Kai Tak has been slated to become the prime berthing spot in Hong Kong for some of the world's largest cruise liners. But what is the biggest ship sailing the seas?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 November, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 November, 2006, 12:00am

FYI: Kai Tak has been slated to become the prime berthing spot in Hong Kong for some of the world's largest cruise liners. But what is the biggest ship sailing the seas?

The largest cruise ship currently ploughing the oceans belongs to the Royal Caribbean International

line. Launched in 2006 and called Freedom of the Seas,

if it were to venture into Victoria Harbour this massive ship would almost make the Star Pisces look like a tug boat in comparison.

Measuring almost 340 metres in length, the 154,407-ton Freedom of the Seas was produced in the Aker Finnyards drydock in Turku, Finland, taking more than 6.8 million working hours to build at a cost of US$947 million. The phrase 'all hands on deck' takes on a whole new meaning on this vessel, given its ability to carry comfortably more than 5,000 people, of which 1,360 are crew, on its voyages. The largest accommodation suite measures 1,216 sq ft, sleeps 14 people and has five flat-screen TVs, a private whirlpool and a wet bar.

The 18 decks house an ice-skating rink, promenade, rock-climbing wall, water park and a solarium that includes whirlpools overlooking the sea at a height of 122 metres. It also has a Ben and Jerry's ice cream parlour, a pizzeria, hair salons and other commercial ventures. One of the ship's main attractions is the FlowRider wave generator, which gives passengers the chance to surf on the ship's top deck, high above any real waves.

The ship's many facilities are anything but cheap to maintain. It has 30 lifeboats, 750,000 light bulbs and 4,700 works of art, and uses 35,000kg of ice each day. The total cost of daily operations is a whopping US$1 million.

The Freedom of the Seas makes its way around western Caribbean locations at the understated pace of 21.6 knots, which is the equivalent of about 40km/h.

Like the Titanics of this world, Freedom's reign as the largest water-borne people-carrier won't last long, though hopefully it won't share the same fate as the aforementioned vessel. Two sister ships of similar size are under construction in Finland. When finished, they will complete the Freedom class in the Royal Caribbean range of cruise liners. But the company has already commissioned a new class of ship, Genesis, the first of which is due for completion in 2009. With an expected gross tonnage 43 per cent greater than the Freedom class, it's already burning holes in pockets. The first ship

is expected to cost more than US$1 billion to build, making it potentially the most expensive civilian ship ever constructed. As if that's not enough, the company has already ordered a second Genesis-class ship. It appears that the less-is-more philosophy has been largely ignored, with Genesis expected to revolutionise modern-day cruising. It all sounds like fun, as long as you don't mind setting sail with a few thousand shipmates.


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