When Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat reported Wednesday that a deal to build a third Oasis-class ship was imminent, Royal Caribbean was quick to respond.
“We don’t comment on rumors,” spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said, “and at this time, it’s just a rumor.”
Royal might be mum, but Teijo Niemala, publisher of Cruise Business Review, said building Oasis III would be a brilliant idea. “If you look at the ticket prices Royal is still getting for Oasis and Allure, you have to be impressed.”
The 225,282-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas (2009) and Allure of the Seas (2010) are the world’s largest cruise ships and the most groundbreaking new-builds in decades, having introduced at-sea firsts such as a foliage-filled Central Park, an AquaTheater for high-dive shows and outdoor, inward-facing balconies. The line even experimented with a tethered blimp ride.
Like its sisters, Oasis III would be built at STX Finland in Turku.
There are hurdles, said Niemala, who puts the chances of a deal happening at 50/50. If Royal Caribbean is keen on Oasis III, building the ship would depend on securing financing from Finnvera, Finland’s State-owned export credit arm.
Then there’s the question of homeport. A custom-built facility in Port Everglades handles Oasis and Allure, which call in only those Caribbean ports with docking facilities.
“You would assume if Royal orders Oasis III, the line would want to modify it to be served in the Mediterranean and maybe the Far East, where port facilities are really coming along,” Niemala said. Ports in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia would have to be expanded to accommodate the ships, but those are challenges that can be overcome. “When Voyager of the Seas debuted as the world’s largest cruise ship in 1999, no one would have thought that just over a decade later it would be stationed in the Far East,” he added.
If the order is executed soon, Niemala sees a 2015 or 2016 launch date. “It would depend on when a slot opens up at STX Finland’s Turku yard,” he explained. Royal Caribbean’s German sister brand, Tui Cruises, has a new-build scheduled to launch in spring 2014 with an option for a second to launch in 2015. The option expires later this month.
There’s another piece to the timing puzzle: Royal Caribbean already has two 158,000-ton, 4,000-passenger new-builds scheduled to launch in 2014 and 2015. The “Project Sunshine” pair will be built in Papenburg, Germany, by STX rival Meyer Werft.
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–Top photo is the first rendering from Royal Caribbean’s Project Genesis ships, which were ultimately named Oasis and Allure.