Royal Caribbean Reveals First Genesis Gem: Central Park

April 15, 2008

RCI's Genesis: Scenes from Central Park
Royal Caribbean's Genesis to Offer Towering Views?

Mysterious photos of a cross section of Royal Caribbean International's Genesis ship under construction prompted weeks of speculation surrounding its unusual structure on the Cruise Critic boards. It turns out that the soon-to-be largest ship in the world is taking a page from America's largest city -- what appeared to be "towers" in those photos are actually columns of balcony cabins surrounding a "Central Park" area inspired by the Manhattan landmark.

Royal Caribbean announced today at an event at New York's Hudson Terrace that its 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Project Genesis will feature a lush park the size of a football field -- a courtyard of tropical plants and walkways, and a town square with dining and entertainment -- rising five stories from Deck 8 of the 16-deck ship. Central Park is the first in a series of seven "neighborhoods" that will be unveiled on the ship.

"The 'wow' is what we're all about," Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain told a crowd of journalists and travel agents who gathered at New York's Hudson Terrace for the big announcement. "Getting our customer to say 'wow' is our inspiration."

Interestingly enough, Royal Caribbean wasn't planning on revealing the Central Park concept this soon. However, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Executive Vice President, Maritime, Harri Kulovaara, tells us (via video -- he's currently in Finland readying Independence of the Seas for launch) that because the area is now visible -- for example, from a plane flying overhead or, ahem, by someone in the area with a digital camera -- they "had no choice" but to spill the beans. Unlike the reader who sent us the photos in March, Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein says he managed to keep his lips zipped, only telling his family yesterday and even then making his sixth-grade daughter promise not to share the news with any of her schoolmates.

So how will Central Park increase the "wow" factor for RCI? Central Park will feature real, living foliage much like the Lawn Club on sister line Celebrity's upcoming Solstice -- but that's where the similarities end. Where the Lawn Club is a grassy section of that ship's lido for sunning and sport, Central Park is an area about as long as the Royal Promenade on Voyager- and Freedom-class ships -- and twice as wide -- housing myriad features and amenities including:

254 Park-view balconies (four will be wheelchair accessible), and 80 Park-view windowed staterooms. What's unique about the construction is that it allows for more outside staterooms -- even those facing inward on the Park have balconies, fresh air and a view. Only about 20 percent of all cabins onboard will be insides.

Boutique shops showcasing upscale merchandise such as The Parkside Gallery, selling original artwork, and Picture This, a portrait studio.

Seven restaurants, cafes and bars. Royal Caribbean favorite Chops Grille will be in this area, with tables indoor and out, as well as Vintages wine bar. New eateries to look for include 150 Central Park, Central Park Cafe and Giovanni's Table (with an Italian theme). The Canopy Bar will serve drinks underneath a glass dome, while the Rising Tide bar will actually glide up and down, as its name implies -- the first moving bar at sea.

Evening entertainment, including al fresco concerts and "street" performances.

Landscaped gardens including the Pergola Garden (featuring Caribbean vegetation), the Sculpture Garden (with artwork from artists across the globe) and the Chess Garden (featuring giant pieces for a game of chess or checkers). An on-site horticulturalist will teach guests about the gardens and those who want to hone their green thumbs can gather gardening techniques as well as lessons on the ecology of Caribbean plants. There will also be trees and "Green Walls," showcasing flowering vines.

At this point, mums the word on whether Central Park will replace the popular Royal Promenade concept or simply supplement it. Our guess is the latter; because Central Park is open to the elements, we imagine that the ship will feature a Promenade or similar indoor public area for strolling and meeting on rainy days.

Fain, Goldstein and others promise that this is just the first of many surprises to come. One hint we picked up on during a video presentation was the coming of larger staterooms -- the text on screen literally said "Larger Staterooms." Though no specific details were shared, Fain does say that offering roomier accommodations over a wider variety of staterooms is a trend that will probably continue.

Otherwise, who knows what's next? Central Park, however huge, is just one slice of the Genesis new-build -- they have to work a pool in up there somewhere, too.

"What has always distinguished us from the beginning is innovation," Fain says, noting that when the line launched in the 1960's it was the first cruise line to do so with a brand-new ship rather than, say, a recycled trans-Atlantic liner. Goldstein tells us that the line aligns what they are doing with the likes of Vegas and Dubai -- cutting-edge tourism construction. Other "firsts" Royal Caribbean has rolled out at sea include rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and the FlowRider surf park.

Another "big reveal" is already planned for June 18; pretty much everything else Royal Caribbean has up its sleeve will be announced then as booking is expected to open late summer. Stay tuned to Cruise Critic, as always, for the latest.

What are your thoughts on RCI's floating Central Park? Speak your mind on our boards!

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor