Due to Coronavirus concerns, RCCL-Royal Caribbean Group (shipowner) suspended its entire fleet’s passenger shipping operations – first in the USA only (all US-homeported liners of the brands RCI-Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Azamara Cruises) then globally (worldwide) by cancelling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 13 through December 31, 2020. Fleetwide operations are planned to resume on January 1, 2021, excluding the ship Quantum OTS (homeported in Singapore in December 2020).
- RCI Alaskan operations (ships Ovation OTS, Radiance OTS, Serenade OTS) were scheduled to start on July 2, but subsequently, all Hawaii-Alaska-Canada-New England voyages were cancelled due to Canada’s cruise ship ban extended through October 31. RCI’s Canada-New England program was based on roundtrips from NYC (Empress OTS, Adventure OTS), Baltimore (Grandeur OTS), Boston (Brilliance OTS).
- In mid-June, RCI cancelled more itineraries in Asia (departures from China and Japan), which affected the ships Quantum OTS, Spectrum OTS and Voyager OTS. Initially, Japan and China cruises were planned to start in early-July. In late-August were cancelled all departures through Nov 1 (excluding). The latest pause also affected the company’s Europe (Baltic-Mediterranean), Asia (China-Japan) and Australia-New Zealand programs, including all repositioning cruises.
- The inaugural season for the newbuild Odyssey OTS was rescheduled for 2021 (maiden voyage April 30). All planned for 2020 (Nov 5) through 2021 (April) departures were cancelled.
- In mid-September, RCI cancelled all Australia and New Zealand cruises scheduled through Dec 31, 2020. The AU-NZ cancellations affected 4 ships (Ovation, Serenade, Radiance, Voyager) homeported in Sydney NSW and Brisbane QLD.
- In early-November were cancelled all December departures (excepting Quantum OTS from Singapore).
All affected bookings received full refunds (100%), including on prepurchased through RCI cruise packages and services. With rebooking are offered 125% refunds in FCC (future cruise credit) to be used on itineraries that depart up to April 30, 2022. The FCC must be redeemed by December 31, 2021. Changing the FCC to a monetary refund (100%) must be done by December 31, 2020. Initially, all prepaid RCI cruise packages and services had the option to be converted into 125% OBC (onboard credit), but this option expired on May 4, 2020.
RCI’s Cancellation Policy (Cruise with Confidence) was extended to allow penalty-free cancellations up to 48 hours prior departure (all itineraries departing up until September 1, 2020) and receive an FCC. The extended cancellation policy now includes itineraries leaving through April 2022. All existing and new bookings (made by August 1, 2020), customers can cancel up to 48 hours prior departure and receive a 100% FCC for cruises departing on-or-before April 30, 2022. The policy was also enhanced with two new rebooking options – “Best Price Guarantee” (you can change the price and promo offers on the booking up to 48 hours prior departure) and “Lift and Shift” (you can rebook the same itinerary, departing on a future date, up to 48 hours prior departure, with protected original price and promo offer and keeping the same cabin category).
(RCI) Royal Caribbean International is a subsidiary company and largest brand of RCG (Royal Caribbean Group, fka RCCL-Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd) – Norwegian-American corporation, ranked world’s second-largest passenger shipping company (after Carnival Corporation). However, RCCL owns the world’s biggest passenger ships. As of 2018, RCCL controls around 32% of the global ship cruising market (revenue) and 23% (passengers), with full ownership of 4 brands (RCI, Celebrity, Silversea, Azamara) plus 49% stake in Pullmantur (51% owned by Springwater Capital), 50% stake in TUI Cruises (50% owned by TUI AG) and 19% stake in Wamos Air (fka Air Pullmantur).
Royal Caribbean Group (renamed in 2020 from RCCL / “Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd) is based in Miami (Florida USA) and incorporated in Liberia. The company was formed in 1997 when RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, established 1968) purchased Celebrity Cruises (established 1988). A decision was made to keep the two brands separate. As result, RCCL was re-branded RCI-Royal Caribbean International (website) and RCCL was founded as the parent company of RCI and Celebrity. RCCL headquarters address is “Royal Caribbean International, 1050 Royal Caribbean Way, Miami, FL, 33132-2096 USA”.
The name RCCL (initially “Royal Caribbean Cruise Line AS) was officially accepted in 1969 (on January 31st). Other suggested names for the company included “Pleasure Cruise Line” (PCL), “Holiday Cruise Line” (HCL), “Crown Cruise Line” (CCL), “Royal Caribbean Line” (RCL). RCCL’s “crowned anchor” logo was designed by Morits Skaugen and accepted in March (1969).
Around 55% of RCI’s total revenue comes from the USA. Company’s other major markets are Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. As of 2020, RCI ships visit a total of 322 call ports worldwide, offering 4500+ shore excursions through local tour companies.
- Since March 2018, RCCL offers one login for RCI and Celebrity websites and mobile apps. The new policy allows one account to be used for loyalty program benefits, bookings, and reservations with both brands. The account security was also simplified and strengthened to ensure customers’ personal data.
- Since May 2018, RCCL also uses fleetwide only cage-free eggs and gestation stall-free pork. By the year 2024, for all its USA-based ships, RCCL will purchase poultry only from GAP-certified producers and dealers. The corporation will require chickens to be slaughtered and processed in a manner that doesn’t involve live dumping and shackling, thus eliminating conscious throat-slitting and scalding.
- Since June 2018, RCI ship bars serve cocktails with optional plastic straws (not by default) – a new policy aiming to reduce sea pollution. “Why no straws?” signs at onboard bars fleetwide now indicate that drink orders will not automatically receive a straw, but only upon request.
- (deposit program changes) Since November 2018, RCI customers booking non-refundable deposit cruise fares don’t receive onboard credit (USD 100) per stateroom. Instead, they are promised the lowest pricing on the fare.
