Freedom of the Seas Countdown Begins!

April 7, 2006
In the midst of ice and snow in Turku, in southern Finland, Freedom of the Seas -- the world's largest cruise ship ever -- is getting very, very ready to sail away. Today, reports Cruise Critic's Christer Gorschelnik, who was on the scene, the ship was showcased exclusively for Finnish media. His early verdict?

While there's still a lot of work to do -- it's obvious that carpets needed installing and public rooms needed a really good dusting after their construction phase (and the reporters on hand weren't even allowed to visit the ship's sundeck -- "Freedom was in surprisingly good shape," he says. Note: Photographs of the ship, taken recently, are available for viewing at Another note: Cruise Critic has launched its own photos -- check them out here!

Freedom of the Seas is already staffed with some of the folks who will debut with the ship itself (officers and senior crew have been on the scene, adapting to the new ship, for months already) but earlier this week a more complete complement of crew members arrived from Miami, courtesy of two airline charters.

Freedom of the Seas is slated to depart the Turku shipyard on Thursday, April 13 (more than a week earlier than planned, quite unusual in the best possible sense). One interesting note: As winter has lingered here in Nordic Finland, and the ship possesses no ice-strengthened hull, Aker Finnyards has had to hire two -- yes, two -- icebreakers to help it progress to its next stop in Hamburg. Why the need for two? Because the ship is too wide for just one!

Freedom doesn't officially become "Freedom" until it makes a quick detour to Hamburg. As Cruise Critic reported in February, "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." According to the Royal Caribbean statement, "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 only shipyard appropriate and available for the work, which is scheduled to take place after Freedom of the Seas leaves Aker Finnyards, is Hamburg's Blohm+Voss. Once the repairs are completed the ship will officially be "handed over" to Royal Caribbean and become part of the line's fleet -- and Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of the cruise line, will hand over a really big check.

Once the ship leaves Hamburg, it will head over to Oslo, the first in an Azipod-abbreviated series of promotional efforts by Royal Caribbean in Europe to showcase the ship to travel agents and journalists. Ultimately it heads to America, where it will undergo a similar ritual. The ship sails its first "official" cruise on June 4, just as originally scheduled.

If you think the shipyard workers in Turku feel sad, saying goodbye to the steel-skeleton-tunred-cruise-ship that has resided there since the keel was laid a few years ago, well, they don't. Not really. Because Freedom's still-unnamed sister is making its own presence felt there these days and on its way to being ready for its own inaugural -- mark your calendar for a Spring 2007 launch.

Image appears courtesy of Christer Gorschelnik.