Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

On board the world's biggest cruise ship

By Emma Simpson
BBC News, Oasis of the Seas


On board world's biggest cruise ship

From the outside, the world's biggest and most expensive cruise ship looks like a floating block of flats.

It is only when you are on board the Oasis of the Seas that you start to get a sense of the scale of this enormous liner, which can cater for more than 6,000 passengers.

Everything about the Oasis is vast: it is taller than Nelson's column, it has more than 3,000 miles of electrical cabling - that is about the distance from London to New York - and it weighs more than 225,000 tonnes.

One of the corridors is a quarter of a mile long. You can see the other end, but it never seems to get any closer.

Vegas on water

But what makes this ship different is the stuff that is crammed in it.

Oasis of the Seas
Oasis of the Seas from above
The world's biggest and most expensive cruise ship
Weight: more than 225,000 tonnes
More than 6,000 passengers

There is a 750-seat Greek style amphitheatre, a shopping mall, an ice rink, a 1,300-seat indoor theatre and an open-air park with real trees and plants.

It feels like Las Vegas on water - of course, there is a casino too - and it is completely overwhelming at first.

Bored you will not be, but it certainly will not be everyone's cup of tea.

Perhaps it is the idea of sharing a ship with thousands of other people.

The big test will be on a scorching hot day when everyone decides to go on deck.

With such a high profile ship, there is a lot of pressure on the man at the helm.

The bridge is tucked behind a big steel door. Not surprisingly, security here is tight.

Once you are through, the view out to sea is incredible.

Crucial investment

Captain Bill Wright says navigating the Oasis is actually pretty straightforward.

A tiny steering wheel is used for mooring the ship. Everything else is done via computers.

"This is the most sophisticated bridge of any ship in the world, that's for sure," he says.

"With all that technology, it makes Oasis of the Seas one of the easiest, safest ships to manoeuvre in the world."

Steering this vessel through difficult economic waters is a much harder task.

This boat has cost Royal Caribbean more than £800m to build.

When it was on the drawing board six years ago, the cruise industry was enjoying a boom.

Although sales have been relatively resilient during the recession, these past 18 months have been the worst this business has ever seen.

Prices have been slashed to fill ships.

The stakes are high for the world's second largest cruise operator.

With so much money invested, and with another ship just like this one scheduled to come on stream next year, the Oasis of the Seas needs to be an instant hit when it opens for business next month.

Royal Caribbean's chief executive, Richard Fain, likes to call it a considered risk, but he is confident the Oasis will succeed.

"Whilst all of our ships are suffering, it's nothing like that with the Oasis," he says.

"It's proving to be the exception to the rule. We're getting more advanced bookings... than we've ever experienced with a new ship, in our history."

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The world's biggest cruise ship
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