Freedom of the Seas Celebrates Major Milestone

August 21, 2005

Royal Caribbean celebrated a major milestone in the progression of its new Freedom of the Seas: On Friday, a day heightened by Finnish traditional pomp and circumstance, the ship was finally complete enough (i.e. the ship's exterior is in place ... and no leaks) to move from dry dock to its final building site -- a wet dock about 400 meters away.

Beyond that, on this gorgeous sunny day in Finland's Turku, Royal Caribbean's Harri Kulovaara, the company's executive vice president, who is supervising the newbuild here at Aker Finnyards Shipyard, led Cruise Critic's Carolyn Spencer Brown and a host of other journalists on a tour of the ship.

Royal Caribbean, alas, continues to tease by offering just a trickling more of the details it began revealing in May. This time, new features centered on the Royal Promenade and include the expansion of the Voyager class' popular coffee bar to include a Book Nook retail book store (similar to an experiment tried on Radiance on the Seas but abandoned; Royal Caribbean president Adam Goldstein said that then the problem was the shop's out-of-the-way location not the concept itself).

The line also revealed it will have a full fledged Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor; the 70-plus-seat "ye olde"-style parlor will be located on the Royal Promenade.

In another announcement today, Goldstein told the assembled travel agents and journalists that Captain Bill Wright, who formerly helmed ships ranging from Grandeur of the Seas to Radiance of the Seas to Celebrity Xpedition, and who serves in corporate headquarters as the company’s senior vice president of marine operations, will serve as the first master of Freedom of the Seas.

Further details about new onboard facilities will be unveiled at a press conference in New York on August 31 and Cruise Critic will be there!

While this new entry into the biggest-ship-ever sweepstakes -- Freedom of the Seas will measure 158,000 square tons and carry as many as 4,375 passengers if all berths are filled -- is clearly modeled on Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class vessels, incorporated into its design are already announced innovations, such as:

This ship will feature many Voyager-class signatures -- ice skating rink, indoor promenade, rock climbing wall – but its pool deck area, nearly half again larger than that on the cousin vessels, will be quite distinctive. In detail: Absolutely, the coolest new spot will be the H2O Zone, a fabulous interactive water park. Whimsical and playful -- and most definitely aimed at families -- features include numerous water-spouting contraptions, such as a waterfall, umbrella jets, a cone spill bucket, spray cannons, spray loops and pipefalls, all decorated as colorful sculptures. There are two splash pools as well, one of which will have a current that shoots water around a central island. At night, this area, with the integration of a fantastic and dynamic lighting system, will be transformed into a sculpture garden.

Another first-ever feature is a dedicated sports pool in the main pool area. Like Voyager-class vessels, there are two side by side pools that comprise that part of the deck, but in this case one will be used almost exclusively for athletic pool games, ranging from basketball and volleyball to (really) pole jousting and synchronized swimming. Other times, it will have designated lanes for lap swimming.

At night, designers hope to entice passengers back to the main pool area with an open-air nightclub. There's a large dance floor between the two pools (and even a D.J. booth) and Royal Caribbean anticipates themed parties and disco events.

The solarium pool area is more than just a "stretched" version of those found on Voyager-class ships. While similar in look, and featuring an additional row of loungers, the big news here is the creation of two cantilevered whirlpools that are tucked into a bow-like window some 112 ft. above the water. They're pretty gigantic; each one holds 16. Just as nifty -- though not as techno-trendy -- is a series of free-standing hammocks scattered about the solarium. The pool itself will feature underwater coral reefs and music.

The rock-climbing wall has expanded, going from the 30 by 33 ft. model on Voyager-class ships to one that's 43 by 44 ft., and this one will have additional spire for climbing. In all there are 11 routes to climb.

Beyond the pool areas, the only real details Royal Caribbean would share concerned some new ideas about staterooms. Cruise Critic has already reported that staterooms on Freedom of the Seas will be larger, on average, than those found throughout the rest of the fleet and that all will be outfitted with flat-screen televisions.

But what was revealed today was the creation of new concepts in staterooms (popular and familiar sizes, such as royal suites, will continue to be featured).

Family travelers should be pretty excited to hear that Freedom of the Seas will offer family-friendly cabins in a variety of categories, from insides (really!) to promenade view to ocean view. These will feature alcoves with bunk beds for kids and some will feature bathrooms with tubs, not just showers.

And in the over-the-top money's-no-object category, start saving your pennies for a stay in the presidential suite, the largest ever on a Royal Caribbean ship. Not only does it clock in at 1,215 square ft. (and that's just inside -- the balcony measures an additional 810 square ft.), but it also has four bedrooms and four full baths. The verandah is a destination in its own right, complete with whirlpool, wet bar, alfresco dining and loungers for just about everyone.