How Carnival and Royal Caribbean Are Rejuvenating Their Fleets

How Carnival and Royal Caribbean Are Rejuvenating Their Fleets
Royal Caribbean will introduce Music Hall to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
Credit: 2019 Royal Caribbean International

As cruise competitors seek the attention of new and returning clientele, the trend for lines to offer the best in deck attractions, fine dining and world-class entertainment continues. New and ever-grander ships are on the horizon, but brands are updating their existing vessels to have all the latest that clients expect, as well.

In short: The differences between older and newer ships are becoming imperceptible.

Here, we take a look at two companies updating their ageing vessels — Carnival Corporation & Plc, and Royal Caribbean International — and what clients can anticipate on future cruise vacations.

Carnival Corporation & Plc

Caribbean Princess, from Carnival brand Princess Cruises, recently went all out to update its kid-friendly pool deck with the new Reef Splash Zone. Central to the waterpark is Splashpad, featuring Winnie the Whale, an “Animal Planet” focus of the Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Centers onboard. The whale playfully emits water from its fluke and spout among other interactive sprays, showers and a splash pool. There are other whale murals for more “Instagrammable” moments, as well as a family game zone with oversize backyard-style games.

Carnival Sunrise will feature new amenities such as a waterpark, waterslides, a children’s splash zone and a SportSquare.

Carnival Sunrise will feature new amenities such as a waterpark, waterslides, a children’s splash zone and a SportSquare.

Carnival Sunrise will feature new amenities such as a waterpark, waterslides, a children’s splash zone and a SportSquare.

Credit: 2019 Carnival Cruise Line

The surrounding pool, whirlpool and bar area has also been refreshed. Morgan’s Bar serves mocktails with names such as Crazy Coconut and Berry Nice to Meet You that guests can enjoy while lounging on plush sectionals. And just a deck below, the outdoor portion of Camp Discovery showcases a destination-themed water table that is educational and illustrates itinerary spots such as Sydney Opera House in Australia, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the Panama Canal.

Meanwhile, Carnival brand Carnival Cruise Line has completely transformed Carnival Triumph into the new Carnival Sunrise, which now sports a pleasantly more subdued aesthetic and contemporary amenities. It also features two redesigned Captain’s Suites and updates to all other cabins.

Like Caribbean Princess, Sunrise newly touts a children’s splash zone, a waterpark and waterslides. There’s also a SportSquare with a ropes course and minigolf, as well as a Serenity adults-only retreat. Camp Ocean, Circle “C” and Club O2 are dedicated to kids, teens and tweens, respectively.

Enhanced entertainment onboard Sunrise includes The Punchliner Comedy Club, hosted in the new Limelight Lounge; Playlist Productions in Liquid Lounge; and other live music and parties. The shipboard shops, photo gallery, spa and fitness centre have also been updated.

Onboard culinary venues now include Guy’s Burger Joint, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, BlueIguana Cantina and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar, Alchemy Bar, The Chef’s Table and Cherry on Top, as well as the upgraded Lido Marketplace, Pizzeria del Capitano and Java Blue venues.

Royal Caribbean International

With the success of its latest vessels, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is now eyeing its Oasis-class vessels for dramatic enhancements. Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will soon share even more with their younger sister ships for greater consistency across the fleet while still showcasing some individuality.

Oasis and Allure will feature the colorful candy and ice-cream shop Sugar Beach.

Oasis and Allure will feature the colourful candy and ice-cream shop Sugar Beach.

Credit: 2019 Royal Caribbean International

In time for its 10-year anniversary, Oasis will relaunch this November after an extensive two-month refurbishment. Leading its new onboard features will be a redesigned Pool and Sports Zone complete with a Splashaway Bay children’s waterpark; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides; and the famed Ultimate Abyss dry slide. Splashaway itself will feature three waterslides for kids, plus two drench buckets, water cannons, fountains and pools. Across the board, all youth clubs will be redesigned, as well.

The pool deck will add The Lime and Coconut bar, and El Loco Fresh for Mexican cuisine will be located near the pool. Other additions will include Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade for pub food and Sugar Beach for candy and ice cream along the Boardwalk. Also, for the first time, Portside BBQ will be a poolside barbecue restaurant serving savoury meats.

