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What happens on Turnaround Day on a Cruise?

16 Apr 2024

Cruise ships conclude one sailing and begin the next sailing on the same day, which means a lot has to happen to have the vessel, crew, and supplies ready in just a few hours.

What is turnaround day?

Known as turnaround day, there are just a handful of hours in the morning and early afternoon to get everything ready while simultaneously ensuring passengers disembark so new ones can board.

The process is anything but simple, and involves a great deal of logistics from Royal Caribbean's headquarters, the ship, and the cruise terminal staff to make it all work seamlessly.

It's a fast-paced day of unloading, loading, stocking, preparing, and serving. All while ensuring the cruise ship passengers never notice any of it happening around them.

The disembarkation process

As a cruise ship returns to its homeport to complete its journey, the busy disembarkation process begins quite early in the morning.

Most cruise ships arrive at the terminal in the early hours of the morning, usually around 6 or 7am. The ship docks at the pier and then is required to file paperwork with the local authorities to allow the disembarkation process to begin.  A ship returning to port is no different than an airplane flying into an airport; the immigration and border patrol process needs to occur.

Once the ship is cleared, crew members begin working to get what's necessary off the ship and start prepping for the next sailing. Hundreds of crew members start turnaround day at 6:30 a.m., before guests onboard have even started disembarking.


Passengers can enjoy one final breakfast onboard and then must disembark the ship shortly thereafter. Royal Caribbean requires all guests to be out of their stateroom by 8am.

Read more: How long does it take to get off a cruise ship?

Luggage being brought on

At the same time, passenger luggage is offloaded to the cruise terminal so that it can be retrieved later. Thousands of pieces of luggage will be taken by a crew of longshoremen from the ship to the terminal.

Luggage was collected the night before by housekeeping staff from the ship's hallways, and organized based on the tags guests used to indicate what time they would be disembarking.

In addition, the process of unloading waste begins.  Cruise ships have a sophisticated approach to managing where everything goes once people are done with it, from human waste to recycling to leftover food.

Read more: Where does the poop go on a cruise ship?

Recycling center

Royal Caribbean's ships have a designated waste and recycling center. There are separate teams to deal with each incoming recyclable: glass, cardboard, plastic, and metal.

The ship has an incinerator, as well as a compactor for processing plastic waste. The compactor crushes approximately 528 gallons of water bottles.

Once the ship returns to port, it can then transport plastic, aluminum, paper, and glass for recycling through a third party vendor.

Cleaning and maintenance

Prepping a cabin

While the ship is being resupplied, other crew members are hard at work prepping the ship to look its best.

Every cabin on a ship is turned over at once, which begins as soon as the first guests disembark.  An army of crew members tackle the cabins to clean and sanitize the room for the next room. The thousands of cabins need to be ready for the next set of passengers by as soon as 1pm. The Oasis Class cabins have around 2,700 cabins each.

Dirty laundry
Photo by JohnK6404

Dirty laundry is taken from the cabin to the laundry rooms below the ship's waterline so it can be sanitized for use again.  Meanwhile, clean linens, towels, and duvet covers are brought into the cabin to replace what was taken.

Not only do cabins need to be cleaned, but the rest of the ship too.

Public venues such as bars, restaurants, shops, and the pool deck are all reset accordingly.  Surfaces are wiped down, and dining facilities readied so they can be used again.

Cleaning the ship

Depending on the circumstances, this is also when shoreside maintenance teams come aboard to repair and service various parts of the ship.  Similar to a race car pit stop, some work gets done on turnaround day if it requires supplies not onboard.  Every ship has a team of maintenance workers and engineers to keep things operating, but occasionally workers are needed to come onboard to do additional work.

Restocking and preparation

Resupplying the ship

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship has to be supplied with just about everything passengers and crew will need for the duration of the cruise.  Some supplies are actually stocked for more than one sailing will need, in case there's a delay returning to port. 

Frozen items, such as prime rib or fish, are brough every two or three weeks. More than 10,000 rolls of toilet tissue, 1,000 new light bulbs, almost 2,000 pounds of coffee are typically brought onboard.

Read more: How over 6,000 people are served meals every day on the world's largest cruise ship

Pallet of supplies

On turnaround day, trucks carrying 500 pallets of new inventory will arrive at the cruise terminal to be loaded.  In the case of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, about 600,000 pounds of food and beverages get loaded on the ship. And it all has to be loaded onto the ship in about 9 hours.

Supplies coming onboard

The supplies need to be perfectly planned for the next cruise so that there's enough of what the ship needs without having excess and not running out of anything at the same time. 

All of the new supplies get brought onboard on the ship's lowest deck, which is usually deck two. 

Chef inspecting new supplies

The chefs inspect all of the herbs, fresh fruits and vegetables, specially sourced meats, and other food items to ensure the best quality for our guests.

The embarkation process

Guests on gangway

While a cruise ship is still unloading waste and loading provisions, new guests are ready to start their Royal Caribbean vacation.

The final passengers are usually off the ship around 9:00am - 9:30am, and the embarkation process begins in earnest around 10:00am.

Once the local authorities clear the ship, new passengers are allowed to board and that means certain venues need to be ready for them as soon as they board. Bars, pools, and certain restaurants are open and ready for new passengers just a couple of hours since they waved goodbye to guests on the previous sailing.

Crew member emuster

One requirement of all new passengers is to complete the mandatory passenger safety drills, which is required by SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea). This is an international maritime agreement that establishes all passengers know what to do in case of an emergency.

In the case of Royal Caribbean, the eMuster drill allows guests to watch a safety video on their mobile device and then report to their muster station so they know where it is.  A subset of crew members must staff the muster stations to be able to check guests in, ensure they understand what to do in the case of an emergency, and answer questions.

Read more: 15 Royal Caribbean boarding process tips for a fast embarkation

Luggage being brought on

Back at the cruise terminal, luggage from new guests is brought onboard the ship to be delivered to passenger's cabin. Embarkation runs until about 3pm, so that means a steady stream of new passengers boarding and getting luggage on the ship.

Each piece of luggage needs to be screened to ensure there are no prohibited items. Any bag flagged by security in the security process is held back and the guest notified to come to security so the bag can be opened and inspected.

Read more: What can you not bring on a cruise

If there's no contraband in the luggage, it is then taken onto the ship and delivered.

A frenetic and well-planned day

Loading at the pier

It's no simple task to unload and load a cruise ship in just a few hours, but Royal Caribbean makes it look so easy considering how it's done every few days on every ship in the fleet.

Turnaround day ensures everyone and everything gets taken off the ship in a timely manner, and then subsequently getting ready for the next sailing. It's an exercise in extreme logistics, and the average cruiser has no idea how much goes into making it all work.

Crew members from officers to the lowest ranks work together to make such a complex operation run smoothly. The cruise line and all of its crew have to be really efficient every step of the way.

Cruise ships are often described as a small city, and it takes a great deal of effort to make it all work just right.

I'm new to Royal Caribbean and tried 4 different kinds of cruise ships, here's what I like about each

27 Feb 2024

When I first started cruising in August of 2023, I thought I would never even learn the names of all Royal Caribbean’s different ships.

Royal Caribbean currently has seven classes: Icon, Oasis, Quantum, Freedom, Voyager, Radiance, and Vision.

With 28 ships to choose from—and more on the way!—it can feel intimidating to decide which one suits your preferences.

For the new cruiser, selecting the right class of ship to sail on takes a steep learning curve.

Fast forward to today, I’ve now sailed on five ships across four classes. This experience has given me a better grasp of what each class has to offer.

While the cruise line’s ships all stay true to specific branding and design, each class varies a lot when it comes to layout, amenities, atmosphere, and itinerary options.

The best fit for each person comes down to what they enjoy on their cruise vacation.

Sun rising in Alaska

If you’re looking for a floating resort with activities available onboard, you might prefer a bigger ship. 

But if you’re interested in unique itineraries with multiple ports of call, a smaller class of ship will be a better fit.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ship classes ultimate guide (2024)

I prefer an ambient onboard experience while cruising

My cruising style focuses on the quality of the ship itself. I love ships that have many onboard activities, or a peaceful onboard atmosphere. 

While unique itineraries are fun, they’re not the major draw for me when choosing a cruise.

I don’t mind a not-updated or cheap stateroom, since I enjoy spending time out and about onboard. Most Royal Caribbean ships have a uniform stateroom design, anyway.

odyssey of the seas pool deck

My perfect cruise vacation includes a packed schedule of relaxing by the pool, people-watching, enjoying tasty food, and then heading to the nightclub or other entertainment in the evenings.

I don’t usually spend extra money on specialty dining, so I don’t require ships to have many different options when it comes to dining venues. I prefer that the complimentary food tastes high-quality.

I usually cruise with fellow young adults, looking for parties and relaxing spots. I don’t cruise with children, so childcare or kid’s activities don’t factor into my decision-making.


While I enjoy having many different activities to choose from, I like that balanced with a peaceful atmosphere. I dislike too much noise or large crowds, so I prefer ships with a calm ambiance or at least a location where I can get some quiet.

The best kind of ship is one where I have enough to explore over the length of the cruise, but not too much to be overwhelming. 

Oasis Class: Boundless fun

Ships I sailed on: Wonder of the Seas, Allure of the Seas

There’s a lot to love about the Oasis Class. As a new cruiser, these ships blew me away with the breadth of activities and entertainment.

Read more: All about Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships

The ships feel huge—packed with food venues, shops, and plenty of other cruisers.

I love how many activities are available onboard, from ice skating to surfing to walking in Central Park. The same applies to specialty dining: there are an endless amount of venues to choose from.

These ships feel less like ships and more like walkable cities. 

The energy is infectious onboard. Crowds gather around and cheer on live musicians, elegant dinners host couples and families, and nightclubs pop with activity and dancing.


