Royal Caribbean International - A Brief History.

Preface

This history was begun as part of my web project RCIfan.com. It is not intended to be a comprehensive history of Royal Caribbean, but does seek to lend some detail to the average reader's knowledge of the cruise line. The author undertook this project in the belief that knowing more about one's cruise vacation adds to the quality of the experience.

An introduction to the cruise industry.  Taking to the sea as a means of recreation and pleasure dates back to shortly after the first human being fell into a river, lake, or ocean and managed to float to the surface. For as long as mankind has assembled vessels to travel on water, there have been examples of craft designed for the recreation of its passengers. So it should come to no one's surprise that an entire industry has evolved for no other purpose than to provide experiences unthinkable even twenty years ago.

Even as Purser's desks become Customer Service offices, the modern cruise industry retains roots which date back more than a hundred years. A truly comprehensive history of how the modern cruise industry evolved is best left to far more knowledgeable writers and scholarly works than this. Suffice to say that from the construction of modern cruise ships, to traditions subtle and gross, you enter a world far older than you know when taking a cruise.

The modern cruise industry has its roots primarily in the decline of traditional trans-­Atlantic passenger travel.  The rise of jet powered travel lead to the precipitous decline of ocean liners traveling between Europe and the United States. This was true globally, but as it pertains to the modern cruise industry, it was the growth of contrails in the skies over the Atlantic, which drove ship wakes to the Caribbean.

Pleasure cruises were not unheard of in the waters of the Caribbean even as far back as the 1800s. 20th century ocean liners traveled to warmer climate at first for reasons practical to the ship's owners as much as anything else. It was not long before ocean liners that were not scrapped for lack of trans­-Atlantic passengers, were being routed to pleasure itinerary full time. Many, if not most cruise ships were owned by shipping companies, something that is true even today. Often, these ships were valued for their cargo capacity as much as passenger amenities. As travel by sea shifted from a focus on arriving at a destination, and in part became the destination, amenities seen to present day began to take shape. Casinos, pools, and modern cabin arrangements became standard features. The basic model of the modern cruise industry had taken shape.

An Introduction to Cruising on Royal Caribbean.

If you are visiting this page, you are curious about cruise vacations, or my spin on what it is like to travel with RCI.  Don't take this as my final word. If you are new to this site I will warn you that it remains a work in progress. But good things come to those who wait. And so it is here.

But suffice to say this, until I can complete this section. Travel on RCI is a wonderful thing. If you haven't cruised before, realize that each line has its own style and such. This is true of RCI. Where a more festive cruise line is known for garish decor and fun, RCI aims for a look that is easy on the eyes, mind, and body.

If you hear the term mass market used to describe RCI, realize also, that the term doesn't mean what it might have ten years ago. The mass market now defines the cruise industry. The age of trans­atlantic ocean

liners, and 10,000 GRT cruise ships carrying a few hundred people is over.

The modern cruise industry began to truly emerge with the addition of Sovereign of the Seas in 1988. At least, the direction that has lead to ever larger ships began then. At the time, even the industries leaders did not know what would be the norms 12 years later.

RCI ships are generally considered the best designed in the industry. They are a pleasure to see and travel on. The line doesn't try to beat you over the head with neon and garish/tacky decor. The ships look good, and don't have to hide under layers of distraction.

If you have watched much TV at all, you know that RCI ships feature rock climbing walls and many other amazing things. In the 1980s when a certain red­headed woman flew down a waterslide and sang an annoying ditty, people considered that very act the cutting edge of cruise ship design. Some might make the mistake of thinking every cruise line features what you will find on many RCI ships. This is not the case.

Rock climbing walls, in­line skating tracks, mini golf, ice skating, and surfing are innovations RCI brought to the market. While not all of RCI's fleet boast of ice skating and surfing, they all feature the core items and such.

RCI ships tend to appeal to a wider cross section of people than do other lines. Younger than Holland America, more mature in behavior if not age than Carnival. The food is said not to be the very best of the industry, but remains excellent, and surely better than what most of us eat daily.

