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Royal Caribbean to debut world’s largest cruise ship in Florida instead of China

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Florida has been the first home for each of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels since Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2008, but was set to lose out to China for the fifth ship in the class, Wonder of the Seas. But the cruise line announced some changes that will bring the ship to the Sunshine State early next year.

What will inherit the title as world’s largest cruise ship will sail out of Fort Lauderdale beginning March 4, 2022 for two months of Caribbean voyages before shifting to Europe for a summer sailing season, and then eventually making its way to China.

“The momentum taking off across bookings and our returning ships in the U.S. and Europe is significant. With half of our fleet sailing again, we are encouraged by what we’re seeing. These regions are in the position to welcome a brand-new, innovative ship like Wonder of the Seas,” said Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley.

The ship comes four years after the debut of Symphony of the Seas, the current record holder for world’s largest cruise ship. Each ship from 2008′s Oasis to 2009′s Allure of the Seas to 2016′s Harmony and then Symphony have been incrementally heavier in terms of gross tons so that they have been able to hold the moniker of world’s largest cruise ship.

Symphony comes in at 228,081 gross tons, is 1,188 feet long and has a maximum capacity of 6,680 guests with 2,200 crew. At double capacity, though, the guest count is 5,518 from 2,759 staterooms.

Wonder of the Seas will debut with a gross tonnage of 236,857, also be 1,188 feet long, but have a 6,988-guest maximum capacity, the highest among all Oasis-class ships with 2,867 staterooms.

Wonder of the Seas remains under construction at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France gearing up for its debut.

Royal Caribbean also revealed some new details about what’s going to be on board.

Instead of seven designated neighborhoods, Wonder of the Seas will have eight with the introduction of the Suite Class Neighborhood. In it, suite guests will find an elevated Suite Sun Deck with a plunge pool, bar and loungers. The neighborhood will be home to private dining experience Coastal Kitchen serving global dishes, plus the Suite Lounge. Dedicating a large space within the ship that’s exclusive to suite guests is a move similar to MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

For everyone on board, a new bar called The Vue will offer panoramic vistas from above the pool deck, and at night feature a colorful mosaic canopy.

On the top deck will be a new Wonder Playscape, an open-air kids play area with slides, climbing walls, games, puzzles and an interactive mural activated by touch.

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Similar to other Royal ships, the main pool deck will get the Caribbean feel overlay that includes the multi-story bar The Lime & Coconut. It will once again include the three waterslide of The Perfect Storm, a kids waterpark called Splashaway Bay and oodles of unique lounge spaces such as hammocks, in-pool loungers and mini covered casitas.

Like other Oasis-class ships, Wonder of the Seas will still feature the Central Park space in the interior, Boardwalk, Pool & Sports Zone, Entertainment Place, Royal Promenade, Vitality Spa & Fitness Center and Youth Zone. The ship will also have the popular Ultimate Abyss dry slide, zip line, AquaTheater, twin rock-climbing walls, carousel, FlowRider and ice skating rink.

For its Florida voyages, the ship will sail seven-night alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries with stops like Cozumel, Mexico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and San Juan, Puerto Rico plus visits to the line’s private Bahamas island Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Beginning in May, the ship will migrate to Europe to sail from Barcelona and Rome on seven-night Western Mediterranean itineraries. Allure of the Seas will take on summer Caribbean duties from Fort Lauderdale after Wonder’s departure.

Wonder of the Seas had its first steel cut in April 2019 with its keel-laying in October of that year. It was originally to have debuted this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction. The ship successfully completed sea trials in August.

When it does make it to China, the line plans to sail the ship from Shanghai and Hong Kong.

It’s the third Oasis-class ship built at the shipyard, previously known as STX France. The first two ships were built at what was then STX Finland, now known as Meyer Turku.

Wonder of the Seas will hold the world’s largest cruise ship title until a sixth Oasis-class ship, also to be built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, comes online in 2024.

The Oasis-class ships have a limited number of home ports, first using Port Everglades when Oasis of the Seas debuted, but now regularly sailing from PortMiami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral as well as from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey in 2020.

©2021 Orlando Sentinel. Visit at orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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