It could be that when the history of cruising is written, it will be divided into two eras: before Oasis of the Seas and after. That’s how revolutionary this ship was when she debuted in late 2009, shattering the ship size record at 225,282 gross tons and carrying 5,400 guests, but also re-imagining the way cruise ships are laid out—and even how they’re shaped.
Take a look: Instead of being a long, solid mass with cabins and public rooms on the inside and pools up top, Oasis essentially has two long buildings set atop her hull — one to port and one to starboard, with a long, deep canyon between them. That’s a simplification, since the two halves of the superstructure are joined at various points to provide structural strength, but you get the idea.
The reality of it is even more revolutionary than the engineering, because what the split superstructure has allowed Royal Caribbean to do is really open up the inside of the ship to natural light and air in a way no other company has ever done: There’s no more inside cabin versus outside cabin, public room versus outside deck — despite Oasis’s overwhelmingly huge size, she provides a level of connection with the sea and the outdoors that you usually only get aboard a much smaller ship. And you get more too — much more.
The key to Oasis’s layout and amenities is its “neighborhood” concept, in which public rooms and attractions are grouped into several themed sectors of the ship, each designed to appeal to a particular niche of Royal Caribbean’s clientele.
For families, there’s the Boardwalk, set in the stern in the central open-air space between the two halves of the ship’s superstructure. Stretching for almost a third of the ship’s length, it’s designed to resemble an old-time entertainment boardwalk a la Atlantic City or Coney Island, with a traditional carousel featuring hand-carved wooden horses, a daily Family Festival with face-painting and family games, a candy store selling old-time favorites, a Portrait Studio for carnival-style photos, a “Pets at Sea” store where kids can create their own stuffed animals, and a donut shop. If you want more than sweets, Boardwalk also offers three restaurants: a Seafood Shack designed to look like an old boardwalk restaurant, a Johnny Rockets burger joint, and the Boardwalk Bar, serving snacks, sandwiches, and salads as well as drinks. See Ralph Grizzle’s Tons Of Fun (225,282 tons, in fact) For Families: With My Kids On Allure Of The Seas, A Day At The Boardwalk
Right in the stern, the highlight of the Boardwalk is the AquaTheater, an outdoor amphitheater ringed around the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea, where Royal Caribbean stages amazing shows featuring synchronized swimming, acrobatics, aerialism, and incredible high diving from a pair of 30-foot platforms. To either side of the pool, a pair of giant screens project what’s going on underwater.
During the day, passengers can swim or take scuba lessons at the AquaTheater, lounge in the tiered deck chairs around it, or challenge themselves at the twin, six-deck-high rock-climbing walls that flank the space—the biggest climbing walls at sea, by far. On evenings when no shows are scheduled, the water takes over at the AquaTheater, with jets spraying up to 65 feet high, all choreographed to music and a light show.
A full 225 balcony cabins and eight window cabins flank the Boardwalk space, rising seven decks to either side and providing the ship’s most fun accommodations for families with young kids.
Those kids can also take advantage of spaces designed just for them at the ship’s Youth Zone, one of the best children’s centers in the business. Covering an amazing 28,700 square feet, it offers ten distinct experiences, including a gym and activities area, a theater where kids can put on shows, a workshop for crafts, Imagination Studio for art projects, the Adventure Science Lab for science-themed learning and fun, and a video arcade. Young kids between 6 months and 3 years can mix it up at the Royal Babies & Royal Tots nursery, one of only a handful of real nurseries in the cruise business. Teens, on the other hand, have their own disco, outdoor deck, arcade, and living-room-style lounge located one deck up. Around the ship, throughout each voyage, kids can also enjoy shows, parades, special meals, and other events presented in collaboration with DreamWorks Animation, the film studio behind hits like Madagascar and Shrek.
All this may make you think Oasis is a ship just for young families and kids, but that’s just not so. For adults traveling without kids, the Central Park neighborhood is the place to be. Sitting at midships and six decks down in the ship’s central canyon, the 21,000-square-foot space is an open-air tropical garden with an upscale, bucolic, adult atmosphere. A wide, tiled pathway runs from end to end, passing amid some 12,000 trees, plants, vines, and flowers, not to mention a whole range of calm, sophisticated adult pleasures. For dining, there’s:
For drinks and socializing, there’s Vintages wine bar, serving wines by the glass and hosting various wine-tasting events; the cute little open-air Trellis Bar; and Rising Tide, the cruise world’s only moving bar, which makes a very slow ascent and decent between Central Park and the Royal Promenade neighborhood below. For shopping, the park’s forward end houses low-key spaces: a Coach shop selling high-end bags; a portrait studio; and an art gallery where passengers can buy prints and attend various art-themed events.
