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12 differences between the big and small Royal Caribbean cruise ships

In:
23 Jul 2021

What exactly is the difference between a big or small Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and what do you get or give up with either?


Photo by Volnei M.

Royal Caribbean's fleet of 25 cruise ships means there are all sorts of sizes you can choose from, and each has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.  Certainly there are plenty of differences, but the major differences are key to understanding which ship is best for you.

Often new cruisers want to know which Royal Caribbean ship is the worst, or which ships to avoid, and the answer is all the ships are good, but the real question is what do you want in a ship.

Here are some important considerations when comparing big Royal Caribbean ships to smaller ones.

Small is still big, relatively speaking

When we talk about "big" or "small" cruise ships, in Royal Caribbean's fleet, they are all big ships in the grand scheme of things.

Royal Caribbean has a reputation among the mainstream cruise lines for offering innovative and large ships, and many of the smallest ships in the fleet would still be pretty darn large if they suddenly became part of another cruise line.

The smallest Royal Caribbean cruise ships can still accommodate over 2,000 passengers, so remember that just because you sail on a smaller Royal Caribbean ship, does not mean you will be on a yacht or expedition vessel.

If you truly want small ships, you would have to consider one of Royal Caribbean's sister brands, such as Celebrity Cruises or Silver Sea.

Public space

The bigger the ship, the more public space the ship can provide passengers.

Public space is areas of the ship where you can congregate and enjoy, such as a pool deck or promenade deck.

Larger ships have wide open spaces, including shopping districts, open air venues, and even a park.

That isn't to say a smaller ship has no public space.  Because larger ships have more deck space, Royal Caribbean can offer more areas for passengers.

Cost

It is always difficult to make generalizations about the price of a cruise, but overall, larger ships tend to cost more than smaller ships.

Because bigger ships tend to be newer than smaller ships, bigger ships come with a higher price tag.  Essentially, you are paying a premium to sail on the latest and greatest, so bargain hunters will find the best deals on smaller and/or older cruise ships.

That is not to say there are not deals to be had on even the newest ships in the fleet, just that if you were to compare prices over a wide swath of possible sailings, you would find a price advantage for smaller ships.

Dining choices

If variety of places you can eat, especially specialty restaurants, matters to you, then bigger ships are what you want.

Because big ships have more space to include more offerings, you will almost always find more restaurants on bigger ships than smaller ships.

There is generally the same basic complimentary venues, such as a main dining room, buffet, and grab-and-go spot.  So you will never go hungry or be at a loss of where to eat.

Kind of like a big city will have more restaurants than a small city, the same is true for big vs small ships. Bigger ships will have more complimentary dining venues, as well as more specialty restaurants.

For anyone that prefers specialty restaurant choices, a big ship will always offer more variety.

Ports you can visit

Not every cruise port in the world can accommodate big ships, so if you want to visit more exotic locations, you will need to sail on a small ship.

In the Caribbean, there is very little difference in port choices since most Caribbean ports can accommodate even the largest ships in the world.

But as you look to sail elsewhere in the world, you will find other ports of call that cannot handle a big ship.

This is especially true of any port that does not have a pier, and requires ships to tender.

In fact, Oasis Class ships are incapable of tendering, so that precludes them from being able to visit places like Belize or Grand Cayman.

Larger staterooms

Some families prefer to stay in one room, and cabins that can handle bigger groups tend to be found with more regularity on bigger ships.

Suites tend to be the predominant choice for larger rooms that can accommodate more than 4 people.

While small ships have suites, big ships have many more suite options.  

Views of the ocean

It may not seem like a big deal, but being able to see the ocean while you are inside a cruise ship can be important to some guests.

Bigger ships tend to be more inward facing, whereas small ships feature many more windows and ocean viewing opportunities.

Part of the reason for this difference is based in the evolution of cruise ships over the last few decades, where cruise ships started becoming destinations in and of itself.

Not everyone minds missing out on the scenery going by, but on sailings where the landscape around you matters more (i.e. Alaska or Northern Europe), being able to see outside from bars, lounges, and other public spaces becomes more important.

Motion in the ocean

Another generalization that may not be true for everyone is bigger ships are going to offer passengers potentially a smoother ride than small ships.

Modern cruise ships are equipped with stablizers, but simple physics tells us a larger ship is going to need more ocean current to be "rocked" than a smaller ship.

