4 things you’ll love about Royal Caribbean’s new Odyssey of the Seas
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Editor’s note: Royal Caribbean provided TPG complimentary access to Odyssey of the Seas during a two-night, nonrevenue media preview event. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren’t subject to review by Royal Caribbean or any external entity.
Call it the Royal Caribbean ship that got lost in the shuffle.
The Miami-based line’s new Odyssey of the Seas, which was christened Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, originally was scheduled to debut way back in 2020. But then COVID-19 happened, and its arrival was delayed multiple times.
So many times, in fact, that even cruise industry watchers like me sort of forgot about it.
It didn’t help that the 16-deck-high ship finally began sailing out of Fort Lauderdale at the end of July — with no media unveiling — during the very same week that Carnival Cruise Line’s giant new Mardi Gras was starting up service. Topped with the first roller coaster at sea, Mardi Gras was the story of the summer in the cruise world, and it sucked up a lot of the attention.
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Still, as I saw firsthand over the weekend during the ship’s long-delayed unveiling event for media and travel agents, Odyssey of the Seas isn’t a ship to be ignored.
Indeed, in my book, it’s one of the most alluring Royal Caribbean ships to date.
A familiar design
Like all of the Royal Caribbean ships that have debuted over the past decade, Odyssey of the Seas is a massive vessel loaded with all sorts of fun zones that make it particularly appealing to families with kids. You’ll find everything from multiple pool areas and a kiddie splash zone on board to a skydiving simulator, a virtual reality bungee trampoline, a rock-climbing wall and a surfing pool.
And that’s just on its open-air top decks.
Step inside Odyssey of the Seas, and you’ll encounter a bumper car pavilion that doubles as a sports court and can transform into a trapeze school and a laser tag arena, plus all sorts of other amusements for both children and adults.
If, like me, you’ve been on a lot of Royal Caribbean ships over the years, you’ll recognize many of the aforementioned features as hallmarks of the line’s Quantum Class series of vessels. Odyssey of the Seas is the fifth and final ship in the series, which began rolling out in 2014 with the debut of the then-groundbreaking Quantum of the Seas.
But as I saw during my visit to the ship, Odyssey of the Seas isn’t a carbon copy of the earlier Quantum Class vessels. Across the ship’s public decks, there are tweaks both big and small to the basic Quantum Class design — a design that many cruise writers (including me) already have heralded in recent years as one of the best from a major big-ship line.
Built to hold up to 5,510 passengers with every berth filled, Odyssey of the Seas isn’t for everybody. If you prefer intimate, uncrowded cruise vessels, it’s probably not for you. But if you’re a fan of the latest crop of floating megaresorts with every sort of amusement known to humans, Odyssey of the Seas surely deserves a place on your list of new vessels to try.
Below, a look at some of the features that set this vessel apart:
A revamped top deck
Royal Caribbean ships are known for some of the liveliest, most activity-packed top decks at sea, and Odyssey of the Seas is no exception. In fact, it offers one of the most enticing mixes of deck-top attractions around.
Like earlier Quantum Class vessels, the ship boasts open-air areas that are home to a FlowRider surfing pool, a skydiving simulator (dubbed RipCord by iFLY), a rock-climbing wall and a giant mechanical arm called North Star that takes passengers up into the sky for aerial views. But the ship’s designers also found a way to squeeze in a virtual reality bungee trampoline attraction called Sky Pad — something you won’t find on any other Quantum Class ship based in North America.
In addition, Odyssey of the Seas offers a new-for-the-Quantum Class, Caribbean-themed central pool area with colorful lounge chairs, umbrellas and (extra-charge) cabanas surrounding two main pools and a kiddie area called Spealashaway Bay. This main pool area also is home to a laidback, two-deck-high Caribbean-themed bar zone called The Lime and Coconut (a concept that first debuted in 2019 on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas).
On previous Quantum Class ships, one of the two pools in this central pool area was covered by a glass magrodome. But both of the pools on Odyssey of the Seas are open to the sun.
My take is that this is a smart change for a vessel that’s scheduled to spend the coming year sailing in the Caribbean during the winter and the warm waters of the Mediterranean during the summer.
Of course, it could morph into a drawback if Odyssey of the Seas ever is redeployed to a cooler destination such as Alaska, where an enclosed pool area can come in handy.
As is the case with previous Quantum Class ships, the top deck of Odyssey of the Seas also is home to an adults-only Solarium.
More family-focused fun
In addition to all of the family-friendly top-deck attractions mentioned above, Odyssey of the Seas also is home to the largest SeaPlex ever on a Royal Caribbean ship. These giant, multiuse activity complexes, only found on Quantum Class ships, offer everything from bumper cars to basketball and even trapeze lessons.
But on Odyssey of the Seas, the SeaPlex also brings what Royal Caribbean is billing as the first fully immersive 4D virtual reality experience at sea.
