If it already sounds like weeks have passed since Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, the new biggest-ship-ever, was released from its shipyard ... well it has. The ship, which stopped in Norway and the U.K. for a series of Europe-based promotional sailings (and many, many media appearances), departed England today and is heading toward the U.S. It's sailing just with crew and staff -- no passengers.
Freedom of the Seas' first stop will be New York and the ship will arrive next Wednesday (May 10 if you're marking your calendar). The vessel, which has another month to go before it officially debuts with its first "real" cruise on June 4, has an inaugural calendar that looks like this:
Wednesday, May 10, 8 a.m.: Freedom of the Seas sails into New York Harbor and docks at Cape Liberty Cruise Port (in Bayonne, New Jersey).
Thursday, May 11, evening: Freedom heads back out -- this time into New York harbor where it will anchor off of the Statue of Liberty. An official handover will take place onboard at some point in the evening.
Friday, May 12, morning: Is anybody seriously going to miss the ship's debut on American national television? Set your alarm as NBC's "Today" will broadcast live, all three hours, from the ship. Afterward, the vessel will briefly head back to Cape Liberty and then mosey on across the Hudson River to Manhattan's cruise terminal.
Saturday, May 13, daytime: The ship will dock in Manhattan -- so the public can take a peak -- until 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 13, nighttime: The ship departs for a two night preview sailing; guests include travel agents, past passengers and journalists.
Monday, May 15 - Wednesday, May 17: A few more preview sailings.
Thursday, May 18, morning: Freedom of the Seas heads north, to Boston.
Friday, May 19: Freedom of the Seas arrives in "Beantown" where it will be docked at Warehouse Berths 6 and 7 through the weekend.
Monday, May 22: The ship heads south -- this time toward its home in Miami. The trip will take three days and Freedom is scheduled to arrive on....
Thursday, May 25 - Saturday, June 3: Finally! Miami. From this day onward, more (lots more) preview sailings and hometown events.
Sunday, June 4: Freedom of the Seas officially sets off on its first cruise, a seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary that calls at Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Royal Caribbean's private Haitian beach in Labadee.
The 158,000-ton, 3,634-passenger Freedom of the Seas, easily 2006's most eagerly awaited vessel, not only usurps Cunard's Queen Mary 2 as the largest ship afloat but also offers innovations all its own, including cruising's first-ever surf park and boxing rink. Stay tuned for more Freedom Frenzy! from Cruise Critic.
Photo appears courtesy of Cruise Critic member Brandis.