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Mega cruise ships trend as world's largest one launches inaugural voyage

By Dana Forsythe
Royal Caribbean's ships Icon of the Seas and Star of the Seas have the largest waterparks at sea in the new Thrill Island neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean's ships Icon of the Seas and Star of the Seas have the largest waterparks at sea in the new Thrill Island neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, was spotted passing through Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, as it heads toward Miami for its inaugural voyage Jan. 27.

Overtaking the title of world's largest ship from Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, the Icon is five times larger than the Titanic with a volume of 250,800 gigatons compared to the ill-fated ship's 46,328 GT.

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According to Cruise Industry News, the Icon docked in Cádiz, Spain, in December, where it received more than 10,000 plants and trees.

The Icon of the Seas is the first of four new Royal Caribbean cruise liners, including Star of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.

The new ship features 18 passenger decks and accommodates 5,610 guests and an international crew of 2,350. The massive ship is also home to six waterslides, seven pools and nine whirlpools, including the largest pool at sea.

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The Icon is the first of three Royal Caribbean ships to use liquefied natural gas for a power source. The ship also uses environmentally friendly designs for energy efficiency and reduced emissions and providing up to 90% of the required freshwater produced onboard via a reverse osmosis/desalination plant.

Aaron Saunders, a senior editor at Cruise Critic, told UPI that while there's certainly an audience for smaller, more intimate vessels, it's far more expensive to build a small ship on a per-berth basis than it is to build a big one.

Saunders said big ships are in demand and companies continue to roll out ships that continue to out-do one another.

"If you're worried about being at loss for choice at sea, that concern is squashed on a mega-ship -- from roller coasters and bumper cars, to Broadway-caliber shows and a wide array of dining options -- sailing on a mega ship provides travelers the opportunity to not only visit the destinations on a ship's itinerary, but also enjoy the ship as a destination in its own right," he said.

Ben Armstrong, CEO of travel company Famvia, said the larger cruise lines are trying to lean into more experiential offerings for families with older children.

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"Bigger ships equal more options for families to enjoy together," he said.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, Royal Caribbean operates several of the largest ships, followed by MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises and Carnival.

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