Navigating the High Seas: The Ultimate Guide to Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships and Itineraries

If you’re a fan of large-scale resorts, Royal Caribbean might be your ideal cruise line. Their vessels are larger than any other seafaring ships and they’re brimming with an unparalleled selection of restaurants, bars, entertainment zones, and attractions that exceed what you’d find on other cruises or even at some of the largest land-based resorts. Take for example their enormous Oasis-class ships, which feature a plethora of pool areas, water play zones, rock climbing walls, surfing simulators, mini-golf courses, basketball courts, and even zip lines on just the top deck. Inside, you’ll find full-sized spas, sprawling casinos, and theaters offering Broadway-quality shows with famed performers. Some Royal Caribbean ships even go as far as to include ice skating rinks. If this sounds like too much to fit on a ship, remember that their biggest vessels stand 18 decks high, measure almost 1,200 feet long, and can host nearly 7,000 passengers. Essentially, these ships are comparable to the mega-resorts found in places like Las Vegas or Orlando, but with one distinctive twist – they float.

The Fleet of Royal Caribbean

With the highest passenger capacity worldwide, Royal Caribbean stands out with a fleet of 26 ships offering more than 94,000 berths. The fleet includes the five largest cruise ships globally: Wonder of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas. Each can host over 6,600 passengers. Collectively known as the Oasis class, these ships are unmatched in size, amenities, and passenger capacity. Another ship, Utopia of the Seas, is set to join this class in 2024.

However, the Oasis class is not the only heavy hitter in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. It also includes five large Quantum Class ships and three sizable Freedom Class ships, each capable of accommodating between 4,500 and 5,600 passengers. Counting these, Royal Caribbean operates 13 of the world’s 30 largest cruise ships.

The company also owns five slightly smaller Voyager Class vessels, each with a capacity of around 3,800 passengers. In total, the 18 ships from the Oasis, Quantum, Freedom, and Voyager classes form Royal Caribbean’s large-ship category.

The remaining eight vessels, spread across two classes, are comparatively smaller, with a maximum capacity of about 2,500 passengers. These smaller, typically older ships offer routes to destinations less accessible to larger vessels. They appeal to Royal Caribbean fans who prefer a more intimate cruising experience and are willing to forego some onboard amenities. These ships are generally more cost-effective on a per-day basis.

Despite their smaller size, these vessels still provide a substantial array of restaurants, bars, entertainment options, and attractions.

In just over a year, Royal Caribbean intends to launch a series of ships even larger than the massive Oasis-class. Dubbed the Icon class, this series will include at least three ships, each weighing over 250,000 tons.

Itinerary and Destinations

Royal Caribbean delivers a worldwide cruising experience, with a primary focus on the Caribbean and Europe. In the summer months, nearly half of its fleet is usually assigned to voyages in the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda, whereas about six to seven ships are dispatched to Europe. Alaska also welcomes the arrival of three to four ships each summer.

When the winter season rolls around, an even larger number of ships sail to the Caribbean, with some also journeying to Asia and Australia.

Recently, Royal Caribbean has allocated one or more ships specifically for cruises aimed at Chinese tourists, with Spectrum of the Seas, one of the line’s newest vessels, operating from Shanghai and Tianjin, China (the port for Beijing).

In North America, the main launch points for Royal Caribbean ships encompass PortMiami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa in Florida; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Galveston, Texas; Bayonne, New Jersey (one of the ports for New York City); Baltimore; Boston; Seattle; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Seward, Alaska. In 2021, departures from Barbados were added to the itinerary.

In Europe, most Royal Caribbean ships set sail from Southampton, England; Amsterdam; Copenhagen; Stockholm; Barcelona; Civitavecchia, Italy (the port for Rome), and as of 2021, Ravenna, Italy, which took over from Venice as a home port.

Who travels with Royal Caribbean?

Royal Caribbean is known for its large, energetic mega-ships that offer a resort-like experience, making it an ideal choice for those who enjoy stays at places like Disney World or grand Las Vegas resorts. The ships are replete with dining and entertainment options, some even offering over 20 unique dining locations. But the experience isn’t only about bustling activities; they also provide tranquil spots for relaxation. For instance, you can immerse yourself in a book in the tree-filled Central Park area on Wonder of the Seas, while others enjoy the ship’s varied pool areas not far above.

