Throwback Thursday - At the Pier (Sovereign of the Seas 1999)

Getting off at the pier I was able to totally bypass the check-in desks and proceed directly to the ship. The only delay was the first of many obligatory photographs taken, next to a sign noting the sailing date. I walked down a long long balcony overlooking the staging area below and walked up the gangway to the Main Deck.

Since 1999 the Royal Caribbean terminal has been radically upgraded, so you can safely ignore the photos I include here.  These days, you don't walk outside while boarding the ship.  That is a shame in some ways.  One of the most memorable moments during my entire cruise, was that awe-inspiring moment when I saw Sovereign in person.  As much as you read about these ships, when you finally are in its presence, it's a feeling you have to experience to understand.  

Throwback Thursday - The Port of Miami (Sovereign of the Seas 1999)

At 11:30 they began to group people by the color of their tickets to board the buses to the pier. The trip  took about 20 minutes. Our driver gave us a mini-tour of the area on the way to the pier, and was more than happy to accept tips.

There are a lot of chances to get photos on the bus ride from the airport to the Port of Miami. College football fans will appreciate the view of the Orange Bowl. The RCI headquarters can be seen to your right as the bus, taxi, or dog sled crosses the bridge to Dodge Island.

Dodge Island hosts the Port of Miami.  It is an artificial structure, built in the late 1960s, and since its conception, has hosted cruise ships.  Prior to its construction, the hand full of cruise ships calling on Miami, docked near the site of the NBA's Orlando Heat's stadium.  Dodge Island is used extensively in filming movies.  Indeed, if you have ever seen the films Bad Boys or Bad Boys II, with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, you've seen more of the island than you know.  Most of the chase scenes were either filmed using the same small stretch of road leading to the port, or running beside the waterway.  More on that some other time.

The cruise terminals were first built along with the island.  Despite reading on the matter, it remains unclear to me as to who exactly owns what among the lines and ports.  However, the terminals as seen here, have changed much since 1999.  There is serious talk of expansion at the port, which would include larger, new terminals on the south side of the port.

It is on the south side of the port, where you can find the Headquarters of Royal Caribbean International.  It is actually shaped like the company logo. There aren't any vital computer systems located below what would be the third floor inside of any normal buildings. This is to protect against storm surges in hurricanes.

The trademark blue neon can be seen across the waters on other RCI ships at night.  You can see the ships in port from the air as you fly into Miami. It is only as you drive up to them that you realize their true size.  

The Leeward, with Sovereign of the Seas abeam, and the Carnival Fantasy abeam of her.

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.