This morning, while most North American cruise passengers were sound asleep, Royal Caribbean took ownership of the 158,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Freedom of the Seas.|
A spokeswoman for the line tells us that "everything went smoothly," but that the real focus will be on exciting upcoming events: Freedom of the Seas will head next to Oslo, and then to the United States, to showcase the ship to travel agents and journalists.
The handover by Aker Finnyards took place at 10:43 a.m. German time (4:43 a.m. EST). According to the Associated Press, the ceremony in Hamburg drew crowds of onlookers. Though the ship was constructed in Turku, Finland, Freedom had to make a quick detour to Hamburg for repairs before the handover (see above photo of the ship leaving Turku); a bearing in the ship's propulsion system needed to be replaced, and Hamburg's Blohm+Voss was the only shipyard available -- and appropriate -- for the work.
With all systems up and running, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of the cruise line, proffered up a hefty check -- which means the largest cruise ship in the world is now an official member of Royal Caribbean's fleet. The ship will sail its first revenue cruise on June 4, as originally scheduled.