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Monday, November 02, 2009

World's Largest Cruise Ship Clears Crucial Obstacle

The Oasis of the Seas cleared a crucial obstacle Sunday, 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 after lowering its telescopic smokestacks 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 (7 p.m. EDT).

"It was fantastic to see it glide under the bridge. Boy, it was big," said Kurt Hal, 56.

It was built by STX Finland for Royal Caribbean International and left the shipyard in Finland on Friday. Officials hadn't expected any problems in passing the Great Belt bridge, but traffic was stopped for about 15 minutes as a precaution when the ship approached, Danish navy spokesman Joergen Brand said.

Aboard the Oasis of the Seas, project manager Toivo Ilvonen of STX Finland confirmed that the ship had passed under the bridge without any incidents.

It is due to make its U.S. debut on Nov. 20 at its home port, Port Everglades in Florida.

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