Royal Caribbean International Sovereign of the Seas. A ship review of the first 3rd generation cruise ship from two different points of view
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|Sovereign of the Seas |
A ship review of the first 3rd generation cruise ship from two different points of view
by Arturo Paniagua Mazorra and Linda Allen (October 31, 2000)
The First 3rd Generation Ship
The delivery of the Norway did not pass unobserved for the competitors of Norwegian Cruise Line.
The cost reduction for passengers transported and for the miles sailed placed NCL in an advantageous position.
The future of the cruise market is mainly based on optimisation of the cost and, as a consequence, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines started to look into further development of a 70,000 GTR size cruise ship.
After detailed market and technical studies by the Wartsila design team, headed by Kai Levander, RCCL decided to order a ship that was five times larger than her first cruise ship, the Song of Norway.
The Sovereign of the Seas, the first 3rd generation cruise ship was born. But, unfortunately for Wartsila, the contract was instead awarded in France to Chantiers de L'Atlantique, because of bigger government subsidies.
The contract was signed in July 1985, with delivery in December 1987 at a cost of US$175 million.
The main design criterions of the Sovereign of the Seas were the following:
1. Vertical segregation of accommodation: cabin forward, public spaces aft.
2. To have Panamax dimensions.
3. To have the first monumental atrium afloat, five deck high, designed to impress the passengers and to be the main meeting place.
This area was later modified to satisfy the fire requirement of the US Coast Guard.
4. The standard cabin was of modest size, as on the former RCCL fleet mates, with 12 m2 in size.
But in the two higher decks of the superstructure, the cabins have 15 m2 of surface as minimum.
Surprisingly, there were no balcony cabins on the ship.
5. It was the first RCCL ship with two dining rooms, "Kismet" and "Gigi", each with a capacity of 650 people on a two sitting basis. They are located within the hull aft of the atrium, one above the other, each with a galley aft.
6. RCCL was kept faithful to the diesel mechanical propulsion, with a four engine medium speed installation capaple of a cruising speed of 18 knots, and kept the electric generation separate as in the earlier RCCL ship.
Almost all other 3rd generation cruise ships have been fitted with a diesel electric propulsion, and are one or two knots faster.
The lack of speed is a big disadavantage for the Sovereign of the Seas and for her two sisterships.
Exteriorly, the result is magnificent.
The Sovereign of the Seas demonstrated that it is possible for a modern cruise ship to have a handsome and well balanced appearance, something more than a container carrier or a ferry.
The rounded lines of the forward part of the superstructure, and the smooth terraces aft marked a milestone in the cruise ship design.
Also, the smooth rake of the bow adds elegance to the design, as well as the traditional cruiser stern.
The ample windows of the dining rooms integrate perfectly in the beauty of the ship.
On the inside, the Sovereign of the Seas was an evolution of the Song of America, but with more cabin in the superstructure.
Capacity for 2,282 passengers is provided in 722 cabins facing seaward (63% of the total) and 416 inside twin bedded cabins, which were convertible to double bed configuration.
All the cabins have interactive television, private bath, individually controlled air conditioning and telephone.
In the hull the cabins have the same configuration as on the former RCCL ships, but the 3.8 metre extra breadth means that the inside blocks of cabins are of 14 units, one more than in the Song of America.
In the superstructure all the cabins have outside view but they do not have any balconies.
In the Sovereign of the Seas twins, Monarch and Majesty of the Seas, delivered in the earlier nineties, all the cabins located in the wheelhouse deck have balconies.
The Public Rooms
The public areas are around the monumental circular atrium, called Centrum and designed by Njal Eide, which is decored with two panoramic elevators.
A large art piece is suspended down the full height.
All the public rooms are located aft the atrium so it is the main meeting place on the ship.
The most important of these is the three deck high Follies Theater, with a capacity for 1,050 people.
The sightlines are magnificent from all the seats, because there are only a minimum number of pillars to support the balcony section.
On deck five, between the theater and the atrium is located Casino Royale, which is bigger than in former RCCL ships, and it is fitted with 11 black jack tables and an American roulette, and nearly 170 slot machines.
Above the casino there is the second lounge on board, the elegant Finian's Rainbow, for 460 people, with a more refined decoration in marble, teak and high-backed sofas.
On deck two are also located two small cinemas, with 144 seats each, and the ship was fitted with conference center/card room for incentive cruise and conventions.
Above the main theater is located The Music Man, that accomodates 675 people on tiered seating.
It is used for daytime activities like games, classes, live shows and dancing.
The disco, seating 350 passengers, is also located well aft, on deck nine.
Besides these large spaces the ship has other more intimate and small places, such as the Schooner Bar (of nautical ambience), and a piano bar.
No Royal Caribbean ship is complete without a Viking Crown lounge suspended around the funnel and the Sovereign of the Seas is no exception.
It is larger than in the Song of America and offers magnificent sightseeing at sea or in port.
It has access both by stairway and elevator.
Her External Decks
The Lido deck is an enlarged version of the one that is on the Song of America with two vast swimming pools amidships.
But it is covered by green astroturf, a disappointment for the enthusiasts of teak decking.
The Sovereign of the Seas introduced the possibility of eating close to the pool in the Windjammer Coffee, a buffet restaurant seating 850 located under the radar mast.
