The Rise of the Graceful Giants - Royal Caribbean International - A Brief History

The obvious economic gains from larger ships would serve Royal Caribbean exceptionally well in the decades to come. In particular, the dedication to studying how people experience a cruise, and interact with the ship, would become the foundation on which future classes of ships would be based.

Sovereign of the Seas would enter service in 1988, sent into service by her Godmother, Roslyn Carter. She came in at over 70,000 GRT, with over 2,000 passengers, and introduced features that have become integral to the Royal Caribbean experience. Most notable in her legacy to the entire industry, was the  Centrum. Though named differently on other lines, this six deck atrium has become the essential design feature of nearly every ship built since then. It connects the major public spaces, and creates an lobby able to channel traffic flow through the ship. The Sovereign was a huge hit. Two more ships would be built in the class, and later, the Vision class would evolve from it.

Royal Caribbean would “merge” with Admiral cruises about the time Sovereign was coming online. With the merger, Royal Caribbean gained a converted car ferry which was renamed the Viking Serenade, and a soon to be finished ship later known as the Empress of the Seas. As the merger with Admiral was underway, the original trio of owners were approached by the increasingly profitable Carnival Cruise Lines.

In what became known as “The 40 Days,” the company would eventually fight off Carnival, change two thirds of its ownership, and see the rise of the leadership which remains 20 years later.  Richard Fain would assume the leadership mantle both as a result of the failed Carnival takeover attempt, and from what amounted to a leap of faith. The battle over Royal Caribbean also created a heated rivalry between Fain and Carnivals Mickey Arison. The event is legendary among old salts in the cruise community, and remains a touchy issue even to this day. The two lines have only become larger, more successful, and far more different in their approach to cruise travel.

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