Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

*InsightRoyal Caribbean International today is taking the wraps off of the design of its latest ship, a vessel so innovative that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO  Richard Fain didn’t hesitate to call it the Quantum of the Seas.

Fain says Quantum refers to quantum leap, a concept from subatomic physics in which a particle moves from A to B without an intermediate stage. In other words, the new ship won’t be a mere evolution of what Royal has done in the past. It will be radically different.

Hyperbole? Probably. But if any line can pull it off, it may be Royal. Over the past 25 years, it has fashioned three of the most formative ships in the modern history of cruising.Tom Stieghorst 

The first was the Sovereign of the Seas, which in 1988 marked a departure for the industry, although its innovative features now are so widely copied that they seem commonplace. At 74,000 gross tons, it was the biggest cruise ship in the world.

The Sovereign was the first ship, for example, to have a multi-deck atrium with glass-walled elevators. It was the first to devote an entire deck to balcony cabins.

The next of Royal's game-changer ships was the 137,000-ton Voyager of the Seas, which debuted in 1999. Onboard innovations included the Royal Promenade in the center of the ship, the ice-skating rink and the rock-climbing wall.

The rock-climbing wall in particular met with such acclaim that it eventually became a feature on every Royal ship.

The third memorable vessel was the audacious, 225,000-gross-ton Oasis of the Seas, so big that it dwarfs most ports.

But its features, including the Aqua Theater, the Central Park neighborhood, the first carousel at sea and the Rising Tide bar that elevates between decks have made it immensely popular.

Along the way there have been other innovations, for example: the self-leveling pool tables on Radiance of the Seas (2001) and the Flow Rider installed on Freedom of the Seas (2006).

Royal has increasingly pinned its reputation to innovation. It is the lead dog in the cruise industry’s innovation race. As such, it has a high standard to meet. We’ll soon know whether Quantum of the Seas will join Sovereign, Voyager and Oasis in the pantheon of Royal originality.

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