Royal Caribbean’s Big New Boat

For some travelers, bigger is always better, especially where cruise ships are concerned. Hence all the attention being paid to the latest Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of the Seas. The behemoth is 208 feet tall, from waterline to funnel, and weighs in at 160,000 tons, supplanting Queen Mary 2 as owner of the “biggest ship afloat” emblem.

All that girth leaves plenty of room for toys, and this boat sure has ’em. Along with the rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink and mini golf, Freedom has a top-deck wave pool for would-be surfers, and a water park with all kinds of cool gadgets to splash around in. There are hot tubs to entertain bigger kids (the hot tubs are actually cantilevered whirlpools that extend over the side of the boat by 12 feet—probably not good for folks with fear of heights), and there’s even an board boxing ring, perhaps the ultimate amenity for the happy family vacation.

Family is definitely the theme here, whether your goal is family escape, or escape from the family. In the latter category, count on crafts and activities to entertain younger kids, while teens get a trio of parent-free spots—a nightclub, lounge and a deck—to call their own. And, of course, there are myriad night spots just for grown-ups.

Virtually everything else can be enjoyed as a group, including night-time shows in the ice rink and theaters, as well as the ship’s “entertainment boulevard” of restaurants and shops. And, naturally, there is an endless supply of food. Look for traditional assigned-seating/table restaurants, a buffet eatery, and fast-food establishments like Johnny Rockets. With a total of 10 restaurants and 16 bars and lounges (and 258 waiters), no one should be hungry or thirsty on this boat.

Thoughtfully planned family suites are a welcome relief from your typical cruise-ship staterooms. Eight-person rooms and several types of six-person accommodations have curtained off sleeping areas. Some staterooms have balconies while others have ocean views. The ship also has standard-size rooms for two and sometimes four. The Big Mama of accommodations is the multi-bed/bath Presidential Suite, which at 1,200-square feet can easily house mom, dad, kids, grandparents, in-laws, cousins—perhaps the reason for that boxing ring. For more information, log on to

—Lisa Oppenheimer