The COVID outbreak led to a decline in demand for cruise ships. With the resurgence of bookings, a Finnish shipyard, Turku, is nearing the completion of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. The boat, built in 2021 and currently in sea testing, is five times bigger than the Titanic and will surpass Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas as the world’s largest cruise ship.
The Icon of the Seas is 250,800 gross tons. The Titanic was 1/5th the size. Two other boats of comparable size are also on order.
Professor Alexis Papathanassis of Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences predicts that the trend toward ever-larger ships will be halted but not reversed due to economics rather than engineering.
The high cost of technical expertise and port congestion are challenges larger ships face. Longyearbyen, a port in the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, has seen a rise in cruise ship visitors in recent years, and cruise lines aim to improve passenger capacity while decreasing the crew-to-guest ratio, which may create difficulties in emergencies.
Larger ships, like the Icon of the Seas, have additional opportunities to spend money on board thanks to its seven pools, park, waterslides, retail promenades, ice skating rink, and other venues.
As a result, he said, cruise lines may charge higher prices.
The energy efficiency of one large ship is not universally agreed upon, with some arguing that it is more energy-efficient than many smaller ones. However, environmentalists are skeptical of the Icon of the Seas’ decision to operate on liquified natural gas (LNG), despite its potential to reduce pollution. LNG is seen as a transitional fuel towards more sustainable alternatives, but concerns have been raised about the potential for methane leakage, which could have significant environmental effects.
The growing size of cruise ships and the increasing use of LNG as a maritime fuel raise concerns about its environmental impact and potential for ecological damage.