Curious about the fever pitch surrounding Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, set to become the largest and most innovative ship ever built when it debuts in December
2009? Interest piqued by the chance to be the first to know about the latest onboard innovations? Do you want to be the first in your neighborhood to know the up-to-the-minute details about ship features?
Then mark your calendar for Tuesday, August 26. That's when, in a relatively democratic fashion, Royal Caribbean will hold its first Oasis of the Seas reveal that's open to anyone on earth, including you (if you have access to the Web, that is, so there is actually some inherent exclusivity). The virtual "event" will be held from 6 p.m. - midnight (East Coast time; adjust your clock if you live in the U.K. or on the West Coast). The Oasis presentation will begin at 8:30 p.m.
It's all part of a virtual tradeshow sponsored by Royal Caribbean and travel agencies AAA and CAA -- American and Canadian arms of the same mega-agency outfit -- that aims to intrigue by revealing two new neighborhood concepts for Oasis, plus offer the chance to listen to presentations about Royal Caribbean, Oasis of the Seas, AAA and CAA; interact with execs, travel agents and other consumers by means of online chat; download company brochures; and even book a cruise if you so choose (but not for Oasis of the Seas; bookings for that ship won't open until September).
Royal Caribbean's open-arms approach is quite a contrast from previous events unveiling details about Oasis of the Seas to elite groups of VIP's, journalists and travel agents.
There's still quite a bit unknown about Oasis of the Seas at this point (which is not necessarily unusual for a ship whose debut is 15 months hence). We do know that the massive 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger vessel, which will be 40 percent larger than the world's current biggest ships ever (Freedom-class trio), will focus on themed neighborhoods. Already, Royal Caribbean has revealed that passengers will be able to hang out in "Central Park" (with real grassy areas and live flora and fauna), the Boardwalk (complete with vintage carousel), and The Promenade, an indoor shopping mall with glass-domed roof. The AquaTheater, located aft, is aimed at offering a poolside venue by day (with SCUBA lessons) and staging aerial water shows by night.
As well, Royal Caribbean has confirmed that the ship, whose inaugural cruise will depart from its Ft. Lauderdale homeport in December, will spend its maiden season trawling the waters of the Eastern Caribbean; calls on the typical seven-night itinerary will include St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau, along with three full sea days.
But we want to know more -- don't you?
Here's how it'll work:
You must register by going to go.virtualtradeshowslive.com/AAAOasis.
On the day of the event, once you're logged on, you'll enter a virtual campus, complete with cartoon characters mulling about, where you'll see three different venues:
There's the "auditorium," where video and PowerPoint presentations will be hosted by live speakers (still to be determined who will be presenting). Again, the Oasis presentation will begin at 8:30 p.m. You will be able watch the presentation, and a question and answer session will follow.
In the "expo hall," you'll find several booths set up, including dedicated places to learn about RCI cruisetours, the Crown & Anchor society (RCI's past-passenger program), Royal Caribbean and Oasis of the Seas. The booths will be staffed by Royal Caribbean employees, with whom you can engage in a private chat via your keyboard -- you'll also be able to download information about the sponsors.
The "lounge" is basically a big open chat room, where consumers, travel agents, press and people from Royal Caribbean can yuk it up on subjects ranging from first-time cruise travel to the most important topic of the event, Oasis of the Seas' newest neighborhoods.
Other facets include the ability to customize your profile, adding such things as your job title and personal info ("biography"), creating an avatar to distinguish yourself visually, and doing things like "turn off the show floor chatter" (slightly confusing to begin with, but we understand the attempt at realism).
We're told by the company handling the technical aspects of the event that, unlike at "real" events at concrete and mortar venues, there's no limit to how many people can attend (though if you can't make it or prefer to check it out afterwards, the virtual trade show will remain available for three months).
And if you're looking for a basic example of how to navigate at the event, check out the Ziff Davis Web site and click on On-Demand Events. You'll have to register individually for one of the archived events to see how the platform works.
We'll see you at the Oasis of the Seas reveal. And following the event, join Cruise Critic for a night of gossip and giveaways! Stay tuned for details on our special after-party.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor