Freedom of the Seas Experiences Hiccup

February 22, 2006
Royal Caribbean's hotly awaited Freedom of the Seas -- soon to be the newest entrant in the world's-biggest-cruise-ship sweepstakes -- has experienced a minor hiccup during construction at Turku's Aker Finnyards that will result in a few days' delay before hand-over.

According to Royal Caribbean spokesman Michael Sheehan, "In December, engineers from Royal Caribbean International and Aker Finnyards inspected Freedom of the Seas after a sea trial and detected some dirt and foreign particles in a bearing in the ship's propulsion system. After a joint review, it is believed that the dirt and particles were accidentally introduced during the bearing's construction. As a precaution, the shipyard and Royal Caribbean agreed that the bearing should be replaced."

The good news? Fixing the problem will take just a few days, and Royal Caribbean, which had expected to take delivery of the vessel on or around April 21, actually had built quite a bit of padding into the schedule -- just in case. As such, none of the inaugural events or the ship's actual inaugural cruise will be impacted at all.

The bad news? While the damage isn't severe, the ship, upon completion in Finland, will have to sail to Hamburg for the repairs as there is no extra dry-dock facility available at Aker Finnyards (the next Freedom-class ship already occupies the berth). Sheehan says repairs are believed to take just a few days and that cruise line honchos absolutely anticipate taking delivery in Germany no later (and possibly earlier) than the end of April.

Sheehan notes that even with shipyards that are known for delivering vessels on time, such as Aker Finnyards, it's industry practice that "when you order a new ship you want to have a cushion." In this case, it's a big ol' down pillow, as inaugural events begin in mid-May and the ship's first sailing doesn't even occur until June 4.