Royal Caribbean International today announced plans to deploy Independence of the Seas – the third in its new Freedom class of ships – in the United Kingdom, when she debuts in May 2008.

Sharing the title of the largest, most innovative cruise ship in the world with sister ships, Freedom of the Seas and the soon-to-be-launched Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas will be the largest ship ever to be home-ported in Europe.

“This significant step is part of the company’s strategy of international business development and expansion into emerging and high-growth cruise markets,” said Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., at a press conference in London today. “We have already seen tremendous growth of the cruise industry in Europe. This year, 21 percent of the capacity of our three brands combined – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Pullmantur – will be in this market. Bringing this new generation of megaships to the United Kingdom will further develop our global operations and reinforce cruising as an enticing vacation option for travelers to the region.”

Currently under construction in Aker Yards in Turku, Finland, Independence of the Seas will be delivered to Royal Caribbean in May 2008 and will feature the line’s signature innovations including the FlowRider(R) surf simulator, the H2O Zone water park, an ice-skating rink, a rock-climbing wall and a boxing ring.

The 3,634-guest cruise ship will sail the 2008 summer season from Southampton, United Kingdom.

“Our decision to base the newest and most exciting ship in Southampton will offer our guests an easy, convenient and affordable way to see several legendary European landmarks and exotic destinations without having to repeatedly unpack their suitcases,” said Adam Goldstein, president, Royal Caribbean International. “The amenities available onboard Independence of the Seas will give a fresh face to cruising in the market providing guests with a variety of options to create their own unique adventure.”

Following a series of preview sailings in Oslo, Norway; Hamburg, Germany; and Southampton, U.K., Independence will embark on her maiden voyage in mid- May 2008, alternating 14-night ‘Mediterranean Treasures’ and ‘Italian Mediterranean’ itineraries. Ports of call for the ‘Mediterranean Treasures’ itinerary include Gibraltar, UK; Barcelona, Spain; Nice, France; Florence/Pisa, Italy; Sardinia, Italy; Lisbon, Portugal; and Malaga and Vigo, Spain. Guests on the ‘Italian Mediterranean’ cruises will experience the destinations of Gibraltar; Cannes/Monte Carlo, France; Florence/Pisa, Rome and Sardinia in Italy; Seville and Vigo, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal.

Guests can also enjoy two four-night getaways from Southhampton to Cork, Ireland and St. Peter Port in the Channel Islands. Three 11-night Canary Islands itineraries, also roundtrip from Southampton, will round out the fall season, calling in Madeira, Portugal; Tenerife, Canary Islands; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lanzarote, Canary Islands; and Vigo, Spain. Independence then heads to the Americas for a series of warm weather Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bookings for the European itineraries will be open for sale on March 14.

Independence of the Seas will join a long list of Royal Caribbean ships in Europe. In the summer of 2007, six ships – the highest number ever for the cruise line – will sail European itineraries stopping in 63 ports of call in Europe alone. Navigator of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas will sail from Southampton and Harwich, England, respectively. In Spain, Voyager of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas will be Barcelona-based. Legend of the Seas will homeport in Rome and Splendour of the Seas will sail from Venice, Italy.

Royal Caribbean International is a global cruise brand with 20 ships currently in service and three under construction. Liberty of the Seas, the cruise line’s newest ship which debuts in May 2007, will share the title of largest cruise ship at sea with sister-ship Freedom of the Seas. At 160,000 GRT with a capacity of 3,634 guests double-occupancy, Liberty of the Seas will sail alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami. The line also offers unique land-tour vacations in Alaska, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand through its cruisetour division.