Last Friday, I toured Royal Caribbean's new Freedom of the Seas. It was my first time aboard a ship longer than 290 feet. So, like many of the other visitors, I was wide-eyed at its sheer size. A whopping 1,112-feet-long, it's among the world's largest passenger ships, only slightly shorter than the Empire State Building if placed on its side. The ship is mammoth and has the amenities to prove it: Rock-climbing wall, full-sized basketball court, nine-hole miniature golf course, ice-skating rink, boxing ring, FlowRider surf simulator, shopping mall, casino, and a huge arcade that I would've loved as a kid. In short, it's amazing.
But a ship that large is bound to have its downsides, right? There's obviously enough room on board for all 4,375 passengers, but what about when it's time to get off the ship? Talk about waiting in line. And then, of course, there's the ever-present threat of Norovirus, most evident from the signs in the bathrooms that read, "Please wash your hands thoroughly. Use of soap and water will help ensure a safe and healthy vacation." Not to mention the touch-less sanitation systems placed conspicuously near the buffet and other high-traffic areas. But I suppose if everyone washes up and makes an effort to keep the line moving along, the Freedom of the Seas will be a fine place to spend a vacation. The ship is scheduled to make its first public departure on May 19, but until we hear from passengers who've returned from its maiden voyage, here's what I (over)heard from others on Friday:
David LaHuta's Top Ten Things Overheard While Touring the Freedom of the Seas
"Seconds? Hell yeah!"
- A hungry passenger at the Windjammer Café, a buffet restaurant on deck 11
"It's only about another half-mile."
-- A crew-member to a passenger searching for her room on deck 6.
"This is bigger than our mall at home for Christ's sake."
-- A husband to his wife while strolling through the Royal Promenade, a 445 foot-long shopping, dining, and entertainment boulevard
"What, no windmills? This place sucks!"
-- A feisty teenager at the miniature golf course on deck 13
"We better wear a jacket here tonight."
-- A group of men in their 30s as they overlooked the giant glass chandelier at Botticelli, one of the main dining rooms
"If you forget what day of the week it is the elevator will tell you."
-- A woman joking to her friends at the pool bar on deck 11
"Johnny Rockets? Do they shoot people out of a cannon on this boat too?"
-- A confused grandmother who hadn't heard of the 1950's-themed hamburger chain on Deck 12
"I would bust my butt on this track!"
-- A runner lamenting the jogging path's narrow runway, crowded by chaise lounges and oceanview-seeking passengers on deck 12
"Can I fight my husband here?"
-- A woman near the boxing ring on deck 11
"Don't ever call it a boat. This is a ship."
-- A crew-member to a passenger at Olive or Twist, a lounge with live performances nightly
For more on cruising, watch David LaHuta's report from the decks of the easyCruise One during its maiden Caribbean voyage by clicking here.