That is not to say if you sail on a small ship you will feel like a boat in a bathtub with an angry toddler nearby, but many repeat cruisers will swear by bigger ships offering a more stable ride.

Onboard activities

In addition to public space, big ships have more room to offer the fun activities you probably read and heard about on a cruise.

You will absolutely find more water slides, pools, simulators, and things to do on a big ship compared to a small ship.

Royal Caribbean's smallest cruise ships lack water slides at all, and the Radiance Class have a single kiddy water slide that is only suitable for young children.

Whether or not these whiz-bang activities matters to you is an entirely different question, but families tend to gravitate towards ships that have more to do, and bigger ships have plenty of them.

Entertainment

Whether you love Broadway musicals or production shows, the big ships have them.

Did you know Royal Caribbean has full-length Broadway musicals you can see onboard for absolutely no additional cost? It's true, but only on their large ships.

Small ships have production shows too, but they are not nearly as ornate as big ships, and the shows on small ships almost certainly have not been updated in many years. Once again, that is not inherently a bad thing, but for some people this matters.

Casino

For the gamblers, all ships have a casino, but the big ships have a bigger casino space.

More space in the casino means more games, including slots and tables.  This becomes more important in the evenings when lots of passengers head to the casino to gamble, and tables fill up quickly for the lowest stakes games.

Even the smallest Royal Caribbean ships offer the same kind of games, so you are not compromising when it comes to picking a ship and losing out on your favorite game.

Intimacy

No, not that kind of intimacy.

Small ships make it easier to get around the ship and meet the crew members and other guests, which means you get to know everyone else onboard just a little bit better.

The people sailing with you are a major component of the vacation, and being able to meet up with friends and family onboard, or find your favorite waiter, is easier on a small ship.

Not only that, getting from point A to point B is easier on a small ship and requires less walking.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - What is the worst cruise ship?

In:
19 May 2021

Listen to the Show

Many first time cruisers are eager to learn about the best Royal Caribbean ship to sail on, so a common question asked is which cruise ships should be avoided.

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

On this episode:
Running time:

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - What is a dry dock?

In:
12 May 2021

Listen to the Show

You may have heard about cruise ships going into dry dock, but what happens when a ship goes in for work?

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

On this episode:
Running time:

Where are Royal Caribbean's cruise ships right now? April 2021

In:
28 Apr 2021

While there are not going to be any Royal Caribbean cruise ships operating outside of Singapore, you might be wondering where the rest of the cruise ships are located.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are in a state of warm layup around the world in strategically located areas to be near resupply ports.

This allows the ships to easily get into port to offload waste, bring on new supplies, and sometimes exchange out the skeleton crew working onboard.

During this period of no cruises, the ships primarily stay in place, but a few have changed locations from time to time.

This information was gathered, and accurate, as of April 27, 2021.

CocoCay

  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Explorer of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas

St. Maarten

  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas

Barbados

  • Serenade of the Seas

Southampton, England

  • Jewel of the Seas

Gibraltar

  • Anthem of the Seas

Cadiz, Spain

  • Harmony of the Seas (in dry dock)

Limassol, Cyprus

  • Odyssey of the Seas

Singapore

  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Radiance of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Voyager of the Seas
  • Spectrum of the Seas

What are cruise ships doing while there aren't any cruises?

Quantum of the Seas is the only Royal Caribbean cruise ship operating right now, but the rest of the fleet is being manned by a skeleton crew while they wait to restart sailings.

This is referred to as "warm lay up", and it means the ship is operational and ready to quickly resume cruises again once they are given the go-ahead to do so.

By keeping the ships in warm lay up instead of cold lay up, they can more quickly get back into service when the time is right.  The downside to warm lay up is it costs Royal Caribbean more money to keep the ships operating in this state.

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

During the cruise industry shutdown, most ships remain in place unless there is a compelling need to move, such as a dry dock.

If you track cruise ships on the internet, you might see one ship occasionally come into port to receive new supplies and unload waste. In the United States, PortMiami has been the most commonly used destination for ships nearby to resupply.

When will Royal Caribbean ships sail again?

Currently, only Quantum of the Seas is the only ship sailing, but more ships are preparing to restart operations.

Five ships will restart sailings this summer from outside the United States in June and July 2021.

