Under construction in Finland since 2006, the Oasis of the Seas is longer, taller, wider, heavier and more expensive than any other passenger ship ever built. It's five times the size of the Titanic and more than half again as large as the mammoth Queen Mary 2 â€” and it cost about $1.4 billion.
But the Oasis of the Seas isn't just a jumbo version of its predecessors. More important than its staggering size is what its designers have done with the extra space: filled it with attractions never before seen on a cruise ship, including an open-air park with trees and hanging gardens, a boardwalk-style area with a merry-go-round, a pool that changes into a stage for high-diving shows and a theater that has booked the Broadway musical "Hairspray."
Raimund Gschaider, the ship's "hotel" director, took me through the Oasis recently in Turku, Finland, where it's being built, including to Deck 5 where arriving guests will get their first glimpse of the inside.
Coming aboard the Oasis will be less like climbing onto a boat than like walking up the concourse of a fancy sports stadium. Instead of placing a block of cabins in the middle of the ship, the builders have stacked the rooms on either side, a radical innovation that left an airy, glass-enclosed atrium longer than a football field at the core.
Gschaider called it the Royal Promenade and pointed out stores, restaurants and the first cupcake shop at sea. And he led me up a few decks to the area dubbed Central Park where we stood under the sun in what felt like a plaza between two small apartment buildings, actually walls lined with cabin balconies.
The Promenade and Central Park are just two of seven "neighborhoods" on the Oasis. Two decks down and toward the stern is the open-air Boardwalk, complete with faux wood tiles, leading to a high-diving pool at the end of the ship. From the amphitheater-style seats, 600 guests can watch acrobatics and synchronized swimming with the ocean as a backdrop.
Nine decks up, atop the roofs of the cabins, is the Sports Zone, which might be described as a more traditional cruise ship's outdoor space if weren't for the size. I counted four swimming pools, two rock-climbing walls, a miniature-golf course, a jogging track, a basketball court, two water rides that simulate surfing, and a zip line you can buckle yourself into and glide along over the Boardwalk far below. Nearby are the luxury lofts, penthouses with a view of the sea that cost as much as $34,000 per week.
And somehow, below deck, the architects also managed to squeeze in a big children's play area, a sizable gym and spa, and an entertainment section with a theater, ice rink, casino, comedy stage and several nightclubs.
Carolyn Spencer Brown, the editor of the online site Cruise Critic, thinks the designers managed to make the Oasis feel both spacious and cozy. "I remember walking around it and forgetting I was on a cruise ship," she said in a phone interview. "The design is interesting because it tries to move people to every corner, with these separate, smaller areas."
The Oasis is equipped with the most advanced wastewater-purification systems and technology, which makes it much more energy efficient.
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