Best ships Royal Caribbean cruise Line

Best Royal Caribbean Ship

Discover top cruise destinations on one of 26 Royal Caribbean ships

Western Caribbean

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Royal Caribbean operates one of cruising's most intriguing fleets. Ships range from mid-sized and middle-aged to state-of-the-art and on-the-cusp mega-ships. The line continuously updates even its oldest ships, bringing onboard the most popular features from its newest vessels. The line boasts the two biggest ships in the world - Oasis of the Seas and near-twin Allure of the Seas - and Harmony of the Seas becomes the third in the Oasis Class when it debuts in 2016.

The line famously brings innovative activities to its ships, including indoor skydiving, bumper cars, surf simulators, circus school, rock climbing walls and its unique North Star, a jewel-shaped glass capsule rising 300 feet above sea level and providing 360-degree views over the sides of ships in its Quantum Class.

Its newest ships flex their muscle with high-tech features such as robotic bartenders, HD-aided whiz-bang entertainment, lightning-fast Internet and virtual balconies featuring real-time views of the ocean and destinations.

While not gourmet, Royal Caribbean's food is usually good enough to please most of their passengers. Most of Royal Caribbean ships offer the choice of traditional two-seating dining schedule or flexible dining for dinner, with open seating in the dining room for breakfast and lunch. Passenger who opt for "My Time Dining" have to prepay gratuities. Passengers can prebook tables in the main dining room online before they cruise. Ships in its Quantum Class, including Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, feature "Dynamic Dining, " which gives passengers the chance eat dinner at any of the ships' restaurants whenever they want, though reservations are encouraged.

The Windjammer Cafe aboard all the line's ships offers breakfast and lunch buffets, and a casual alternative for dinner. On some ships, Jade, a special section of the Windjammer, offers Asian-themed dishes during the day and fresh sushi at night.

Most Royal Caribbean ships have at least one alternative restaurant, the Italian-themed Portofino; many also have the Chops Grille steakhouse. In all cases, the cover charge is $35-39 (depending on the ship) and the food and service is a notch above those in the line's standard dining areas. Reservations are required.

The Voyager-, Freedom- and Quantum-class ships, as well as Majesty of the Seas, also have a seagoing branch of the Johnny Rockets fast-food franchise, with either a $4.95 cover charge (and some menu items are priced on an a la carte basis) or an a la carte fee structure. The Cafe Promenade on the Voyager- and Freedom-class ships offers Continental breakfast and around-the-clock sandwiches and other snacks; the Seaview Cafe aboard Radiance-class ships offers fast-food items like fish and chips at lunchtime and late at night.

Daytime activities aboard Royal Caribbean ships tend toward the energetic.

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a rock-climbing wall; the Freedom-, Voyager- and Radiance-class ships and Legend and Splendour of the Seas have mini-golf courses. All ships have vast main pool areas; the luxurious adults-only Solarium is featured on all Freedom-, Voyager-, Radiance- and Vision-class ships. All ships have a wide variety of spa and fitness facilities. You'll find ice skating on the Freedom- and Voyager-class ships. Quantum-class ships include simulated skydiving, bumper cars, roller skating and trapeze lessons.

Evening entertainment on Royal Caribbean comes in two types: splashy Vegas-style production shows that are among the most impressive at sea, and passenger-participation favorites like the "Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed Game." There's also a wide range of musical entertainment in a variety of public rooms; the Latin-themed Boleros on many of the newer (and more recently refurbished) ships is especially popular. If you're sailing on a Freedom- or Voyager-class ship, don't miss the ice show: It's one of the most spectacular and unique performances you'll ever see on a cruise ship. These ships even have parades and "street performers" in the Royal Promenade - another unique entertainment feature not found on any other ships. Quantum-class ships took it up a notch, introducing the spectacular Two70, an entertainment space that combines cutting-edge technology with music, dancing and acrobatics. The line has brought Broadway-style shows, such as Chicago, We Will Rock You and Mamma Mia, to some of its ships.

Accommodations range from standard inside and oceanview cabins, to standard balcony cabins (on most ships), with a wide range of suites, from mini-suites to huge Royal Suites with bars and grand pianos. On most ships, suite passengers gain access to a private concierge lounge (concierge privileges are also accorded to the line's most frequent passengers, Crown & Anchor Diamond Members). Freedom- and Voyager-class ships also have unique "promenade view" cabins overlooking the Royal Promenade; their inhabitants have a birds-eye view of the "city life" along this virtual indoor street, and of course the parades that occur several evenings per cruise. These unique cabins cost more than insides, but less than oceanview cabins, and along with the suites are often the first cabins to be booked up on each cruise.

The world's second-largest cruise line, Royal Caribbean International (originally Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) began in the late 1960s as a consortium of Norwegian ship owners who wanted to get in on the rapidly expanding American market. Ever since its first ship, Song of Norway (no longer in the fleet), debuted in 1970, the company has prided itself on introducing new shipboard innovations. After completing its first three ships (the others were Nordic Prince and Sun Viking) by 1972, Royal Caribbean "stretched" its first two ships and built the much larger Song of America in 1982. These early Royal Caribbean ships became the prototype for virtually all cruise ships since.

But Royal Caribbean's biggest splash came in 1988 with the monumental Sovereign of the Seas, the very first mega-ship of the modern era. While only midsized by today's standards, at over 70, 000 tons, Sovereign of the Seas was massive in its day, and completely dwarfed every competitor of the era. The most sensational feature - aside from sheer size - was the introduction of the first modern shipboard atrium, complete with glass elevators and a grand piano, reminiscent of an opulent hotel - but with a view no hotel could match.

Not content to wait for other lines to catch up, the even larger sister ships, Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas, followed in quick succession, along with the smaller Nordic Empress, the first ship designed for cruises shorter than a week. Royal Caribbean also bought Admiral Cruises, a company specializing in short cruises, and turned its nearly new Stardancer into Royal Caribbean's Viking Serenade after a massive refit. (To date, Viking Serenade, which left the fleet in 2002, remains the only ship to fly the Royal Caribbean flag that wasn't built for the company.)

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