to the final payment date, anyone can place a deposit and hold a cruise reservation that assures them of that particular cabin.  That cabin will remain unavailable to book and appear sold unless the person fails to make final payment and/or cancels their reservation.

A very common occurrence is people who make reservations many months in advance and then decide to cancel it at the final payment date because they decided not to sail.  

If you are trying to get an idea of available rooms, or discover a sailing is sold out, prior to final payment date, be sure to double-check again the day after final payment to see if more rooms opened up.

Once you get past final payment, cancellations are less likely since there is a penalty associated with canceling.  Cancellations past final payment date are not unheard of, just less likely.

What does it mean when a cruise ship goes into cold lay-up?


Over the last few weeks, many cruisers have heard cruise lines say their ships may enter cold lay-up, but what does that mean?

With cruise lines entering a prolonged suspension with no cruises resuming anytime soon, one option available is to move ships from a warm lay-up into a cold lay-up.

In order to get a better sense of what cold lay-up is and what it means, I turned to Commander Don Goldstein, Retired United States Coast Guard, who has over 32 years of experience.

What is cold lay-up?

When a cruise ship goes into cold lay-up, it is essentially shutting down as much of the ship as possible in order to cut costs.

Royal Caribbean's fleet is currently in a state of warm lay-up, which means they can bring the ship back to service very quickly since the machinery, lifesaving equipment and navigational equipment are all well-kept and up to date.

In a cold lay-up, the opposite is true. Most of the mechanical systems are taken offline, with just the bare essentials left online to preserve the ship. 

Depending on how long the company intends to lay-up the ship, different approaches can be taken to preserving the interiors of the ship. For a lay up of three to nine months, the air conditioning will continue running to keep the humidity down.  But a more prolonged lay up would result in the rooms being hermetically sealed.

In terms of crew, the amount of workers onboard is drastically reduced.

In a hot lay-up, the engine department and the deck department are pretty close to fully manned, but in a cold lay-up there would be a bare minimum skeleton crew that could step in the case of an emergency to get the ship moving (such as a hurricane).

Why do a cold lay-up?

If you are wondering why a cruise line would consider putting its ships into cold lay-up, it is all about saving money.

The benefit of putting a cruise ship into cold lay-up is added savings compared to a hot lay-up.

"People are the big expense in a lay-up, and you've got a whole lot less people involved in a cold lay-up than you do in a hot lay-up."

Hurdles to get ships back into service

After a ship enters a state of cold lay-up, getting them back into service is no simple task.

In a cold lay-up, you basically have to re-certify the ship, depending on how long it has been in cold lay-up.

"There are a myriad of certificates that have to be redone if it's been longer than six months," Command Goldstein described, and he outlined four entities that go into a ship recertification:

  • Ship owner
  • Port State (where the ship is located)
  • The flag state (Bahamas, for all Royal Caribbean ships)
  • Classification Society

All four of those entities have to be involved in putting the ship into cold lay-up, and they all have to be involved in taking the ship out of cold lay-up.

How long to get a ship back into service after cold lay-up

Another question is how quickly Royal Caribbean could get a ship back into service after a ship goes into cold-lay up.

In a best case scenario, Commander Goldstein said if the ship has only been in cold lay-up for three months, the ship could probably get back into service in two to three weeks.

The bigger issue is there are only a limited amount of inspectors available to re-certify a ship, and with other cruise lines trying to do the same thing, that could become an issue if there are not enough inspectors available to get on a ship.

If the cold lay-up extends beyond three months, and goes to six months or more, then Commander Goldstein indicated it could take a month or more to get a ship back out of cold lay-up.

Once the ships return to the United States, the ship would be inspected by the Coast Guard.  These inspections could take just a few days to verify the certificates that had been previously issued when the ship came out of cold storage, as well as verifying crew training and testing.

Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?


If you are looking for the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you have plenty of great choices to consider.


Royal Caribbean offers cruises around the world on more than two dozen ships that will provide a great family vacation.

Narrowing down the best ship means finding the right ship for you, depending on your personal tastes, budget and who is cruising with you.

The best ship depends on you

Picking the best ship is a lot like picking out the best movie or best restaurant: it is a subjective choice based on a variety of factors that every person weighs differently.

Since no one likes to hear that the answer is "it depends", here is as objective a breakdown as possible of what to look for in the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Amenities, activities, and accommodations

At the heart of any cruise ship is what the ship offers onboard, and where you will call home during your vacation.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have four basic types of staterooms: inside, oceanview, balcony and suite cabins. These types of cabins offer varying amount of living space and luxuries, and the some ships have more impressive cabins than others. 