- RCCL’s has a call-centre in Springfield OR, operated since 2006. The customized office resembles a cruise ship. In 2014, the company employed there over 700 people. In Aug 2018 was announced that RCCL plans to outsource most of its Springfield jobs (~90%, excepting only sales employees) to company’s call-centres in Jamaica and Guatemala. This means that US sales agents will do the bookings, but when customers call back with issues they will be re-routed overseas.
- Since 2017, Royal Caribbean has joint ownership of Grand Bahama Shipyard (Freeport), where major drydock refurbishments and ship maintenance works take place.
- In April 2019, RCCL partnered with IDEMIA (fka Morpho) – Paris-based French company specializing in security and identity solutions. In 2017, Morpho merged with Oberthur Technologies. IDEMIA’s services will help speeding up RCCL passenger disembarkation at select US homeports via company’s MFACE (high-speed 3D facial recognition) technology. The list of homeports, for now, includes NYC (Cape Liberty NJ) and PortMiami, with more Florida homeports to me added by the end of 2019. MFACE compares disembarking passenger’s facial identity with those of embarking passengers, also matching against US Customs and Border Protection provided TVS (Traveler Verification Service). Passenger’s privacy is guaranteed as no photos are stored neither by RCCL, IDEMIA or US Customs after cruise’s completion.
- On June 4, 2019, the USA banned travel to Cuba (effective immediately). On June 5, RCCL officially cancelled all pre-scheduled for 2019 Cuban cruises. On both affected RCI liners (Majesty OTS and Empress OTS) all Cuban ports were substituted with alternative Caribbean ports. All affected customers were provided with the option to either remain on the revised cruise and receive 50% refund (in OBC) or cancel the booking with a full refund.
- In late-July-2019, on Symphony OTS was introduced “Fast Track” – expedited boarding program offered in all call ports of the current itinerary. Fast Track is available for passengers in Star-Sky Class suites, Pinnacle members, The Key (pre-purchased daily package that includes lunch at Chops Grille, Jamie’s or Giovanni’s specialty restaurants), disabled passengers, and families with strollers.
- In October 2019, RCI partnered with Funky Buddha Brewery (Oakland Park FL) for an exclusive beer label available only on CocoCay Island. The private beer label (“Chilla Thrilla”) was trademarked on July 8, 2019. The craft beer (5% ABV) is a tropical ale (with mango and guava) packaged in 12-oz cans and is offered in different labels themed after CocoCay’s areas.
- In October 2019 were opened for booking RCI’s new “Spa Cabins” offered on all liners in the ship classes Radiance-Voyager-Freedom-Quantum-Quantum Ultra-Oasis. The new Spa staterooms (available since 2021) offer as bonus amenities priority Spa reservations, 50% discounted Spa treatments (1 per cabin), daily room service (coffee/tea), BOSE Bluetooth speaker, tranquil artworks (on the walls), plush bedding, feather pillows, upgraded bathroom amenities (Jacuzzi showerhead, premium brand toiletries, luxury slippers and bathrobes), cushioned balcony furniture, Welcome Aboard gift (fresh fruits).
- In November 2019, RCI signed a 5-year partnership deal (until 2024) with Singapore Tourism Board (under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry) and Changi Airport Group (Singapore airport operations and management). This 3-party deal is for promoting fly-cruises to Singapore mainly (from China, India, Southeast Asia, USA) on Quantum OTS with expected ~623,000 international tourists spending ~USD 430+ million on flight+cruise packages. This is ~60% growth in comparison to the previous tripartite partnership (2015-2018) when in Singapore was homeported Mariner OTS.
- In December 2019, RCCL sighed with Port Galveston an agreement for building Cruise Terminal 3. The new (USD 100 million) facility is scheduled for inauguration in November 2021.
- In February 2020, RCCL purchased land (“multiple real estate parcels”) on Paradise Island’s (Bahamas) western coast, at the cost of ~USD 54 million (~EUR 50 million). In mid-March 2020 was announced RCI’s second private resort property (after Fort James, St Johns Antigua) – Royal Beach Club Bahamas (at Paradise Island, close to Nassau).
- On March 23, RCCL loaned USD 2,2 billion (~EUR 2,03 B) with maturity in March 2021 and an optional extension for 364 more days (till March 2022). With the new financing, RCCL now has USD 3,6+ billion of liquidity (cash deposits plus undrawn credit facilities). The money was secured term-loaned from 3 US banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America Corporation, Goldman Sachs Group) plus the French banking group BNP Paribas.
- On April 8, RCCL filed a trademark application for “Seaface” – its own sanitary mask brand (“medical apparatus”) intended for cruise ship services.
- On July 30, RCCL was officially renamed to “Royal Caribbean Group”. The logo was also changed.
- In late-July, Royal Caribbean introduced “Muster 2.0” (patented, Internet-based safety drill conducted via the eMuster mobile app). The patent was filed on September 12, 2019 (issued March 3, 2020).
All RCCL-owned vessels are serviced by Wartsila (Helsinki Finland-based corporation, marine equipment manufacturer and maritime services provider). In 2018, RCCL and Wartsila extended their service agreement to 2028. Under the agreement, Wartsila optimizes machinery efficiency through improved Turbocharger maintenance, also provides OEM (original equipment manufacturer) spare parts, workshop services, technical assistance for the entire RCCL fleet. The deal covers a total of 196 marine diesel engines on 46 vessels. Most RCCL liners are equipped with Wartsila-developed monitoring technology sending real-time engine data to a land-based centre for analysis.
In June-July 2018, RCCL acquired 2/3 of the top-luxury cruise brand Silversea. On June 14, 2018, RCCL and Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio (Silversea’s majority stock owner) announced an agreement for RCCL to acquire 66,7% equity stake in Silversea, at purchase price around USD 1 billion. At the time, Silversea was valued ~USD 2 billion. RCCL financed the deal (through debt) in October. In addition to the cash money, Lefebvre family received ~472,000 RCCL shares. With the addition of Silversea (4 expedition ships) and the newbuild Celebrity Flora (Galapagos), RCCL’s expedition fleet in 2019 grew to approx 2,5% of corporation’s combined fleet (compared to 0,5% in 2018). By combined expedition cruise berths, RCCL is ranked world’s 4th largest operator – following Ponant, Hurtigruten and Lindblad. In July 2020, RCCL-Royal Caribbean Group purchased Silversea’s remaining shares from Heritage Cruise Holding Ltd. The purchase was in the form of 5,2 million RCL shares (~2,5% of RCCL’s total common stock).
