World's biggest cruise ship goes on display

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The world's biggest cruise ship - boasting its own open air park and amphitheatre - was officially unveiled today.

The credit crunch-busting 225,000-tonne leviathan called Oasis Of The Seas was shown to the media and public at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by American company Royal Caribbean.

The unveiling was shown live on American breakfast television.

Until now, the inside of the 1,187ft long ship, which can carry 6,296 passengers, has been a closely guarded secret as it travelled through the Baltic and across the Atlantic for its launch.

It even made a brief stop in the Solent earlier this month, but no-one was allowed a sneak preview.

The launch has seen a few stars shipped in. Pop singer Rihanna performed a concert on board last night and two of the godmothers for the ship are British actress Jane Seymour and pop star Gloria Estefan.

The £800 million vessel is 40% bigger than any other cruise ship afloat and it has the "Central Park" style open air space aboard about size of a football pitch with its own micro-climate and trees.

It means that guests can have the option of a sea or tree view and 254 rooms with balconies overlook the park.

In addition, there is a bar called Rising Tide that moves between three of the 16 passenger decks.

So passengers cannot get lost, a computerised room finder on each floor near the lifts makes sure they can find their way home through the ship's seven neighbourhoods.

It also has a 750-seat AquaTheater modelled on an ancient Greek amphitheatre, located at the stern of the ship.

It allows guests on board the chance of lounging around the biggest pool afloat in the day and going back at night for shows including acrobatics, synchronised swimming, water ballet, and professional high-diving.

Other amenities include loft-style apartments and an ice rink, plus the usual pools, 24 restaurants, a casino and even a carousel.

Oasis of the Seas, which was built in Finland, is so big its exhaust stack retracts so it can pass under bridges as it travels the world. Its owners claim it is the most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world.

Cruising continues to grow in popularity in Britain and America despite the recession with Royal Caribbean building another ship of the same size due enter service next year.

This represents a £1.6 billion investment in the industry by the company with competitors like P&O and Cunard also expanding their fleets in Britain and America in recent years.

However, the recession is biting into the industry with new ship launches dramatically down this year.

Royal Caribbean said it has not sold out all its cruises on the new ship.

Despite the downturn, figures from the Passenger Shipping Association project that 1.55 million Britons are expected to take a cruise holiday in 2009 - up from 1.35 million last year.

By 2012 it estimated 2.2 million Britons will take a cruise. This is a doubling of the UK cruise industry in 10 years.

There will now be a series of further celebrations on board until the ship goes on its first paying cruise on December 1.

Prices start from £1,786 for a nine-night eastern Caribbean fly-cruise on board the ship.

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