Ultimately, the decision for which room you want is a question of what you can afford, but the larger and newer ships tend to offer the most expansive and luxurious accommodations.

What you do onboard is what makes Royal Caribbean stand out, and you will find various signature activities, fun things to do and multitudes of dining choices across an expansive layout.

Each cruise ship is made up of a different combination of onboard offerings and over the last decade, Royal Caribbean has varied these amenities considerably from ship to ship. So it behooves you to figure out which are the most important and pick the right ship for you.

Oasis Class

Best ship: Symphony of the Seas or Oasis of the Seas

These are the largest cruise ships in the world, and they simply offer the latest and greatest that Royal Caribbean is known for onboard.

The four Oasis Class ships (with Wonder of the Seas eventually joining the fleet sometime beyond 2021), have FlowRider surf simulators, zip lining, rock climbing, waterslides, clubs, specialty and complimentary restaurants and scenic evening strolls.

There is no shortage of things to do on an Oasis Class ship, including waterslides, Ultimate Abyss slide, two FlowRiders, mini-golf, zip line and more.

There are seven neighborhoods on an Oasis Class ship, including Central Park outdoor space and the seaside-inspired Boardwalk. 

The shows on an Oasis Class ship are the best in the fleet, with three different theaters offering entertainment throughout your cruise. Watch a full Broadway show (such as Mamma Mia or Hairspray), check out the thrills of the AquaTheater performances, and be dazzled by ice shows in Studio B.

Oasis Class ships also have the most dining options of any Royal Caribbean ship, such as Chops Steakhouse, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Portside BBQ, classic Italian and much more.

Where they sail: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas offer 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that include stops at the private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Quantum Class

Best ship: Anthem of the Seas or Ovation of the Seas

The newest class of Royal Caribbean ship does not compromise on entertainment, dining, or things to do with the Quantum Class ships.

Looking for some incredible things to do on a cruise ship? How about a skydiving simulator, or smash bumper cars into your fellow guest vehicles.  Then there is the observation capsule that takes you 300 feet in the air for breathtaking, 360-degree views. 

The Quantum Class ships are the only ones that feature Two70, which is a large circular space at the back of the ship where you will not only find a great view of the ocean, but also floor-to-ceiling screens that can transform the space along with their Roboscreen technology.

Music Hall is the perfect venue for anyone that loves live music performances, where cover bands perform and you can dance the night away.

The Royal Esplanade is located in the center of the ship and features dining and shopping opportunities.

Where they sail: Anthem of the Seas sails primarily from Bayonne, New Jersey to destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, New England and Canda. She also started spending summer in Europe, sailing from Southampton, England for the summer, visiting coastal towns along the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands.

Spectrum of the Seas is the newest Royal Caribbean cruise ship and sails from Shanghai, China to destinations in China and Japan.

Quantum of the Seas offers cruises to China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Beginning in 2021, she will start sailing to Alaska.

Ovation of the Seas splits her time between Alaska cruises out of Seattle, as well as cruises down under in Australia.

Freedom Class

Best ship: Freedom of the Seas or Independence of the Seas

One of the most versatile cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, the Freedom Class vessels combine large size with lots to do onboard. In fact, the Freedom Class ships have been upgraded in the last few years with waterslides and other new features onboard.

You will find Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids on all three ships, along with Perfect Storm waterslides on Independence and Freedom. Liberty of the Seas has her own set of water slides, including the only ship to feature a boomerang slide.

Independence of the Seas is the only Freedom Class ship to offer the Sky Pad virtual reality bungee jump trampoline experience.

If you are looking for dining, Independence has Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi and Fish & Ships, a poolside eatery where guests can grab quintessentially British seaside treats. Freedom of the Seas launched the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen specialty restaurant concept in the fleet, that features made-to-order pizzas, freshly made pastas and a wide selection of wines and limoncellos.

All three ships offer great shows onboard, including ice skating performances in Studio B.  Independence of the Seas has its own Broadway show with Grease, while Liberty of the Seas has Saturday Night Fever Broadway show.

Where they sail: Independence of the Seas sails four and five night cruises the Caribbean from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), as well as three and four night Bahamas sailings from Port Canaveral.

Liberty of the Seas sails from Galveston, Texas and offers seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean.

Freedom of the Seas is homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but will transition to Bayonne, New Jersey in 2021.

