Oasis of the Seas Enters Drydock for $165 Million Refurb

Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis of the Seas has arrived at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, Spain to begin her $165 million Royal Amplification drydock. The ship will be transformed over a period of two months in Spain, debuting in Miami in late November.

Additions include the tallest slide at sea – Ultimate Abyss; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, a reimagined, Caribbean pool deck; and new kids and teens spaces.

Debuting alongside this lineup is the cruise line’s first barbecue concept, Portside BBQ, and dedicated karaoke venue Spotlight Karaoke.

Oasis of the Seas

Among more changes will be the reimagined Pool and Sports Zone. The transformed neighbourhood will feature new ways to relax, celebrate and plunge into adventure, joining the popular twin FlowRider surf simulators, nine-deck-high zip line and twin rock-climbing walls, the company said.

Additionally, the new Portside BBQ will offer an authentic, meat-packed menu inspired by the best-in-class barbecue, Royal Caribbean said in a prior press release.

Oasis of the Seas

From smoked marbled brisket, pulled pork and chicken, to beef ribs and burnt ends, the casual eatery on the pool deck will tie it all together with classic sides – including mac and cheese, homestyle cornbread, baked beans and coleslaw – and desserts such as the Banana Dream and a brownie cookie mashup.

Across the way, guests can find Mexican grab-and-go fare at El Loco Fresh, serving up made-to-order tacos and burritos, quesadillas, mini salads and salsas galore. Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade will anchor the lineup in the signature Boardwalk neighbourhood. With 80 big-screen TVs, tabletop games, arcade classics, tournaments, an Owner’s Box VIP room, bar fare and ice-cold brews, Playmakers is where everyone in the family wins. Sugar Beach, with more than 220 types of candy and a new walkup ice cream window, is the icing on the already-tasty offering onboard Oasis, which includes Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and Izumi.

Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis will set sail on Nov. 24, 2019, beginning seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Royal Caribbean’s new, state-of-the-art Terminal A in Miami, the company said.

The ship will then move to New York in May 2020, calling Cape Liberty her homeport and sailing seven nights to the Bahamas.

Royal goes big with Mariner of the Seas’ makeover

The Skypad is a new bungee/trampoline/virtual reality attraction on the top deck of the renovated Mariner of the Seas.
The Skypad is a new bungee/trampoline/virtual reality attraction on the top deck of the renovated Mariner of the Seas. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

Royal Caribbean International is raising the bar on short cruises from South Florida, starting this summer with the Mariner of the Seas, fresh off of a $120 million Royal Amplified refurbishment.

The upgrades mean that not only will the 3,114-passenger Mariner be the largest ship in the three- and four-day market, it will be one of the most full-featured.

Previously, Royal Caribbean devoted ships such as the Majesty of the Seas to the short-cruise product. These ships were generally among the smallest and least modern in its fleet. Although guests rated the Majesty well, it wasn’t because of its hardware.

“Majesty was older, and it didn’t have the chills and the thrills this one does,” said Christina Pinto of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Boca Raton, Fla., after a tour and ice show on the Mariner for travel agents last month.

The package of improvements had already been in the market for several weeks by the time the launch took place.

“I’ve had good feedback from people who have sailed already,” said Roberta Schwartz, a Cruise Planners franchisee in Plantation, Fla.

Among the new features, one of the most visible is the Skypad trampoline/bungee/virtual reality combination on the top deck that figures to be Royal’s rock climbing wall for the coming decade.

Housed in a 30-foot, perforated sphere made of marine-grade aluminium, the brightly painted Skypad is an intriguing structure to anyone seeing the ship from a distance, especially lit up at night.

Within the Skypad are four bungee harnesses fastened to the sphere and suspended over one-person trampolines. Riders can bound up and down on the trampolines safely guided by the harnesses, either with or without a set of virtual reality goggles that add a fourth dimension to the already rich experience.

The Skypad is part of a makeover of the rear of the sports deck that also includes the addition of waterslides and a FlowRider surfing simulator.

Another attraction at the top of the ship is the Observatorium, an escape room game in the former chapel that gives groups a limited amount of time to decipher clues and get out of a locked room.

Farther down, the Mariner has gained two new bars. One, Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade, is a version of a feature first added to the Symphony of the Seas, a newer, larger ship. The other, unique to the Mariner for the moment, is the Polynesian-themed Bamboo Room, a tiki bar on the Royal Promenade. It’s a retro hangout with umbrella drinks to spare and certainly an upgrade over the retail space previously there.

The Mariner of the Seas features a new ice show, “Ice Under the Big Top,” in Studio B.
The Mariner of the Seas features a new ice show, “Ice Under the Big Top,” in Studio B. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

And in the depths of the ship, in Studio B, Royal has developed Escape From Planet Z, a laser tag game. That’s in addition to a terrific new ice show, “Ice Under the Big Top,” excerpts of which were previewed for agents.