I always meet the most people—and make genuine friendships—when I’m on an Oasis Class ship.

However, there are downsides to a ship of this size. I find that you don’t get as many connections with crew members onboard, due to the amount of cruisers and crew members spread all over the ship.

It’s also insanely easy to get lost: I usually need 1-2 days to get my bearings onboard.

And lastly, it’s difficult to book shows. Reservations fill up quickly ahead of time, so I either have to check the app frequently, or get in line half an hour before the show. 

There usually ends up being enough seating, but you have to plan to get into the venue.

Read more: 13 things I wish I'd done differently on my first cruise, from avoiding seasickness to eating at different venues

Freedom Class: Quiet luxury 


Ship I sailed on: Freedom of the Seas

If you want the activity and fun of an Oasis Class ship without all the noise and crowds, I recommend a Freedom Class ship.

This ship felt like an older, more chill version of Wonder of the Seas.

Read more: All about Freedom Class cruise ships


There was plenty to explore onboard, and the ship was in good condition. It also felt less crowded, but still had the fun parties and activities onboard that I enjoyed.

It was easy to reserve or find seating in the shows onboard, and they were fairly good quality! The entertainment wasn’t equal to what you might find on land, but it was plenty of fun for a cruise ship.

When it comes to downsides, the WiFi was incredibly slow on board—especially in the stateroom.


There also isn’t much variety when it comes to specialty food options, and the ship lacks a varied itinerary. 

Radiance Class: Vibrant community

Ship I sailed on: Radiance of the Seas

For a sense of fun yet serenity, Radiance of the Seas was one of my favorite ships.

She is a comparatively smaller ship but with a vibrant nightlife and ample activities.

On my Oasis Class cruises, we joined a community of fellow cruisers onboard. But on Radiance of the Seas, I felt as though I was joining the ship’s community.

Read more: All about Radiance Class cruise ships

Crew members seemed close, and recognized me when I walked around the ship. Captain Marek also brought a personal touch to the sailing by talking with and performing for guests.

Out of all my cruises, Radiance is the only ship where I’ve remembered the name of the captain and other crew members I met while onboard.

The tranquil size and close-knit community made for a peaceful yet warm atmosphere onboard the ship.

As a bonus, Radiance of the Seas is also small enough to attend many diverse ports. I loved getting to experience an entirely new country at our stops in Mexico!

If you’re looking for a pleasant onboard experience, but also want to see exotic ports of call, a Radiance Class ship is the perfect in-between.

Vision Class: Amazing itinerary 

Centrum on Enchantment of the Seas

Ship I sailed on: Enchantment of the Seas 

Honestly, I can see why people call Enchantment the worst Royal Caribbean ship.

She’s old—originally launched in 1996—and it shows.

I noticed that the ship was pretty rundown. Lights would flicker or crack in the stateroom, and the elevator also broke down for a full day during my cruise. 

Read more: All about Vision Class cruise ships

Despite the quality of the ship, I loved Enchantment’s complimentary food and ports of call. 

I sailed on her for a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, with a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary. Enchantment’s smaller size allows her to stop at small ports of call, including Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Palma de Mallorca, and Barcelona. 

Being able to visit so many new locations moved all my focus to tours and excursions, leaving little time or energy to explore much onboard.

For the type of cruise I was on, Enchantment does just fine. But a port-focus isn’t my favorite style of cruising.

How much does a cruise ship cost to operate per day?

01 Jan 2024

Have you ever wondered how much it costs to operate a cruise ship? Spoiler: it’s not cheap!

Operating a cruise ship, let alone an entire cruise line, is no small feat. Feeding, accommodating, entertaining and transporting thousands of passengers around the globe requires serious logistics, planning and execution.

Diving in Royal Caribbean’s annual and quarterly financial statements, we can estimate just how much it costs to operate one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships. Although I cruise for both work and leisure, my day job is in the field of data analytics thanks to my background in math and statistics. I wanted to analyze Royal Caribbean’s financial statements to get a better understanding of the operational costs of a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean is the world’s largest cruise brand and currently operates 26 ships in their fleet. In 2024, this number will increase to 28 ships with the addition of Icon of the Seas in January and Utopia of the Seas in July.

However, Royal Caribbean Group operates more than just Royal Caribbean International. The company also operates two more cruise lines, including the premium brand Celebrity Cruises and ultra-luxurious brand SilverSea. Celebrity Cruises operated 15 cruise ships in 2023 with the addition of Celebrity Ascent in Q4 of 2023. Finally, SilverSea’s fleet is comprised of 12 luxury cruise ships.

Seeing how costly it is to operate a cruise ship was eye-opening to say the least. Come along as we analyze Royal Caribbean’s recent financial statements.


Each brand of Royal Caribbean Group appeals to a distinct demographic of cruisers, with Royal Caribbean aiming to be the best family-friendly cruise line in the world. The cruise line is designed for those with children, along with old and young couples. 

Silver Endeavour

Those looking for a more upscale, adult cruise experience will want to sail on sister-brand Celebrity Cruises. Finally, SilverSea operates its fleet for travelers looking for an expedition cruise or ultra-luxurious vacation with an all-inclusive style of cruising.

Since Royal Caribbean Group operates three cruise lines, the company releases one financial report for all three brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and SilverSea Cruises. Royal Caribbean is the largest of the three brands, followed by Celebrity Cruises and SilverSea Cruises.

Comparing the three brands’ capacities and gross tonnage, we can get an idea of how Royal Caribbean’s expenses and revenues are allocated. According to Royal Caribbean’s investor portal, the breakdown of each cruise line’s total capacity across its fleet based on double occupancy is the following:

  • Royal Caribbean International = 92,584 (71.46%)

  • Celebrity Cruises = 32,280 (24.92%)

  • SilverSea Cruises = 4,692 (3.62%)

Royal Caribbean’s investor portal also provides data for each fleet’s total gross tonnage, which is how cruise ships are measured by size. According to Royal Caribbean Group, the total gross tonnage of each cruise line is the following:

  • Royal Caribbean International = 3,823,107 GT (68.97%)

  • Celebrity Cruises = 1,384,459 GT (24.98%)

  • SilverSea Cruises = 335,400 GT (6.05%)

As expected, Royal Caribbean International makes up right around 70% of the company’s overall gross tonnage and capacity, followed by Celebrity Cruises at 25% and SilverSea at 5%.

What costs are associated with operating a cruise ship?


There are six major areas of operating expenses that are aggregated to calculate a total cruise operating expense both annually and quarterly. According to Royal Caribbean Group’s Form 10-Q for Q3 of 2023, cruise operating expenses are comprised of the following:

  1. Commissions and transportation: This consists of expenses directly associated to passenger ticket revenue, which includes travel agent commissions, airfare and other transportation expenses, credit card fees, and varying port costs based on passenger head counts.
  2. Onboard expenses: Includes direct costs associated with onboard and other revenues, such as cost of products sold onboard, vacation protection insurance premiums, costs for tours before or after cruises, concession revenues, procurement and management related services.
  3. Payroll and related expenses: Salaries for shipboard personnel.
  4. Food expenses: Includes cost of food for both guests and crew members.
  5. Fuel expenses: This includes any expenses related to fueling the ship, including delivery, storage, emission consumable costs and financial impact of fuel swap agreements.
  6. Other operating expenses: A catch-all category that consists primarily of operating costs related to repairs, maintenance, non-variable port costs, vessel related insurance, entertainment and losses/gains related to sale of ships.

For 2023, Royal Caribbean Group reports that 26.36% of operating expenses went to commission costs, followed by 22.80% to other operating expenses, 15.09% to payroll expenses, 14.44% to fuel expenses, 10.88% to onboard expenses and 10.43% to food expenses.

How much did Royal Caribbean spend operating their cruise ships in 2023?

In the same Q3 report for 2023, Royal Caribbean Group spent $5.9 billion on cruise operating expenses. Since this only includes data through September 2023, we can estimate cruise operating expenses for Q4 to be around $1.9 billion.

Based on this estimate for the fourth quarter, we could guess the 2023 annual cost for cruise operating expenses will be around $7.84 billion. This would be an increase from an annual expense of $6.6 billion in 2022 and $6.1 billion in 2019. Of course, this is an estimate based on data given in the report from Royal Caribbean Group.

Similar to many industries, Royal Caribbean Group has dealt with the rising cost of inflation. Moreover, the cruise line reported additional capacity and higher occupancy on its cruise ships, which has also contributed to increased expenses. The quarterly report for Q3 cites the following as major contributors to increased cruise expenses in 2023:

1. $586.8 million increase in Commissions, transportation and other expenses

2. $190.0 million increase in Onboard and other expenses

3. $163.4 million increase in Food expense

4. $136.4 million increase in Other operating expense

5. $70.0 million increase in Fuel expense.

Let’s make a few assumptions about Royal Caribbean’s cruise operating costs

Celebrity Ascent

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean Group does not provide any ship-specific data in their financial reports. Because of this, we have to make some more assumptions regarding operating cruise expenses with the information we are given. Most of these assumptions are based on fleet size and ship size.

Royal Caribbean International operates the largest fleet of the three brands with the most capacity and gross tonnage. As such, we can assume the Royal Caribbean International has the highest overall cruise operating expense. Based on gross tonnage, Royal Caribbean International makes up about 68.97% of the company’s operating fleet.

Because of this, let’s keep it simple and assume that 68.97% of Royal Caribbean Group’s operating costs are spent on the Royal Caribbean International brand. Using this logic, we can allocate 24.98% of operating costs to Celebrity Cruises and 6.05% to SilverSea.

I realize this is a high-level assumption, as one could argue that Royal Caribbean International is cheaper to operate per guest than Celebrity Cruises and SilverSea. Premium and luxury cruise brands are more expensive and likely require more operational spending on a guest-level.

