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FREEDOM of the SEAS
Except where otherwise indicated,
articles and photos are by
and copyright Richard H. Wagner
Captain Carlos Perdicini on the bridge
of FREEDOM OF THE SEAS.
THE NEW TITLE
HOLDER

By Richard H. Wagner
(Originally published in The Log, Navy League of the
United States, New York Council, (Summer 2006).
On 10 May 2006, FREEDOM OF THE
SEAS entered New York harbor for the first
time.  In succeeding days, she was the
location for the "Today Show" and various
other events, tying-up at the Cape Liberty
Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey, and at
the Passenger Ship Terminal in Manhattan.   
Dwarfing the 50,764 gross ton
NORWEGIAN DAWN, which was in the
next slip when the ship was in New York,
FREEDOM OF THE SEAS is now the
world's largest passenger ship, taking that
title from Cunard's QUEEN MARY 2.  
Captain Carlos Perdicini, formerly of the
Argentine Navy, who stood by FREEDOM
while she was being built in Finland,
discussed his ship with THE LOG.  
FREEDOM's statistics are impressive.  She
is approximately 154,407 gross tons, 1,112
feet long, and has a beam of 127 feet at the
waterline.  Thus, she is longer than and has
about the same beam as USS RONALD
REAGAN (CVN 76).  Like an aircraft
carrier, she towers 208 feet above the water.
The owner of FREEDOM OF THE SEAS is
Royal Caribbean International, one of two
cruise ship lines of Royal Caribbean Ltd..  
The number two cruise ship company,
RCL's two "brands," Royal Caribbean
International and Celebrity Cruises, currently
operate 28 ships in competition with industry
leader Carnival Corporation, which operates
81 ships through 12 brands.  Captain
Perdicini noted that his line is not content to
sit still.  "I have been with this company 16
years and we have gone far, far.  We needed
to do that.  When I joined this company
[Royal Caribbean International] I was a
second officer and back then, we had only
six ships.  Now, we have 20.  We should
continue. We have two more ships of this
same class within the next couple of years.  
Then, we have a new class called Genesis in
three years time.  So, we are not going to
stay here.  We are going to continue to add
ships to our fleet."                    
Known for building big ships, Royal
Caribbean's new ships will be as big or
bigger than FREEDOM OF THE SEAS.  In
addition to two Freedom-class ships, Royal
Caribbean has placed an order for a 6,900
passenger ship, which will be the lead ship in
its Genesis class. Even larger ships may well
follow.  Captain Pedericini recalled that
when he was an officer on NORDIC
EMPRESS, a not inconsiderable size ship of
48,533 tons, and he heard that his company
was building the VOYAGER OF THE
SEAS, 138,000 tons, "we had a lot of
questions back then.  Are we going to
manage to do that and maintain the same
standards, the safety standards and all our
procedures?  And the answer was 'Yes'
because of the technology we have.  But, I
don't really know when and where we are
going to end.  But, it seems we are not going
smaller.  We are going bigger.  That is the
way the market goes, I think.  [Other] major
corporations [i.e. Carnival Corp] also are
building big ships.  Not as big as this is but
still, 110,000 gross tons [i.e. CROWN
PRINCESS] is a big ship.  So, I don't think
we are going to go smaller.  But, when we
are going to stop or where, I don't know."
The rationale for building large cruise ships
