(7:30 p.m. EDT) -- You know the Champagne smash is right around the corner when the final block -- the ship's crew -- is inserted into place. Oasis of the Seas' human engine has started to arrive en masse at the STX Europe shipyard in Turku, Finland.
Hundreds of waiters, bar staff and cooks are being packed onto planes and flown from Miami, Manila and Mumbai bound for their new 225,282-ton, 1,187-foot-long, 213-foot-tall floating home, the largest cruise ship in the world and the most anticipated launch of the century.
News traveled by way of Twitter from Teijo Niemela, publisher of industry publication Cruise Business Review and avid flight tracker. His tweet, via @cruisebusiness: "Finnair's MD-11 is on its way to Manila to pick up crew members for Oasis of the Seas."
Niemela tells us today that roughly 280 staffers arrived on the Finnair flight on Sunday, and 500 more were expected by North American Airlines charter from Miami also on Sunday and again on Wednesday. On the Finnish Web site Flightforum.fi, one especially excited poster left home in the pre-dawn hours just to photograph a crew-only charter flight's 9 a.m. arrival carrying Oasis staffers.
These latest crew blocks are joining a contingent of some 800 staffers already onboard. According to Oasis' hotel director Raimund Gschaider, who we interviewed during a September shipyard visit, 95 percent of the crew is being culled from Royal Caribbean ships (each ship in the line's fleet of 20 is contributing up to 9 percent of its already-trained staff). Filling the gap are zip line instructors and horticulturalists; in other words, specialists the line was unable to pull from its current ranks -- after all, its other ships don't have zip lines and acres of live tropical foliage.
Crewmembers will have some time to get adjusted to their new cabins -- all of which feature HD TV's with Internet, a cruise ship first -- before October 30, when ship and crew will leave the yard in Finland for the homeport in Fort Lauderdale.
After a few days spent adding tropical vines, bamboo and trees to its Central Park neighborhood, the ship will sail a series of pre-inaugural cruises. The christening is set for November 30, and Oasis of the Seas will embark on its "official" maiden voyage on December 5. (Click here to see a photo timeline of remaining milestones).
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor
Image courtesy of Jouni Saaristo
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Oasis of the Seas Watch: Here Comes the Crew!
October 20, 2009