Escape from the everyday has always been a prime goal of vacationing. Travelers on a cruise not only want to travel to other parts of the world, but they also want to travel away from ordinary living — and many will try things they wouldn’t at home.
Nobody knows that better than Royal Caribbean International. The company’s most recent ship, the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, offers travelers a safe intersection between idealized reality and wild fantasy.
Nothing could be more centered in an iconic form of reality than the awnings and sidewalk tables of dining venue Sorrento’s pizzeria or the trees and benches of the vessel’s Central Park. But guests will also find fantastical elements onboard, such as a 5-ton metallic human head sculpture by Czech artist David Cerny; a greatly expanded Wonderland restaurant; robotic bartenders; bracelets that open doors; and the “stowaway piano player,” which could appear on the ship’s elevators, by the buffet and in other unexpected places. In kid-centric waterpark Splashaway Bay, sea creature double as water cannons, and in Aqua Theater, 3-D images, optical illusions and more transform divers, acrobats and high-flying performers.
Guests can feel like the main character of author Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” when they dine in Wonderland restaurant, which has been expanded to two decks and offers “maddeningly delicious” menu items and magical, elegant decor. Mysterious elixirs whisper “Drink me,” dishes arrive shrouded in smoke, and the magic extends to the flavors of the unusual menu.
Out on deck, the familiar fantasy of the carousel is paired with the much more unusual ride of the ship’s new slides, which have been transformed from slippery speed runs to full sensory experiences. The most dramatic slide, Ultimate Abyss, has a drop of 150 feet and features twin slides made of stainless steel tubes about 2.5 feet in diameter. Adventurous guests step from a glass platform onto special mats and launch themselves at 9 mph through the toothy jaws of a fish along a twisting route 10 decks down, accompanied by audio effects.
With all of its special features, which are brand new and brought over from earlier Quantum- and Oasis-class ships, Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship and 25th in the Royal fleet, comes in at a cost of more than $1billion.
Arriving in Barcelona in early June, the vessel will launch initial inaugural sailings of 34 seven-night Western Mediterranean cruises. In November, it will arrive in the U.S., settling in its homeport of Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.
Royal Caribbean Cruises has confirmed plans to build a fifth Oasis-class ship and two more ships for Celebrity Cruises.
The parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises has signed a memorandum of understanding with French shipyard STX France for a fifth Oasis ship, to be delivered in Spring 2021. It comes just days following the launch of the third Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas (pictured). The fourth in class will launch in 2018.
An order has also been placed for two additional Edge-class ships for sister brand Celebrity Cruises, being delivered in autumn 2021 and 2022.
The line already has two Edge vessels on order, the first coming in 2018 and the second in 2020. Each will carry 2,900 passengers.
Royal Caribbean Cruises chairman and chief executive, Richard Fain, said: “The response to the arrival of Harmony of the Seas is staggering, eliciting excitement from eager cruisers from markets on both sides of the Atlantic.
“And Edge-class is one of the most highly anticipated new projects, following the high bar of Modern Luxury design set by its predecessors.”
Royal Caribbean International boss, Michael Bayley, added that the positive response to Harmony was proof that “this class of ship will continue to drive exceptional performance for the brand”.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and chief executive of Celebrity, said: “Although our first Edge-class vessel is still over two years away from delivery, there has been a tremendous amount of interest around the new standard of style Edge-class will introduce.”
Final contracts for the ships are set to be complete this financial quarter.