Royal Caribbean makes a Disney World-style onboard addition

The cruise line has continued to push boundaries when it comes to its ships and onboard experiences.

May 26, 2024 - 02:30
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Royal Caribbean makes a Disney World-style onboard addition

Sometimes you hear older cruisers refer to the new megaships being built by Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and MSC Cruises as "floating amusement parks." That's meant to be derisive and it refers to the fact the the newest cruise ships offer water slides, really a full waterpark on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the seas, and other theme-park-style attractions. 

Some cruisers are wistful for the days when ships offered little more than pools, nighttime entertainment, and things like trivia and card games. In reality, while the latest cruise ships from the family-friendly brands do offer amusement park-style attractions, they still also offer all the classic cruising elements.    

Related: Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise issue warning for cruise fans

Yes, most Royal Caribbean Oasis-Class ships have a huge dry slide that takes you from an upper deck to the Boardwalk. It also still has stairs and elevators and the cruise line does not make anyone ride the slide.

Yes, Carnival's Excel Class offers the Bolt Roller Coaster, but passengers can still opt for trivia, card games, and other more classic forms of entertainment. The reality is that while Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and MSC Cruise have incorporated amusement park-like offerings onto their ships, they're additions.

Ships have more pools, more classic shows, and many more entertainment options even if they also offer things that once seemed impossible on a ship. Royal Caribbean's next innovation, however, seems like it would literally fit in at Disney World or Universal Studios, but it's not just for kids and it has the potential to offer experiences for all ages. 

Utopia of the Seas will offer some first-of-its-kind experiences.

Image source: Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean builds a versatile new attraction/restaurant

In what's essentially the basement of Royal Caribbean's headquarters, the cruise line builds full-scale models of any new experiences it plans to add to a ship. Whether it's a restaurant, a ride, or something else, the cruise line has a team that constructs a working model in order to get things right before it's added to a ship.

The cruise line's next ship, the Oasis-class Utopia of the Seas, will have a first-of its kind experience, Royal Railway – Utopia Station. A full-scale replica of that new restaurant/experience has been built on the cruise line's campus as the final details get worked out for its launch on Utopia in July.

Mary Reilly, Royal Caribbean International's head of special projects for product development, showed off the nearly-complete restaurant during my visit to the company's headquarters in Miami. She shared that while some of the finishes might not be as nice as the shipboard version, since the model would eventually be destroyed, it was otherwise an exact copy.

Diners enter the experience by seeing their name on a departure board as they enjoy a welcome drink, and wait to be seated with other passengers. Once you enter the train venue, Reilly's team has built an immersive dinner show where the scenery shown on the windows transports you to the Old West.

It's not what Royal Railway will be at launch that makes it intriguing., Instead, it's what it could become.    

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Royal Railway could offer multiple experiences

When Utopia of the Seas begins sailing, it will offer a dinner show themed to the Old West on the Royal Railway. It's meant to be an all-ages experience with live actors being part of the show, along with video, and special effects including seats with butt-shaking speakers, sound effects, and more.

Reilly shared that other experiences could be added and that not all the offerings would be family friendly. The venue, as an example, could be used for a liquor or wine tasting with the train passing through wine country or wherever the liquors being tasted are made.

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"Short form would be whiskey tasting through the Tennessee mountains, or when we do our wine tasting today, we sometimes do it in the Main Dining Room. It would be much better to do a wine tasting in a room like this where...you're flying through Napa and can...pair wines with things as that kind of immersion,"  said Royal Caribbean Chief Product Innovation Jay Schneider at a media preview for Utopia Station, the Royal Caribbean Blog reported.

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