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What’s new at Royal Caribbean for 2005

By: By Ana Figueroa

Passengers of Royal Caribbean International (RCI) can look forward to new itineraries and onboard enhancements of the existing fleet in 2005. And, bookings are set to open in the spring 2005 for RCI’s Freedom of the Seas. Currently under construction, the much-heralded ship will be the world’s largest cruise ship when she enters service in April 2006. The 158,000-ton ship will sail 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami year round. More details about the ship’s amenities will be released by RCI throughout the year.

In the “extreme makeover” category, the line’s Sovereign of the Seas completed an extensive refurbishment at the end of 2004. The update transformed all public areas of the ship, and added 62 new balconies. Also added were a new Latin lounge, called Boleros; a new coffee and ice cream shop and three lounges for exclusive use by teens. Sovereign is the third RCI ship to undergo renovations in the past few years. The ship will continue with year-round 3 and 4-night sailings from Port Canaveral.

Also in the works this spring is an enhancement to Enchantment of the Seas. The ship will receive a 73-foot midsection insert, new suspension bridges, a splash deck for kids, and bungee trampolines that will send guests soaring into the air. Enchantment will return to service in July 2005, with a series of summer and fall Canada/New England sailings from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., as well as from Philadelphia and Boston. The ship will then return to her year-round Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale.

There’s news about RCI’s Northeast departures, as well. Voyager of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas will sail alternating five-night Bermuda and nine-night Western Caribbean itineraries from May through November 2005 from Cape Liberty, in Bayonne, and Baltimore respectively. RCI’s newest ship, Jewel of the Seas, will sail a new 10-night Bermuda/Caribbean itinerary beginning in September 2005. The ship will call in Tortola, B.V.I.; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; King’s Wharf, Bermuda, and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private destination in Hispaniola.

The Caribbean continues to be RCI’s mainstay, with 16 ships positioned there this winter. Empress of the Seas will offer an exotic Southern Caribbean itinerary through April 2005. The ship will depart from San Juan, with stops in St. Maarten, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, Venezuela, Aruba and Curacao. Empress will also sails 3-night cruises to St. Thomas/St. Maarten and St. Kitts/St. Maarten.

In Europe, RCI is offering a series of exclusive cruisetours that offer passengers the chance to explore historic regions of England, France and Spain. RCI will deploy Brilliance of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas in the Mediterranean; Jewel of the Seas in Northern Europe. The Land-tours range from 3 to 5 days, and are escorted by local tour directors who are experts in the region. The tours include stays in four and five-star hotels, guided tours of the area’s top cultural attractions, and ample free time for guests to explore, shop and enjoy the wonders of their European destination.

Alaska and Canada cruisetour packages allow guests to make the most of their Alaskan cruises. Vision of the Seas sails one-way Gulf of Alaska itineraries between Vancouver and Seward. Guests have 19 cruisetours to choose from, with options that include travel by deluxe motorcoach and RCI’s luxurious glass-domed railcars, the Wilderness Express. Adventurous land excursion options include white-water rafting, glacier flight-seeing and heli-hiking. Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas sail roundtrip Hubbard Glacier itineraries from Vancouver. Guests on those ships can choose cruisetours of the Canadian Rockies and Whistler.

And, in news from the Gulf of Mexico, Splendour of the Seas will return to Galveston in November 2005, sailing 4 and 5-night itineraries to the Western Caribbean during the 2005-06 winter season.