Friday, 13 November 2009

At Port Everglades, Oasis of the Seas wows the crowds as it docks

Oasis of the Seas, larger than life on the ocean's horizon Friday morning, swaggered into Port Everglades, sounding her horn as a crowd of onlookers at John U. Lloyd State Park beach let out a cheer.
``Wow!'' cried one early riser, joining revelers with binoculars and blankets to greet the 225,000-ton megaship. `It's so amazing!'' shrieked another. ``It's huge.''
The world's largest cruise ship was accompanied by a flotilla of small boats and doused by water cannons as she headed into her new home port.
At the park, Marsha Scharf, of Chesterfield, Mo., rubbernecked from the beach and thumbed through a text message on her cellphone. ``TJ says `Can you tell which ship we are?' '' she laughed to her fiancé, Tom Smyka, who stood next to her clicking pictures with a digital camera.
Scharf said her son, Timothy J. Scharf, had sent the text message from onboard the Oasis, where he has been working since August as the IT manager. ``It's his 33rd birthday,'' she said.
Dana Steinberg, a retired merchant marine from Hollywood, arrived early at John U. Lloyd Park Friday to behold the mammoth ship, which has seven neighborhoods, including a Boardwalk reminiscent of Coney Island. The ship has not one, but two rock-climbing walls, an ice-skating rink, and 24 specialty restaurants among an array of entertainment and activities. The ship's theater will feature a 90-minute production of the Broadway hit Hairspray, which the cast has been practicing during the crossing.
``It's the largest in the world,'' Steinberg said. ``I've never actually been on a cruise, but I love ships.''
Joy Rodeberg, 13, played along the beach with her sisters Sarah, 15, and Rebecca, 8, as the Oasis grew larger on the horizon. ``My dad told me about it: It's the world's largest ship,'' said Joy, toting a welcome poster.
The Oasis, carrying crew and construction workers, braved high seas and hurricane force winds in the North Atlantic Ocean, which stretched the journey from its shipyard in Turku, Finland to Fort Lauderdale to 14 days -- two days longer than planned. But Royal Caribbean officials say the giant ship performed excellently in the rough seas.
Now that the ship is in Port Everglades, workers will put the final details on the vessel. Perhaps the biggest job is the installation of some 12,000 shrubs, plants and trees to give Central Park, the first of its kind park-at-sea, a leafy, green ambiance.
Miami based Royal Caribbean plans a private performance by pop singer Rihanna on Nov. 19, followed by a national television debut on ABC's Good Morning America Nov. 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
The ship will sail on several promotional cruises with travel agents, journalists and guests before making its first revenue cruise Dec. 1.
The naming ceremony is slated for Nov. 30 during a fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation, which provides treats to children with life-threatening illnesses. Tickets for the event begin at $750 per person.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Oasis Of The Seas Slips Under Bridge

The world's largest cruise ship, bound for Port Everglades, cleared a crucial obstacle Sunday, lowering its smokestacks to squeeze under a bridge in Denmark. The Oasis of the Seas, which rises about 20 stories high, passed below the Great Belt Fixed Link with a slim margin as it left the Baltic Sea on its maiden voyage to Ft. Lauderdale.Bridge operators said that even after lowering its telescopic smokestacks the giant ship had less than a 2 foot gap. Hundreds of people gathered on beaches at both ends of the bridge, waiting for hours to watch the brightly lit behemoth sail by shortly after midnight local time, or about 7 p.m. EDT."It was fantastic to see it glide under the bridge. Boy, it was big," said Kurt Hal, 56.Officials of Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruise Line are banking that its novelty will help guarantee its success. Five times larger than the Titanic, the $1.5 billion ship has seven neighborhoods, an ice rink, a small golf course and a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater. It has 2,700 cabins and can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew members. Oasis of the Sea, nearly 40 percent larger than the industry's next biggest ship, was conceived years before the economic downturn caused desperate cruise lines to slash prices to fill vacant berths. It is due to make its U.S. debut on Nov. 20 at its home port, Port Everglades.It was built by STX Finland for Royal Caribbean International and left the shipyard in Finland on Friday. Officials hadn't expected any problems in passing the Great Belt bridge, but traffic was stopped for about 15 minutes as a precaution when the ship approached, Danish navy spokesman Joergen Brand said.Aboard the Oasis of the Seas, project manager Toivo Ilvonen of STX Finland confirmed that the ship had passed under the bridge without any incidents."Nothing fell off," he said.Accommodations include loft cabins, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and 1,600-square-foot (487-meter) luxury suites with balconies overlooking the sea or promenades. The liner also has four swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts, and a youth zone with theme parks and nurseries for children.It's inaugural voyage is set for December 5th from Port Everglades, where it will sail to St. Thomas, St Maarten, and Nassau. A particular 4 night preview voyage to Royal Caribbean's resort in Labadee, Haiti will sail December 1. The enormous ship features various "neighborhoods" — parks, squares and arenas with special themes. One of them will be a tropical environment, including palm trees and vines among the total 12,000 plants on board. They will be planted after the ship arrives in Fort Lauderdale. In the stern, a 750-seat outdoor theater — modeled on an ancient Greek amphitheater — doubles as a swimming pool by day and an ocean front theater by night. The pool has a diving tower with spring boards and two 33-foot (10-meter) high-dive platforms. An indoor theater seats 1,300 guests.One of the "neighborhoods," named Central Park, features a square with boutiques, restaurants and bars, including a bar that moves up and down three decks, allowing customers to get on and off at different levels.Once home, the $1.5 billion floating extravaganza will have more, if less visible, obstacles to duck: a sagging U.S. economy, questions about the consumer appetite for luxury cruises and criticism that such sailing behemoths are damaging to the environment and diminish the experience of traveling.