  • Adventure of the Seas from Nassau, Bahamas in June 2021
  • Vision of the Seas from Bermuda in June 2021
  • Odyssey of the Seas from Haifa, Israel in June 2021
  • Anthem of the Seas from Southampton, England in July 2021
  • Jewel of the Seas from sail Limassol, Cyprus in July 2021

The rest of the fleet is shutdown through the end of June 2021, although more cancellations are likely.

Royal Caribbean is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to receive permission to start cruises again.

During Royal Caribbean Group's fourth quarter 2020 earnings call with investors, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley reported Royal Caribbean has been in "regular communication" with the CDC and expects to get technical instructions on what each ship needs to do in order to prepare itself for test cruises.

Test cruises will be the opportunity for cruise lines to demonstrate they can operate in a safe manner through a variety of new protocols.

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

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

Royal Caribbean Group CFO Jason Liberty noted the company could add a second ship outside of the U.S. soon, "We are already operating Quantum of the Seas in Singapore, and our second ship in the water could also be outside of the US."

The best expectation is for a handful of ships beginning at first, with a phased approach to bringing the entire fleet back.

What’s the difference between a large and small cruise ship?

In:
05 Mar 2021

Cruise ships come in many sizes, so how do you know which size is right for you? And is there such thing as "too big"?

You can go on cruise ships with as few as a few dozen people, and as many people as 6,000. Ship size reflects a cruise line's plans for the number of activities offered onboard, types of staterooms to offer, and the economics of the market the ship is intended for.

With Royal Caribbean, you will find a great deal of variation between ship sizes that caters to different tastes and offerings.

If you are trying to figure out whether or not a big ship or a small ship is right for you, here are the important considerations.

What makes a ship big or small?

If you stand next to almost any cruise ship, they all look big, so what makes one truly a big ship or a small ship?

The answer is relative, as cruise ship designs and sizes have changed over the years.  Measuring cruise ship size is less an exercise in arithmetic, and more a consideration of how it stacks up to other vessels.

For the sake of argument, here is a breakdown of Royal Caribbean cruise ship classes to get a sense of how they stack up.

Small ships

  • Vision Class
  • Radiance Class

Medium ships

  • Voyager Class

Big ships

  • Freedom Class
  • Quantum Class
  • Oasis Class

Read moreBest Royal Caribbean ships and cruise guide

The bigger the ship, the more to do onboard

Generally speaking, the larger the ship, the more space the cruise line has to add things to do while you are onboard.

Space is always at a premium on a cruise ship, so if a ship is bigger, it has more room to offer more activities.

Royal Caribbean has always separated itself from other cruise lines by offering incredible new activities onboard, such as rock climbing walls, a zip line, Central Park, Flowrider surf simulator and much more.  In order to have these kind of activities, you need a bigger ship.

If you sail on some of the smaller ships in the fleet, you will not have nearly as many whiz-bang amenities on your ship. For some guests, this matters more than for others.

Read more15 really cool things to do that you can only find on Royal Caribbean cruise ships

Dining

These days, the amount of choices you have of where to dine on your cruise ship matters a lot more than a decade ago or longer.

Every ship has a main dining room, Windjammer buffet, and at least a few specialty restaurants.

Just like activities, big ships offer more specialty restaurant choices. 

It may not seem like diversity of restaurants matters that much, but some cruisers prefer to have more choice in where they dine. Others love the main dining room and that works too.

Of course, specialty dining costs extra and while it is nice to mix up your dinner setting, it will mean a higher vacation cost to do so. Investing in a specialty restaurant package is a good workaround to mitigate the extra costs.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean specialty dining packages guide

The latest and greatest go on big ships

When you watch a television commercial for a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, almost everything you see in that advertisement is on a new and big ship.

Nothing captivates the attention of the public like a big new ship, and the bigger the ship is, the more attention it gets.

New cruisers often are enamored with the appeal of experiencing all the amazing things cruise ships have to offer, and the absolute best of it goes to new ships.

Part of the reason is the ships have the space for it, and part of it is being newer, engineers incorporated these concepts in the design. It is much easier to offer Flowriders, water slides, and expansive entertainment venues when you build it into the design of the ship.

Read moreWhat is the worst Royal Caribbean ship?

