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News >  Travel

Cruise lines building behemoths

Arline Bleecker The Orlando Sentinel

After a brief lull, cruise lines are on a building spree again.

Would it surprise you to learn that the buzzword is “behemoth”?

I didn’t think so.

Of 22 vessels on the docket through 2009, only one will carry fewer than 2,000 passengers. And at 1,848, that’s not fewer by much.

Bigger ships will require bigger ports. According to Seatrade, a maritime-industry organization, “almost 300 ports around the globe will need access or facilities upgrades, requiring an investment of at least $3.5 billion.”

Already, champagne has splashed across the bow of Norwegian Cruise Lines’ 81,000-ton Pride of America, a comparatively Lilliputian entrant that debuted in New York harbor in mid-June. Carnival’s 110,000-ton Liberty was christened last month for its inaugural Mediterranean season. And Norwegian’s 93,000-ton Jewel embarked on a series of European itineraries earlier this month.

The first in the next wave of even bigger behemoths will be delivered in May when Royal Caribbean International’s 160,000-ton, 4,370-passenger Freedom of the Seas sails out of a Finnish shipyard. And if one colossus is good, three must surely be better: The line plans to debut two more cookie-cutter versions of Freedom, one in each of the two succeeding years.

To bring the first of these city-sized vessels to sea, Royal Caribbean estimates a price tag of $750 million.

On the all-but-inconceivable end of the spectrum, Carnival’s Pinnacle project – still a hush-hush plan some years away – could come in at nearly 200,000 tons and be capable of hauling 5,000 passengers. At this early stage, it doesn’t even have a price tag.

From Princess Cruises will come two sister ships in the 116,000-ton, 3,100-passenger category – Crown Princess next year and Emerald Princess the year after that.

And next June, Costa Cruises will unveil its 112,000-ton, 3,800-passenger Concordia, followed by a sister ship in 2007.

There’s also a diminutive new queen from Cunard on the drawing boards – the 90,000-ton, 2,000-passenger Queen Victoria, which will debut at the end of 2007. It will be about 40 percent smaller than Cunard’s most recent maritime monarch, Queen Mary 2, currently the largest ship afloat at 151,400 tons.

If modern cruise ships are Goliaths, there’s a good reason, say cruise-industry insiders: The lion’s share of passengers clamor for the amenities that only a mammoth vessel can deliver.

These include a wide choice of dining options, super spas and exercise rooms, myriad entertainment choices, and sports venues that on some ships (such as Freedom of the Seas) can have you skating figure eights and climbing the walls, literally. And that’s to say nothing of the sort of glitz a cool $500 million can deliver.

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