Sovereign of the Seas was a break-though in the cruise industry when she entered service as in 1988. She proved that a large purpose-built cruise ship could be successful thus paving the way for the mega-cruise ships that have come to dominate cruising.
Up until the early 1980s, the prevailing thinking in the cruise industry was that cruise ships had to be small. Not only was a small size necessary in order to utilize the undeveloped ports in the Caribbean but it was improbable that there would be enough customers to fill a large cruise ship week after week.
Norwegian Cruise Line proved this thinking wrong with the SS Norway. She was larger in gross tonnage than any other passenger ship then in service. However, she was an ocean liner that had been converted into a cruise ship. The question still remained whether it was economically feasible to build a large ship specifically for cruising.
Royal Caribbean took on the challenge building Sovereign of the Seas. Not only was Sovereign big but in gross tonnage and passenger capacity, she was bigger than SS Norway.
Sovereign's design proved very popular and enabled her to remain in the Royal Caribbean fleet for 20 years. Two nearly identical sister ships were built, Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas.
Sovereign had an array of innovative Royal Caribbean cruise ship facilities including a lounge that wraps around her funnel and a rock climbing wall. The onboard experience was geared toward people who like to be physically active during the day and participate in stylish dining and entertainment in the evening.
While Sovereign and her sisters were large ships when they entered service, over their time with Royal Caribbean they shrank relative to the new ships that Royal built. By the end of their careers with Royal, they were frequently referred to as the "small ships." In addition, Sovereign had few balconies, a feature that passengers had come to expect in a first class cruise ship.
In 2008, the ship was transferred from RCI to its Pullmantur affiliate in order to bolster the overall corporate family's presence in the Spanish-speaking market. Accordingly, the cruise experience on the refurbished ship became geared toward Spanish culture. The official name of the ship was shortened to "Sovereign."
In 2020, as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, Pullmantur ceased operations and entered into the Spanish form of bankruptcy. Inasmuch as the ship was legally on charter to Pullmantur, Royal Caribbean asserted its right to her. Shortly thereafter, Sovereign was sold for scrap and broken up in Turkey.
Above: Sovereign of the Seas off St. Thomas.
Above and below: The ship as Pullmantur's Sovereign.
BUILDER: Chantiers de l'Atlantique
ENTERED SERVICE: 1988 (as Sovereign of the Seas); 2008 (as Sovereign)
TONNAGE: 73,200 g.r.t.
LENGTH: 880 feet
BEAM: 106 feet
DRAFT: 25 feet
SPEED: 18 knots
POWER PLANT: diesel
PROPULSION: 2 propeller shafts
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