NEW YORK -- The travel industry got its first taste of Freedom, which will arrive next year in the form of the worlds largest cruise ship with a giant water park for kids and family-size suites that can sleep up to 14.

And, not surprisingly, a bigger-than-ever rock-climbing wall.

Royal Caribbean International, building on its penchant for introducing shipboard features by staging large-scale events, rented a 27,000-square-foot space here to unveil some of the new spaces and places on the 158,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Freedom of the Seas.

We always have more ideas than space, said Richard Fain, the CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises, as he presented an array of full-scale wood mock-ups that were trucked in from Miami.

The Freedom is under construction in Finland and will debut next May, offering seven-day cruises from Miami. Two additional Freedom-class ships are under contract.

The lines new president, Adam Goldstein, addressed guests from atop a lift (just pretend this is our rock-wall, he said) and also pointed out to Travel Weekly some of the Freedoms features, which are roughly divided into three zones: Family, young adults, all adults, he said.

The water park, which will be called the H2O Zone, includes water spouts in the shapes of giant, rainbow-colored plants and animals. Another set of pools will be set aside for water sports like volleyball, synchronized swimming contests and jousting tournaments.

And on the other side of the sports pools is the Solarium, which will feature pools-with-a-view, including two whirlpools that partially hang over the edge of the ship. Passengers in the whirlpools will have an unobstructed view of the ocean -- from a 112-foot perch. Another pool has views into the Freedoms main atrium.

The pool areas, collectively, will be 43% larger than those on the lines Voyager-class ships.

Visitors seemed impressed with the new cabin configurations: six new family-focused staterooms that accommodate between six and eight people and forego the pullout berth for real third beds in separate alcoves. Some have bunk beds.

The top-level suite is the Presidential, which sleeps up to 14 people and includes a living room, four bathrooms and an 810-square-foot outdoor deck with a whirlpool, a wet bar, lounge chairs and a 14-person dining table.

This is bringing the family market to the ship, said Ira Kaplan, owner of Cruise Holidays in Englishtown, N.J.

A lot of people want to take their families [on cruises] and are worried the kids will be bored, worried the kids will be climbing the walls, said Aaron Gowell, the CEO of Woburn, Mass.-based NLG.

Gesturing to a mock-up, he continued, In this case, they will literally be climbing the walls.

And Kaplan joked, So I said to Richard [Fain], Wheres the bowling alley?

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Rebecca Tobin at [email protected].


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