Royal Caribbean International is an undisputed giant of the cruising world. Not only does it boast the world’s largest ships – the biggest of which holds a whopping 6,780 passengers – it is continually pushing back the boundaries of ocean-going attractions in an ever-more imaginative way.

Wind back the clock one or two decades and no one would have expected to see ice-skating rinks, surfing simulators, zipwires and even full-size fairground carousels on cruise ships. Yet, these now come as standard on this US company’s larger vessels.

Performers on-stage in a production of Cats on-board Royal Caribbean cruises

You could say RCI has put the ‘I’ into innovation. After all, where else can you have your cocktail shaken and served by a robot barman before strolling into the theatre to watch a West End show like Mamma Mia!, Grease and Cats, or marvel at the thrilling aqua-batics of its AquaTheater shows centred on the deepest pools at sea? Such all-singing, all-dancing ships, packed to the funnels with facilities, have smashed the cruising stereotype and helped to bring a whole new audience on-board; making RCI a favourite with families and more active cruisers.

This Miami-based player has been at the vanguard of a move to transform cruise vessels into floating resorts and each new ‘mega-ship’ has taken this principle further forward – with competitors following suit.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, sailing into the sunset

Allure of the Seas

Its giant Oasis-class ships – the world’s largest – continue to grow in number with a fourth, Symphony of the Seas, joining RCI’s 24-strong fleet in April 2018. These floating giants are more like small towns with a gob-smacking array of facilities. Not only do total passenger counts top 6,500 (don’t forget to add on more than 2,000 crew members, too), but they are divided into different neighbourhoods that include a park area filled with thousands of plants, along with approximately 30 restaurants and bars.

But the most recent stars of the show are RCI’s new Quantum-class ships, having launched with even more quirky gimmicks; namely dodgem cars, sky-diving simulators and viewing pods that take passengers 300ft above the waves.

Underwater shot of children snorkelling in the pool on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

The launch of Quantum of the Seas and its two sister ships, Anthem and Ovation, has also ushered in a string of technological advances never before seen on cruise ships.

RCI is a line used to setting trends in the cruising world and having based ships at Southampton for more than a decade, it has become an essential fixture in the UK cruise scene, too.

Sara Macefield
Sara Macefield is an award-winning travel journalist of more than 20 years standing, and has spent the last decade writing about the cruise industry – exploring the world's oceans and rivers on ships of all sizes. Having notched up more than 100 cruises, her most memorable trips have been to Alaska with its superb wildlife, and sailing along Burma’s remote Chindwin River to villages far off the tourist track. She writes regularly for The Times and Daily Telegraph and has written for the Daily Mail, The Guardian, Daily Express and Woman & Home Magazine.

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