Royal Caribbean completes Oasis of the Seas makeover


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 Caribbean: New Experiences at Sea and on Land

The Symphony of the Seas

Introducing the Symphony of the Seas in the North American market in November, Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley said that the features on the new ship will be introduced on the 2009-built Oasis, the first ship in the class, when she goes into a two-month drydock in Europe this year, and then on the sister ship, the 2010-built Allure, next year. “Through our Royal Amplified program the Oasis and the Allure will re-enter service with literally all the services and features we have on the Symphony,” Bayley said in a press conference aboard the Symphony.

With the continued growth of the industry, Bayley said it is important to attract more first-time cruise passengers. However, as they often start by taking a short cruise they are not experiencing the best that the industry has to offer.

“We have been using our old ships to convince people to start cruising,” he explained. “We are now changing that strategy by upgrading our short-cruise ships. As a result, we have seen a strong increase in demand.”

In May, Royal Caribbean expects to introduce its Perfect Day concept on CoCoCay. Redoing its private out-island in the Bahamas, passengers will find a state-of-the-art water park in addition to beaches and a variety of water sports offerings.

“Perfect Day has been designed after feedback from our guests,” Bayley said. “We asked them what would be their perfect day. The sweet spot is multi-generational travel – there will be something to do for all ages, whether they want ‘thrill or chill.’”

The United States generates about 55 per cent of Royal Caribbean’s total business, according to Bayley, who added that Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific are also huge markets for the brand.

As for ship deployment, he said that is based on the business viability of each market.

But despite the Symphony being the world’s largest ship at 228,081 tons and literally a destination by herself, while also receiving a top net promoter score, Bayley said that one of the biggest drivers selling cruises are destinations. “People want to go somewhere and explore,” he added.

“But as we plan our future with bigger ships and new onboard features and services, destinations must also plan their future, and sometimes they can do better. We are open to partnering with destinations to help them in their development. Today, we are looking at some 50 port projects around the world.”

The Symphony’s arrival in the Port of Miami coincided with the introduction of Royal Caribbean’s new Terminal A. Resembling the shape of a ship, the sleek terminal will homeport the Symphony and the Allure.

Up to now, Miami has handled about 750,000 passengers a year for Royal Caribbean. With the new terminal, the cruise line hopes to boost that number to 2 million passengers a year.

This year Royal Caribbean will also be introducing the new Spectrum of the Seas in China, while the Ovation redeploys to Alaska.

At press time, Royal Caribbean had five more ships on order, including the Spectrum of the Seas, slated to enter service this spring; another Quantum-class ship in 2020; another Oasis-class vessel for 2021 delivery; and the first of the new Icon class of LNG-fueled vessels in 2022, with a sister ship following in 2024.

Collective Planning Puzzle

Ovation of the Seas will split her deployment between Australia and Alaska

This year will be a big year for Royal Caribbean Cruises with Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises introducing new ships. The new ships in turn are the primary drivers generating itinerary changes throughout the fleets, according to Chris Allen, vice president, deployment and itinerary planning, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Celebrity will be introducing the new Celebrity Edge this fall, sailing seven-day cruises from Port Everglades for the winter season, and Royal Caribbean will introduce the Symphony of the Seas with a summer Mediterranean season.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have already announced a large percentage of their deployment over the next two years and by March or April are expecting to have most if not all of their itineraries open for sale through April 2020.

“One big story is the variety of Oasis-class homeports and ports of call,” Allen said. The Symphony enters service this spring and will sail seven-day cruises from Barcelona and Civitavecchia, before moving to Miami for year-round alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

In 2019, when the Oasis goes to the Mediterranean for the summer, the Harmony will move from Port Everglades to Port Canaveral. In addition, the Allure; which is in Miami for the 2018-2019 winter, goes back to Port Everglades; and the Oasis goes to Miami in the fall.

Another headliner for 2019 will be the Ovation going to Alaska from Australia via Hawaii to Vancouver before homeporting in Seattle, where she is replacing the Explorer of the Seas.

“Sailing alongside the Radiance, hardware-wise I think we will have the most interesting ships in Alaska,” Allen noted. “It will also be the first time we have two Quantum-class ships in North America with the Anthem of the Seas on the East Coast.”

While the cruise fleet is growing, many ports are expanding too and new ports have come online, according to Allen, who said it was important to partner with destinations to develop them for the long term, making sure the brands have great destinations to call at.

“We develop itineraries for each brand reflecting their strategic vision; the itineraries must fit what the brands represent and must appeal to the sourcing markets,” he explained.

“We look at guest feedback, the attractiveness of destinations, trends, what is popular, what is not, marketability, and then balance that vs. the cost side, fuel and port costs.

“The beauty of our industry is that compared to hotels, we can move ships and maximize the appeal of the ships and their profitability.

“This formula works and has not changed at the macro level although the input is constantly changing, such as fuel costs and regulations.”

He said that itinerary planning is a big puzzle that the company is always trying to optimize. “We have a small team here that works very hard. The deployments we have are some of the most important decisions we make as a company, it impacts everything we do – it is imperative that we get things right.  We have some very smart and dedicated people on our team, but we rely on the collective knowledge and partnering across the company, with the brands, but also all the other areas and with all the destinations, tour operators, ports and governments around the world.  It really takes a collective effort to put the puzzle together.”