Royal Caribbean International (RCI), also known by its former name Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, is a cruise line brand founded in 1968 in Norway and organized as a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. since 1997. Based in Miami, Florida, United States, it is one of the largest cruise lines in the world. In 2018, Royal Caribbean International controlled 19.2% of the worldwide cruise market by passengers and 14.0% by revenue. It also operates many of the world’s largest ships; as of July 2019, the line operates twenty-six ships, including the four largest cruise ships in the world, and has six additional ships on order.


Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was founded in 1968 by three Norwegian shipping companies: Anders Wilhelmsen & Company, I.M. Skaugen & Company, and Gotaas Larsen. The newly created line put its first ship, the Song of Norway, into service two years later. A year later, the line added the Nordic Prince to the fleet and in 1972 it added the Sun Viking. In 1978, Song of Norway became Royal Caribbean’s first passenger ship to be lengthened. This was accomplished via the insertion of an 85-foot (26 m) section to the vessel’s severed center. Following the success of this work, Nordic Prince was also stretched in 1980. During the stretching on both ships, their sterns were modified. However the Sun Viking was not stretched or modified and remained the same size and shape. Royal Caribbean received widespread global recognition when in 1982 it launched the Song of America, over twice the size of Sun Viking and at the time the third largest passenger vessel afloat (after the Norway and Queen Elizabeth 2).

In 1986, Royal Caribbean leased a coastal property in Labadie, Haiti to be used as a private destination for its guests, renamed as Labadee. After a corporate restructuring in 1988, the line launched Sovereign of the Seas, the largest passenger vessel afloat at the time. That same year, Royal Caribbean also merged with Admiral Cruises. Two years later in 1990, Nordic Empress and Viking Serenade also entered service, while Royal Caribbean purchased a second private destination, Little Stirrup Cay, an island in the Bahamas, which they branded as CocoCay.

The second and third Sovereign-class cruise ships Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas were delivered in 1991 and 1992 respectively.

Royal Caribbean went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1993. Over the next two years, the company experienced rapid growth, and it built a new corporate headquarters in Miami, Florida, and replaced the Nordic Prince with a new vessel, the Legend of the Seas.

Following these events, two new Vision-class vessels entered service, the Splendour of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas. In 1996, the company contracted with Finland’s Aker Finnyards for the construction of 130,000-ton vessels and, in 1997, the line’s oldest ship, Song of Norway, was sold and two new Vision-class ships entered service, Rhapsody of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas.

Reorganisation and Formation of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

In 1997, it merged with the Greek cruise line Celebrity Cruises and changed its name from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line to Royal Caribbean International. The next year marked a transition to a more “strictly modern line”, when the last of the company’s older vessels, Song of America and Sun Viking, were retired. In 1998, Vision of the Seas came into service, the last of the Vision-class ships.

In 1999, the Voyager of the Seas, the line’s newest and world’s largest cruise ship entered service with much attention from the news media. Two years later, the line took delivery of a second Voyager-class ship, Explorer of the Seas, and the first of a new Radiance class of more environmentally friendly cruise liners, Radiance of the Seas.

In 2000, Royal Caribbean operated a series of land-and-sea-based “cruise tours” in Alaska, featuring glass-domed train cars to scenic destinations within the state and Canada. Over the next two years, they also introduced cruise tours to destinations throughout Europe.

The Voyager-class Navigator of the Seas and the Radiance-class Brilliance of the Seas were put into service in 2002. Mariner of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas, another pair of Voyager and Radiance-class ships, were introduced the next year, and rock-climbing walls were made a feature of every Royal Caribbean ship that year. A fourth Radiance-class ship, Jewel of the Seas, followed in 2004, and the line’s Nordic Empress was reconditioned and re-christened as Empress of the Seas, which was later sold to Pullmantur Cruises in 2008. In 2005, Enchantment of the Seas underwent a massive renovation including enlarging the ship with a 74-foot (23 m) midsection.

Construction commenced on Freedom of the Seas, the line’s newest ship, at Aker Finnyards in 2005, and the vessel launched the next year as the largest passenger vessel in the world. Freedom of the Seas‘s sister ship, Liberty of the Seas, was launched in 2007, and Independence of the Seas was delivered in 2008.

An even larger class, the Oasis class, featuring Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, was launched in 2009 and 2010, guaranteeing Royal Caribbean the ship size lead for years to come. In December 2012, Royal Caribbean announced that they had ordered a third Oasis-class cruise ship from STX France, which would be larger than the previous ships in the class. In March 2014, Royal Caribbean announced that they had ordered a fourth Oasis-Class ship from STX France.

In February 2013, Royal Caribbean announced the first two ships of their newest Quantum class, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, which were being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard. In May of that year, Royal Caribbean announced that they had signed a contract for a third Quantum-class ship for delivery in mid-2016.

