Welcome, giant: World's largest cruise ship begins sailings from Florida

The world's largest cruise ship is now, officially, a Florida resident.

Royal Caribbean's 226,963-ton Harmony of the Seas late Saturday departed on its maiden voyage out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.'s Port Everglades, its new long-term home.

Escorted out to sea by a flotilla of jetboard and jetpack performers, the 16-deck-high vessel set sail on a short, three-day trip that kicks off a week of welcoming events. The events include an official christening ceremony scheduled for Thursday.

Unveiled in May, Harmony arrived at Port Everglades early Saturday for the first time after crossing the Atlantic from Barcelona. The ship spent an inaugural season sailing out of Barcelona in advance of its U.S. debut. Starting next week, it'll operate a permanent schedule of seven-night voyages out of Port Everglades to the Caribbean.

Harmony is built on the same platform as Royal Caribbean's giant Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the previous size leaders in the cruise world. But it eclipses its siblings by nearly 1,700 tons and offers a number of new features. Among them: Ultimate Abyss, which just might be the most thrilling attraction ever conceived for a cruise ship. Comprised of two swirling slides, it drops nine stories from near the top of the vessel down to one of its lowest decks.

As can be seen in the photos above, Harmony also is home to a multi-deck water slide area, something Royal Caribbean has just begun adding to ships this year. It's also the first Oasis class ship with a Bionic Bar where the drinks are served by robot bartenders -- a concept that first debuted in 2014 on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas.

In addition, Harmony has larger cabins than Oasis and Allure in some categories, and windowless "inside" cabins are being outfitted with Royal Caribbean's exclusive Virtual Balconies, which offer a real-time view of the outdoors. It's a concept that first debuted in 2014 on the line's Navigator of the Seas.

Wider than Oasis and Allure by about 2.5 feet and a tad longer, too, Harmony holds nearly 100 more passengers than its sisters at double occupancy. Its total capacity is 6,780 people, not including crew.

 

USA TODAY


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