The following table shows statistical data about Royal Caribbean International’s market share (as fleet and passenger capacity / ship-berth numbers) in comparison to other major cruise companies.
|Parent Company||Subsidiaries||Fleets (vessels per brand)||Passenger Capacity (berths per brand)|
|Carnival Corp||Holland America||15||25900|
|Carnival Corp||P&O UK||8||18600|
|Carnival Corp||P&O Australia||5||8200|
|Carnival Corp||TOTAL||103 ships||233,200 berths|
|RCCL (Royal Caribbean Group)||RCI (Royal Caribbean International)||26||84,700|
|RCCL||TOTAL||64 ships||141400 berths|
|NCLH (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd)||NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines)||16||46600|
|NCLH||TOTAL||26 ships||54400 berths|
|(other large brands)||
3- Star Cruises (GHK)
4- Dream Cruises (GHK)
6- Viking Ocean
On October 1, 2018, RCI announced that company’s 50th birthday cruise (themed “50 Years Bold Birthday Cruise”) will be held on Symphony OTS leaving roundtrip from Miami (November 2-9, 2019). The 7-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary (to St Maarten, San Juan Puerto Rico, CocoCay) will feature unique programming, special events, and surprise guest performers.
Royal Caribbean International (RCI)
Royal Caribbean is in the top 3 best family cruise lines and owns some of the most popular ships for young adults, kids, and teens. As a mass-market company, RCI is recommended mostly for young and middle-aged, active and sports-oriented travellers.
A signature feature of RCI ships is the “Viking Crown Lounge”, introduced in 1970 with RCI’s first ship MS Song of Norway (scrapped in 2013 as “Formosa Queen”). As RCI ships grew in size, the lounge also grew. On the Vision-Class (ships 1995) its location was changed – from forward to midship-aft (near the smokestacks) allowing more space to be allocated for the new amenities and entertainment.
In 2014 and 2015, RCI introduced the Dynamic Dining concept that replaced the Main Dining Room concept on Quantum-class ships.
- RCI vessels with Dynamic Dining don’t have the main dining room. Instead, they feature complimentary table service restaurants, each with its own theme and menu: “The Grande”, “American Icon Grill”, “Chic” and “Silk”.
- Suite passengers have access to “Coastal Kitchen” (complimentary restaurant). Similar to the Freestyle concept on NCL Norwegian, passengers make reservations for their restaurant choice for each night in advance.
- Each venue maintains the same staff and menu throughout the cruise. Anthem of the Seas has a “Dynamic Dining Classic” option, allowing guests to rotate between dining venues but keep the same waiter, assistant waiter, and tablemates.
The company had planned to extend its dynamic dining concept to Oasis-class ships. During 2014-2015 drydock refurbishments, decor and signage was installed on the 3 levels of the Main Dining Rooms of Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas to prepare them to function as separate “The Grande”, “Silk” and “American Icon Grill” restaurants, although the 3 levels continued operating as a single dining room. The suite-only restaurant Coastal Kitchen was also installed. However, on July 15, 2015, RCI announced that the dynamic dining concept would not be rolled out fleetwide.
Besides the Main Dining Rooms, RCI also features the “Chops Grille” steakhouse, “Windjammer Cafe” buffet restaurant, Johnny Rockets, Asian “Izumi”, Poolside Bars and 24-hour Room Service. “Cupcake Cupboard” is a ship bakery available on the newest and refurbished ships. It offers 30 delicious cupcakes. Select Royal Caribbean ships offer the Starbucks coffee at sea.
Company’s new alcohol policy allows passengers to bring their own wine on board and consume it in cabins (for free) or for a corkage fee (additional charge) in public areas.
New ship names
On October 1, 2018, RCCL-Royal Caribbean trademarked the ship name “Metropolis of the Seas”. On September 4, 2018, RCCL trademarked 3 ship names that could be used for newbuilds in the future. The USPTO-registered vessel names were “Eon of the Seas”, “Gallant of the Seas”, “Phenom of the Seas”.
In January 2017 were trademarked the names “Valhalla of the Seas”, “Sunrise of the Seas”, “Icon of the Seas”, Symphony of the Seas. On September 15, 2014, RCCL trademarked the shipnames Spectrum of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Emblem of the Seas, Joy of the Seas, Apex of the Seas. In 2015, RCCL abandoned the trademarks Emblem of the Seas, Passion of the Seas, Pulse of the Seas (on September 7) and the trademarks Apex of the Seas, Joy of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas (on September 14). Other trademarked by RCI ship names include Gallant of the Seas, Phenom of the Seas, Valhalla of the Seas, Sunrise of the Seas.
On February 18, 2019, RCI signed a shipbuilding agreement with Chantiers de l’Atlantique Shipyard (St Nazaire, France) for a 6th Oasis-class liner (planned delivery 2023-Fall). This will be shipyard’s 23rd vessel built for RCCL. The new ship has GT 231,000 tons, LOA 362 m (1188 ft) and 2857 cabins (capacity 5714 passengers at double occupancy, max pax 6700). On April 24, 2019, at Chantiers de l’Atlantique started construction works on the 5th Oasis-class liner (Wonder OTS) with planned delivery in 2021.
On October 23, 2020, RCI filed 4 trademarks for shipboard venues – Vue Bar, Cask & Clipper (pub restaurant?), Wonder Playscape (kids playground?), Cantina Fresca (Mexican food bar?).
