After a cruise last year on what was the worlds largest cruise ship at the time, Royal Caribbeans Liberty of the Seas, I realized the good and bad of these beautiful mega ships. Their newest Oasis class, holding 5,400 passengers (not including crew), dwarfs the passenger count of 3,600 on the Liberty and the typical cruise ship capacity of 2,500-3,000 passengers on major cruise lines.
These mega ships are up to date with the latest cruising technologies, including smoother sailing with a wider hull, as well as the ability to check your onboard cruise account from your TV in your cabin. More deck space creates more activities; climbing walls, ice skating rinks, an onboard carousel, movie theatre's, more dining options and more dedicated youth and adult only areas. I kept busy aboard the Liberty each day trying out activities I would not have had the chance to do on a smaller ship.
As with every other cruise ship I've gone on, even having over 3,600 people onboard, you'd hardly notice! If you've never cruised this may seem impossible, but cruise ships are made to hold thousands of passengers without feeling crowded. About the only time I could tell there were at least a few hundred other vacationers was when I attempted to find a lounge chair by the pool on a nice hot day at sea.
Along with the sheer size of these ships comes the pressure for better entertainment and activities. I've seen a few shows while cruising that thankfully didn't cost us extra to walk out and find something more entertaining. Newer and larger ships are setting the standard with Broadway type shows, ice skating shows and bigger and better props. On the smaller ships, staging is limited and therefore can sometimes reduce the quality of the entertainment.
Royal Caribbean recently announced the Allure will have a 3-D theatre, Dragon Ice Show and Madagascar Aqua Show, along with Chicago:The Musical Broadway show.
Our third trip to one of our favorite Caribbean destinations, Cozumel. We arrived to port and it was unlike any other time we had visited. Cozumel was not yet equipped for a ship of this size and we had to tender into port. Something typical for many cruise ports, but with 3,600 passengers and only two exits, can you imagine how long it took? Much longer than a 2,000 passenger ship to tender.
The small island of Cozumel was instantly engulfed with 3,600 tourist from a single ship. We decided to take a driving tour, looking back there were three other ships parked along side ours. I asked our guide how many ships have been here at one time? He chuckled a little and said, "This is nothing, last month we had12 ships in Port at one time." Quickly I calculated 12 x 2,800= 33,600 extra people on the island of Cozumel. An island 29 miles long by 8 miles wide that occupies 60,000 permanent citizens. Absolute craziness!
Even on this mellow day of four ships in port, it was more crowded than we had ever seen the island before. Tours were packed with people, while beaches didn't seem as private. We still had a wonderful time in Cozumel, but it brought up the thought in my mind that these mega ships may be supplying more tourists than ports should be handling. Certainly the Cities are loving profits from thousands of tourists a day, but when does that no longer become fun? When tours are completely booked up, beaches are over crowded and just getting off the ship is an hour long process.
I love cruising and really want to see the industry adding more Port locations, rather than filling up the ones they currently are using with more tourists. Bigger ships are bringing in more passengers, while our favorite travel destinations become over populated.
Would I travel MEGA again?
Absolutely! These ships are big, beautiful and provide a vacation like no other. Plenty of activities, gourmet dining and in this case I do believe bigger is better. In fact, I can't wait for the day I get to experience Royal Caribbeans Oasis class, and hopefully before they are no longer the worlds biggest.