Overall, though, Central Park is made for quiet relaxation and getting in touch with nature—at least as much as you can aboard a giant cruise ship.
Benches set throughout the space offer great perches for reading and daydreaming. And horticulturists are also on hand during the day to give tours of the park’s greenery, including an interpretive garden full of regional Caribbean plants. Up above, 254 balcony staterooms and 70 window-view staterooms flank the park to port and starboard, offering green spaces below, the sky above, and wonderful mood lighting in the park at night.
Below Central Park and lit partially by enormous skylights, the Royal Promenade is a carry-over from Royal Caribbean’s Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, where it’s been a staple since 1999. Running about half the ship’s total length, the promenade aboard Oasis resembles the mixed-use shopping/entertainment/residential districts in any number of American cities, and acts as a central boulevard for the ship: a meeting spot, a place to hang out, and a venue for music performances and the parade of characters from DreamWorks Animation that take over at regular points throughout each cruise—Shrek, the Madagascar Penguins, Puss in Boots, and the lot.
Almost twice as wide as the Royal Promenade on Royal Caribbean’s other ships, this one features the Latin-themed Bolero’s nightclub; the On-Air Club sports bar; more than half a dozen shops; the English-style Globe and Atlas Pub; the more high-end Champagne Bar and Schooner Bar; the Cupcake Cupboard for fresh cupcakes; a pizzeria; a 24-hour coffee shop; and Cafe Promenade, which serves snacks and light meals.
One deck down, several of the ship’s entertainment spaces are clustered in Entertainment Place, which features a comedy club, a disco, a jazz club, a huge casino, and the Studio B ice rink, where guests can go skating themselves or watch several professional ice shows. Just forward, the ship’s enormous, three-deck main theater offers production shows, featured guest performers, and the ship’s production of the musical Hairspray, one of the very few full-on Broadway styles shows at sea today.
Other random public rooms scattered around Oasis include the Viking Crown Lounge, perched at the very top of the ship; the 1930s-style Dazzles Nightclub, offering views down into the Boardwalk neighborhood; the gorgeous, three-level Opus Dining Room, able to seat more than 3,000 guests at a time; and Izumi, an intimate, casual Asian restaurant with seats for just 76 guests.
If you want to work out, Oasis has an enormous fitness center outfitted with treadmills, cycles, weight machines, and a Kinesis wall, and offering Pilates, yoga, spinning, and kickboxing classes, plus a nearly half-mile-long jogging track—by far the longest on any cruise ship and nearly twice as long as an Olympic-size track.
If relaxation is more your thing, head to the Solarium, an amazing indoor-outdoor space on decks 15 and 16, where a river-like water feature, a pool, and two whirlpool tubs separate the lounging areas into calm little islands. Alternately, you can visit the tranquil Vitality at Sea spa, which offers calming relaxation rooms; a Thermal Suite with heated loungers, saunas, and steam rooms; and a large menu of massages, facials, and other treatments.
Outside, Oasis offers one of the most unusual pool decks at sea, split across both sides of the ship’s superstructure and presenting four distinct options: a traditional main pool; a beach pool where the seating area slopes right into the water; a sports pool that’s dedicated to lap swimming for part of the day and games like water basketball and water polo at others; and the H2O Zone water park, full of water cannons and sprayers, plus separate wading and current pools and a dedicated pool for infants and toddlers. Several hot tubs and a number of private cabanas flank each of the adult pools, and a pair of bars are located at the center of the deck, equidistant from all four sections.
Behind the pool zone is the ship’s sports zone, home to a miniature golf course, a large basketball court, two FlowRider Surfing Simulators, a casual pizza-and-burger stand, and a launch pad for a zipline that sends bold cruisers flying nine stories above the Boardwalk neighborhood.
Once you’ve worn yourself out with all there is to do on board, you’ll need a good place to rest up, and Oasis offers plenty—some facing the ocean and others facing in toward Central Park, the Boardwalk, and the Royal Promenade.
The majority of staterooms run between 179 and 199 square feet, and offer flatscreen interactive TVs, a sitting area, a mini-fridge, and bathrooms with big shower stalls and plenty of shelf space. Family cabins are a sizable 260 to 271 square feet and sleep six.