But, I want to keep the math simple and keep the proportions based on overall fleet size, capacity and gross tonnage.

How much does Royal Caribbean spend to operate its entire fleet?

Based on our general assumptions, we can estimate that Royal Caribbean Group spent the following on cruise operating expenses for each brand. Again, these are estimations based on the company’s 2023 quarterly report, along with fleet size and general expense assumptions based on each brand of Royal Caribbean Group.

  • Royal Caribbean International = $5.41 billion (68.97%)

  • Celebrity Cruises =  $1.96 billion  (24.98%)

  • SilverSea Cruises = $474 million (6.05%)

Now that we have a general idea of how much Royal Caribbean Group spends to operate each brand annually, let’s figure out how much it costs for Royal Caribbean International to operate their individual cruise ships.

With little data available from Royal Caribbean Group, we can really only draw assumptions from the gross tonnage and capacity if we want to understand the cost of operating a single cruise ship.

How much does it cost to operate a Royal Caribbean cruise ship based on capacity?

Royal Caribbean operates a fleet of 26 ships currently with 6 different classes of ships. This will change in 2024 with the Icon Class, but we are only looking at operating costs for 2023.

Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class is home to the oldest and smallest ships, which are arguably the least expensive to operate. A smaller ship means less guests to feed, entertain, transport and accommodate. In addition, these older ships have the least amount of crew members to pay.

The oldest ship, Grandeur of the Seas, has an estimated capacity of 1,950 guests with gross tonnage of 74,100 - as reported by the cruise line. On the other end of the spectrum is the Oasis Class, which are the biggest ships in the world (excluding Icon of the Seas for 2023). Wonder of the Seas is currently the largest ship operating for Royal Caribbean International with an estimated capacity of 5,734 guests and a gross tonnage of 236,857.

We can assume Oasis-class cruise ships are the most expensive to operate using similar logic: more guests to feed, entertain, transport and accommodate, along with more crew members to pay. Fuel expenses are likely more for these massive ships as well.

Based on an annual cruise operating expense of $5.41 billion for Royal Caribbean International, we can calculate an estimated cost based on the cruise line’s total capacity of 92,584 guests at double occupancy. This will allow us to get a general idea of how much Royal Caribbean spends annually for each ship based on capacity. Similar rates can be calculated for Celebrity Cruises and SilverSea.

  • Royal Caribbean International = $58,449

  • Celebrity Cruises = $60,718

  • SilverSea Cruises = $101,171

Using this calculation, Wonder of the Seas would have an annual operating expense of $335.15 million based on capacity. This is nearly $1 million dollars per day! We can also calculate the rate for Grandeur of the Seas too with an annual operating expense of $113 million. Here are the average annual cruise operating expenses by ship class based on capacity for Royal Caribbean International:

  • Oasis Class: $322 million

  • Quantum Class: $243 million

  • Freedom Class: $221 million

  • Voyager Class: $188 million

  • Radiance Class: $123 million

  • Vision Class: $119 million

Looking at the entire fleet of 26 ships and calculating the annual cost per ship, we can calculate an average estimate of $208 million to operate one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships each year.

How much does it cost to operate a Royal Caribbean cruise ship based on size?

Jewel of the Seas

Now that we’ve looked at cost based on capacity, let’s look at some estimates based on gross tonnage. We can calculate the operational cost based on gross tonnage under the assumption that larger ships are more expensive to operate.

In this case, Royal Caribbean’s total gross tonnage for its entire fleet is 3.8 million (excluding Icon of the Seas). Taking into account the annual operating costs for each cruise line, we can estimate that Royal Caribbean International spends approximately $1,415 per gross ton annually.

Using this rate, the biggest ship, Wonder of the Seas (236,857 gross tons), would show a similar annual cost around $335.26 million. The smallest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, Grandeur of the Seas (74,100 gross tons), would have an annual operational cost of $104 million.

How much does it cost to operate a cruise ship daily?

Here are the average daily cruise operating expenses by ship class based on capacity for Royal Caribbean International:

  • Oasis Class: $883,440

  • Quantum Class: $667,768

  • Freedom Class: $605,849

  • Voyager Class: $517,240

  • Radiance Class: $338,288

  • Vision Class: $328,279

While these are simply estimates, other sources online have provided similar values for the daily annual cost to operate one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships. For example, Business Insider reported in 2022 that Symphony of the Seas costs $1 million each day to operate. My calculations show an estimated daily cost around $883,440 for an Oasis-class ship.

How much will it cost to operate Icon of the Seas?

Icon of the Seas delivery

No one knows how much it will actually cost to operate Icon of the Seas - and we may never know the exact cruise operating expense unless Royal Caribbean provides that number. We might get a better idea of Icon’s operating expense when Royal Caribbean Group releases their quarterly reports in Q1 or Q2 of 2024.

However, Icon of the Seas is expected to cost Royal Caribbean a whopping $2 billion. In comparison, Allure of the Seas held the previous record for most expensive cruise ship to build at $1.43 billion. Due to its sheer size, we can assume Icon of the Seas will be the most expensive cruise ship for Royal Caribbean to operate in 2024.

Based on size and using our previous assumptions, Icon of the Seas at 250,000 gross tons would have an estimated operational expense of $355 million annually or a daily cost of $920,000.

I would venture to guess the actual cost of operating Icon of the Seas will be more than $355 million; however, without any further data from Royal Caribbean Group, we really cannot forecast accurately.

Final Thoughts

Wonder and Adventure in Cozumel

At the end of the day, I’ve simply drawn a few high-level assumptions and calculated estimates based on these assumptions. I would love to see more brand, fleet and ship specific data from Royal Caribbean Group regarding operating cruise costs, as it would be fascinating to see.

My estimates show that the average annual cost of operating a cruise ship for Royal Caribbean is around $208 million. The biggest cruise ships in the Oasis Class are likely the most expensive to operate while Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class ships are the most affordable. We can estimate that Oasis Class ships cost $322 million, which is around $1 million to operate daily. On the other hand, Vision Class ships might cost closer to $119 million annually. 

When it comes to data analytics, it’s important to remember not everything is as black and white as we want to believe. Royal Caribbean Group operates three distinct cruise lines between Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and SilverSea. Each of these brands offer very different cruising experiences at drastically different price points. In the same way, Royal Caribbean Group has differing expenses to ensure each brand is successful.

I will be interested to see Royal Caribbean Group's annual financial report for 2023 to see the operating cruise expense for the year. Of course, with a new ship class launching in 2024, Royal Caribbean International's expenses will certainly increase. 

6 million people took a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2023

28 Dec 2023

From the total number of ice cream cones served to passengers carried, Royal Caribbean ended 2023 with some impressive stats. 

wonder of the seas

According to an internal Royal Caribbean study, the top two reasons that people decide to go on a cruise are for the destination and food. 

Knowing that, it's no surprise that Royal Caribbean sailed to over 250 different ports of call this year and whipped up 14.5 million ice cream cones for passengers onboard. 

Here's a look at Royal Caribbean by the numbers in 2023. 

Royal Caribbean carried over 6 million guests to 252 ports across the world

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

Throughout 2023, over 6 million passengers took a cruise on one of Royal Caribbean's 26 ships. That is quite the increase from the 4.6 million guests that sailed with Royal Caribbean in 2022! 

Passengers sailed all over the world, too, with the cruise line visiting 252 ports of call. This, too, is an increase from their 2022 numbers, as they only sailed to 230 destinations last year. 

Two of the most popular ports in 2023 were Nassau and Cozumel, Mexico. Both welcomed over 3 million passengers in 2023, with Nassau seeing a record 3.8 million by November 2023. By the end of 2024, it's estimated that Nassau will see four million cruise visitors!

Serenade and Mariner of the Seas docked in Cozumel

Outside of the Caribbean and Bahamas, Royal Caribbean ships sailed to Alaska, Canada & New England, Bermuda, Asia, the Panama Canal, Australia & New Zealand, Europe, South America, Hawaii, and more. 

Royal Caribbean ships served over one million ice cream cones and 275,000 piña coladas per month


There's nothing quite like a soft serve cone on the pool deck to cool down on a hot sea day. 14.5 million ice cream cones were served across the fleet in 2023. This breaks down to roughly one million per month or just a little over 39,700 per day. 

Instead of ice cream, some adult passengers may opt for a refreshing beverage, such as a piña colada! The cruise line served over 3.3 million piña coladas alone in 2023. While that number might seem a little low, that's over 9,000 per day! 

Royal Caribbean ships offer much more than just ice cream cones and alcoholic beverages, though. You won't go hungry onboard any of their ships. From the all-you-can-eat buffet, Main Dining Room, and specialty restaurants, there are plenty of options to appease all travelers. 

Read more: 21 best drinks to order if you have a cruise drink package

12,800 performances for guests to enjoy

One thing that sets Royal Caribbean apart from other cruise lines is its entertainment offerings. From jaw-dropping AquaTheater shows to Broadway-style musicals and one-of-a-kind production shows in the main theater, there's something for everyone to enjoy. 

In 2023, Royal Caribbean's casts put on 12,800 performances on their ships, which is over 240 per week! The actual number per sailing varies depending on the ship and length, with longer voyages usually having more shows. Similarly, smaller ships aren't equipped to offer some of the larger productions. 

In addition to performances, Royal Caribbean offers numerous other activities, too, ranging from daily trivia to comedians, live music, bingo, karaoke, and more. 

Read more: Broadway shows on Royal Caribbean: Everything you need to know

82,135 jackpots won in Casino Royale

Casino entrance

Casino Royale can be a place of happiness or extreme disappointment. 82,135 passengers got lucky in 2023, though, winning jackpots and taking home more cash than they most likely boarded with! 

