The 158,000-tonne Freedom of the Seas will dock in Southampton on Saturday en route to New York

The world’s largest cruise shipFreedom of the Seasdocks at Southampton on Saturday ahead of its inaugural trip – scheduled to arrive in New York on 10 May. With an impressive array of facilities, including an onboard artificial wave pool for surfers and whirlpools extending out over the side of the ship, the 158,000-tonne liner is larger thanQueen Mary IIlaunched just two years ago.

Royal Caribbean International’s new ship is destined for Miami eventually to sail weekly around popular Caribbean cruise destinations. She is driven by two propellers, moveable by 360 degrees, which allow smooth manoeuvring of the ship. At 339 metres long, 56m wide and 72m high, her Norwegian captain has commented “she moves just like a sports car.”

ButFreedommay not be the largest for long. A vessel codenamed Project Genesis is already set to make an appearance in 2009 at 220,000 tonnes. However ships of this size will be limited to stopping in only certain ports.

According to a report published in April this year, UK cruise passenger numbers are set to hit the two-million mark by 2010, while the industry worldwide more than doubled the number of passengers in the ten years to 2005.