Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Royal Caribbean International today ordered the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship, a $1.24-billion vessel that will hold up to 6,400 passengers. It's the latest step in the industry trend of supersizing ships. The ship, dubbed Project Genisis, will be 1,180 feet long and 220,000 gross registered tons when it is delivered to Royal Caribbean in fall 2009 by Aker Yards, part of a Norway-based company. . Cunard Line (which is owned by Carnival Corp.) currently has the world's largest cruise ship — the Queen Mary 2 — at 151,400 gross registered tons. But Royal Caribbean is scheduled to get an even bigger ship in June, the 160,000-ton Freedom of the Seas. It will carry a maximum of 3 4,370 passengers.
The $1.24-billion price tag for the Project Genisis includes all expenses for the ship, "from forks and knives and sheets to artwork and everything else," said Harri Kulovaara, executive vice president of maritime operations for Miami-based Royal Caribbean. The announcement steals some of the spotlight from rival Carnival, the world's largest cruise operator (Royal Caribbean is the second largest). Carnival has studied building a ship about the same size, but its Pinnacle project is "on the back burner" because of its prohibitively high price, spokesman Tim Gallagher said. Royal Caribbean's ships are typically more upscale than the bargain Carnival Cruise Lines' vessels, but they aren't as traditional as those of luxury carriers such as Cunard. Royal Caribbean has been an innovator in amenities such as ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls and surfing pools. Project Genesis will carry 5,400 passengers based on two people per cabin, Kulovaara said. But as many cabins have additional berths, so the maximum capacity rises to 6,400. Ray Weiller, an owner of discount online travel agency Cruisequick.com, said many of his clients are drawn to the ever-growing size and number of amenities of ships, but others tire of waiting in long lines to get on and off the vessels. Many complain about the large ships overwhelming some ports of call with too many people trying to visit, he said. Royal Caribbean still offers a variety of ship sizes, so customers who don't like larger vessels will have other options, Kulovaara said. The ship will sail in the Caribbean, where many ports already handle megaships, but ports will need some infrastructure improvements to handle it, he said.