Cruise Ships 2012, The Year In Review: Royal Caribbean International

Continuing Shawn J. Dake’s
Cruise Ships 2012, The Year In Review

VOYAGER OF THE SEAS docked at Nassau, Bahamas on February 5, 2006.  Photo © Shawn J. Dake.
VOYAGER OF THE SEAS docked at Nassau, Bahamas on February 5, 2006. Photo © Shawn J. Dake.

Royal Caribbean International continued to wade deeper into the largely untapped waters of the potentially huge Chinese cruise market. VOYAGER OF THE SEAS is now the largest ship to be based in China seasonally. The 137,276 gross ton, 3,117 passenger vessel sailed from Shanghai this year.

MARINER OF THE SEAS evening departure from Los Angeles, January 16, 2011.  Photo by Shawn J. Dake
MARINER OF THE SEAS evening departure from Los Angeles, January 16, 2011. Photo © Shawn J. Dake

In June, 2013 sister ship MARINER OF THE SEAS will become the second giant ship to reposition to China. In making the move, Michael Bayley, senior vice president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, said “This is a significant strategic step for the Royal Caribbean International brand. We have strengthened our position in the Chinese market, an outbound travel market of 56 million persons with a massive emerging middle class, which is on pace to be the fourth largest in the world by 2020.”

Royal Caribbean had planned to charter the 1,804 passenger LEGEND OF THE SEAS for a four-month period beginning in March to a new joint venture partner China World Cruises but the deal fell through when the charter terms were not met. It was widely reported that Royal Caribbean would be involved in the first major Chinese shipbuilding project, a 100,000 gross ton, 2,000 passenger ship being built by Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry, which is slated for delivery in 2018. Neither the country, nor the yard has ever built a major cruise ship before. After indicating that they would at least be acting as consultants, by August Royal Caribbean were denying that they had any involvement with either the Chinese government or China World Cruises. Either way, Royal Caribbean is rapidly becoming a major player in the Asian cruise market.

The company is also adjusting their fleet deployments due to a softening in European cruising, bringing more ships back to North America on shorter cruises, for 2013 and beyond.  Royal Caribbean continued their fleet wide refurbishment program with a month-long dry dock of the 1997-built RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS beginning on March 2nd.  The $54 million refit was the largest ever carried out at the Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore.  GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS got a similar treatment with a $48 million renovation at the Navantia ship yard in Cadiz, Spain.  The bow-to-stern revitalization included the addition of five new dining venues, technological upgrades, a pool side LED screen, refitting of all furniture, carpet, upholstery and staterooms as well as new entertainment offerings including aerial entertainment in the six deck Centrum.  The 73,817 gross ton, 1,950-passenger ship was built in 1996.  SERENADE OF THE SEAS became the latest to complete her own $29 million revitalization emerging from the same Spanish dry dock in December.  The fleet-wide upgrade  program supports the promotional campaign slogan of “Now Our Best Ship Is Every Ship.”  Beginning in 2014, Royal Caribbean will add one enormous new ship each year beginning with a pair of 158,000 gross ton vessels to be built in Germany under the code name “Project Sunshine” to be followed by a third “Oasis-class” 225,282 gross ton cruiser that will likely be the largest passenger ship in the world upon delivery in mid-2016.  That long anticipated order came at year’s end on December 27th with the ship to be built at STX France which has plenty of experience with giant liners.  There is an option for a fourth ship which would arrive in mid 2018.  Interporting, the practice of a cruise ship using multiple embarkation ports, has been a fairly common fixture in Europe, but now Royal Caribbean is bringing it to the Caribbean for the first time on a ship previously catering to North American passengers.  The 90,090 gross ton BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS, carrying 2,114 passengers will now embark those guests in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with additional passengers primarily from South America, embarking in Guadeloupe.  Guests remain aboard for the entire 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise, making a round-trip from whichever port they originated from.

While returning from a Caribbean cruise on April 20th, a fire broke out in the engine room of the world’s largest ship ALLURE OF THE SEAS.  It was quickly contained and the ship proceeded to Port Everglades under her own power. RCI has announced that 2012 would be the last full year the 73,937 ton MONARCH OF THE SEAS would sail under the Crown & Anchor house flag.  Once the largest ship in the world, the 1991-built vessel is now the oldest and one of the smallest members of the fleet.  The final voyage will be in March, 2013 when it will be transferred to the affiliated Pullmantur.  In a survey commissioned by Royal Caribbean, 90% of respondents ranked sex as the number one activity to enjoy on a cruise.  This beat out sitting by the pool, nightlife options and shopping.  Doing it on the balcony was cited by 24% of passengers as their favorite location to be intimate, presumably with the stateroom being the most popular choice of venue.

Shawn Dake is a freelance photo-journalist and regular contributor to For more than a decade he has written his annual “Cruise Ships, The Year In Review” which has now grown to a nearly 15,000 word essay recalling all of the events that have taken place within the cruise industry the previous year.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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