With the addition of yet another giant new cruise ship, Royal Caribbean passes Carnival to have the world’s largest fleet

Apr 3, 2021

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Royal Caribbean is now the King of Ocean Cruise Lines when it comes to fleet size.

The Miami-based cruise brand this week pulled ahead of longtime rival Carnival Cruise Line when measured by ship count by taking delivery of a 25th vessel — the 4,180-passenger Odyssey of the Seas.

The addition of the 16-deck-high, 1,138-foot-long ship — one of the largest cruise vessels ever built — cements Royal Caribbean’s position as the world’s largest cruise line. Even before this week, Royal Caribbean already boasted about 18% more passenger capacity than Carnival due to the fact that its ships on average are bigger and hold more people. But the two lines were tied when it came to fleet size with 24 ships each.

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Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have shrunk their fleet size over the past year as they cut costs to stay afloat during the coronavirus-caused cruising shutdown. But Royal Caribbean has shed fewer ships than Carnival, helping it to pull ahead of the latter line in fleet size.

Going into the coronavirus-caused cruise shutdown, Carnival had 27 vessels — one more than Royal Caribbean, which had 26 vessels.

Carnival has since retired four of its older vessels while adding a single vessel, the 5,250-passenger Mardi Gras.

Royal Caribbean only has removed two vessels from its fleet.

Odyssey of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas emerges from a construction shed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

The construction of Odyssey of the Seas, at a shipyard in Germany, was slowed by the coronavirus outbreak. Ordered long before the outbreak began and under construction since early 2019, it originally was due to debut in November. But it was finished about five months late.

Odyssey of the Seas is the second vessel in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Ultra Class of ships — stretched versions of three Quantum Class vessels that began debuting in 2014.

The first Quantum Ultra Class ship, Spectrum of the Seas, debuted in 2019 and is dedicated to the growing Chinese cruise market. It sails out of Shanghai. Odyssey of the Seas will be the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to be marketed to a U.S. and European audience and sail in the those two regions.

Odyssey of the Seas originally was scheduled to sail out out of Civitavecchia, Italy (the port for Rome) starting in May on Mediterranean voyages that were open to a global audience. But with travel to many European countries still restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ship is being rerouted to Israel to operate an unusual series of voyages to the Greek Islands and Cyprus out of Haifa, Israel, that only are open to residents of Israel.

The cruises will be the first ever out of Israel by a major cruise line.

Israel has seen its case counts of COVID-19 plunge in the wake of one of the world’s fastest rollouts of the COVID-19 vaccine. The country is recording fewer than 500 new cases a day on average.

Odyssey of the Seas will be only the second Royal Caribbean ship to begin operating anywhere in the world since the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to cruising in March 2020. The line already is operating a single ship out of Singapore for Singapore residents only. Odyssey of the Seas also likely will be one of just a handful of cruise ships sailing anywhere in the world in May.

Odyssey of the Seas is the 13th largest cruise ship ever built. While not quite as big as Royal Caribbean’s record-breaking Symphony of the Seas (the world’s largest cruise ship), it has all the trappings of a major megaresort, including multiple pool areas, a kiddie aqua park and such amusements as a sky-diving simulator, a surfing simulator and a bumper car pavilion.

In addition, Odyssey of the Seas offers a something-for-everyone array of cabin classes that range from tiny, 166-square-foot “interior” cabins without a window to massive, two-deck-high Royal Loft Suites that are nearly 10 times that size.

After sailing out of Israel for the summer, Odyssey of the Seas is scheduled to reposition to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in November to operate voyages to the Caribbean.

Note that the addition of a new ship at Royal Caribbean only gives it the biggest fleet among cruise companies that focus on ocean-going ships. There are cruise lines such as Viking that mostly operate river ships that have more vessels. But river cruise ships are considered a separate category in the cruise industry. River cruise vessels are far smaller than ocean ships, on average, typically measuring just a few hundred feet long and holding fewer than 200 passengers.

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Featured image of courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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