Where the ship goes matters

No matter which ship you sail on, you will be going somewhere to visit different cities, islands, or scenic landscapes. There is no denying that smaller ships can fit into far more ports than big ships.

Cruise ships have been around for decades, and many cruise ports were designed for cruise ships of a different era. Basically, cruise ship size has outpaced cruise port accommodations.

Certainly many ports have upgraded their facilities to be able to handle bigger ships (especially in the Caribbean), but if you have your heart set on seeing some of the most beautiful and breathtaking places on a cruise ship, a smaller ship will get you there.

A great example is Alaska, where Radiance Class ships can visit more glaciers and far flung ports than the big ships can. Cruisers who have been to Alaska will always recommend a small ship to see Alaska "the right way".

The same argument for small ships can be made for many ports in Europe, including the Eastern Mediterranean, Baltics, and Scandinavia.

Read moreHow to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

Price

It always seems to come down to cost, right?

Generally speaking, a smaller Royal Caribbean cruise ship will probably cost you less than a bigger one because smaller ships tend to be older.

Royal Caribbean puts a premium price tag on its newest ships, and since its newest ships are big ships, you will find lower prices with the smaller vessels.

While prices will vary from sailing to sailing, some of the best values can be found with smaller cruise ships. This means being able to afford a bigger cabin on a Radiance or Voyager class ship than a similar sailing on an Oasis Class ship.

However, do not book a cruise purely on price.  One big mistake a lot of first time cruisers do is chase the lowest price and ignore what the ship does and does not offer, leaving disappointment when they get onboard and realize there are no water slides or sushi restaurant.

Read moreHow to get cheap cruise deals

10 Things Royal Caribbean does differently from any other cruise line

In:
15 Feb 2021

If you're already a Royal Caribbean fan, we don't need to tell you why the line is great.

But if you're searching for information before booking your first cruise under the crown and anchor, here are 10 areas in which Royal Caribbean offers unique experiences you won't find with other lines.

1. Cabins

Of note are the line's Oasis-class inward-facing Boardwalk and Central Park balconies, as well as AquaTheater Suites, which offer views of the venue of the same name and the vessel's wake. Since their debut in 2009, Royal Caribbean is still the only line to offer these types of accommodations. 

Royal Caribbean was also the first mainstream cruise line to introduce cabins that rise two decks. Known as Loft Suites, they fall under the Royal Suite Class -- some of the line's most lavish (and expensive) rooms -- found on most Oasis- and Quantum-class vessels. 

In 2018, the line debuted the Ultimate Family Suite on Symphony of the Seas. Also spanning two floors, it sleeps up to eight passengers in two rooms -- one for parents and one for kids. The latter includes a slide down to the first-floor living area, which is stocked with tons of games.

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

2. Outdoor Thrills

Freedom of the Seas greeted the world in 2006, boasting a free onboard FlowRider surf simulator, which is now a standard part of all ships that followed. (Some even have two.) 

As subsequent vessels were constructed, the line also outfitted some of them with for-fee RipCord by iFly simulated skydiving and the gratis Ultimate Abyss, a dry tube slide that spirals down 10 decks. 

On a couple of its older vessels, the line also went back and added complimentary Sky Pad bungee trampolines that incorporate bungee-assisted trampolining and virtual-reality game play. 

Read moreTop 14 best free things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise

3. Entertainment

As mentioned above, the Oasis Class of ships made Royal Caribbean's AquaTheater famous. Featuring high-diving acts and aerial acrobatics that will draw gasps from the crowd, shows at this outdoor venue feature the ship's wake as a backdrop.

The line was also the first to add Broadway and West End shows to its list of onboard productions when "Hairspray" took the stage onboard Oasis of the Seas in 2009. 

Since then, the line expanded its Broadway titles and has changed some out over the years. Despite other lines' now featuring similar shows, Royal is the only one to present "CATS," "Saturday Night Fever" "Grease" "We Will Rock You" and Mamma Mia!" at sea.

Read more8 things I MUST do on every Royal Caribbean cruise

4. Muster Drills

During the 2020 global cruise shutdown, Royal Caribbean developed Muster 2.0, a system that allows passengers to avoid crowding into small spaces for traditional in-person muster drills. 

Instead, cruisers are able to review all of the relevant safety information and life jacket demonstrations via cell phone app or in-cabin TV before reporting individually to designated locations to verify that they have complied. 

