Immense new Voyager of the Seas pushes the envelope on cruising, with an onboard ice skating rink, rock climbing wall and more
By Jeannie Block
Published: Nov/Dec 2000
Cruising the Caribbean on Voyager of the Seas is akin to being a child left alone in a candy store. Theres so much there, he doesnt know where to head first.
Royal Caribbean International built the Voyager of the Seas to dispel any notion that cruising can be restrictive and boring. At 142,000 tons, the colossal ship has something for everyone.
The $65 million Voyager of the Seas is 1,020 feet in length (as long as a 17-car freight train), and its 157.5-foot width is twice that of New Yorks famed Broadway. These are startling specs, but its how the space has been used that is truly impressive.
Theres an ice skating rink and a rock-climbing wall, both firsts in the cruise industry. The Royal Promenadean innovative four-deck-high, 400-foot-long entertainment and shopping street on boardalso offers inside cabins with windows looking down on the streets activities.
Also on board are 20 bars and lounges, a large casino, a 3,000-book, two-deck library and Internet café, three main dining rooms, a massive show lounge, a 50s diner, an Italian restaurant, and a luxurious two-level spa.
The ships interior design uses historic periods for inspiration. Deck two is dedicated to the 21st century of art and design, deck three reflects on the 20th century artistic styles, and deck seven relates to the Renaissance.
The investment in artwork cost $12 million. Among the standout décor is a multi-tank aquarium in the Aquarium Bar that requires 58 tons of salt water for hundreds of colorful species of rare, tropical fish.
Even with all this, the ships 3,100 passengers have comfortable cabin space. Even the smallest staterooms have 160 square feet of space.
The ice skating rink hosts the evening show, Ice Jammin, featuring professional skaters in choreographed routines. The rink is part of Studio B, a 700-seat broadcasting complex used also for dancing, game shows and other events. During the day, skates can be rented by the hour and instructors are available for lessons.
In-line skaters, too, can rent skates and scoot around a small track, aft on the Sports Deck, next to a nine-hole miniature golf course and a full-size basketball court.
The rock-climbing wall rises a challenging 35 feet above the deck, or 200 feet above the sea. There is no charge to climb. There is a fee to play a state-of-the-art simulator that re-creates world-class fairways. The 19th Hole golf bar, up one deck, is a fitting watering hole to relax and reflect amid prized golf memorabilia.
On many Royal Caribbean ships, the circular Viking Crown Lounge is the trademark nightspot. On this ship, the area is so large that it was divided into several sections that include a card room, the Crows Nest cocktail/observation lounge and the High Notes Club, where jazz fans can revel. And just above, a bit nearer to heaven, is the Skylight Chapel, a lovely place for a wedding or to renew marital vows.
As on all Royal Caribbean ships, the Schooner Bar is a sprightly place for the sing-along crowd. Disco fans get energized right next door at the Vault. Press your palm into a mold of a big hand and vault-like metal doors open to the hopping, two-deck night spot.
The nearby Casino Royale has 18 gaming tables and some 300 slot machines. More slots can be found in Spinners, a small revolving gaming arcade that edges the Royal Promenade. The eye-catcher here is the giant interactive roulette wheel, which is activated from a four-deck-high roulette ball tower.
Cigar smokers have their own retreat: the Connoisseur Club, an elegant setting at the forward end of the Royal Promenade. Its right near the entrance to Cleopatras Needle, a large, decorous entertainment lounge for (mostly) Latin dancing and late-night comics. The architecture, of course, is strikingly Egyptian.
The grandest space, the 1,350-seat La Scala Theater, is designed in the style of the famed opera house in Milan, for which it was named. All three levels have generally excellent sightlines for well-choreographed, Broadway-style productions.
Three elegant main dining rooms, each named after a famous opera per Royal Caribbean tradition, are stacked above each other, tied together by double grand staircases. They share a stunning, crystal chandelier.
Casual buffet meals are set up in the adjacent Island Grill and Windjammer, aft of the pool. The classy 88-seat Portofino specialty restaurant is right off the Windjammer entrance. Reservations are required, and a $5 per person gratuity is added to your ships tab.
Hamburgers and the like are gratis at the 50s-era Johnny Rockets diner, the only shipboard operation of the popular fast food chain. They do charge for outrageous malts and milkshakes, but the few dollars and even the calories are well worth it. Ask for coins and choose your favorite songs. Be prepared for up to an hour wait any time of the day or night.
A generous amount of space around the diner is devoted to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program for youngsters in four age categories. They have their own dining area, pool, clubhouses and teen disco. Baby-sitting services also can be arranged.
While the immense ship could fill your days with its array of activities and experiences, the ports tempt you to depart, if only for a little while. On our April sailing, the Voyager of the Seas visited three slices of paradise.
The ship departs on Sunday afternoons from Miami, calling Tuesday at Labadee, a private, full-facility beach, on the island of Hispaniola that Royal Caribbean has used as an all-day playground for years. Sightseeing and activities, from kayaking to parasailing, are offered.
In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on day four, a variety of fun excursions are popular, including climbing a waterfall, rafting and horseback riding. On day six, Cozumel, Mexico, offers world-class diving waters and a gamut of excursions. Tours of Mayan ruins take time but are fascinating.
And next April, the ship will add Georgetown, Grand Caymen, as a port of call.
When the ship returns to Miami on Sunday morning, if you have time before your flight, each of the three tours offered is a fascinating viewing experience.
One tour highlights Miami. Another gives you a peek at Miami Beachs historic Art Deco District (South Beach) and the digs of the rich and famous. The third tour includes a drive through Everglades National Park and an airboat ride into the environmentally rich Everglades, with a stop at an Indian village for alligator wrestling and souvenirs.
A Voyager of the Seas twin will be coming on line next year, and a couple others are in the works for later years.
While a child left alone in a candy shop will invariably end up with a tummy ache and swear off sweets for life, passengers probably wont get filled up on the Voyager. Each new experience of the dozens of experiences on the enormous ship will only leave you wanting for more.
Jeannie Block is a frequent contributor from North Miami Beach, Fla.