Royal Caribbean Unseats Carnival as Cruise Line With the Largest Fleet

Royal Caribbean has just come to dominate the ocean-going cruise scene by surpassing longtime industry leader, Carnival Cruise Line, in terms of its fleet size. Upon taking delivery of its new Odyssey of the Seas on March 31, Royal Caribbean boosted its ship count to 25 operational vessels; edging out Carnival, which is currently sailing with 24.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting global shutdown of cruising, Carnival boasted 27 vessels, while Royal Caribbean was sailing with 26. But, the financial toll of such an extended pause in operations prompted both companies to downsize their fleets as part of cost-cutting efforts.

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Carnival sold off some of its older Fantasy Class ships in July 2020. Carnival Fascination was purchased by Century Harmony Cruises and renamed Century Harmony, while Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination suffered the more ignominious fate of being sent to a scrapyard in Turkey. The cruise line also took delivery of one new ship, the 5,200-passenger Mardi Gras, in December of last year.

Royal Caribbean, meanwhile, cut just a couple of older vessels from its ranks, selling Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas to an undisclosed buyer in the Asia-Pacific region at the end of 2020. This put it neck-and-neck with Carnival when it came to fleet size, with 24 ships each; although Royal Caribbean already touted roughly 18 percent more passenger capacity than its rival, thanks to its having larger ships on average that carry more people, according to The Points Guy.

But, its fresh introduction of the Odyssey of the Seas, the carrier’s second Quantum Ultra Class ship, now solidifies Royal Caribbean’s position as the world’s largest cruise line. The 4,180-passenger is one of the largest cruise ships ever built at 1,138 feet long and 16 decks high. It was meant to have debuted in November 2020, but the COVID-19 crisis caused its final construction to have been delayed by about five months.

While the line’s first Quantum Ultra Class ship, Spectrum of the Seas, which debuted in 2019, sails out of Shanghai and serves the burgeoning Chinese cruise market, Odyssey of the Seas will be dedicated to sailing in Europe and the U.S.

Spectrum of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas. (photo via Royal Caribbean)

The plan was originally for Odyssey to sail inaugural voyages throughout the Mediterranean from the Port of Rome in Civitavecchia, Italy, starting in May. But, with much of Europe still restricting travel due to widespread COVID-19 variants and fresh surges, the ship will instead spend its first summer season sailing voyages around Greece and its islands, and Cypress, out of a first-time homeport Haifa, Israel.

These cruises, some of the first seagoing voyages in the world to sail since last March, will be open only to Israeli adults who have been fully vaccinated and staffed by crew members who have also been inoculated. Following one of the world’s fastest COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, Israel has seen its infection rates plummet and now reports fewer than 500 new cases daily, on average. These will mark the first sailings by a major cruise line out of an Israeli homeport.

At summer’s end, Odyssey of the Seas is set to cross the Atlantic and reposition to its new homeport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it will commence sailing six- and eight-night Caribbean itineraries in November.

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