New world's largest cruise ship Symphony of the Seas isn't just bigger. It's faster

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 GENE SLOAN

 

Symphony of the Seas aims to redefine family and adventure travel.

 

It's not just bigger. It's faster, too.

Royal Caribbean's soon-to-debut Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built, will be able to travel faster in the water than its sister ships while using the same amount of energy, according to the mariner who will be at its helm.

Speaking with cruise writers during a tour of the nearly-completed vessel at a shipyard in France, Royal Caribbean captain Rob Hempstead said small design changes to Symphony's hull including an improved air bubble lubrication system will make the ship cut through the water better than sister Harmony of the Seas - the current size leader in the cruise world.

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL

Symphony of the Seas will eclipse the current size leader in the cruise sector.

At 228,081 tonnes, Symphony is a slightly larger version of Harmony and two other Royal Caribbean vessels that make up the line's groundbreaking Oasis Class of ships.

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"She's cleaner in the water. She makes less wave action, which allows her to be more efficient through the water," Hempstead said during a stop at Symphony's bridge. "So she's a little faster with the same power."

Hempstead said Symphony also features several other small technological improvements that will make it handle a tad better in the water. The bow thrusters, for instance, have a slightly different shape that will improve handling, and new electronic programs will aid navigation.

"I can already see the difference. It's quite obvious," said Hempstead, who has been on the vessel through initial sea trials. "It's going to be a little smoother, a little quieter."

Hempstead said such improvements are typical with each new vessel. He likened it to the improvements car buyers see with each new generation of car.

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL

Symphony of the Seas has been under construction in France.

"It's like if you buy a Mercedes E class and drive it many, many miles, and then you buy a new one. You're going to notice a little difference," Hempstead said.

Symphony will be more than 1000 tonnes bigger than Harmony and offer several new features for passengers. Among differences, the ship will have more cabins than its sibling including a first-of-its-kind, two-deck-high family suite with a slide between floors. It'll also have a revamped Boardwalk amusement area and a new-for-Royal Caribbean seafood restaurant.

Designed for holidaymakers who love big, bustling mega-resorts, Symphony will boast dozens of lounges, bars and restaurants in all as well as an array of deck-top amusements. It'll be able to hold up to 6680 passengers - a new record for a cruise ship.

Symphony has been under construction for more than a year at the giant STX France shipyard in St Nazaire, France - the same shipyard that built Harmony. It's one of the few shipyards in the world capable of building a cruise vessel of Symphony's size.

Scheduled to be finished by late March, Symphony will spend its first few months sailing in the Mediterranean out of Barcelona. It'll then move to Miami to operate voyages to the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class vessels have made waves in the cruise industry since they began debuting in 2009. All three of the Oasis Class ships currently at sea are in excess of 225,000 tonness - more than 30 per cent larger than the next largest cruise ships.

With the arrival of Symphony, Royal Caribbean will have 25 vessels.