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article imageIt did it! World's largest cruise ship squeezes under span

By Ken Wightman     Oct 31, 2009 in Travel
After nearly six years of planning and years in construction, Royal Caribbean takes delivery of the Oasis of the Seas. The world's largest cruise ship is now steaming from Finland to Florida.
It may be the Oasis of the Seas but this is one oasis that sports a golf course, an ice rink, a 750-seat Greek amphitheatre, and although it has no date groves, it will have palm trees. At 1200-feet from bow to stern, more than a fifth of a mile long, this is the world's largest cruise ship, 40 percent larger than the industry's next-biggest liner.
To escape the Baltic Sea after launch, the mega ship, soaring 20 stories high, had to first squeeze under the Great Belt Bridge joining two Danish islands. Hundreds gathered on beaches at both ends of the Danish bridge to watch the brightly lit behemoth, its telescopic smokestacks lowered, glide under the long, fixed span shortly after midnight. According to Lene Gebauer Thomsen, spokesperson for the operator of the bridge, the ship had to speed up as it approached the bridge in order to sink deeper into the water. Even so, the monster ship had only a metre or so of clearance.
Many reports point out she is five times larger than the Titanic but it is not icebergs that may threaten the new ship but a frozen economy. The economic seas were far less turbulent when the Oasis was originally envisioned nearly six years ago. In today's market, profit pinched cruise lines are being forced to slash prices just to fill empty berths.
Commissioned by Royal Caribbean International, the ship cost $1.5 billion USD and took two and a half years to build at the STX Finland Oy shipyard in Turku, southwestern Finland. The record-shattering ship has now departed the frosty Finnish coast for the warmer beaches of Florida and the Caribbean. The ship's present position at sea is updated constantly on the ship's Website.
After 12-days at sea, it should be land-ho as she sails into her home port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On Friday, November 20, the Oasis will sail the air waves as ABC’s “Good Morning America” features her on a special live broadcast, giving viewers a close-up look at the revolutionary ship.
During the period between docking in Fort Lauderdale and making her early morning television debut, work will start on the planting of 12,000 tropical plants on board, including palm trees and vines. The enormous ship features a variety of special theme neighbourhoods but the tropical one was left unfinished as there are not a lot of palm trees in Finland.
A true floating resort, the 16-deck vessel carries up to 6300 passengers plus 2100 crew members and features 2700 state rooms. In the stern, a 750-seat outdoor theatre — modelled on an ancient Greek amphitheatre — is a swimming pool by day converting to a theatre by night. The pool has a diving tower with spring boards and two 33-feet (10-meter) high dive platforms. There is also an indoor theatre seating 1,300.
The seven themed areas seemed designed to ensure no one ever feels they are on a ship. For instance, the Boardwalk has an original, handcrafted carousel — the first at sea. There are two 43-foot rock-climbing walls on either side of the AquaTheater and the first zip-line at sea suspended nine decks above Boardwalk. Central Park features lush, tropical grounds spanning the length of a football field, with pathways, flower gardens and a canopy of trees. At night guests will enjoy concerts and street performances.
Environmentalists claim the ship does not do enough to reduce air pollution; As a sailing resort-of-the-sea it is wasteful of fuel. Engineers at shipbuilder STX Finland respond that environmental considerations played an important role in the design of the vessel. The Oasis dumps no sewage into the sea, reuses its waste water and consumes 25 percent less power than many other large cruise liners.
The Oasis of the Seas Finland to Florida adventure can be followed on Twitter as well as the ship's Website. Royal Caribbean has a Website with complete cruise information for those interested in a vacation at sea.
STX Finland is building a sister ship — Allure of the Seas — for Royal Caribbean and due to be launched in 2011.
More about Oasis seas, Crusie ship, Fort Lauderdale