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.

A new era of cruise tonnage replaces an old one

Celebrity Cruises' Xpedition, which has the look of its time: More portholes than private balconies, for example.

Celebrity Cruises’ Xpedition, which has the look of its time: More portholes than private balconies, for example. Photo Credit: Daniel Romagosa/Celebrity Cruises
by Tom Stieghorst
Back when I first started writing about cruises, in the mid-1980s, one of the things that really excited me about the job was the modern new cruise ships being built in places like Finland and France.
They were getting bigger, fancier, with terrific new amenities and style. It was a pleasure to be able to describe them to readers who at that time probably didn’t know what the new ships were all about.
But there were other ships that I toured, older tonnage that still had a niche in the industry. I remember a lot of Greek ships that were way past their prime; Scandinavian car ferries converted to cruise duty; and ocean liners that were years out of date.
I was reminded of those days recently while touring Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora, which is nearing completion at a shipyard in Rotterdam. It is the first ship purpose-built for the Galapagos Islands and looks like it will be a dream to sail.
The Flora is a new standard for an area of the globe that has been getting by on older tonnage for a long time. Galapagos-based ships include Celebrity’s own Celebrity Xpedition, which was built in 2001 for Sun Bay Cruises and acquired by Celebrity in 2004 when it began cruising there.
The Xpedition has the classic look of ships of its era: more portholes than balconies, for example. It carries 96 passengers compared to 100 for the Celebrity Flora, but at 2,842 gross tons, it is only half the size of the 5,739 gross-ton Flora.
A rendering of the Celebrity Flora, an example of the new standard in cruising, which will replace the Xpedition in the Galapagos.
A rendering of the Celebrity Flora, an example of the new standard in cruising, which will replace the Xpedition in the Galapagos.
To be sure, seeing the wildlife in the Galapagos is the major focus of any cruise there; the hardware is secondary. But if you can go in style, comfort and, indeed, luxury, why not?
One of Celebrity’s quasi-competitors in the Ecuadoran islands is going through a similar transition with its product. Next year Silversea Cruises will introduce the Silver Origin in the Galapagos and retire the Silver Galapagos, which was once part of the original, 1990s-era, Renaissance Cruises fleet of 100-passenger ships.
These new ships are going to raise the bar for the other licensed vessels, many of them small, that offer cruises in the Galapagos — much the same way that the Carnival Fantasy and Sovereign of the Seas prompted some changes for the Chandris family when it was sailing classic ships like the Britanis out of Florida. John Chandris eventually concluded that was a hopeless strategy, and he started Celebrity Cruises to focus on newly built ships such as the Celebrity Horizon. Today, Celebrity survives and thrives as a division of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which bought it in 1997.
Silversea Cruises has also joined the RCCL stable, by virtue of a sale of a 67% interest last year. One of the first things RCCL management did after the purchase was to announce a new Silversea ship for the Galapagos.
The two RCCL ships are going to set a new benchmark for cruising in the Galapagos and may spell the end for some of the less contemporary vessels in that market.

Why Symphony of the Seas is the Ultimate Family Ship

Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas
PHOTO: Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)