Read moreTop 10 questions about Royal Caribbean's new Muster 2.0

5. Bars

The Rising Tide Bar first appeared as a curiosity during Oasis of the Seas' debut and has found a home on other vessels since. It moves up and down as a "floating" platform from the Royal Promenade, stopping at a few of the decks above. 

In need of something new for the 2014 launch of Quantum of the Seas, the line dreamed up the Bionic Bar, at which passengers order drinks via tablets.

They are then mixed by one of two robotic arms -- no human interaction required. 

Read moreDining at Bars on a Royal Caribbean cruise

6. Views

North Star, a giant 15-person pod attached to a 135-foot mechanical arm, came as something new on Quantum of the Seas, the first Quantum-class ship.

Found on other vessels in the class, it allows passengers to enjoy the sweeping vistas that surround their ship, for a fee.

For more high-flying fun, Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay private island experience includes an added-charge hot air balloon-style helium balloon ride that takes riders 450 feet into the air for the highest view in the Bahamas. 

Read more5 secrets to Royal Caribbean's North Star

7. Private Islands

Speaking of private islands, Royal Caribbean operates two: Labadee in Haiti and Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas. 

While they both offer travelers a fun and relaxing time ashore, Perfect Day at CocoCay is the result of CocoCay's $250 million 2019 makeover, which outfitted the island with the tallest water slide in North America, the Caribbean's largest wave and freshwater pools, a zipline, several bars and more. 

Read moreTop 10 Perfect Day at CocoCay secrets and tricks

8. Neighborhoods

When Oasis-class ships were developed, they were the largest afloat -- so large, in fact, that Royal Caribbean divided them up into seven neighborhoods to organize the plethora of things to see, do and eat. 

Perhaps the most notable are the Boardwalk and Central Park. The former comprises a carousel, a sports bar and arcade, the AquaTheater, the Ultimate Abyss, an overhead zipline and several snack venues, such as Johnny Rockets and a candy and ice cream shop.

The latter -- featuring a wine bar, a stop for the Rising Tide Bar, the onboard steakhouse and upscale restaurant 150 Central Park -- is also home to thousands of live plants, cared for by a resident gardener.  

Read more5 things to love about Central Park on Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class cruise ships

9. Indoor Fun

Cruisers will find SeaPlex, introduced on Quantum-class vessels, serving in different capacities during each sailing.

One minute it might be a bumper car arena, while other times it's used for roller skating, basketball, soccer or circus school. Trapeze classes, anyone? (Fees may apply.)

The line has also had free ice skating available on select ships since it launched its Voyager Class the mid-1990s. Some vessels (including newer ones) still have skating rinks in Studio B, where passengers can participate or take in ice shows, complete with performing crew members and choreographed drones.

Read more5 ways Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas will be different from other Quantum Class ships

10. Kids Clubs and Activities

Royal Caribbean excels with its complimentary Adventure Ocean children's programming.

Kids are divided into age-appropriate groups where they can participate in everything from science experiments and video game competitions to dance parties and acting classes with Adventure Ocean Theater. 

For kid-centric activities outside of the kids club, look no further than the line's Cupcake Cupboard on select ships. In addition to offering tasty treats for purchase, it also runs a selection of extra-fee cupcake decorating classes for kiddos (and adults).

Read moreSix things to know about Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean

Which Ships Did Royal Caribbean Sell?

In:
12 Feb 2021

It's no secret that 2020 was a rough year for the cruise industry. Amid months of no-sail orders, hundreds of thousands of voyage cancellations and billions of dollars borrowed to keep cruise lines afloat, a handful of lines have had to purge their oldest vessels in order to cut costs. 

Despite the expiration of the CDC's no-sail order and the fervent efforts of healthcare workers to administer vaccinations, cruising still remains on hold. The situation has become so dire that the trend of cruise lines' liquidating ships for a song has continued into 2021.

So, which ships did Royal Caribbean sell? We'll take a look here. 

For the purposes of this article, we'll be exploring ships that have been unloaded by Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company that owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea and, previously, Azamara Cruises. The group also is part owner of Spanish line Pullmantur.

Pullmantur Ships Sold in 2020

  • Monarch
  • Sovereign

On June 22, 2020, Pullmantur filed for reorganization (basically the European term for bankruptcy). 

