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How Big Is Too Big?

Editor's note: Content was up to date at time of publication.

When Royal Caribbean announced that it would build the next contender for world's largest cruise ship (its Freedom-class ships, which measure 154,000 tons and carry 3,634 passengers, currently hold the title), we wondered: How big is too big?

Evidently, we're not there yet, at least if Royal Caribbean has a say. The first in its next new class of ships -- Oasis -- will measure 225,282 tons and carry 5,400 passengers. The first in the class, Oasis of the Seas, will launch in December 2009. It will be over 40 percent larger than Freedom of the Seas (and identical siblings Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas). The rendering at the right compares the earlier biggest-ship-ever class of Voyager designs (such as Voyager of the Seas, Adventurer of the Seas and so on) with the newer Freedom. The jump between Freedom and Oasis -- will be huge in comparsion.

What's different is up until now, size has increased by gradual increments. With Oasis, it's a big jump. That's why we're asking: Will it be too big? An incredible 3,243 of you felt inclined to comment in our poll. This poll in particular drew not only the greatest number of voters, but also the most intense responses in Members Speak Out history.

We asked members to respond to the following questions:

Is the proposed Oasis-class ship too big?
Response: Three out of four of you, or 75 percent, were convinced that building Oasis of the Seas was simply a bad idea. Twenty-four percent were more excited by the news, and voted in favor of the bigger-than-biggest concept.

Would you cruise on it?
Response: Three-quarters of you felt it was a poor choice to build the ship; however, 10 percent of those who said "no" would still give Oasis a try. Sixty-five percent in total were absolutely adamant that they'd refuse to travel on the giant ship at all.

Member Nas-karr told us candidly, "No ... it won't have the quiet ship atmosphere to it. It'll be like a city, which I am wanting to get away from when I cruise!!!!!"

Cruise Critic legions used words like "horror" or "terrified" when describing what an experience aboard the ship would be like. Jskil5426 responded that "tendering in will be a necessary horror. Sailing on this ship will not be a 'cruise' experience!" Chyna_C tells us, "Embarkation and debarkation would be a nightmare, and even exiting at ports would be just too big a mess. Dining would be a nightmare as well."

Some members even seemed to prognosticate situations that were almost post-apocolyptic. Hystrybuf offered the following prediction (in hushed tones): "I foresee any number of nightmarish situations. Long lines for boarding, disembarkation at ports, getting through buffet lines, getting into the various venues at night."

Others felt that the size of the ship in itself would cause a safety issue. Sirspender commented that the Oasis would be "a surefire terrorist target." A member who wished to remain unnamed called Oasis "a terrorist's dream."

We will say, however, that most of you fell into the category we'd call "reserved skeptics," primarily concerned that a ship of such proportions would depersonalize the overall cruising experience.

As RuthC put it, "I want to sail on a ship that not only 'feels' intimate, but actually 'is' intimate. I want to be able to find my way around, to get from here to there, and to meet my fellow passengers on a cruise. A ship that is too big allows for none of that." An anonomyous member concurred, saying, "I fear it will be too congested -- people everywhere! I enjoy cruising for the intimate, secluded feel."

Some took a more altruistic appoach in relating their opinions, citing Oasis' potential for overwhelming any port at which it stopped. A member calling him- or herself "rather not say" said that stopping at small islands would "ruin the natural feel" of those destinations. Bontrager merely asked (rhetorically, we assume), "What port can you dock at?"

Kruzkrazy seemed to sum up the general discontent nicely: "These ship sizes are getting ridiculous. It's nothing but a p------ contest between RCL and Carnival/Princess. I was on the Caribbean Princess recently, only about half the size of this freak, and even that was way too big. Had to wait forever for an elevator."

But while three out of four members felt Royal Caribbean had lost touch with reality, still others seemed to enjoy the prospect of such a large vessel.

Maxax declared, "I think the bigger the better! Bigger means more and more options ... we always like the bigger ships! More things to look at, more things to do, just more and more ... of a good thing!"

There was also certainly a group who responded as one might respond to a display of carnival oddities: "I would be fascinated by such a vessel. I think it would be absolutely awesome, to be on that size of a ship. The Voyager class already feels like a small city on the sea, the Oasis will be just a little larger city!", said FJTinSC. Ro added that "it will be a fascinating floating hotel with all sorts of options."

What features and amenities that don't exist yet on cruise ships would you propose? What existing features and amenities (Royal Caribbean and any other line for that matter) would you like to see on the new ship?
Response: In response to these questions, many members took the opportunity to be either creative, gently mocking or a combination of the two. The most interesting suggestions were as follows:

Dmgirl, among others, suggeted shooting skeet off the back of the ship. mbeamtx suggested that the ship include "hermetically sealed children's holding facilities" (perhaps illegal). Karen Wormald wrote that "Oasis should feature faux high-rise office buildings and staged traffic jams in the atrium or centrum every morning and evening so people could feel right at home." Ramble (allowing his or her imagination to run wild) suggested "Soccer fields, ski slopes, trapeezes, casinos where you can always win." And finally, edmo suggested "A mascot dog kennel where dog-friendly cruisers would be able to walk and pet ship mascot dogs."

More realistic suggestions included building batting cages, offering cooking classes on a variety of regional cuisines, developing an all-inclusive "booze card" (kingclick), and putting coffee pots in every berth. The most common responses called for more pools, more hot tubs, more adults-only areas, larger cabins, better food, etc. Ironically, none of these suggestions really have much to do with size.

Finally, a solid percentage of our responders took the opportunity with these questions to once again express their dismay over the direction of the cruise vacation in general. In response to what features Verde would propose, this member answered, "None. If I want to play golf or climb a mountain I do it on land. How about good service and good food? Those two categories are rapidly diminishing."

Do you care about destinations at all on a ship like this?
Response:Sixty-seven percent felt that the itinerary was irrelevent, while 33 percent felt the itinerary would at least have some effect upon their opinion of the ship. Obviously, responses to this question were colored by either our members' enthusiasm or their disdain for the Oasis concept. Many offered responses like, "I will be watching where this ship goes in order to insure that I will not be at the same port on the same day."

Most members seem to feel that no port will really be able to accommodate the ship, and besides, according to dlstex, "everything passengers need will be on the ship. It would be best to just stay anchored offshore and drive around in circles." One member asked (bemused?), "Why bother with stops at all?" Many felt that the ship was a destination in itself. Of those potential cruisers who did care about where this behemouth would end up, the vast majority preferred a Caribbean itinerary to anything else.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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