It became one of most popular spaces on board and, as a consequence, it has been repeated in all RCCL ships from then on.
It is two deck high with a balcony section and it includes a mahogany tree of crystal-lit baubles, brass and wood.
But the Sovereign of the Seas has the disadvantage that her fitness facilities, such as gymnasium, sauna, health care, etc., are not on the same deck as the swimming pool.
They are located on deck 10, above the disco.
On her two sister ships, to incorporate more cabins with balconies, a cinema and some areas for the crew were eliminated in order to house 40 additional passengers.
The Sovereign of the Seas arrived in Miami on 4 January 1988 after an Atlantic crossing from St. Nazaire.
On 15 January, former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter christened the ship with a 90 centimetre high bottle of champagne, the world's largest and the following day, the Sovereign of the Seas sailed on her first seven day Caribbean cruise.
The introduction of the six 'Vision class' cruise ships meant that the Sovereign of the Seas had to change her cruise pattern.
The Bahamas' short cruise business became an important niche market and RCCL chose her first megaship to fullfil it.
So, on 30 November 1996 she entered drydock at Beth Shipyard in Baltimore, where more than 300 contractors completed a $6 million renovation and refurbishment designed to meet the demands of this special market.
A total of 220 berths were added to existing cabins in order to accommodate families, increasing the overall capacity of the Sovereign of the Seas.
The former disco was altered to create two new areas, one for children and one for teenagers, whereas the Music Man lounge became an entertainment lounge and disco, with her original configuration unchanged.
The shopping gallery in the atrium was enlarged and a central kiosk added to create a marketplace atmosphere.
To accommodate additional passengers, the two dining rooms received additional seating, as well as the Windjammer Cafe'.
Once the refurbishment was completed, Sovereign of the Seas began to offer three and four night cruises from Miami to Nassau and CocoCay in the Bahamas, as well as Key West.
Her first cruise started on13 December 1996, taking over the popular itineraries that Nordic Empress offered for more than six years.
A new Homeport
This year the Sovereign of the Seas changed her homeport and on 28 May she begun to offer three and four night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas.
There are a lot of American families who take a cruise package composed of theme parks in central Florida (DisneyWorld, Universal, etc.) and a short cruise.
She competed with the first Carnival megaship, the Fantasy, with the Disney twins and with older tonnage such as the Dolphin IV and the Premier ships.
The latter ships are now out of business and this means a promising future for the Sovereign of the Seas.
Sailing on the Sovereign (Linda Allen)
On 6th August 2000 I sailed for the second time on the Sovereign.
Previously I sailed on her with a group when she was doing 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruises.
Her public areas were actually in better shape than on my previous voyage.
The public areas of the ship were well maintained as was the exterior.
The cabins could use some freshening up.
Notably the artwork is looking tired and faded in some of the rooms and the more expensive suites lack the elegance and appointment expected for the premium price they command.
The best category on this ship is category C unless you can
get a higher category for only a small difference it is questionable
that the client will be any happier with a higher category due to their
lack of eye appeal.
Standard cabins on this ship are walk in closet size (122 square feet).
If you book a standard cabin for a client it
should be stressed how very small these cabins are. Many of the cabins
could use new upholstery and nicer bed covers for the Queen size
At least in my cabin the mattresses and pillows were
overdue for replacement.
Lido food service was comparable to my previous sailing which was also mediocre. The buffet at embarkation is poor and I would suggest eating before arrival.
The food in the Lido improves after the first lunch but is never on par with comparable ships or even the dining rooms.
Dining room quality is comparable to other similar size ships.
Service from the wait staff in the dining room was actually better than on other similar ships.
The Gigi dining room is the more attractive of the two main dining areas.
Other Public Areas
There is a Steiner Spa onboard and the Gym is typical for a newer ship, functional and with a very nice view. One of the best quite reading areas is just off the spa.
Sovereign has a very nice library and also has a card room and conference center.
Twin Cinema’s are a nice touch and are very comfortable. Movies are also shown in the cabins at no charge.
Embarkation and Disembarkation were excellent.
Announcements from the Cruise Director were piped into passenger cabins,
not something that is appreciated by those who prefer to sleep late on vacation.
The hospital staff was friendly and they provide complimentary Band-aids, Bacitracin, aspirin, antacid, acetaminophen as needed to passengers.
The Sovereign was a pleasant respite and with a little work she could really shine on this route.
I had the feeling that she could use a woman's touch to add interest and charm and make the cabins more attractive.
All ages seemed content and I had no complaints that were severe enough for me to address on board personnel.
We combined this 4 day cruise with 3 days at Disney and Universal Studios.
It is an easy drive from Disney to the port and the ship is easy to find. Parking for a 4 day cruise was $28 pre paid.
The parking is in a secured area. The terminal was attractive and very easy to navigate.
Large bags even on wheels can not be brought on by the passenger and must be checked curbside due to the size of the X-ray machine used for the carry on bags.
A Ship for Families
I would recommend this ship to families who are doing Disney and the
other nearby sites.
Having the cruise after Disney was very nice and allowed ample time to rest after the grueling pace of the attractions.
The staff was very pleasant and I would, if the occasion arose, sail on
For further information: Royal Caribbean International