RCI cruise ships classes
RCI’s fleet has vessels in the following classes:
- Note: All vessels have Outdoor Movie Theater (poolside large LED screen for movies), Solarium (adults-only pool deck), Aqua Park, Rock Climbing Wall, FlowRider (surf simulator), 3D Cinema, Virtual Balcony Staterooms.
- “Oasis Class” ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony, Symphony) feature Neighborhoods, AquaTheater, 3D Movies, Waterslides (Harmony, Symphony), Zip Line, 2 FlowRiders, 2 Climbing Walls, Carousel, Ice-Skating Rink, Loft Suites (2-deck cabins).
- “Icon Class” is a new design vessel with GT around 200K tons and passenger capacity 5000 (more details to be announced on a later date).
- “Quantum Class” (Quantum, Anthem, Ovation) and “Quantum Ultra Class” ships (Spectrum, Odyssey) feature North Star (top-deck, mobile observation capsule), RipCord (sky-diving simulator), Seaplex (large indoor sports complex), Two70 Lounge (3-deck high), Loft Suites, Music Hall (2-deck venue).
- “Freedom Class” (ships Freedom, Liberty, Independence) feature Ice-Skating Rink, Royal Promenade (indoor street).
- “Radiance Class” (ships Radiance, Brilliance, Serenade, Jewel) feature Glass Elevators, Gyroscopic Self-Leveling Pool Tables, Mini-Golf Course.
- “Vision Class” ships (Grandeur, Rhapsody, Enchantment, Vision) is the fleet’s oldest, excepting only the “Sovereign Class” ships Majesty and Empress.
The Voyager-class, Freedom-class, and Oasis-class vessels have Royal Promenade. It is a centerline promenade in a multi-deck Atrium with pedestrian (shopping mall-like) area lined with restaurants and shops. At night, the Royal Promenade turns into entertainment venue hosting live parades and dance parties. Royal Promenade’s upper levels have “Promenade Staterooms” (each with a large window overlooking the promenade below). Next aerial photo shows a Voyager-class cruise ship (Adventure, Explorer, Mariner, Navigator, Voyager).
Next aerial photo shows an Oasis-class cruise ship (Allure, Oasis, Harmony, Symphony) as looked from above. In September 2018, RCCL trademarked the Oasis-Class ships smokestack area (located top-deck midship). The design features a crown-shaped bottom section with 2 slanted funnels above. In October 2018 was trademarked ship’s oblong-shaped stern. The design features AquaTheater Suites (with balconies), Ultimate Abyss (2 cascading waterslides) and RCCL’s logo. On December 18, 2018, RCCL trademarked the name “Fly Rider” – described as amusement park ride similar to a zip-line roller coaster ride.
Next is shown a Quantum-class ship as looked from above.
Instead of Royal Promenade, Quantum-class ships have “Royal Esplanade” – 2-deck high shopping complex without any overlooking “Promenade cabins”.
Royal Caribbean ships offer a wide list of onboard facilities, the main of which include Grand-style productions Theatre, Live Comedy Club, Disco/Nightclub, Casino Royale, Library. Feature sports facilities include Studio B Ice-Skating Rink, Rock Climbing Wall, Flow Rider surfing simulator, Multiple Sports Court, Walking/Jogging track, Golf Simulator, ZIP-line, H2O Zone Waterpark with Waterslide, Adventure Beach, and on Quantum ships only Bumper Cars, Skydiving Simulator, North Star rotational capsule.
In 2016, RCI entered the “Guinness Book of World Records” in the category “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship”. The record was because of the “North Star” glass-walled observation capsule rising over 300 ft (91 m) above sea level and rotating upwards and over the ship’s sides providing 360-degree views.
Adults on RCCL cruises can enjoy adults-only relaxation areas and spas. Teens can do rock-climbing or try the 12-m (40-ft) surfing “simulation” and zip-lining across ship’s top deck on world’s largest passenger liners ever. Families cruising with infants and toddlers benefit from the “Royal Babies” and “Royal Tots” nursery programs. Kids club activities are also available by the “Adventure Ocean” program.
CocoCay Island refurbishments 2018-2019 expansion
Since 2015, RCCL invests huge money in the corporation’s private Bahamian island CocoCay. In March 2018, Royal Caribbean announced a USD 200-million project (named “Perfect Day Island Collection”) for developing private land destinations in the regions of Caribbean, Asia, and Australia. As part of this project, on CocoCay will be built unique water attractions.
- Thrill Waterpark attraction to be constructed, with 2 water towers (Daredevil’s Tower, Family Tower) with a total of 13 slides. The Daredevil’s Tower complex consists of North America’s tallest waterslide (named Daredevil’s Peak, height 135 ft / 41 m), Dueling Demons (2 drop slides), Manta Raycers (2 high-speed slides), Screeching Serpent (fully vertical slide), Green Mamba (coiling slide), as well as Caribbean’s largest wave pool (Adventure Pool ) with obstacle course (lily pads), rock-climbing wall, . The Family Tower complex consists of all 6 waterslides, including 1 tubed (The Twister, capacity 2 persons sharing 1 raft), 1 zero-gravity (The Slingshot, capacity 4 persons) and 1 racing (Splash Speedway, with 4 lanes).
- Caribbean’s biggest freshwater swimming pool (named Oasis Lagoon) has a swim-up bar and water loungers.
- Caribbean’s only Zip-line with water landing has length 1600 ft (488 m) and crisscrosses the island at heights up to 50 ft (15 m).
- The Bahamas’ highest vantage point (an attraction named “Up, Up and Away”) is a helium balloon flying up to 450 ft (137 m) above ground.
- Shipwreck Galleon (“Captain Jack’s Galleon” kids park) has 30 water cannons. The Sprayaway Geyser sprays water up to 82 ft (25 m) in the air. Both are part of Splashaway Bay aquapark. This is the enlarged version of the Royal Caribbean ships upgraded onboard aqua parks for kids, fitted with fountains, splash pools, sprinklers, geysers, cannons, whirlpools, slides, 2 drench buckets.
