Early this morning, avid ship-watchers and Oasis enthusiasts gathered at vantage points in Fort Lauderdale to await the arrival of the 225,282-ton, 5,400-passenger ship -- the largest cruise ship ever. Cruise Critic members were out in force for the ship's 8 a.m. EST entrance into the inlet, and they reported large crowds and a definite air of excitement.
Joan Belenson (member mjbelen), who lives in Palm Beach, drove up to the port early this morning and headed straight for the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, where Royal Caribbean was holding an official welcome party with food, drinks and giveaways.
Joan, who has cruised with Royal Caribbean 11 times, described the scene to us: "There were hundreds, if not over 1,000 people down at the park watching, and the weather was gorgeous! There were helicopters above, and boats were sounding their horns. I even met Royal Caribbean's executives Adam Goldstein and Richard Fain. I asked Adam if I could get onboard, but no such luck."
Ironically, Joan was standing alongside another Cruise Critic member and Royal Caribbean fan, Logan Peretz from Hollywood, Florida (member evilblah). His first impression of the ship? "It was bigger than I thought -- in fact I think it was bigger than anybody thought!" Both Logan and Joan will be sailing on Oasis of the Seas next summer.
Member Joe Regner (Thameth) headed to another lookout -- the 17th Street Causeway Bridge -- at 6:30 a.m. to capture the moment of Oasis' arrival. "The atmosphere was amazing! The ship was taking up the whole of the inlet. There were about 35 to 40 people on this side of the bridge and another 35 to 40 on the other side."
With clear skies and the weather in the low 60's, it was a perfect arrival for Oasis of the Seas. Other ships in port sounded their horns, fireboats sprayed water into the air, and hundreds of onlookers cheered as Oasis smoothly sailed into its new homeport. By 9 a.m., the ship was docked, ready to receive its finishing touches (such as the loading of all the Central Park plants and trees) and welcome its first visitors in U.S. waters, including reporters from ABC's "Good Morning America" and pop music artist Rihanna.
Oasis of the Seas left the shipyard in Turku, Finland, two weeks ago and made a brief technical stop in the Solent, U.K., to let off 300 workers. Rough seas from a north Atlantic storm delayed the ship's arrival in the U.S. by two days.
The official naming ceremony will take place on November 30, and the inaugural cruise sets sail on December 1.
Were you there? Please post your photos and impressions of the ship here.
--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor
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