It’s been three years in the making, but the world’s largest cruise ship is finally ready to welcome passengers.
Measuring a staggering 1,188 feet, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas was delivered last month and is due to begin its maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Caribbean on March 4.
The 18-deck cruise ship was built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and has capacity for 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew members.
“We’re excited to introduce guests across the world to Wonder of the Seas and its world-class features after a six-year-long process,” Mark Tamis, senior vice president of hotel operations at Royal Caribbean International tells CNN Travel.
“From planning to delivery, we’ve utilized our expertise across Royal Caribbean, as well as incorporating our guest’s suggestions and travel partner feedback to create something truly awe-inspiring.”
The ship will begin operating five- to seven-night cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Caribbean in March before launching Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and Rome in May.
Wonder of the Seas comprises eight neighborhoods, one of which contains over 20,000 real plants, and its on-board features include what’s described as the “tallest slide at sea,” as well as a 10-deck-high zip line and a huge poolside movie screen.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on offering guests the best and most innovative ships to give them a truly extraordinary experience. Wonder encompasses all of that,” adds Tamis.
The ship was originally scheduled for delivery in 2021, but this was pushed back due to delays brought about by the global pandemic.
The cruise line industry has faced constant disruption over the past two years as a result of Covid-19. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed cruise travel up to the highest-risk level in late December, indicating that the risk for Covid-19 was “very high” due to an increase in infections among cruise passengers and crew after the emergence of the Omicron variant.
In January 2022, the health agency’s Covid guidance became optional for a large number of cruise ships. This month, the CDC lowered the risk level from Level 4 to Level 3, which means that its advice is now that people should be fully up to date with their Covid vaccinations before traveling.
The rules under the CDC’s conditional sailing order, which ended on January 15, required 95% of both passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated to sail in most circumstances, while some cruise lines required vaccination for all passengers and crew.
Royal Caribbean paused operations on some of its ships, including Symphony of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas, in January due to “Covid-related circumstances around the world.”
The cruise line currently requires all guests aged 12 and over to be fully vaccinated, while those aged over two must submit a negative Covid-19 test before sailing. All guests aged two and up are required to be masked in most public indoor spaces.
The fifth and newest of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class vessels, Wonder of the Seas is one of several brand new cruise ships that are set to hit the waters in the coming weeks and months.
Discovery Princess, the newest addition to the Princess Cruises fleet, was handed over at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.
Meanwhile, Disney Wish, the first new cruise ship Disney has built in ten years, is due to be delivered this summer, while Silversea Cruises’ new luxury cruise ship Silver Dawn is scheduled for a spring debut.
CNN’s Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.