From Idea to New Cruise Ship: Royal Caribbean’s Newbuild Process

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It would be churlish of me to bring up our two Sunshine-class ships just to point out once again that we are not yet ready to divulge their exciting features. Believe me, we would love to talk about them and we eventually will. The closer we get to doing so, the slower time seems to crawl. But we have a timetable and we are sticking to it.

In the meantime, I will comment on the process that takes us from an idea to an actual new cruise ship. We call it our “Newbuild” process and it provides a constant hum of activity behind the scenes in our daily work lives.  Sometimes it is incredibly intense such as during the original negotiation for the ship with one or more shipyards and then again later as we face specific deadlines where we owe the shipyard our “deliverables” in the design process. Sometimes it is less onerous, at least for the more senior company leaders. For those who live in the Newbuild world full time, the process never relents for a single day in a multiyear span. Judging by the affinity our Newbuild colleagues exhibit for the process, this is a highly desirable career path. Some of them have been contributing their expertise for decades. A lot of experience and wisdom are necessary to turn out the unprecedented ships that are the trademark of Royal Caribbean International.

You might think of the Newbuild process as a marriage of two pyramids. The first is a pyramid of project management. We have specialists who are responsible for innumerable aspects of a Newbuild project. They, along with their counterparts at the shipyard, form the base of the pyramid. Without them there are no new ships. The pyramid rises through groups of management until ultimately it reaches its peak at the Newbuild Executive Steering Committee. These company leaders meet periodically to listen to ideas, evaluate architect presentations, request more focus in certain areas, review project economics, etc. At all levels of the pyramid there is a constant flow of ideas, critiques, reworkings, etc. Harri Kulovaara has led the Newbuild team since 1995.  Kelly Gonzalez, VP, Architectural Design, reports directly to Harri and oversees all aspects of Newbuild design. Besides our Chairman & CEO Richard Fain and myself, our brand leadership is provided by our senior leaders such as Lisa Bauer and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.

The other pyramid is the design process itself. At first there is a virtually blank sheet of paper. We start with a vision about what we expect a new class of ships to contribute to the brand and the overall fleet profile. That vision is the base of this pyramid.  Subsequently we work on an overall layout of each deck of the ship known as the General Arrangements Plan. Early in this stage we are constantly moving even large venues from forward to aft, starboard to port and deck to deck. As time goes on, the venues become more defined in their respective places and we worry about a progression of ever smaller details from seat counts to décor to ceiling patterns to signage. By smaller details I don’t mean smaller worries. We obsess about absolutely everything from day one until after the ship is delivered to us. But at a certain point there is very little left that can change and we have reached the peak of this pyramid.

Over the years we have come up with some amazing features ranging from the ice skating rink in Studio B to Central Park. We are often asked how it happens. There is no simple answer. We think hard about features that will be responsive to the emerging tastes of our customers. We encourage our people to be imaginative. We allow our family of architects to comment on each other’s work which sometimes results in a good idea being stress-tested into a great idea. Finally, as evidenced by the ice rinks, we have a strong preference for the real thing.

The process I have described will produce a Sunshine-class ship in late 2014 courtesy of the excellent shipbuilding team at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany. There is still a long way to go but the excitement is literally building even before the first steel plate is cut. Stay tuned.

  • http://Facebook Fredia Wright

    You should have a drawing from FB for the first sail for a family of 4… Or more LOL .. That would be pure awesomeness…

    • Adam

      Thanks for the suggestion, Fredia.

  • Bob Erickson

    I was on the Oasis on her 5th cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale….30 cruises and she has been the best ship by far….I just can’t imagine any ship getting better…..I will be watching as the new class becomes real…..

    Bob Erickson

    • Adam

      Thanks for the support, Bob and stay tuned to our page for any updates.

  • Kim Stubbs

    I hope that you are going to re-address the bathroom layout change on the Oasis class that gives you even less room in the bathroom than the previous layout.

