Various cruise lines excel in certain cruising regions; a look at the better Caribbean cruise lines.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines: Although Carnival claims the moniker "fun ships" this by no means implies the other cruise lines are not fun. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is especially fun, but in a different way. While Carnival is more inclined to make the fun happen, on Royal Caribbean the fun is built into the ships with great toys and other attractions. Royal Caribbean specializes in ships with extravagant water parks, rock climbing walls, "Flowrider" surfing machines, ice skating rinks, boxing rings and other things one would never expect to see on a cruise ship.
Just like Carnival, Royal Caribbean also deploys its smaller and older ships on three and four-day cruises to Nassau from ports in Florida, but once again, the most fun is to be had on the larger megaships built post 1999. And on Royal Caribbean, they are even bigger and arguably better than Carnival's megaships.
Beginning with four of the five ships of the Voyager-class; Voyager, Explorer, Adventure and Navigator of the Seas starting at 138,000-tons, these ships feature the cruise world's first longitudinal atrium, huge open spaces inside the ship called the Royal Promenade. (The fifth of this class, Mariner of the Seas, will soon be the first megaship on the West Coast). The Royal Promenade boasts an English pub, pizza parlor with free pizza and ice cream, coffee shop with free coffee, hot chocolate and tasty pastries, a wine bar, gift shops and a barbershop. For a small fee there is Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, special coffees and a selection of British Ales in the pub.
Downstairs is the ice-skating rink where guests can rent skates during the day and professional world-class skaters perform dazzling ice shows at night.
Outdoors there are water slides, rock-climbing walls, inline skating, miniature golf, virtual golf, a huge video game arcade for kids of all ages and Johnnie Rockets where the burgers are free but you pay for the cokes and milkshakes.
On the newer Freedom-class vessels (sisters Liberty and Independence of the Seas) you get all the above and add the "Flowrider" surfing machines and two cantilevered hot tubs hanging over the edge of the top deck of the ship (but fully safety protected). These ships also have extensive water parks with water slides, wading pools, sprayers, shooters and other water apparatus. The Liberty-class vessels are currently the largest cruise ships in the world.
Coming in the next 18 months are Oasis of the Seas (Nov. 2009) and Allure of the Seas (June 2010). These ships "break the mold" for Caribbean cruise ships. Not only will they be nearly 40% bigger than the world's current largest cruise ships, they will feature aspects never seen on cruise ships before.
The best way to describe the Oasis-class ship design is to say they have open top canyons with up to six decks of balcony cabins and public spaces framing in the sides. Inside these open top canyons will be a "Central Park" with real grass and trees enhancing a park-like area with al fresco nightclubs and restaurants.
Another "canyon" features "The Boardwalk" with a merry-go-round, ice cream and candy parlors, fortunetellers and other midway attractions. At the end of the Boardwalk will be the first AquaTheater at sea featuring water acrobatic production shows. Other features of the ship include the first zipline at sea, a wave-pool, bigger FlowRiders and a bigger Royal Promenade.
Without running out of space, let's just say these ships will re-define Caribbean cruising. And they will almost surely stay in the Caribbean, as they are too large for the Panama Canal. In fact, Port Everglades in Ft Lauderdale is building special berths for the ships, and some of the scheduled ports of call are also building new facilities to handle their record-breaking size.
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