October 17, 2000
Two long-awaited new ships -- Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas and Holland America Line's Amsterdam -- have survived transatlantic journeys and arrived at the so-called New World. Explorer of the Seas, which boasts the label “newest-biggest-ship-ever” arrived at New York harbor from Southampton and will begin regularly scheduled year-round Eastern Caribbean itineraries on October 28, 2000. Key new features? Explorer of the Seas, which weighs in at 142,000 tons and carries 3,114 passengers (double occupancy) is pretty similar to sister ship Voyager of the Seas (the last “newest-biggest-ship-ever”); she’s got the ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, inline skating track, full court basketball, Johnny Rocket’s restaurant, and a golf course and golf simulator. Explorer’s new twist, however, is the addition of atmospheric and oceanographic laboratories -- admittedly a first in cruisedom -- that has been created in partnership with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Real life scientists will revolve in and out of the ship to conduct experiments and the labs will be accessible to cruisers as well. The ship’s official godmother (naming ceremony takes place Oct. 21 in NYC) is Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a female athlete known for her prowess on the running track. Come to think of it, an official, Olympic-quality running track is one thing Explorer doesn’t seem to have. Holland America’s Amsterdam, a tad smaller at 61,000 tons, is being positioned by the line as a twin flagship (to Rotterdam). The 1,380 passenger vessel, while incorporating traditional Holland America features like multi-million dollar art collections, expands on some of Rotterdam’s relatively revolutionary ideas --well, revolutionary for the more conservative Holland America Lines. Among these: an all-suite Navigation Deck with concierge service, an Internet cafe, and the Italian Odyssey alternative restaurant. Amsterdam, which will ply the Panama Canal itinerary this fall from her Ft. Lauderdale home port, begins her regular season sailings on October 30.