Cruise Industry

Royal Caribbean is now the largest cruise line in the world

Royal Caribbean is now the largest cruise line in the world by daily capacity and the number of ships it has in its fleet, but here’s why they don’t focus on it.

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With the launch of Spectrum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has become the largest cruise line in the world. Spectrum of the Seas, the first of the Quantum Ultra class cruise ships, is the 26th cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, putting it neck-and-neck with Carnival Cruise Line, which also has 26 cruise ships in operation.

Royal Caribbean’s spate of new ship launches and its large order back-log has seen it catch up with Carnival

However, when it comes to capacity, Royal Caribbean far out-strips Carnival, and when it comes to cruise ships on order, Royal Caribbean has five, while Carnival Cruise Line has three. According to Cruise Market Watch, the daily capacity of Royal Caribbean was 84,700 at the end of 2018, while for Carnival Cruise Line it was 71,300.

Carnival vs Royal Caribbean key facts

Carnival Cruise Line Royal Caribbean
Current number of ships in fleet: 26 26
Fleet size by 2024: 29 31
Net Revenue in 2018: $4.1-billion $6.5-billion
Passengers carried in 2018: 5.7-million 4.9-million
Total daily capacity: 71,300 84,700

Stats provided by Cruise Market Watch

This is in large part because of the sheer size of the new cruise ships Royal Caribbean has built, and has on order. Symphony of the Seas was delivered in 2018, carrying 6,680 passengers at maximum occupancy – the fourth Oasis-class ship in the fleet and the largest in the world (and there are two more being built).

The Oasis class ships are the largest in the world and defined by their open-air central promenades with 7 distinct ‘neighbourhoods’

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Spectrum of the Seas, which cruised from Dubai during her maiden repositioning voyage to China in 2019, meanwhile has space for 4,905 passengers at maximum occupancy. In comparison, Carnival Panorama, delivered in 2019, accommodates 4,008, like her sister ships Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, delivered in 2016 and 2018.

So Royal Caribbean International is now the largest cruise line in the world by fleet size and capacity, but why don’t they ever mention it? According to CEO Michael Bayley it’s because they don’t see any value in the title from a PR perspective.

“It’s not really something of huge importance to us,” Bayley told Skift back in 2016 when it achieved the capacity milestone. “I’m not sure it’s particularly important to our travel partners or our customers. I think people associate themselves with Royal Caribbean because of the fun innovations, the quality of the service, the experience that we deliver. I think that’s far more meaningful than telling people you’re the biggest cruise line in the world.”

Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest Oasis class ship

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Mike Driscoll, editor-in-chief of the industry newsletter Cruise Week, meanwhile, said that it is probably also a reluctance on the part of Royal Caribbean to blur its key message regarding size, which is that they operate the largest cruise ships in the world.

“In terms of what’s more important, the world’s largest cruise ship is probably more important because you can do things on the size of that cruise ship that actually make a difference,” he said. “They emphasize the world’s largest cruise ship. They don’t want to blur that message.”

Carnival Cruise Line, for its part, still refers to itself as the largest cruise line, but only in terms of passengers carried. Carnival carries more passengers each year because it operates shorter cruises than Royal Caribbean (although Royal is looking to change that in the near future).

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