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From Song Of Norway To Symphony Of The Seas – The Evolution Of Royal Caribbean’s Ships

Two weeks ago, Royal Caribbean announced that there latest ship, due to make her debut in spring 2018, will bear the name Symphony of the Seas. As usual, we have been promised a few ‘first at sea’ experiences along with some of our favourite features from recent ships and a healthy dose of Royal Caribbean’s signature style. But this got us thinking about how far have the cruise line has come since the launch of their first ship way back in 1970.

The first vessel to sail under the newly formed Royal Caribbean International was Song of Norway. A popular vessel, she sailed with the line for 27 years, before being sold on a few times and eventually being broken down in 2014. As you might imagine, this initial ship was a far cry from the floating resorts we associate with RCCL today. Here are some key differences, and a few similarities too.

Song of Norway Royal Caribbean

By Tony Garner [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Symphony of the Seas Royal Caribbean


Vital Statistics

It will come as no surprise that Song of Norway was nowhere near the size that Symphony of the Seas will be. But how much smaller was she? Whilst the latest addition to the ranks will become the new largest ship in the world at 230,000 tons, Song of Norway weighed in at just 18,000 tons – that’s more than twelve times smaller. There’s a huge different in terms of capacity too. Just 724 guests could fit into Song of Norway’s cabins, whereas Symphony has room for 6,780. Even if you take into account the lengthening of Song of Norway in 1978 (taking her to 23,000 tons with a capacity of 1,024), there’s still a giant gulf between the two in terms of size.

Evolution of Entertainment

Song of Norway Lounge of the Midnight Sun

Song of Norway - Lounge of the Midnight Sun Photo © 1992 Bart de Boer

Being such a small ship, there was a limit to the number of lounges, restaurants and other entertainment facilities on board Song of Norway. The Lounge of the Midnight Sun and the Viking Crown Lounge were the only two public areas in which to relax and diners were restricted to the main restaurant or pool café.

Nowadays, Royal Caribbean’s ships have an endless list of bars and restaurants to try, each offering a different experience and different cuisine. As for other ways to pass the time, Symphony of the Seas will feature the Ultimate Abyss dry slide, Perfect Storm water slides, two Flowrider surf simulators, mini golf, an Aquatheatre, a comedy club and many others state-of-the-art entertainment areas.

A Familiar Feel

Geir Grung was responsible for Song of Norway’s exterior design and put much of his efforts into trying to make the ship look and feel like a plane. The blue stripe below the row of windows and the printing of the name under the funnel were done to make cruisers form a subliminal link with the aircraft they just flew on (something very familiar and comfortable to them) and the ship. This gives Song of Norway a rather understated appearance and leaves her to blend in with other cruise ships rather than stand out.

In contrast, much effort is taken nowadays to make the latest cruise ships stand out and ensure they are easily recognisable. The signature font used for the name, the oversized animals placed on one of the top decks and the various different coloured features are all used to make Symphony and her sisters unique from their competitors.

Cabin Fever

Song of Norway Cabins

Guests who sailed on board Song of Norway report that the cabins were quite tight, although they were designed in a way to make the best use of the space available. There were three different cabin grades, ranging from Standard Inside to Promenade-Deck Deluxe, and Royal Caribbean offered free gifts such as Hershey’s chocolate bars to make up for the small accommodation.

Compare that to today and you will see that Symphony will have no less than 35 different stateroom and suite grades. This includes the stylish Loft Suites that are set over two floors, the spacious Villa Suites, and staterooms with inside-facing balconies that overlook the Boardwalk. The size of the ship obviously means there is much more space for staterooms, but the evolution in the sheer volume of options offered shows an increase focus on guest comfort.

Past Payments

Royal Caribbean Wow Bands

First-hand reports tell of people having to write every purchase down by hand when sailing on board Song of Norway, something which would have been normal at the time but still must have felt like a huge inconvenience. However, Royal Caribbean’s desire to constantly push new technologies has led to the adoption of a wristband system where everything can be paid for with one swipe. The WOW bands are a big hit with today’s passengers and will be used again on Symphony of the Seas.


A Desire To Innovate

Royal Caribbean Viking Crown Lounge

Song of Norway - Viking Crown Lounge Photo © 1992 Bart de Boer

Something that has always been clear is Royal Caribbean’s ambition to innovate. Whilst the latest advanced features might be giant slides and robotic bartenders, back in 1970 innovation came in the form of the Viking Crown Lounge. Originally, the designers wanted to try and incorporate a structure similar to the Seattle Space Needle, but when this was deemed impossible they settled for the UFO-like design that cruisers will be familiar with today. Whilst it doesn’t feature on Symphony of the Seas, many subsequent ships included a Viking Crown Lounge and so you could say this was Royal Caribbean’s first ever ‘first at sea’ experience. It also displayed the line’s innovative intentions right from the start.

Made For Miami


After an initial period in the Mediterranean, Symphony of the Seas will switch to offering Caribbean cruises out of Miami from the end of 2018. This popular cruise port is regularly used as a hub by Royal Caribbean, something which they started with Song of Norway in 1970. In fact the port of Miami even played an important role in the formation of Royal Caribbean. It was here that Edwin Stephan, the founder of the company, met an investor from New York who was in Miami to see his girlfriend who worked as a radio officer on a ship there.

Sisterly Solidarity

Just like Symphony of the Seas, Song of Norway was not the only ship in her class. She had two sisters, Nordic Prince and Sun Viking, who arrived in 1971 and 1972 respectively and were built to the same specifications. In the same way that the Oasis Class ships (which Symphony will become part of) all have similar layouts and public areas, these first three ships were made to look reassuringly identical.

It’s clear to see how far Royal Caribbean has come in the 47 years since their first ship was launched and it’s interesting to see how the vessels themselves have continued to evolve. As we await the arrival of the new largest cruise ship in the world, it’s fun to take a curious look back at the humble beginnings in the form of Song of Norway.

If you would like to pre-order your Symphony of the Seas cruise, you can do so by calling us for free on 0808 274 6114. We have Mediterranean cruises of varying lengths available, as well as seven-night Caribbean itineraries.

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