World’s largest cruise ship sets sail amid sustainability concerns

The nearly 10,000-seat Royal Caribbean World’s largest cruise ship Icon of the Seas sailed on its inaugural journey amidst debate concerning the ship’s new fuel’s effects on the environment.

The largest cruise ship in the world, the 20-deck-high Icon of the Seas, departed from Miami on Saturday for its inaugural Caribbean tour.

The ship, which was designed with assistance from Skylab Architecture, Wilson Butler Architects, 3Deluxe, and RTKL, weighs 248,663 gross tons, or nearly five Titanics, and can accommodate 2,350 crew members and 7,600 guests.

There are 2,805 staterooms, seven pools, the biggest waterpark on a ship, and eight distinct “neighbourhoods” with eateries, pubs, and entertainment areas on board.

Furthermore, the Icon of the Seas is the “most sustainable ship yet” and has two LNG tanks. Royal Caribbean has dubbed LNG “the cleanest fossil fuel available” and it is the first fuel source on board.

Critics have countered that the cruise line neglected to factor in methane leaking from the upgraded fuel system when calculating emissions.

LNG, or methane, reduces emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides, two harmful pollutants, and is thought to emit roughly 30% less carbon dioxide than the heavy fuel oils that are currently used in cruise ships. Nevertheless, during use, some of the gas always escapes into the atmosphere and is not completely consumed.

Methane breaks down more quickly than carbon dioxide, but over a 20-year period, it is about 80 times more potent, making it worse for the environment in the short term. As a result, it is anticipated that the transition could have a negative overall impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Bryan Comer, director of the marine program at the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT), “they are doubling down by calling LNG a green fuel when the engine is emitting 70 to 80 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions per trip than if it used regular marine fuel.” Bryan Comer spoke to the Guardian.

“The largest LNG tanks ever fitted in a ship are found aboard Icon. It’s deceptively green.”

Just two days prior to the Icon of the Seas’ departure, on January 25, the ICCT published a report regarding methane emissions from ships powered by LNG.

As for Royal Carribbean, it wants to launch its first net-zero cruise ship by 2035 and claims that LNG will be a “transitional fuel” in the interim.

The first waste-to-energy plant to run at sea is one of the energy-saving measures on board the Icon of the Seas, which features a dual-fuel engine that allows it to run on both LNG and diesel.

Michael Bayley, CEO and president of Royal Caribbean, has positioned the Icon of the Seas as a “multigenerational family holiday,” calling it “a one-of-a-kind vacation for every type of family and adventurer.”

Built over a five-year period at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, the vessel was created in “grand blocks” that were compared to Legos by Royal Caribbean.

A suspended infinity pool is one of its seven pools, and one of its six waterslides cantilevers over the ocean.

Among its eight neighborhoods is “Thrill Island,” which has waterparks and an adventure called “Crown’s Edge,” which involves swinging 154 feet above the ocean while combining elements of a skywalk, ropes course, and thrill ride.

Other attractions include the AquaDome entertainment complex, which is purported to be the largest glass and steel building ever lifted aboard a cruise ship, Central Park with its lush vegetation, and Chill Island with its swimming pools.

When the 365-meter-long Icon of the Seas’ renders, which featured a bustling crowd of people, colorful slides, and cabanas, were made public last year, they quickly went viral.

It was compared to a painting by Hieronymus Bosch by one X user, and to “the Candy Crush version of the dystopian underground world in Silo” by something another.

There has been pressure on cruise lines to move away from petroleum because studies indicate that a big cruise ship can have more carbon emissions than 12,000 cars.


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