The world's largest cruise ship has set sail from Miami, Florida, on its maiden voyage, but there are concerns about the ship's methane emissions.
The 365-metre (1,197 ft) Icon of the Seas has 20 decks and can accommodate a maximum of 7,600 passengers. It is owned by the Royal Caribbean Group.
The ship embarks on a seven-day island hopping cruise in the Caribbean.
Environmentalists warn that the LNG-powered ship will leak harmful methane into the air.
The Bahamas-registered vessel was built at a shipyard in Turku, Finland, and has seven swimming pools and six water slides.
The construction cost $2bn (£1.6bn) and also includes more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges.
Although LNG burns cleaner than traditional marine fuels such as fuel oil, there is a risk that some of the gas will escape, causing methane to escape into the atmosphere.
Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Reuters quoted Brian Comer, director of the marine program at the International Council on Clean Transportation, as saying, “It is a step in the wrong direction.”
“We estimate that the use of LNG as a marine fuel results in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of more than 120% greater than marine gas oil,” he said.
Earlier this week, ICCT issued a report Arguing that methane emissions from LNG-powered ships were higher than current regulations assumed.
Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, traps 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Reducing these emissions is seen as crucial to slowing global warming.
Royal Caribbean says Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy efficient than what the International Maritime Organization requires for modern ships. The company plans to introduce a net-zero ship by 2035.
The cruise industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism, with young people particularly interested in cruise holidays, according to trade body Cruise Lines International Association.
She said the cruise industry contributed $75bn (£59bn) to the global economy in 2021.
On Thursday, Lionel Messi, captain of Argentina's World Cup-winning national team, who currently plays for Inter Miami, participated in the ship's naming ceremony.
He was seen placing a football on a specially built platform to encourage breaking a traditional “good luck” champagne bottle on the ship's bow.
Quick facts about Icon of the Seas
- Icon of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, by weight 250,800 tons and is approximately 365 meters (1,198 feet) long. This is about five times larger than the Titanic
- The ship itself cost Royal Caribbean International dearly €1.65bn ($1.79bn; £1.41bn) for construction and acquisitions
- Tickets range from $1,723 to $2,639 per personAccording to the Royal Caribbean website. A peak Christmas season cruise will cost you around $5,124 per person
- Its maiden voyage will stop in St. Kitts and Nevis and Charlotte Amalie in the US Virgin Islands.
“Devoted student. Bacon advocate. Beer scholar. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot. Typical coffee enthusiast.”