(4:20 p.m. EST) -- Royal Caribbean put ink to paper today, signing a letter of intent with German yard Meyer Werft to build its next generation of cruise ships.
The order calls for a 158,000-ton, 4,100-passenger ship to be delivered in fall 2014 with an option for a second ship for spring 2015.
In statement issued late this afternoon, the line said that the project was being developed under the code-name "Project Sunshine," and that the new vessel design "incorporates new and exciting features that take advantage of the best of Royal Caribbean's experience and imagination." The estimated all-in cost per berth is approximately €170,000, which amounts to €697 million per ship.
What those new and exciting features are at this point is a matter of speculation. But that's not stopping us from asking you to speculate here.
We have heard one tidbit: In a recent call, Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, hotel operations, said that there will be more than three solo cabins on the new-builds. She declined to clarify.
"Project Sunshine" represents a significant reduction in size compared with Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class pair (pictured above), which measure 225,282 tons and carry 5,400 passengers double occupancy. The new-builds are similar in tonnage to RCI's 154,407-ton Freedom-class trio, but will carry some 500 more passengers based on double occupancy.
The next step is to finalize the agreement in contract form. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Michelle Nadeem couldn't offer a timeline for when this would occur.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor