Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd was founded by Stephan as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1969 and in 1970 he brought the line’s first purpose-built ship Song of Norway into service.
It was the first ship custom-designed for warm weather cruising, unlike the former trans-Atlantic ocean liners being used by most fledgling cruise lines at the time.
He led the one-ship line from those humble beginnings into the colossal cruise giant that it is today, with 63 ships across seven continents and three fully owned brands (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises), as well as several brands in which it owns majority shares (TUI Cruises, Holistica, Silversea and Pullmantur).
In a statement, Royal Caribbean pointed out that many of the cruise lines most defining features were pioneered by Stephan, including its wide, open-air decks, and the round, cantilevered Viking Crown Lounge that made Royal ships stand out from the crowd.
It was also largely thanks to Stephan that Miami has become the global cruise capital it is today. Back in 1969 he realized that thanks to its stable weather and proximity to the Caribbean, it was the most logical departure port in the US.
“We believe Miami has a destiny as the cruise capital of the world,” Stephan said at the time, the Miami Herald reported. Today, PortMiami is the busiest cruise port in the world, handling almost 5-million cruise tourists per year.
“Ed was an inspiration and a great friend to many in the company. He was an honorable man who loved his family, his work, and his community,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ed’s loving wife, Helen, and the children he adored, Michael, Samantha, Gary, and Kristina.”
“He will be deeply missed by all of us here, by his many friends, and by our community,” he added.