A family-affair aboard mega-liner Freedom of the Seas
Ship Review by Michael Coleman, June 2006
Is bigger necessarily better?
|Cruise News Weekly’s Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas photoset|
The age-old debate re-surfaced last week with the launch of Royal Caribbean’s behemoth Freedom of the Seas, the largest passenger vessel ever built in the history of ocean travel. Everything about her is grandiose – at 160,000 tons she weighs more than 80,000 cars and is equal to that of Royal Caribbean’s first four ships put together. Boasting a width of 185 feet, the ship is actually wider than the White House is long (168 feet). And, when measured from the waterline to the top of the funnel, the ship towers 208 feet tall, approximately the same height as two Statues of Liberty placed head to toe.
The ship, in fact, has enough staterooms to host all National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Basketball Association (NBA) players and coaches in a single sailing.
Crew members alone could fill the 1,350-guest, onboard Arcadia Theatre. Even the ship’s shopping, dining and entertainment boulevard on Deck 5 is big. The Royal Promenade is 445 feet long – 125 feet longer than a football field.
As she begins a series of seven-day Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami this week one thing is certain (apart from her obvious size): This megaship has already defined the future of family cruising for the decade to come. And, if nothing else, Freedom of the Seas will at least put to rest the myth that cruise ship travel for kids and their families, between port calls, is boring. This ship will eliminate that myth in a single sailing.
She features 15 passenger decks, an onboard surf park, cantilevered whirlpools suspended 112 feet above the ocean, a full-size boxing ring, ice-skating rink, teeth-whitening and massage services, rock climbing wall and wave pool.
How Suite It Is
The family-friendly suites, however, may be the vessel’s biggest draw. This just might be the first cruise ship in history where guests actually book passage because of spacious stateroom options.
The biggest is the 14-person presidential family suite, the largest stateroom that Royal Caribbean has ever offered. With 1,215 square feet of interior space and an 810-square-foot outdoor living area, the oversize suite has dual entryways as well as two master bedrooms; sleeping two people each, with 30-inch, flat-panel televisions and en suite bathrooms with bathtubs.
Two additional bedrooms accommodate four people each, with convertible twin/queen beds and two Pullmans. Both of these rooms, like all staterooms on this ship, feature a 23-inch, flat-panel television.
Additionally, there are four, eight-person royal family suites (588 square feet with a 234 square foot balcony), each with two bedrooms, including a master bedroom with an en suite bathroom with bathtub, a second bathroom with shower, and a living area with a sectional sofa and an entertainment center with a 30-inch, flat-panel TV. Royal family suite balconies have four lounge chairs and a dining table for eight. Each of the suites can be expanded to fit 10 people via a connecting door to a neighboring stateroom.
The ship also features a six-person wheelchair accessible family stateroom (423 square feet with a 120 square foot balcony), featuring a curtained-off sleeping alcove with bunk beds, sleeper sofa, an accessible bathroom and shower, and accessible closets. Also, look for 10, six-person family ocean-view staterooms; four, six-person promenade family staterooms and two, six-person inside family staterooms to make life on the high seas more enjoyable than ever.
Lots To Sea And Do
Cruise line enthusiasts may recall that Royal Caribbean was the first to introduce onboard rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and in-line skating tracks. Aboard Freedom of the Seas, however, they may have outdone themselves with the introduction of the world’s first onboard surf park.
It’s truly an impressive sight. Created by WaveLoch, Inc. of La Jolla, California, the 32-foot-wide by 40-foot-long FlowRider allows guests to attempt stand-up surfing, known as flowboarding, or opt for less balance demanding body boarding. Similar to swimming against a current in a stationary lap pool, riders surf or body board against the waterflow of 30,000 gallons per minute.
The surf park is just one of four onboard aqua environments. The ship also features an adults-only Solarium with two cantilevered whirlpools extending 12 feet past the sides of the ship; a main pool area with two pools, including one dedicated to team sports and lap swimming, and the colorful H2O Zone water park, featuring interactive sculpture fountains, geysers, a cascading waterfall and a circular pool with current.
True to its roots, Freedom of the Seas also features the largest rock-climbing wall at sea. At 43-feet-tall by 44-feet-wide, guests can choose from 11 different paths.
Inside, strolling along the Royal Promenade, it’s easy to see why some passengers forget that they are in fact at sea. The dining and entertainment boulevard features nightly entertainment and festive parades. Guests might want to check out the promenade’s 3,600-volume Book Nook for relaxed reading; an Italian-style pizzeria, Sorrento’s, or guests might be drawn to “A Clean Shave,” where male passengers can rekindle the nostalgia of their favorite neighborhood barbershop, indulging in traditional shaving, scalp and shoulder massages, haircut and shoe-shining services.
Outside the Royal Promenade, courageous crooners, theater buffs and gutsy gamblers will delight in the ship’s engaging entertainment offerings, from Broadway and ice-skating shows to blackjack. Guests seeking their 15 seconds of fame might find it at the On Air Club, the ship’s karaoke venue, equipped with state-of-the-art theatrical lighting, video cameras, flat screen TVs and even a “green screen” for aspiring music stars to record their own music video. For professional entertainment, look for three shows in the Art Deco-style Arcadia Theatre: Marquee, a medley of performances; the musical Now You See It! magic show, and Once Upon a Time, a narrative piece combining the Brothers Grimm’s fairytales.
The ship has also introduced two new sipping spots on the high seas, including Squeeze, a juice bar near the H2O Zone for health-conscious cruisers and the Wipe Out! bar, a free-standing shack near the surf park which offers draft beer, wine and fruit drinks.
Not enough activities to keep you and the kids occupied? There’s always the Sports Deck, offering guests the chance to test their skill at a 9-hole miniature golf course. The deck also features a golf simulator, basketball, paddleball and volleyball courts.
Hungry after a day of fun? The dining room, like the ship itself, is also enormous. The three-level restaurant seats 2,140 guests. Big appetites welcomed.
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