Before the show, Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, said the Mariner is positioned to draw more new-to-cruise guests. “We need to get people who have never thought about a cruise vacation to kind of take a test drive with us, and we thought to put this magnificent hardware in the short-cruise market would do exactly that,” she said.

After three weeks in service, Royal was sourcing a higher percentage of first-time cruisers on the Mariner than on any other ship, she said.

Part of that might have to do with pricing and perceived value. “It’s almost like having a brand new ship but at old prices,” said Kyle DeDomenico of Cruise Planners in Boca Raton.

Beyond attracting those new to cruise, another function of the Mariner is to serve as a delivery vehicle for Royal’s vastly improved CocoCay private island, which is being upgraded with a waterpark, a pier, a wave pool and several other attractions.

Freed warned that the prices won’t last.

“Right now the prices are very low for all of the ships that are calling at CocoCay, but once we start to ramp up, the prices will go higher because it’s such a great attraction,” Freed said. “So if you have clients that are thinking about 2019, book them now because they won’t find prices like you currently see.”

The Mariner will be the short cruise offering from Miami through May when the next ship to receive Royal Amplified upgrades, the Navigator of the Seas will take its place. The Mariner will then be redeployed on short cruises from Port Canaveral.

Royal Caribbeans Major Revitalizations

Image result for independence of the seas in dry dock
Independence of the Seas in Drydock.

Among the big out-of-water projects for Royal Caribbean Cruises, this year are revitalizations of the Adventure, Mariner and Independence of the Seas, plus the complete refurbishment and transformation of the Adonia into the Azamara Pursuit.

The company’s large-scale drydocking projects are overseen by the newbuild and innovation department, headed by up Kevin Douglas, vice president, who joined Royal in 2004 as a project manager overseeing a large-scale revitalization on the Sovereign of the Seas.

While smaller dry dockings (known as a “shave and a haircut”) are generally run by the brands, Douglas said his group comes together to plan the big changes, working closely with the operations teams to craft a program vision, whether it’s the Royal Advantage or Celebrity’s recent $400 million Edge-upgrade scheme.

With a schedule that calls for dry dockings every five years, the planning starts with a holistic look at each ship, and how they fit into the class and the brand

“The principal goal is how we improve the guest experience, offering a more meaningful product,” said Douglas. That ranges from stateroom upgrades to new restaurants and other features like the FlowRider surfing simulator. “We look at how we can add in IT and the smart ship concept, upgrading the technical experience and entertainment.”

Projects are evaluated not only on cost but in the number of containers and raw materials needed.

“We know how much material we can deal with on a daily basis, and that determines how much time we need,” Douglas said.

The technical scope of jobs is increasingly complex.

“Then we look at the stability of the ship with the increase in weight and the increase of the centre of gravity, and whether we have to add a ducktail to the stern.”

Allure of the Seas at Navantia

Another major technical project has been installing scrubbers (the company prefers to call them Advanced Emissions Purification Systems).

“They are about the size of a school bus,” Douglas noted.

Royal Caribbean has had its scrubber program going for five years, with some 20 ships outfitted with various systems from a number of suppliers with the project being overseen directly by Matti Heikkinen, vice president of newbuild.

“He and his team have done an awesome job,” added Douglas.

Under the waterline, the company has an on-going initiative to study hull coatings, with a new direction expected to be announced in early 2018.

“There is a massive benefit on fuel efficiency on drag and resistance,” Douglas said.

That project is being spearheaded by Captain Patrik Dahlgren, senior vice president of global marine operations, and Anshul Tuteja, director of energy management.

“We are looking at every type of paint, and which coatings work best in what areas,” Douglas explained. “Patrick and Anshul are looking very carefully, and we can actually track the performance of a hull coating relating to efficiency and how much fouling they are getting.

“We probably have every type of paint coating in the fleet, and are now starting to review final recommendations for future coatings.”

Royal Caribbean has also grown the scope of its drydocking work along with its shipyards, continually working to get leaner and manage bigger projects.

“Twelve years ago we were doing 12 to 16 containers a day and thought ‘wow.’ Now we are doing 50 containers a day and think nothing of it.”

And the spending is skyrocketing.

“We used to be at $800,000 per day, and now its $2.8 million; and we want to go even higher,” Douglas said.

The next hurdle may come in Asia, with a number of company ships in China. One of those ships has already been in a Chinese drydock for a repair, which Douglas said went well. SkySea also recently drydocked at a yard in China for a small refit.

Years of planning, million-dollar decisions and executing on a tight schedule, Douglas said it all came down to partnerships, whether internal, whether with the shipyards or with turnkey suppliers.

“It’s about how we do these projects in a short period of time, minimizing the risk and maximizing the planning.”