When Oasis of the Seas sets sail from STX’s Turku shipyard in October to homeport Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the world’s largest passenger ship will set many precedents for the future of cruising.

At 220,000t, the vessel will accommodate 6,400 guests and crew, and offer the widest range of services, activities and innovations ever seen on a cruise ship. While its sheer size is certainly impressive, the driving force behind the design was never about being the biggest; more real estate and critical mass was essential for creating a ship that can provide an even better holiday, amenities, entertainment and services for Royal Caribbean International guests.

Evolution revolution

The design formula behind Oasis of the Seas was driven by what Royal Caribbean calls the Evolution Revolution, where one third of the design is evolutionary, developing existing features such as the Royal Promenade, one third is revolutionary, introducing highlights such as Central Park and the remaining third is repeating what has been done on previous Royal Caribbean vessels.

Royal Caribbean’s newbuild department has close to 150 people whose job it is to focus on the evolution of the guest experience, and in turn, the design of new ships. Looking at the way Royal Caribbean's ships have evolved over the last 40 years, from Song of Norway in the 1970s to Oasis of the Seas in 2009, there is clearly an in-house tradition of working out what the company can offer its guests.

Oasis-class is our ninth new fleet and every generation has been a trendsetter: in the 1990s, Sovereign of the Seas featured a unique observation lounge that was wrapped around the funnel; in 1999, Voyager of the Seas, then the world’s largest ship, introduced the Royal Promenade, a rock-climbing wall, an indoor skating rink and in-line skating; and in 2006, amenities on Freedom of the Seas included the FlowRider surf simulator, the H20 water park, cantilevered whirlpools and a boxing ring.

Feedback from our guests tells us that they love our Voyager and Freedom-class vessels. We’ve taken this information and, with the experiences learned from those fleets, planned the future and created Oasis of the Seas.

Meeting the challenge

“At 220,000t, the vessel will accommodate 6,400 guests and crew, and offer the widest range of services, activities and innovations ever seen on a cruise ship.”

Building a vessel of this size has its challenges, such as designing and installing new machinery and energy-saving systems, adding innovative features and ensuring a smooth logistical flow of guests on board and when in port. But the main challenge has been coordinating information among everyone working on a project of this magnitude. This involved thousands of people, from marketing and operations to designers and engineers, so it was important that everyone was kept in the loop, that decisions and tasks were executed in a timely manner in order to meet expectations.

Logistics is one of the major considerations, with the point of embarkation a crucial experience, particularly for guests, because it is this first impression that forms their opinion of a vessel.

The less time spent queuing, the better, and so we have created the support infrastructure required behind the scenes and incorporated extensive computer simulations to ensure the seamless flow of guests throughout the ship. This is particularly important when it comes to handling large groups of people at popular events. For example, the AquaTheater, Studio B and the Opal Theater will be running multiple shows in the evenings, and by using an advanced ticketing system, everyone will get the chance to enjoy the venues – and in that respect, technology also helps the guests plan their week.

Accounting for taste

The challenge for serving the wide ranging tastes of our guests has been solved through the ship’s unique layout. With a beam of 47m, Oasis of the Seas is wider than our previous vessels and this gave us the opportunity and space to provide innovative features and services.

The ship spans 18 decks, 16 of which are dedicated to guest facilities and accommodation.

Instead of public areas, services and entertainment will be located in seven different neighbourhoods, each with their own innovations, and divided so that groups of people of similar interests can meet in one area:

• Central Park, to me, is Oasis’s biggest innovation. Opening up the centre of the ship to the skies has created an area that during the day offers a peaceful environment surrounded by real trees, exotic plants and grass. This area will be the ship’s central piazza, which will evolve from a tranquil atmosphere during the day to a lively gathering space for alfresco dining and entertainment in the evening. It features balcony staterooms rising five decks high, three retail outlets and six bars and restaurants, and is dominated by three open atriums, the Crystal Canopies, which let daylight into the Royal Promenade on the deck below.

• The Royal Promenade is a natural evolution of the signature Royal Promenades of the Voyager and Freedom ships. This area will serve as the entry point for guests rather than the traditional lower decks. It is home to the Rising Tide Bar, the first moving bar at sea, which, as guests enjoy their drinks, is elevated slowly up to Central Park and back down. At the Globe & Atlas Pub, a giant copper globe opens up on hinged hydraulics and extends out as a bridge platform that will be used for performances. Additional features include 18 promenade staterooms, eight retail outlets and nine bars and restaurants.

• The Boardwalk is an area styled on traditional seaside piers and its activities are aimed at the whole family. It includes a full-size, hand-carved carousel and two rock-climbing walls. This neighbourhood opens out on to the stern of the ship. From above, guests can take a bird’s eye view of events via a zip line that stretches 25m. Other features include six AquaTheater Suites, 221 Boardwalk view balcony staterooms, eight Boardwalk view window staterooms, five shops and five restaurants and bars.

• Entertainment Place is the main area for evening entertainment with a collection of venues that includes the Opal Theater, Casino Royale, Blaze nightclub, Jazz on 4 and Comedy Live.

• The Pool and Sports Zone is located on decks 15 and 16. The pool decks are divided into different areas: on the top deck is the solarium and main pool area, which has been divided into four zones catering for children, families, sports activities and one for adults only. There are ten whirlpools, four bars and a bistro as well as the signature H2O Zone. The Sports deck also features two FlowRider surf simulators, sports court, mini golf course, a bar and café.

• The Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center is dedicated to complete body wellness. This area includes a spa, relaxation rooms, saunas and steam rooms, three couples-only massage suites, seven individual treatment rooms, a dedicated spa for children and teenagers, the latest cardio and resistance equipment, a variety of sports classes and a café.

• The Youth Zone is home to the Adventure Ocean youth programme and has dedicated spaces for age-appropriate groups of children with professional staff on hand. Covering 2,669m², features include: the central boulevard Kids Avenue, a nursery for infants and toddlers, a series of common play areas, a children’s theatre as well as a teens only disco.

Big experience

Some people will be surprised, even shocked, by the size of Oasis of the Seas. I’m sure there are guests who prefer a smaller vessel, but our large ships are very popular. We know this because our customers tell us so: they like the Voyager and Freedom ships, they like the activities and amenities they offer, and they want more.

Through the neighbourhoods on board Oasis, we bring people together who have similar interests and lifestyles. Every generation has something they prefer doing. Parents and their children can spend the day doing the activities they each like and then get together in the evening. In this respect, the ship is a destination in itself and, with the number of activities offered and the variety of options, plus the fact that you can’t experience it all in a week, this means that there is always something new to look forward to – and if people don’t get the time to do an activity on one voyage, they can try it out another time.

Oasis is a ship that people will want to come back to time and again. Looking back through cruising history, there has always been a trend to build bigger. There is no reason to believe that this will not continue.

I believe we will see more larger ships, but first we need to get Oasis into operation and see what the inaugural voyages bring. We believe that Oasis will be a great success and a true winner for the type of people who already cruise with Royal Caribbean and will attract many new guests.

Every time I go to the shipyard in Turku and step on board Oasis of the Seas, I am so proud and surprised at what I see. This is a ship that cannot be described by words: it needs to be experienced.