Combining a bar scene and entertainment will be Bionic Bar, where robotic bartenders will show off their drink-making skills. Other new entertainment options will include Spotlight Karaoke on the Royal Promenade, and the energetic live Music Hall will be introduced to the Oasis-class from the Quantum class. What’s more, there will be a Clash for the Crystal City laser tag game and Royal Escape Room – Mission Control: Apollo 18.

Meanwhile, Allure will mostly mirror the updates of Oasis when it comes back online in May 2020 following its own two-month revitalization.

It, too, will receive Splashaway Bay; the Ultimate Abyss dry slide; and the Typhoon, Cyclone and Supercell waterslides. The Lime and Coconut, Portside BBQ, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, El Loco Fresh, Sugar Beach and Bionic Bar are also on the menu, as are Music Hall and Spotlight Karaoke. But fresh to only Allure will be Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, which will combine the existing Giovanni’s Table restaurant and Vintages bar into one.

Voyager of the Seas — the original model for the larger Oasis class — is also part of the line’s Royal Amplified fleet enhancement program. The ship is set to emerge from a refurbishment before the others in October. It will tout two of the three Perfect Storm waterslides (Typhoon and Cyclone); a refreshed Solarium; a redesigned Vitality Spa; and updated areas for babies, kids and teens. The vessel will also feature Battle for Planet Z laser tag, as well as 72 new inside and balcony staterooms, plus a Suite Lounge and Diamond Lounge.

Lastly, Royal Caribbean recently announced that it will remodel a Freedom-class ship (sized between Voyager and Oasis classes). Like Voyager, Freedom of the Seas will reemerge in March 2020 with redesigned children’s facilities and The Perfect Storm duo of waterslides, plus the Clash for the Crystal City laser tag game; a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade; Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen; Izumi Hibachi & Sushi; and a retooled pool deck showcasing Splashaway Bay, El Loco Fresh and The Lime and Coconut.

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Sixth Oasis class mega ship ordered by Royal Caribbean

Image result for Harmony of the Seas

A sixth Oasis class mega cruise ship is due to be delivered to Royal Caribbean International in autumn 2023.

Parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd yesterday revealed that it has entered into an agreement with French shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique to order the latest in the family of giant vessels.

The ships, reputed to cost more than $1 billion each to build, are capable of carrying 6,680 passengers.

The Oasis class ships made their debut a decade ago with Oasis of the Seas followed by Allure of the Seas.

Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas have since entered service for the line.

The line’s fifth Oasis-class ship is due for delivery in spring 2021.

The new order is contingent upon financing, which is expected to be completed in the second or third quarter of this year, according to the company.

RCCL chairman and CEO Richard Fain said: “It is such a pleasure to announce the order of another Oasis-class ship.

“This order is a reflection of the exceptional performance of this vessel class and the extraordinary partnership between Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.”

The French shipyard’s general manager Laurent Castaing added: ”This is the 23rd cruise ship that Royal Caribbean will be building at our shipyard, and we are especially proud of it.

“The order reflects the confidence our customer puts on us, based on the exceptional quality of our long-term co-operation between the two companies and on our capacity to bring innovative solutions to meet our customer’s expectations.”

RCCL brands operate a combined total of 60 ships with an additional 16 on order.

Cruise-Line Size Race Is Over; Now It’s About Amenities

Symphony of the seas sea trial

Photo: Royal Caribbean

By Christopher Palmeri (Bloomberg) — When the $1.35 billion Symphony of the Seas steamed out of Barcelona on its maiden voyage in April, it instantly claimed the title of world’s largest cruise ship.

At 228,000 gross tonnes, Symphony is a tad larger than the previous titleholder, its two-year-old sister, the Harmony of the Seas. But dive deeper into the stats and the victory looks iffy. It’s actually the same length and carries fewer passengers, a maximum of 6,680.

Owner Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which has continually led the industry with its ever-larger vessels, says size won’t matter as much as it used to. Of the 16 ships the company has on order, only one will be larger than Symphony, and just barely. Icon, the new class of ships the company is building in a Finnish shipyard, will be smaller.

“We don’t expect that there will be a leap in the size,” said Harri Kulovaara, the naval architect who has led new ship construction at Royal Caribbean for 23 years. “There might be some tweaks, but not quantum leaps.”

