The mega-cruise ship evolution

For no more than six months ago the cruise industry was on its all-time high. Today the industry has been hit by an immense pandemic force from Covid-19, and the cruise industry was one of the first to make headlines in the global mainstream medias with onboard virus outbreak and stranded passengers. Now the trade press reports about a never before-seen number of cruise vessel heading to the scarp yards.

Half a year ago a strong and steady growth provided a relatively safe heaven, at least on the short term, for a group of old cruise ships from the early 1990s and backwards – even with the constantly stream of newbuildings. The old ships were either used in niche or developing markets – or as with RCL-owned Pullmantur’s SOVEREIGN and MONARCH – in targeted ventures towards the Spanish-speaking regional markets. Earlier this week both ships were beached at a Aliaga-based scrap yard in Turkey.


On the other side of the pandemic, hopefully in 2021, the Pullmantur fleet is likely to be supplemented with tonnage from the Vision Class, the next in line old ships to be disposed of from the parent company’s US-main market-fleet. With that Pullmantur also serves a dual purpose for RCL in prolonging the commercial food chain for RCL’s assets.

Anchored off Villefranche-sur-Mer

Even with respectable ages (33 and 29 years) for scrapping, the disposal of especially SOVEREIGN is worth noting. Under the original name SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS the ship was the lead ship in the Sovereign Class, which took RCL and the whole business into the purpose-built mega-ship era. At the time of introduction SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS was on level with the gross tonnage of NORWAY and QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, both originally ocean liners and the largest cruise ships in the industry in the 1980s.

RCL maintain the lead position on the mega-ship front today with the (approx.) 225,000 Gt. Oasis Class, which is four ship classes and 17 years and more than 150,000 Gt. apart from the Sovereign Class. I have travelled on both classes lead ships; on SOVEREIGN in 2011 and 2016 and on OASIS OF THE SEAS in 2014.


I have no doubt that I prefer the concept of the old and “smallest” of the two. Its vast outside decks with a proper promenade, even with a front-viewing area. And furthermore, a good-looking profile to enjoy when you see your ship at port or from the tender.

SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS was among the last cruise ships without balconies, which in my opinion often compromise the exterior design. But even worse, the race to offer as many balconies as possible also makes the onboard experience less social and create a more introvert ship, distanced from the sea outside.

OASIS OF THE SEAS alongside in Vigo, Spain

The Oasis Class is a climax in that evolution with the further development of the shopping mall-principle introduced on the Voyager Class (the second class after the Sovereign Class). And on the Oasis Class it is even staged in a context of neighbourhoods – an urban land-based setting without any references to the sea.

But all that said, I’m just a ship nerd, who suffers from nostalgia. RCL deserves all the industry’s respect for pushing all the right buttons in their mega cruise ship evolution aimed at their broad US-market. No one can argue that it’s have not been a huge commercial success.

Three impressions from the operationel home port, Barcelona

SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS’s technical data as delivered December 1987

In orange: the progression in percent from SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS to OASIS OF THE SEAS

  • Owner: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL), Miami/Oslo
  • Operator: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
  • Building Yard: Alsthom-Atlantique, France
  • Yard No.: A-29
  • Length (o.a.): 268.3 m plus 34.9 %
  • Breadth (mld): 32.2 m plus 45.9 %
  • Draught (dwl): 7.5 m plus 22 %
  • GT: 73,192 plus 207,2 %
  • NT: 45,003 plus 22 %
  • T.DW: 8.006 plus 87.4 %
  • PAX (total): 2.582 plus 146.3 %
  • PAX (cabins): 1.141 plus 136.9 %
  • Cabins with balconies: 0 plus 2,109 %
  • Crew: 780 plus 177.6 %
  • Propulsion: Diesel-mechanic 4 X Alsthom Pielstick 9PCd20L (medium speed) each 5,120 kW.
  • Total power installed incl. AUX: 33,800 kW. plus 186.9 %
  • Trial speed: 21.2 knots
  • Contract price: 190 mill USD (price index value 2009: 367 mill USD) plus 247,1 %

Technical data and contract prices from shippax

Another view from Villefranche-sur-Mer

PAX – GT-ratio

  • OASIS OF THE SEAS: 1-to-35

PAX – total kW.-ratio

  • OASIS OF THE SEAS: 1-to-15

PAX – crew-ratio

  • OASIS OF THE SEAS: 2.9-to-1

PAX – invested USD-ratio

  • SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS: 1-to-142,137
  • OASIS OF THE SEAS: 1-to-188,680

The Sovereign Class:

  • Following the single-ship Empress Class and were RCL’s first mega-ships. The lead-ship in the class, SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS, was followed by the MONARCH OF THE SEAS (1991) and MAJESTY OF THE SEAS (1992).
  • The first and second of the trio arrived at a Turkish scrap yard July 2020 after they both had been operated by the RCL’s Spanish subsidy Pullmantur during most of the last decade.
  • There are four ship classes and 17 years between the Sovereign Class and the Oasis Class, which so far comprises the largest (225,000 Gt plus) units in the RCL-fleet and in the cruise industry. The newest RCL ship class in operation (the Quantum Class) and the future Icon Class do not exceed 200,000 Gt.
In a later colour scheme in Naples, Italy

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