<i>Voyager of the Seas</i>, One of the World's Largest Cruise Ships, by Ted Cookson

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by Ted Cookson
Published in March 2005


Question:  What is 1,020 feet (314 meters) long and 157 feet (48 meters) wide, weighs 142,000 tons and features a rock climbing wall, an ice skating rink and some of the world's best oatmeal raisin cookies baked afloat? 

AnswerVoyager of the Seas, which was the first of the Royal Caribbean International (RCI) so-called mega-ships to come on line.  Voyager of the Seas was launched in late 1999. 

Since the inauguration of Voyager of the Seas, three sister ships have also begun operation:  Navigator of the Seas; Mariner of the Seas; and Adventure of the Seas.  A fifth Voyager-class ship, Explorer of the Seas, is scheduled to begin service in late 2003.  Currently these cruise ships are the world's largest, and they will remain so until January 2004 when Cunard's new Queen Mary 2 debuts.  The Queen Mary 2, slated to carry 2,620 passengers and weigh some 150,000 tons, will be about 9% heavier than RCI's Voyager-class ships.   

All of the Voyager-class vessels can accommodate 3,114 passengers.  This capacity figure applies if every cabin is occupied by only two people.  However, capacity would rise up to a maximum of 3,840 passengers if every single bed were filled. 

The Voyager-class vessels are destinations in and of themselves.  In addition to a unique rock climbing wall and an ice skating rink, Voyager-class vessels sport the following features:  a four-story atrium with a mall lined with shops and bars; a state-of-the-art 1,350-seat theatre for live music and comedy shows and performances of musical stage productions; a fully-equipped casino; four swimming pools and a whirlpool; a full size outdoor basketball court which can also be used for volleyball; a golf simulator and a 9-hole miniature golf course; an in-line skating track; and a fitness center and spa which includes exercise equipment, sauna, massage and beauty salon.

Voyager-class ships also offer educational and entertainment activities for children aged 3-17; a library and business center; 24/7 internet access; a cinema; a three-tier dining room; a 1950's-style diner; an upscale Italian restaurant; a pizza parlor and ice cream bar; a self-service cafe for casual dining; various bars; and a wedding chapel high up on the fifteenth deck for couples to say, "I do."  Interestingly, a PADI scuba diver certification course is  offered too.  The course includes two open water training dives.

All Voyager-class staterooms include:  a private bathroom with shower; a vanity area; a hair drier; a minibar; closed-circuit television; radio; and a telephone.

In June 2003 I sailed Voyager of the Seas from Miami on a 7-day Western Caribbean itinerary, visiting four destinations:  Labadee, Haiti; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands
; and Cozumel on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.  On that sailing we carried 3,464 passengers.  Of  that total 414 were honeymooners and over 600 were children!  Voyager-class vessels operate only on Caribbean itineraries.

At Labadee, RCI's private beach in northern Haiti, shore excursion options included jet ski riding, para-sailing, sea kayaking, snorkeling lessons, a water park for children, and sunbathing.  In addition, a barbecue lunch was offered on the beach.

At Ocho Rios on the north coast of Jamaica shore excursion options included a climb to the top of 600-foot-high Dunn's River Falls, sea kayaking, swimming with dolphins, bicycling, a walking trek and shopping.

At George Town on Grand Cayman shore excursions included a visit to a turtle farm, swimming with stingrays, snorkeling, sea kayaking, a submarine ride, a jeep safari and a butterfly farm tour.

At Cozumel, Mexico shore excursions included a tour to the Mayan ruins at nearby Tulum (the only seaside Mayan ruins in Mexico), sailing on a catamaran, petting the dolphins, snorkeling, horseback riding, golf, bicycling, and shopping. 

I was impressed with the way that RCI handled the embarkation procedures in Miami.  With nearly 3,500 passengers to process, I was surprised that it took only one hour from the time I was dropped off at the terminal to the time I entered my comfortable cabin.  And almost all of that time was spent in the air-conditioned terminal building where check-in and security were handled.  Disembarkation, requiring only 45 minutes, was even faster.  And the fact that there were so many people on board did not mean that there were long food lines for buffets.  Multiple outlets lessened the crowding.

The largest ship I had sailed on prior to my cruise on Voyager of the Seas was the 2,600-passenger Golden Princess.  That Princess vessel was designed in such a way as to give passengers the impression that they were not cruising on a mega-ship.  This effect was achieved by breaking down the ship into various component areas.  On the Golden Princess there are no broad vistas from one end of the ship to another.  On Voyager of the Seas, however, the architects apparently worked to create exactly the opposite effect.  Glass elevators allow passengers to look into the four-story atrium which is some 200 meters long.

The fabulous "Ice Jammin'" ice show, which was performed on a small ice rink five times during the week, was the most unique entertainment performance I have seen during two dozen cruises at sea.  The ice show included performers from such diverse locales as Russia, Ukraine and Austria.  There were beautifully-choreographed group dance performances.  The ice show also showcased various individual and paired skaters in simulated contests which featured instant replays and television-style interviews with the performers.  Judges were chosen from among the audience.

Voyager-class vessels are employed solely in the Caribbean, so the optimal season for enjoying
them is in the winter when the Caribbean is less humid.  During the winter season sun-seekers from North America like to flock to warmer climes for a mid-winter break.


ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com

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