Shortly after, two of the line's ships were sold for scrap. On July 22 and July 23, 2020, Monarch and Sovereign -- formerly Monarch of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas -- respectively were beached at a breaker yard in Aliaga, Turkey, where workers quickly began the dismantling process.

Known widely for being the first of the cruise industry's megaships, Sovereign (then Sovereign of the Seas under Royal Caribbean) was the largest passenger vessel afloat when it debuted in 1988, and it was the first in the line's three-ship Sovereign Class. Monarch (of the Seas) was the second. 

Crew from the two ships were reassigned to Royal Caribbean, and since the initial reorganization was revealed, there are rumors that the line could return with a fleet of some of Celebrity Cruises' former ships.  

Royal Caribbean International Ships Sold in 2020

  • Empress of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean announced in mid-December of 2020 that it sold two of its oldest ships -- Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas -- to an undisclosed party in the Asia-Pacific region. 

It was later uncovered that the new owner of Empress of the Seas is India-based cruise line startup Cordelia Cruises. 

Since then, however, the sale of Majesty of the Seas has been shrouded in mystery. Royal Caribbean assured fans of the vessel -- the third and only unscrapped ship from the line's Sovereign Class -- that the buyer would make an announcement at a later date. 

In the meantime, there is speculation that it could have been acquired by Seajets, a Greek ferry company that scooped up at least six other cruise ships in 2020.

Empress of the Seas is noteworthy in that it wasn't a new-build for Royal Caribbean. Instead, it joined the fleet in 1988 after the line acquired Admiral Cruises, for which the ship sailed as Nordic Empress. As a result, it was the only ship in its class. It also pioneered the concept of short cruises.

If you'd like to revisit the vessels virtually for old time's sake, here are Royal Caribbean Blog's final looks at Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas

Azamara Ships Sold in 2021

  • Azamara Journey
  • Azamara Pursuit
  • Azamara Quest

On January 19, 2021, Royal Caribbean Group disclosed that it sold its Azamara Cruises brand to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $201 million in cash. 

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty said the decision to sell Azamara was not driven by the global health crisis, despite the inherit financial benefit to the company for doing so.

As part of the sale, the firm acquired not only all of the brand's intellectual property but also all three of Azamara's ships -- Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey and Azamara Pursuit. 

In a bizarre turn of events, it also purchased Pacific Princess from Princess Cruises, which announced the sale of the ship to an undisclosed buyer on January 21, 2021 -- just two days after Azamara was sold. The vessel will join Azamara as the fleet's fourth ship.

Sycamore Partners retained Azamara's chief operating officer, Carol Cabezas, who will now serve as the brand's president. 

Additionally, the firm brought on former Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford, who parted ways with Holland America in May of 2020. He will take on the role of executive chairman of Azamara Cruises.

The line's top brass has vowed there are currently no sweeping changes planned for the line, so passengers can expect the experience to remain relatively unchanged when operations resume under the new ownership. 

Summary of Ships Sold by Royal Caribbean Group in 2020 and 2021

Royal Caribbean Group sold seven total ships in 2020 and 2021:

  • Monarch (2020)
  • Sovereign (2020)
  • Empress of the Seas (2020)
  • Majesty of the Seas (2020)
  • Azamara Journey (2021)
  • Azamara Pursuit (2021)
  • Azamara Quest (2021)

Why are new cruise ships still being built?

In:
09 Feb 2021

The cruise industry has been shutdown for an entire year and losing billions of dollars each quarter. So why are cruise ships still being built?

If you read just a few articles about what is happening in the cruise industry, you would know the industry is facing its most dire circumstances, perhaps ever. With mounting loses, debt piling up, and very few ships actually sailing, you might be wondering why cruise ship orders are still being filled and new ships launching.

It's a good question given everything happening today, and the answer lies has less to do with today and more to do with tomorrow.

A number of new cruise ships were delivered in 2020, and more will be delivered in 2021.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, and many more lines took delivery of ships and even announced new ships that will be built in the next few years.

Royal Caribbean has plans for Odyssey of the Seas to join the fleet in Spring 2021 and Wonder of the Seas sometime in 2022. There are orders on file for other new ships in the coming years too.

On top of that, quite a few existing cruise ships were sold to be scrapped many years sooner than likely would have happened if there had not been a global health crisis.

