(11:30 a.m. EST) -- Announce that a new class of cruise ship may be on the way, and imaginations go wild.
First, the back story: In a statement issued last week, Royal Caribbean let the world know it's signed a letter of intent with German shipyard Meyer Werft to build at least one new ship -- but little detail was given as to what future passengers could expect.
Dubbed "Project Sunshine," the order describes a vessel weighing in at 158,000 tons with a capacity of 4,100 passengers -- a significant decrease in size from Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger, 225,282-ton Oasis class, which debuted with the launch of Oasis of the Seas in fall 2009. However, little else was divulged, leaving us curious about what shiny new innovations and amenities the ship might boast when it begins sailing in late 2014.
We could think of no better place to turn for a bit of educated speculation than our well-informed and passionate Cruise Critic community. Below you'll find broader trends, some pervasive ideas and a few unique suggestions submitted by cruisers themselves.
Multi-Generational Cruisers Speak Out
As far as convenience and affordability goes, cruising is a great option for families, and there are clearly a few things Royal Caribbean can do to meet the needs of this increasingly powerful market.
Cruise Critic member bus man suggests "two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabins for families (or even just one bedroom plus a living room with sofa bed and pullman beds); something more modest than the Royal Family Suite."
Since RCI has insinuated that the new ships will be more like the Freedom class than the Oasis class, member Time4u2go may just get her wish. She wants to see "connecting balcony/ocean view and balcony/inside cabin pairs like on Voyager and Freedom classes! These are sooooooo great for families."
Several members would like upgraded balcony cabins geared towards families. Member Isaboo said, "I would like a balcony cabin that will hold a family of five, with possibly two bathrooms (or at least two potties)," while Divaofdisney proposes with slightly more detail, "Expanded Balcony cabins for families that accommodate 4 people with actually 4 beds not a sofa bed--set up with sitting area next to balcony, bed near bathroom."
Others just want it all, like BridgeMaven. She'd "like to see a ship oriented toward three-generation cruises which would include family suites with two bathrooms, good children's programs, dancing venues with music that appeals to baby boomers, etc in a setting that never lets you forget you are on a ship (such as Radiance class ships)."
It's All About the Solarium
The message boards were simply abuzz with thoughts on a Radiance-class-like solarium. Ideas including everything from it being adults-only to being covered (or uncovered) were tossed around.
Aviator of the Seas says, "I suggest a temperature-controlled solarium (retractable roof and heating) since during my recent transatlantic on the Adventure even the solarium was unusable for most of the cruise."
Bakincakes, who thinks the Solarium should be adults-only, suggests making the "solarium area larger...have a cover...again … adults only."
While MrsPete "love[s] the Solarium and would like to see it remain just 'as is' ... I DO NOT want it to be covered."
A number of cruisers came forth with fresh ideas, both practical and, uh, not so practical.
NyDiana, who wants dining choices laid out front and center, would like to see "menus of what is being served in each eating venue from [the] cabin TV."
"I love the idea of a lazy river -- don't know how they would do it either, but if they can figure out a flowrider, ice skating rink, etc . . . maybe they could get a lazy river included," says Reney313.
Member B-52 is all about economics: "A Wal-Mart!!! Those RCI shops are just too expensive."
Meanwhile, Mmemichele is ready for relaxation. "Hammocks in outdoor areas on open decks ... I would never leave!!!"
"How about an underwater restaurant or bar. It could be below the waterline with views underwater. Or it could be below the pool with windows into the pool, or perhaps a skylight that was the floor of the pool. It would definitely be different," proposes Ehlf.
Great Minds Think Alike
Many readers echoed one another, suggesting the following to RCI:
Fewer smoking areas
More adults-only areas
An outdoor eating area
More specialty-dining options
And Finally, a Few Interesting Ideas From Facebook
Maureen Patton: "Timeshare options!!"
Valerie Seit Clark Johnson: "No more extra pay venues!"
Jim Schaufenbil: "A drive-in movie theater!"
Abel Alonso: "Bungee jumping off the bow!!"
Various posters: "Me!"
Poll: What Would You Like to See on RCI's New Ships?
--by Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Web Content Producer