Couch potatoes beware. Royal Caribbean recently launched its main splash, Voyager of the Seas, and it's out to get you.
Just a tad smaller than one of Jupiter's moons - with 4,294 times the population (3,114 passengers and 1,180 crew) - this floating behemoth weighs in at 142,000 gross tons. It is, in fact, the largest cruise ship ever. By these standards the Titanic, at a wimpy 46,329 tons, was in the rubber-ducky class.
But it's not just size that makes this ship remarkable. This is a virtual bobbing boot camp. Consider these: exercise rooms and spa, jogging and in-line skating tracks, three swimming pools and six whirlpools, a basketball/volleyball court, and a miniature golf course. And did I mention the climbing wall that soars a dizzy 200 feet above sea level, and an indoor ice-skating rink? Oh, yes, don't forget the helicopter landing pad, in case you miss the boat, I guess.
The first place I headed for was the ice ring to polish my triple lutz. Not a chance. Who was hogging the ice but Katarina Witt - the ship's godmother, who christened it last month - and a few of her Olympic chums.
Nevermind, it was time to eat (that's 24 hours a day on a cruise ship), and there are more than 10 dining areas from which to choose - from a Johnny Rockets to the ship's crowning jewel, the exquisite main dining room that rises three stories, shimmers with crystal chandeliers, and sports a sweeping double staircase.
Food gets high marks for presentation but quality left room for improvement (not rare on a newly launched ship).
Waiters, mostly eager young Europeans, are courteous and attentive. Note: remember to e-NUN-ci-ate clearly, however. One breakfast, I ordered smoked salmon with a side of capers. What I got was a side of kippers! Fortunately, any dead fish is further endangered in my presence and we all got a laugh over the delicious mix up.
Most kids would probably find a trigonometry test more exciting than cruising with their parents. Not here. Voyager is more kid-friendly than a cocker spaniel pup. There is a bevy of creative events here for various age groups, including their own dining areas, clubs, computers, video games, science projects, art classes, and much more.
Evenings are enlivened by a gaggle of entertainers, jugglers, and performers along the Royal Promenade, as well as Broadway-style productions at the 1,350-seat La Scala Theatre, inspired by the famed Milan opera house.
Here we saw two shows, on the three-day press cruise I attended; "Dreamscape" was an imaginative, surreal event where performers floated and tumbled through the air. Another, "Rhythm and Rhyme" was, well, loud. Half an hour, and it was bedtime for me.
The ship also boasts a business center, library, and an art collection valued at more than $12,000,000, a knock-your-Gucci-socks-off shopping atrium, and all the usual luxury-liner amenities. There's even a small chapel on the top deck where the captain is available to hear couples exchange vows.
Voyager of the Seas is a tour de force in the industry with all the entertainment, spirit, and adventure to keep any family exhausted for a week, and enough challenges to humiliate and embarrass any out-of-shape, middle-ager. And there are more like it on the horizon.
By the way, what ever happened to shuffleboard?
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society