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Cruise Ship Review
Royal Caribbean International

Sovereign of the Seas

by Steve J. Garrod

Sovereign of the Seas 4 Night Bahamas/Key West Cruise December 1997

  • Captain: Gunnar Oien
  • Cruise Director: Karen Maybury
  • Asst. Cruise Director: Brian Rath
  • Social Hostess: Suzanne Hanson

I, along with a good friend of mine, vacationed 8 nights in South Florida, including a 4-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean International's ms Sovereign of the Seas to the Bahamas (Nassau, At Sea, Key West). It is always a great way to inaugurate a cruise by spending pre- and post- nights in the port of embarkation. We were able to shop, dine, and enjoy the dazzling nights of spicy South Beach Miami. The weather of the pre-cruise stay was quite cloudy and rainy but we more than made the most of it!

Being the ship aficionado that I am, I was able to view many ships departing Miami before and after our cruise. Among the most exciting and dramatic ships to leave which we saw were the ss Norway, ms Splendour of the Seas, ms Norwegian Crown, ms Vistafjord, and my own ms Sovereign of the Seas. I also had the distinct honour to tour Royal Caribbean's new ms Enchantment of the Seas prior to my own cruise.

The Itinerary

Our ship's scheduled itinerary included Nassau, Bahamas, CocoCay, and Key West. We, however, were unable to strategically position in CocoCay so we were given a day at sea. We found this to be excellent as we had seen the island many times before and wanted to enjoy the services provided by the ship. We had seen Nassau before so we merely enjoyed a drink at the recently opened Planet Hollywood. We were docked next to Carnival Cruise Line's ms Fantasy until approximately 3:30 a.m. I believe that the Sovereign's classic design outweighed that of the Fantasy. We did enjoy Key West extremely and wish that we could have stayed much longer. The key is very friendly and we already met great people ashore. It was a delightful stay and yet a beautiful departure.

The Ship

The Sovereign of the Seas, delivered in December 1987 by Chantiers de l'Atlantique of St. Nazaire, France, was just nearing ten years of age when we sailed on her. Her external appearance challenged me to find any hull damage at all. Her hull is pristine and only contains rudimentary paint chips, such as near the anchor wells. Just as with RCI's newer Vision-Class ships, I was very impressed by her soothing main lobby entrance which was dominated by pleasant shades of blue and I also found it to be much more spacious.

A bronze and glass clock structure named "Sands of Time" anchors purser's square which leads directly to the five-deck Centrum. The Sovereign-class ships' Centrum atria are completely accessible by stairwell which facilitates quick transit and provides the opportunity to watch passengers.

Forward of purser's square is the Kismet Dining Room which is commanded by various shades of purples and pillars of bronze with flanking light structures. One deck below is the complementary Gigi Dining Room which is accented by pastels such as pinks and light greens. Pillars with glass leaf-like structures provide much of the lighting. Forward of the Gigi Dining Room is the photo gallery which can prove to be crowded during high-traffic periods of the day. Below the photo gallery on "B" deck are the twin cinemas. Serenade Island, at the base of the Centrum, was decorated with gingerbread houses and Christmas trees for the holiday season. Moving up to Showtime deck provides one with access to many entertainment centres. The Boutiques of Centrum provide many options to shop at duty free prices. During a recent refurbishment (December 1996), this area has acquired an island boutique much like those found on the Vision-Class ships.


Traveling aft one may pass through the rustic Schooner Bar or the Casino Royale. When I had first sailed on Sovereign's 11th voyage in March of 1988, Casino Royale had been only a midsection with a joining indoor promenade. She has since expanded and has done away with the promenade. Passing through the Schooner Bar and Casino Royale, one will come across the two-story Follies Lounge. Follies Lounge is predominantly maroon-shaded, decked with bronze fixtures and globe lighting. Two main staircases lead up to Promenade Deck, up to the Follies Balcony. The two aft staircases on the stage of Follies are off limits to guests as new production architecture has blocked them. More about the productions and shows can be found below under "activities".

Finian's Rainbow Lounge

As one moves forward from the Follies Lounge on Promenade Deck, one may choose to stroll around Sovereign's expansive 360 degree full-circuit promenade. Amidship is the Finian's Rainbow Lounge which has been allocated shades of orange, red, and beige with tasteful bronze accents throughout. Art auctions and dancing were popular in the Finian's Rainbow Lounge along with calypso dancing "under the stars" because of winds on the pool deck. Two of Promenade Deck's lifeboat stations (9 & 10) are also situated in this lounge. Continuing forward one find the Centrum once again with the library, Touch of Class Champagne Bar, and the card/conference room in line with each other. The day at sea gave many the opportunity to enjoy these public spaces.

One deck above, on Mariner Deck, the Music Man Disco weighs aft. Here, feature nights such as 50's & 60's night took place. By late, the lounge of beige, blue, and various colored specks came alive with modern dance music to serve as the ship's discotheque. Two side cocktail rails with plush leather stools were added in the transformation from a multipurpose lounge to discotheque. The most noticeable change was the carpeting, from darker natural colours to a royal blue with speck of various bright colours. One deck above, aft on Commodore Deck, is Club Ocean and FantaSeas teen discotheque. This was the former venue of the Anything Goes Discotheque. Much of the furniture from Anything Goes has been moved to the Finian's Rainbow Lounge but Club Ocean has been completely refurbished and even continues out onto the exterior aft deck. Many crew and passengers expressed dismay in regards to the removal of the exclusive disco.

Bridge Deck is the home of the ShipShape Center and Boutiques aft. This is a wonderful place to use aerobic equipment, weights, and sauna facilities. The former jacuzzi right outside aft has been replaced with a planter filled with various foliage. Sun Deck, one level above, is where one finds the twin pools, children's playroom, and the indoor/outdoor Windjammer Cafe. The Windjammer Cafe's most aft section is indoor and extends up one deck by means of complementary spiral staircases. Large extending wooden flanks hold globe lighting and encompass coloured fabric awnings. The port, starboard, and forward sections of the cafe are outdoors. Some tables are covered by blue awnings and virtually all seating is protected from the elements. It should be noted that Sovereign stands out from her sisters Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas in that their Windjammer Cafes extend completely forward indoors. This is the most noted feature from an external viewpoint that sets Sovereign apart from her twin sisters.

Resting high above Sun Deck is the Viking Crown Lounge, offering spectacular views of the sea, ports, and ship itself. The colour scheme is predominantly light shades of blue with accents of wood structures. Plush couches surround the funnel while circular cocktail tables line the 360 degree perimeter of window views. The bar is located forward overlooking the pools with sunken bar stool seating just aft.

Overall, the Sovereign of the Seas was very aesthetically pleasing and very little wear and tear was noticed. Many of the fabrics, upholstery, and carpeting were freshly installed and I also noticed a large supply of carpeting stored on the sports deck as much of the ship was being brightened. On our cruise in particular, the ship directories were being replaced from the previous marble framed glass to the etched ship model which is found on Vision-Class ships in the RCI fleet. This took into account all of the name changes of public spaces from the original layout.

Sovereign of the Seas recently had to be fitted with SOLAS upgrades to meet par with the rest of the fleet. I particularly noticed the addition of low-level lighting in corridors and stairways which directs passengers to muster stations. All communications systems were in top condition and were clearly audible. The only public room which deserves a bit of attention is the Follies Lounge which still maintains dark colours and lighting - unlike the other RCI ships. All in all, however, Sovereign of the Seas is spacious, bright, accommodating, and easily navigated by her guests.

Activities & Dining

Sovereign of the Seas' crew and activities were in abundance and came alive particularly during the day at sea. All of the traditional RCI activities such as bingo, pool games, and demonstrations were in place as well as Sovereign's own unique events.

Entertainment was well above par. Not enough can be said about Paramount, Sovereign of the Seas' Wave Revue production team. They presented two performances (evening one and evening four) which were "RetroActive" and "Night of Stars". These young people are full of energy, talent, and charm to keep the audience in suspense and cheer. Some RCI classic performers such as comedians Levent and Sean Morey also made an appearance which kept the audience laughing constantly.

Dining aboard the Sovereign of the Seas is what one would typically expect from a great RCI cruise vacation. I chose the vegetarian plate each night which was merely coincidental in that I found the description to be appetizing. There was one exception, on Caribbean night, in that a curry vegetable plate was too spicy and I requested that our waiter bring a plate of miscellaneous vegetables with rice. The dining room staff was excellent and I even discovered (on the last day) that our assistant waiter was working his first week! Food in the Windjammer Café was very general but of excellent quality. Contrary to much debate about the coffee aboard the RCI ships, I found the coffee to be excellent! I loved every last sip in both the Windjammer and Kismet Dining Room. The Windjammer Café offered casual dining three out of four evenings for those who preferred to eat more casually and yet order off a set menu.

Parting Comments

As many of us know, a cruise is just not a cruise without all of the wonderful people on board. I have found this to be more true on this vacation than on any of my past thirteen cruises . There was a good passenger mix, although the average age tended to be higher than on most cruises I have experienced. I am set on working on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship by May 1998 so I spoke with many crew members. They were invaluable in helping me to gain contacts and I am more excited than ever to make 1998 my year of starting the job of my dreams.

I was able to share part of my vacation and life with some of the cruise staff and entertainers and I will never forget them. I respect the work they do and cannot wait to be a part of that dynamic team upon my shipboard employment. My great friends onboard, along with the excellent quality of the Sovereign of the Seas, made it very difficult for me to leave the Port of Miami! A tear came to my eye as Sovereign of the Seas blasted her whistle upon the commencement of the U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat drill on Friday morning. It was equally tough to watch the night-lit Sovereign of the Seas sail from the Port of Miami and head off on a 3-Night voyage for lucky passengers who would, hopefully, make the most of this grand lady as I have.

Please feel free to direct any further questions or comments my way. I would love to hear from you.

Look for Me Onboard,

Steve Garrod has been a dedicated follower of The SeaLetter for over a year and a half now. He has sailed on 11 cruises and hopes to work on a cruise ship in less than one year. Steve is now in his senior year of college as a marketing major with minors in Spanish, French, and German. He is very passionate about his interests and love of cruising. Steve can be reached for questions or comment at: Z944558@rice.farm.niu.edu.

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