The cruise line’s designers have skillfully crafted these ships to accommodate thousands of people without ever feeling overcrowded. They are outfitted with numerous attractions, including vast waterslides and bumper car pavilions, making them particularly appealing to families, including multigenerational groups.

However, Royal Caribbean doesn’t just cater to families; their ships have something for everyone. They attract a wide demographic ranging from couples of all ages to solo travelers, with solo cabins being added to more ships recently.

Customers from various income backgrounds find Royal Caribbean attractive due to the availability of smaller, affordable cabins, casual dining options, and a range of bars and onboard attractions, making the ships universally appealing and accessible to those on a budget.

Furthermore, the ships feature luxury suites, restaurants, and services that cater to luxury-seeking travelers. Royal Caribbean executives claim that if all the suites on their ships were to form a separate business, it would be the largest luxury cruise line in the world. Despite the diverse clientele, one common thread among all Royal Caribbean cruisers is their shared love for a vibrant, bustling resort experience.

Accommodations and Living Quarters

Renowned for its wide array of onboard accommodations, Royal Caribbean offers a unique living experience at sea. The ships provide a multitude of cabin options, with some offering up to 34 different categories. These range from budget-friendly, windowless interior cabins that are a compact 149 square feet, making them an ideal choice for the budget-conscious traveler, to expansive multi-room suites that are over ten times larger.

These lavish accommodations are designed for affluent travelers who appreciate the mega-ship experience over a traditional luxury ship. Among these are the impressive Royal Loft Suites on Oasis-class ships, which cover two decks and provide sweeping views across the upper part of the ship.

Additionally, depending on the ship, those staying in premium suites can expect a host of perks. These include personal butler services provided by ‘Royal Genies’, exclusive access to a private restaurant, a suite lounge and sun deck, reserved seating in entertainment venues, and prioritized boarding and disembarkation. This range of options ensures that every guest can find an accommodation that suits their needs and preferences, enhancing their cruise experience.

Culinary Experiences and Dining Options

Royal Caribbean’s culinary experiences and dining options offer a vast array of choices to suit every palate. While some of their smaller ships have a more modest selection, the majority of vessels in their fleet offer an extensive lineup of dining venues that can feel almost overwhelming.

Their Oasis-class ships stand out with over 20 dining options, from casual Johnny Rockets diners to high-end restaurants offering six-course tasting menus. Each ship features a main dining room and a casual buffet eatery, known as the Windjammer Café or Marketplace, where meals are part of the fare. The dining room offers flexibility with My Time Dining or Traditional Dining for those who prefer a fixed table and dinner time.

Additional complimentary dining venues on certain ships include Sorrento’s pizza parlors, Solarium Bistro with its Mediterranean flair, and Cafe Promenade coffee bar.

For a special treat, each ship boasts at least one specialty restaurant, such as Chops Grille Steakhouse, Italian eateries Giovanni’s Table or Jamie’s Italian, and the seafood-focused Hooked Seafood. Other options might include Izumi’s sushi, Vintages wine bar, Wonderland’s creative cuisine, and Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. Some ships even feature a full-service Starbucks.

Private dining venues are available on some ships exclusively for suite guests and top-tier Crown & Anchor Society members. While these specialty venues typically charge a flat fee, some operate on an a la carte basis.

For guests who plan to indulge in several specialty restaurants during their cruise, discounted meal packages are available.

Recreational Activities and Entertainment

Royal Caribbean stands unrivaled in the cruise industry with its vast array of onboard entertainment and activities. Their largest ships house an impressive variety of performance venues, from theaters to comedy clubs, a plethora of deck-top amusements, expansive casinos, full-service spas, and even ice-skating rinks. Additionally, the number of bars, lounges, and nightspots available is almost beyond imagination.

