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FREEDOM of the SEAS
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BIG AND BIGGER

By Richard H. Wagner
(Originally published in The Porthole, World Ship
Society, Port of New York Branch, (Summer 2006).

CLICK HERE FOR PDF VERSION OF THE
ARTICLE
FREEDOM OF THE SEAS’ recent assumption of
the title of world’s largest passenger ship invites a
comparison between her and the previous holder of
the title, QUEEN MARY 2.  Of course, Royal
Caribbean International’s FREEDOM is a cruise
ship, whereas Cunard’s QM2 is an ocean liner, and
a number of differences flow from that distinction.  
So too do differences flow from the fact that the two
ships are targeted at different markets.  However, as
I discovered during a day aboard FREEDOM when
she was in New York for her christening ceremonies
in May, the two ships are not altogether different.
First, there is the question of size.  QM2 is 151,400
grt. while FREEDOM is 154,407 grt.  Thus, the two
ships have similar revenue producing area.  At 1,132
feet, QM2 is longer than FREEDOM, which has a
length of 1,112 feet.  The beams of the two ships at
the waterline are similar with FREEDOM’s being
127 feet versus QM2’s 135 feet.  However, as one
climbs higher, FREEDOM’s blossoms out to 187
feet across the bridge whereas QM2 is only 164
feet wide at the bridge. QM2’s somewhat more
aerodynamic shape reflects the fact that she was
designed to cross the North Atlantic at high speed,
whereas FREEDOM was designed with warm
weather Caribbean cruises in mind.
Speaking of speed, QM2 claims a top speed of
more than 30 knots.  During sea trials, FREEDOM
made 23 knots, which is not bad for a cruise ship.  
Although pleased at his ship’s accomplishment,
FREEDOM’s captain, Carlos Perdicini, told me,
“We don’t need that much. We don’t make our
itineraries to require 23 knots.”
Both ships rely on pods for propulsion.  “They
actually have four pods, we have three.  But it is the
same concept.” Perdicini said.  Whereas QM2 has
two fixed pods and two rotating Azipods,
FREEDOM has one fixed pod.  Three bow
thrusters help to maneuver QM2 while four are used
on FREEDOM, but then, FREEDOM will be
spending a greater percentage of her working life
squeezing in and out of ports.
Both ships are powered by six engines, but whereas
QM2 uses four diesel engines and two gas turbines,
FREEDOM’s engines are all diesels.  Again this
reflects their different roles - - QM2’s gas turbines
are used primarily to give her the extra power
needed to do the 30 plus knots needed to do fast
crossings.
The bridges on both ships are vast.  However, while
the bridge on QM2 is arrayed like a high tech
version of a traditional bridge, the watch officers on
FREEDOM’s bridge sit in two high backed leather
chairs in front of a console with various display
screens showing the ship’s position, speed and other
technical data.  They can control the ship’s speed
and course from a set of controls located between
the two chairs or by using small joy sticks and
buttons built into the armrests of the chairs.  Because
everything has been so centralized, there is a large
amount of empty space on FREEDOM’s bridge, so
much so that with its floor to ceiling windows high
above the water, it would make an excellent venue
for a champagne reception if only regulations would
permit.  Interestingly, while Cunard has installed a
window to allow passengers to watch the action on
QM2’s bridge, on FREEDOM the bridge is entirely
private.
From a technological viewpoint the two ships are
thus different, but not as different as one might think
when one says that one is a liner and the other a
cruise ship.  “[FREEDOM] is a cruise ship.  She
was built to do seven-day cruises.  Does that mean
we can only do seven-day cruises?  No, we can do
fourteen days, 21 days, we can do crossings.  We
did not want to build a ship to do only one type of
cruise.  We need to be flexible, we need to be open,
because the market changes all the time.  We have
20 ships now within the Royal Caribbean fleet and
we are growing, so tomorrow we might have a ship
going back and forth.”
As Captain Perdicini pointed out, “the companies
serve different markets, two different styles.  We
have our own people, our own market and we build
our ships according to that.  We try to provide what
they think we can do for them.”          Indeed, both
ships reflect their target markets.           
RCI serves both the “contemporary” and “premium”
cruise markets.  In other words, RCI seeks to
provide an informal but somewhat upscale cruising
experience.  In contrast, Cunard attempts to
recreate the elegance of the “golden age of ocean
travel.”  Although not as formal as even just a few
years ago, Cunard caters to a sophisticated
clientele.  Along the same lines, while Cunard
acknowledges that some families include children
and teens, RCI reaches out for such families.
The different approaches to cruising are reflected in
the two ships’ public areas.  Running along the
center of FREEDOM is a multi-story shopping mall
done in Las Vegas shock and awe.  In the evenings,
RCI stages a street circus in this area.  The
comparable space on QM2 resembles the lobby of
a Four Seasons hotel and after sunset is populated
with people in evening wear. Whereas Cunard
features its ocean-going planetarium and Oxford
University lecture series, RCI trumpets that
FREEDOM has a full size boxing ring and an
onboard surfing facility.  A large portion of
FREEDOM is devoted to children, including a large
water park with various jet sprays, while QM2 has a
room with some arcade games.
While some of the public rooms on the two ships are
as different as night and day, this is not universally
so.  The main dining rooms are both built around
three- story atriums and are both decorated in an
elegant and tasteful manner.  There is also little
difference between QM2’s Lido and the casual
dining area on FREEDOM.  Indeed, the location of
the casual dining area on FREEDOM at the stern
and the design of the seating area would appear to
make it a less chaotic venue than that on QM2,
which is crowded into the corridors along the sides
of the ship.  Along the same lines, while FREEDOM’
s alternative dining includes a Ben and Jerry’s and a
pizzeria, there is also the Grill Room, which appears
competitive with QM2’s Todd English restaurant.
The similarities continue in the private spaces.  
Although both lines point out the various unique
luxury appointments they have included in the
cabins, at the end of the day the accommodations in
both are like those of a modern contemporary hotel .
In order to present a more luxurious experience,
Cunard limits capacity to 2,620 passengers.  
FREEDOM will be much more mass market.  The
first few cruises will be limited to 3,600 but, as the
ship becomes comfortable with handling such large
numbers of people, capacity will be increased
gradually to 4,400.  QM2 has 1,253 officers and
crew, resulting in a passenger-crew ratio of two to
one.  FREEDOM has a crew of approximately 1,500
giving it a passenger-to-crew ratio of about 3 to 1 at
maximum capacity.   Both ships have international
crews.  QM2’s officers are primarily British whereas
FREEDOM’s hail from a variety of countries.  
Captain Perdicini is from Argentina
Both lines recognize the importance of maintaining
their base.  Captain Perdicini described how in
addition to the general cocktail party, repeat
passengers also receive invitations to more informal
gatherings from officers that they have known from
previous cruises. He noted that one couple has
traveled over 100 times on RCI and, as a result, he
has known them since he was a second officer.  
Since I’ve traveled on some 75 voyages on Cunard
ships, Captain Perdicini’s description sounded very
familiar.  At the end of the day, it is not all of the
various bells and whistles built into a ship that makes
or breaks a cruise. As the captain noted, “the people
make the difference.”
TOP:  FREEDOM OF THE SEAS (photo courtesy of
Royal Caribbean).  BOTTOM:  QUEEN MARY 2.
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