World’s largest cruise liner gets a twin

  • Fri Oct 29th, 2010 10:20pm
  • News

Associated Press

HELSINKI — The second in a pair of the largest cruise liners in the world — an extravagant behemoth spanning nearly four football fields, with a 3-D movie theater, an open-air central park and room for 8,300 people — set sail Friday for its new home port in Florida.

The Allure of the Seas, which cruised out of the shipyard in Turku, southwestern Finland where it was built, faces its first big test Saturday, when it must squeeze under a Danish bridge, just one foot taller than the ship — even after its telescopic smokestacks are lowered.

The gigantic vessel is the sister ship of the Oasis of the Seas, which was also delivered to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines last year with a price tag of about $1.5 billion. The Allure of the Seas is in the same price range, said Juha Heikinheimo, managing director of STX Finland, which built the vessel.

Like its twin, the Allure of the Seas spans 1,200 feet from bow to stern, and its height from sea level is 236 feet.

Construction began in February 2008.

It can accommodate 6,300 passengers and some 2,000 crew, and has dozens of restaurants, cafes and bars along a promenade shopping street that includes a park with living trees and numerous plants. The ship boasts a two-deck high dance hall, a 1,380-seat theater and an ice skating rink, numerous pools, spas, gyms and a rock climbing wall.

The ship’s home port will be Fort Lauderdale in Florida, where it is expected to arrive in a few weeks. Its departure was delayed Friday by more than two hours because of extensive fog in the harbor.

Like the Oasis of the Seas, it is scheduled to pass under the Great Belt Fixed Link off the Danish coast. Last year, the other ship passed below the bridge with less than a 2-foot gap, bridge operators said.

The shipping line said that cruise travel, especially in the United States, had picked up since the global downturn and that their cruise bookings were nearly full.

“Markets have developed well. We are not in the same situation as we were before 2008,” said Harri Kulovaara, a deputy director at Royal Caribbean. “Our bookings have been full for a year, down to almost the last berth.”