- Captain Jack’s is a new bar and dining venue – designed as a rowboat, with waterfront views, serving beverages and fast-food items (including chicken wings and steak fries).
- Skipper’s Grill serves lunch fast-food (including sandwiches, burgers, tacos, salads).
- The beachside restaurant Chill Grill is CocoCay’s largest. Also new is the food bar, Snack Shack.
- Newly added amenities include wave runner and boat tours, snorkelling, private cabanas and daybeds for rental, several beach bars with upgraded menus.
CocoCay has 3 new beaches. Chill Island Beach offers private cabanas and daybeds. South Beach is specifically designed for beachside activities (volleyball, basketball, soccer, paddleboards, glass-bottom sea kayaks, zorbs / inflatable bumper bubble balls) and offers bungalows, daybeds, teepees (cone-shaped tents). Coco Beach Club is an exclusive beach with overwater cabanas providing premium island vacation experiences. Coco Beach cabana rentals are inclusive of 1 hammock, 1 waterslide, dedicated service (by an attendant). The complex also has a freshwater infinity pool, full bar, restaurant.
In May 2018, RCI announced plans to build permanent accommodations on CocoCay allowing Suite passengers to stay on the island overnight (or longer). The concept includes premium cabanas serving passengers on any of the RCI ships calling at CocoCay.
In 2017-2018 was constructed a new pier (able to handle RCI’s largest / Oasis-class liners), as well as basketball court, bocce ball court, bowling court, volleyball nets, large-size pool table.
In 2016 the private island was upgraded with a swim-up bar at Barefoot Beach, new cabanas, new island dock (for tenders), 35 beach bungalows (capacity 6 persons each) at Barefoot Beach.
In 2015, the island was upgraded with new trams (quieter and taller) and was added a new / shorter tram route and a new freshwater shower (at Barefoot Beach).
(NEW) Lucaya Resort Bahamas
In March 2019, the joint venture company Holistica Ltd (RCCL and ITM Group / Mumbai India) signed a letter of intent with The Bahamas government for the purchase of Grand Lucayan Resort (an all-inclusive resort complex) and redevelopment of the Bahamian cruise port Freeport Harbor. The 2-year, USD 195 million project includes Grand Lucayan Resort’s purchase (USD 65 million) plus USD 135 million for development works. The new (RCL-exclusive) cruise port is expected to bring ~2 million additional tourists to Grand Bahama Island annually. The project includes the construction of a theme park and a 5-star hotel. Grand Lucayan Resort suffered significant damages during Hurricane Matthew (October 2016) and was forced to close 2/3 of its property.
On June 24, 2019, RCCL and ITM Group established the Miami-headquartered joint venture company “Holistica” that specializes in cruise port development projects worldwide. Holistica’s first project was the USD 275 million Grand Lucayan Resort in Freeport Bahamas. Developments by Holistica were also planned for Costa Maya (Mexico), Roatan Island (Honduras) and Kumamoto (Kyushu Island, Japan).
On March 2, 2020, RCCL officially announced Holistica’s USD 300 million private cruise resort project “Lucaya Property”. The investment includes redeveloping (expanding) the Freeport Cruise Terminal (to be renamed to “Harbour Village”) and building a leisure complex with a large hotel (526 rooms), wellness facilities, shopping village, convention centre (sized 40,000 ft2 / 3720 m2), theme park (with water slides, outdoor playgrounds, zip-lines).
Lucaya Property is approx 9 mi (15 km) west of Harbour Village (Freeport Cruise Terminal). At Harbour Village for tourists will be introduced new shopping and dining venues (bars, restaurants), live entertainment and nightlife programming, beach zones, new shore excursions, new transport infrastructure (serving ferries, buses, passenger vehicles). The Lucaya Property project is planned for completion in 2022-Q4.
RCI “VOOM” Internet
VOOM is the name of the RCI’s new high-speed internet service provides passengers with the pleasure to enjoy at sea faster connectivity, with almost the same high-speed Internet connections they are used to while on land. The new satellite technology utilizes each RCI cruise ship specifically.
Voom Internet has latency 120 ms, ping ~300 ms, download speed ~4,6 Mbps, upload speed ~5,2 Mbps. Voom allows fast streaming of music and movies (incl YouTube, Netflix), uploading multiple (incl big-sized) pictures, also video chatting (FaceTime, Skype, conference calls), checking email, web surfing, stable and fast VPN connections. The onboard system is based on the 802.11b wireless connection (theoretical bandwidth peak of 11 Mbps).
- Onboard Internet access is integrated to the stateroom number and the personal onboard account. Following the log-on to the ship’s wireless network “Royal WiFi”, there is an option for creating an Internet account where the passenger can sign up for a particular Internet plan or pay by the minute. The charge is always applied to the cabin (onboard) account.
- While using the Voom Internet package, passengers can switch between various mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops). However, the number of devices connected at the same time is limited by the Internet plan.
- The cruise ship also has several Internet workstations available for all passengers on an FCFS basis (a first-come-first-served).
- Among the cheaper alternatives to the VOOM internet are connecting onboard (while the ship is in ports of call) or ashore (in restaurants, bars, etc).
New Internet packages cost (2019 prices)
RCI’s ship internet offering was revamped from only one plan into different per day packages with pricing based on the number of included devices. Two new packages are currently available for booking:
- Note: All below listed unlimited Internet package prices are “Cruise Planner” booking rates and include the 30% pre-cruise booking discount. Packages can be purchased onboard and also pre-purchased (before the cruise) via RCI’s “Cruise Planner” booking system.
- “Voom Surf Voyage” is the “light package” providing high-speed Internet for general web browsing, e-mails and social media platforms (excepting video streaming). The “Voom Surf Voyage” Internet package cost (per day) depends on the number of mobile devices using it. Voom Surf pricing is as follows: $13 (1 device), $12 (2 devices), $10 (4 devices) and $20 (Single Day Pass per device / per day).
- “Voom Surf + Stream” is the “real deal”, offering unlimited Internet activities, including the high-speed video streaming (music, movies, video chatting, texting, VoIP apps /Internet phone calls). The “Voom Surf + Stream” Internet package cost (per day) also depends on the number of mobile devices included. Voom Surf + Stream pricing is as follows: $18 (1 device), $16 (2 devices), $14 (4 devices) and $28 (Single Day Pass per device / per day).
- Occasionally, Royal Caribbean offers Voom package discounts for passengers with pre-purchased online (via Cruise Planner) internet packages. Discounts are also offered for Royal Caribbean loyalty program members (Crown and Anchor Society) when the Voom package is purchased onboard.
RCI gratuities (2019 cruises)
Daily gratuities are per person (pp):
- USD 14,50 pp (interior, oceanview, balcony staterooms, both adults and kids)
- USD 17,50 (suites)
- Daily gratuity is an automatic service charge added to the passenger’s onboard account each day.
- Passengers can prepay gratuities.
- The amount of gratuities is split between the ship’s staff – dining (wait and cooking), housekeeping staff, room stewards (cabin and suite attendants).
Lifeguards on Royal Caribbean ships
Since 2017, all RCI ships have onboard licensed lifeguards by the line’s “water safety program”, implemented fleetwide. By the new program, water safety signs are placed throughout the ship.
Ship’s lifeguards are dressed in special uniforms (in bright red and white) and stationed at every swimming pool, including the Solarium (adults-only retreat) during the complex’ opening hours. All Royal Caribbean lifeguards are trained through the company’s partnership with StarGuard Elite (Florida-based lifeguard training centre.
- The water safety program includes a 15-min presentation (on embarkation day). The instruction is for by both kids and parents and held during Adventure Ocean’s open house session.
- Swim vests for all kids (aged 4-12) are readily available. Additional signage is added around swimming pool areas and in all cabins to encourage parents to use them.
- Kids under 12 require a parent or guardian to be present when swimming in any of the cruise ship’s pools.
RCI’s water safety program was rolled out fleetwide in the period February-June 2017. Follows the list of all RCI ships and the cruise itinerary dates when each ship will implement the new lifeguard service:
- Oasis (February 26-March 5)
- Harmony (March 7-11)
- Independence (March 11-16)
- Anthem (March 11-14)
- Liberty (March 12-19)
- Freedom (March 22-29)
- Allure (March 23-26)
- Brilliance (March 24-30)
- Quantum (March 26-31)
- Ovation (March 29-April 3)
- Navigator (March 31-April 5)
- Serenade (March 31-April 7)
- Jewel (March 31-April 4)
- Rhapsody (April 5-8)
- Majesty (April 21-24)
- Empress (April 24-29)
- Adventure (April 26-29)
- Enchantment (May 8-12)
- Grandeur (May 13-18)
- Explorer (May 15-26)
- Mariner (May 26-June 4)
- Radiance (May 28-June 6)
- Voyager (June 5-12)
- Vision (June 15-27)
The news made RCI the 2nd major cruise company with lifeguards onboard its ships – following Disney (employing certified lifeguards since 2013) and followed by NCL (in 2017 summer) starting with the line’s 4 largest vessels and employing onboard lifeguards fleetwide by 2018.
(new) RCI “NextCruise” (onboard booking)
In August 2017, Royal Caribbean changed “Next Cruise” (onboard cruise booking program). NextCruise allows passengers to book a future RCI itinerary while on the ship. The old program included booking with reduced deposits.
- Since August 2017, the deposit required for onboard booking is the same as the deposit required with shore bookings (ranging between USD 100-450 per stateroom, depending on itinerary length).
- Since December 2017, NextCruise shipboard booking customers are eligible to pay a reduced deposit (USD 100 pp) regardless of voyage length – but only if they book with non-refundable fare. Refundable fare bookings still require a full deposit. This offer is available on all RCI cruises – excluding only China roundtrips. The USD 100 pp deposit is applicable when booking Interior Cabin up to Junior Suite.
- Grand Suite and above stateroom bookings require a full deposit.
- Group bookings are also not eligible for the USD 100 pp deposit.
- In case that non-refundable fare bookings are cancelled, “Future Cruise Credit” will not be issued.
Currently, the only benefit from onboard cruise booking is the future onboard credit (abbrev OBC), which is based on cabin type:
- 4-5 night itineraries – Inside and Oceanview cabins (USD 25 per cabin), Balcony Stateroom and Junior Suite (USD 50), Grand Suite and higher (USD 150)
- 6-9 night itineraries – Inside and Oceanview cabins (USD 50 per cabin), Balcony Stateroom and Junior Suite (USD 100), Grand Suite and higher (USD 300)
- 10-night and longer itineraries – Inside and Oceanview cabins (USD 100 per cabin), Balcony Stateroom and Junior Suite (USD 200), Grand Suite and higher (USD 500).
In May 2019, RCI introduced the “Book Later” future cruise booking option available at ship’s NextCruise Office, in addition to “Book Now” (booking a specific itinerary). Book Later allows future bookings up to 2 months thus providing more time to consider itineraries while retaining the shipboard booking discount/bonus. Book Later requires a non-refundable deposit of USD 200 per stateroom (US$100 per cabin if booking a specific itinerary) and gives up to USD 600 in OBC or instant savings. Book Later deals expire within 1 year (after creating the onboard reservation) and the deposits paid will be lost.
(new) RCI Cruise Cancellation Policy
Starting April 18, 2018, Royal Caribbean passengers who want to cancel an upcoming cruise without penalty have to do so farther out from the departure date than before. The new RCI cruise cancellation policy simplifies the penalty fee schedule by reducing the number of itinerary categories from 5 to 2: those of 1 to 4 nights and those 5 nights or longer.
- Under the old policy, travellers booked on 1 to 5 night long itineraries could cancel up to 60 days prior to departure without cancelation fee.
- The new RCI cancellation policy changes the cruise length/itinerary duration to 1 to 4 nights (including short holiday and mini-cruise deals) and requires cancellation at least 75 days before departure.
