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Independence Of The Seas

Background

Every year since 2014, Independence Of The Seas visits Rotterdam at least once a season. She is seen here docked in the city at the 25th of october 2017.

In the middle to the end of the 1990's, several companies placed orders for the largest ships that were ever built and those ships entered service in rapid succession. Industry giant Carnival Cruise Lines introduced the worlds first 100.000-ton cruiseliner in 1996 with the Carnival Destiny, and she was followed by a string of sisterships spread out over Carnival and Costa Cruises. Then, Princess Cruises scaled up to a trio of 109.000-ton ships, starting with the appropriately named Grand Princess in 1998 (which is now one of the smallest in their fleet, by the way), again followed by more even larger ships of the same blueprint.Then just one year later, Royal Caribbean International introduced a superlative ship, the Voyager Of The Seas in november of 1999, measuring 137.000 tons. So just in three years time, the largest cruiseships in the world grew with almost 50% in size. Not even in the time of the large oceanliners these numbers were reached. But we weren't there yet.

The good old Cunard Line introduced the Queen Mary 2 in january 2004 and with close to 150.000 tons she became the largest passengership in the world, topping the Voyager Of The Seas and her four sisters by 10.000 tons. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean again ordered a larger ship and she was introduced in june of 2006 as Freedom Of The Seas, again topping the QM2 with 5.000 tons. During the introduction of the Freedom-class of three, RCI again shocked the industry by announcing Project Genesis, a ship of 220.000 tons, making sure that they would be the owners of the largest ship in the world for a long time. She became Oasis Of The Seas, followed by at least four sisterships that all became bigger then their earlier sister. Oasis of The Seas now is only the fourth largest passengership in the world... In just two decades, the largest ship in the world in 1995, the 76.000-ton Sun Princess of Princess Cruises, became midsize, just like the earliest 100.000 tonners. In short, the indusrty exploded.

Construction and general statistics

As a part of this huge expansion, Independence Of The Seas was the thirth sister of Freedom Of The Seas, following Liberty Of The Seas. An option for a fourth ship was not built, as the company announced the new and hypermodern Quantum-class of ships of similar size.

At the 2nd of april of 2005, Independence Of The Seas was ordered from the Aker Finnyards at Turku, Finland. As this class was built just after the horrific terrorist attacks in North America, the names were very (American) patriotic. Although Royal Caribbean is a Norwegian company in origin, of course they are now totally Americanized. Also Royal Caribbean's biggest American rival Carnival Cruise Lines used the same namingstyle for their new ships that were built around the same period. The keel for the new RCI ship was laid in Turku at the 23rd of march of 2006 and she was then only known as yardnumber 1354.

The ship was going to measure some 154.407 tons and was going to be 338,72 meters long and 38,59 meters wide with a draft of 8,53 meters maximum. The total number of passengers is 4370 (3634 on double occupancy) and those are cared for by 1365 crewmembers. There is a total of 18 decks, of which 15 are accessible for the passengers and three are crew-only.

Independence Of The Seas is powered by six diesel-electric engines of Wärtsilä design and they turn three pods, two rotating ABB Azipods and one fixed pod, all at the stern. They can create a speed maximum of 23 knots, although normally the ship will sail at a mere 21 knots. She flies the flag of The Bahamas, registered in Nassau.

The ship floated out of her buildingdock at the 14th of september in 2007, and her trials were sailed in the end of march of 2008. These were succesfull and the ship was delivered to Royal Caribbean at the 17th of april 2008, when she left the wharf and sailed via Oslo, Norway to Southampton, where she was named at the 30th of april.

Design

The ships of the Freedom-class are based on the Voyager-class, basicly they are just larger versions due to their 30 meters of extra lenght. Within this extra lenght, a pizzeria is installed, the restaurant is enlarged and of course there are extra cabins. On the topdeck, it gives more room for an extended waterpark, the H2O Zone. Like the Voyager-class, the ship also has an ice-skating rink and the inside Royal Promenade shoppingstreet. In this street, shops, pubs, restaurants and arcades are present, making it the central inside hub of the ship. For the sportive passengers, there is of course a rockclimbing wall, a large fitness and Spa-area, a basketball/ hockeycourt and a miniature golf course. For thrillseekers, there is also a full-size Everlast boxing-ring.

As Independence Of The Seas mostly cruises in Europe, the decor is slightly toned down from her earlier sisters, that mostly sail from American shores. An 8 million dollar art-collection is present also, as Royal Caribbean is known for its sophisticated art aboard their ships. The art is themed on Independence Of The Seas, as it follows 'the contemporary spirit of the old masters' with French, Belgian, Dutch, Greek and African influences. It is a true American ship, but one that can also appeal to the British passengers as it is not overdone Las Vegas-like. After all, because British passengers are such a large part of the ships clientele, the crew also knows how to respond to their British needs and style.

There is also a FlowRider surfsimulator, the 1200-seat Alhambra Theater, an Egypt-styled cabaretclub named the Pyramid Lounge and a wide range of eateries throughout the ship so nobody is able to feel hungry while on a cruise. Independence Of The Seas is also the first ship in the RCI fleet to have heated freshwater pools, although these pools are only heated while she sails her European cruises.

Naming Ceremony

As said, the Independence Of The Seas was named as such by Elizabeth Hill, a farmer's wife from Derbyshire, in Southampton at the 30th of april 2008. She had been chosen out of 1700 people who applied for the Godmothership of the new RCI cruiseliner. The ceremony was held inside the theater, accoring to Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean, 'because we are familiar with the idiosyncrasies of your climate'. With this, he was right as outside the rain poured down on the Southampton dockside.

Hill was chosen as Royal Caribbean tries to find people who are large or smaller 'heroes' as the Godparents to their ships. She was nominated by her daughter Alicia, who had her 13th birthday while her mother named the ship, in the hope that they could go on a great holiday. This dream was furfilled, as a trip aboard the ship was part of the package. Hill needed this holiday to get some extra energy for her work at the farm, where people with physical and learning dissabilities are helping the farmers out under the Gamelea Countryside Training Trust, that had been set up by Hill.

Southampton was chosen as the ship would be sailing out of the port during her first summerseason with cruises down to the Mediterranean. To give the ceremony a British touch, a Scottish drummer and a Highland pipers band played while the guests entered the theater and also Irish dancers were present. The national anthems of the US, Norway and Great Britain were also performed and a performance of ABBA look-alikes completed the night.

Carreer

On the following 2nd of may, the ship departed for her maiden 4-night cruise to Cork, Ireland, followed by a 11-night Canary Islands cruise departing Southampton at the 6th of may. Afterwards, the ship settled in to become one of the largest and most popular ships sailing out of Southampton. Firstly, she concentrated on sailings to the Mediteranean, followed by cruises to more northern regions from 2013 onwards. In wintertime, she sails out of Port Everglades for Eastern as well as Western Caribbean sailings.

She had a few problems, as at the 31st of may of 2011 in Gibraltar an oiltank exploded next to the ship, causing twelve passengers to suffer some light injuries. Almost exactly three years later, as dockingfees for the port of Alesund in Norway were not paid, she was not allowed to leave port. After the captain notified the company about this issue, immidiately the company paid the fees and the ship was allowed to leave with minor delay. 

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