Moreover, these ships were scrapped because of the lack of need for these ships right now, the high costs of maintaining them, and the lack of buyers to transfer the ship to their fleet.

It would seem given the mounting debts and financially motivated scrapping of existing ships that building new cruise ships would be the last thing cruise lines would want to do.

So why are cruise ships still being built?

First, cruise ships are ordered many years in advance and they get financed just as early.

As an example, Odyssey of the Seas, which was set to debut in 2020 but had to be pushed back to 2021 due to the global health crisis, was ordered back in November 2015.

Construction of Odyssey began in earnest on February 1, 2019.

Wonder of the Seas, the next Oasis Class cruise ship, was ordered on May 25, 2016 and construction began on April 24, 2019.

Basically, cruise ships we are seeing coming out of shipyards today were ordered many years ago.

Similar to when you buy a car and finance it, you place the order and agree to pay it off over the course of many months.

The second reason why ships are still being built is the cruise industry being shutdown and health crisis has lead to the ability to delay these new ship deliveries.

Ordinarily, a new cruise ship delivery is rarely delayed much, but the unprecedented situation that the entire cruise industry is under has opened up many more possibilities.

Between the cruise lines and shipyards, new ship orders have been delayed in order to space them out better and provide more time for cruise lines to secure additional funding, as well as become situated in a better position.

Odyssey of the Seas was delayed from an original delivery date in 2020, and Wonder of the Seas was similarly pushed back a year.

Read moreTop 5 things Royal Caribbean had planned for 2020 that got delayed

Thus far, orders for new ships have not been completely cancelled, but instead put off to a further date with the hope things will improve financially for cruise lines. Because of the long amount of time needed to build a ship, even a ship that begins construction today, will not be ready for at least a couple of years.

If all of that makes sense, then why are cruise lines building new ships at the same time they are scrapping and selling off many other ships?

The answer boils down to the economics of operating cruise ships.

New ships run more efficiently than older ships because of a combination of new design trends, more berths, and revenue opportunities onboard.

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

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

In addition, selling older ships is something that always happened.  Granted, some ships that got scrapped in 2020 might have been sold to another operator if there had not been a global health emergency, but the fact is cruise lines sell ships when the time is right.

Mr. Liberty also said that Royal Caribbean typically sells one to two ships per year.

So the shutdown may have accelerated plans to sell off ships and in some cases, caused vessels to be scrapped instead of sold to another company.

Lastly, cruise ships are still being built because cruise lines are also looking at the big picture.

In the long term, a return to cruising means meeting the pent-up demand for travel that everyone will want to embark on once things start moving back in the direction of normal.

Prior to the shutdown, the cruise industry was extremely profitable, and new ships sell extremely well.

So new cruise ship orders are not being cancelled because there is still a great deal of optimism for what the future holds, while also coming at the expense of older and less efficient/profitable ships.

Which Royal Caribbean cruise ship will you never sail on again? Here's what our readers said!

In:
28 Jan 2021

I'm a firm believer that there are no Royal Caribbean ships you should avoid, I do believe some ships are a better fit than others, depending on your personal preferences.

People tend to come up with their own list of favorite anythings: ice cream, television shows, and even cruise ships.  But, sometimes we also try something and vow never to do that again.

Not every ship will necessarily be everyone's cup of tea. Luckily, the fleet of cruise ships is large enough that there is bound to be a good fit for just about anyone.

Read moreWhat is the worst Royal Caribbean ship?

I reached out to our readers on our Facebook page to ask: is there a cruise ship you’ve been on that you would never go back on again? If so, which one and why?

Needless to say, there were a lot of opinions out there about which ships they love, and which they could live without. 

Being a very subjective question, the responses largely were based on their experiences and tastes for what each reader thought a cruise ship should be all about.

Ironically, this is a good reminder to everyone why you can't trust online reviews of cruise ships.

Enchantment of the Seas

There were quite a few responses regarding the only Vision Class ship to be cut in half and stretched, and many of the critiques were about the ship's size and onboard offerings.

Quite often the words "too small" were used to describe Enchantment, and the lack of activities (perhaps compared to other ships) stood out.

The smaller ships are, well, small compared to the newer ships that have come out in the last ten years or so.  If you are used to the largest ships, there is a bit of "culture shock" when you try out a Vision Class vessel.

