A Quantum of Ocean

Engineering | The Quantum of the Seas is not only the third biggest cruise ship in the world. It also has an attraction on board that is offered by no one else: An observation gondola with a 360-degree ocean view. It is stabilized by a large-diameter bearing from Lippstadt.

The floating glass gondola is the main attraction of one of the most modern, largest cruise ships in the world: the Quantum of the Seas. The ship stretches 1,142 feet from bow to stern, making it longer than the Eiffel Tower is high. Up to 4,905 passengers can fit on its 16 decks – twice as many as on the Titanic. They can dine in five restaurants, surf the internet on the high seas, ride bumper cars, simulate a parachute jump, clamber up a climbing wall, or be served cocktails by a robot. The construction of this ship is said to have cost about a billion dollars.

It takes everyone’s breath away

Richard Fain, Executive Board Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises

It was the biggest contract in the history of the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg, Lower Saxony, a shipyard specializing in cruise ships. But the high point of the ship is the viewing gondola, the North Star. “It takes everyone’s breath away,” says Richard Fain, Executive Board Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises, the contractor of the Quantum of the Seas and the world’s largest cruise ship company. “That is a very special attraction.” The glass sphere is visually inspired by the London Eye, the world-famous, 443-feet-high Ferris wheel in London. It has to be firmly secured and be able to sway gently, also to accomodate sea swells and breezes. Cargotec, the ship crane specialist, was commissioned with the construction of the project, while BU Bearings was commissioned to deliver the bearings that attach the boom of the gondola to the ship.

The team in Lippstadt wasn’t daunted by high expectations: “We approached this project very objectively, as we do every time,” says Schlüter, the responsible application engineer. This involved working out specifications with the customer, discussing design, and calculating the bearing service life and bearing capacity based on applicable regulations.

The workers in Lippstadt have experience with large-diameter bearings for ship cranes. “During construction, the challenge is being able to move heavy loads in a very small area,” says Schlüter. However, up until now their contract jobs have included loading and unloading cargo carriers or suspending small boarding boats, not building amusement rides. “That’s why we couldn’t choose from a standard construction design – it is in a league of its own.” The arm of the crane is 135 feet high and can pivot 250 -degrees; the glass gondola weighs seven tons. At the same time, the large-diameter bearings could only have an outer diameter of up to 11 feet. That’s why Rothe Erde chose a three-row structure with a roller-bearing slewing ring. And a special sealing system and seawater-resistant coating were developed in order to prevent it from rusting in the salty sea air.

In July 2014, a large-diameter bearing was then delivered to the crane manufacturer Cargotec and installed at the Meyer shipyard. On November 2, 2014, the Quantum of the Seas embarked on its maiden voyage. Now she alternates between crossing the Caribbean and Chinese seas. “I sure would like to take a cruise on her one time,” says Schlüter. Only to assess the thyssenkrupp product in action, of course.

A time-lapse video from the U.S. newspaper USA Today shows a ride on the North Star platform (see link in sidebar)

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