While I cannot say that I was one of them, I like to think of each cruise that I'm on as a win in and of itself! I don't have to worry about cooking or cleaning, and I get to visit some pretty neat destinations. Plus, the memories that I make will last far longer than cash winnings. 

There's more history to be made in 2024

Icon of the Seas delivery

From the launch of the brand-new Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas to Perfect Day at CocoCay's adults-only Hideaway Beach opening, it's hard not to think about everything to look forward to in 2024.

Icon of the Seas is set to embark on her maiden voyage on January 27, 2024, from Miami, Florida. The 250,800 gross registered ton vessel is larger than Wonder of the Seas, which has held the title of the world's largest cruise ship from the time of its launch in 2022. 

In fact, Icon of the Seas will be the first non-Oasis Class ship to hold the title of largest cruise ship in the world since Oasis of the Seas was launched in 2009. This means that Utopia of the Seas will be the first-ever brand-new Oasis Class ship to not have the honor of holding that title. 

What are you looking forward to the most in 2024? Are there any records that you hope to be part of? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: 5 big changes coming to Royal Caribbean in 2024

How long does it take to build a cruise ship

06 Dec 2023

Cruise ships are marvels of engineering, and they're anything but quick to build.

Icon of the Seas in wet dock under construction

Whether it's a new class of ship or the fifth in a series, the process takes many years and involves a number of key milestones.

Royal Caribbean is close to launching Icon of the Seas in January 2024, which will be the first Icon Class cruise ship to be constructed.  That ship took over 7 years to come to fruition.

Icon of the Seas in the ocean

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean has orders for three other new ships to follow: Utopia of the Seas, Star of the Seas, and an unnamed Icon Class ship. All of these ships require years of planning to become more than a name on a piece of paper.

How long it takes to build a cruise ship depends on when you start measuring. It usually takes about 12 to 18 months for a cruise ship to be built, depending on a few factors.

The process of building a cruise ship goes back much further, and in many cases, the start of a cruise ship's life is not known to the public.

Construction aerial

Cruise lines will often wait months or years before announcing a new ship to the public.  In the case of cruise lines that are publicly traded companies, they have to divulge the existence of the project because significant money is required to be financed to pay for them.

With Icon of the Seas, the ship will begin service in January 2024, but was first announced as a new ship back in October 2016. The initial concept and early planning occurred well before then.

Step 1: Placing an order

Before any steel can be cut to build a new cruise ship, an order has to be placed.

New cruise ships are expensive, and shipyards don't work on promises.  So what typically happens is a cruise line will get funding for a new ship to coincide with a new ship order.

Most, if not the entire amount of the ship is borrowed from one or many financial institutions.  It's a lot like getting a mortgage for a house. Banks lend the money because they feel the cruise line is capable of paying back the loan due to the lucrative nature of the cruise industry.

Cruise ships aren't cheap either.  New Royal Caribbean cruise ships now easily cost one billion dollars. Icon of the Seas has an estimated construction cost of $2 billion, which makes Icon one of the most expensive cruise ships ever built. 

Of course, paying back that money isn't something to languish. In the case of Oasis of the Seas, the loan amortized over 12 years.

In some cases, the public is told basic information about the ship and in other cases, very little.  In almost every case, many more details come out later in the process.

There's two reasons to hold back information: competitive advantage and marketing.

By taking months to to announce ship details, it gives less time for other cruise lines to match.  Plus, taking longer to announce information generates more interest among the public over time.

Step 2. Steel cutting

Actual construction of the cruise ship doesn't begin until months after the contract is signed.

When the first piece of steel is cut, it marks a pivotal point in the ship building process, setting off an array of crucial landmarks to follow. This major milestone indicates that the groundwork has been set and the foundations have been laid for any further adjustments.

Icon of the Seas steel cutting

Icon of the Seas had its steel cutting ceremony on June 16, 2021. That's almost five years after the original announcement!

This is as much a ceremonial event as it is a step in the process, with executives from the cruise line meeting at the shipyard for plenty of photos.

By this point, the ship name and basic details will be announced to the public.

With the first piece of steel being cut, building a cruise ship doesn't begin at the bottom and you work your way up. Rather, smaller pieces of the ship are assembled so that they can be put together later.

Each of these blocks is pre-assembled elsewhere, and there can be as many as 80 blocks per ship. 

Icon of the Seas blocks being delivered

Cruise ships are built in a module process, where engineers break down the ship into smaller pieces that they later assemble. The reason ships are built in this manner is so that different engineers and specialists can work simultaneously, which cuts down on overall construction time.

Tug boats brought these giant pieces of what will become the hull of the ship to the shipyard so that they can be joined together.

Step 3: Keel laying

Anthem of the Seas keel laying

As those blocks get assembled, eventually there's enough of them in the shipyard to start putting things together.

The ship's keel is the first block, and it is maritime tradition to commemorate this phase of a new ship construction.  Think of the keel as the "base" to build the rest of the ship on top of it.

Just like steel cutting, this is another big to do, and there's a ceremony involved. Executives from the shipyard and the cruise line meet to celebrate.

Royal Caribbean held the keel laying ceremony for Icon of the Seas in April 2022, which means it took about 10 months.  Keep in mind that Icon of the Seas' construction was delayed due to the global health crisis of 2020, so the ship might have been completed a year earlier under normal circumstances.

With the keel laid, now the ship will begin to look like a sea going vessel.  Blocks are welded together and you get a bigger and bigger vessel.

Step 4: Float out

Spectrum of the Seas floated out

As the blocks are are joined and the ship becomes more than a bunch of blocks, the ship will reach a point where it's time to put her in water.

This process is referred to as a float out, and it's when the dry dock is filled with water and it becomes a wet dock. It's also the first time the ship floats.

Icon of the Seas had her float out in December 2022 and it culminated the work of more than 10,000 people.

Icon of the Seas under construction

At this point in construction, a new ship could move to a new location in the shipyard to the outfitting dock for the rest of the construction to be completed.  This is when all parts of the ship get assembled, and more features get added.

The float out can take many hours.  In the case of Utopia of the Seas, it took 15 hours to complete and more than 46 million gallons of water added overnight.

Step 5: Sea trials

Icon of the Seas sea trials

Once the ship starts coming along and it has its primary systems installed, it will be ready for sea trials.

The ship isn't ready yet, but it's important to ensure it can sail and operate nominally before it's ready to be handed over to the cruise line. Think of it like a test drive that takes a few days.

If it's a new ship in a class, then more is done in sea trials than a subsequent ship in a class.   That's because a new class is an unknown, and more testing is needed to determine the ship's limits.

When sea trials take place, hundreds of specialists run tests to help assess different technical areas of the ship, and there were more than 450 specialists who helped to run the four days tests on the ship’s technical areas during this round of sea trials. 

Icon of the Seas had her first sea trials in June 2023, where the main engines, hull, brake systems, steering, noise, and vibration levels were all tested.

Between preparing for the trial and the tests themselves, there were over 2,000 specialists who put in more than 350 hours of work in helping Icon of the Seas pass this important milestone. 


Then in November 2023, Icon took her second set of sea trials. During this test, the ship's noise, vibration, speed, fin stabilizers, automation, and main engine adjustments were tested.

When sea trials are complete, the ship isn't quite ready yet. There's still more work and some final work to be done before it's handover.

Step 6: Delivery

Odyssey of the Seas delivery

The final stage of cruise ship construction at the shipyard is the delivery when the cruise likes ownership of the ship.

During the construction process, the shipyard is responsible for the vessel, but at delivery, that onus falls to the cruise line. 

As you might imagine, delivery is a big deal and a celebration. It's the culmination of years of construction, and so executives from the cruise line and shipyard are present to celebrate.

Icon of the Seas was delivered on November 6, 2023, exactly 873 days after the first piece of steel was cut. That's 2 years, 4 months, 21 days.

Step 7: Finalization

The ship might look complete when you photograph it from the outside, but there's still more work to do. The construction process is complete, but the ship isn't ready. 

Soft furnishings need to be added, crew members recruited and brought onboard to staff up the vessel, artwork brought onboard and more.

Royal Caribbean typically moves its ships to a different site to complete this work. Icon of the Seas moved to Cadiz, whereas Wonder of the Seas went to Marseilles, France.

It's possible some work could continue during this process.  Shows, restaurants, or entertainment might need to wait for deliveries or be refined still. 

Step 8: Shakedown cruises

At this point, the ship is mostly ready, but the cruise line will want to test everything.  Think of it like a dress rehearsal before a show opens on Broadway.

The ship could take a series of very short cruises with guests onboard as a way to test everything out.  It allows the crew members real-world experience to do their job, and identify any issues before the public gets onboard.

Usually shakedown cruises have cruise line employees and their families as the passengers.  You can't pay to get on one of these cruises.

Odyssey of the Seas

Shakedown cruises can also double as a preview sailing for travel agents and members of the media.  There will be more passengers, but the ship likely won't be totally full yet.

The point of these short sailings is to run through everything, promote the ship from a marketing perspective, and celebrate reaching the finish line.

Step 9: Christening

Quantum of the Seas christening

The maritime industry is very traditional, and no ocean going vessel is seaworthy until it's christened.

The christening involves members of the clergy, music, media, the ship's Godmother.

Every cruise ship has a godmother, which serves as a ceremonial position. 

Women have traditionally held the role, including renowned athletes, celebrities and royalty.

The godmother's job is to give the ship a blessing for the safety of the crew members and passengers who will sail onboard it. This is done by smashing a bottle of Champagne against the bow.

Step 10: Maiden voyage

The inaugural voyage is the first official cruise with paying passengers.

It might be a short sailing again, a transatlantic, or a 7-night cruise.  It all depends on the timing.