Instead, the Miami-based company is focusing on how to make guests happier on those big boats, which can run close to a quarter mile in length. With eight of the 10 largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean is looking to speed the boarding process and get the fun started sooner. It’s introducing technology to give guests more control over their vacations and is creating onboard entertainment that’s more personal in nature.

“It’s not, ‘Everyone now goes into the theatre to see a great show,’” said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean’s chief executive officer since 1988. “People want something that’s just for them.”

The cruise-line industry is in the midst of a building boom, and that added capacity is coming online at a time when some markets are starting to look weak. Carnival Corp., the industry’s largest player, said on Thursday that its revenue would be lower than expected next year, news that sent the shares of cruise operators tumbling.

Royal Caribbean, the second-largest player in the cruise business after Carnival, has always been an innovator. Its original ship, the Song of Norway, was launched in 1970 as the first purposely built for warm-weather cruising, with a pool on the deck instead of lifeboats. Other innovations include the first buffet, on the Song of America in 1982, and an atrium, in 1988’s Sovereign of the Seas, the largest in its day.

In 1998, Royal Caribbean created a splash with Voyager of the Seas, which featured the first ice-skating rink and a rock-climbing wall. It wasn’t easy. The rink required extensive testing of cooling equipment and materials to create a surface that wouldn’t crack when the ship rocked. And Fain admits he didn’t expect the climbing wall to be a hit.

Image result for Voyager of the Seas splash

Still, he used that ship to reinforce the idea that cruising wasn’t just for older folks who wanted to eat and watch Broadway-style shows. He introduced Voyager in a TV campaign featuring the Iggy Pop song “Lust for Life.”

“It was a very visible manifestation that this was not a sedentary, not a passive vacation,” Fain said in an interview.

The number of guests cruising industrywide has increased threefold since then to an estimated 30 million this year.

Fain’s push for the new and exciting seems to come naturally. He has been known to challenge guests to an onboard surfing competition on one of Royal Caribbean’s FlowRider machines or learn to pour seven martinis at once for an employee party.

“Most people would not categorize me as a millennial,” the 71-year-old executive said. “I feel like one.”

Over the past two years, Fain has sought to make Royal Caribbean’s creative process part of its culture, opening an innovation lab next to its dockside Miami headquarters and hiring talent from competitors such as Walt Disney Co. Some 150 employees work in the lab, meeting with shipyard officials and executives from Royal Caribbean’s six brands, including the higher-end Celebrity and Azamara lines. Some projects are visualized in a space called the Cave, where staffers don 3D goggles for virtual walk-throughs of new designs.

Downstairs, a warehouse floor holds prototypes of projects in the works. On a recent day they included a new cabin design, a pirate-themed game, a tropical signpost for one of the company’s private islands and a cart that looks like something Jules Verne would have designed — if the science-fiction writer had wanted a vehicle that mixed cocktails.

Image result for royal caribbean xray bridge view
Augmented reality will become a navigation aid on the cruise ship

Many of the more personalized experiences Fain is emphasizing are evident on ships the company launched this year. Stairs on the Symphony of the Seas, for example, light up and play music like a scene from the movie “Big.” A musician wheels a piano around the ship and takes requests, even in elevators. Guests on deck 12 can hold their smartphone up to a painting and see an “X-Ray” view of the bridge crew working behind the wall.

“I’m very cynical — I have been on over 150 cruises,” said John Maguire, who runs the travel booking site CruiseDirect.com and who sailed on the Symphony recently. “They do wow me.”

On another new vessel, the Celebrity Edge, diners watch an animated chef prepare their food on a video projected onto their table, then the real dishes are delivered.

At new port facilities Royal Caribbean has built in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, guests can upload passport information and a headshot, then use facial-recognition checkpoints to speed boarding — “from car to bar” — in under 10 minutes, according to Jay Schneider, who heads the company’s digital initiatives.

Over the next few months, Royal Caribbean will make refinements to its app, letting customers adjust the temperature in their rooms before they get there, receive alerts when restaurant reservations are available and order a Mai Tai that will be delivered to them anywhere in the ship.

“What people expect in their vacations has evolved dramatically,” Fain said. “I think one of the reasons the industry is doing so well is we keep evolving what we’re offering.”