Largest, costliest cruiser nearly ready for launch

Largest, costliest cruiser nearly ready for launch

By the start of November the flagship of the cruise company Royal Caribbean International (RCI) should be ready to set sail. When that day arrives the world will have a few more superlatives: never before has there been a cruise ship as large and as expensive to build as the Oasis. Right now construction and fitting out of the $1.4 billion vessel is underway at the Aker shipyard in Turku, Finland.

Over 2,000 people are working on the 360-metre-long and 71-metre-wide ship. All of them are wearing blue overalls and helmets - a few are even jogging around. "It's as busy here as a freeway in Miami," says RCI spokeswoman Elisabetta Raffo. "But we are well on schedule."

The Oasis is due to be christened in Fort Lauderdale Nov 30. On Dec 1 it will begin its maiden voyage to the Caribbean. Some of the islands in the Caribbean are quite small - too small almost when you know the ship can take up to 6,296 passengers and 2,160 crew.

That explains why the Oasis will only make three visits during its seven day cruise to St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau in the Bahamas. The four day voyage will go to the Royal Caribbean port resort of Labadee on Haiti.

"They are building new passenger terminals in the harbours so we won't have to go through customs on board the ships in future," says hotel director Raimund Gschaider.
Luckily there is no pressing need to go on land as the Oasis of the Seas has plenty on offer and a week on board may end up passing by too quickly. Although not every guest will want to try out one of the ship's two climbing walls, hang from a zip-line over the boardwalk or go ice skating, many will certainly be taking advantage of the pool and bar areas.

The biggest freshwater swimming pool at sea - called the Aqua Theatre - will also tempt a few to go diving for the first time. Passengers can even go for a walk in the ship's Central Park; a park area the size of two football pitches with trees up to eight metres tall.

The Oasis looks smaller than it actually is and the architects managed to make the vessel look elegant despite its 18 decks. The ship's interior is also almost transparent thanks to the wide-scale use of glass. The main restaurant can seat up to 2,000 guests but due to the clever design with corners, dividing walls and alcoves you only get to see a portion of it at any one time.

The ship is divided into seven "neighbourhoods" and there are 24 restaurants to choose from. Among them the Rising Tide Bar will likely be popular as it will feature a lift that can carry up to 50 people from the fifth floor to Central Park.

The colour scheme is unobtrusive with cream, beige, sea green, blue, terracotta and rust red the main hues. The children's areas are more colourful. Most of the 2,706 cabins have a balcony either facing inwards to the arcades or outwards to the sea.
The Oasis of the Seas will leave Finland at the beginning of November and travel to its home port of Fort Lauderdale via the Azores. During the 12-day voyage the crew will be introduced to the ship. In Florida there will be five days of finishing touches when plants will be brought on board.

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