Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Cruise line updates one ship for short cruises

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    Sky Pad is a virtual reality, bungee trampoline experience aboard the newly renovated Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas. The ship has $120 million worth of new thrills, restaurants, staterooms and entertainment.

    Tribune News Service

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    Upgraded dining areas aboard the newly renovated Royal Caribbean International's Mariner of the Seas. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

    Jim Rassol

Millennials want shorter, more frequent, but still “Instagrammable” vacations, and Royal Caribbean spent $120 million on one 15-year-old ship to give them that.

Royal Caribbean’s upgraded Mariner of the Seas is now taking three- and four-day cruises to the Bahamas with hopes that shorter trips and modern features will attract a younger crowd.

“After looking at the short-break cruise market, which is about 20 percent of the entire cruise industry in the United States, we realized that most of the markets were older ships with the least features,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of the Miami-based cruise line.

Mariner of the Seas will be the largest ship used for short Caribbean trips, according to a spokesperson for the company. It is 1,020 feet long, has 15 decks and can hold 4,000 passengers, according to Royal Caribbean’s website.

The cruises leave from Port Miami and will stop in Nassau and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island destination. Prices start around $200 for an interior cabin for fall trips.

The ship isn’t new, but Royal Caribbean is treating it like it is. It was built in 2003 — four years before the iPhone was released — and sailed mostly in Asia. Now, the ship’s new features and modernized technology brings it back up-to-date.

“Using a ship of this size to do shorter excursions filled with the same technology and luxury will hopefully attract more people to take more trips,” said spokeswoman Celia de la Llama.

The ship’s renovations are part of Royal Caribbean’s $900 million commitment to upgrading 10 ships in four years. “We sail with more than 5 million guests worldwide each year, and recognize the need to always innovate and stay ahead of the curve. We have designed this program to wow our loyal guests while also attracting the next generation of adventurers,” said Bayley.

How exactly is this newly renovated ship going to target the younger crowd? 

There are five new entertainment additions to the ship.

The Sky Pad is a gravity-defying trampoline zone that is paired with virtual reality goggles. Passengers can compete in intergalactic games while feeling like they’re actually jumping in space. “You really feel like you’re in the game,” de la Llama said. 

Virtual reality experiences are on the rise across all entertainment platforms, but Royal Caribbean is the first to incorporate it on board its ships, she said.

An escape room has also been installed. “This is a very sophisticated concept, built with movie production quality,” she said. Passengers feel like they’re actually in space as they try to solve the puzzle, pressing buttons and watching as items drop down from the ceiling to give them clues before the hourlong countdown expires.

There is also a laser tag zone set up on top of an ice rink, the signature 40-foot-long surf simulator and three-story racing water slides.

New restaurants, such as the Bamboo Room and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Jamie’s Italian, will give visitors more authentic cuisine for added cost. “We have never had something like the Bamboo Room before,” de la Llama said. 

The restaurant has a retro Hawaiian theme, with moving holograms on the walls that make you feel like you’re actually looking out at the ocean. “It’s all very instagrammable, which is conducive to young people,” she said.

For an additional fee, passengers can take scuba diving classes on the ship to become certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). The spokesperson said that passengers can complete the book work before the trip, then take the underwater test with instructors onboard.

“You have to pay for short excursions anyways, so why not incorporate your excursions by going diving and then getting a full certification? Plus, it will be in the Bahamas, one of the best diving locations in the world,” de la Llama said.

“This ship is truly a blend of thrill and chill,” said Mark Tamis, the senior vice president of hotel operations.

Tribune News Service

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