    • Adam

      Thank you for voicing your concerns, Kim. We’ll be sure to send your suggestion to the correct department for consideration.

  • Brian hele

    Is it true this ship will be based at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port ? We love sailing out of there as it’s convenient to Toronto Ontario, but Explorer not really suited to winter sailings.

    Thank you and see you on Enchantment April 2013.

    • Adam

      Hi Brian, please stay tuned for all future Project Sunshine updates.

  • Marilyn Barnhart

    I know it is early but do you have a tenative plan for the area where the Sunshine Class will be sailing and the home port? Thanks

    • Adam

      Hi Marilyn, please stay tuned for all future Project Sunshine updates.

  • Diane Bean

    Hi Adam, I just read this acticle on the “newbuild” concept. I am excited to here of more Royal Caribeean ships coming ahead. One thought for you to ponda is…for your very Loyal Royals.. and trip to the ship yard. What a great opportuntiy to have a tour of the ship yard. Do you see this happening in the future?

    • Adam

      Thanks for the great suggestion, Diane, we will be sure to pass this along.

  • sue

    Our agency sells RCCL over all other lines! I’m very excited to see what the Sunshine Class will offer!

    • Adam

      We’re glad to hear that, Sue, we are excited as well.

  • Peter O’Sullivan

    Evening Mr Goldstein,

    We have read with interest all the news regarding the proposed new builds for 2014/15. We note the meticulous process undertaken to provide a quality cruising experience, however nearly 18 months after the incident when an oil tank eploded in Gibraltar and Independence justifiably had to move on while leaving me and my wife behind. The immediate aftercare experience was disappointing to say the least, we thought we had closure on the issue, that was until we seen our identcal cruise being offered at less than the amount of future cruise certificate we revcieved. Our our idea of fair play was to have our cruise replaced like or like and nothing more.

    Because we have hit a bick wall with everyone ignoring us it has been a struggle to even look at cruise holidays anymore. It’s even further disappointing when we spend close on $10.000 on art 14 weeks ago and several pieces have still to arrive.

    We would like to book more cruises however with the ill feeling being generated this appears impossible, if you have a quality aftercare employee willing to talk to us to resolve the bad feeling we would be grateful for that.

    We would like to try and remember the 20 something Rccl cruises we have done so far as oppose the one which included tank explosions.

    We look forward to hopefully hearing from you.


  • Kevin Myrold

    I am just wondering……how many new ships in the sunshine project, how large will they be, when will their maiden voyages be, and what part of the world will they be sailing? I know, lot’s of questions, but we would like to be on the maiden voyages and are wondering how long we are going to be waiting. We love RCCL and have sailed on many of your ships. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

  • Dawn

    Will the ship be port at Fort Lauderdale…. and what is the schedule? I would like to start planning my next trip on your cruise line.


    • Adam

      Hi Dawn, please stay tuned for all future Project Sunshine updates.

  • Lori Pastiak


    • jane chaston

      No i don’t think so.

  • Matt Bolduc


    I love Royal Caribbean Ships and are really excited about the Sunshine Class. Can you give and general timeframe of when new information will be released?


    • Adam

      Hello Matt, please stay tuned for all future Project Sunshine updates.

  • Tracy Fong

    Wow! I just literally came off the Oasis this past weekend and was saying that nothing can top this ship. From the design to the layout and creativity and wondering, how on earth do the designers come up with these ideas…absolutely breathtaking to just sit in Central Park for example and take it all in! I can’t wait until the next line of ships arrive!!!!

    • Adam

      We are glad you had a wonderful cruise experience, Tracy.

  • Kevin Wolff

    Very exciting to hear! Just the sound of the new ship’s class name is enough to spark visions of what the decor and amenities might be like. The Royal Caribbean “Newbuild” process seems very similar to the method we use in Marketing and Advertising: everything starts with a feel and general essence on paper. Thanks for the update, and keep making the impossible possible!