- Cruises 1 to 4 nights-long cancelled between 74 and 61 days out incur a fee of 50% of the total price. Cruises cancelled 60 to 31 days out incur a fee of 75% of the total fare and any cruise cancelled within 30 days or less of departure is not refunded at all (100% cancellation fee).
- The second tier of cancellations includes any itineraries 5-night or longer, including cruise tours and holiday voyages. Under the old policy, cruises 6-nights or longer, holiday voyages 1 to 5 days, holiday voyages 6-night or longer, and cruise tours had separate cancellation penalty schedules. By the new policy, itineraries 5-night or longer must be cancelled at least 90 days prior departure date in order to avoid cancelation fee. Previously, RCI customers could cancel 75 to 90 days before departure, depending on itinerary category.
- Cruises 5-night or longer cancelled 89 to 75 days prior departure incur a penalty equal to 25% deposit paid. Cruises cancelled 74 to 61 days incur penalties of 50% of the total price. Cruises cancelled 60 to 31 days incur penalties of 75% of the fare Cruises cancelled within 30 days or less of departure is not refunded at all (100% cancellation fee).
The previous time when RCI updated company’s cancellation policy was on March 7, 2016.
(new) RCI Shore Excursions Cancellation Policy
On June 15, 2017, Royal Caribbean International implemented a new “Shore Excursions Cancellation Policy” fleetwide. The new policy transitions from 1 day / 24-hour prior to land tour departure date to a 48-hours prior to cruise port arrival date.
- Shore Excursions can be modified/changed or cancelled up to 2 days / 48 hours prior to cruise port arrival date without any penalty.
- Land Tours that involve travel by air/flights (international and domestic), trains, also special/themed events, overnight hotel stays and Private Journeys (customized tours) must be cancelled 30 days prior to cruise departure date to avoid cancellation fees/penalties.
- In the event a land tour is cancelled 48-hours prior to cruise port arrival date, a full refund is provided to the passenger’s onboard account.
At the end of March 2017, RCCL corporation launched its own land tour travel website – GoBe.com. The website is non-cruise travel-related and allows international travellers to book tours and excursions in 97 countries and 896 cities worldwide.
- As of 2017, tour prices (per person) ranged from USD 14 (Cape Town bus tour) to USD 3,785 (Rome helicopter tour).
- The new website is managed by Larry Pimentel (RCCL’s Chief Destination Officer, also Azamara Club’s President and CEO. The website provides full tour information, including duration, activity level, languages, etc.
- Optional custom itinerary planning is also offered.
On select voyages, RCI offers behind-the-scenes crew life tour with duration 2 hours. The “All Access Crew Life Tour” (priced USD 79 pp) can be booked via CruisePlanner and offers a glimpse of what it is like to work and live on the ship.
(new) RCI Non-Refundable Cruise Deposit Policy
On July 1, 2017, RCI implemented fleetwide a new, nonrefundable cruise deposit program.
- USD 100 “cruise change” fee per person (pp) is imposed on each booked reservation (under “non-refundable deposit fare”) opting to change the originally selected vessel and/or departure date.
- Multiple adjustments to the vessel/departure date result in the assessment of USD 100 pp change fee for each qualifying change made to the booked reservation. RCI doesn’t limit the number of changes.
- Outside of final payment, when a non-refundable cruise deposit cancellation occurs, booked passengers receive “Future Cruise Certificate” in the amount of the cruise deposit, minus the USD 100 pp change fee.
- Nonrefundable deposits are the only option for booking higher-grade cruise ship Suite, and also for all guaranteed cabin categories.
In late February 2017, the RCCL corporation imposed a fee of USD 65 pp in case of leaving the cruise early (whatever the reason might be). Passengers who refuse to pay face the prospect of being banned from RCCL cruise ships FOREVER.
(new) RCI pet/animal policy
In August 2018, RCI updated its “emotional support animals” policy by banning such animals fleetwide. Support/companion animals are not recognized by ADA. By definition, these are pets determined by a medical professional as providing benefit for handicapped people (cruise passengers with disabilities).
In an officially issued statement, RCI explained as the main reason for its policy change to differentiate support from service animals, the latter of which are trained and certified to actually help the disabled. Service animals travelling with physically / non-physically disabled passengers are still allowed on the ships. Pets are not allowed on RCI ships.
(new) RCI photo packages prices
In late June 2017, Royal Caribbean added two photo packages available for online purchasing at “Cruise Planner”.
- The photo packages include 2 options – all digital (unlimited photos are uploaded on a USB stick) and printed.
- The unlimited digital photo package costs USD 250.
- The 20-prints photo package costs USD 200.
- Before 2017, Royal Caribbean offered photo packages available for online purchasing on a separate website.
RCI “Cruise Compass” (onboard newsletter)
“Cruise Compass” is named the RCI’s onboard newsletter delivered by cabin attendants each evening. This is a daily guide for news, onboard events, and activities on the cruise ship scheduled for the next day.
- The newsletter also provides valuable information regarding forecasted weather, bars with drink specials, itinerary ports of call and shore excursions info, themed events (parties, lectures, seminars, etc), sporting events.
- Some of the events are not repeated, other activities change daily.
- RCI doesn’t publish “Cruise Compass” guides for upcoming cruises in advance.
- age 1 is an overview of what to expect the next day, including port, weather report, specials, highlighted events, dedicated “Important things to know today” section.
- Page 2 lists more onboard events, sales, and special offers. The “Activity and Entertainment Highlights” section lists headlines of all evening show performances onboard,
- Page 3 lists all the ship’s venues (bars, restaurants, food bars, lounges, Spa, Gym, etc) and their opening hours. Here is also the RCI’s main dining room dress code. At the page’s bottom is the “drink of the day” special – a discount-priced cocktail.
- Page 4 lists all the next day’s activities broken down by time (morning, afternoon, evening) – all shipboard events, each has time, title and deck location.
