13-year-old Ben O’Donnell has been building cruise ships since he was just six years old and his latest build during lockdown has been gaining wide-spread attention as far away as Hong Kong.
These are no ordinary cruise ships. Made up of over 3,000 individual LEGO blocks, they involve just as much planning and detail as the real cruise ships they are modelled from.
Ben who lives in Southampton and loves watching the cruise ships said, “I’ve always been interested in ships as my great grandad worked on the Queen Mary. I just love being out at sea. I love the look of ships and my ultimate goal is to become a captain. When I was 6, I started building small LEGO ships to ‘sail and dock’ around my room, pretending to be the captain. As I’ve got older they become bigger and bigger with more detail.”
To mark the return of Anthem of the Seas to Southampton since its maiden season in 2015, Ben showcased his latest LEGO model of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class vessel to amazed crowds in Mayflower Park on Saturday. Thousands of people have now seen the amazing model, with people as far away as Hong Kong giving praise, sharing and commenting on Ben’s latest incredible achievement.
“I usually start with the bow, but for Anthem of the Seas I started at the aft, as it was the trickiest part and I needed to get that right to determine the size of the model.
“I build them in sections just like the real thing, adding the top deck detail at the end. It took around 4 weeks, but I did need to wait for a LEGO delivery as I needed the right shade of blue for the bottom.”
Ben explained the “most challenging part was the North Star as [he] wanted to make it move like the real thing!”
“My aim was to build Royal Caribbean’s three biggest class of ships. I’d already done Independence, so I chose Anthem because I’ve been on that too and I did Symphony as I’m going on it next. There’s roughly 3,000 bricks in Anthem but definitely more in my Symphony!”
Ben Bouldin, Vice President for EMEA at Royal Caribbean commented: “It’s great to see how positive and productive Ben has been in lockdown. The LEGO creations are fantastic and as a huge LEGO fan I really appreciate the effort and skill that has gone into creating these. As a thank you, and when it is possible, we have invited Ben and his family to visit Anthem of the Seas, so he can experience everything the ship has to offer – from the 360 degree North Star viewing point to skydiving on the RipCord® by iFLY – and take some inspiration away for future creations. We may even give him the inside track on our incredible forthcoming Quantum Ultra Class Ship – Odyssey of the Seas!”
His previous models have included Cunard’s Queen Victoria, MSC’s Meraviglia-class, P&O Cruises’ Aurora and new ship Iona, as well as Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, which impressed the cruise line so much, back in 2018, they invited him onboard, and selected him to join its Little Extraordinaires panel. Ben was part of a children’s panel responsible for liaising with top bosses to help shape cruise ships of the future.
Despite being impressive, for Ben, these models weren’t detailed enough, compared to his latest models, so took them apart and created a better version of the amplified Independence of the Seas, complete with SkyPad, rock-climbing wall and waterslides.
With each ship, comes new challenges and his latest project is Norwegian Encore with the complex colourful artwork on the hull.
“I’m about halfway along Norwegian Encore, but I’m running out of bricks so I need to earn pocket money to buy more,” said Ben who has been on 11 cruises so far.
“I’d like to do Carnival Mardi Gras next as it’s got so many new things on top deck that will be challenging to build and it’s been a popular request on my Instagram.”