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When Is The Biggest Ship Biggest?

There is always debates when the subject of “biggest cruise ships in the world” is raised. Some people (like us) tend to think the biggest ship is the one that carries the most people, not the one that weighs the most or is the longest from tip to stern or has the most bow thrusters.

However, passenger counts are fluid, because they are fundamentally based on two people times the number of cabins. There are not always two people in a cabin — sometimes as many as four — and there are suites that accommodate more than two. Or can.

So that’s probably not the right measurement.

OasisIndustry experts use gross tonnage, we are told. That being the case, here are the 10 biggest cruise ships right now:

1. Allure of the Seas* (225,282 gross tonnes)

2. Oasis of the Seas (225,282)

3. Anthem of the Seas (168,666)

3. Quantum of the Seas (168,666)

5. Norwegian Escape (164,600)

6. Norwegian Epic (155,873)

7. Freedom of the Seas (160,000)

7. Liberty of the Seas (160,000)

7. Independence of the Seas (160,000)

10. Queen Mary 2 (148,528)

The list is soon going to change. In the spring and early summer, both Ovation of the Seas (168,666) and Harmony of the Seas (226,000) will move into the top 10. That will give Royal Caribbean nine of the 10 biggest ships.

Allure and Oasis are likely to remain firmly entrenched at the top for the foreseeable future. Part of making ships more energy efficient, just like making cars more energy efficient, is to make them lighter.

You may have noticed the asterisk next to Allure of the Seas. That’s because while it weighs the same as Oasis of the Seas, Allure is two inches longer.

So much for making gross tonnage the criteria!

In the news…

• Crystal Serenity heading to North America following world cruise in 2017
• First robot to read human emotions, Pepper, going on Costa ships next year
• First details about Harmony of the Seas thrill water slide, Ultimate Abyss

Today at portsandbows.com: AmaWaterways announces 2017 schedule

Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
January 18, 2016
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $74


Friday File: Memories of 9/11

It was 14 years ago today that the world changed forever. The twin towers of New York crumbled into dust and debris, taking down with them close to 3,000 lives. Cruise passengers who've been to New York in succeeding years have been among the visitors who've had a change to watch the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, or the space it occupied. It wasn't a cruise that took us there, it was a cruise press conference about Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, and we seized the opportunity to walk down to Wall Street and see, though still incomplete at the time, the re-construction and the memories of 9/11…


The Freedom Tower, erected in defiance of freedom lost that sunny September day.

9/11 tree

From the rubble, The Survivor Tree, nurtured back to life and replanted in 2010.


One of the two reflecting pools, for “reflecting absence” and built where each tower stood.


Nearly 3,000 names, plus victims with names to come, carved into the walls around the pools.


The new site is among the millions of places where security is now commonplace.

6-WTC-2-Michael Mahesh
-Photo by Michael Mahesh
Today’s New York skyline, the Freedom Tower reaching far above its neighbours.

In the news…

• Royal Caribbean plans $100-million Miami port for biggest ships by 2018
• Coming on Norwegian Escape: Lacoste and Carolina Herrera boutiques

Today at portsandbows.com: About time to check up on Down Under

Celebrity Silhouette
7 nights
December 6, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts
Inside: $596
Cost per day: $85

Panama Canal A Place To Grow!

Once again this week, we became advocates for taking a Panama Canal cruise, as we have been since our inaugural cruise across the Isthmus of Panama in 2010. This time, it was reassuring friends who leave on a Panama Canal cruise today that they would never regret it.

On our trip, construction was underway for the Canal expansion that was going to be completed…on the waterway’s 100th anniversary in 2014…and then in late 2015…and now sometime early in 2016. The delays have been caused by cost over-runs (now there’s a surprise), strikes (another surprise) and a mix-up in the concrete mix for the locks (that is a surprise).

When it does open, the Canal will accommodate ships that are close to 1.5 times larger than today’s limit. These are called “post-Panamax” ships, and several cruise ships fit the Panama Canalcategory, but that doesn’t include — according to post-Panamax measurements — Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the two biggest cruise ships in the world. Nor does it include Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class ships (Freedom, Liberty and Independence).

Sticking with Royal Caribbean as the example, its two newest ships — Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, which is being launched this week — both will fit in the new Panama Canal.

At the moment, half Royal Caribbean’s fleet doesn’t.

But help is on the way. There is now talk of a fourth set of locks across the Isthmus, which will take $17 billion (for now) and 15 years. So by 2030, Oasis and Allure could probably make maiden voyages through the Panama Canal.

If they’re still around, that is.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's creative shore excursions

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
May 30, 2015
Miami (return): St. Thomas, Tortola, Nassau 
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

At Sea…The Sound Of Princess

Clever. That’s what Princess Cruises is….and not just because Princess people can sing “the seas are alive, with The Sound of Music” when the iconic movie is being screened on all 18 ships, starting this month.

The first line of the press release announcing it is clever enough. What makes it even better is that the cruise line and the movie are both 50 years old in 2015. Naturally, Princess is turning this into a theme that will be carried, with contests on the ships, all year long.

Can you say brilliant?

Passengers on Princess ships will have the opportunity to watch the movie just once on each cruise, poolside at Movie Under The Stars. They’ll also have the opportunity to win a Sound of Musicfree cruise (for two), once every month, by playing The Sound of Music trivia, one of the theme-related activities. The cruise comes with a $500 gift card. A sing-along stage version of the movie will attract passengers with a good voice or a will to participate, or both.

In a business where finding ways to attract families is always vital, could there be a more appropriate movie? It could only be better if Princess found a way to have Julie Andrews (Maria von Trapp) and Christopher Plummer (her on-screen father) to spend time on their ships during this 50th anniversary year. After all, he was called “Captain” von Trapp!

Or maybe they’ll just do that as a Golden Anniversary climax.

On the Golden Princess, of course.

Today at portsandbows.com: Two ships making news

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
June 28, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Coco Cay, St. Thomas, St. Maarten
Inside: $869
Cost per day: $124

Black Sea Off Limits For Cruisers

There’s fighting going on a world away and you never think it will affect you…and then it does. Maybe you’re scheduled to cruise into the Black Sea, for instance. As a long-ago U.S. President would say: “Not gonna happen.”

Cruising into the Black Sea is becoming more rare all the time. The latest cruise lines to cancel are Cunard and P&O. Both have canceled all 13 ports calls for 2015, because of rising security concerns…i.e., fighting. They have been preceded by Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar, MSC and Holland America.

The safety rule of thumb these days is to cruise as far as Istanbul, Turkey and take a pass on the Black Sea, which is between Turkey and Ukraine, two countries currently involved in conflicts. 

Where will it end?

The two most popular cruise ports in Turkey are Istanbul and Kusadasi. Both are far from the Syrian border, where security concerns are magnified. Both are on the fringe of the Mediterranean cruise map. Both are relatively safe…for now.

As terrorism re-shapes the world, especially in the Europe-Asia corridor, so too does it re-shape the cruising world.

Fifty years from now…who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Scenic Cruises to Bordeaux

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
December 7, 2014
Port Canaveral (return):  LabadeeFalmouthGeorge TownCozumel
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $47

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