Maggy Oehlbeck explores the awesome proportions of the world's biggest liner.
Amighty clap of thunder and I awake with a start. I am in the land of giants – the town of Turku, Finland, the European headquarters of the giant shipbuilding company STX, which builds giants of the sea. This morning I am scheduled to visit one of these giants. Is this my wake-up call or actually some thunderous applause for the biggest ship in the world?
The countdown has begun for Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas. She sails from the yards at Turku in early December, bound for Fort Lauderdale in the US and a career of cruising the Caribbean.
The buzz is palpable as press and guests bundle into waiting buses to take us to the yards – the birthplace of several other Royal Caribbean leviathans, such as Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.
But the new Genesis-class Oasis of the Seas takes the cake. At 360 metres long and 65 metres wide, with a gross registered tonnage of 220,000, it is 50 per cent bigger than any other ship. It is three times as big as the three largest ships now based in Australia (Rhapsody of the Seas, Dawn Princess and Sun Princess) combined; the same height as the Opera House; twice the length of the Melbourne Cricket Ground; and if you placed it vertically alongside Centrepoint Tower, Oasis would be 55 metres taller. It is also 50 per cent bigger than Queen Mary 2 – the largest cruise ship to visit Australia – and it would take more than 100 buses to transport Oasis's 6300 passengers. A giant indeed.
We crane our necks for our first glimpse. Its massive white hull and most of its superstructure appear complete. But before we board for inspection, we must don hard hats, safety boots, protective eyewear, gloves and the same blue coats worn by the workers (about 3000 of them) who pedal around the vast shipyard on bicycles. We tread carefully in the footsteps of our guides, straining to hear their voices over industrial noise, and huff and puff up innumerable stairs – the lifts are not up and running yet – until we see open sky. It is only then, looking over the surrounding countryside, that we sense the sheer scale of the ship.
"The cruise industry will never be the same," says chairman and chief executive of Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain. "We don't believe one size fits all. We had too many ideas to put on one large ship, so we had to build an even larger ship with lots of activities for different people."
Oasis is divided into seven self-contained neighbourhoods, which target different age groups and interests. Central Park is a serene and green oasis with more than 12,000 plants and 56 trees. Royal Promenade is an amazing parade of boutiques, bars and bistros while Entertainment Place also comprises a comedy club, live theatre, big bands, jazz and disco. Other precincts are the Pool and Sports Zone; Youth Zone; Sea Spa and Fitness; and the Boardwalk, which features an authentic carousel, ice-cream parlour and the Cupcake Cupboard, where you can choose your own toppings. Then – drum roll – there's the awesome AquaTheater – which will feature professional stunt divers performing high-dive shows from three platforms into a 5.4-metre-deep pool, the deepest at sea – as well as fountain displays, illuminations and more. Another novelty is the Rising Tide bar, which travels between three decks while you sip your cocktail.
Oasis has 16 passenger decks, 2706 staterooms, 24 restaurants and 37 bars and it took 2500 kilometres of weld – the approximate length of Finland and back – to build it. It is a monument to modern shipbuilding and the world won't see the likes of it until its sister, Allure of the Seas, comes along in December next year. But neither will be visiting Sydney. There's nowhere big enough for them to park.
The writer travelled as a guest of Royal Caribbean.
GET ON BOARD
Oasis of the Seas will run seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises from early 2010, departing Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Prices for an inside cabin start from $2485 a person, twin share, including all taxes, fees and gratuities.