In September 2014, Royal Caribbean announced that the third Quantum-class ship would be named Ovation of the Seas, and in February 2015 they announced that the third Oasis-class ship would be named Harmony of the Seas.

In March 2015, Royal Caribbean announced that they had agreed to sell Splendour of the Seas to TUI Cruises in the second quarter of 2016.

In June 2016, Royal Caribbean announced that they had agreed to sell Legend of the Seas to Thomson Cruises in the second quarter of 2017.

The company lobbies in various jurisdictions in which it operates. In the United States of America, lobbying expenditure records are held by the Senate Office of Public Records. In South Australia, the company is represented by lobbying company Richardson Coutts Pty Ltd.

In 2017, Royal Caribbean agreed to use Port Everglades as a preferred berth for its Oasis class ships. The new agreement extended the past contract with Port Everglades until 2026, contingent upon a $100 million remodeling of Cruise Terminal 25, and approved by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners.

On March 15, 2018, Royal Caribbean announced that they will conduct a huge renovation for their private island, Coco Cay, which is halfway done with parts opening in December 2018 and early to late 2019 with its first opening in May 2019 and its official opening with everything completed by November or December 2019.


Norovirus Outbreaks

In January 2014, an outbreak of norovirus aboard the Explorer of the Seas sickened 689 of 4,237 passengers and crew (16.3%), causing the ship to return to port two days early. The outbreak reportedly marked the greatest number of cases of illness aboard a cruise ship in two decades, barely exceeding a 2006 outbreak aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Liberty that sickened 679 of 3,970 passengers and crew (17.1%). Royal Caribbean offered all passengers aboard that cruise a 50% refund of their cruise fare, an additional 50% (plus 10% for each day sick passengers were quarantined) of their cruise fare as a credit towards another cruise, and reimbursed extra travel expenses for guests returning home early.

Docking in Haiti

In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Royal Caribbean continued docking cruise ships at the Labadee resort, located approximately 60 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, during the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Royal Caribbean vice president John Weis defended the decision, citing relief supplies delivered through the ships and proceeds from the call going towards relief efforts. The decision to continue docking was criticized nonetheless and created concern among passengers.

George Allen Smith Case

On 5 July 2005, passengers on board the Brilliance of the Seas reported what appeared to be blood on a part of the ship below the passenger balconies. After a search, George Allen Smith was discovered to be missing and thought to have fallen overboard. A criminal investigation into possible foul play was conducted, and a brief press release on the company’s investor relations website announced the settlement of the case, later revealed to be more than $1 million.

Environmental Record

In 1998 and 1999, the company was fined US$9 million because one of its ships, the Sovereign of the Seas, had repeatedly dumped oily waste into the ocean and tried to hide this using false records, including fake piping diagrams given to the US Coast Guard. Because the company was and is incorporated in Liberia, Royal Caribbean argued that this case was not in the jurisdiction of US courts. Despite their argument, they were unsuccessful.


Empress Class

The Empress class is a single-ship class consisting solely of Empress of the Seas. The ship was originally a newbuild ordered by Admiral Cruises and slated to enter service as Future Seas, but became part of the Royal Caribbean fleet when Admiral Cruises merged with Royal Caribbean in 1988, while the ship was still under construction. It was eventually completed in 1990 as Nordic Empress, and was renamed Empress of the Seas in 2004. It was transferred to Pullmantur Cruises in 2008 as Empress and served there until 2016, when it was transferred back to Royal Caribbean and refitted to continue service with its earlier owner as Empress of the Seas again.

Sovereign Class

At approximately 73,000 GT, these were described as the first “mega-ships” in the industry (with the exception of the SS Norway, an ocean liner converted into a cruise ship) built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. The first one, Sovereign of the Seas, was launched in 1988. The Sovereign-class ships were the first cruise ships to have an open atrium area. Like larger Royal Caribbean ships, the Sovereign-class ships have pools, open bars and lounges inside, and grand theaters.

Both Sovereign of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas were transferred to the fleet of Pullmantur Cruises in October 2008 and April 2013, respectively. Plans to transfer Majesty of the Seas to Pullmantur in 2016 were announced in November 2014, but Royal Caribbean reversed those plans in July 2015, instead stating that Majesty of the Seas would stay with Royal Caribbean International.

Vision Class

The Vision class consists of three pairs of sister ships. Legend and Splendour, built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Saint-Nazaire, France have a gross tonnage of approximately 70,000. Grandeur and Enchantment were built at Kvaerner Masa-Yards, Helsinki, Finland and had an original tonnage of approximately 73,000 GT. The final pair, Rhapsody and Vision were also built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, and have a tonnage of 78,000 GT. In 2005, a 74-foot (23 m) midsection was added to Enchantment of the Seas, bringing its tonnage to over 80,000 GT. All ships of this class feature over 2 acres (8,100 m2) of glass. Royal Caribbean sold both Splendour of the Seas and Legend of the Seas to Marella Cruises. Splendour of the Seas last sailed for Royal Caribbean on April 4, 2016, and the final Legend of the Seas sailing for Royal Caribbean left port on March 13, 2017.

