Take A Look Inside The Biggest Cruise Ship In The World: Robotic bar staff, drones doing dance routines, and augmented reality artwork in the corridors. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is not only the biggest cruise ship ever floated but also the most high-tech. And wait till you learn what goes on behind the scenes. Join us for an unforgettable sail aboard the biggest cruise ship in the world.
Symphony of the Sea’s vital statistics makes for impressive reading. At 228,081 gross tons, she’s five times bigger than the Titanic and took the record for biggest cruise ship off sister ship Harmony of the Seas.
Her planned successor, Wonder of the Seas, should be the next biggest again when she launches next year. 18 decks high, with a maximum beam – that’s ship talk for width – of 215 feet, Symphony of the seas holds 2759 cabins, 24 pools, 23 restaurants, and 42 bars and lounges.
She can entertain up to 6,680 passengers, looked after by a 2,200 person crew. The Oasis-class vessel isn’t just big, it’s also pretty lively, cruising at a brisk 22 knots over open water. That’s roughly 25 miles an hour. Not the fastest boat in the world perhaps, but not bad for a gigantic luxury resort.
How does it achieve such speed? Three 16-cylinder Wärtsilä 16V46D common rail engines producing 25,290 horsepower each and three additional 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 12V46 engines, each producing 18,590 horsepower.
They’re thirsty too, each guzzling up to 1,3777 gallons of fuel, per engine, per hour. The engines are oriented azipod-style. That means each 20-foot wide propeller is mounted on a pod that can swivel to assist steering. Which is more efficient than old-school rudders.
Symphony’s propulsion engines work in concert with four additional bow thrusters upfront, which is electric-powered and each generates 7,380 horsepower. For comparison, a Tesla Model 3 generates a combined power of about 480 horsepower.
Marine engineers are always seeking clever efficiencies to make their energy-hungry fleets more sustainable. Symphony of the Seas incorporates a clever ‘air lubrication system’ which injects air into the turbulent layer of water underneath the ship’s keel.
This reduces friction by up to a tenth, which in turn can cut fuel use by up to a quarter. That’s a pretty huge deal, and as a bonus air lubrication also reduces noise and vibration levels in the aft portion of the ship. Enough about engines. What are the cabins like?
Roughly half of the Symphony of the Seas is made of cabins, or staterooms to use their fancy name. For the last word in holiday indulgence, check out the Ultimate Family Suite.
Sprawled over 1,346 square feet, with a balcony hot tub and a mesh-enclosed outdoor climbing apparatus, the suite features an air hockey table, mini-golf, chalkboard wall, and a fun slide to move swiftly between levels.
There’s a floor-to-ceiling Lego wall and a vast 85-inch theatre-style TV with 3D movies on demand. Not to mention a private, multi-platform video game library – all for a mere $50,000 per week. Most staterooms are somewhat more compact.
As senior project architect Harold Law says, onboard a ship ‘the millimeters matter’. So even something as trivial as the thickness of a veneer on the cabin walls could be pared back, over the entire length of the ship, in order to squeeze in an extra cabin per deck.
Rooms are acoustically insulated to shield engine noise – and dance music from the onboard nightclubs. All toilets are guaranteed to not spill their contents into the cabin. As long as, even in choppy waters, the ship never inclines more than 10 degrees.
Historically, sleeping in an internal windowless cabin was bleak. Not with Symphony of the Seas’ virtual balconies, which project a real-time view of the twinkling oceanic world outside.
Engineers on this ship use four separate camera angles to recreate the view as faithfully as possible, after discovering from previous vessels that guests became seasick if the view didn’t match the movement they felt from the ship itself.
Clever design tricks like uplighting and well-placed mirrors, and well-chosen carpet patterns, also help the smaller staterooms feel less claustrophobic. Similarly, the corridors – which are absurdly long on such a big ship – can freak people out.
Architects overcame this by installing fake arches and other obstacles to make the corridors appear shorter. Some walls are covered with lenticular art, which changes appearance depending on your direction of travel. Art is a huge deal on Symphony of the Seas.
There are over 13,000 individual artworks aboard – more pieces, the company says, than the Louvre in Paris has paintings. One particular highlight, in the adults-only Solarium section, is called Big Wonder.
