Royal Caribbean International has pushed the bar upward again with its order for a 220,000-ton ship - with the working title Project Genesis - accommodating 5,400-passengers on a double occupancy basis, plus crew.

To be built by Aker Finnyards at a cost of more than $ 1.2 billion, the ship is slated for delivery in fall 2009. Royal Caribbean has an option on a second ship.

The new class will be 1,180 feet long, 154 feet wide and 24 feet tall, compared to 1,120 feet in length and a beam of 127 feet for the Freedom class.

Thus, Royal Caribbean is forging ahead with a ship that is 43 percent larger than the 158,000-ton Freedom of the Seas, the first of which has not even been delivered yet.

The implications of Project Genesis are several: First, it leaves Carnival  Corporation Pinnacle Project, rumored to be between 180,000 and 200,000 tons, in the dust, and may force Carnival and Fincantieri into a total redesign if they want to keep up with the "mine is bigger" race.

Second, the new 5,400-passenger ship will mostly likely be able to carry 7,000 passengers with thirds and fourths, plus an estimated crew in excess of 1,500. That is 8,500 people on one hull - which raises safety concerns - especially in case the ship has to be evacuated.

Thirdly, while 8,500 people coming ashore to spend money is a dream for most ports, the sheer number of people may also require additional infrastructure investments whether in police and security forces or in services and facilities for excursions. Docks may also have to be lengthened and raised to accommodate the taller and longer ship.