It's been a long time since I fell in love with a cruise ship, and no one is more surprised than I am that my new favorite happens to be the biggest ship in the world.
Now let me say that I love cruise ships, but have always much preferred the smaller, more elegant ships to the techno-behemoths that set sail in recent years. The larger ships lost the warmth and ambience of cruising somewhere in their massive tonnage or, in an attempt to be a large ship with a small ship feeling, compacted the lounges, cabins and public spaces to an uncomfortable, even claustrophobic size that left us yearning for a little personal space.
But Royal Caribbean has perfected the equation with the Voyager of the Seas. At 142,000 tons and 1,020 feet long, the statistics are astonishing. The comparisons are mind-boggling. Itís as long as17 freight cars, longer than seven 747ís end to end and even large enough to accommodate five Goodyear blimps. But Iíve discovered something even more staggering in its significance. The Voyager of the Seas is not just the biggest ship ever built; it is perhaps the most brilliantly designed ship I have ever experienced.
Among many innovative design elements of this ship, the one that makes them all work so well is the Royal Promenade. A colorful boulevard of shops and lounges, itís also the bridge between two soaring atriums leading to the remaining public rooms. So finding your way around is as simple as knowing which end of the ship you need to be on and getting from end to end is as pleasant as a stroll down the promenade.
And oh, that promenade! You may be tempted to stop by and play a little video poker at Spinners, where you sit and actually rotate around a gigantic roulette wheel. Or take a ëstreet tableí at the Pig N Whistle English Style Pub. Stop for coffee, pastry or some pizza at CafÈ Promenade, catch a game on TV at the Scoreboard Sports Bar or do some shopping at any of the gift shops. And if youíre really lucky, you may get to mingle with the Krooz Klowns.
Now let me say this: I am not a big fan of clowns, heck I'm not a fan at all, but the troupe I came upon on the Royal Promenade made me forget that. I was charmed and enchanted as Eddie taught me (or tried to teach me) how to juggle a DiaBolo, and other guests around me practiced balancing a Peacock Feather on their chin, took a crack at juggling and even got their own clown faces painted. There were those passers-by that looked askance at our inner children at play, but those of us mingling with the clown contingent were having a much better time.
On either end of the Royal Promenade are two soaring, light-filled Centrums. The Forward Centrum provides entry to the Vault night club, Cleopatraís Needle dancing lounge, the Schooner Bar, the casino, the La Scala Show Lounge, the Solarium with retractable dome, and the impressive two-story spa and fitness center.
Off the Aft Centrum youíll find the worldís first floating ice-skating rink in Studio B. While the ice show will be taking center stage, this showroom is designed with a floor to cover the ice for RCTV productions (thatís Royal Caribbean Television) to be broadcast throughout the ship and right into your stateroom. The Aquarium Bar actually has huge aquariums of tropical fish built right into the walls, the two-story library provides internet access for emailing photo postcards back home and the spacious three-story, ocean-view dining room features a sweeping staircase and a crystal chandelier the size of a Volkswagen beetle.
Ride the glass elevators a few decks higher to Adventure Ocean, a wonderland for children with separate rooms and amenities for each age group. Just out the doors is the wading pool and water slide, surrounded by kid-size chairs and tables and even chaise lounges. And just around the corner is the 50ís style Johnny Rockets diner for a quick burger and fries.
One more deck up and you can play on the miniature golf course, the virtual driving range, full size basketball court or tackle another first at sea, the rock climbing wall. You bring the sneakers and theyíll provide the rope and harness. And while there is an additional fee for some of these activities, it didnít seem to stop anyone from enjoying the fun.
There are more places to see and things to do. And I could go on and on about all that makes the Voyager of the Seas so unique. But Iíd rather you go on to see for yourself. This is a ship that is taking the joys of cruising to new heights. And I canít wait to scale those heights again.