is straight forward.  Just as the airlines
achieved economies of scale when they
introduced the jumbo jets, the cruise lines
can reduce overhead by having more
passengers per ship.  It is less costly to
operate a 4,000 passenger ship, for example,
than two 2,000 passenger ships.  Thus, as
long as the technology exists to build bigger
ships and local authorities are willing to build
port facilities to accommodate them, it
makes economic sense to build bigger.  Also,
the large ships have the space to allow the
line to install features such as the full size
boxing ring and onboard surfing facility on
FREEDOM.  Such features can only used
by a small percentage of the passengers but
they make the ship more interesting and thus
generate publicity.        
Having so many passengers on a single ship
does pose problems, however.  For example,
how do you embark and disembark
thousands of passengers in comfort and
within a reasonable time?  Royal Caribbean
is taking an incremental approach to such
questions, building upon past experience.
"[FREEDOM OF THE SEAS is] going to be
based in Miami.  We have had four
Voyager-class ships based in Miami for the
last five years.  We have learned from that
experience and we know we can handle
3,600 guests off and on every time we are in
Miami.  Within three and a half hours, 3,600
people are off the ship [along with] 12,000
pieces of luggage.  Then, we have a couple
of hours to get ready for the next group.  We
then start embarkation which takes four
hours.  We are going to begin with the
FREEDOM having, for a certain period of
time, 3,600 guests only because we know
we can manage that.  Every week, we will
add approximately 100 people.  Because the
difference between the Voyager-class and
the Freedom-class would be about 600 to
800 people, within one month to two months
time we will be up there to [FREEDOM's
maximum capacity of] 4,300 to 4,400
guests."
Captain Perdicini pointed out that there will
be more people on FREEDOM OF THE
SEAS than live in some of the ports that she
will be visiting.  Consequently, a large
number of people "are required to make
things happen."  At the head of the
1,500-member crew is the captain who acts
like the head of a good size corporation.  
Reporting directly to him are: the staff
captain, who heads the deck department, the
hotel manager who is responsible for the
passenger services, and the chief engineer,
who is in charge of the ship's engines and
operating systems.  Below the department
heads are managers and officers who are in
charge of such things as security,
environmental compliance, the ship's
computer systems, the ship's onboard
finances, safety, marketing, and
maintenance, as well as the other duties
normally performed by a ship's officers or
by the managers of a large hotel.  
Accordingly, if he or she aspires to
advancement, a deck officer must know "not
only how to drive a ship but also how to
manage a team. . . ,We do a lot of training
and coaching because you become the leader
of a large team.  You have to handle people
[so] management skills are a large part of
our training process."
With modern communications, a ship is no
longer isolated at sea.  "We have quite a few
of what we call 'shore side employees' - -
former captains, chief engineers, hotel
people.  They support the ships from the
shore side.  Those people have experience
and a good understanding of what we need,
of what we do every day onboard."