Maiden voyages are a big deal and it means the ship is ready for regular service with passengers and it's a giant party. Cruise fans know how important the first sailing is, just as much as the cruise line. It's like a birthday, homecoming, and New Years Eve rolled into one.

More information

Unlucky 13: Why is there no deck 13 on cruise ships

13 Oct 2023

Have you ever noticed there is no deck 13 on most cruise ships?

Deck 13

Historically, the maritime industry has been quite superstitious and some of that even holds up today with how decks are planned.

When you go on most ships, the elevators will have deck 12 followed by deck 14.  Not all ships do, but some certainly have this idiosyncrasy.

This can confuse some people that they missed a stop on a non-existent deck or simply wonder why it doesn't exist.

Wonder of the Seas elevator

As you might imagine, the reason for skipping deck is out of fear the number brings bad luck.

As an example, Royal Caribbean's ground-breaking new cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, doesn't have deck 13.  A brand new cruise ship that launches in 2024 omits number 13 from its layout!

In fact, there's not even a room that ends in "13". 

Read more11 reasons Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas will change the cruise industry

Most Oasis Class ships skip deck 13, however, Quantum Class cruise ships have deck 13.

Ovation of the Seas cabin sign

Radiance, Voyager and Freedom Class ships have it.  The Vision Class is too short to reach deck 13.

Another interesting twist is you wont find cabins on deck 13.  If a ship has a deck 13, they use it for sports activities or other public venues.

Part of the reason is higher decks are usually where you find public venues, but there may be a part of sailing public that would not want to stay on deck 13 because of the unlucky connotation the number has.

Hotel elevator

It's probably why many hotels in the United States also don't have a floor 13, because some customers wouldn't want to stay there.

Other cruise ship superstitions

Freedom of the Seas in 2023

Deck numbering isn't the only superstition that holds up to this day.  

If you cruise enough, you'll probably run into at least a few other superstitions within the cruise industry.


Odyssey godmother

Every cruise ship has a godmother, which serves as a ceremonial position, and yes, it's almost always a woman.  Other ships have had women hold the role, including renowned athletes, celebrities and royalty.

The godmother's job is to give the ship a blessing for the safety of the crew members and passengers who will sail onboard it. 

Not only does having a godmother ensure luck is on the side of the ship and crew, it's a great marketing opportunity for the cruise line.

Lucky coins

Keel coin

New cruise ships also have a coin ceremony, which takes place at the time of keel laying.

Keel laying is an important milestone in new cruise ship construction. It's when shipbuilders place a pair of coins under the keel block of the new ship to bless the ship and as a symbol of good fortune.

Lucky coins from Oasis

Some Royal Caribbean cruise ships indicate where the coins are located. In the case of Oasis of the Seas, you will need to head up to the bow sundeck on deck 14.  The lucky coins are held in a cabinet that is welded to the ship and has a small commemorative plaque. 

Naming ceremonies

Symphony naming ceremony

The Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans called upon their respective Gods to protect their ships and crew. 

The Vikings would make human sacrifices in honor of a new ship to appease the gods, and Greeks drank wine while blessing the new ship with water.

Many decades ago, they would smash a bottle of Champagne across the hull of a new ship for good luck.  They still do that today, but usually it's done mechanically, with the godmother pressing a button to make the magic happen.

Missing deck 17

Similar to skipping 13, some European cruise ships skip deck 17.

In Italy, the number 17 is considered unlucky, because the number 17 written in Roman numerals is XVII, which is an anagram of VIXI. This translates in Latin to "I have lived", which means to be dead.

For that reason, you may not find a deck 17 on their ships.  MSC Cruises is one line that goes from deck 16 to deck 18, such as on MSC Meraviglia, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Bellissima.

Royal Caribbean ships by age — Newest to Oldest

26 Aug 2023

With 26 cruise ships currently sailing and 2 more to launch in 2024, Royal Caribbean’s fleet is filled with exciting, record-breaking vessels.

New Royal Caribbean cruise ship

The oldest Royal Caribbean ship is 26 years old whereas the newest launched just last year. Despite being part of the same cruise line, older ships offer a vastly different experience than the newest ships in the fleet.

If you’re planning a Royal Caribbean cruise, it’s helpful to have an idea of which ships belong to Royal Caribbean’s fleet. It can be difficult to keep track of each ship, its age, and amenities, so we’re putting everything you should know into one place.

Here’s our list of Royal Caribbean ships from newest to oldest.

List of Royal Caribbean cruise ships by age

This listing has every Royal Caribbean cruise ship from newest to oldest, as well as which ship class and important details about each.

This table shows all Royal Caribbean cruise ships from newest to oldest as well as when what class of ship they are.

Star of the Seas (coming in 2025)

Star of the Seas concept art
  • Inaugural sailing: Summer 2025
  • Passenger capacity (double occupancy): around 7,600
  • Gross tonnage: around 250,800

Star of the Seas will be the second Icon Class cruise ship, and is slated to debut sometime in summer 2025.

It's unknown exactly how big she will be, but Royal Caribbean typically builds is new ships slightly larger than the previous one so that it can call it the "biggest cruise ship in the world" when marketing its launch.

The ship is under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. 

RelatedStar of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

Utopia of the Seas (coming in 2024)

Utopia of the Seas concept art
  • Inaugural sailing: July 22, 2024
  • Passenger capacity (double occupancy): 5,668
  • Gross tonnage: 236,860

Utopia of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean’s newest ship when she launches in July 2024. She is the sixth ship in the cruise line’s Oasis Class, known for its open-air design and features like an AquaTheater and Central Park.

When she launches, Utopia of the Seas will offer 3 and 4-night cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida, visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.

Related: Utopia of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

Icon of the Seas (coming in 2024)

  • Inaugural sailing: January 27, 2024
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 7,600
  • Gross tonnage: 250,800

Icon of the Seas will be the world’s largest cruise ship when she launches in January 2024. As the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s new Icon Class, Icon of the Seas will offer an impressive array of activities and amenities onboard.

Guests will love the new AquaDome neighborhood, the Category 6 Waterpark, and family-friendly Surfside neighborhood.

Upon launching, Icon of the Seas will offer 7-night Caribbean itineraries from Miami, Florida.

Related: Icon of the Seas: Itinerary, features, and more

Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear
  • Inaugural sailing: March 4, 2022
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 6,988
  • Gross tonnage: 236,857

Wonder of the Seas launched in March 2022 and is currently the world’s largest cruise ship by gross tonnage. She is the fifth Oasis Class ship, yet has slightly different design elements than her sister ships, which include The Vue bar, The Mason Jar southern restaurant, and a suites-only neighborhood.

Wonder of the Seas sails 7-night Caribbean itineraries visiting destinations in the Eastern and Western Caribbean along with stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Related: Wonder of the Seas Guide, itinerary, features, and more

Odyssey of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: July 31, 2021
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 5,510
  • Gross tonnage: 167,704

Odyssey of the Seas is the fifth and final ship in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class. Quantum Class ships are known for their technology-driven designs and activities.

Highlights of a cruise on Odyssey of the Seas include RipCord by iFLY, an indoor skydiving simulator, and the SeaPlex, an indoor sports arena with activities like bumper cars and rollerskating. Adults will enjoy the enclosed, climate-controlled Solarium as well as a tropical-themed pool deck with The Lime & Coconut bar.

Odyssey of the Seas sails to the Caribbean in the winter months and spends the summer season in Europe, offering Greek Isles and Holy Land cruises from Rome.

Related: Odyssey of the Seas Guide & Review

Spectrum of the Seas

Spectrum of the Seas with sun setting
  • Inaugural sailing: April 18, 2019
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 5,622
  • Gross tonnage: 169,379

Spectrum of the Seas, the fourth Quantum Class ship, is based in Asia year round—the ship was designed for the China cruise market.

Onboard you’ll find extra casino space, a suites-only Solarium, and a specialty restaurant with Sichuan cuisine.

Spectrum of the Seas currently sails from Singapore, but she will begin offering cruises from Shanghai in April 2024. These cruises will visit destinations in Japan, China, and Vietnam.

Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas docked
  • Inaugural sailing: April 7, 2018
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 6,680
  • Gross tonnage: 228,081

Symphony of the Seas is the fourth Oasis Class ship and is perfect for passengers who love having an abundance of options when it comes to entertainment, dining, cabin choices, and activities.

Symphony of the Seas is currently offering Western Mediterranean cruises in Europe. After the summer season comes to an end, she will offer Caribbean cruises.

Related: Supplying the fun: Symphony of the Seas cruise review

Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas
  • Inaugural sailing: May 29, 2016
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 6,687
  • Gross tonnage: 226,963

Harmony of the Seas, the third Oasis Class cruise ship, offers Caribbean cruises year round. She currently sails from Florida, but will reposition to Galveston, Texas in November 2023.

Unlike Allure of the Seas, which currently sails from Galveston, Harmony of the Seas includes updated Oasis Class features like the Ultimate Abyss dry slide and Perfect Storm waterslides. This makes her an even greater option for a fun-filled getaway to the Western Caribbean.

Related: Harmony of the Seas Guide & Review

Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas in Sydney
  • Inaugural sailing: April 14, 2016
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,905
  • Gross tonnage: 168,666

Ovation of the Seas is the third ship in the Quantum Class. Like other Quantum Class ships, she was built to sail in all weather conditions, from chilly Alaska to the tropical South Pacific. 

Throughout the ship you’ll find several indoor spaces with floor-to-ceiling windows, such as the Two70 lounge, which allow you to enjoy views of your destination rain or shine.

In the summer season, Ovation of the Seas offers 7-night Alaska cruises departing Seattle. As the Alaska season comes to an end, she repositions to Sydney, Australia to offer South Pacific and New Zealand cruises.

Related: All about Quantum Class ships

Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas in Spain
  • Inaugural sailing: April 22, 2015
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,905
  • Gross tonnage: 168,666

Anthem of the Seas, the second Quantum Class ship, has sailed to a wider variety of destinations than her sister ships in the class.

