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Royal Caribbean Hints at Some Very Big News

The Royal Caribbean cruise line has been slowly but steadily making a major change to its fleet -- and it one-ups Carnival and Norwegian.

The pandemic forced Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report to make some tough decisions. 

The cruise line had to go into survival mode. That led to some layoffs as well as updates being postponed for older ships that had not been Amped -- Royal Caribbean's name for adding water slides, new restaurants, and other improvements.

The cruise line was burning hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter with little revenue coming in. 

Royal Caribbean also decided to sell its two oldest and smallest ships, Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas, Maritime Executive reported.

“Empress and Majesty of the Seas made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size,” Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley said, the website reported. 

“Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary. With plans for new, innovative ships to join our fleet in the upcoming years, we look forward to our guests and crew continuing to make new memories with us.”

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has been moving toward bigger ships. Its latest, Wonder of the Seas, holds the title of world's largest cruise ship. That title will be claimed by a new Royal Caribbean class of ship, the Icon Class, when Icon of the Seas launches next year.

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Royal Caribbean Goes Big, Has Bigger Plans

Even Royal Caribbean's smaller ships are generally much bigger than Empress and Majesty were. That fits with the cruise line's unspoken mantra that its ships are as much destinations as any port is. You can easily spend a week on Wonder of the Seas, or any Oasis-class ship, and not experience everything it has to offer.

The cruise line actually surprised people when it confirmed that Icon of the Seas would be the next ship to hold the title of biggest in the world. Many had assumed that that honor would go to Utopia of the Seas, the next Oasis-class ship, which will join the fleet after Icon of the Seas.

That could be true -- the cruise line has not commented -- but the difference in size between these megaships has largely been technical. 

Royal Caribbean has, however, kept pushing its ships toward being bigger, even if it's not in a way passengers would notice.

Many fans of the brand assumed that the creation of the Icon Class -- and plans for at least three ships in that line -- meant that Utopia of the Seas would be the final Oasis-class ship. That may not be the case.

Royal Caribbean May Build a Seventh Oasis-Class Ship

Royal Caribbean had not even hinted at its plans beyond Utopia, Icon, and the future Icon-class ship. That changed at a media event on Wonder of the Seas, where its incoming head of hotel operations, Sean Treacy, said, "Stay tuned," when he was asked about whether another Oasis-class ship would be built, Cruise Critic reported.

He did not answer definitively. "We are always evaluating. It's not a no, but it's not a yes," he added.

That's surprising because it means that continuing the Oasis-class remains a possibility. That in turn suggests there will be meaningful differences between the two classes. Royal Caribbean has offered very little detail about what to expect on Icon of the Seas. 

What's clear is that while some smaller ships remain in the fleet (smaller ships can access ports that larger ones can't), the cruise line has no plans to build new smaller ships anytime soon.