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World's largest cruise ship set to sail

Updated: 2023-08-10 07:13

The construction site of the Royal Caribbean's new ship Icon of the Seas is seen at the Turku shipyard in Finland's southwest coast on May 30. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TURKU, Finland — With cruise bookings seeing a resurgence after the pandemic caused luxury liners to mothball, a Finnish shipyard is putting the final touches on what is set to be the world's largest cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean's luxurious new vessel Icon of the Seas is nearing completion in the Turku shipyard on Finland's southwestern coast, with its maiden voyage scheduled for January.

"This ship is as of today, as far as we are aware of, the biggest cruise ship in the world," said Tim Meyer, chief executive of shipbuilder Meyer Turku tasked with the construction.

While some have labeled the colossal structure a "monstrosity", citing its vast climate footprint, others are in awe of the sophisticated engineering integrated into the floating holiday destination and flocking to buy tickets.

Resembling a village more than a ship, the mammoth vessel boasts colorful water parks and more than 20 decks, and can carry nearly 10,000 people.

The pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the industry, raising questions about whether it would ever recover. Now cruise companies are seeing customers return.

The Cruise Lines International Association has predicted that passenger volume will surpass pre-pandemic levels with 31.5 million this year.

With a gross tonnage of 250,800 — five times the size of the Titanic — Icon of the Seas will snatch the title of the world's largest cruise ship from Royal Caribbean's current flagship, Wonder of the Seas.

Meyer Turku also has two more similar sized Icon-class vessels in its order books.

"We have seen over the past decade that cruise ships have become bigger," said Alexis Papathanassis, professor of cruise management at Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

Papathanassis noted that "there are obvious economic benefits" to mega-sized ships, reducing the cost of individual passengers.

With the ship's seven pools, a park, waterslides, shopping promenades, ice-skating rink and "more venues than any other ship", larger vessels also offer more options for spending money on board.

This "in turn enables cruise companies to be more profitable", he said.


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