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.

Cruise chiefs talk expansion, recession

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Norwegian Encore after float-out from Meyer Werft.

Another year, another non-recession.

How long can this go on?

It has been a decade since the so-called Great Recession bottomed out in June 2009. Since then the U.S. economy has experienced a remarkable 125 months of uninterrupted growth, breaking the 120-month record set by the 1991-2001 expansion.

Ten years of steady climbing has had a predictable effect on cruise sales. According to executives of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which recently reported third-quarter results, things couldn’t be better.

“I can’t stress enough the underlying strength of the business,” Frank Del Rio, CEO of NCLH said in a conference call with analysts.

Despite doing nothing strategically to extend the booking window, it expanded by 10% in the third quarter, Del Rio said, “underscoring consumers’ underlying appetite for cruising on our three brands.”

Cruise lines are at that happy point where, at least in North America, an abundance of bookings is creating scarcity, driving prices higher, and stampeding more consumers to book even earlier to lock-in early booking savings.

All good things come to an end, to be sure, but the chances of them coming to an end in 2020 aren’t that likely.

In its monthly survey of economists for November, the Wall Street Journal found that only 34.2% of economists expect the expansion to end in 2020, with another 29.3% saying it will end in 2021.

One of the main drivers of a classic recession, inflation, is expected to clock in at 1.9% in November, just below the Federal Reserve’s target. The unemployment rate next month is forecast at 3.6%, meaning most of the people who want a job have one, providing fuel for further consumer spending.

Economists used to talk about the Goldilocks economy – not too hot, not too cold – and without much fanfare, we may be in one. But one troubling footnote is that the growth in the current expansion – 25% since 2009 – has been only half as strong as the 42.6% growth in the 1991-2001 period.

“It’s been the slowest recovery in American history,” said RCCL chairman Richard Fain in a talk at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld event last week.

Fain said that expansions don’t die of old age; there has to be a trigger, which right now isn’t blindingly obvious to most observers. He said that when the recession does come, the cruise industry will do okay.

He recalled that the Oasis of the Seas, then the biggest cruise ship in the world with a startling capacity for 5,400 guests, was delivered in 2009 when the economy was flat on its back.

“The truth is it did beautifully even in 2009. Oasis was gangbusters, and it was because it met a need,” Fain said.
He added that it was important that Royal Caribbean’s cost-cutting during the last recession didn’t cut from the guest-facing functions.

“Lots of businesses say ‘Oh business is bad, we’re not selling so many shoes, so we’ll cut costs and lay off some people.’ If we fill our ships, we can’t let one customer feel like we’ve cut back in order to make our earnings look better,” Fain said.

“We’re going to continue to function, continue to operate, continue to market because it’s the right thing to do to be in business five years from now,” Fain added. “And everybody in this room will remember what we do.”

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.