Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean was founded as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1968 by Anders Wilhelmsen & Company, I.M. Skaugen & Company, and Gotaas Larsen, Norwegian shipping companies. The newly created line put its first ship, the Song of Norway, into service two years later. The next year, the line’s capacity was doubled with the addition of the Nordic Prince to the fleet. Continuing to expand, the line added the Sun Viking in 1972. After four years of successful operation, Royal Caribbean’s Song of Norway became their first passenger ship to be lengthened. This was accomplished via the insertion of an 85-foot (26 m) section to the vessel’s severed center. Following the success of this procedure, Nordic Prince was stretched in 1980. Royal Caribbean finally received widespread global recognition when in 1982 it launched the Song of America, over twice the size of Sun Viking and at the time the third largest passenger vessel afloat (after the Norway and the Queen Elizabeth 2)
Royal Caribbean innovated once again with its 1986 lease of a coastal property in Haiti for use as a private destination for its guests. This destination is now called Labadee. After a corporate restructuring in 1988, the line launched Sovereign of the Seas, the largest passenger vessel afloat at the time. Two years later, Nordic Empress and Viking Serenade entered service for the line, continuing a rapid growth trend within the company. In the same year Royal Caribbean purchased its second private destination, Little Stirrup Cay, an island in the Bahamas, which they rechristened “Coco Cay.”
Monarch of the Seas, the second ship of the Sovereign class, entered service the next year. The third ship of the Sovereign class, Majesty of the Seas, was delivered one year later. With a large passenger capacity and a growing market share, Royal Caribbean finally went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1993. Over the next two years the company experienced extreme growth. A new corporate headquarters in Miami, Florida was completed, and the Nordic Prince replaced by a new vessel, the Legend of the Seas.
The next year brought more growth. Two more Vision-class vessels entered service, the Splendour of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas. Also in 1996, the company finalized its contracts for 130,000-ton vessels with Aker Finnyards in Finland. The trend of growth and change continued into 1997. The line’s oldest ship, Song of Norway, was sold, and two new Vision-class ships entered service as Rhapsody of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas. The company also merged with the Greek cruise line Celebrity Cruises and changed its name from “Royal Caribbean Cruise Line” to “Royal Caribbean International.” The next year marked a transition to a more “strictly modern line”, when the last of the company’s older vessels, Song of America and Sun Viking, were retired. In 1998, Vision of the Seas came into service, the last of the Vision-class ships.
In 1999 the Voyager of the Seas, the line’s newest and world’s largest cruise ship entered service with much attention from the news media. The next two years saw the delivery of Voyager’s sister ship, Explorer of the Seas, and the first of a new class of more environmentally friendly cruise liners, Radiance of the Seas, as well as the introduction of Royal Caribbean’s “cruise tours Alaska”, featuring glass-domed train cars to scenic destinations within the state and Canada. During Adventure of the Seas’ christening ceremony in November 2001, Royal Caribbean made a $50,000 contribution to the Twin Towers Relief fund.
2002 saw the debut of the Navigator of the Seas, as well as the Brilliance of the Seas, the second ship of the Radiance class. Serenade of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas were introduced the next year, and rock-climbing walls were made a feature of every Royal Caribbean ship. Jewel of the Seas followed in 2004, and the line’s ship Nordic Empress was refurbished and re-christened as Empress of the Seas, which was later sold to Pullmantur Cruises in 2008. Construction commenced on Freedom of the Seas, the line’s newest ship, at Aker Finnyards in 2005 and the vessel launched the next year as the largest passenger vessel in the world. In 2005, Royal Caribbean made history again with the massive refurbishment of Enchantment of the Seas, cutting the ship in half and adding a 74-foot (23 m) midsection. Grandeur of the Seas was rumored to be the next to have the massive refurbishment sometime in early 2008, but that never took place.
Freedom of the Seas’ sister ship, Liberty of the Seas, was launched in 2007, and Independence of the Seas was delivered in 2008. An even larger class, the Oasis class, featuring the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas was launched in 2009 and 2010, guaranteeing Royal Caribbean the ship size lead for years to come.
In February 2011, Royal Caribbean announced that they had ordered the first of a new class of ships from the Meyer Werft shipyard, code-named Project Sunshine. The following year they announced that a second Project Sunshine ship had been ordered and in December 2012, Royal Caribbean announced that they had ordered a third Oasis-class cruise ship from STX France.
The latest announcement came in February 2013, when Royal Caribbean announced the official name of the new class of ships developed under Project Sunshine: Quantum class as well as the names of the first two ships in the class, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, then In May, a contract for a third Quantum-class ship for delivery in mid-2016 was signed.
Royal Caribbean cruise ship ‘Liberty of the Seas’ in Southampton