During the summer, Anthem of the Seas has typically offered European cruises from Southampton, England, visiting destinations in Norway, the Mediterranean, and the Canary Islands. In the winter, Anthem of the Seas has offered Caribbean cruises from Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

In October 2024, however, Anthem of the Seas will reposition to Singapore and offer cruises in Asia for the first time.

Related: Anthem of the Seas Guide & Review

Quantum of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: November 2, 2014
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,905
  • Gross tonnage: 168,666

Quantum of the Seas is the first ship in the Quantum Class, the newest class of ships until the Icon Class launches in 2024.

Quantum of the Seas sails a wide range of itineraries. She offers Alaska cruises from Seattle during the summer and Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific itineraries from Brisbane during the Australia cruise season.

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas aerial with sunset
  • Inaugural sailing: December 1, 2010
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 6,780
  • Gross tonnage: 225,282

Allure of the Seas is the second Oasis Class cruise ship, and she is the only ship in the class not to feature amenities like waterslides and updated dining venues. She was due to receive an upgrade in 2020, but her amplification has been indefinitely postponed as a result of the pandemic.

Nonetheless, Allure of the Seas still offers the classic features cruisers love in the Oasis Class, which include an AquaTheater, ice-skating rink, Central Park, and Boardwalk neighborhood.

Allure of the Seas sails Western Caribbean cruises from Galveston, Texas, but she will reposition to Florida in mid-2024 to offer 3 and 4-night Caribbean cruises.

Related: Allure of the Seas Guide & Review

Oasis of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: December 5, 2009
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 6,780
  • Gross tonnage: 226,838

There was no other ship like Oasis of the Seas when she launched in 2009. As the first ship in the Oasis Class, Oasis of the Seas was unlike any vessel to ever set sail.

Fourteen years later, the Oasis Class is still the most popular class of ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. Guests have come to love the large, activity-filled ships in the Oasis Class, as there is no shortage of things to do and see onboard.

After her 2019 amplification, Oasis of the Seas had new dining venues, waterslides, a revamped pool deck, and new cabins added to the ship.

Related: Oasis of the Seas guide: Cabins, itineraries, what to expect

Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas aerial view birds eye
  • Inaugural sailing: May 2, 2008
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,375
  • Gross tonnage: 155,889

Independence of the Seas is the last of the Freedom Class ships. She received an amplification in 2018 that added waterslides, an escape room, and a kids aqua park to the ship.

The ship makes an excellent option for a short cruise, as she offers 3, 4, and 5-night cruises visiting destinations in the Caribbean.

Related: All about Freedom Class cruise ships

Liberty of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: May 19, 2007
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,960
  • Gross tonnage: 155,889

Liberty of the Seas is the second Freedom Class ship, and like her sister ships, she offers short cruises from Florida.

She currently sails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offering 3 and 4-night cruises visiting both Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.

Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay
  • Inaugural sailing: June 4, 2006
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,515
  • Gross tonnage: 156,271

Freedom of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s best ships for a short weekend getaway. After a 2020 amplification, Freedom of the Seas received upgrades including a tropical-themed pool deck, waterslides, and updated dining venues and bars.

She currently sails 3 and 4-night itineraries from Miami, visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas. In 2024, she will begin offering 6, 7, and 8-night Caribbean cruises.

Related: Freedom of the Seas Guide & Review

Jewel of the Seas

Jewel of the Seas
  • Inaugural sailing: May 8, 2004
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,502
  • Gross tonnage: 90,090

Jewel of the Seas is the last ship in the Radiance Class, and the last Royal Caribbean ship to be built with a multi-story atrium as opposed to a Royal Promenade thoroughfare.

She offers longer itineraries than most newer Royal Caribbean ships, which include 12-night Arctic Circle cruises and 11-night Southern Caribbean cruises. She spends the summer season in Europe and repositions to the Caribbean during the winter months.

Related: All about Radiance Class cruise ships

Mariner of the Seas

Mariner of the Seas in Nassau
  • Inaugural sailing: November 16, 2003
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 3,807
  • Gross tonnage: 139,863

Mariner of the Seas, the fifth Voyager Class ship, is a favorite ship among cruise fans, and many argue she offers the best value in a cruise vacation that Royal Caribbean has to offer.

Amplified in 2018, Mariner of the Seas features many of the same activities and dining venues as the fleet’s newer cruise ships, yet cruise fares are often much lower than ships like Symphony and Wonder of the Seas.

Mariner of the Seas sails in the Caribbean year round, offering cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Related: Mariner of the Seas Guide & Review

Serenade of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: August 1, 2003
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,476
  • Gross tonnage: 90,090

Serenade of the Seas, a Radiance Class ship, will soon be Royal Caribbean’s most well-traveled ship. In December 2023, she will set sail on the cruise line’s Ultimate World Cruise, a 274-night journey to all 7 continents.

As a Radiance Class ship, she is well-designed for such a colossal journey, and offers indoor spaces like a climate-controlled adults-only Solarium and indoor movie theater.

Navigator of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: December 14, 2002
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 4,000
  • Gross tonnage: 139,999

West coast cruisers will love sailing on Navigator of the Seas, a Voyager Class ship that sails from Los Angeles, California.

Navigator of the Seas features amenities like record-breaking waterslides, a tropical-themed pool deck, a tiki bar, and Hooked Seafood restaurant, all of which were added to the ship during her 2019 amplification.

Cruisers can visit destinations along the Mexican Riviera on Navigator of the Seas such as Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta.

Related: Navigator of the Seas Guide & Review

Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas side docked
  • Inaugural sailing: July 19, 2002
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,543
  • Gross tonnage: 90,090

Brilliance of the Seas may be a small cruise ship by Royal Caribbean standards, but she makes up for her size with exciting itineraries in the Pacific.

During the summer she sails from Vancouver, Canada, offering 7-night Alaska cruises. In the 2023-2024 Australia season, she will offer unique itineraries in the region, including a 34-night circumnavigation around Australia.

Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the Seas in St Maarten
  • Inaugural sailing: November 18, 2001
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 3,807
  • Gross tonnage: 138,193

Adventure of the Seas, the third Voyager Class ship, sails from Florida and offers 6 and 8-night cruises to the Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean.

Unlike sister ships Mariner of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas did not receive an amplification. While she still has Voyager Class features like an ice-skating rink and outdoor Solarium, she does not have the cruise line’s most updated dining venues, lounges, and entertainment.

Related: Adventure of the Seas Review & Guide

Radiance of the Seas

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska
  • Inaugural sailing: April 7, 2001
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,466
  • Gross tonnage: 90,090

Radiance of the Seas is the first ship in the Radiance Class, which was designed to offer comfort while sailing through a variety of climates and landscapes.

Splitting her time between Alaska and the Caribbean, she does just that, and guests will appreciate the comfortable indoor spaces on either type of itinerary.

She differs from other ships sailing to Alaska in that she offers one-way Alaska cruise itineraries. These itineraries start in Vancouver and end in Seward, Alaska (and vice versa), allowing guests to combine a 7-night cruise with a land vacation in the state’s interior.

Explorer of the Seas

Explorer of the Seas docked
  • Inaugural sailing: October 28, 2000
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 3,840
  • Gross tonnage: 138,194

Explorer of the Seas is a Voyager Class ship splitting her time between the Caribbean and Europe. During the summer, she offers itineraries to the Greek Isles and Adriatic, and in the winter months she sails to the Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean.

Waterslides were added to the ship in February 2023, making the vessel more equal to her sister ships.

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas in Barcelona
  • Inaugural sailing: November 21, 1999
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 3,840
  • Gross tonnage: 138,194

Voyager of the Seas turned heads when she launched in 1999—she featured the cruise industry’s first-ever Royal Promenade, an indoor thoroughfare running down the center of the ship.

The Promenade has been a staple of Royal Caribbean ships since, and it’s where guests will find retail stores, bars, lounges, and other venues like Guest Services and Next Cruise.

Voyager of the Seas currently sails from Galveston, Texas, but she will make her way to Europe for the 2024 summer cruise season.

Related: All about Voyager Class cruise ships

Vision of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: May 2, 1998
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,514
  • Gross tonnage: 78,717

Vision of the Seas is the namesake for Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class. Vision Class ships are, when compared to other Royal Caribbean ships, relatively small.

Despite having a capacity of over 2,000 guests, they lack features like a sports court, waterslides, and other amenities found on the fleet’s newer ships.

Nonetheless, their small size enables them to fit into a wider variety of ports. Vision of the Seas is the only Royal Caribbean ship sailing from Baltimore, Maryland, where she offers cruises to the Caribbean, southeast coast, and Bermuda.

Related: All about Vision Class cruise ships

Enchantment of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: July 13, 1997
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,730
  • Gross tonnage: 82,910

Enchantment of the Seas is the only Royal Caribbean ship to have been stretched, during which she was split into two sections and new cabins were added in between both ends.

Related: 3 surprising facts about Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas

After being stretched, she is still among the fleet’s smallest vessels, but is longer and heavier than her sister ships in the Vision Class.

Enchantment of the Seas is currently in Europe for the summer season, but she will return to Florida in fall 2023 to offer Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa.

Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the Seas in Greece
  • Inaugural sailing: May 19, 1997
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,416
  • Gross tonnage: 78,878

Rhapsody of the Seas is the second Vision Class cruise ship, and she offers some of Royal Caribbean’s most intriguing itineraries.

The ship is currently in Europe, where she is sailing Greek Isles itineraries from Haifa, Israel and Limassol, Cyprus.

After the summer season ends, she will begin offering 7-night cruises in the Southern Caribbean and Central America, with homeports in Colombia and Panama.

