Oasis of the Seas: A Reality

Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International's (RCI) 5,400-passenger world at sea, began a series of cruises in late November

By: By Marilyn Green

Oasis of the Seas Becomes A Reality // © 2009 Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Oasis of the Seas

After years of anticipation, Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International's (RCI) 5,400-passenger world at sea, began a series of cruises in late November to showcase its revolutionary design. ABC’s “Good Morning America” opened the seven neighborhoods to millions on Nov. 20 and thousands of agents and members of the press boarded the ship during the following days, admiring everything from the features of Central Park, with its 12,000 plants and trees, to the Boardwalk's handcrafted carousel and the dramatic 90-foot zipline angling over the treetops.

Passengers streamed through Port Everglades’ much expanded Terminal 18, now 240,000 square feet (5.5 acres) to board the ship and explore features like the AquaTheater, which leads a double life as a swimming pool by day and an amphitheater-style performance space by night, when it presents dramatic acrobatics, synchronized swimming, water ballet and high-diving performances, as well as fountain shows synchronized to music and lights. Among the mind-boggling entertainment options, the Tony award-winning Broadway musical Hairspray is licensed to run on Oasis for three years, with an option for a fourth year. The backdrop, like the one on the Broadway production, includes nine million LED lights. Instead of a Broadway-like show, Oasis has a real Broadway hit.

Similarly, shoreside name brands are showcased in the retail area. Oasis' shopping covers more than 10,000 square feet, with a Coach store, located in the Central Park neighborhood, the brand's first dedicated store at sea. The Boardwalk neighborhood has a form of teen heaven in Star Pier, an interactive shop touting an electronics wall adorned in the latest technology, tween and teen apparel by Roxy, Quiksilver and DC Apparel, as well as a disc-jockey station and a Nintendo Wii. Younger cruisers have Pinwheels, featuring everything from clothes and toys by kid-favored brands, such as Crayola, to impromptu playtime in the store's dedicated area, as well as Candy Beach, which offers more than 72 varieties to mix and match into a customized candy grab bag, as well as vintage candy treats from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

One of the most important concepts behind Oasis is to provide so many attractive options that passengers spread themselves over a number of venues, ensuring that no one is crowded. Dining is a good expample with 24 distinct experiences from Johnny Rockets and the Seafood Shack on the Boardwalk to the Opus Main Dining Room, the Izumi Japanese Restaurant and the two-deck Lido buffet.

150 Central Park is the jewel in the crown, a unique concept, since RCI decided to forego the celebrity chef who provides recipes and training for a rising star who actually sails with the ship. Keriann Von Raesfeld, an award-winning 23-year-old chef is the chef de cuisine, and oversees everything from the day-to-day kitchen operations to engaging and conversing with guests nightly. Von Raesfeld is the first American and the first woman to win the honor of ‘Best Young Cook in the World’ at the 2008 WACS Congress. She also led Team USA to its first gold medal at the Scothot Competition in Scotland and was part of Team USA’s regional team that won the first ever gold medal at the Culinary Olympics held in Germany as well as part of the gold- winning Team USA.

For the official naming on Nov. 30, RCI chose seven godmothers to represent the seven neighborhoods onboard Oasis of the Seas. The criteria were strength of character, exemplifying the spirit of giving, and being role models for men, women and children alike. The seven are:

•Gloria Estefan, world-renowned singer, songwriter, actor and author, who was godmother of Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas.

•Michelle Kwan, the Olympic Games medalist and the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history, also an American Public Diplomacy envoy promoting education, positive health practices and respect for diversity.

•Jane Seymore, a multiple Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, as well as an Officer of the British Empire, who remains actively involved in the J and J Foundation benefiting children in need.

•Dara Torres, 12-time Olympic medalist and oldest female swimmer to compete in a record five Olympic games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008)

•Keshia Knight Pulliam, the film and television actress is well known for her role as Rudy Huxtable on the classic sitcom "The Cosby Show," is the youngest actress ever nominated for an Emmy Award (six years old), she was most recently seen starring in the hit motion picture "Madea Goes To Jail."

•Shawn Johnson, four-time medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games for women’s gymnastics and cancer philanthropist, who, in addition to serving as a godmother for Oasis of the Seas, will be granting wishes onboard as part of her work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

•Daisy Fuentes, international television personality and producer, beauty and fitness expert, and recognized role model for Latin-American women in the United States, who is committed to improving children’s health and treatments through St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Starlight Children’s Foundation and the March of Dimes.

As her first guests stepped on board Oasis on November 20, her sistership, Allure of the Seas, was floated out from dry dock to wet dock on Friday at the STX Europe shipyard in Turku, Finland.

“This is simply a thrilling time for Royal Caribbean,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “Oasis of the Seas has been welcoming her first guests these past few days, and to think that Allure of the Seas will follow suit in just one short year is just extraordinary.”