MARCH 2016 – Back in big time

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First look at Royal’snew 5,400 passenger goliath

It will not launch until May but Royal Caribbean’sHarmony of the Seas is already making waves as the world’s largest cruise ship. Selected Irish travel agents will be able to join the ship in Southampton for apre-launch cruise on May 20. Much of Harmony was still is acon-struction zone when Travel Extra vis-ited last month but many decks are close to completion.

The target market for this class of ship is the holiday-maker who loves the buzz of mega-resorts, and the ship will have three multi-story water-slides. They include the Ultimate Abyss, the scariest ride at sea, which riders will enter on amat 54 metres above ski level and land in a splash pool on the fifth deck. Travel Extra stood on the edge to take a peek downwards, before the ride had been fitted, and it already looks scarey. The cost of the ship was not revealed at the press conference in St Nazaire but in answer to a question from Travel Extra the answer was “north of $1bn.”

It will be slightly larger and 20pc more energy efficient than its sister ships the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Cabins are slightly longer and make better use of space than the sister ships. While the ship is 30cm longer than Allure, it is about three metres wider at upper deck level. The high speed technology avail-able on Quantum class ships will be used by Harmony, aswell as the Bionic Bar where robot bartenders “serve up one-of-a-kind crafted cock-tails while dancing to a fluid beat.” The windowless inside cabins are fitted with $500,000 Virtual Balconies, which offer areal-time sea view from aligned cameras. New areas include a suite lounge, a private suites-only restaurant called Coastal Kitchen, and a full service Suite Sun Zone sun deck.

New restaurants include Jamie Oliver’s Italian and Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine eatery that first debuted on Quantum and Sabor,the modern Mexican restaurant recently added to Freedom and Allure. There are eight free dining options and eight premium restaurants, and 11 bars. The Wonderland concept from Quantum class has been developed to create Wonderbar, a bar facility attached to the restaurant which is entered from Deck 12. Accessible cabins are available in virtually every cabin category including: interior rooms with and without a virtual balcony (both 258 square feet), ocean view (264 square feet), standard balcony (272 square feet, with 80 square foot balcony), Board-walk or Central Park view balcony (both 274 square feet, with 73 square foot balcony), family ocean view balcony(272 square feet, with 42 square foot balcony), standard suite (390 square feet, with 107 square foot balcony), and Crown Loft suite (540 square feet, with 98 square foot balcony).

Harmony will operate from Barcelona for the summer before going to Fort Lauderdale for winter and has already proved popular with the Irish public. This creates its own challenges for the crew.Ship captain Gus Andersen said that European ports “are tighter than the Caribbean.” He picked out Civitavecchia, and said “the Mistral creates its own problems in Marseille.” Captain Andersen who will bring the ship through its sea trials in April. is relishing the challenge.

While the PSSC for the vessel is 8,880, and crew numbers will be 2,185, Royal will not attempt to sell the passenger limit of 6,700. While 5,479 is berth capacity,most sailings off-peak carry around 3,000 passengers. A fourth Oasis-class vessel which is being constructed by STX France in St Nazaire is due in 2018.

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