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With a huge boost expected in worldwide travel, Airbus Airbus is weighing construction of the super-jumbo A3XX

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For more ITN 2000 coverage, visit ITN online. logo

Amtrak expects to launch the Acela by spring, the first high-speed train in the Western hemisphere  
Voyager of the Seas  

Travel: Bigger, faster, fancier

January 1, 2000
Web posted at: 8:28 a.m. EST (1328 GMT)

Kalin Thomas-Samuel
CNN Travel Now Correspondent

(CNN) -- The challenge for the travel industry in the next century is to accommodate an anticipated boom in tourism and commuting -- and to do so in style. Specialists say to expect bigger planes, larger ships, faster jets and more amenities.

Air travel has opened the world to the masses in a way hardly imagined only decades ago. "In addition to Americans traveling a lot more, we also see the world getting a lot smaller," says Suzanne Cook, of the Travel Industry Association. "International tourism is growing at an even faster rate than domestic travel."

Airline officials say they expect worldwide air travel to grow from 1.3 billion passengers this year to 2 billion passengers in 2010. That has inspired Airbus to consider building a new plane that's even bigger than Boeing's jumbo jet, the 747. The super-jumbo A3XX would seat up to 555 passengers, a third again as many as the 747.

The European consortium is expected to decide in the next year whether to build the super-jumbo A3XX, with a first delivery possible in 2005.

Critics including Chris Bowers of United Airlines, say many airports won't be able to handle such a large aircraft. "It makes no sense to build an airplane with 600 passengers," he says, "if the gate room can only hold 100 or if customs and immigration can only take so many per hour. We do think we can have bigger aircraft than exist today, such as the 747s. But, again, in limited quantities."

Richard Branson, chairman of London-based Virgin Atlantic Airways, says it's not quantity but quality that counts. "We pamper our passengers like no airline pampers them."

"We're introducing separate rooms with double beds in all of our planes so people can actually go with their partner and have a proper night's sleep."
--Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin planes have personal video monitors at every seat, a standup bar, manicures and massages. And there's more to come, Branson says.

"We've got many plans for the next century," Branson says. "First of all, we're introducing separate rooms with double beds in all of our planes so people can actually go with their partner and have a proper night's sleep, if they want to sleep."

'Acela'rated train service

Although Japan and Western Europe have been leaders in high-speed rail travel, Amtrak officials say they expect to launch the Acela in the United States this spring. "It will attain speeds of up to 150 miles per hour (241 kmh)," says Clifford Black, Amtrak's public affairs director. "It's the first leading-edge new technology, high-speed train in the Western Hemisphere."

Acela is to operate in the heavily traversed Northeast corridor, between Washington and Boston. And it's expected to cut the travel time from New York to Boston from four-and-a-half hours to three hours.

For more leisurely travel, cruise ships continue to get bigger and offer more diversions. The Voyager of the Seas, recently launched by Royal Caribbean International, is the world's largest ship. It's more than three football fields long and more than 150 feet (46 meters) wide -- too wide to fit through the Panama Canal.

Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas can hold more than 3,100 people. One passenger likens it to a "floating city." That's a pretty accurate description, considering it has it's own ZIP, or postal, code.

"You've got to see it to believe it," says Jeff Martin, cruise director on Voyager of the Seas. "I say it's grand. And the Titanic at its time was the largest ship in the world at 42,000 tons. Now this is three times the size of the Titanic."

The ship can hold more than 3,100 people. One passenger likens it to a "floating city." That's a pretty accurate description, considering it has it's own ZIP code.

On-board attractions include more than a dozen dining areas, bars and nightclubs; a theater with nightly entertainment; a two-floor library; a children's area; a fitness center, a full spa, a full-size basketball court; a miniature golf course; and a rock-climbing wall.

If all that doesn't impress you, how about this: Voyager of the Seas has the world's first floating ice rink.

Is bigger better?

The week CNN Travel Now set sail on Voyager of the Seas, some people complained about long lines and slow service, and some ports are too small to accommodate big ships. But Royal Caribbean's Adam Goldstein says that problem can be solved.

"We just need to work together to make sure the port facilities and the berths are there to accommodate the growth of the cruise industry," he says.

Royal Caribbean is so confident about that, it's ordered about 50 new vessels for 2000.

While Goldstein acknowledges that ships can get bigger, he says he doesn't expect them to get any larger than Voyager of the Seas in the near future. After that, he concedes, anything is possible .

Future of travel: Gadgets, Internet make the trip smoother
December 31, 1999
Getting Ready for the Super-Jumbo Era
November 15, 1999
Amtrak unveils new high-speed service for Northeast
March 9, 1999

Royal Caribbean International
Travel Industry Association
United Airlines
Virgin Atlantic Airways
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