Driving the Hotel

The bridge on FREEDOM OF THE SEAS
is a spacious area 187 feet across with floor
to ceiling windows on three sides.  What is
immediately striking about it is how little
there is in it.  Situated in the middle of a vast
expanse of blue carpeting are two leather
chairs separated by a console.  In front of
the chairs is another console with a series of
computer screens.  Immediately in front of
this console and directly in front of the
windows is a small helmsman's position with
a child-sized wheel.  Except for the docking
controls situated on each of the enclosed
bridge wings, that is all the operating
equipment on the bridge.  Captain Perdicini
joked that one could play soccer in all of the
open space on the bridge.

During a normal day at sea, the two leather
chairs are occupied by two watch officers,
the first officer and a second officer.  
Coming in and out of port, these positions
are occupied by the captain and the pilot.  
Similarly, during times of more severe
weather or of greater traffic, the watch
officers must yield their chairs to the captain
and the staff captain.
These chairs are not simply recliners
designed to prevent the ship's officers from
getting sore feet.  Rather, in the armrests of
each chair is a joystick and a series of
controls that allow the officers to maneuver
the ship.   On the console in front of the
chairs and within arms reach are electronic
charts, a GPS positioning system display,
communications equipment, autopilot, and
controls for the engines.  The ship's
computers allow the officers to shift
seamlessly from autopilot to manual to
satellite-guided operation.  "There is a lot of
sophistication.  But, the human beings need
to be here.  We train our officers to be
prepared because things may happen.   
What we do is we train everybody to know
what to do in the event of an emergency,
such as a loss of power.  Then, we go back
to basics.   The computers provide
information but the final decisions are by
human beings.  Also, computers make
mistakes.  So, what we end up doing is
monitoring the systems.  The fact that we
have two officers, allows us, for example, in
something so basic but so important, to
know where we are at a certain period of
time.  One officer can take a position by
using one particular way to do it, by one
means.   The other can double check it by a
completely different means."
FREEDOM OF THE SEAS is propelled by
six diesel engines feeding power to a fixed
pod (i.e., a conventional propeller shaft
arrangement) and two Azipods.  As on
QUEEN MARY 2, the pods pull the ship
through the water just as an airplane
propeller pulls a plane through the sky.  This
is more efficient than pushing the ship
through the water because the blades are
turning in undisturbed water, which allows
the full force of the blade to go to
propulsion.  During her sea trials,
FREEDOM achieved 23 knots.  "We don't
need that much. We don't make our
itineraries to require 23 knots."
The Azipods, which can rotate 360 degrees,
along with four bow thrusters, also give the
ship great maneuverability.  As a result,
FREEDOM does not need tugs even when
docking in places where there is a
substantial current such as at Cozemel,
Mexico or at the Passenger Ship Terminal.   

Life Onboard

Royal Caribbean International targets the
"contemporary" cruise markets.  What this
means is that its ships are more informal
than lines such as Holland America, Cunard,
or even its sister brand, Celebrity Cruises.  
However, because the line also seeks to
serve the “premium” market, it does not
dispense with luxury altogether.
This dual approach can be seen in the décor
of FREEDOM OF THE SEAS.  Some of
the rooms such as the 445-foot long, multi-
story Royal Promenade - - a shopping mall
which runs down the center of the ship - -
were designed to be as spectacular as a Las
Vegas casino.  In sharp contrast, the three
story main dining room is elegant and
sedate.  The alternative dining
establishments range from a Ben and Jerry's
ice cream shop to a wood paneled grill room
taken from an English gentlemen's club.
The same dichotomy is found outside the
public rooms.  The cabins are sleekly
contemporary with luxurious touches such
as flat panel televisions and deluxe beds.  In
the stairways, there is art work but it is large
photographs rather than the oil paintings
found on NOORDAM or QUEEN MARY
2.  According to Royal Caribbean, the art
collection on FREEDOM is valued at over
$7 million but it is a whimsical modern art
as typified by the sculptures of F-18 and F-
16 fighters soaring toward the skies at the
top of the central stairway leading to the
Royal Promenade.
FREEDOM OF THE SEAS was designed
with Caribbean cruising in mind.  As a
result, the upper deck is devoted to warm
weather activities.  Indeed, the top deck
appeared to have enough deck chairs to
accommodate the entire passenger list at
maximum capacity.  In amongst the deck
chairs are three large pool areas.  One area,
designed with children in mind, has a
number of brightly colored sculptures and
water spraying in different directions.   The
next is a more traditional pool area.  The
final area is part of an adult's only "oasis".
While most other lines tolerate families with
children, Royal Caribbean International has
made an effort to reach out to such
families.  In addition to the aforementioned
pool area, there is a large area for children
and teens with arcade games and loud
music.  There are also suites designed for
multi-generational family get-aways.  The
rock climbing wall, the surfing simulator, the
boxing ring, the sports pool, and the ice
skating rink, all underscore the effort to
reach out to a younger, more active market
than has been traditionally associated with
cruising.  Indeed, there is even a wedding
chapel onboard.
Dining on FREEDOM is done in the
traditional manner with each passenger
being assigned to a table and a seating.  
However, there are several alternative
venues, some of which charge an additional
fee.  The food in the main dining room was
tasty and inventive.  Similarly, there was a
wide variety of pizza in Sorrento's pizzeria
that was perfectly satisfactory.     
Like most cruise ships these days,
FREEDOM OF THE SEAS has an
international crew.  During THE LOG's
visit, everyone was courteous and eager to
please.  To Captain Perdicini, this is the key
to success:  "The element that actually
makes people return to Royal Caribbean
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