Environmentalists raise a stink about world’s largest cruise ship


The world’s largest cruise ship — the size of almost four city blocks — is raising environmental concerns after setting sail on Saturday.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is powered by six dual-fuel engines, which can be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a fuel alternative that the Cruise Lines International Association says reduces sulphur and greenhouse gas emissions.

However, some environmentalists worry that LNG-powered ships increase methane emissions. Others say that vacationers generate eight times more carbon on a cruise than they do on land.

Royal Caribbean says every kilowatt used on Icon of the Seas “is scrutinized for energy efficiencies and emission reductions.”

The ship, which runs nearly 365 metres from bow to stern, left Miami on Saturday for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics, after it was christened last Tuesday with help from soccer legend Lionel Messi and his Inter Miami teammates.

WATCH | World’s largest cruise ship immersed in controversy:

World’s largest cruise ship takes to the seas amid controversy

Royal Caribbean International’s newest addition to its fleet, the Icon of the Seas, began its maiden voyage from Miami over the weekend. The ship, which measures more than 350 metres long and can carry up to 7,600 passengers, is crewed by more than 2,000 people. But environmental groups are concerned that the vessel, which is built to run on liquefied natural gas, will leak harmful methane into the atmosphere.

“Icon of the Seas is the culmination of more than 50 years of dreaming, innovating and living our mission — to deliver the world’s best vacation experiences responsibly,” Royal Caribbean Group’s president and CEO, Jason Liberty, said earlier this week.

“She is the ultimate multigenerational family vacation, forever changing the status quo in family travel and fulfilling vacation dreams for all ages on board.”

Royal Caribbean’s cruises are having a moment online. Since December, the company’s nine-month “Ultimate World Cruise” has captivated — and confused — a following of avid watchers on social media.

Millions are following the journey through the eyes of the passengers, as they post their lives aboard a vessel they’ll be on for nearly a year. If it sounds like a reality show, that’s exactly what some watchers have turned it into.

When Icon of the Seas was first revealed in October 2022, the ship spurred the single-largest booking day and the highest-volume booking week in Royal Caribbean’s then 53-year history, according to the cruise line.

Icon of the Seas is divided into eight neighbourhoods across 20 decks. The ship includes six waterslides, seven swimming pools, an ice skating rink, a theatre and more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges. The ship can carry up to 7,600 passengers at maximum capacity, along with 2,350 crew members.

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