Voyager Class

Best ship: Navigator of the Seas or Mariner of the Seas

One of the best values in Royal Caribbean is the Voyager Class ships. These multifaceted vessels are a great choice for first-time cruisers, as well as anyone on a limited budget.  They are still "big ships" and offer plenty to do onboard, but at a fraction of the price of their mega ship sister vessels.

The Voyager Class is perhaps the most varied ships in the fleet, as the Royal Amplification process has added so many new and different options to these ships.

Mariner and Navigator of the Seas received the most striking changes in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Mariner of the Seas has a Sky Pad and Perfect Storm waterslides. Navigator has The Blaster aqua coaster, the longest waterslide at sea, and Riptide, the industry’s only head-first mat racer waterslide. Both ships also now feature Battle for Planet Z and Royal Escape Room: The Observatorium.

There are plenty of other additions to both vessels, including hibachi on Mariner and Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant on Navigator. Both ships have a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, as well as a Bamboo Room Polynessian-themed bar.

The other Voyager Class ships also have their own share of fun onboard, including a FlowRider surf simulator, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink and shows each evening. Adventure of the Seas has its own set of water slides that were added a few years ago.

Where they sail: Mariner of the Seas offers short sailings to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral. Navigator of the Seas also offers short sailings to the Bahamas from Miami.

The other Voyager Class ships move around a bit more, offering cruises around the world. Adventure of the Seas will sail from Galveston and Bayonne in the winter, in addition to cruises in Europe from Copenhagen and Stockholm in the summer.

Explorer of the Seas also splits time between North America and Europe, with cruises from Rome in the summer, and Galveston or Miami in the winter.

Voyager of the Seas offers cruises in Australia or China, depending on the cruise season.

Radiance Class

Best ship: Brilliance of the Seas or Radiance of the Seas

An underrated, yet impressive class of ships is the Radiance Class ships that combine sleek elegance with varied itineraries around the world.

Just because they are smaller than other ships, does not mean they compromise on the fun onboard. Royal Caribbean added new features and amenities to these ships, and you will find an outdoor movie screen, full-scale entertainment productions in the three-story theater, and plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges.

Radiance class ships are popular with Royal Caribbean veterans for their elegant offerings and relaxing atmosphere. In fact, Radiance Class ships have one of the best adults-only Solarium areas across the entire fleet.

Where they sail: The Radiance Class ships are world travelers, offering lots of places to visit. Brilliance of the Seas spends her winters in Tampa with short sailings to the Caribbean, along with cruises from Boston and Miami.

You can cruise on Jewel of the Seas from Amsterdam to Northern Europe in the summer, while choosing between cruises from Galveston or Miami to the Caribbean.

Radiance of the Seas offers some really interesting cruises, including open-jaw sailings (one-way) to Alaska in the summer.  She then transitions to Australia and sails the South Pacific.

Serenade of the Seas also splits her time between Australia and Alaska itineraries.

Vision Class

Best ship: Grandeur of the Seas or Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean uses the Vision Class ships to offer cruises to the most exotic locations around, because they can fit almost anywhere.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships still offer plenty to do onboard and have amenities such as a rock climbing wall, great pool deck, poolside movie screen, specialty dining and a grand Atrium area.

The lounges on these ships are equally impressive, and many repeat cruisers love the warm and thoughtful staff onboard these ships.

Where they sail: Vision of the Seas offers cruises in the winter from Fort Lauderdale, and Barcelona in the summer.

Rhapsody of the Seas calls Tampa and Venice/Ravenna, Italy home, with cruises to the Western Caribbean and Greek Isles.

Enchantment of the Seas (the last Royal Caribbean ship to be stretched) offers cruises from Galveston, Baltimore and San Juan.

Grandeur of the Seas sails year-round from Baltimore.

Empress of the Seas

Empress of the Seas is the smallest and oldest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but she maintains Royal Caribbean's high standards and received a big update when she rejoined the fleet in 2016.

The appeal of cruising on Empress of the Seas is two-fold: fantastic prices and a throwback to the old style of cruising. You can enjoy a classic cruise experience for an incredibly low rate.

Empress also sails some very interesting routes, such as down the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

If you are looking for something different and out of the ordinary when it comes to mainstream cruising, Empress of the Seas is a compelling choice.

Majesty of the Seas

Similar to Empress, Majesty of the Seas exemplifies a classic cruising experience (even though when she debuted, Majesty was considered a new kind of mega cruise ship).

While she may be an older ship, she makes up for her age in offering great getaway cruises the Bahamas at low prices.  Do not judge these ships by their age alone, because they still offer a fun atmosphere onboard, with an impressive pool deck and dining choices.  

