In 2019, Royal Caribbean will celebrate its 50th birthday! To celebrate the occasion, the cruise line is hosting a 50th birthday celebration cruise on-board Symphony of the Seas on 2 November 2019.

If you can’t make the 50th birthday cruise, you can still join in the celebrations. Royal Caribbean are baking a birthday cake for every passenger sailing between March and December 2019!

To celebrate this milestone, we’re taking a look back at the history of Royal Caribbean over the past 50 years.

The first ships

The cruise line was founded as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1968 by a trio of Norwegian shipping companies, who honoured their lineage by naming the company’s first vessel the Song of Norway. The vessel debuted in 1970 and was joined a year later by the Nordic Prince, then Sun Viking in 1972.

As the passenger industry continued to grow, so did Royal Caribbean’s vessels – literally – as in 1974, the Song of Norway became the first ever passenger ship to be lengthened, followed by her fellow vessel Nordic Prince in 1980. The line truly began to make waves in 1982 when it launched the Song of America, which was twice the size of the Sun Viking and the third largest passenger vessel in the world, after Song of Norway and Cunard’s legendary Queen Elizabeth 2.

In 1988, Sovereign of the Seas was launched as the world’s first “megaship”, featuring glass lifts, sweeping staircases and marble fountains. This was the first ship to use Royal Caribbean’s current naming convention in which ship names are appended by ‘of the Seas’.

Sovereign of the Seas
Sovereign of the Seas

Private islands

In an innovative industry move, the line leased its own Haitian island for the use of its guests in 1986. Today known as Labadee, it’s in the line’s hands until at least 2050 and remains a popular port of call for its cruise ships. A further island was purchased in 1988 – Little Stirrup Cay – which know goes by the name of CocoCay.

In May 2019, CocoCay was relaunched with exciting new features such as the tallest waterslide in North America, the largest wave pool and largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean and a helium balloon creating the highest vantage point in the Caribbean.

Perfect Day at CocoCay - Royal Caribbean
Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean International

1997 was a year of change for the line. It sold its oldest ship, Song of Norway, launched two new vessels – Rhapsody of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas – and changed its name to Royal Caribbean International, following a merger with Celebrity Cruises. In 1999, the line launched at the time what was the world’s largest cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas, which was soon followed by her sister ship, Explorer of the Seas. The year also saw the first vessel in a new class of ship, the more green-conscious Radiance Class

Monarch of the Seas - Royal Caribbean
Monarch of the Seas

Industry firsts

Since then, the line has continued to innovate and provide the cruise industry with a number of records and firsts.

  • 1999 – The first ice rink and the first rock climbing wall at sea
  • 2002 – Rock climbing walls introduced on every Royal Caribbean ship
  • 2006 – Launch of the world’s largest cruise ship at the time – Freedom of the Seas, featuring the first boxing ring at sea and the first Flow Rider surf simulator
  • 2009 – Launch of the Oasis Class – the largest cruise ships in the world at the time with seven distinct neighbourhoods, the first zip line and the first AquaTheatre at sea
  • 2014 – Launch of the Quantum Class – featuring the North Star viewing pod, a skydiving simulator, bionic bar, bumper cars, wearable RFID tech and Virtual Balcony staterooms
  • 2016 – Record set of the tallest slide at sea – a 10 storey plunge on Harmony of the Seas
  • 2018 – Launch of the world’s largest cruise ship to date – Symphony of the Seas which showcases 3D flying technology using drones in shows
  • 2018/19 – The Royal Amplified programme sees features added to older ships such as the first virtual reality trampoline at sea on Independence of the Seas and the longest waterslide at sea on Navigator of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas - Royal Caribbean
Anthem of the Seas

What’s next for Royal Caribbean?

Royal Caribbean are currently building new Quantum Ultra Class and Oasis Class ships. In 2022, there will be a new class of ship – Icon Class. The main difference with these ships will be that they will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making the ships better for the environment.

Three Icon Class ships are already on order, to be delivered in 2022, 2024 and 2025.

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Jenni has been working in the travel industry for over 10 years. She fell in love with cruising on her first-ever cruise, a Caribbean cruise on Allure of the Seas, during her honeymoon in 2013. Nowadays, Jenni enjoys cruising with her husband and two young children and loves to write about family cruising. Her favourite ships are family-friendly megaships which are packed with exciting facilities. She loves sea days and had been known to skip port visits to spend more time on the ship!

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