Keeping in step with the cruise industry's rush to build ever bigger vessels, Radiance of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's newest ship and will travel North America
's main cruise routes and seasonally pass the Panama Canal
The vessel's sisterships - Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas - are carbon copies of each other specializing in Caribbean cruises for Royal Caribbean, and are the world's biggest passenger vessels. But neither Voyager nor Explorer can fit through the Panama Canal
. To reach the Pacific, where Alaska cruises
each summer are among the sector's most popular, each would have to travel around South America
on trips likely to be money losers.
"Radiance is 90,000 gt, while Voyager is about 142,000 tons. So it's not small. But we wanted to build a ship to accommodate the Canal and one that we could market for Alaska," said a spokesman for Royal Caribbean.
Aboard the $500-million Radiance, now in Miami and South Florida
for short Caribbean cruises before a 14-night trans-Canal voyage to the West Coast
in early April, glass seems to be the major design theme.
Radiance's center atrium, where passengers embark, has nine floors of windows and glass-walled elevators, so passengers riding up to the pool or down to the casino will look out onto open sea.
Much of the interior of Radiance resembles Voyager, with similar blond wood veneers, paintings, oversized mobiles and other fine art in public spaces, and hundreds of cabins fitted with the balconies so common to recently launched cruise ships.
Brilliance of the Seas, a similar vessel in what Royal Caribbean calls
its Radiance class, is being built and is due to be launched early next year.
After its 14-day trans-Canal voyage to Los Angeles from Florida, Radiance's scheduled journeys this year include three- and four-night outings in the Pacific Northwest, seven-night trips from Vancouver to Alaska, a long voyage to Hawaii, and a return to the Caribbean through
the Panama Canal in November.