The cruise ship world has met its newest wonder with the official christening of Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, which took place as part of a spectacular naming ceremony on Dec. 10.
The ceremony was held during a two-day trade sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida to Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
At the naming ceremony, Jason Liberty, president and CEO for Royal Caribbean Group, described the newest addition to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class as “the biggest and most action-packed ship on the planet.”
Indeed, Wonder of the Seas is touted as the world’s largest cruise ship, spanning 65 metres wide and accommodating up to 7,084 guests.
“What a fitting name – Wonder of the Seas – for she is truly a world-famous wonder and, more than that, she embodies the feeling of wonder,” said Liberty, addressing ceremony attendees.
What’s in a name?
Since its maiden voyage on March 4, Wonder of the Seas has already welcomed more than 180,500 guests on board and spent most of this past summer sailing in the Mediterranean.
Speaking to PAX about the timing of Wonder’s naming ceremony, Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice-president of sales, trade support and service. explained, “we always like to do something for the trade and we didn't have an opportunity when the ship was here for a short period of time, then she left to go to Europe. We tried to tie it in with a naming ceremony because then it gives people an opportunity to be a part of that.”
In addition to the naming ceremony, the sailing celebrated Wonder’s return to its year-round home in Port Canaveral.
Hosted at the ship’s AquaTheatre, the event brought a larger-than-life spin to the traditional sea ceremony.
The splashy event kicked off with a literal splash with a performance by inTENse, Royal Caribbean’s all-female cast known for their jaw-dropping water acrobatics.
The ceremony also featured singers and bagpipe performances, blessings for the ship, along with speeches by both Liberty and Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO, Michael Bayley.
Royal Caribbean also went “bigger and bolder,” as Liberty described it, with the ritual of breaking a champagne bottle over the bow of a new vessel for good luck.
A salmanazar of champagne, which is the size of 12 standard bottles, was smashed against Wonder of the Seas’ bow via a live stream to screens in the AquaTheatre, completing the ceremony and making Wonder’s name official.
If any ship could truly claim to offer something for everyone, it would be the world’s biggest.
“When you step on board, there’s incredible amenities and fun activities to serve multiple generations,” said Liberty.
The ship is a playground for young and old, with highlights including the Ultimate Abyss, which is said to be the tallest slide at sea, as well as a 10-storey-high zip line and an underwater-themed play area with climbing walls.
“The breadth and depth of the neighbourhoods – the ability for a family to come and engage and have fun across all these different dimensions and come together for the evening for a great dinner and then maybe go out and do all different things on their own – it really is a winning formula,” said Bayley.
Experienced cruisers will know that Royal Caribbean’s entertainment program is top-notch, combining cutting-edge tech with high-calibre performers that include former Olympic athletes as well as West End and Broadway stars.
Wonder of the Seas’ entertainment line-up is no exception, with captivating skating spectacles and a show featuring Royal Caribbean’s team of superheroes, the Effectors, among dozens of other engaging performances that are sure to delight kids and adults alike.
Wonder of the Seas also features a new Suite Neighborhood for Royal Suite Class guests with its own restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, along with a private sun deck. Families will appreciate the colourful Ultimate Family Suite, a two-storey space that sleeps 10, which includes an in-suite slide and piano stairs.
Wonder of the Seas delivers multi-generational fun both on and off the boat, with Bayley announcing at the naming ceremony that every sailing will make a stop at CocoCay.
The private island is home to its own dizzying array of attractions, including the tallest waterslide in North America, the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas and a private beach club.
“The world’s newest wonder brings together the very best of the Royal Caribbean for everybody,” said Bayley. “There’s plenty of adventures to go around for everybody.”
Travel advisors are essential
“We are seeing the trade business really come back strong,” said Freed, speaking to PAX at a travel media roundtable that took place during the Dec. 9 sailing.
Black Friday saw Royal Caribbean’s largest booking day to date in its history, smashing a previous record that the brand has already broken twice in 2022.
Freed noted that travel advisors are especially essential in supporting guests who are new to cruise.
“The more complex the product is, the trade does a better job at selling that,” she said. “A professional travel advisor plays such an important role in our success and really in helping the consumer make the right buying decision…trade is better at articulating the value of an itinerary.”
Freed added that Royal Caribbean is currently seeing a lot of success with its Caribbean itineraries, as well as its more premium-priced packages.
“People are spending a lot more money on vacations and spoiling themselves,” she said.
Freed also stressed the value of cruise – and Wonder of the Seas in particular – in the corporate meeting and incentive market, because it appeals to guests with varied interests.
“You, of course, have the sun and the fun, but you have so many other options between the entertainment, the music and the activities,” she said.
“I think you have more choices when you select a cruise ship and I think, with the corporate meetings and incentives, that's what they're looking for.”
Speaking at a press conference during the sailing, Bayley said the Canadian market remains a vital one for Royal Caribbean.
“Canada has always played an important role in the mix of markets for us – a lot of Canadians come down to the Caribbean and they go to Europe as well,” he said. “A little bit like the American market, it was slower to get itself back on its feet, but it’s pretty much back now.”
Bayley added that Wonder of the Seas is a symbol of even greater things to come soon for Royal Caribbean.
While the sheer proportions of Wonder of the Seas are dazzling, Liberty noted that their goal is to create more choice for Royal Caribbean’s guests, rather than to break size records.
“The larger the platform, the larger the canvas is for our dreamers and our product development teams to be able to do the painting,” he said.
“We love to say ‘it's the biggest cruise ship in the world’ and it’s great to say it, but really it’s about the experience that you can't get on any other cruise ship.”
Up next for Royal Caribbean is the debut of Icon of the Seas, which will lead the company's new Icon class. She is scheduled to enter service in early 2024.