PORT CANAVERAL — The world’s largest cruise ship sets sail within a few driving hours of the Tampa Bay area and is the first in its class to boast a whole neighborhood of luxurious suites with a dedicated restaurant, sun deck and bar.
Wonder of the Seas has 18 passenger decks, is almost 1,200 feet long and has room for nearly 7,000 passengers attended by some 2,200 crew members. It’s five times larger than the Titanic. Like Royal Caribbean’s other five “Oasis class” ships, the newest one divides decks into distinct neighborhoods that are designed to space out guests and provide different amenities, activities and dining. There’s an outdoor Central Park and a Coney Island-style Boardwalk with a carousel, candy shop and sports bar.
But while the other Oasis-class ships have a private sun deck for suite guests, Wonder of the Seas has an added Suite Neighborhood that groups together the larger family-style cabins and offers the private restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, just steps away. Set on Decks 17 and 18, there is a large outdoor space with comfy loungers, a bar and a plunge pool. The sun deck overlooks both the ocean and the sports deck area.
The ship’s mammoth size makes it easy to get in your steps before dinner. It’s not for anyone with a fear of heights on its 18 towering decks. Like an amusement park at sea, the ship has waterslides, a surfing simulator, a miniature golf course, rock climbing walls, pickleball, a basketball court and even a zip line. There are numerous pools, play areas for children, sun decks, bars and lots of food and dining options.
Travel adviser Dolores Strait, who runs Global Express Travel in Brandon, said suites tend to be a popular choice for family reunions. They have a generous living space to host parties but also offer a more comfortable setting away from the throngs. VIP privileges can ease the stress of jockeying for services on such a large ship.
“The sweet spot for Royal Caribbean seems to be families, and there’s lots of activities,” Strait said. “For some that isn’t their thing. If it makes economic sense, you can get a lot of bang for your buck when you get the added benefits of someone who will get reservations for you, hold chairs for you by the pool and make sure you have good seating at the shows.”
Wonder of the Seas has 174 suites, including 114 Junior Suites and 28 Grand Suites. At the very top are the Royal Loft Suite and Ultimate Family Suite. Prices vary depending on the suite, the time of year and the length of the cruise. A Junior Suite starts at around $4,000 while seven nights in the Ultimate Family Suite runs more than $20,000.
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The largest is the Royal Loft Suite, with 1,530 square feet of floor space and an 850-sqare-foot balcony that is bigger than two Junior Suites combined. The two-story suite includes a grand piano and a separate dining area, while the wraparound balcony has multiple seating areas and a hot tub.
The Ultimate Family Suite can sleep up to 10 people. It is designed like a fun house with children in mind. The two floors are separated by a slide on one side and steps on the other that light up and play notes like a piano. The suite also has a floor-to-ceiling Lego wall, a 3D cinema, a popcorn machine and game consoles. The wraparound balcony has a bumper pool table, a whirlpool and even its own small climbing wall. Depending on the time of year, it can be $25,000 or more for a one-week cruise.
Amenities in the Royal Loft, Ultimate Family and other top-end suites include bathrobes for use on board, an espresso coffee maker and upgraded toiletries. There’s also a dedicated check-in line on embarkation day. All suite guests can eat dinner at Coastal Kitchen, the exclusive suite restaurant with a terrific view of the water.
Wonder of the Seas includes a stop at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. It has two outdoor restaurants for all guests, three beaches and the largest pool in the Bahamas. For an extra charge ($84 and up), you can check out the water park, which has a wave pool, a dozen slides, a splash pad, zip line and the tallest waterslide in North America.
In another option for exclusivity at CocoCay, an additional $179 to $1,200 will get you a private cabana with shaded lounge chairs and a range of amenities from a stocked refrigerator to a nearby private pool and restaurant, and some are over-the-water bungalows with attendants on hand.
On board, you can find a similar experience by renting a casita ($199 on a sea day, $149 on a port day) that has a covered daybed option for guests looking for a bit more comfort.
In addition to the ship’s Main Dining Room, there’s an open buffet at the Windjammer and a handful of other complimentary food venues. There are a variety of specialty restaurants, including the new Southern-style Mason Jar restaurant and bar. It costs extra to eat there ($24.99-$39.99) and the menu includes crab beignets, Nashville hot chicken and red velvet pancakes. The bar serves special cocktails with fanciful twists, such as the bourbon-based Far From Manhattan garnished with a slice of candied bacon.
Other specialty dining options are 150 Central Park, Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, Hooked Seafood, Izumi sushi and teppanyaki, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and Johnny Rockets, with prices ranging from around $10 to $70 per person. Purchasing a dining package allows you to try several different restaurants for less than purchasing each meal individually.
While Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, it won’t hold the record for long. Royal Caribbean will launch Icon of the Seas in January 2024. Icon will sail from Miami with an extra seven ships’ worth of space with 7,600 people on board.
If you go
Wonder of the Seas: Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, which is the largest cruise ship in the world, does six- to eight-night sailings out of Port Canaveral. To learn more, visit royalcaribbean.com.