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Royal Caribbean

Liberty of the Seas Debuts
This week, Royal Caribbean is introducing Liberty of the Seas, sister ship to Freedom of the Seas. Both ships are equally qualified for the title "largest cruise ship in the world."

If you still haven't tried one of these Royal Caribbean ships then you truly have not seen state of the art cruising. And for the next best thing, I also recommend Royal Caribbean's previous "largest cruise ship in the world," Voyager of the Seas and her sister ships Explorer, Adventure and Navigator of the Seas.

When Voyager of the Seas was introduced in 1999, at 138,000 gross tons, it was at least 20% larger than any other cruise ship in ever built. Even more impressive than the sheer size of these ships are the entertainment amenities oboard. There is truly something for everyone on these ships. The trademark "Royal Promenade," four decks tall and running lengthwise through the middle of the ship is a type of main street for the ship. They even hold parades along it twice during every cruise. It contains a gift shop, bookstore, nightclubs, restaurants, a full casino, a Ben & Jerry's and a Pizza Parlor. These ships also have full ice-skating rinks, rock-climbing walls, roller blading, miniature golf, pro-golf simulators, lavish production shows, movie theaters, several swimming pools, alternative dining venues and all kinds of fitness and spa options.

The 160,000-ton Freedom of the Seas (introduced last year) and now Liberty of the Seas, introduced this week, are expanded versions of these ships but still very similar in design. You can add the flow-rider surf simulators and full water parks for the kids to the list of activities and amenities above.

These ships continually rate the highest with our readers for family based cruising. The children's programs run day and night, and will keep your kids occupied from the early morning through dinner and into the evening, which means plenty of free time for the grownups to have a vacation of thier own where they can spend as much time with their kids, and as much time alone, as they want.

One of my favorite things about these ships is the hospitality and availability of food treats. OK, it's a small thing for such a big ship, but it just goes to show you they have not overlooked the little details. At the coffee shop on the Royal Promenade you can pour yourself a cup of Seattle's Best coffee, and ask the counter person for a free sandwich or pastry to go with it. It is like walking into Starbucks and everything is free. With its open air sidewalk cafe design, I could sit there and people watch for hours. The pastry is deliscious, I might add.

An ice-skating rink on a cruise ship? Not only do they have skates available for a small fee, they also present ice shows with world famous skaters that are as good as any I have ever seen. This is in addition to all the other entertainent they have onboard. These shows are so good, they distribute tickets well in advance of the shows to avoid having to turn people away at showtime.

All in all, for any avid cruiser, these are "must-see" ships even if you are a loyal fan of another cruise line. Your jaw will drop with sheer amazement at what they can do on a cruise ship these days. Royal Caribbean mega-ships are simply in a class of their own, and every cruiser should try one at least once. For more information, see our CruiseMates Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Reviews..

-- commentary by editor Paul Motter

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