Edwin W Stephan Cruise Line Founder Notable Cruise Industry Death – On Friday, November 8, 2019, Edwin W Stephan, 87, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line founder, passed away in Miami. Florida.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has grown into the world’s second-largest cruise line, a multi-billion-dollar global company of six brands, operating 63 ships across seven continents.
Royal Caribbean was also the first to stretch a major cruise ship by inserting an additional mid-section into Song of Norway in 1978. By the fall of 1970, Royal Caribbean’s The Song of Norway was cruising up Government Cut, delighting locals and tourists alike who marveled at its grandeur from aboard or simply from watching it go by from a perch on the jetty rocks on the southernmost end of South Beach.
Norway was then “the biggest ship built for warm-weather cruising and a testament to Stephan’s conviction,” the Herald wrote in 2003 when the founder, then 71, announced his plan to retire from the board of Royal Caribbean Cruises.
Stephan was born on December 15, 1931 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Stephan attended the University of Wisconsin. He left his studies to serve his country in the Korean War, where he was awarded two Bronze Stars for his exemplary service as a Lieutenant in Radar and Guided Missiles and Field Artillery. Following his military service, Stephan moved to Miami and began his career in the service industry as a bell captain at the Casablanca Hotel and later ran the Biscayne Terrace Hotel downtown.
By the end of 1962, Stephan joined the cruise industry when Yarmouth Steamship Company recruited him for his renowned hospitality experience. Stephan left hotels ashore and began his first job in the cruise industry as the line’s general manager. He would later leave the company and become Co-Founder and President of Commodore Cruise Line from 1962 to 1967.
During this time, Stephan began constructing his vision for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, a modernized cruise company with ships built specifically for warm-weather sailing. Stephan was firm in his conviction that a fleet of purpose-built passenger ships, which combined the maritime technology, management and seamanship of Norway with American-style hotel operations, was the ideal concept for Caribbean success.
He designed his new ships with an emphasis on safety and with a modern yacht look. Stephan’s marketing brainchild, the “Viking Crown,” a cocktail lounge that sits high atop every Royal Caribbean vessel, is arguably the Line’s featured trademark.
Safety and passenger satisfaction was placed highest on his priority list. Always humble, in regards to his accomplishments, Stephan stated, “Although I am not much for legacy, I still find it rewarding that this line will be around for a long time.” After founding Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Stephan served for 35 years in various executive positions, including Chief Executive Officer, President, and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors.
He was honored numerous times for setting the highest standards for the cruise industry, including the 2009 Hall of Fame Award by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association, Inc.), Maritime Person of the Year amongst others.
Stephan lived in Miami with his wife Helen, of 33 years, who is Godmother of the ship, Vision of the Seas. He is father to four grown children, Samantha, Michael, Gary and Kristina, and grandfather to Olivia, William and Devin. He is survived by a very large and loving family.