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Cruise Line Review

Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line Review provided by Cruise Critic

About

Royal Caribbean has been around since 1969 and currently operates 16 ships. Royal Caribbean purchased Celebrity Cruises in 1997, a premium line to appeal to an upscale audience, for a total fleet of 25 ships and a capacity of more than 40,000 berths. Royal Caribbean's rates vary by itinerary. A moderate priced cruise line, cruises can be booked through a travel agent, or directly with the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean operates the largest ships in the world. The 142,000-ton Voyager class that includes Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, and Navigator of the Seas offering a wake of innovations with rock climbing, ice skating, in-line skating, a Johnny Rockets diner, a promenade shopping mall, and so much more.

Royal Caribbean is a good middle-America, middle-brow, choice particularly if you like active travel.

Radiance of the Seas, the first of a new series of vessels in an "in-between" size: smaller than Voyager-class, but bigger than Vision-class. Radiance of the Seas combines features found in previous RCI vessels: the sleek exterior of the Sovereign-class, the extensive use of glass of the Vision-class and the wealth of entertainment and activities amenities of the Voyager-class. Radiance of the Seas has the most balconies of any RCI ship--of the vessel's 1,050 cabins, 813 have ocean views and more than 71 percent of those have balconies. Radiance of the Seas is the first in the RCI fleet to have gas and steam turbines as the primary source of power to reduce emissions, noise, and vibration. Sister ship Brilliance of the Seas joined the fleet in summer 2002 with European sailings.

Onboard Atmosphere

You'll find a little of everything on Royal Caribbean ships. Food--across the board, from the dining room to the buffet to the 24 hour room service--is amazingly consistent and well prepared, considering the capacity of the ships. And options are pretty plentiful. Main dining rooms handle the traditional assigned seating dinners (they're open seating for breakfast and lunch). A typical buffet, offering the usual range of choices (while-you-wait omelets, burgers, salads, pasta, etc.). At dinner time, the buffet is a casual alternative to the dining room (and pretty much serves the same menu).

Alternative restaurants are available on Voyager-, Radiance-, and Vision-class ships; each charges a $20 per-person cover. The menus do not change through the cruise, but make reservations as early as possible in your cruise or you may get locked out. There is a limited room service menu available around the clock and, at dinner time, you can order from the menu. Another specialty eatery onboard Voyager-class ships is Johnny Rockets, the 1950s-style burger joint. Passengers pay a flat $3.95 per-person fee for "all you can eat" sandwiches and sides; beverages ranging from iced tea to chocolate malts are extra.

All staterooms come with a twin-that-can-be-converted-to-queen bed, private bathroom, phone, closed-circuit TV, mini bar, and hair dryers. They're decorated in festive Caribbean-esque colors, from mist-green to buoyant oranges and yellows.

There are two kinds of entertainment: the traditional style cruise productions--singing and dancing shows; and goofy passenger-inspired episodes like "The Newlywed Game." Bar venues, of course, offer a variety of musical performances that are aimed to please just about everybody at any time: classical guitar, country/western, jazz. One nice touch: Royal Caribbean does not layer on a lot of extra fees for equipment "rental"--there is no charge for using everything from ice skates (you can choose between hockey and figure models) to roller blades.

All ships offer an Internet cafe (50 cents per minute). Some ships have cabins wired for Internet use, a nice convenience. The cost is a $100 flat rate per voyage (and includes all necessary hook up equipment).

Royal Caribbean typically appeals to couples and singles in their 30s to 50s as well as families of all ages. The median age is in the low 40s on seven-night cruises and in the 30s on three-and four-night cruises, passengers 50 to 55 and over tend to dominate 10-day and longer cruises. Royal Caribbean attracts passengers that are looking for an affordable, active vacation.

Special Programs

Children's Programs: Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean's kids' program. There are five categories: three to five years, six to eight years, nine to 11 years, 12 to 14 years, and 15 to 17 years. There are daytime activities, both while at sea and in port, as well as evening events. Also available is babysitting. Group sitting is offered for parents who want to indulge in late-night revelry (cost is $5 per hour). In-cabin sitting can be booked through Guest Relations and fees start at $8 per hour. In all cases except for in-cabin sitting, kids must be potty trained (no diapers, no pull-ups). In-cabin sitting is limited to children at least six months old. The dining rooms offer "Captain Sealy's Kids Galley Menu."

Crown & Anchor: The multi-tiered past passenger program offers a quarterly magazine called Crown and Anchor, captain's cocktail party, cruise fare discounts, onboard coupon books with discounts on services at the spa, and freebies, such as drink-of-the-day. RCI offers four sailings annually that are geared to members. For more info: Click on the "Crown and Anchor" link on Royal Caribbean's Web site or call 800-526-9723.

Accessible Seas Program: The company is adding Braille deck numbers to staircase handrails on each of its 16 ships in 2003. Ships offer an extensive list of amenities from larger features like automatic doors, hydraulic pool lifts, and shore-side beach wheelchairs to smaller extra touches such as pull-down closet rods. Other notable accessibility features onboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class and Radiance-class ships include: staterooms with 32- to 34-inch doors, ramped bathrooms, roll-in showers, grab bars, raised toilet seats, lowered sinks and vanity areas, and a five-foot turning radius in sleeping areas, bathrooms, and sitting areas; spacious corridors, pool lifts and ramps in terraced public areas; Braille on menus, stateroom doors, service directories and elevators buttons; Portable kits for the hearing impaired including TTY/TDD, Alertmaster and a strobe alarm; and closed-captioned TVs, amplified telephones in staterooms and public areas, and infrared systems.

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