Enchantment of the Seas departing Miami.

The Recent Royal Caribbean Itinerary Changes and Why They Happened

Royal Caribbean recently announced that they will be changing up some ship deployments, but why?

And what is IMO2023?

Brilliance of the Seas in Boston

Well, it’s related to new regulations concerning the speed and efficiency that the ships can sail at.

In recent years the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set out new regulations to put a cap on emissions from all their member-states ships. The IMO is a United Nations organization that is the ultimate regulator of ships at sea. Their guidance must be adhered to by any and all ships flying the flag of a country that is a member of the United Nations. While this may sound daunting, these regulations, often referred to as ‘guidance’, are actually pretty high level and fairly broad. For example, during vessel construction, the regulations from the class society, port state control, as well as flag state have much more stringent and more technical requirements than the IMOs.

Majestic Princess receiving traditional ‘bunkers.’

In the 2010s, the IMO took action on reducing the emissions from all ships at sea. Called IMO2020 it set forth a requirement that the fuel that ships burn, called bunkers (similar to home heating oil but even thicker), must reduce its sulfur content from 3.5% to 0.5%S m/m. This new fuel was called Low Sulphur Fuel Oil. Because of the initial scarcity of it, as well as the additional refining required to produce it, shipowners balked at this since it would increase the cost of bunkers. Another option was to install scrubbers onboard which allowed the ship to continue to run the regular fuel oil but then they would run the exhaust through an additional process in order to reduce the sulphur content down to 0.1%. This was the route that most, if not all, cruise ships now use. Cruise ships tend to be relatively newer and better maintained than their commercial cargo carrying counterparts so while these new emission regulations would of course impact cruise lines, the commercial maritime market was hit a bit harder by IMO 2020.

Oasis of the Seas with scrubbers retrofitted to either side of her funnel

Well, the next iteration of their regulations is out and it’s called IMO2023. This emphasizes vessel efficiency and their carbon emissions. Still on track to come into force sometime next year, they will create an energy efficiency indicator metric to rank ships by to determine their efficiency. There will also be a carbon intensity indicator metric to also judge a ship by. This latter one is a ratio of the amount of cargo carried and the distance traveled. This way inefficient ships can be given a baseline and their performance can be measured year-over-year. I can see this specifically targeting container vessels

Explorwe Dream cruise ship
Explorer Dream with scrubbers installed on either side of her original funnel

That brings us to how this is impacting cruise line deployment. Royal Caribbean will be swapping a few ships because of the IMO2023 requirements. The first swap will be the Enchantment of the Seas to the Mediterranean during the summer 2023 season and the Brilliance of the Seas to Alaska for the summer 2023 season. The other one announced is the Adventure of the Seas to Florida for 7-nights and the Voyager of the Seas now going back to Galveston where she sailed out of for many years. Voyager will sail the shorter 4 and 5-night Mexico routes.

brilliance tampa
Brilliance of the Seas

Let us dive into these a bit more. The Enchantment of the Seas is a 1997-built Vision-class vessel and the Brilliance of the Seas is a 2002-built Radiance-class vessel. The Alaska routes that the Enchantment of the Seas was originally slated for typically require a long leg through the inside passage to/from Seattle or Vancouver with the vessel frequently going over 20kts. Therefore it makes sense to put a ship on those routes that would perform better at those speeds which is the newer Brilliance of the Seas. The Mediterranean routes are typically island hopping around the Greek Islands or down the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean or Adriatic seas. The ship would not need to be pushed to her limits in order to make these in time.

The same goes for the Voyager and Adventure swap. The Voyager of the Seas is a 1999-built Voyager-class vessel and Adventure of the Seas is also a Voyager-class vessel but built in 2001. The Voyager of the Seas out of Galveston will be on the shorter 4-5 night Cozumel and Progresso routes. The legs between Mexico and the Gulf coast won’t require the vessel to go over 20kts. Typically the speed needed is 17-18 kts only. The legs down to Jamacia or over to the Bahamas on the 7-nighters from Galveston and New Orleans require a bit more from the ships but that will be operated by the Allure of the Seas. The legs that Voyager will be sailing from in Florida are much shorter and the only ones that go to the deep Caribbean will be on 8 and 9-nights voyages, allowing the ship to sail a bit slower between ports.

So there you have it, I hope this explains why Royal Caribbean made those moves and we might see some other changes in the near future.