Called the Virtual Adventure Zone, the venue wasn’t running when I was on board the ship, so I didn’t get to try it out firsthand. But the experience involves donning a virtual reality headset and virtual reality gloves and entering a pitch-black room with up to three fellow players. Once inside, you work together on an inside-a-faux-world group mission (welcome to the Metaverse!).
Honestly, I’m sort of happy the venue was closed after reading the lengthy warning sign outside the attraction that was topped with a “Severity of Experience HIGH” declaration and a warning that “disorientation is possible.” If this is what fully immersive 4D virtual reality is all about, I want no part of it.
What I did try, though, was a mini-burger and wings at the nearby Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade — another family-friendly venue that’s been added into the SeaPlex area on Odyssey of the Seas. I can declare that the severity of experience there was low, even if the level of yumminess was high. I just shouldn’t have have eaten all those cheese-covered fries.
New dining options
Odyssey of the Seas harbors many of the iconic Royal Caribbean eateries that you’ll find on other Quantum Class ships, including a Chops Grille steakhouse, an Izumi sushi restaurant and the fanciful food-serving Wonderland. But you’ll also find several new venues that haven’t appeared on most if not all of the other ships in the series.
Among the most notable is Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, which takes the place of the Italian-serving Jamie Oliver restaurant found on all four of the other Quantum Class ships. Giovanni’s serves up an array of pasta dishes and a (very limited) number of meat and chicken dishes. But we suspect the casual and family-style restaurant will make its name on Odyssey of the Seas for its pizza offerings, which are at the core of its menu.
Royal Caribbean brought in a well-known Italian pizzaiolo (that’s a fancy Italian word for pizza expert) to help craft what they’re boasting is the best pizza at sea.
As someone who spent part of his childhood living in Italy, where I was exposed to some of the best pizza anywhere, I feel confident in saying that they are, indeed, delivering something truly top-notch. The only issue I have with Giovanni’s is the sky-high cost of the restaurant, which has been set at $49.99 per adult, not including drinks (kids pay just $10).
Maybe they can get it. There aren’t all that many tables at Giovanni’s to fill. But $49.99 per adult seems steep to me, given that my wife and I can gorge on an equally wonderful pizza at our local Blue Mountain Pizza outlet in Weaverville, North Carolina, for under $25 for the two of us, not including drinks.
Odyssey of the Seas also is the first Quantum Class vessel in North America with a Teppanyaki restaurant. I’ll admit that I find Teppanyaki restaurants about as hokey as can be (and generally steer clear of them). But kids love them, and the venue’s arrival is just another sign that Royal Caribbean is leaning in ever more to the family market with its onboard offerings.
And new entertainment, too
One thing that’s all new on Odyssey of the Seas (at least for a North American crowd) is its marquee entertainment. None of the main shows you’ll find in its giant Royal Theater (it can hold nearly 1,300 people) or its innovative two70 entertainment space are repeats from earlier Royal Caribbean ships based in North America (though some have played on an Asia-based Royal Caribbean ship). And they’re all elaborate productions that are keeping with Royal Caribbean’s reputation for some of the best shows at sea.
The standout production on the ship, by far, is The Effectors show in the Royal Theater. It’s a big, Royal Caribbean-created musical tale of superheroes taking on an evil nemesis that dazzles with a combination of video animation, live actors and next-level special effects (we’re talking characters shooting beams of light from their hands and other lighting effects that are created with synchronized, lit-up drones that fly above the audience).
Regular readers know I’m no big fan of cruise ship shows. I often have trouble sticking around to the end of them. But the special effects I saw during The Effectors show (along with the eye-catching costumes and catchy pop tunes — I admit I’m a sucker for Kelly Clarkson) had me glued to my seat to the last standing ovation.
Also dazzling, as I expected, was The Book, the new part-video, part-live action and very high-tech show in seven “chapters” that Royal Caribbean has created for Odyssey of the Seas.
For those who haven’t been on a Quantum Class ship before, the two70 venues found on the five vessels in the series are truly groundbreaking spaces. Two decks high with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer stunning, 270-degree views (hence the name two70), they transform at night into high-tech, amphitheater-like showrooms with giant wraparound screens, moving robotic screens and trap doors above and below that allow for aerialists, singers and dancers to appear right in front of theatergoers.
A lot of the buzz around Royal Caribbean right now is related to its next new ship, Wonder of the Seas. Scheduled to debut in just over three months, it’ll be the new world’s largest cruise ship and chock full of over-the-top attractions that will make it a top pick for megaship lovers.
But that doesn’t mean cruise fans shouldn’t get excited about the line’s long-delayed but finally sailing Odyssey of the Seas. While not quite as big as Wonder of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas is a megaship that is right up there with the best of them.
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Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
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