November 21, 2009
(4:33 p.m. EST) -- Cruise Critic has three reporters onboard Oasis of the Seas this weekend -- Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief; Melissa Paloti, managing editor; and Ashley Kosciolek, copy editor -- but they're doing more than just zip-lining and cupcake-eating 24/7. On Saturday morning, a press conference took place at Comedy Live, and Cruise Critic was there to get the scoop on all things Oasis.
Speaking on behalf of Royal Caribbean at the Q&A were Richard Fain, longtime Royal Caribbean CEO; Adam Goldstein, RCI's president; Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of hotel operations; and Captain Bill Wright, senior vice president of fleet operations and Oasis' captain.
The first event on tap was a video showing of Oasis' "logbook," which traced the ship's history from conception to completion. It was gorgeous and moving (our sentimental editor-in-chief was moved to tears!) -- and particularly impressive for having been created by STX Europe in Finland, the shipyard that built Oasis of the Seas (rather than Royal Caribbean's marketing machine). Fain, clearly surprised by the logbook's sentimental punch, commented, "Finns are supposed to be so staid and upright, and I thought that was a remarkable video." (Editor's note: There's a possibility that Royal Caribbean may actually sell the video in the gift shop.)
Many of the questions from the journalists in attendance focused on the impact of Oasis of the Seas on Royal Caribbean's future, as well as the future of the ship itself. Here are the juiciest tidbits from today's event:
Question: How much of the future of Royal Caribbean depends on the success of Oasis and Allure?
Answer: Fain responded, "Game changing has been our tradition from the beginning. I go back to before I was born 40 years ago [he gets a big laugh from the crowd as he is presumably somewhat older] with the first ship in the fleet, the Song of Norway. In her own way she was game changing, focusing on cruising as opposed to being a converted transatlantic liner."
Question: Will Oasis of the Seas (and its sister, Allure of the Seas, due out next year) dominate the fleet? Will it result in too many cruises to the Caribbean, too many ships and berths to fill?
Answer: Says Goldstein, "Oasis of the Seas will play a major role in the fleet in that it's augmenting a fleet that allows us to offer cruises all over the world. There's a domino effect that allows us to go out further, that frees up ships from our South Florida roots."
Indeed, Royal Caribbean, along with Carnival Corporation's Costa Cruises, is a real pathfinder in opening up cruising to passengers beyond the traditional North American market. Royal Caribbean, for instance, is stepping up its presence in Asia, with the year-round positioning of Legend of the Seas there. Independence of the Seas will be the largest ship ever to sail out of the U.K. year-round.
"On the other hand," Goldstein continues, "this ship will be from the get-go a powerful draw for international customers who are happy to get on airplanes from all over the world to experience Oasis." He says that it is anticipated that one quarter of Oasis passengers will come from outside North America.
Question: Will Oasis and Allure be permanently and forever anchored in the Caribbean?
Answer: Goldstein basically said that it's not out of the question that the ships might move out of the region. He said, "We had no clue that Voyager of the Seas would ever go anywhere but out of Miami. Oasis will go wherever the market takes it. We assume that ports that want it and markets that can support it will do whatever needs to be."
Question: Will Royal Caribbean ever tweak Oasis of the Seas' itinerary to give the ship more time at sea and less in port?
Answer: Says Goldstein, "We would not seriously contemplate adding a day at sea even though there are so many options onboard. Three days in sea, three days in port, is a winning formula for us."
For more insights, opinions and photos of the ship from our roving at-sea reporters, check out our Oasis Blog.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief, and Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
--Photo is courtesy of Royal Caribbean
Oasis Blog: Photos, Insights, Vignettes