Grandeur of the Seas

  • Inaugural sailing: December 14, 1996
  • Maximum passenger capacity: 2,440
  • Gross tonnage: 73,817

The oldest Royal Caribbean ship is Grandeur of the Seas at 26 years old. Small but mighty, Grandeur of the Seas offers a traditional cruise experience and sails Caribbean cruises from Florida.

In 2024, she will offer a 15-night Greenland cruise along with several shorter Canada cruises departing from Boston.

Should I sail on an old or new Royal Caribbean ship?


Most passengers prefer cruising on newer ships, as these offer the most variety when it comes to activities, cabin categories, dining options, and entertainment.

Voyager, Freedom, Oasis, and Quantum Class ships can all be considered “newer” ships whereas Vision and Radiance Class ships are considered older.

Even though the Radiance Class technically launched after the Voyager Class, Voyager Class ships feel newer with activities like waterslides and design elements like a Royal Promenade and ice-skating rink.

Related: Pros and cons of sailing on an older Royal Caribbean cruise ship

When you put Royal Caribbean’s newest and oldest ships side by side, you’ll find similarities and differences. The classic Royal Caribbean experience is still the same, as you can enjoy meals in the Main Dining Room, attend nightly entertainment shows, and grab your favorite signature drinks from the bar.

Schooner Bar on Radiance of the Seas

Where the experience differs, though, is in the amount of programming and activities available. While you might have just a few restaurants to choose from on a Vision Class ship, for example, you could choose from 8 or 9 on an Oasis Class ship.

One advantage of old ships, of course, are the variety of itineraries available. You won’t find the fleet’s newest ships traveling to destinations like Greenland and Costa Rica—many new ships are located in either the Caribbean or Europe.

Before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, take the time to research the fleet’s ships to ensure you book a ship that fits your travel style. Some cruisers may prefer sailing on older, smaller vessels whereas others enjoy the variety of amenities on Royal Caribbean’s newest, biggest ships.

How cruise ships got so big

04 Aug 2023

When you see a cruise ship in person, you can't help but marvel at just how big these things are and how much bigger they are than you expected.

Icon of the Seas concept art

Icon of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship when she launches next year, and she's currently under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland.

At 250,800 gross tons, Icon will be the biggest cruise ship in the world. There's an entire water park, spa, surf simulator, shopping mall, arcade, casino, gym, three theaters, seven pools, 20 dining venues, and 15 bars onboard. 

It will have 20 decks and enough room for nearly 10,000 passengers and crew members.


Cruise ships are the biggest passenger vessels that humans have ever built.  They can fit a small town's worth of people into a single vehicle, and they certainly have a look to them that is different from ocean liners of 100 years ago.

How did the biggest ships today end up looking like this?

Origins with ocean liners

Ocean liner illustration

Before we had the cruise ships of today, there were ocean liners. These vessels were about simply getting you from one place to another.

Ocean liners were built to offer comfortable accommodations across oceans at the highest speed possible.

Of course, crossing a vast ocean, such as the Atlantic, means sea conditions could be miserable if the weather did not cooperate.

Ocean liner on horizon

Ocean liners were divided up into classes, with the first class areas looking a lot like a fancy hotel you might see on land.

The SS Normandie could cross the Atlantic in a record 4.14 days, and was beautifully designed. She had an Art Déco and Streamline Moderne design, and had first class amenities such as a dining room, first-class lounge, grill room, first-class swimming pool, theatre and winter garden.

Normandie's first-class dining hall was the largest room afloat. At 305 ft, it was longer than the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.

For first class passengers, the idea was to deliver a luxurious experience that you might find on land. First-class suites were given unique designs by select designers. The most luxurious accommodations were the Deauville and Trouville apartments, featuring dining rooms, baby grand pianos, multiple bedrooms, and private decks.

A vacation at sea

Cruise poster

Once air travel became a popular method to cross oceans, ocean liners started to slowly become obsolete.

In the 1960s, it became very apparent that falling ocean liner numbers were not an anomaly and that compelled a change in the market.

By the late 1960s, some liners would head south to the warmer regions in the winter months to offer a different kind of trip. Instead of transportation, these ships offered a vacation.

Rum Cay in The Bahamas

The idea of a cruise ship started here, but the product would take some time to evolve into what we know today.

Ocean liners were not well acclimated to a leisure product. They were designed to go fast and consumed a lot of fuel. They sat low in the water, which kept them stable in rough seas, but meant they could only access ports with deep harbors. 

Ocean liner model

They had separate sections for first, second and third class, but that left a lot of passengers without access to amenities and limited everyone's freedom of movement throughout the ship.

And compared to the full time cruise ships of the time, ocean liners were huge. So they'd have to attract a lot of vacationers to be profitable.

In short, ocean liner's optimal design to make for a quick commute through rough waters hindered its ability to be attractive for a calm ocean at a slow pace.

Edwin Stephan

Royal Caribbean started its operations up in 1969, and the company launched the first ship purpose-built for warm-water cruising. 

A milestone in the transition from ocean liner to cruise ship came in 1979 when Norwegian Caribbean Line bought the S.S. France with the intention of transforming it into a cruise ship.

The new owners spent $80 million to make the ship better at offering leisure cruises. 

The new ship would have larger and more numerous public spaces for the cruise-type recreations, had two propellors removed to reduce fuel consumption, and was given a complete set of bow/stern thrusters to make it easier to dock in port.

 A large lido deck was created at the very back of the ship. They built it wide enough to accommodate as many sunbathing passengers as possible.

The First Class Smoking Room was converted to an outdoor buffet restaurant, and the Patio Provençal on the Sun Deck was filled in with a top-side swimming pool.

SS Norway poster

Renamed as the S.S. Norway, the new ship started sailing in 1980 and it sailed to  just The Bahamas and St. Thomas, because the ship itself was marketed as the destination (rather than the places you could visit).

The cruise industry was transformed with the launch of the TV show, "The Love Boat" because it made the idea of cruising mainstream to the general public.

The Norway proved that size worked for cruise ships and it kicked off a race to build bigger and bigger ships that would change the look of a cruise ship.

SS Norway poster

In order to fit more cabins and amenities, everything above the deck became taller to fit all the amenities and that hid smokestacks that used to be an iconic feature on any ship.

To fit even more cabins and amenities, superstructures became wider, which shortened the front part of the ship (bow).

The bow didn't need to be long and pointed to cut through intense waves like on transatlantic liners. So builders rounded them out, giving even more square footage for amenities.

Big and bigger

With the model proven, now ships could grow to meet demand.

Over the next few decades, cruise ships would grow immensely. While the S.S. Norway had an internal volume of 70,000 gross tons, Royal Caribbean's cruise ships today are three times the size.

Thrill park concept

Icon of the Seas' gross tonnage is over 250,000 gross tons and she follows in many ways the tradition of the first ships.

When Royal Caribbean wanted to build its first mega ship, they had never built a cruise ship with an indoor café, a casino, a champagne bar or a health club; and having made the decision to include those options inside a suitably large hull, the scale of an inevitable new prototype emerged. Thus, Sovereign of the Seas, the world's largest purpose-built cruise ship at the time, was conceived.

The passenger count would be 2,673 total occupancy, more than double Song of America's capacity.

The launch of Sovereign of the Seas in 1988 introduced the era of the mega ship, and vessels became larger and larger. 

Royal Caribbean pushed the envelope of possibilities with the Voyager and Oasis Class ships in the decades to follow.

Things you'll notice when cruising on the newest cruise ship

13 Jun 2023

I often say that it's hard to have a bad cruise on a new cruise ship, and a large reason for that thought process is because of how much you can see and do on a new cruise ship.

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

Royal Caribbean's fleet of cruise ships offers ships of different size and age. There's a good reason to try them all, with the newest ships offering some superb experiences that truly stand out.

Of course, a new cruise ship will come with a premium price.  The newest ships have the most demand because of how intriguing they are to the general public. It leaves some people wondering what exactly a new cruise ships gets you and why you'd want to pay extra to sail on a brand new Royal Caribbean cruise ship compared to one that isn't as new.

Regardless of a ship's age, Royal Caribbean does a good job of maintaining its fleet with regular updates and even upgrades to some vessels.

Odyssey of the Seas pool deck

The appeal of the latest and greatest certainly draws in plenty of cruisers, because it represents the very best Royal Caribbean has to offer. When you watch a commercial for Royal Caribbean, inevitably you want to do the same things you see in the commercial, and those are offered on newer ships.

If you've only sailed on older ships, or are simply curious what makes a new ship different from an older ship, there are a few nuances you will notice about a brand new cruise ship when you get onboard.

Updated cabin aesthetics

Connecting rooms

If you think all cruise ships are the same regardless of age, you have to see the cabin of a new ship.

New cruise ships have much more modern aesthetics, and I'd say the look and feel of a new ship cabin mirrors that of a land based hotel much more than older ships cabins.

Royal Caribbean ship cabins on ships built prior to 2014 seem to have a very traditional maritime look to them, and it seemed like the motif for these staterooms was very much the same whether you were on a Radiance or Voyager Class cruise ship.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean ship classes ultimate guide

Oceanview balcony cabin on Anthem of the Seas

With the Quantum Class, the look of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship cabin began to change, and since then, it seems Royal Caribbean hasn't been content with delivering the same sort of cabin.

The colors have evolved over the last 10 years, and there's more accents that make your cruise ship cabin look less like a cruise ship cabin.  In my opinion, new ship cabins evoke more of a land resort look to them than older ship cabins did.

Read moreWhat are the different types of cabins on a cruise ship?

Smart TVs

Something else you'll notice in your cabin on a new cruise ship are the televisions.

I certainly don't watch a lot of TV while on a cruise, but when I do, the experience is much more enjoyable on a new TV given the feature set and performance you'll get with them.