Performance Venues and Productions

The theatrical entertainment provided by Royal Caribbean is a standout feature that consistently amazes guests with the quality and grandeur of performances, all on a cruise ship. The line’s largest vessels are equipped with state-of-the-art theaters, comparable to those on Broadway, hosting renowned productions such as “Hairspray” on Symphony of the Seas and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” on Oasis of the Seas. Despite some shows being slightly shortened (though many approach two hours in length), and the casts not being Broadway’s top-tier performers, the productions maintain high quality. Remarkably, these shows come at no additional cost, unlike the expensive Broadway shows in New York City.

Adding to the allure are the ice-skating shows performed in onboard rinks found on 13 of Royal Caribbean’s ships. These interior rinks, surrounded by stadium seating for up to 775 spectators, showcase breathtaking performances by Olympic-level skaters – a testament to Royal Caribbean’s claim of employing more world-class professional skaters than any other global company.

Furthermore, guests on Oasis-class ships can enjoy mesmerizing aerial and water shows in the 735-seat outdoor “aqua theaters”. Quantum-class ships present Two70, an extraordinary theater space equipped with advanced technology, where multi-sensory shows combining singing, dancing, and acrobatics take place.

Comedy clubs are a regular feature on some ships, and live music can be enjoyed in several venues every night. Notably, the two-story Music Halls on Quantum-class ships have won the hearts of many guests.

Additional Indoor Features and Pursuits

Beyond the diverse entertainment offerings, Royal Caribbean ships are filled with a myriad of spaces where guests can unwind and have fun at any time of the day or night. This includes an impressive selection of bars, lounges, and nightlife venues.

Every ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet features a casino, with the larger vessels boasting expensive gaming areas. For instance, the Casino Royale on Oasis of the Seas is home to 450 slot & video poker machines, 27 table games such as blackjack, roulette, and craps, a poker room, and even its bar. The casinos on the remaining four Oasis-class ships offer similar extensive facilities.

The Voyager, Freedom, and Oasis-class ships, numbering 13 in total, also have Royal Promenades. These indoor areas, akin to malls, host some of the most distinctive bars at sea, along with dining options and retail stores.

For example, the Royal Promenade on Oasis of the Seas features the Bionic Bar, where a robot serves drinks, and the innovative Rising Tide Bar, which elevates between the Royal Promenade and the outdoor Central Park area three decks above while guests enjoy their beverages. It also houses a British pub, a karaoke lounge, a Latin-themed venue, and the line’s signature Schooner Bar, located one deck above in a balcony area.

The Quantum-class ships, totaling five, showcase a smaller version of the Royal Promenade known as the Royal Esplanade, which transitions into another indoor space named The Via.

These Quantum-class ships also house an indoor activity hub called The SeaPlex. This space includes a bumper car pavilion that transforms into a roller rink when not in use, and also serves as a “circus school” offering flying trapeze lessons. Other activities at the SeaPlex include air hockey and table tennis.

For guests seeking a more serene and luxurious experience, each Royal Caribbean ship is equipped with a spa. Some of these spas are notably spacious, featuring more than two dozen treatment rooms and thermal areas complete with hot stone chairs, rainforest shower zones, saunas, and steam rooms.

Attractions on the Top Deck

The thrill of a Royal Caribbean cruise truly comes to life on the upper decks, where guests are treated to a plethora of unique experiences not found on any other seafaring vessel.

Swimming pools are a given – with the larger ships boasting an impressive number of them. The Oasis-class ships, for example, come with three distinct pool areas and a water play zone specifically designed for children’s enjoyment. Furthermore, more and more Royal Caribbean ships now feature water parks replete with sizable waterslides.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. These ships also host a range of entertainment-focused attractions including massive rock climbing walls, surfing simulators, zip lines, mini-golf courses, and basketball courts, to name just a few. Some of the newer ships even offer skydiving simulators – large acrylic tubes that mimic the adrenaline rush of skydiving.

Oasis-class ships go a step further, featuring an outdoor Boardwalk area furnished with a beautifully hand-carved carousel.