I think the key is to understand before you get onboard what the ship offers (and doesn't offer) to avoid disappointment during the cruise.

Anthem of the Seas

To prove that the size of the ship isn't everything, plenty of big ships made the  list of comments, such as Anthem of the Seas.

One reader commented that Anthem's areas "always seemed way too crowded." Another reader complained about the lack of late night parties onboard.

Interestingly enough, there was a lengthy discussion about the people that cruise out of the Northeast versus Florida, and their attitudes.  I'm not touching that debate with a ten foot pole.

Oasis of the Seas

Yup, there were people who claimed they did not like one of the world's largest cruise ships, primarily because of its size.

Remember the people that did not like Enchantment because it was too small? Well, there were plenty that did not care for the enormous size of Oasis either.

One reader said, "it was just way to big for us." Another elaborated, "First time on a ship like that and just didn’t think it was great. The circus theme took up a lot of space and did nothing for me."

Just like Enchantment, these comments serve as a good reminder that a lot of people become accustomed to the first cruise ship they sail on and largely use that as the standard they judge other ships by.  In many cases, it has been my experience that people that start with small ships tend to have issues with larger ships, and people that start with big ships get turned off by smaller vessels.

Of course, plenty of cruisers like cruise ships of all sizes, so it's just a matter of finding a good fit for you.

Read moreFirst Timers' Guide to Oasis of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas

While Majesty is no longer in Royal Caribbean's fleet, she was still memorable enough to be "one and done" for many readers.

Having sailed on Majesty, I thought this comment was indicative of the experience for many, "Layout was very strange. You often couldn’t get from here to there. Had three sets of elevators. They didn’t all go to the same floors. Centrum elevators just went 4 floors."

Another reader agreed, but thought everything was relative for the time, "It’s tough to bad mouth the old ships. They were once the biggest and best. I love Oasis class and I personally could not sail Sovereign class if she were still sailing."

The lesson I would glean from the comments about Majesty is not all Royal Caribbean cruise ships are exactly the same, and design trends change over the years. 

It is always a good idea to learn about your cruise ship before you sail to get a better understanding of what you can expect onboard.

Explorer of the Seas

Another ship that got repeated quite often was Explorer of the Seas, and there was concern about the appearance of the ship and even the crew.

  • "So run down and crew truly didn’t want to be there"
  • "She was run down and the crew just seemed apathetic. "
  • "Explorer as it felt like we were on the training ship with new recruits!"

Personally, I love the Voyager Class ships and sailed on Explorer of the Seas to Alaska in 2018 and enjoyed the cruise.

I think an unintended side effect of the Royal Amplification program that brought tremendous upgrades to so many cruise ships in the fleet is any ship that had not been upgraded seemed tame in comparison.

Explorer of the Seas was scheduled to get a major refurbishment in 2020, but those plans were sidelined due to the global health crisis and Royal Caribbean having to cut back on any unnecessary spending.

Read moreWhat was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment

And a lot of people who didn't like other cruise lines!

Being a Royal Caribbean group of readers, you could quickly tell why so many prefer Royal Caribbean based on negative comments about other brands cruise ships.

Every cruise line has its plusses and negatives about it, but quite a few non-Royal Caribbean cruise ships made people's lists:

  • Norwegian Epic: "Service was the worst and it took hours to get passengers off at the private island."
  • Carnival Sensation: "There were so many things about it that just made me want to go on another cruise."
  • Norwegian Gem: "So many dead ends on that ship. Did a 10 day and took me the whole cruise to figure it out."
  • Norwegian Pride of America: "Freestyle dining meant 2-3 hour waits for dinner in the dining room & the service was below par compared to all the other cruises."
  • SilverSea Silver Whisper: "Crazy expensive cruise, very old and outdated ship."
  • Norwegian Breakaway: "Such a disappointment after Oasis class ships."

Bonus: The funny comments

I love a good snarky comment thrown in now and then, and there were a few that took this opportunity to bring some levity to the poll.

  • "Carnival sensation... honeymoon with ex wife."
  • "The S.S. Minnow because it only was supposed to be a three hour tour."
  • "Mayflower was just terrible. Kept us below decks for weeks, stench was awful, ship bobbed around like a cork."
  • Titanic: "swim team practice was chilling"

Why do cruise ships float?

In:
23 Jan 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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