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2 So. Tempe parks could be due for million-dollar makeovers

By Doug Snover

June 24, 2006

Tom Gierada has been on more luxury cruises than most people ever dream of -- enough to have a well-developed pair of sea legs and an appreciation for the finer things of shipboard life.

When Gierada, who operates Sunsational Cruises on west Elliot Road, says, “Wow!,” you can bet a cruise ship is something special.

When he says, “Double wow!” it can only be the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s “Freedom of the Seas.”

Gierada and his wife, Cyndy, recently got a chance to preview the latest floating resort on a two-day “cruise to nowhere” that Royal Caribbean hosted to show off “Freedom of the Seas.”

It was rainy and cold most of the trip, which began and ended in Boston, but the unfriendly weather didn’t spoil the fun, Tom said.

“If the sun broke out at all, it was still cold and windy,” he said. “Nobody was sitting by the pool!”

“But there was so much to do on the ship that it (the weather) didn’t bother us a bit. There was enough to do.”

Enough, indeed. For “Freedom of the Seas,” too much is just enough.

Here are some stats on the floating palace that hit the water earlier this year and is booked months – even years, for prime times – in advance for its seven-day cruises in the Caribbean:

158,000 gross tons, making “Freedom” larger than the Queen Mary 2

1,112 feet long, which makes “Freedom” longer than New York City’s Chrysler Building is tall.

3,634 passengers at full capacity, with a crew of 1,360.

15 decks with a total of 1,800 cabins

Two fine-dining restaurants in addition to the typical cruise-ship eating extravaganza that includes a three-level dining room.

Oh, and a water park called the H2O Zone, a rock-climbing wall, ice rink, boxing ring, FlowRider wave simulator for on-board surfing, and 445-foot, shop-lined promenade to make passengers think they are strolling the quaint streets of a tourist town instead of steaming majestically from Caribbean island to Caribbean island.

Tom Gierada said the new “Freedom” ship is, “without a doubt, the absolute best for families.”

Cruise ships are classified by size and amenities. Until now, Royal Caribbean’s premier class has been its “Voyager” series of ships.

“We’ve probably been on – either together or separately – about 50 or 60 cruises. I counted them up once a couple of years ago,” Gierada said.

 “We’ve been on a lot of ships (but) when I first walked on my first Voyager-class ship a couple of years ago, all I could say was, ‘Wow.’ My jaw just dropped,” he recalled.

“Freedom of the Seas” has been called a “super-voyager class” vessel. Royal Caribbean says it creates a new class – the Freedom class.

“Everything is bigger. The gymnasium is bigger and they put a boxing ring in it. The ice rink is bigger and the ice shows are more extravagant.”

Prices vary by stateroom size and location and also by time of year. But Gierada did up some numbers for an April 2007 cruise and came up with a price of $1,299 per person for the least expensive cabin and $1,859 for more expensive staterooms. Double occupancy, of course. If rooms are available.

Off season prices are about $300 less per person, he said.

Cruise prices fell dramatically after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but are now back to pre-9/11 prices, according to Gierada.

And going up,” he cautioned.


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