These days, the operative word in cruise ships is big. And getting bigger as cruise lines order up bigger ships with more amenities. Here’s a look at some that are already sailing as well as a preview of what’s to come.
Queen Elizabeth 2
The flagship of the Cunard Line from 1969 until the Queen Mary 2 was launched in 2004. The QE2 is considered one of the last great Transatlantic ocean liners. At 70,327 tons and 963 feet in length, the QE2 operated on steam until 1986, when she was retrofitted with a modern diesel engine.
The QE2 has logged more than 5.6 million nautical miles, carrying more than 2.5 million passengers. With a top speed of 32.5 knots, QE2 is the fastest passenger ship in the world and can sail backward faster than most cruise ships sail forward.
During her 40 years in service, QE2 has had a host of famous passengers ranging from Royals such as Prince Charles and Princess Diana; rock stars, including Mick Jagger and Elton John; and movie stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Meryl Streep, Bob Hope and John Travolta. US President George W Bush has sailed the QE2 as has South African President Nelson Mandela. In November 2008, the QE2 made its final stop, in Dubai, where it became a floating hotel.
Freedom of the Seas
The 160,000-ton Freedom of the Seas first set sail in 2006 with more than 1,800 rooms for up to 4,375 passengers. It is more than 1,112 feet long. Featured among the ship’s amenities are:
- The first-ever shipboard surf park
- Water park, featuring geysers
- Dedicated sports and lap pools
- Adults-only solarium with two cantilevered whirlpools
- Rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink
- A full-size, flat-screen TV in every stateroom
- A boardwalk with the sea’s first ever carousel and other amusement park features
- A youth zone with a theater, art studio and science lab
- A pool zone with four swimming pools, six whirlpools and a solarium
- A sports deck offering guests a chance to play basketball, volleyball, ping pong and miniature golf
Independence of the Seas
The sister ship of Freedom of the Seas, is the first of the new sailing behemoths to have her headquarters in Europe.
The 160,000-ton liner, boasts a central promenade lined with shops, bars and restaurants and the Skylight Chapel, a wedding chapel with room for 40 guests. To make British passengers feel at home, kettles have been installed in all cabins so they can brew their own tea.
A third Royal Caribbean Freedom-class ship is Liberty of the Seas.
Destiny underwent renovations in 2008 and now boasts a new theater as well as renovated cabins with balconies. Carnival Destiny is the first of Carnival Cruise Lines’ five Destiny-class liners. At just over 101,000 tons, Destiny carries 3,360 passengers. Three football fields long, Destiny features two-level dining halls, a two-tiered dance club, a three-story show lounge, four pools and a nine-story glass-domed atrium provides.
MSC Fantasia, which made it debut in late December 2008, is the largest ship in the line’s fleet at 133,500 tons and carrying 3,300 passengers.
The ship, built for winter cruising in the Mediterranean, features a covered pool for dips during inclement weather, a Formula One simulator, an aqua park on the lido deck with water fountains that light up at night. The ship also features five dining venues, a spa with Balinese treatments and the MSC Yacht Club, the line’s new exclusive VIP area. The Yacht Club boasts 99 suites up to 700 square feet, with butler service.
Queen Mary 2
The QE2’s replacement, the Queen Mary 2, weighs in at 150,000 gross tons and carries 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew members. She is the largest ocean liner ever built, although she was surpassed in gross tonnage with the construction of the Freedom of the Seas. A throwback to the golden age of ocean travel, the QM2 boasts a Grand Lobby more than three decks high with two sweeping grand staircases. The ship has the largest library at sea, with more than 8,000 books and the sea’s only planetarium. Five swimming pools, an art gallery with works by Dali, Chagall, Erte and Picasso, a 2,000-square-foot spa and a casino are among the QM2’s amenities.
Celebrity’s newest ship features the first-ever top deck lawn, featured in an environment known as the Lawn Club where passengers can play bocce or croquet or kick back and have a picnic in the grass.
Solstice and her sisters will offer over seven different stateroom categories. The ship’s new Aqua Class staterooms, located on the same deck as the Aqua Spa Relaxation Room, bring spa elements such as five-head showerheads, mood lighting and relaxing scents into the stateroom. Guests in this class get exclusive access to the Blu Restaurant, a specialty restaurant serving healthy fare in a soothing atmosphere. The Family Veranda stateroom, measuring 753 square feet, features a bedroom is separate from the living room, which will be equipped with fold-out couches; there’s also an extra alcove, just big enough for twin bunks.
Guests can choose from among 10 different options for dining, not including room service.
Oasis of the Seas
Central Park takes to the seas when Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas sets sail late 2009. The 220,000 gross tons of Oasis will feature a park a football-field long complete with formal gardens. Known as Central Park, the area will include three themed gardens, bars, restaurants and boutiques as well as 300 staterooms that rise six-decks high and overlook the park.
The largest of the line’s “Fun Ships,” the 130,000-ton Dream will launch in late 2009. The ship features a half-mile, open-air promenade encircling the ship on Promenade Deck 5; the Piazza, an indoor/outdoor café and live music venue; enhanced children’s facilities, including a waterpark; and a two-level miniature golf course.