  • Erin

    I’m always curious to know what happens behind the scenes, especially when it comes to building new ships. Thanks for sharing! While I know you can’t comment, I hope that a water slide (or two!) is being considered for these new ships. Can you put it in the suggestion box for my younger brother? :) I look forward to hearing more about the Sunshine class!

    • Richard

      I agree, Royal Caribbean seems like the only line without water slides on the ships! I mean, having the rock-wall, ice skating rinks, and flowriders are awesome but the waterslide would be the ultimate icing on the cake…plus it’s very visible to people on other cruise ships and those in port/on land from an advertising standpoint!

    • Adam

      We’ll be sure to keep your suggestion in mind, Erin. Thank you.

  • Tommy

    As you progress through more specific designs of the actual venues of the ship, I hope you’ll put a lot of thought into the the nightclub on the new ship. I hope you will take the best features of both Freedom’s Crypt nightclub and Allure’s Blaze nightclub as well as Dazzles. The two-deck design of Crypt is a great idea, except that the areas on both decks are too sequestered from each other. The Blaze interior design, bar location, bar seating, booths, and tables are absolutely stunning. Where Blaze falls short is the lack of an upper deck and the tucked away design of the dance floor. The dance floor is walled off on three sides which sort of isolates it, and prevents dancing from expanding beyond the walls. It’s also sort of awkwardly located immediately next to the entrance, usually the most popular dance floors and DJ booths are located at the back or toward the middle of the club. If I had the opportunity to design the nightclub on the new ship, I would have main entrance the same place as it is on Allure next to Studio B, Casino, Comedy Club, etc. The upper deck would be smaller in scale than the one at Crypt, but would be more open and visible to the dance floor and rest of the club below with two sets of glass stairs leading up on either side. The entrance from the upper deck would be right next to the Sports Club and/or Irish Pub, so people could more easily transition from grabbing a drink earlier in the evening at the more low-key venue and gravitate into the late-night dance club and lounge. I don’t know how much value you put into customer feedback, but I hope you take a look into my ideas. I’ve taken three cruises now on your ships and look forward to many more. I’ve also worked at several bars and nightclubs over the past 10 years, and of course have been to hundreds more. Everything I’m suggesting is already there, the pieces just have to be rearranged and you would have the most spectacular nightclub at sea. I know there’s literally a million other points to consider in making the newest and innovative cruise ship on the market, I simply hope that you give the nightclub it’s due consideration. Thanks!

    • Adam

      Thank you for your suggestion, Tommy, we will be sure to pass this along.

  • Eric Groody

    Thank you Adam.

    We truly enjoy the product Royal Caribbean consistently delivers. A lot of companies use the word “WOW,” but Royal Caribbean delivers every time we have cruised. I am impressed by the crowd management and ease of navigating the various venues on Royal Caribbean ships, as well as the overall layout, fit and finish. The Gold Anchor service provided by your crews always rises above our high expectations.

    I am eagerly awaiting further information on the Sunshine -Class ships. Thanks for sharing insight into bringing new ships to life. In the mean time, we are looking forward to our January cruise on the Freedom of the Seas.

    Eric Groody

    • Adam

      We’re happy to hear that, Eric. We’ll see you this January.

  • Robert Lammon

    My wife and I went on the inaugural sailing on both the Oasis and Allure of the Seas and want to do a group booking through our travel agent on the inaugural sailing of the first ship to be launched under Project Sunshine. I have question and it is a fairly simple one. Can you give us an approximate month when bookings can be made? Thank you.

    • Adam

      Hi Robert, please stay tuned for future Project Sunshine updates.

  • Daniel Lamontagne

    That is such a tease…..When will we get a glimpse of what the new ships will have? I followed the building of the oasis and April 2012 we did our 16th anniversary trip on it. The ship was the destination. If the new ships can equal or better that your design and build will have exceeded anyones dreams for a cruise ship. The oasis was phenominal. I could find nothing wrong with it and I am very critical at times ….just ask my wife…lol.

