Any conversation about new or upcoming Royal Caribbean
International ships eventually will turn to bigger things -- like
the Ultra Voyager, parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises' vision
for a 3,600-passenger, 160,000-ton, ultra-amenity-filled and
(hopefully) ultra-moneymaking vessel set for completion in 2006.
A concept like the Ultra Voyager is pretty attention-grabbing;
it will be about 15% larger than its predecessors, the
Voyager-class ships, the world's biggest ship model to date.
But Royal Caribbean still has a comparatively smaller new-build
campaign on its hands with the Radiance-class vessels. And the line
recently launched one, the Serenade of the Seas, in Boston and New
The Serenade of the Seas is different from the Voyager-class
ships in that it carries 2,110 guests, about 1,000 fewer passengers
than the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas.
The Serenade also doesn't have a promenade that looks like a
suburban shopping mall, a three-deck dining room, an ice-skating
rink or Rollerblading facilities.
Singing its praises
However, agents, clients and even Royal Caribbean president Jack
Williams can make a pretty strong case for a Serenade-size
"This is my kind of ship," Williams said as he sat in the middle
of the Serenade's Safari Club, a bar and dance floor modeled to
look like the library of a well-bred, early-20th century English
He commented on the expanse of windows, the ship's "connection
to the sea" and the nautical, yacht-like influences on the
Of course, in commenting favorably on the Serenade of the Seas,
Williams was extending the compliment to the Serenade's sisters,
the Brilliance of the Seas and the Radiance of the Seas.
There's really nothing about the Serenade that is noticeably
altered or expanded from the year-old Brilliance of the Seas,
except that the Serenade's Safari Club (with Africa influences) is
named the Colony Club (with India influences) on the two older
"[The Serenade] has all the features of our previous ships,"
Williams said. "If it's not broken, don't fix it."
Royal Caribbean has one more Radiance-class ship coming next
spring, bumping the trio up to a fleet of four.
But with the emphasis on bigger ships, is there still a need for
a Serenade-size ship?
The answer seems to be a pretty firm "yes." The Radiance-series
ships are more flexible, itinerary-wise, than the giant Voyager
They're a nice midsize ship to deploy in Europe during the
summers, and their size enables them to slip through the Panama
Canal and reposition to Alaska -- which is where the Serenade of
the Seas will be headed next spring.
So although the Voyager of the Seas, et al, can command a
premium in the Caribbean, the line can base two Serenade-style
ships in Alaska and the other two in Europe.
"That'll be our choice for the foreseeable future," Williams
No surprises ...
If clients are past Royal Caribbean guests and past passengers
on the Radiance or the Brilliance of the Seas, the Serenade of the
Seas shouldn't pose any new logistical challenges or surprises.
And even if they've never been on a Radiance-class ship before,
they'll still probably find the Serenade of the Seas very
Start in the Centrum, the ship's
nine-deck-high central atrium. On one side of the Centrum are the
ship's elevators and its gigantic glass wall, which runs all the
way up the side of the Centrum and enables light to filter in. The
Centrum has lookout spots on each of its decks so passengers on
Deck 8 can lean out and survey the action on Deck 6.
Up on the ship's top deck is Royal Caribbean's trademark
The line doesn't just do deck chairs on its sun decks: Nearby
are more fair-weather goodies to keep busy, including a miniature
My favorite pool spot, especially during cold-weather Alaska
cruising, is the Solarium, a lush, heated indoor room with a pool,
a grill, a bar, wooden loungers with plush padding and, in this
case, a Balinese theme to the decorations.
The Solarium shows up on each of the ships with a minor
variation in the theme location. And it provides a much more
relaxing atmosphere than the outdoor pool, which features the
latest selection of pop tunes.
The ship does a great deal to cater to kids: The Adventure Ocean
program offers several rooms, including Fuel, the hangout/nightclub
for teens that the line recently debuted on the Navigator of the
Seas and is looking to put on the rest of the fleet.
... Well, maybe one
Meanwhile, Vortex, the nightclub for grown-ups, is a deck up
from Fuel. It's in the Viking Crown Lounge, which also is a staple
on every Royal Caribbean ship.
I was a bit taken aback to find that the Vortex's circular bar,
and the area just surrounding it, slowly revolves. This gives
people-watchers the ability to do 360-degree surveillance of the
disco without ever turning their heads. It also requires bar
patrons to hop off the turntable when they want to leave.
If Britney Spears gives you a headache, there are two other
seemingly popular spots: the Hollywood Odyssey, which offers live
music, and the Schooner Bar, which is perfect for pre- and
Speaking of dinner, the ship offers four main dining options:
Two alternative restaurants (Italian in one, steak in the other),
the lido buffet and the main, two-seating restaurant.
Service on the inaugural cruise seemed just a step behind in the
main restaurant, and the food ran from OK to good. I had a very
tasty lunch in the casual Windjammer cafe, which is designed to cut
down on lines.
In addition, there's the casual Seaview Cafe burger joint tucked
way up on the aft sports deck. Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain
recommended checking it out.
Royal Caribbean goes a long way to design their ships with
classy accents and fabrics in pleasing, noncontroversial colors.
Even the giant abstract mobile that hangs in the Centrum and is
illuminated by a changing palette of colors is done with taste. The
ship has a $5.3 million art collection on board.
In fact, given the ship's size and ambience, the Serenade and
its ilk also can draw some comparisons with sister line Celebrity
Cruises and its new Millennium-class ships.
The Celebrity ships carry about 400 fewer passengers, and they
do more to emphasize a quieter, more genteel atmosphere
But in the decor and layout alone, the Serenade of the Seas goes
a long way to compete with the premium-category Millennium
To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].