In the end, it was one of the smallest of humans who set in motion the christening of the biggest of cruise ships. One-year-old Ocean PenaVega, with an assist from his parents, actors and megacruise fans Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, pressed a button late Thursday in Miami to trigger the smashing of a champagne bottle against Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas, the new world's largest cruise ship.
The PenaVegas were serving as godparents for the vessel at a dock-side christening ceremony at PortMiami that also included a parade of bagpipers and an on-stage performance by the cast of the ship's adaptation of "Hairspray," the musical. The event was followed up by fireworks that lit up the waterfront of Miami.
The PenaVegas are frequent Royal Caribbean cruisers. They got engaged on the line's Oasis of the Seas and spent a "babymoon" on sister ship Allure of the Seas has been a Royal Caribbean regular for 25 years.
Carlos PenaVega is perhaps best known for starring on the Nickelodeon series "Big Time Rush" and hosting the Nickelodeon game show "Webheads." Alexa PenaVega is known for her role as Carmen Cortez in the "Spy Kids" film series.
Royal Caribbean said the christening marked the first time an entire family has christened a cruise ship. In keeping with longstanding maritime tradition, cruise ships normally are christened by a woman.
Soaring 18 decks high and nearly 1,200 feet long, Symphony is the largest cruise ship ever to sail out of PortMiami, the world's busiest cruise port. Initially unveiled earlier this year in Europe, the 228,081-ton vessel is built on the same platform as Royal Caribbean's 2-year-old Harmony of the Seas, the previous size leader in cruising. But it eclipses its sibling by more than 1,000 tons and offers several new features.
Among additions are a first-of-its-kind, two-deck-high family suite with a slide between floors, a revamped Boardwalk amusement area and a new laser tag attraction. Symphony also has more cabins than Harmony.
While Symphony spent its first few months sailing in Europe, it only was a temporary assignment. The resort-like vessel has long been scheduled to sail in the Caribbean year-round starting this month. The ship arrived in Miami on Friday after a 12-night voyage from Barcelona. The arrival came a day after the vessel made a brief stop at Port Canaveral, Florida – its first call in North America.
Designed for vacationers who love big, bustling mega-resorts, Symphony boasts one of the highest concentrations of attractions for both adults and children at sea. Like its sister Harmony, it has a record-breaking thrill slide that plunges nearly 100 feet and a "bionic bar" with a robot bartender. It also offers three main pool areas, a water slide complex, an adults-only solarium, an ice skating rink, two rock climbing walls, a basketball court and a mall-like indoor promenade with shops, bars and eateries. Like Harmony, it has an open-air, tree-lined area called Central Park with restaurants, bars and upscale shops such as Bulgari.
Symphony can hold up to 6,680 passengers and sails with a crew of 2,200, meaning that on busy weeks it can be home to nearly 9,000 people. It was constructed over three years at the giant Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France – the same shipyard that built Harmony. Its cost was more than $1.3 billion.
With the addition of Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has 25 ships.
By Gene Sloan, USA Today
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