Voyager Class

The sixth largest passenger ships at sea (Royal Caribbean’s own OasisQuantum and Freedom classes, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic and Cunard’s Queen Mary 2), the Voyager-class ships were the largest class of cruise ships in the world when constructed and were the first ships to have an ice rink at sea and the first to have Royal Caribbean’s “Royal Promenade” mall concept, a main thoroughfare extending most of the length of the ship, flanked by bars, cafes, and shopping venues. They were built at Kvaerner Masa-Yards’ (now Meyer Turku) facility in Turku, Finland. They have a gross tonnage of around 137,000 tonnes. Activity options on all five ships board include a basketball court, at least three pools, a mini-golf course, a rock wall, an ice skating rink and, originally, an inline skating track. Navigator of the Seas replaced the inline skating track with a Flowrider surf simulator in 2014, and similar changes are planned for Voyager and Explorer.

Navigator of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas are second-generation Voyager-class vessels, and feature glass stateroom balconies that extend out from the superstructure of the ship and a larger Windjammer buffet area.

Radiance Class

All Radiance-class ships have a gross tonnage of 90,090 and environmentally friendlier gas turbine engines. The Radiance-class ships have over 3 acres (12,000 m2) of glass, glass exterior viewing elevators, over 700 balcony staterooms, two-level glass windowed dining rooms, alternative restaurants, a retractable glass roof over a pool, an outdoor pool, as well as the first self-leveling billiard tables at sea. The Radiance class ships were constructed at Meyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany. Unlike the preceding Voyager class, these ships are built to the Panamax form factor, allowing them to pass through the Panama Canal.

Freedom Class

The Freedom-class ships are lengthened versions of the second-generation Voyager-class ship, and contain a 400-foot (120 m) Royal Promenade mall running much of the length of the ship, an ice skating rink, basketball court, several pools, a mini-golf course, and a rock wall. New features on the Freedom class include the FlowRider surfing simulator, the H2O Zone kids water play area, a boxing ring, and hot tubs cantilevered over the side of the ship. At 154,407 gross tons, the Freedom-class ships were the largest ships in the world from 2006, until the debut of the Oasis class in 2009.

Oasis Class

The Oasis-class ships are the largest cruise ships ever built, having surpassed Freedom-class ships. They can accommodate up to 5,400 passengers at double occupancy and they have a maximum capacity of 6,296 passengers. Furthermore, the ships have a gross tonnage of at least 225,282 tons, and cost the line around US$1.4 billion each. The first two ships in the class, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, were delivered in 2009 and 2010 by STX Europe Turku Shipyard, Finland. The third and fourth ships in the class, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas were built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire, France. Royal Caribbean International, in conjunction with USA Today, sponsored a contest to name the first two vessels. On February 18th 2019 Royal Caribbean announced the order of a 6th Oasis class vessel from Chantiers de l’Atlanti for delivery in 2023 with a double occupancy of 5,714 and gross tonnage of 231,000.

Quantum Class

The Quantum-class of ships debuted as the second largest class of cruise ships in the world. The Quantum-class ships were the first ships built for Royal Caribbean by Meyer Werft since the Radiance class and share many features with those ships, including indoor pools with retractable roofs, vast expanses of glass, outdoor seating in the “Windjammer” buffet, and self-leveling pool tables. Other distinctive features of the Quantum-class include the “North Star” observation capsule mounted on the end of a 41-meter-long (135 ft) crane arm, “RipCord by iFLY” a skydiving simulator, the three-deck-high Two70° lounge and performance venue at the aft of the ship featuring panoramic windows that convert into projection screens, and the multi-purpose SeaPlex facility which hosts activities such as basketball, roller skating, bumper cars, and a trapeze school. The Quantum class was the first class designed specifically for Dynamic Dining, and feature several separate complementary dining facilities instead of a single main dining room. Each venue will maintain the same menu and staff throughout the cruise. Unlike the earlier VoyagerFreedom, and Oasis class, Quantum-class ships do not feature a Viking Crown Lounge or ice skating rink, and the Royal Promenade mall down the center of the ship is not featured in its traditional form.

Three ships, Quantum of the SeasAnthem of the Seas, and Ovation of the Seas have been built so far. Spectrum of the Seas, the fourth ship and the first of a larger Quantum-Ultra subclass, is planned for 2019, while a fifth ship, Odyssey of the Seas is planned for 2020.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia.