Royal Caribbean debuts world's largest cruise ship as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Royal Caribbean International’s new Wonder of the Seas ship made its debut in the U.S. on March 4, 2022, at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades in Florida. It's set sail to the Caribbean and two private island destinations.

Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship – has set off on its inaugural voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Labadee, Haiti; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nassau and CocoCay, Bahamas.

The 18-deck cruise ship set sail on its first seven-night voyage on Friday, March 4, from Port Everglades. 

Cruise fans have been patiently waiting for the ship’s debut since its float-out ceremony in September 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic played a factor in the CDC’s no sail order and eventual conditional sailing order for cruise ships, which ultimately expired on Jan. 15, 2022.

Wonder of the Seas is a record-breaking cruise ship that measures 1,188 feet in length and 210 feet in width, according to Royal Caribbean.

The cruise line also boasts that the ship can hold up to 6,988 guests and 2,300 international crew members.

Passengers who get on the ship are treated to more than a dozen decks that are outfitted with 2,867 staterooms and amenities to keep guests busy when they’re at-sea, including an aquatheater, card room, carousel, casino, FlowRider surf machine, jogging track, sports court, spa and fitness center, laser tag, mini-golf, music hall, 10-story waterslide and zip line.

There’s also a mix of indoor and outdoor theaters, pools, rock climbing walls and kid-friendly activities on this 236,857-gross-ton ship.

For dining and socializing, the Wonder of the Seas has nine complimentary restaurants options, 11 specialty eateries and 11 bars and lounges. 

Wonder of the Seas kicked off its maiden voyage with a visit to Royal Caribbean’s private destination on Labadee Beach in Haiti. Its planned travel itinerary to cruise ports in San Juan and Nassau appears to be on schedule, according to coordinates on Cruise Mapper. 

The ship’s final destination will be Royal Caribbean’s private Perfect Day at CocoCay destination in The Bahamas.

Crew members and guests have been sharing social media posts of the inaugural voyage.

Royal Caribbean considers Wonder of the Seas to be an "Oasis Class" ship that offers "bigger adventures" with luxury features, including a new Suite Neighborhood design that provides private access to a Suite Sun Deck, plunge pool and bar.

The cruise line plans to sail the ship throughout the Eastern and Western Caribbean until April 2022. Additional Caribbean destinations it will travel to include Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Come summertime, Wonder of the Seas will be redirected to the Western Mediterranean, where it will sail to Naples and Florence, Italy; Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain; and Provence, France.

When the ship returns to the U.S., it will call Cape Canaveral home and will complete year-round trips in the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean wrote in a recent press release.

The cruise line noted that current health and safety protocols and guest conduct rules vary by ship and destination due to differing regional travel restrictions.

Guidance is "subject to change without notice," Royal Caribbean warns in the fine print of its online newsroom.

The CDC has a Cruise Ship Status Dashboard on its website that reports COVID-19 infection rates and vaccination status for each cruise line and respective ship, which are assigned a "ship color status"  that indicates health risk levels in green, yellow, orange, red and gray.

Green means "no reported cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness" while red means "reported cases of COVID-19 are at or above the threshold for CDC investigation" and "additional public health measures are in place."

Cruise lines and ships that are marked as gray have "opted out of CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships" and the "CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship’s health and safety protocols."