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World’s largest liner makes a tight squeeze

Associated Press / November 2, 2009

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KORSOER, Denmark - The world’s largest cruise ship cleared a crucial obstacle yesterday, lowering its smokestacks to squeeze under a bridge in Denmark.

The Oasis of the Seas, which rises about 20 stories high, passed below the Great Belt Fixed Link with a slim margin as it left the Baltic Sea on its maiden voyage to Florida.

Bridge operators said that even with its telescopic smokestacks lowered, the giant ship had less than a 2-foot gap.

Hundreds of people gathered on beaches at both ends of the bridge, waiting for hours to watch the brightly lit behemoth sail by shortly after midnight.

Company officials are banking that the ship’s novelty will help guarantee its success.

Five times larger than the Titanic, the $1.5 billion ship has seven neighborhoods, an ice rink, a small golf course, and a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater.

It has 2,700 cabins and can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew members.

Accommodations include loft cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, and 1,600-square-foot luxury suites with balconies overlooking the sea.

The liner also has four swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts, and a youth zone with theme parks and nurseries for children.

Oasis of the Sea, nearly 40 percent larger than the industry’s next-biggest ship, was conceived years before the economic downturn caused desperate cruise lines to slash prices to fill vacant berths.

Officials had not expected any problems in passing the Great Belt bridge, but traffic was stopped for about 15 minutes as a precaution, Danish navy spokesman Joergen Brand said.