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Largest passenger ship arrives in New Jersey

/ Source: The Associated Press

The world’s largest cruise ship is so immense that even its captain hasn’t finished exploring it.

“I’m still discovering things,” Bill Wright said as he walked around the bridge of Royal Caribbean’s newly built Freedom of the Seas while it was docked in Bayonne.

The ship, which arrived this week in New York Harbor from Southampton, Britain, was christened Friday during a live broadcast on NBC’s “Today.”

Freedom of the Seas is 237 feet tall and 1,112 feet long with 15 passenger decks.

Standing upright on its bow, it would be taller than the Eiffel tower. The ship comes in at 160,000 gross registered tons, a standard measurement of carrying capacity that is about 100 cubic feet for each ton.

Built by Norwegian shipbuilder Aker Yards ASA, the ship cost $800 million and can carry more than 4,000 passengers. The world’s previous largest ship, the Queen Mary 2, can carry about 3,000 people and is 151,400 gross registered tons. The Titanic’s gross registered tonnage was 46,329.

If you want to sail on the new ship, it won’t be cheap.

Prices for seven-day voyages range from $1,900 per couple for an interior room during the low season to nearly $2,500 for the same-size cabin with a balcony during high season, said Cindy Dangel, an on-board sales manager.

A deluxe room that sleeps 14 and costs $22,000 during peak season isn’t available until 2008, she said.

A three-level dining room seats 2,140. There are more than 2,000 deck chairs and an ice-skating rink. The fitness center measures 9,700 square feet and includes a boxing ring. The spa provides luxuries from teeth whitening to massages and a 13th-floor deck offers a rock climbing wall and a big wave pool with simulated surfing.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s newest liner will be docked in New York Harbor and Cape Liberty in Bayonne over the next few days before it leaves on May 18 for a trip to Boston.

The ship’s maiden voyage was last month, from Hamburg, Germany, to Oslo, Norway, but it won’t have paying passengers until it leaves from Miami for the western Caribbean next month.

Passengers will find a mall-like promenade, with shops, a pizza place and wine bar on the fifth deck that also includes a bridge used for small circus acts.

Also nearby is a party room called Pharaoh’s Place, which is decorated with Egyptian-looking statues and columns painted in yellows, oranges, blues and greens.

While the ship’s New York area arrival is generating a big buzz, its grand scale might not appeal to everyone.

Bigger isn’t always better, and a large ship can be overwhelming and impersonal, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of, a Web site devoted to cruise travel information.

“You’re always thinking about what you should be doing next,” she said. “Expect lines. Expect congestion.”

She said on a ship of this scale, passengers may be tempted to skip some of the ports.

“This ship, more than any other ship out there, represents the on-land resort experience. There’s so much to do you really don’t have to get off,” she said.