Largest cruise ship to feature Central Park

/ Source: The Associated Press

Central Park is moving to the ocean — sort of.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said Tuesday that an area resembling New York's Central Park will be featured in the center of its Project Genesis ship when it is delivered in late 2009 as the world's largest cruise vessel.

Spanning the length of a football field, Central Park will include lush foliage, quiet walkways, restaurants, boutiques, an art gallery and a moving bar, the world's No. 2 cruise operator said Tuesday.

The area also will feature concerts and street performances, providing the feeling of an outdoor space on a 225,000-gross ton cruise ship that will carry 5,400 passengers and sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. A gross ton is a standard measurement of carrying capacity that is equivalent to about 100 cubic feet.

The Central Park design is one of seven "neighborhoods" to be featured on Project Genesis, and it is the first major architectural detail to be divulged after several years of planning and secrecy. More details will be disclosed as the ship gets closer to launch, said Adam Goldstein, president of Royal Caribbean International.

"I have spent the last two years keeping this a secret even from my immediate family," Goldstein told The Associated Press in a phone interview ahead of a news conference in New York. "Our level of excitement is equaled only by our fidelity to keep it a secret until now."

Project Genesis is an ambitious undertaking by Miami-based Royal Caribbean, the world's second-largest cruise company behind Miami-based Carnival Corp. With a view of the sky, Central Park will be lined with 254 balcony staterooms and feature five eateries and two bars. One of the bars, called the Rising Tide, will ascend and descend three levels.

Project Genesis will exceed the size of Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, which currently hold the title of the world's largest cruise ship at 160,000 gross tons each. A third Freedom Class ship, the Independence of the Seas, is set to launch in May.

Project Genesis and a sister ship are set to be launched by the end of 2010. Each Project Genesis ship will cost more than $1 billion to build at Aker Yards in Turku, Finland. Details on when bookings will start and how much a trip will cost have not been released.

Despite the ship's size, Royal Caribbean worked on ways to keep fuel costs manageable once the vessel is launched, Goldstein said. The industry has adopted several practices to control fuel costs, such as applying different hull paint to reduce drag in the water and using lighting that helps reduce onboard energy costs.

About 12.6 million passengers took cruises in 2007 with 10.3 million of those coming from North America. The industry expects an increase in worldwide cruise passengers this year to 12.8 million people — as lines plan to add eight new ships in 2008 and more than 35 new vessels in the next four years.