Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: May 10, 2005

A WATER PARK, whirlpools cantilevered off the edge of the ship and family-size suites are some of the features the Freedom of the Seas will introduce to the cruise industry next spring. The 158,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Freedom, which is under construction in Finland, will debut in May 2006. Royal Caribbean added to the buzz by renting a giant space in New York to showcase some of the new pool-deck features. And though time will tell whether Royal Caribbean has another winner on its hands like the rock-climbing wall, the line also is enlarging its signature showpiece: The Freedoms rock wall will be 10 feet higher and 10 feet wider than those on the Voyager-class ships.

KIDS EMERGED AS THE big target market for the Freedom. The kid-friendly water park, called H20 Zone, will be filled with colorful statues that spray water. Royal Caribbean also is rolling out family-style cabin configurations that can sleep between six and eight passengers. The largest suite has room for 14 and an 810-square-foot balcony. For the young-at-heart grownups: Another pool zone, the Solarium, will have two whirlpools that protrude over the edge of the ship.

THE VOYAGER OF THE SEAS will venture across the ocean to Europe next summer, taking up homeport residence in Barcelona, Spain, for seven-day Mediterranean cruises. But sister-line Celebrity isnt reaching a planned destination for 2006: The line decided not to sail to Asia on the Summit, as previously announced.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE added an entry to its order book: Another Norwegian Jewel-style ship, which will come on line in late 2007. The ship will be built at Meyer Werft, which is building two other similar ships for NCL. The third Jewel will take the place of a ship deal with Aker Yards that never materialized.

NCLS NORWEGIAN DAWN, meanwhile, is back in the news. Rough weather on the final leg of its May 1 cruise delayed the Dawn on its way back to New York, forcing NCL to cancel a one-night Mothers Day cruise that was scheduled to depart May 8. Passengers on the canceled cruise were give a full refund plus a 50% cruise credit the line is doubling the cruise credit certificate for a selection of dates out of New York.

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