    Please give us at lease a hint of what the new ships will be like…….based on sunshine i wonder if their will be a huge water park and beach …. who knows at royal caribbean the sky is the limit.

    let us know soon

    my curiosity and love of your ships is getting to me now.



    Having just returned from a Celebrity Alaska cruise, and having been on more than a dozen RCI cruises, I would say enhance the dining to that of the Celebrity level. Then what a combination – RCI ships and the Celebrity experience. Sorry to try to blend your brands but I would like the best of both on the new Sunshine class.

    • Adam

      Thank you for your suggestion, Bob.

  • Hildi

    Hi,, I am very excited about this “Newbuild” project.. Having been in both the Oasis (last year) and the Allure of the Seas last month, I cannot imagine any other ships better than those!! I see it is a very meticulous and detailed work to build these ships. I have to say,, the quality of the amenities of these cruises is amazing, and the attention that we received from all the personnel on both cruises was outstanding. I am looking forward to see the end product, I wonder what port of calls will it have… I do recommend different destinations within the Caribbean, and I am excited to see what Musical Show will be featured on the Sunshine Line, and please don’t forget the teen activities,, my daughter loves all the teen activities featured on your cruises.

    • Adam

      Thank you for your suggestions, Hildi, we appreciate your enthusiasm.

  • Bob Weidlich

    My wife and I started cruising with Royal Caribbean in 1978 on the Song of Norway two months before it went into dry dock to be lenghtened. That cruise was better than we had expected. Over the years we have been impressed with each new ship class that Royal Caribbean has put in service.

    We were fortunate to sail on the inaugural cruise of the Oasis of the Seas with Captain Bill Wright in command. What a great ship she is and as usual many new features and innovations by Royal Caribbean. Even after a week of exploring the ship we felt that we had not seen all of the ship. We have also sailed on her sister ship Allure of the Seas last December with Captain Johnny in command. These two captains were great choices for bringing these new ships out. They helped to make the cruise experience a very memorable vacation.

    We are able to cruise one to two times a year now which will all be on Royal Caribbean ships. Also we are looking forward to the Sunshine Class ships in two years to see what new innovations Royal Caribbean has come up with this time.

    • Adam

      Thank you for being Loyal to Royal over the years, Bob. We can’t wait to have you onboard again in the future.

  • Jim Moore

    Speaking of “vision” do you think that one of the next projects could be a new build in the 100,000 ton category to service some of the smaller ports of call? These would replace Vision and Radiance-class ships. It might be easy to use a modified Celebrity Solstice-class ship as a template for this project.

    • Adam

      Hello Jim, currently at this time we have no plans to introduce any other ships other than the 2 we have already announced. Thank you.

      • jane chaston

        During the school holidays these large ships are becoming no go areas. Not really what i want when i am cruising.

  • charles/arlene bates

    As in all the other comments can not wait for Sunshine Class! have never been on an inaugaural sailing and will be watching for the information. Will be on Allure again in November 2012 third time and hope for more. Charles played table tennis with you on Allure. Hope he can play again with

    you on the first Sunshne Class Ship. Of course you WON!!! Thanks for all your great ships and all your great employees they are the BEST! We are 25 and counting. Thanks again!

    • Adam

      Thanks, it would be lovely to have both of you onboard again.

  • Trudy Mulvihill

    We haven’t been on RCCL since being on Enchantment of the Seas in 2000. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the cruise but we hate getting dressed up and we found another cruise line that is more like “come as you are” and we love that. My question is has your cruise line accepted the fact that not everyone enjoys being dressed up and lesse_ned their dress code? I was wondering since your mega ships came if your allowed to wear jeans to dinner. This is major important to us.

    • Adam

      Hello Trudy, for information about our dress code onboard you can learn more here. Thank you.

      • jane chaston

        If you don’t want to abode by the dress code – don’t cruise.

