The week of February 16th to the 23rd, 2013, my brother and I sailed on board Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Oasis of The Seas. The Oasis of The Seas and her sister ship, Allure of The Seas, are the two largest cruise ships in the world. Both ships are 1,187 feet long, 208 feet wide, and weigh a whopping 225, 000 tons. We were among the mind-blowing crowd of 6,296 on board that week. I’ve never seen a city of people on a single vessel like that in my lifetime. The width, weight, and length may say a lot, however, seeing what goes into operating a vessel of immense proportion was another story. My brother signed us up for the Oasis All-Access Tour, a three-hour tour of the ship’s behind-the-scenes operations. By the description, I knew it was going to be something good and something grand. Let me tell you, it sure was!
The Oasis of The Seas All-Access Tour began early in the morning on the final day of the cruise. The Oasis of The Seas All-Access tour is done three times during each cruise. All three tours are conducted during sea days. The tour began at one of the newest and most intriguing public areas. The tour began at the AquaTheater, on Deck 6. The Aqua Theater is located at the very rear of the ship in the Boardwalk neighborhood. We were shown all of the bells and whistles of the aqua show production. The stage manager showed us how cues are programmed, and how the fountains and pool floor are operated. The AquaTheater is home to the deepest pool at sea. The retracting floor in the AquaTheater pool can be lowered as far down as 17.9 feet, making it the deepest pool on board. For the safety of the divers, the pool has to be that deep. For further information, the Men’s International Belly-flop Competition is held in the AquaTheater. It’s an event not to be missed, especially in a theatrical atmosphere.
Once done visiting the behind-the-scenes areas of the AquaTheater, we continued on to the ship’s galley. The ship’s executive chef demonstrated to us the operations of the Oasis’s main dining room. The Opus dining room on board the Oasis is no run-of-the-mill dining room. It’s a dining room operation far more complex than Royal Caribbean’s other vessels. The Opus dining room holds up to 5,400 guests, and more than 30,000 meals are served there each day. The executive chef explained to everyone in the tour group how the kitchen staff prepares the food, how they manage the crowd during certain events, and how the menus are planned out. I work with Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of The Seas in Bayonne, NJ. The Explorer carries a city of guests too, about half the size at 3,600. Imagine a restaurant crowd of nearly 5,000 guests and handling that twice each evening. Things that make you go “Hmmmmmm!”.
The next stop on the tour route was the guests and crew laundry facility. Wow, was that an operation to behold! You have to see the size of the washers, the dryers, and ironing machines. They are nothing like you have at home. Each washer holds up to two hundred and seventy-five pounds of soiled sheets or clothing. Each washer uses up to fifty gallons of detergent per load. In another area of the laundry area, we were shown where the soiled bed sheets, bath towels, and pool towels are sorted and folded after being washed. We were then shown the area where the crew and staff laundry is handled. Their uniforms are handled separately from the guests laundry. After all, imagine the captain’s formal uniform arriving at your stateroom door by mistake? That would be kind of odd, wouldn’t it? That’s why they’re handled separately. When you do your laundry at home, you’ll wonder how minuscule your laundry load is as opposed to the Oasis. The Oasis’s laundry load is large enough to bury your home completely. Imagine that!
The very next part of the tour was the ship’s nerve center, the bridge. On the bridge, one of the junior officers showed us the ship’s radio communication area, the ship’s throttles, the radar systems, and the main navigational controls. We were even shown the quartermaster, the little wheel which the ship could be manually steered. If you could picture the steering wheel on a kiddy ride at an amusement park, that’s how small the quartermaster is. I tried to hold in my giggling. It was incredible to imagine a massive ship being manually steered in and out of port by using a wheel that size.
Lastly, the man himself came out to speak with us. Captain Patrik Dahlgren, from Sweden, demonstrated to us many of the other technical systems on board. He even welcomed us to ask questions. Captain Dahlgren was a very young captain, only thirty-seven years old. He’s been a master for seven years. When he was done speaking with us, he welcomed guests to have pictures taken with him. Meeting him and speaking with him in person was a great experience. He was very personable and highly social.
Finally, we moved on to the last part of the Oasis of The Seas All-Access Tour. We were taken on a tour of the crew and staff’s recreational areas. Do you believe that the Oasis crew and staff have their own disco on board? I kid you not. We were shown the crew and staff disco, the crew bar, and the crew mess area. Just like the guests eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Windjammer buffet upstairs on Deck 16, the crew and staff have their own dedicated Windjammer down below on Deck 2. It wasn’t any smaller than the Windjammer on Deck 16. It was about the same size, featuring very much the same amount of food selections. While we were being shown the crew and staff’s Windjammer, we were each given a Smile-a-gram. Each guest was to give that card to a member of the crew or staff who made an impact on their cruise vacation. A guest writes that crew member’s name on the card, and hands it to the crew member at some point during the day. The Smile-a-gram is a sign of the guest’s appreciation for what that crew member’s service throughout the week.
The Oasis All-Access Tour is a tour experience not to be missed. If you’re in good physical shape to handle steep stairwells and a long walk around such a massive vessel, then the Oasis of The Seas All-Access Tour is definitely for you. Is the tour worth the money? It sure is. The tour is not cheap, at $150.00 per person. Seeing and discovering how a monster ship like the Oasis operates 24-7 is well worth the three hours and the money. Guests are welcomed to take as many pictures as they want, but no video taping is allowed. If you enjoy cruising, and truly enjoy sailing with Royal Caribbean, signing up for the Oasis All-Access Tour is a must. From watching laundry being handled, to seeing food being prepared, to seeing how the deepest pool at sea is managed, and to seeing how such monster ship is navigated, you’ll wander why the ship is called the “Oasis”.