You will find pools, whirlpools and even a Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids onboard. Royal Caribbean updated her in 2016 to offer more for families to enjoy.

What should you look for in the best cruise ship?

When you want to find the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship for you, the key is to understand what the ship offers and what it does not offer, and then weigh that against how much it will cost you.

Some important considerations you should look at in any ship is what it offers in:

  • Kids Programming
  • Signature activities (waterslides, Broadway shows, thrill attractions, open spaces, et al)
  • Where it is sailing

If you want a never ending array of "things to do," then lean towards taking a cruise on the larger ships.  

If your idea of a good time is lounging by the pool and exploring the ports of call you visit, then any size ship will be fine.

The important thing to remember is to figure out if the ship you are looking at has a FlowRider, particular specialty restaurant or something else important to you onboard the ship.

My recommendations for the best ships

If you just want to know which ships I think might be best for certain people, here are my top picks for best Royal Caribbean ships.

  • Best ships for new cruisers and families: Oasis of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas or Anthem of the Seas
  • Best ship if on a budget: Mariner of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Best ship if you don't care about crazy activities: Brilliance of the Seas or Empress of the Seas
  • Best combination of value (price for what you get): Freedom of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Matt's favorite ships: Harmony of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas

What was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment


The Royal Amplification project added a bunch of new activities, entertainment, dining and more to a variety of Royal Caribbean ships over the last few years.

While the Royal Amplified program is on hold at the moment, six Royal Caribbean ships were updated and refurbished in the first few years of the program, and here is a look at what was added to each ship.

Ships that have been updated offer a tremendous value, as guests can enjoy brand new features often found on the Royal Caribbean's newest vessels, but at much less of a cost than sailing on a new ship.

What is Royal Amplified?

While the range of upgrades varies by ship, the goal was to add innovative attractions, pools, bars, and dining to each ship.  In addition, new staterooms were introduced on most vessels.

The Royal Amplified program focused on three main areas:

Pool Deck & Attractions: A re-imagined outside pool deck to discover everything under the sun – from pools specifically designed with prime ways to lounge, to those programmed with diverse activities day and night, plus the boldest attractions and first-of-a-kind thrills on deck. Examples of these experiences are: Sky Pad, The Perfect Storm, Laser Tag and Escape Room.

Bars & Nightlife: We will give your clients the chance to drink, clink and live it up in distinct new bars and nightlife spots that deliver on the three tenets of a great night out: unique drinks, ways to be entertained, and good food. Examples of these experiences: The Bamboo Room and Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.

Dining Mission: We will make delectable strides in delivering the cornerstone cuisines that guests have told us they crave – like great seafood, Mexican food, and Italian food – while upping our game in the fast, casual, grab & go category to keep our guests fueled between their adventures. Examples of these delicious culinary options are: El Loco Fresh, Hooked and Jamie’s Italian.

Amplified Ships

Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas was the last Royal Caribbean ship to be amplified, and it was completed in early 2020. In total, Royal Caribbean spent $116 million on her work, which added many new features, including water slides, a new Caribbean pool deck look, the cruise line’s first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and new, dedicated spaces for kids and teens. 

What's new on Freedom of the Seas

  • Resort-style Caribbean poolscape
  • The Lime & Coconut pool bar
  • Splashaway Bay kids aqua park
  • Renewed adults-only Solarium
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Clash for the Crystal City Laser Tag
  • Revamped Adventure Ocean
  • New Social033 teen club
  • App updates
    • Expedited arrival
    • App can control stateroom TV

Freedom of the Seas refurbishment photos

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas underwent her Royal Amplification in late 2019 that added a number of changes, including the cruise line’s first barbecue restaurant, Portside BBQ; and guest favorites, from the tallest slide at sea–the Ultimate Abyss–to popular live music venue Music Hall, and a reimagined, Caribbean pool deck. 

What's new on Oasis of the Seas

  • Caribbean-style pool deck
  • Lime & Coconut signature bar
  • Ultimate Abyss slide (dry slide)
  • The Perfect Storm water slides
  • Splashaway Bay aqua park
  • Portside BBQ specialty restaurant
  • El Loco Fresh complimentary Mexican restaurant
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Sugar Beach candy shop
  • Spotlight Karaoke venue
  • Music Hall venue
  • Bionic Bar
  • Revamped Adventure Ocean
  • Mission Control: Apollo 18 escape room

Oasis of the Seas refurbishment photos

Voyager of the Seas

In October 2019, Royal Caribbean completed the Royal Amplification for Voyager of the Seas, which cost $97 million and took 41 days to complete.