  • Momodou Sallah

    Hello Adam,

    Thank you for sharing some of the details of your New Build process and Project Sunshine. Very exciting.
    A few years ago we were on a cruise with another cruise line. As we pulled into San Juan, PR I saw one of the most beautiful cruise ships for the first time. It was Liberty OTS. For rest of the day all we talked about was to try this cruise line, RCI. As soon as we returrned we booked our first cruise with RC. It was on Mariner OTS, and luckily for us we had Capt. Johnny, who made the cruise even more interesting. The biggest dissapointment we had was getting off the ship the last day. Since then we have been loyal fans of RC and have sailed on several more ships including Oasis and Allure (Allure first cruise to Falmouth). Not only have all the ships and cruises been fantastic, but we have met some of the nicest crew at sea. We met the best bar server at sea , Nicolae on the Navigator last spring. The entire staff always smiling and ready to make your cruise memorable. Thank you to all.

    Like many here I am looking forward to see how you can top the Oasis Class. Because of your decision to build the new class at Meryer Werft, some of us have taken a keen interest with this ship yard and the beautiful cruise ships they build. Recieved my first two brochures from them today. The one constants in the Voyager, Freedom and Oasis class, is the Ice Rink and Royal Promenade. I hope the new class will still have these but with more open views in the Promenade like the Radiance Class glass looking into the sea concept.

    Thanks for all you do and looking forward to the next class of sea beauties.

    Momodou Sallah

    • Adam

      We appreciate your kind words, Momodou.

      • Momodou Sallah

        You are very welcome. We are looking forward to our next cruise already booked on Freedom OTS for next spring. Who know maybe we can squeeze one in before that.

        • Adam

          You’ll have to let us know if you find the time, Momodou. Either way, we look forward to seeing you onboard Freedom of the Seas.

  • Alan

    It’s clear that the newbuild process is really about managing endless detail. I’m curious about the second ship in the order. How much time is there between the introduction of the first ship into customer service and the point at which the interior space layout is frozen on the second ship? It seems to me that the early experience with the first ship has to be quickly analyzed and anything that would cause you to re-think a feature or re-imagine something would have to be quickly turned into plans and change-orders to the shipyard. It’s easy to forget that building a second cruise ship in any class is not simply a quick email to the building yard saying “OK, do it again!”



  • Joaquim Puigdemont

    I was on the pre inaugural Oasis OTS and I appreciate that Royal Caribbean greatly improved the level of creative world of cruises and encourage you to continue to rise in new innovations of quality, especially in the aspects of health and safety

    • Adam

      We are glad you think so, Joaquim. Thank you for your comment.

  • jane chaston

    I thnk it is a great pity that these two new ships are going to be so big. They won’t be able to go into smaller ports. This leaves the gate wide open for the operators of smaller ships, Also there is more and more information and reviews coming in about RCI big ships, about kids running around unchecked, kids getting drunk, people wearing swim ware in the dinning venues, etc. etc. RCI staff do nothing about these problems when they are pointed out to them. The reason this is happening is becuase RCI are having to lower the prices so much, in order to fill the ships that perhaps some people who should not be on the ships are able to go on them. Cruising has in recent years really taken off amongst the middle class of britan, but if this sort of behavour carries on, i fear a lot will crease to cruise RCI This has alrerady started to happen on P & O. Why have rules if you are not prepared to enforce them.

  • John

    For us west coast guests. Please bring back a ship to California. It’s getting pricey to fly out to Florida.

  • Gavin Fleming

    When will a picture be realised? I have been following the project for a long time and hope to one day be part of that process!

    • Adam

      Hello Gavin, please keep an eye on our Facebook page for further updates about Project Sunshine.

  • Brandon Rosado

    Is there any possible way for us, huge obssessive RCCL fans, to fly to Turku, Finland, see the ship as it still remains a virgin from the water, and take the actual trip home to it’s home port for the very first time? That would be life-changing, especially since it’s estimated finished construction date is the same year as my graduation year!! Would be a breathtaking way to end my school career. :)