Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) ranks as the world's second largest cruise line. They're all about providing the wow of the cruise experience with high-technology, innovative architecture and plenty to do. Whether on weekend getaways lasting two nights or trans-Pacific sojourns stretching over 24 days, guests must study their daily Cruise Compass logs to choose the best activity among a multitude of options. Affordability is the hallmark of the line, although each ship features a segregated luxury component for those with money to spend.
Launched in 2008, the 222,900-ton Oasis of the Seas represents the first of a new Oasis class that now includes the Allure of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas. With just a few meters and a few thousand tons of difference among them, each can claim the title of the world's biggest cruise ship. Measuring over 1,180 feet long and 16 decks high, each vessel boasts about 2,700 staterooms for a capacity of 5,400 guests double-occupancy.
Among the innovations introduced by the Oasis of the Seas are 25 dining options and seven distinct neighborhoods, one of which is the Sports Deck, an outdoor pool zone typical of many cruise ships. Another area that's open to the sky is the Boardwalk, which includes a carousel and the AquaTheater, the first "amphitheater" at sea. Also open is Central Park, which blooms with live plants, bushes, and trees. The inside Royal Promenade impresses as a two-story shopping mall that highlights the Rising Tide, a bar that slowly rises three decks above before descending again.
As implied by the name, RCCL focuses on the Caribbean,with departures from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando, as well as on North America from terminals in Galveston, Anchorage, Vancouver, Seattle, and Cape Liberty, New Jersey. They service over 250 ports with cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. To capture the fast-growing Chinese market, they have itineraries originating from Baoshan (Shanghai), Hong Kong, Tianjin, and Xiamen.
In 2014, the Quantum of the Seas became the first of the three ships in its namesake class. At over 168,600 tons and with a passenger capacity of about 4,180 double-occupancy for each vessel, the Quantum class represents the second-largest cruise vessels in the world. They also showcase the best technology that RCCL has to offer. A sky-diving simulator allows guests to fly without wings in a controlled environment while the North Star lifts passengers over 300 feet inside a capsule mounted on an arm for 360-degree views of the surroundings.
Inside, the Seaplex transforms from roller skating rink to basketball court to bumper car arena. The Two70° turns floor-to-ceiling glass walls that are two-and-a-half decks high into projection screens as large animated displays twist and turn to show videos that enhance live performances. A robot bartender creates drinks at the touch of a button.
The class also pioneered virtual cabins, which are inside rooms that display live outside views on a wall meant to simulate an exterior balcony.
While exact options differ by vessel, RCCL ships have several features in common. One activity unique to the line is the Dreamworks Experience where guests meet, dine, and watch parades with characters like the penguins from Madagascar, Po from Kung Fu Panda,and Fiona from Shrek. Keeping cruisers moving are the rock wall for freestyle climbing, the mini-golf course that ropes off a separate area for tot play, and the fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment,. Multiple pools and whirlpools provide respite in the water.
Keeping guests in touch with all the activities are interactive digital signs that are positioned throughout the ships. A tap and a swipe reveals directions, dining room capacity, and what's going on. Many of these functions are available on the stateroom TVs, which require the included wireless keyboard to make show reservations and order room service. Cruisers can also bring their own devices or use on-board desktops to access Voom, RCCL's high-speed internet service.
For age-specific fun, kids can enjoy their own water park and nursery, teens can head to their own disco and lounge, and adults can retreat to the Solarium or visit the Vitality Spa, which offers massages, acupuncture and other treatments. Guests can indulge in different cuisines at multiple venues, such as the Main Dining Room, Sabor Modern Mexican, Sorrento's Pizza, Windjammer Buffet, Chops Grille Steakhouse, Starbucks, and Johnny Rockets. Strategically located interactive screens reveal where everything is located, how to get there, how full the dining rooms are, and what's going on during the day.
RCCL recommends the use of travel agents for bookings but also accepts reservations through its website. Through the use of interactive screens, you can narrow down your cruise by location, date, port, and ship. Discounts are typically available for seniors over 55, active military, law enforcement personnel, emergency management technicians, and residents of particular states. If you've cruised with RCCL previously, you can become a member of their Crown & Anchor Society for even more discounts and extra perks like special on-board events. The earlier you book then the lower the price becomes.
Once you've selected a cruise, you can specify a cabin, dining times, pre-paid gratuities, shore excursions, air travel, and a vacation protection plan, also known as cruise insurance.
After you've finalized your travel arrangements, don't forget to check with US State Department to determine if certain international ports require a visa in addition to your passport.