There was a time when a ship that carried 1,000 passengers was considered gargantuan. I’m not sure who fired the first shot in the Mega Cruise Ship Wars, but with each new ship that is launched, the size and the list of amenities escalate.
First was the Grand Princess — too wide to fit through the Panama Canal (rumored to be an engineering mistake). The Voyager of the Seas saw that royal size — and raised it one rock-climbing wall and a skating rink. Cunard Line followed suit with the elegant Queen Mary 2: more than twice as long as the Washington Monument, with a Canyon Ranch SpaClub included. Where will it stop? My guess is it’s anyone’s guess, but in April, Royal Caribbean will lay claim to the heavyweight title with its Freedom of the Seas. Take a look at the amenities of this monster:
3,600 passengers. That’s double occupancy; the total climbs to 4,370 if you count triples and quads. Toss in the 1,400 crewmembers and you have a small city.
Giant hot tubs suspended on “wings” 114 feet above the ocean.
A water park that puts most land-based parks to shame.
Onboard surfing. Yes, that’s right: a surf pool to let you hang 10.
Flat-screen TVs in all staterooms.
Family-friendly cabins (Royal Caribbean expects 1,500 to 1,800 kids at a shot).
So, does a ship this big spoil the cruise experience? Some purists may say so, but I think it just adds another dimension, so to speak. Sure, this might not be the ship for the Blue-Haired Ladies Bridge Club, but you never know. I have been on a number of cruises, and I’ve learned not to pigeonhole people — they will always surprise you. Plenty of blue-haired ladies have morphed into active seniors looking for travel adventure. I call them Galloping Grandparents!
I do wonder, however, whether the ships are becoming the destination. Certainly, there is little reason to leave a ship like this, not when there’s food, entertainment, shopping, partying, dancing, art auctions, swimming, surfing, rock climbing and ice skating all on board. The ports of call seem almost dull by comparison. I can hear my son now: “But do we haaave to leave the ship?”
It is a rare moment when I am at a loss for words, but describing this ship has me stumped. If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, I suggest you take a look at the Freedom of the Seas. See for yourself. The amenities are indeed impressive — so impressive, in fact, that I was coerced into booking my own voyage on the ship this summer. Actually, my kids tied me up with duct tape until I agreed. So we are Freedom-bound in August, and since we have already visited all the ports of call, I guess the ship will be the destination!
It seems that this nautical game of “Mine’s Bigger than Yours” has no end in sight. No sooner had I booked my cruise did I learn of a newer, bigger, more amenity-laden ship under construction. When will it end? Not anytime soon. But for now, Royal Caribbean will hold the title. And, in a truly unbelievable development, it appears that their reign will last only until this baby makes a splash!
John Frenaye is the president of JVE Group, Inc., a diversified company based in Annapolis, Md. With nearly ten years as a senior executive in the retail travel industry and a background in business management, he writes about the travel industry as an insider with an outsider's perspective. or visit his . Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting