Owned by Royal Caribbean Group, the 365 metre-long (1,197 foot) Icon of the Seas has 20 decks and can house a maximum of 7,600 passengers, making it the world’s largest cruise ship.
Built at a shipyard in Turku, Finland, the Bahamas-registered ship cost US$2 billion (£1.6 billion) to construct and features more than 40 restaurants, bars, and lounges, alongside seven swimming pools, six water slides, and a funfair on the top deck dubbed ‘Thrill Island’.
However, concern has been expressed about the vessel’s methane emissions. Environmentalists warn the liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered ship will leak harmful methane into the air. While LNG burns more cleanly than traditional marine fuels such as fuel oil, there remains a risk that some gas will escape, causing methane to leak into the atmosphere.
A more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere methane traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide over 20 years.
“We would estimate that using LNG as a marine fuel emits over 120% more life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than marine gas oil,” said Bryan Comer, Director of the Marine Programme at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), according to Reuters news agency.
Last week, the ICCT released a report asserting that methane emissions from LNG-fuelled ships were higher than current regulations assumed.
Despite this, Royal Caribbean has declared the Icon of the Seas 24% more energy efficient than International Maritime Organization regulations for modern ships.
The company has also put forth plans to introduce a net-zero ship by 2035.
Now one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism, according to the trade body Cruise Lines International Association, in 2021 alone, the cruise industry contributed $75bn (£59bn) to the global economy.
Currently passing Antigua, Icon of the Seas will stop in Saint Kitts and Nevis and Charlotte Amalie in the US Virgin Islands on its maiden voyage.