The installation features over 3,800 iridescent acrylic tiles, shimmering in the sunshine and thanks to cunningly integrated LEDs. It weighs seven tons and covers 241 square meters.
Other cool pieces include this spherical classic car on the main concourse, assorted works of augmented reality art that come to life via Royal Caribbean’s smartphone app, and a musical staircase to the Windjammer cafe that lights up and plays musical notes.
Keep an eye out for a stowaway pianist, who crops up randomly playing tunes in elevators. There’s also a surprising amount of nature aboard, including 52 trees and 30,000 individual plants in the sprawling Central Park region, one of 7 so-called ‘neighborhoods’ aboard Symphony of the Seas.
At an earlier phase of the design it was suggested engineers install a grassy lawn, but the prospect of salty air and heavy footfall meant that idea was wisely shelved. So how do the guests keep busy?
Ultimate Abyss is a 10 story helter-skelter with pulsing LED lights and sound effects. You climb into an angler fish’s mouth 130 meters above sea level – that’s higher than Mount Rushmore – and plummet down the longest slide anywhere at sea.
You can zipline across the ship’s distinctive internal cavernous open space – 9 stories above the deck. There’s a full-sized basketball court and dodgeball arena. And a casino, a comedy club, two 12 meter climbing walls. A science lab just for kids. And a library.
They even host regular parades with fully costumed actors, acrobats, and giant balloon drops. And DJ-led pool parties. The Perfect Storm is a triple-speed water slide with a swirly champagne bowl at the bottom. And there’s a full-on waterpark festooned with tasteful deckchairs at Splashaway Bay.
If that all sounds a bit naff and resort-y, why not try a round of glow-in-the-dark laser tag. Or try your hand at surfing on not one but two 12-meter FlowRider surf simulators.
The aft deck is dominated by an innovative aqua theatre, where Olympic-standard divers plunge 9 meters through the air into the deepest pool on any ship anywhere, performing daredevil acrobatics with dazzling light shows and other choreographed theatrics. Not keen on the water?
There’s a normal theatre towards the bow end, where highlights include the musical Hairspray, and a show celebrating the history of aviation with a moon landing and a proper working re-enactment of the Wright Brothers’ plane.
Oh, and a separate ice-rink theatre. In there, award-winning skaters join no fewer than 48 light-up drones performing a futuristic rock opera over 5k laser projections, on ice. Still bored? There’s an escape room, a gym, a spa, and a running track.
Plus a teens-only lounge and adult education classes in everything from Latin dance to napkin folding to sushi making. Hungry? You’re in good hands, with 280 chefs working across 36 kitchens, preparing 100 different menus each week.
11 million meals a year are served. Every week that works out as 700 pounds of ice cream, and 2,100 pounds of lobster tails. In the bakery, they bake 40 different types of bread from all over the world, as the onboard butcher slices and dices 15,000 pounds of beef and 9,700 pounds of chicken.
That’s every week. As you’d expect, that all entails quite a feat of logistics. On turnaround day at the port of Miami, Symphony of the Seas typically takes onboard 30 trucks worth of food.
The crew will order based on the passenger manifest – if there are more children aboard, they’ll order a pallet of extra chicken fingers. Each of the onboard restaurants is designed to minimize the distance from the storerooms below the deck.
When you’re shucking 2,000 oysters, freshness matters. The future of getting lit is onboard in the shape of these robotic bartenders at the Bionic Bar. Choose a cocktail, or design your own, and watch these metal mixologists shake you up a treat, as electronic display boards highlight each ingredient. What happens to all the waste?
Years ago, on less enlightened boats, so-called black water – basically raw sewage – was crudely dumped overboard. Today, it’s treated until it’s near-drinking-water purity, then returned to the sea.
Trash is stored in vast onboard storage containers, and frozen in order to slow the bacterial on the way back to port. Although inherently not a very sustainable business, Royal Caribbean engineers do their best to save energy where possible.
For instance, a 2MW steam turbine aboard uses recovered waste heat from the engines to provide power for the staterooms. This alongside subtle developments in everything from propeller shape to air conditioning control systems makes a difference, Symphony of the Sea’s epic scale.
What do you think? Do these vast machines get the credit they deserve as tremendous feats of engineering? Let us know in the comments.
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