Several years ago, off the coast of the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, I was seated in a small watercraft, staring up in amazement at the size of one of the cruise ships anchored just outside the picturesque harbor.
It was like gawking at a Manhattan skyscraper from a bicycle. How big can they get?, I wondered at the time. Well, apparently the sky's the limit.
Workers for Royal Caribbean International today laid the keel of Allure of the Seas, the second of the Oasis-class cruise ships analysts say will redefine the industry.
The keel laying ceremony was held at STX Europe's shipyard in Turku, Finland.
When the cruise ship is launched in 2010, it will share the title of the world's largest and most revolutionary cruise ship with its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas.
It will span 16 decks, carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms. Both Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas will be based in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
The ship will have seven distinct themed areas, which will include such amenities as lush grounds open to the sky in Central Park (shown above), located in the center of the ship and spanning more than the length of a football field.
Central Park will be lined with boutiques and specialty restaurants, ranging from casual to fine dining, and introduce balcony staterooms rising five decks above the storefronts and overlooking the park -- one of a few new categories of onboard accommodations made possible by the ship's unique design.
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