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The Battle of the Cruise Giants?
There has been so much European news recently that we have not said much about what is happening in the North American market, which soon will see three news giants added to the fleets of Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines. Within the next few months, the Oasis of the Seas, Norwegian Epic and Carnival Dream, largest ship ever built for each of the top three lines, will enter service from Florida to the Caribbean.
The Oasis of the Seas (www.oasisoftheseas.com)
What other ship in the world has two-storey loft suites, an outside amphitheatre, a zipline, rock wall climbing, surfing, a skating rink, a bar that goes up and down between decks, a royal promenade, a boardwalk, a central park and what Royal Caribbean likes to call neighbourhoods? The answer of course is none, at least until her sister ship Allure of the Seas is introduced in 2010.
No one ever thought we would see ships so huge after the 80,000-tonners Queen Mary, Normandie and Queen Elizabeth, but here we are in 2009 with fully fifty ships in service or under construction of above 100,000 gross tons, with two of these being above 200,000 tons. With the exception of the Queen Mary 2 in 2004, it is Royal Caribbean which has consistently built the world's biggest cruise ships, starting with the 73,192-ton Sovereign of the Seas in 1987.
In recent years, this has included the 137,276-ton Voyager of the Seas and her three sister ships in 1999-2003, the 154,407-ton Independence of the Seas and her two sister ships in 2006-08, and now the twin Oasis class. More are likely to follow.
Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the new Oasis of the Seas is that unlike most past mass market ships, she will not depart from Miami but from nearby Port Everglades to the north, the port for Fort Lauderdale that has usually been known as the base for upmarket lines such as Celebrity and Holland America. Port Everglades is promising pier to cabin in fifteen minutes and for some 6,000 travellers this will be some achievement!
The Norwegian Epic (www.epic.ncl.com)
One of the more interesting things about the new Norwegian Epic is that 100% of her outside cabins will have balconies, a first for a mass market ship. Originally ordered as a pair, the second order was cancelled and for now this is a one-ship program, and at a higher price for the single ship. The third generation of NCL's newbuildings will be the latest deconstruction of the cruise product that NCL calls "Freestyle Cruising."
Apart from a rather huge and ungainly superstructure mounting and dominating the ship's bridge, the lines of the Epic are typically St Nazaire, at least the hull, the bridge itself and some of the superstructure, echoing earlier St Nazaire-built ships, particularly in the fleet of MSC.
Some of the news ship's interesting points will be the lack of a large American-style show lounge, in favour of more smaller venues, the lack of a single large dining room in favour of multiple dining venues (14 restaurants in all), two different bowling alleys at sea, rock-climbing and rappelling walls, an Aqua Park with three waterslides.
The Carnival Dream (www.carnival.com)
The Carnival Dream, although she will become Carnival's largest ship when she enters service next week, is actually 22nd largest in the world in terms of her length overall. The Celebrity Solstice, MSC Fantasia, Disney Fantasy and the Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas classes are all larger. Not to mention the Oasis of the Seas. Carnival, while still building big ships, including the world's first 100,000-tonner in the Carnival Destiny, have decided not to go the bigger is better route.
In many ways, however, the Carnival Dream is a successor to the original Carnival Destiny design, from the same shipbuilders, Fincantieri, but about 25% larger and with such additions as a full wraparound promenade deck and much more extensive restaurant arrangements.
Like the Oasis of the Seas, the latest and biggest Carnival ship will not be based in Miami. Instead she will turn around at Port Canaveral, the closest port to Disney World.
A Comparison of the Giants
Readers who want to know more need only consult Google News and the individual web sites for each of these new ships, but here are some interesting facts and figures about the ships:
(Source: By Mark Tré - Cybercruises.com)