Newer Royal Caribbean ships have interactive TVs, where you can complete your muster drill experience, order room service, review charges and more.

Suite living room

On the very newest Royal Caribbean ships, the TVs have a means to stream content from your smart device.  This alleviates one of the major pain points guests have had for years of trying to get a movie from their computer or phone on the TV without having to bring an HDMI cable and universal remote.

Plus, the new TVs change channels a heck of a lot quicker.  My pet peeve is using a TV that has a noticeable delay in trying to change channels, which is common with older units.

While the stateroom television isn't a reason to book a cruise or not, it certainly makes it slightly more enjoyable.

More specialty restaurants

Mason Jar with kids

There's simply more dining choices on a new cruise ship.

Part of the reason you'll find more dining variety is because the ship is bigger, which means more space onboard for more restaurants.

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has doubled down on specialty dining in particular because of how well-received it has been from guests.  It offers more cuisines and cooking styles than you can find in the complimentary venues, and it allows Royal Caribbean to experiment with new concepts too.


For those that opt to indulge in extra cost restaurants, you'll have many more choices on a new ship than an older ship.

As an example, Icon of the Seas will have more than 40 food and beverage concepts, with 23 of them completely new to Royal Caribbean.


Whether you go to all of those restaurants is secondary to the fact you have the choice to visit, and the sheer variety stands out to guests.

When you sail on an older ship, the amount of dining choices is considerably less.

Read moreFood on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Newer songs in production shows

AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas

If you want to tell which decade a cruise ship was launched, watch the production shows and listen for which songs are included.

When Royal Caribbean builds a new cruise ship, they develop new shows for guests onboard.  Inevitably, there are hit songs from the last few years included in the dance numbers.

When I went on Anthem of the Seas earlier this summer, I recall hearing Macklemore's, "Can't Hold Us" as part of a show in Two70.  It's a great hit from 2012, and it instantly sets the age of a ship in your mind.

Newer cruise ships seem to sample newer songs in their shows.

A lot of new cruisers

Bartender at Lime and Coconut

New cruise ships are built to bring in the crowds, especially those that have never cruised before.

Growth in the cruise industry is predicated on the concept of marketing to people that have never taken a cruise before because that is the largest segment of the population. According to statistics published by Cruise Lines International Association, around 15% of the total US population have ever cruised.

As a result, Royal Caribbean designs new cruise ships to be very intriguing to someone who has never cruised before, and the result is there will probably be a lot of new cruisers onboard.

To be fair, you'll find new cruisers on every Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  But there seems to be many more newbies on a new ship.

Certainly there will be many families on a new ship because of Royal Caribbean's historic appeal to the family travel market.

Those Royal Caribbean television commercials are made to attract the public to the ship, and often the whizz-bang activities onboard are the sort that compel someone who has never cruised before to try the ship. The Bionic Bar, Ultimate Abyss, and FlowRider all endear themselves to first time cruisers because they are the sort of activities someone might not have imagined you could do on a cruise ship.

More storage space in your cabin


Going back to the rooms on a cruise ship, one big difference with a new ship is how much more storage space there is in your cabin.

When I started cruising, I found storage space to always be at a premium.  But with cruise ships built in the last decade, there has been many more drawers, closets, and nooks added to store all of your belongings.

Inside Plus

Instead of rationing shelves, I find even in inside cabins more shelving and drawers than we can possibly use.

This is especially helpful when cruising with kids, as the amount of stuff you have seems to grow exponentially.

Read more8 things you should know about your cruise ship cabin

The line's best musical acts

In terms of entertainment on a new cruise ship, the better acts tend to end up on the new ships.

When Royal Caribbean launches a new cruise ship, they will pluck the top rated bands and musicians to sail on the newest ship. This is largely based on guest feedback and reputation these performers have garnered over the years.

To be clear, all the musical acts across the fleet are talented, but the stagemanship the best acts have makes them stand out.

More app features

The Royal Caribbean app is now a must-use part of the cruise experience, and the feature set on a new ship is substantial.

The bottom row of the app has various things you can do in the app, and the newest ships in the fleet can do things like being able to open your stateroom door, augmented reality experiences, and even open your cabin curtains.

Whether you use all these features or not is another question, but it's nice to have them all as an option.

Better suite amenities

Royal Loft Suite

If you'd like to stay in a Royal Caribbean suite, you'll find the best suite perks on a new ship.

Royal Caribbean has two tiers of suite benefits, with its new ships offering Royal Suite Class amenities that are aimed at rivaling land resort suite benefits.

AquaTheater suite on Wonder of the Seas

The Royal Suite Class has three tiers: Sea Class, Sky Class, and Star Class. They are available only on Quantum, Oasis, and Icon Class ships.

Read moreGuide to Icon of the Seas cabins and suites

Not only are the benefits better on new ships, but the size and layout of suites are arguably superior too.

Ultimate Family Townhouse

Because of how lucrative the suite market is for the cruise line, Royal Caribbean has developed larger and more opulent suites that feature multi-deck layouts, in-suite slides, and private jacuzzis.

Read more5 best cruise ship suites on Royal Caribbean

A suite on an older ship will still be a lovely experience, but when you try a suite on the newer ships, I think the variety of perks stands out more.

More information

Cruise ship occupancy rates are over 100%. Why that isn’t actually a problem (or what you think it means)

30 May 2023

Royal Caribbean Group ships sailed at 102.1% capacity in the first quarter of 2023, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. 

Pool deck

There’s no doubt the cruise industry rebound from the 2020-2021 shutdown is in full force. 

After struggling with restarting operations, things are quite good for the “big three” cruise companies: Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Carnival Corporation. 

In fact, business is so good that the average cruise line occupancy rates for the first quarter of 2023 for these lines either exceeded or came close to 100%. 

  • Royal Caribbean: 102.1%
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: 101.5%
  • Carnival Cruise Line: 91.0%

If seeing those kind of numbers looks like a bad thing because it means their cruises are oversold, it’s actually not that case and a misleading statistic.  

What does 100% occupancy rate mean?

Promenade view cabin

Let's start by defining what it means when a cruise ship sails above 100% capacity.

That sounds like the ship is oversold or some people don't have a cabin, but you have to understand how occupancy rates are calculated for cruise ships.

The cruise industry sells cabins on its cruise ships based on double occupancy. This means the line assumes two people will be in each cabin that is booked.

Split bed configuration inside cabin

Each cabin has a capacity number, and it varies depending on the stateroom's category, as well each cruise line's methodology.

But when a cruise ship cabin planned for 2 guests adds a third or fourth guest (i.e. kids sharing a room with their parents), the capacity of that cabin exceeds 100%.

Oasis Class ship docked in Nassau

In fact, if you look at stats of a cruise ship, you'll see the ship's capacity (at double occupancy) and max capacity (when every extra passenger is included).

When you see Royal Caribbean had 102.1% occupancy rate in the first quarter of 2023, that means there were third and fourth passengers in those cabins occupying the room, which was beyond the standard double occupancy minimums.

High occupancy rates aren't new

Ship tendering

These occupancy rates aren't a new phenomenon by any means. In fact, it's the norm for the cruise lines.

Prior to 2020, it was quite typical for cruise ships to sail above 100% occupancy rates, with the mainstream lines typically sailing between 103 - 107%, depending on the ship and line.

The cruise industry has traditionally followed a business model built around managing bookings to ensure ships are always full.

Harmony of the Seas pool deck sunset

In 2019, the last full year of sailing before the pause, Royal Caribbean Group had an overall occupancy rate of 108.1%.

  • 2019: 108.1%
  • 2018: 108.9 %
  • 2017: 108.4%
  • 2016: 106.4%
  • 2015: 105.1%

As cruise lines restarted operations in 2021, occupancy rates were about half that, with some ships even starting out at 30% occupancy rate.  These rates were meant to get the ships back into service slowly. The intent was never to stay at those rates, as it would not be profitable for the line.

Occupancy rates had been a little sluggish in 2022, but Royal Caribbean saw improvement as the year progressed. Load factor for the year averaged 85%, although load factor climbed to 95% in Q4 with a high of 110% on peak December holiday sailings. 

In 2023, it's become clear based on booking rates that consumers have no hesitation about booking a cruise vacation again.

Why occupancy rates above 100% isn't a problem

Allure of the Seas

While you may see figures about higher occupancy rates in the media, the reality is that's what the ships are designed to handle in the first place.

Using Royal Caribbean as an example, their ships are built with thousands of cruise ship passengers in mind.  Venues are designed to accommodate a lot of passengers, and activities and entertainment are strategically listed to keep passengers moving around and not all doing the same thing at the same time.

Given the occupancy rates for the years preceding the cruise industry shutdown of 2020, you can see the 2023 occupancy rates we are seeing are more in line with what's normal.

When ships restarted sailing in 2021 and 2022, it set an outlier situation with some lines at less than 50% occupancy.

What about the oversold cruises?

You may have also read about oversold cruises, and that's a different and unrelated situation.

There's been reports of a handful of Royal Caribbean cruise ships that were oversold, with the cruise line asking passengers for volunteers to change sailings in order to free up space.

On those sailings, that isn't related at all to the occupancy rate.  Rather, that's a problem with the cruise line's inventory management selling too many cabins.  

From what we can tell, they're isolated incidents stemming from a mistake with Royal Caribbean's internal selling mechanism.

For an oversold Wonder of the Seas cruise in April 2023, the line informed guests, "We’re sorry to inform you that due to an unexpected inventory error, your scheduled Wonder of the Seas April 30th, 2023 sailing is currently oversold. We’re aware that this may cause disruption to your booking, so if your travel plans are flexible, you may be able to take advantage of our special offer."

It's important to understand occupancy rates have nothing to do with if a particular sailing gets oversold, because of how cruise lines count passengers in a cabin.

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