Wake the kids and call the neighbors, or at least notify those folks at Guinness Book of World Records, because the largest cruise ship in the world just arrived in Southampton, UK, for its maiden voyage to Barcelona. It took 32 months for Royal Caribbean to build the $1-billion Harmony of the Seas at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire in western France. This fall the Harmony of the Seas will relocate to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about 20 minutes north of RCCL's corporate headquarters in the Port of Miami.
The Harmony of the Seas has 18 decks (16 accessible to passengers) and is the longest, widest, tallest, and heaviest cruise ship in history. At 1,187 feet long, it is bigger than the Eiffel Tower and has a mind-bending passenger capacity (5,479 at double occupancy, or a maximum of 6,780) and a crew of 2,100.
With 20 restaurants, 23 swimming pools, a 10-story water slide aptly named the "Ultimate Abyss," a public park with over 1000 plants and trees, and 2747 staterooms, it is more than just a floating city--it's the suburbs, too. The ship is designed with seven "neighborhoods" that have distinct architectural features, including a movie theatre, sports and youth zones, spas, a fitness center, two artificial surf rides, and robotic bartenders. RCCL claims the ship is eco-friendly, too, with a state-of-the-art, low-carbon-emissions system that pumps air into the hull to make the ship actually lighter.
A cruise ship of this magnitude will make RCCL's job of maintaining and inspecting public areas exponentially more challenging. As a cruise ship accident lawyer, I hope RCCL has taken into account the importance of passenger safety.
Over the last 25 years, I have personally investigated thousands of incidents aboard cruise ships--ranging from slip and falls on wet and slippery decks, to sexual assaults--and I believe that the larger ships are potentially more dangerous because relatively small issues can become big problems faster, like the spread of a virus, or even a small fire, which can disable the ship's power. I will be very interested to see what kind of redundant power and steerage systems have been installed on the Harmony as well as the number of lifeboats and their capacities to hold nearly 10,000 people in case of an emergency.