Mega cruise ship Icon of the Seas sets sail

Icon of the Seas leaves Meyer Turku in Finland Icon of the Seas leaves Meyer Turku in Finland (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

The Icon of the Seas, billed as the largest cruise ship in the world, is set to embark on its first commercial voyage. The mega ship will sail from its home port of Miami on a cruise of the Caribbean.

Built by Meyer Turku in Finland at a cost of $1.65 billion, the ship offers some other impressive statistics. Weighing in at 250,800 tonnes, there are a total of 20 decks which can accommodate up to 9,950 passengers and crew (2,350 crew). There are more than 40 bars and restaurants, plus seven swimming pools onboard, including Royal Bay, said to be the largest pool at sea.

With an overall length of 1,198 feet (about 365 metres) Icon of the Seas is further reported to be about four times larger than the Titanic. Described by the president of Royal Caribbean, Jason Liberty, as the “biggest, baddest ship on the plant,” it has been nicknamed ‘human lasagna’ on social media.

The vessel is powered by six multi-fuel engines from Wartsila. The primary fuel will be LNG, while ‘distillate’ fuel can also be used. Onboard fuel cells will deliver electricity and fresh water.

Icon of the Seas under construction Icon of the Seas under construction (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

While Royal Caribbean has put forward that LNG is the cleanest-burning marine fuel, environmental groups are not convinced.

The problem is due to the LNG-fuelled engines potentially suffering from methane slip, where some of the gas is not burned and is released into the atmosphere as methane. Information from the environmental groups states that methane traps 80 times more atmospheric heat than CO2.

It is put forward that ships should be using fuel cells and renewable hydrogen or methanol to reduce or eliminate emissions of greenhouse gas.

According to a report on the Guardian newspaper’s website, Nick Rose, a vice president at Royal Caribbean, said that when Icon was designed more than seven years ago, LNG was the “most promising fuel available at scale.”

He continued: “We consider it a transitional fuel that helps build flexibility into our ship design and also helps us more easily adapt to different types of fuels as the market evolves and other scaleable alternatives are introduced.”

Lionel Messi attended the launch of Icon of the Seas Superstar footballer Lionel Messi attended the launch of Icon of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

To help reduce emissions, Icon will use electric power delivered from on-shore links, rather than running generators.

But the Guardian report also included the following from Marcie Keever, from Friends of the Earth US, who said: “By building these megaships and using LNG, the cruise industry is moving in the wrong direction.”

Meyer Turku started construction of Icon’s sister ship, Star of the Seas, in 2023. The ship is scheduled to enter service in mid-2025. A third Icon-class vessel is also scheduled, although it is unclear whether these two cruise ships will feature the same LNG power.

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