Royal Caribbean completes Oasis of the Seas makeover

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The Oasis of the Seas now features the Perfect Storm trio of waterslides. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is ready to begin its Caribbean season from Miami, fresh off of a 53-day drydock in Cadiz, Spain.

The 10-year-old ship received $165 million in refurbishments and improvements, including many elements that first appeared on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships.

Among those elements are the two-story Music Hall and the Bionic Bar, where two robotic bartenders mix drinks for passengers.

The Oasis of the Seas was the prototype for four Royal Caribbean International ships with an unprecedented capacity of 5,400 passengers each. Introduced in 2009, its design of two flanks of cabins around a central space open to the sky has never been duplicated. Having reached its 10th anniversary, the groundbreaking ship was sent to Cadiz, Spain, for a 53-day drydock in which a number of new features, such as waterslides, an escape room and a barbeque restaurant, were added to it. After being initially based in Fort Lauderdale, Oasis will move to Miami to do 7-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries starting Nov. 24.

Also retrofitted onto the ship was a package of slides that weren’t part of Royal Caribbean’s featured lineup when the Oasis debuted in 2009. The package includes the 10-story Ultimate Abyss dry slide and the Perfect Storm, three high-speed waterslides known as Typhoon, Cyclone and Supercell.

Other features that have debuted on Quantum ships or on recent makeovers of Oasis-class ships include the Lime & Coconut multi-story pool deck bar, a Sugar Beach candy store, an El Loco Fresh casual Mexican eatery and a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.

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.

Carnival Triumph getting a $200M redo and a new name

Carnival Triumph is to become the Carnival Sunrise.

Carnival Cruise Line will budget $200 million for an overhaul of the Carnival Triumph so sweeping that the ship will get a new name, the Carnival Sunrise.

It is only the second time that Carnival has renamed a ship of its own design. In 2013, it rechristened the former Carnival Destiny as the Carnival Sunshine. 

Carnival said the two ships will form the new Sunshine class. The $200 million sum is the largest ever spent by a cruise line in a ship renovation.

By the time the work begins next March, the Triumph will be 20 years old. It is perhaps best known for an engine-room fire in 2013 that left it disabled off the coast of Mexico without power for most hotel services. The ship had to be towed back to the United States, on a four-day odyssey that was memorialized as “the poop cruise” because toilets didn’t work for most of the trip.

In the two-month renovation, to be done at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, Spain, a laundry list of Fun Ship 2.0 features will be added to the ship, including seven restaurants, two bars, two lounges, three new pool deck attractions, a newly designed spa, two new children’s play areas and new retail spaces, including a candy store. 

Gus Antocha, Carnival’s chief operating officer, said the additions complement certain upgrades that had already been made to the Triumph, such as Guy’s Burger Joint.

Unique to the Sunrise will be what Antocha called “bridge wing suites,” encompassing two junior suites and two larger Captain’s Suites adjacent to the bridge, which will be redesigned with floor-to-ceiling windows. That means the ship’s capacity, listed as 2,758 passengers at double occupancy, will remain relatively unchanged.

“We’re adding a handful of different spaces,” Antocha said. When the Carnival Sunshine was created, an extra 182 cabins were added to the Carnival Destiny.

The first sailing of the Carnival Sunrise, following a renaming ceremony, will be from Norfolk, Va., where the ship will begin a series of five- to seven-day cruises on April 29, 2019. It will then move to New York for the summer for a series of four- to 14-day cruises, starting May 23. It will move to Fort Lauderdale for four- and five-day cruises in October.