Introducing: Royal Caribbeanby John Roberts | November 07, 2016
Action meets innovation on this line, whose big, bold ships are designed to wow. With the newest gadgets and adrenaline-packed activities, from skydiving and surfing simulators to rock climbing walls and ice-skating rinks, it’s nearly impossible to be bored on one of these ships.
With 25 vessels in its fleet sailing itineraries all over the globe, Royal Caribbean is also one of the largest cruise lines in the world, and it has the biggest ships, too. That includes the largest ship in the world, 6,780-passenger Harmony of the Seas, home to the 10-story Ultimate Abyss slide as well as seven neighborhoods chock full of activities, shops, and restaurants.
As new ships continue to roll out, the features get more high tech. Royal Caribbean has become known for technological advances such as the fastest Wi-Fi at sea, which allows you to stream videos as easily as you would at home. The line also has an app that lets you book shore excursions, restaurant reservations, theater seats, and spa treatments without having to stand in line at the reservations desk. But the best feature? The online check-in system, which lets you skip the lines at the pier on embarkation day.
In addition to the surfing, skydiving, and rock climbing, some ships also have bumper cars and a pod called The North Star that elevates you 300 feet above sea level for a 360-degree view of the deck and ocean below. Surprisingly, only two ships in fleet, Liberty of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, have waterslides, but the line is starting to add them to other ships during renovations.
All ages are taken care of when it comes to activities. Very few lines offer nurseries that allow the smallest travelers to be dropped off, but Royal Caribbean's ships have separate spaces for babies as young as six months. The Adventure Ocean Youth program keeps kids age 3 to 17 busy with themed parties and fun, educational experiments for younger kids, while teens get designated hangout areas with video games and a karaoke stage for a little freedom of their own. The clubs are open late so parents can enjoy the nightlife on board, and in-cabin babysitting can also be arranged — another rare family-friendly amenity. Royal Caribbean's partnership with DreamWorks includes parties, scavenger hunts, and meals with popular characters from animated films including “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “Madagascar.”
And if all that activity works up an appetite, you'll have lots of dining options, too. Beyond the main dining room, passengers can choose from a variety of for-a-fee restaurants, such as authentic Mexican at Sabor, steaks at Chops Grille, and burgers and shakes at Johnny Rockets. The newer ships have the line's buzziest specialty restaurants, including an Italian restaurant from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and the inventive molecular gastronomy restaurant Wonderland, where your olives might explode in your mouth or your noodles will melt in your broth.
Royal Caribbean’s onboard energy doesn’t die down after dark. In the main theater you'll find Broadway-style shows such as “Grease” on Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, “We Will Rock You” on Anthem of the Seas, “Cats” on Oasis of the Seas, and “Mamma Mia!” on Allure of the Seas. The line's newer ships also have unique spaces for live performances. Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas both have Two70, a panoramic space where aerialists perform in front of moving digital screens, while acrobats and high divers put on a show at the AquaTheater on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas.
If you’re looking for nightlife, there are a variety of lounge and bar spaces. Popular hangouts include the retro R Bar, Vintages wine bar, and Music Hall, where you can catch live performances while you sip a cocktail from the bar. You can also typically find theme parties as well as piano music and live band or DJ performances in the lounges or by the pool. And if you want to experience the line's high-tech advances firsthand, on three ships you can even order your drinks from a touch screen and have your drink mixed up by a robot bartender.
John Roberts is a New Jersey-based writer for ShermansCruise who worked at The Virginian-Pilot.