The World’s Biggest Cruise Ship Has Set Sail
At the start of 2020, the cruise industry came to a halt as having thousands of people on a ship made it a hotbed of COVID infections. Cruise operator, Royal Caribbean, was set to launch the world’s largest cruise ship yet in 2021, but constant disruptions due to the pandemic meant that the Wonders of the Seas, as it is called, had to wait a bit longer before it could hit the water.
In January 2022 in the USA, cruises with 90% fully vaccinated passengers and crew were allowed to set sail and the Wonder of the Sea, constructed in France, took its maiden voyage on 4th March 2022.
The engineering marvel is a mind-boggling 1,188-feet long, 210-feet wide and weighs 236,857 gross tonne. Four bow thrusters with 7,500 horsepower each propel the Wonder of the Seas at a cruising speed of 22 knots (that’s 25 mph).
What’s also astounding is the number of people that it can accommodate: almost 7,000 guests and 2,300 crew members. Compare that to Royal Caribbean’s second-largest ship (formerly largest), Symphony of the Sea, which has a maximum capacity of 6,680 passengers and 2,200 crew members. These mammoth cruise ships are really mid-sized cities gliding across the sea.
There are eight “neighbourhoods” on the Wonder, and one of them has a Central Park with over 20,000 plants. Dining options span 20 restaurants and 11 bars – there’s even a Starbucks onboard – and other entertainment offerings include the tallest waterslide (10 storeys!) at sea, a surf simulator, a carousel, a full-size basketball court and an Aqua Theatre.
Why the obsession with making bigger and bigger ships? Besides bragging rights, it’s all about making it more efficient to run a ship and therefore bringing the cost down per passenger (ie. maximising profits). A bigger ship almost means there are more facilities to keep passengers entertained and can appeal to a wider customer base. Before the pandemic, the industry generated approximately US$3.3 billion revenue, so cruises make the operators good money.
Wonder of the Sea is now cruising between Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean until April ( a ticket starts from US$640) before it heads to Europe to ferry passengers around the Mediterranean during summer.