Many of you who follow this column, know I love travelling, but I have never stepped on board a cruise ship. It is not that I have a fear of boating, or do not enjoy the company of others, I simply like traveling where, when and how long I want to. Cruising, mind you, is changing dramatically, and fortunately it has bounced back after the pandemic.
Cruise lines are constantly competing to outdo each other, but I think Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL) has hit the jackpot. Their new ship, the Icon of the Seas, has docked in Puerto Rico and is undergoing its final inspection, before its launch on January 27th from Miami.
Easily tagged as the world’s largest cruise ship, the Icon of the Seas is one of two such ships built by RCL. The second is to be launched in 2025. What is so unique about this big boat? The fact that it is ‘big’, and I mean really big. It is 365 metres or 1200 feet in length and has 20 decks. It will carry just over 6,000 passengers, but can accommodate up to 10,000 people. The standard crew consists of 2,350 staff members, ensuring you will be pampered at every turn.
The ship took 900 days to build and is scheduled to sail year round, in both the eastern and western Caribbean – no chance of hitting an iceberg there.
Why so big, you ask? Cruise lines have learned that passengers disembark at ports and involve themselves in the local economy and tourist trade. Cruise lines are hoping to bite into this source of revenue.
Why would you want to leave this floating city (remember, at full capacity, the Icon of the Seas has the same population as Port Perry)? You can enjoy the world’s largest waterpark at sea, eight neighbourhoods and 40 or so different bars and dining options.
The way it is going, cruise ships will never have to move, as there is so much to do on board. It is becoming a problem for ports though, as 40 per cent of passengers never leave the ship. For those who do go ashore, their average spend was less than $34 Canadian dollars. This is causing many ports to re-evaluate or even close their operations.
Did you know a cruise ship makes about $300 profit per passenger and a Captain earns around $100,000 a year (free room and board though). The life expectancy of a cruise ship is about 25 years and they travel at about 37 kph (25 mph). Currently there are 431 cruise ships and 875 river cruise ships and the largest cruise company is Carnival, with 24 ships. If you think cruising is only for old people you will be surprised to learn the average age of cruisers is 47, and half of all cruisers are from the US.
If you thought the Titanic was large, the Icon of the Seas is 35% or 100 metres (300 feet) longer. The average cost of a trip is $2,000, which is not bad, considering it cost $2 billion to build.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.