RCI has excellent crew service, and on­board services are top flight. Given the diversity of cruise experiences, it's wrong to describe any one experience as the best. However, it is more than fair to say that

travel on RCI is an experience you won't regret. The best way to learn that, is to view pictures and read stories of people who have traveled with the line. And it is in this way that I hope RCI Fan will help you.

The Royal Caribbean Fan - An Introduction.

*The Introduction from the original Royal Caribbean Fan Blog, 03/01/2006.

I created RCIFan.com to share and expand my experience of traveling with Royal Caribbean International. I hope this web site will be of interest and prove valuable to those preparing their first cruise with RCI or other lines. Likewise, it is my hope those who share my interest in the RCI lines will find it an enjoyable site to reflect on their own travels and share their own experiences.

Cruise are unique within the vacation industry. Unlike most vacation options where travel is incidental, with cruises it is integral to the experience.  Even with guided tours, the bus transporting you from one point to the next is not part of the vacation. In a cruise vacation, the mode of travel IS the destination.

Cruise travel is among the fastest growing segments of the vacation industry. This growth is not only driving the evolution of all aspects of cruise travel, but is changing the make­up of its clientèle. Cruise travel today is a thoroughly modern experience, but has its roots deep in the past of travel at sea.

This aspect has been the basis for two general types of cruise. Those with experience or an attraction to the history of sea travel and those who have first traveled in the last ten years. The nature of cruise vacations engenders a number of qualities among its proponents and critics. And make no mistake, like every other kind, the cruise industry has both critics and issues.

There are the topical issues one might occasionally read about in the news. Crew pay and benefits, environmental concerns, terrorism, and things named after obscure cities in Ohio with racing tracks. There are issues which are best known and understood by those with experience taking a cruise. These include the clash of philosophy between traditionalists and more recent arrivals to cruise travel, the tug­-of-­war between cruise lines trying to make a profit and consumers seeking to enjoy an all-­inclusive vacation.

Yet in the end, nothing has prevented legions of eager travelers of all ages and backgrounds from flocking to piers across the world. Though Royal Caribbean Fan is a work of love always in progress, I will explore these topics through this site. My view­point is not wholly objective. I enjoy cruise vacations, and I am not given to off the cuff rants.

I am fully aware of all views of cruise travel, and rather than duck an issue, have developed my view as thoughtfully as I am able, and present them in a clear fashion. When you research cruise travel on the internet you will find two general groups among the large online community. These groups might be best described as those who are rabid fans of cruise travel, and those who have had an unsatisfactory experience and are highly driven to express themselves online.

These two groups clash frequently online. The former typically tells the latter to air their complaints someplace else and that they haven't experienced anything like that which the complainers describe. The complainers are most often hostile in tone, and retort that those attacking them are apologists for the cruise industry, living in a fantasy world.

The reality which these two groups exist give both of their comments perspective.  People who enjoy cruise travel often enjoy relating and reliving their experience online. Like myself, these people have had a wonderful time, typically unlike anything they have experienced before. When people with negative views post on forums, it is disruptive to people's extended enjoyment online. Thus people tend to react curtly to those with complaints. I would go so far as to say, that as I note below, if people complaining are prone to being over­-the-­top in their opinions, people who defend a cruise line are the same in reverse.

Those who take a cruise and have a negative experience and these people are not restricted to solely first time cruisers tend to be much more negative and lacking perspective than the average person. The nature of the internet tends to distill emotions and feelings until you get the extreme of both sides. Thus the complaints you see online will tend to be more heated and damning than what most people with a dissatisfying moment have. I mention this here, because I want people without experience in cruise travel to understand the world they are moving into, before reading message boards or online reviews give them a possibly slanted view of reality.

The best way to learn and enjoy cruise travel is to educate yourself. Take all opinions with a grain of salt. Never take marketing literally, but also don't allow yourself to become jaded without cause. The internet has become the best way to become a savvy cruise traveler before you even board a ship. Having an accurate and well informed understanding of the cruise experience is worth three extra days at sea. The more you know, the more you will relax and enjoy yourself. I hope my website will aid you in your efforts. Visit often for updates and news.

Nathan W.L. Boyle

Creator, Royal Caribbean Fan and Cruise Aficionados.