Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2022

7 0 INTERV IEW Embarking on new odysseys Royal Caribbean International’s ever-expanding fleet of headline-grabbing ships continues to attract a growing audience. Anthony Pearce asks Ben Bouldin why innovation – and fun – is at the heart of its appeal Royal Caribbean International’s fleet is always expanding with newer, larger and more innovative vessels. “We manage to outdo ourselves with each new ship we introduce,” says Ben Bouldin, vice president of EMEA for the brand. “It’s through our new ships, which really shift the dial when it comes to holidays, both on land and at sea, that we can entice new guests and grow our brand.” The most recent arrival to that fleet of 24 ships is Wonder of the Seas, which is now the world’s largest cruise vessel, having surpassed Royal Caribbean’s previous record-breaking title holders, Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas. Before this, the record was held by the line’s Freedom-class ships, which now seem almost diminutive in comparison. “Wonder of the Seas is the fifth ship in our much-loved Oasis class and offers a combination of unmatched signature features and experiences found from one neighbourhood to the next, including the tallest slide at sea, The Ultimate Abyss; the newly designed, dedicated spaces for children and teenagers at Adventure Ocean, Social100 and The Patio; the FlowRider surf simulator; twin rock-climbing walls and the 10-deck-high zip line,” says Bouldin, reeling off a list of the ship’s key highlights. Early adopters of cruise holidays in the 1970s would scarce believe the numbers behind Wonder of the Seas – the 236,857gt vessel is 362 metres long, 18 decks high and able to accommodate a maximum of 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew. Over the 16 guest decks, there are 20 restaurants, four pools and 2,867 cabins. Cruise ships of this size are often described by others as being an acquired taste, but guests would be hard-pushed not to have a good time on Wonder of the Seas or other Royal Caribbean vessels – there is an astonishing amount to do. Recent years have seen Royal Caribbean upgrading older classes, bringing all the fleet up to the same activity-packed standard, while also creating the Quantum Ultra-class, which combines the features of both the much-loved Quantum and Oasis classes. The latest in this Quantum-Ultra class is Odyssey of the Seas, on which guests can enjoy favourites such as SeaPlex (the largest indoor and outdoor activity centre at sea), immerse themselves in shows at Two70, or head to the top deck for the SkyPad and FlowRider, the skydiving and surf simulators. It also includes the Virtual Adventure Zone, the first fully immersive 4D virtual reality Odyssey of the Seas offers innovative onboard activities such as the Skypad skydiving simulator