Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 24, 2009

Oasis of the Seas: The Be-All, End-All of Cruise Ships?

The new 6,000-passenger Oasis of the Seas is now the world's largest cruise ship.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida

“My dream ends here,” said Harri Kulovaara, the maritime engineer most responsible for the design of the new Oasis of the Seas, now the world’s largest cruise ship. “My hard drive is now empty.”

Mr. Kulovaara’s comments came in response to my question, “When you dream of what the cruise ship of the future will look like, what do you see?”

“I’ve been dreaming of cruise ships since 1986,” continued Mr. Kulovaara, an executive vice president of design for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., “since Seafarer, and the Voyager class, and all the ships in between. At the moment, I am at the pinnacle of my life.”

Media Q&A, left to right, Harri Kulovaara, Adam Goldstein, Richard Fain, Capt. Bill Wright.

Mr, Kulovaara, described by Royal Caribbean’s Chairman of the Board Richard Fain as a “typically stoic Finn”, participated with evident pride in the media extravaganza that launched the Oasis of the Seas this month. He returns to Finland as soon as the hoopla dies down, to complete work on Oasis’ sister ship, the Allure of the Seas. After its launch next year, Mr. Kulovaara isn’t sure what he will do next. He made it clear is not worrying about “what’s next”.

“Oasis and Allure have been a tremendous collaboration,” he said. “It is a quantum leap in ship design. These ships will set the standard for years to come.”

It took fully six years, from concept to delivery, to complete Oasis; Allure will take seven. Mr. Kulovaara is now 56; even if he began a new project now, he might be pushing retirement age before it could be finished.

The spacious Promenade inside the Oasis of the Seas

Mr. Kulovaara is credited with pioneering cruise ship concepts such as the open center of the ship – the mall-like Promenade or Boardwalk areas – and the split center, twin towers design of Oasis and Allure.

“I am very proud of this ship,” Mr. Kulovaara said of Oasis. “Nobody has done this before. We challenged the best naval architects in the world to execute our vision. It is very unique architecture. Ten years ago, this ship could not have been built. The technology to develop it did not exist.”

The revolutionary split towers on the Oasis of the Seas create a new category of premium stateroom, overlooking the central entertainment zones of the ship such as Boardwalk and Central Park.

The revolutionary design, however, is not likely to revolutionize the cruise ship industry. Nobody else, including RCCL, has any such ships on the drawing board at the moment. So Oasis and Allure may share their distinctions as the world’s largest cruise ships for a long time.

The cruise ship industry’s “new normal” business model probably has much to do with that. Tough economic times lately have driven down demand in the industry, just as these new super ships launch – putting the capacity for an extra 12,000 passengers into the already crowded South Florida cruise market. Kind of lost in the Oasis frenzy was the little-noticed announcement that Freedom of the Seas – a record holder itself when it was launched just three years ago, is being pushed out of the area and will now be based in Port Canaveral – sort of like going from Broadway to dinner theater.

RCCL’s rivals aren’t exactly dormant, either; Carnival Cruise Lines has just launched the mammoth Dream, and Disney Cruise Line is a planning Dream of its own.

Mr. Kulovaara’s dream will soon begin 7-day tours to Labadee, Haiti; St. Maarten and St. Thomas; for now, it shimmers in Port Everglades harbor.

Jerry Garrett

November 24, 2009

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Responses

  1. I love your new blog. It makes it easy to follow what you are up to. Thanks!


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