The largest cruise ship in the world - measuring more than four football pitches in length with a maximum capacity for 6,780 passengers - has docked in Southampton for final preparations before its maiden voyage.

A small crowd of well-wishers, including some dressed in their pyjamas, welcomed the $1.7 billion Harmony of the Seas as it arrived just after dawn today, but tens of thousands of people are expected to visit the coastal city this week to catch a glimpse of the gigantic vessel before it carries paying customers for the first time.

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images
President and CEO Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley, gives a thumbs-up next to the slide. Photo / AP
President and CEO Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley, gives a thumbs-up next to the slide. Photo / AP

After sailing from a shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and spending the day yesterday cruising the English Channel, Harmony of the Seas sailed up Southampton Water and arrived at Southampton shortly after 6:15am.

It will make its maiden voyage on Sunday - a four-day taster cruise to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands - and later this month will relocate to its summer base in Barcelona for tours of the western Mediterranean.

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Royal Caribbean International's 18-deck ship has set new records for length (1,1188ft), gross tonnage (227,000), width (215.5ft), passenger capacity (5,479 at double occupancy or a maximum of 6,780) and staterooms (2,747).

With a crew of 2,100 from 77 countries, the floating city boasts seven 'neighbourhoods', a 10-storey slide that is the tallest at sea, 23 swimming pools, 20 dining venues, 52 trees, surf simulators, robot bartenders, a casino and climbing walls.

- Daily Mail