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A maritime utopia: big names in the cruise industry are working to create a deluxe oceangoing experience with an idealistic twist. (Visions).

Gaiaship, a Norwegian luxury liner still on the drawing boards, promises to be a proud fusion of sociopolitical idealism and environmentally friendly, futuristic architecture. Its signature Gaia Globe, an incredible six-deck-high glass sphere cradled amidships, would boast ultramodern conference rooms for international leaders on the lower level, sanctuaries for major world religions on the main level. Elsewhere on board, passengers could broaden their multicultural lexicon at the Cross-Cultural Centre, indulge in soothing hot stone massages at ArtAsia Health Spa, or simply enjoy an afternoon stroll along the sunny blond-wood decks.

This vision of a future maritime utopia is brought to you by Norwegian shipping pioneer Knut Utstein Kloster, renowned Danish naval architect Tage Wandborg, and communications professional Roar Bjerknes. Their proposed Gaiaship, though still in its nascent stages of conceptual and financial development, is billed as a self-financing oceangoing center for international political, scientific, religious, and cultural study and debate. Already it's earned the endorsement of eminent scientist, writer, and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

"I think it is an excellent idea....

There's nothing like a ship voyage to create a feeling of unity--as well as a better understanding of the wonderful planet on which we live," Clarke wrote in a personal note to Kloster. Clarke, who would have a Future Studies Center named in his honor on Gaiaship, also penned a detailed fund-raising letter for the anticipated $350 million project.

According to the vessel's masterminds, Gaiaship--which takes its name from the Earth goddess in classical mythology--combines twin aspects of a Norwegian vision: the idealistic and the commercial. The idealistic is apparent not only in the ship's noble mission to serve as a vital international meeting place and world forum, but also in its environmentally conscious design: Gas turbine engines, solar panels, wind turbines, refuse incineration, and recycling are included in Wandborg's painstaking plans. Meanwhile, the commercial aspect of Gaiaship, combining leisure, self-enrichment, and a global cultural experience, could entirely revolutionize the cruise industry. And if anyone's going to breathe new life into ocean travel, it's the "father" of the modern cruise industry himself: Norwegian Cruise Line founder Knut Kloster.

Kloster and his architect-partner Wandborg, who transformed the moribund S.S. France into the celebrated S.S. Norway, are aiming high on the consumer-appeal scale to ensure commercial sustainability of these grand seafaring dreams. Among the proposed onboard amenities are five full cocktail bars, an IMAX movie theater, world-class boutiques, an Internet cafe, a grand casino, and an elaborate health spa offering a range of Eastern-inspired treatments. Gaiaship would also be an intellectual playground of sorts, where erudite passengers could satiate their bookish interests with first-rate facilities for astronomical and oceanic studies.

But perhaps the most important function of this glorious proposed peaceship would be as a neutral venue for sensitive negotiations and important meetings of world figures in fields such as science, politics, public service, and religion, Clarke says. "This would be an investment for a more peaceful future for us all."

About the Author

Hope Cristol is assistant editor of THE FUTURIST.

For more information, contact: Roar Bjerknes, R.B. Media Pte Ltd., Moloveien 3 A, 6004 Aalesund, Norway. Telephone 47-70-12-58-70, e-mail
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Author:Cristol, Hope
Publication:The Futurist
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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