It was the 6,000-passenger mark that was cause for celebration for Royal Caribbean. While Cruise Critic record-keepers were furiously deleting and retyping, RCI spokesman Harrison Liu told us that passenger milestones are typically celebrated when the thousandth place changes -- 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 -- and not every time Oasis of the Seas replaces itself at the top of the world record list.
Who held the record last? It was definitely a Freedom-class ship, according to Liu, but we were unable to obtain exact stats and figures by press time. The max occupancy of those ships is 4,370.
According to a press brief from Royal Caribbean, Jerry Schmidt, a Tomahawk, Wisconsin, resident who was cruising with his wife Judith, crossed the gangway as passenger number 6,000. The couple, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary as well as Jerry's 68th birthday, was awarded a bottle of Champagne for their excellent timing. During the March 13 cruise, Oasis of the Seas sailed with a total of 6,007 guests from 64 different countries on its seven-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Add the ship's full complement of crewmembers, and some 8,300 persons sailed on the voyage.
Officially, Oasis of the Seas has 2,700 cabins, putting its double occupancy stats, a common industry measure for passenger capacity, at 5,400. The max occupancy, with all third and fourth pull-down and sofa beds accounted for, is 6,296, a number that the line may approach during the coming summer Caribbean season, the year's most popular time for family cruising.
It may be lonely at the top for Oasis for some time. Any passenger size-related record the ship sets is likely to be ironclad, at least for the foreseeable future. Royal Caribbean's main size queen competitors, including Italy-based MSC Cruises and the largest ships from the Carnival Corp. mega-ship factory (Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines), have yet to come close to 5,000 passengers, let alone 6,000. In late June, NCL will introduce the 153,000-ton, 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic. According to the line's official numbers, Epic's max occupancy is 5,226 -- but NCL has no current plans to build another Epic-sized vessel.
For some time now, Carnival Corp. Chairman & CEO Micky Arison has disclaimed his company's intention of building a cruise ship of Oasis-like proportions. As recently as October, Arison stated that Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Carnival Corp.'s largest ship by measure of gross registered tons (151,400), was probably the largest his family of brands would ever build. Arison also said that the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream (4,631 max occupancy), Carnival's largest ship, passenger-wise, will remain the company's highest capacity ship. One caveat: sister ship Carnival Magic, due out in May 2011, is slated to carry 3,690 passengers at double occupancy.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor