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A 1,200-foot cruise ship in the works

A Norwegian company is to build what it says is the largest and “most valuable” cruise ship ever ordered in the history of commercial shipbuilding.

Norway’s Aker Yards is working on a prototype 1,200-foot cruise liner that will accommodate 5,400 passengers, the company says in a statement released last week. The builder estimates that the vessel, ordered by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, will cost nearly $1 billion.

When completed, Empress of the Seas will have a 155-foot beam and stand more than 200 feet above the water. She will be 43 percent larger than Aker’s “record breaking” Freedom of the Seas, to be delivered to Royal Caribbean in April.

“After developing so many generations of cruise ships together over the 35 years of our partnership with RCCL, we are excited about jumping so far in front of cruise-ship design with this highly innovative and exciting new ship,” says Yrjö Julian, president of Aker Yards Cruise & Ferries business division, in the statement. “Working together we will create an unparalleled experience for the next generation of cruisers.”

The contract is contingent on final approval of financing and includes an option for a second ship, according to the statement. Aker Yards expects to deliver Empress of the Seas in late 2009.

— Jason Fell