- “Adventure Ocean” is another newsletter providing information about kids programming (small children and teens) scheduled on the cruise ship. Some of these events are also listed in the “Cruise Compass”. “Adventure Ocean” newsletter has “Daily Planner” with kids and teen activities (broken up by ages).
- The “Royal iQ” app is available on some RCI ships and features a “Cruise Compass” digital copy. This mobile app allows adding specific events directly to your own digital calendar. Via the app, you can make reservations (spa, dining, etc) or add activities directly from the “Cruise Compass” to your own calendar. Your own daily schedule will be automatically updated. Unfortunately, the app works only on Quantum- and Oasis-class ships.
RCI’s shipboard “DreamWorks Experience” program
“DreamWorks Experience” was a family-themed program via a partnership between Royal Caribbean International and Amblin Partners (DreamWorks SKG’s owner company). Universal Pictures is the distributor of the DreamWorks movie productions through its subsidiary company Touchstone Pictures.
RCI’s DreamWorks programming featured 3D movies and DreamWorks characters meets-and-greets. It was introduced in June 2010 and terminated in March 2019. This new entertainment program was geared toward families and offered DreamWorks movie-themed activities on only 9 RCI ships (Allure, Oasis, Harmony, Anthem, Ovation, Quantum, Freedom, Liberty, Voyager). The list of such activities included:
- DreamWorks characters meetings and greetings (with photo ops). The list of characters included Po (“Kung Fu Panda” movie), Shrek, Fiona, Puss (“Shrek” series), Alex, Gloria, King Julien, penguins (“The Penguins of Madagascar” series, “All Hail King Julien” series).
- Character Breakfasts were offered (at surcharge pp) in the Main Dining Room restaurant.
- 3D DreamWorks movie screenings were available in the Royal Theater (Cinema Lounge), including first-run movies which premiered on the ship were on the same day they went at land-based theaters. Among the films were “Shrek”, “Madagascar”, “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Kung Fu Panda”.
- DreamWorks channel was part of the in-cabin TV programming.
- Themed activities and games (by ship’s “Adventure Ocean” / complimentary youth program) included 3D animation workshops, storytime, themed dance parties, character story-based adventure games, regular character visits to kids facilities, onboard parades, meet-and-greets with photo ops (throughout the ship).
- DreamWorks shows were available in Studio B (ice rink theater) and AquaTheater (Oasis ships).
The DreamWorks themed shows at Studio B and AquaTheater were replaced with new Royal Caribbean Productions. All cruises departing before April 1 (2019) had the DreamWorks program available for the entire voyage.
RCI’s shipboard kids and teen programming
Also complimentary the company offers to kids and teenagers supervised activities at dedicated facilities and youth counsellors on each vessel.
- For toddlers (2-3 yo) on each liner are provided at-fee nursery services (hourly charge) via highly experienced and professionally trained staff.
- RCI’s children program (named “Adventure Ocean”) covers ages 2-17 and features brand partnerships (with Fisher Price, Crayola), Family Disco Hour. dedicated areas and facilities, including toddlers only pools, computer rooms, video game arcades, separate kids- and teen-only clubs.
- On September 30, 2018, RCI discontinued fleetwide company’s in-cabin babysitting service (“Sitters at Sea” program served by crew members, upon request). Service’s only alternatives still available are the shipboard nursery (on some liners only, serving toddlers and kids up to 3 yo) and group sitting (“Late Night Party Zone” program for kids 3-11 yo, served by Adventure Ocean staff). The other two kids programs (Adventure Ocean, Royal Babies, and Tots) remained unchanged.
(NEW) RCI shipboard VIP passenger program “The Key”
On two liners (Liberty OTS and Oasis OTS) is currently being tested a new VIP passenger access program (called “The Key”). Program’s test period was November 2018 through March 2019. It has limited quantity and is available on select voyages.
The VIP package is available for purchasing only via CruisePlanner. Package’s cost is USD 24,99 per person per day. However, all roommates ages 6 and older must purchase the package to receive its benefits (available via SeaPass cards and starting on embarkation day). “The Key” VIP package is inclusive of:
- Carry-on luggage service (max 2 bags pp) – drop off at Royal Theater, cabin delivery
- Welcome MDR lunch (Chops Grille/steakhouse menu) on embarkation day between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. Dining reservations are not required.
- Daily private visits (reserved hours) at signature shipboard facilities – including FlowRider, Rock-Climbing Walls, Ice-Skating Rink. VIP seating at live shows must be reserved online (via CruisePlanner) prior departure.
- Priority check-in (embarkation day) and tendering (ship-to-shore ferry) service at call ports without docking facilities.
- Complimentary VOOM Internet (“Surf and Stream” package for 1 device).
- Priority debarkation with exclusive a la carte breakfast (between 6:30-9:30 am).
IMPORTANT: Currently, “The Key” package is not offered only on Majesty OTS, Quantum OTS and Voyager OTS. Priority check-in and boarding are not offered in Vancouver BC Canada and at Australian homeports.
(NEW) RoyalUp – cabin upgrade bidding
On November 28, 2018, RCI introduced fleetwide bid-based cabin upgrade program called “RoyalUp”. Booked customers receive an email if their cruise is eligible. They can browse through available for booking higher-grade staterooms on that voyage. Then select their bidding price for a particular cabin upgrade and submit the bid.
RoyalUp upgrades are priced per person, for the entire voyage, based on twin share. Only the first and second passengers in the cabin are charged the extra – regardless room’s grade and max occupancy. These upgrades are based on availability. Cabin location can’t be specified.
Group bookings are also included but without a guarantee that all reservations will be upgraded. If all reservations are upgraded, RCI doesn’t guarantee that all upgraded staterooms will be located close together.
Booked customers are allowed to bid multiple cabin categories. Travel agents are also allowed to bid for their clients. Upgrade bids are accepted until 2 days prior departure. Passengers with accepted RoyalUp biddings are notified via email. They are allowed also to modify or cancel the upgrade (until 2 days prior departure) if the offer is not been accepted by RCI and their credit card is not been charged.