Voyager of the Seas received a number of upgrades, including The Perfect Storm water slides and Battle for Planet Z laser tag. 

What's new on Voyager of the Seas

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • Battle for Planet Z laser tag
  • Reinvigorated Vitality Spa and Fitness Center
  • Redesigned kids and teens spaces
  • 72 new inside and balcony staterooms
  • Support for Royal Caribbean's app

Voyager of the Seas amplification photos

Navigator of the Seas

Arguably one of the best updates to any Royal Caribbean ship as part of the Royal Amplified program, Navigator of the Seas had a $115 bow to stern refurbishment in February 2019.

Royal Caribbean added water slides, dining venues, activities and more to the ship.

What's new on Navigator of the Seas

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • To Dry For Blow-dry bar at sea
  • Reimagined poolscape
  • The Lime & Coconut pool bar
  • Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant
  • Bamboo Room
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Jamie’s Italian specialty restaurant
  • Upgraded Windjammer furnishings
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Solarium upgrades
  • Laser tag in Studio B
  • Starbucks

Navigator of the Seas refurbishment photos

Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean invested $120 million into the refurbishment of Mariner of the Seas and the results are astounding.

From the bright yellow globe at the top of the ship that houses the virtual reality trampoline experience Sky Pad to the addition of two restaurants, two bars, FlowRider surf simulators, the Perfect Storm water park and an escape room, Mariner's got plenty to keep you entertained.

What's new on Mariner of the Seas

  • Sky Pad bungee trampoline experience
  • The Perfect Storm waterslides 
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z
  • Escape Room: The Observatorium
  • The Bamboo Room
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Jamie’s Italian specialty restaurant
  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi specialty restaurant

Independence of the Seas

The first Royal Caribbean ship to be amplified was Independence of the Seas, which boasted a number of new and exciting activities.

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z
  • New escape room
  • New lounges
  • New Panoramic Oceanview staterooms 
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Fish & Ships
  • Sugar Beach candy shop

Independence of the Seas refurbishment photos

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas was the first Royal Caribbean ship to have her Royal Amplification delayed, and then postponed.

Allure of the Seas did undergo a "technical dry dock", which means the propulsion and navigation was repaired.

Once the Royal Amplification is undertaken again, the ship was scheduled to undergo a 58-day, $165 million transformation to add the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, completely redesigned Adventure Ocean kids and teens spaces, the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, and Music Hall.

Explorer of the Seas

Like Allure, Explorer of the Seas had her Royal Amplification delayed and then postponed.

Explorer will get a "technical dry dock" to repair the vessel's propulsion and navigation.

Explorer of the Seas was scheduled for a $110 million Royal Amplification that would have added a number of changes from bow to stern. However, the closure of shipyards and disruption to the supply chain around the world has delayed the work from being done on time

Postponed Amplifications

Due to Royal Caribbean's financial situation, the cruise line postponed scheduled Royal Amplifications for Adventure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas in 2021.

Royal Caribbean's newer ships break-even quicker than older ships


During Wednesday's call with Wall Street analysts, Royal Caribbean revealed some pretty intriguing statistics about the break even point for its ships.

One analyst asked how many ships Royal Caribbean needs to have sailing to reach a "break even" point in terms of costs.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty answered by saying the company could break even with use of fewer, but newer cruise ships, in lieu of older ships.

"For our newer ships, you need about 30 percent load factors to kind of break even. And then they skew to about 50 percent load factor on onto our older ships."

With the cruise line's recent cost-cutting measures, their return to service does not need the entire fleet operating at full levels to break even. In fact, load factors do not need to be exceptionally high either.

Essentially, Royal Caribbean is eyeing a slow return to service that gets them back to a break even point in a relatively short period of time.

Selling off older ships?

Another question was raised about older ships and if there is a prolonged suspension of cruises, would Royal Caribbean consider selling off or even scrapping its older ships.

Once again, Mr. Liberty answered the question:

"I do think that you will see ships that are retired at a much higher pace than what we have seen in the past with really because there hasn't been that much on the scraping side. I think the combination of what's happening with COVID and then the IMO regulations, you'll see interest in some of the older vessels for possible sale."

"And so you're going to see a permanent shift in the way of new buildings for some time, which is going to weigh on capacity growth numbers for the foreseeable future. Because these, especially the new building side, it's not a shift and catch up. It's what's likely to be a very permanent shift."