|The 154,000-ton Independence of the Seas Arrives at Alicante, Spain|
Royal Caribbean in the News
The idea of this upgrade is to give older ships some of the most popular attributes of the newer ships. The line is basically choosing the features that proved to be most popular on Oasis and Allure and putting them on Splendour. Radiance of the Seas just got the Royal treatment last June.
Some of the new amenities Splendour of the Seas will be acquiring include the popular dining venues Chops Grille, Izumi, the Boardwalk Dog House, Chef's Table and the Park Café. Each of these restaurants is a proven winner from the larger Royal Caribbean ships.
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The Boardwalk Dog House is a hot dog stand with all kinds of franks and fixings. Izumi is a sushi bar with an a la carte menu. Chops Grille is already a popular steakhouse on many of the larger Royal Caribbean ships. Park Café is a very special delicatessen first introduced on Oasis of the Seas which serves delicious deli sandwiches, desserts, breakfast muffins and omelets at no additional cost. Special coffees and drinks are available at reasonable prices. The Chef's Table is a very unique dining event only available to a small number of people on each cruise. A special menu conceived by the chef with unique wine and spirit pairings is served at one large table to all attending guests.
Splendour will also receive the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery to brings kids programs to ages as low as six months. The ship will receive a special Diamond lounge for Crown and Anchor loyalty guests and a Concierge Lounge for suite guests.
The ship will receive 124 new balconies and a host of new stateroom amenities including flat panel televisions and upgraded technology throughout including ship-wide WIFI, the digital "way finding" system first introduced on Oasis, electronic mustering and an outdoor movie screen.
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Other enhancements to Splendour will be announced in the coming weeks. Upon completion of the dry dock refurbishments, Splendour of the Seas will commence a transatlantic voyage on November 25 from Lisbon, Portugal to her seasonal homeport of Sao Paulo, Brazil. From there she will offer a variety of South American itineraries that take advantage of the summer season in Brazil.
Independence: Coming Home to America
The second piece of news has Royal Caribbean bringing Independence of the Seas home to America. The ship, which is in the second largest Freedom-class of Royal Caribbean ships at 154,407-tons, has been based in the U.K. since year-round since early 2010.
The ship is returning to Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, scheduled to leave the U.K. November 22, 2012, and arrive in Florida on December 10. For people who want a chance to try the ship there is a singular three-day cruise to the Bahamas scheduled upon her arrival. She will then begin a series of alternating six and eight day cruises, the six-day voyage going to the eastern Caribbean and the eight-day itinerary going to the Western Caribbean.
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The six-day Western itinerary will call at Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Labadee - an action-packed itinerary for a six-day cruise. The eight-day Eastern voyage includes San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private beach on the northern coast of Haiti. There will be one special six-night Western Caribbean cruise to Grand Cayman, and Cozumel and Costa Maya sailing January 13, 2013. Independence will then return to the U.K. in April 2013 to offer Mediterranean and European cruises throughout the summer.
What is interesting about this turn of events is the concentration of berths Royal Caribbean will have in Fort Lauderdale in 2013. This is already considered the permanent home of Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the two biggest ships in the world, plus Liberty of the Seas, a sister to Independence. Hence, the line will have four of its biggest ships in Fort Lauderdale at the same time.
There was a time not long ago when Royal Caribbean was committed to the port of Miami -before Oasis was introduced, but now it appears they have given their full allegiance to Port Everglades, certainly a boon for Fort Lauderdale which sells tons of hotel rooms to people booked on cruises.
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The question is whether Royal Caribbean might have a new plan for either Oasis or Allure of the Seas by 2013. I just recently heard CEO Richard Fain musing on how "when Voyager of the Seas was built we didn't think the ship could ever sail anyplace beyond Miami and the Caribbean, now Voyager-class ships are all over the world." We also know that many ports have decided to build out for bigger ships.