From there, you move up into the 13 different suite categories, which range from the 287-square-foot Junior Suites to the 27 amazing Loft Suites clustered at the very top of the ship, near the Viking Crown Lounge. Each is two stories high, with a living room below and a loft bedroom above, both of them looking out at the views through a two-story wall of windows and an extra-large balcony. It doesn’t get much better than this.
In November, Royal Caribbean International will introduce the world’s largest cruise ship: the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas.
Let’s start by getting the size factor out of the way. Yes, the ship is mammoth. It will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons, and if full, could hold 6,200 guests. But as the bigwigs at Royal Caribbean tell us, the company has been here before – twice in fact.
No modern cruiser would bat an eye at a 3,114-passenger vessel, but that is the size of the Voyager of the Seas, which was the world’s largest cruise ship when it debuted in 1999, rousing the same questions the Oasis does today: Will it float? Will it fit into ports? Will it take half a day to get on and off?
It is natural to focus on Oasis’ size. We did so with Voyager and also when Royal introduced the 4,300-passenger Freedom of the Seas in 2006, and still the world’s largest title-holder. But with the Oasis, its size is not the story behind this ship.
The Oasis will have amenities never seen afloat before, such as a zip-line and a carousel, as well as the first moving bar at sea, which will ascend from the ship’s Promenade area of indoor stores and cafes, to its Central Park, an open-air outdoor “park” with pathways, flower gardens and canopy trees that span the length of a football field.
A pool situated at the very back of the ship, the deepest at sea, will by night be an outdoor amphitheater, hosting synchronized swimming and diving shows featuring Olympic athletes that will jump from as high as 72 feet up. During the day guests can swim or take SCUBA lessons in the pool, or relax on loungers located on tiered platforms surrounding it. Speaking of pools, the Oasis has four of them. Two will be made to feel like a beach with sloped entries you can walk into just as you would the ocean.
The Oasis revolutionizes cruise ship accommodations, offering 37 different accommodation categories, and unique offerings such as duplex “loft suites” that have 18-foot windows looking on to the ocean. Other cabins will have views of the line’s seven “neighborhoods” such as the aforementioned Central Park and also the Boardwalk, home to the Carousel and venues like a (fake) tattoo parlor.
In addition to Central Park, the “neighborhoods” include the Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone: 28,700-square-feet just for kids and teens with Kids Avenue, a central boulevard connecting various themed play areas; a nursery for infants and toddlers; a theater just for children.
All this give parents time to enjoy the adults-only retreat, the open-air Solarium. Adults will have their own swimming pool and six whirlpools – four of them cantilevered 136 feet above the ocean. At night, the Solarium becomes an adults-only setting for specialty dining and outdoor dancing.
The Oasis’ itineraries – seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean – are certainly not original. It is true that there are few ports worldwide that could accommodate such ships. But the Oasis has forced innovation at some of these ports, and will be a boon to all of them at a time when there is nary a destination that can’t use an influx of several thousand tourists each week.
In Fort Lauderdale, where the Oasis and its sister ship the Allure of the Seas will homeport, Port Everglades is building the world’s largest terminal for the Oasis ships. It will actually be two separate terminals designed so that embarkation and debarkation can happen simultaneously, drastically saving time. The port has even said that its goal is to get passengers from curbside to the vessel in just 15 minutes.
Jamaica and Royal Caribbean worked together to create a new cruise port designed specifically for the two Oasis ships. Falmouth, which will also be open to other cruise lines when Royal Caribbean isn’t there, is located 20 minutes from Montego Bay and 30 from Ocho Rios. It is being revitalized to reflect its heritage as an “old English town.” But construction delays forced Royal Caribbean to replace Falmouth with Costa Maya (Mexico) on the ship’s first 16 Western Caribbean sailings.
Royal Caribbean has not been immune to the problems of the recession. Its stock price has tanked, and it laid off a round of employees last summer. The line is offering deals and discounts to entice customers, along with every other cruise line. Despite all of this, anyone who hangs around with Royal Caribbean’s employees can feel a palpable enthusiasm. As the line’s chairman Richard Fain proclaimed recently: “It’s a good day in my neighborhood — all seven of them.”
From its Miami headquarters, Royal Caribbean continues to spread the word about its “Nation of Why Not?” campaign, which defines Royal Caribbean’s fleet as the ideal destination to declare independence from ordinary vacations. Clearly, “awesome” Oasis will offer anything but an ordinary vacation.
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