Among the most remarkable features on the deck-top of Royal Caribbean ships are the North Star rides found on Quantum-class vessels. These extraordinary attractions, arguably the most unique ever conceived for a cruise ship, involve giant mechanical arms topped with glass-enclosed capsules that take passengers soaring above the ships for a breathtaking view.

While the North Star ride is generally free, it can also be booked for special events like weddings at an additional fee.

Child-oriented Programs

Royal Caribbean prides itself on having one of the most all-encompassing child-friendly programs on the high seas, catering to kids from as young as 6 months up to 17 years old.

The cornerstone of this program is Adventure Ocean, a hub for free daily supervised activities for children from 3 to 12 years old. Kids are categorized into three age groups: Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years), and Voyagers (9-12 years). Each group enjoys a variety of age-appropriate activities such as scavenger hunts and arts and crafts. Many ships feature dedicated areas tailored for these separate groups.

While the complimentary activities wrap up at 10 p.m., parents have the opportunity to keep their kids at Adventure Ocean until 2 a.m. for an additional fee, turning it into a monitored Late Night Party Zone.

Additionally, Royal Caribbean runs a Royal Babies nursery program for children aged 6 to 18 months, which includes engaging classes for both children and their parents, helmed by early childhood experts. The Royal Tots program, aimed at 18-month to 3-year-olds, provides 45-minute interactive play sessions with appropriate activities and toys. Both programs are managed by trained youth staff. Many ships also offer short-term babysitting services at the nursery for an extra charge.

For the older kids, Royal Caribbean offers specialized teen and tween programs on ships for those aged 12 to 17. Some ships, like the Quantum-class vessels, even have a designated area known as The Living Room, equipped with games and a widescreen TV for socializing, in addition to a teens-only disco called Fuel.

What is the cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise?

To appeal to a wide variety of people, Royal Caribbean provides a broad selection of cabin types at different price levels. For a typical voyage, travelers might find an entry-level cabin priced around $100 per person per night, while a luxury suite could cost five to ten times as much.

For example, as of the time this guide was created, a two-bedroom Grand Suite on the Harmony of the Seas for a seven-night Caribbean cruise in January 2024 was being offered at $3,010 per person, assuming two people sharing. This is more than six times the price of the most economical inside cabin (which was priced from $481 per person, also based on two sharing). Balcony cabins for the same cruise were starting at around $683 per person, again with double occupancy.

It’s vital to understand the “based on double occupancy” condition. Similar to most cruise lines, Royal Caribbean’s pricing is per person, not per room, and the majority of cabins are priced on the assumption of two occupants. However, for solo travelers, the cruise line does make available a small selection of cabins on some ships that are priced for single occupancy.

Booking Procedure

The process of booking a cruise involves a series of decisions, starting from your preferred cabin type to the ship and itinerary you choose. If you are sure about all these aspects, you can directly book your cruise through RoyalCaribbean.com. However, given the numerous choices to be made during this process, we recommend seeking the services of an experienced travel agent specializing in cruises. Such an agent will understand your unique interests, travel style, and preferences, guiding you to choose the perfect cruise line, ship, itinerary, and cabin. They can also provide invaluable assistance if any issues occur before, during, or after your journey.

If Royal Caribbean is your cruise line of choice, consider finding a travel agent who specializes in this brand. Such an expert would be familiar with all 34 cabin categories and ideally, have firsthand experience inspecting the ships.

Whether you choose to use a travel agent or not, remember to make the most of your credit card spending when paying for the cruise. Opt for a credit card that offers bonus points for travel purchases. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining (excluding the annual $300 travel credit), while the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel (and 3 points per dollar on dining).

In Conclusion

In conclusion, Royal Caribbean has not attained its position as the world’s largest cruise line by passenger capacity by chance. Its consistent ability to enthrall customers with magnificent, resort-like ships brimming with a wide variety of entertainment and activities is a testament to its success.

For those who enjoy the grandeur of large resorts, you’ll certainly find pleasure in Royal Caribbean’s biggest vessels, particularly the immense Oasis-class ships. On the contrary, if your preference leans towards the charm of small boutique hotels or if you simply enjoy less crowded spaces, this cruise line may not align with your tastes.

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