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Discovery Class: Royal Caribbean's new smaller cruise ship project

24 Jan 2024
Elizabeth Wright

Although Royal Caribbean is known for building the largest cruise ships in the world, a brand-new class of smaller ships is on the horizon. 

Discover Class rumor ship

Little has been revealed about "Project Discovery," so it is unsure of what consumers can expect. If, however, it's similar to Project Icon, then we can hypothesize that the first ship in the class will be named Discovery of the Seas. 

According to Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO, the cruise line acknowledges that the majority of their smallest ships are aging. 

He has also alluded to the fact that the Royal Caribbean team has been working on a new ship class. Details, however, need to be finalized before anything can be formally announced. Hopefully, we will get more information sometime in 2024. 

Radiance of the Seas

Mega ships, like Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas, have become a norm in the cruise industry. The downside, however, is that they cannot visit some ports due to size restrictions. 

We'll update this page as more information is divulged. 

Royal Caribbean's CEO has been hinting since July 2023


(Photo credit to Jon Evans)

While aboard Allure of the Seas, Bayley was asked if Royal was going to build smaller ships, to which he responded, “It is something that's certainly deeply in our consideration and our planning at the moment that we have a lot of conceptual work going on."

"I think when we're ready we can we can announce steps that will take to to do just that.”

The idea of a new ship class was confirmed again in 2024 via Facebook when Bayley responded to a comment posted by Thomas Budzyn: 

"Mr Bayley, you said years ago that Royal Caribbean was going to come out with smaller ships to get to smaller ports that people want, but the ships get larger and larger - and it’s repetitive for CocoCay."

"It’s time to listen to guests who have stayed loyal for over 30 years. People want different ports”

Bayley responded that the team had begun working on a new class and "...if all the needed hurdles are tackled, [they] can announce something this year. It is a journey. Don’t forget, Serenade just sailed on the Ultimate World [Cruise] with 274 days of global adventures! Lots of new ports.”

While speaking to the press on Icon of the Seas in January 2024, Mr. Bayley once again confirmed there's work being done on a new class, "from a brand perspective, we recognize we've got two classes of ships, Radiance and Vision, that are doing phenomenal. They're beautiful ships, beautifully constructed. "

"But... they're getting older. So we're obviously concepting thoughts and ideas on how we would ultimately replace those ships with a new class of ships."

How big could the new ships be?

Serenade of the Seas in Venice

Again, while nothing is confirmed, in May 2023, Radiance of the Seas' Captain commented that Royal Caribbean was planning on building a new ship around the size of Radiance Class vessels. 

While not the smallest ships in the fleet, they're certainly not the largest either, measuring around 90,000 gross registered tons (GRT). On the other hand, Icon of the Seas comes in at a whopping 250,800 GRT!

These ships can visit more unique destinations, as is being proved by the cruise line's first-ever world cruise onboard Serenade of the Seas, a Radiance Class vessel that launched in 203. 

Read more: See how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size (2024)

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider alluded to the fact this new ship would be relatively smaller, "I'm careful to say small, but a less than large size class of ship."

The addition of a smaller ship could mean new itineraries 

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has been focusing on Perfect Day at CocoCay, their private island in The Bahamas. 

In fact, they reduced the number of ships that will be deployed to Europe in 2025, so more can be based out of North America and sail to The Bahamas/Caribbean. 

Only six ships will be in Europe during the summer of 2025, which is roughly a 33% decrease in the number of ships in Europe compared to 2023. 


Moreover, they've also begun sending larger ships to the region, which results in repetitive itineraries since they are limited in where they can visit.

Not only would a brand-new ship class appeal to many, but since it's going to be on the smaller end, there is a chance that it could offer sailings outside of North America. 

Mr. Schneider described the need for ships that can get into certain ports in January 2024, "the reality is families want to go on vacation, not just in the Western and Eastern Caribbean or in the classic Mediterranean where a ship like Icon can get into. They want to continue to stay with our brand and journey to different destinations that require more versatility and the ship size."

Currently, Royal Caribbean only has three ships on order


Unfortunately, if there's a smaller ship class in the works, an order hasn't been placed as of yet. 

The only ships on order are Utopia of the Seas, Star of the Seas, and the third Icon Class vessel set to launch in 2026. 

Before Royal Caribbean can announce anything or place an order, it needs to be approved internally.

Mr. Bayley said, "It has to go through the corporate machine and it has to go obviously to the board and it has to go through a process. But we're quite actively working on trying to figure out what that would be."

Rumors about a new ship class have been circulating for years

While onboard Royal Caribbean ships, many passengers have reported hearing rumors from crew members that the cruise line was supposedly planning on a new ship class with smaller vessels.

The name of the rumored class was Project Discovery, with the class itself potentially being dubbed the "Discovery Class." 

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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