When the 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas debuts in Ft. Lauderdale this December, passengers will make one final stop before boarding the mega-ship: Port Everglades' newly renovated Terminal 18. Executives from Royal Caribbean and Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades were present for the unveiling today at Cruise Shipping Miami of what will be the biggest single ship cruise terminal in the world.
It's rare that a cruise terminal overhaul gets this much attention, particularly at a convention that's all about the latest and greatest in mega-ships, ports of call and industry trends --but when you're talking about a ship the size and stature of Oasis it makes sense to make a big deal.
And speaking of big, the new Terminal 18 will indeed be bigger -- it's being expanded from 67,000 to 240,000 square feet. But beyond that, the feature most hyped at today's event is its ability to process disembarking and embarking passengers at the same time. A video presentation, shown at the convention, simulated people pouring off the ship into one side of the partitioned terminal building while others were simultaneously arriving for their cruise vacations on the other side.
We must note that this doesn't mean that arriving passengers can actually board the vessel while last week's lot is still hauling carry-on bags to the gangway. Passengers that arrive before the ship has been cleared can check in and hang out in a holding area until embarkation begins, not unlike some other embarkation ports. However, where Terminal 18 differs is in the details. Because of Oasis' high passenger count, the new terminal was designed to offer a smoother and more comfortable experience -- partly via the separation of the embarkation and debarkation processes, and partly via features that will be available at the terminal, such as:
Modern, useful facilities. At the terminal you'll find a special play area for kids, free Wi-Fi access throughout and seating for 3,000 people on the second level. At this point, there is no information available on other facilities that may or may not be included, such as restaurants or retail shops. The building itself features a giant skylight and artwork by Michele Oka Doner, known for public commissions such as "Radiant Site" in New York's Herald Square subway station.
Ample parking. Expect over 1,000 adjacent parking spaces (and if you can't get a spot, free shuttle service will be offered from other local parking facilities). Port Everglades' Director of Seaport Construction and Planning John Foglesong says that the potential exists for a 2,000-space-plus parking garage -- possibly in time for the launch of sister ship Allure of the Seas, which will also homeport there -- but nothing is set in stone.
More check-in counters. There will be 90 check-in counters to Oasis' 5,400 guests -- a high proportion, according to Foglesong. (We've got a call in to the Port of Miami, where Freedom of the Seas homeports, for its check-in counter total, for comparison's sake; stay tuned.) Once the ship is cleared for embarkation, the goal is to be able to get people from the curb to the ship in 15 minutes, though Foglesong was quick to say that's only if everything is running smoothly.
Royal Caribbean chose Ft. Lauderdale over Miami, where they have based other recent new-builds, such as Freedom of the Seas, because it wanted to custom-build a terminal for Oasis -- and Ft. Lauderdale was onboard with the line's plans. Also taken into consideration was the fact that Ft. Lauderdale's airport accommodates low-cost air carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest.
At this point, Oasis and Allure are the only ships on the books for Terminal 18, but it's also open to other cruise ships.
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor, and Dan Askin, Associate Editor
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Oasis of the Seas' Port Everglades Terminal Unveiled
March 18, 2009