The ship, measuring nearly 160,000 tons and carrying 3,634 passengers, will be christened in Southampton on April 30 and sail its maiden voyage on May 2 following a series of preview sailings. Through the summer of 2008, Independence of the Seas will offer 14-night Mediterranean cruises, 11-night Canary Islands itineraries and 4-night getaways to Cork, Ireland and St. Peter Port, Channel Islands -- all roundtrip from Southampton. Independence of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship ever to be homeported in Europe.
Being the third in its class, Independence isn't ushering in too many new innovations for the line (the focus is instead on upcoming Project Genesis; Royal Caribbean announced earlier this week that the new-build would feature a novel outdoor promenade called Central Park). Onboard Independence, expect amenities on par with those introduced aboard sister ships Freedom and Liberty, including a FlowRider surf simulator, the H2O Zone water park, cantilevered whirlpools, a full-size boxing ring and a 14-person family suite.
However, there is one "cool" new feature to look forward to: Unlike those onboard its sister ships, all of Independence's pools and the water park will be heated!
Royal Caribbean has reached out to the British community to pick a godmother for the ship, seeking nominations of women who have dedicated time to helping improve the well-being and future of young people. The winner, one of four finalists, will be announced tomorrow.
Stay tuned for that, followed by our live coverage of the christening and a sneak preview of the brand-new vessel.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor