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Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - Page updated at 12:28 AM

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Royal Caribbean orders world's largest passenger ship

The Associated Press

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean International on Monday ordered the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship, a $1.24 billion vessel that will hold up to 6,400 passengers.

The ship, dubbed Project Genesis, will be 220,000 gross registered tons when it is delivered to the world's second-largest cruise operator in fall 2009 by Oslo, Norway-based shipbuilder Aker Yards. Gross registered tons is a standard way to measure a ship's size and is a unit of volume equal to about 100 cubic feet.

The ship will weigh about 100,000 tons based on displacement; a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier comes in at about 97,000 tons.

Aker said that the contract is contingent on final approval of financing, and that the ship will be built at one of its yards in Finland. The cruise line has an option for a second ship.

Harri Kulovaara, the Miami-based cruise line's executive vice president of maritime operations, said the new ship will be more fuel efficient than current vessels, but he declined to give a specific figure. He said plans for onboard amenities were being finalized. Royal Caribbean has been an innovator in featuring ice-skating rinks, climbing walls and surfing pools on cruise ships.

Project Genesis will carry 5,400 passengers based on two people per cabin, Kulovaara said. But because some cabins can accommodate more than two people using cots or other beds, that number rises to a maximum capacity of 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.

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.

Carnival's Cunard Line 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 4,370 passengers.

Both will be eclipsed by Project Genesis, which will be 1,180 feet long, 154 feet wide at water level and 240 feet high.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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