No better way to get your feet wet with cruising vacations than to leap aboard the biggest ship of them all: Oasis of the Seas. The Royal Caribbean line is mighty proud of its behemoth ship – I’ll set sail today (why do they call it that if there are no sails?) from the RC Dock 18 out of Port Everglades around the Caribbean.
It’s my first cruise, and I’m honestly nervous – I’m wary of the idea of being with 8089 other passengers and crew – holed up, as it were, on the high seas where there’s no way to bail. I’m a social animal only so far – so I’ll be ferreting out the quiet corners beyond my stateroom to avoid the crowds.
But this is not the first encounter with cruise ships; only my first aboard one for more than a few hours.
On the high seas
As a girl growing up in Fort Lauderdale, I was a water baby – if we weren’t at the beach picnicking and cooking breakfast, we were out fishing on my dad’s boat. Or, if no fish, waterskiing 15 miles off the coast in my boat. (I seriously doubt I could be convinced to do that today – how dumb to be about where the Gulf Stream crosses through, with all those sharks that love the warm water.)
To get “outside” to the Atlantic and start trolling for dolphin and kingfish – or the occasional wahoo or tuna – we’d have to go out Port Everglades.
We’d often get to see all the US Navy ships, subs or other vessels in port at any given time. We’d see the cruise ships – there were several flying international flags – Holland America, Norwegian-America, Cunard and others.
I believe it was the Queen Mary that stopped over in Port Everglades on her way to retirement in Long Beach, Calif., that we saw in the late ’60s. Every boater in Fort Lauderdale was on the water that day – it was chaos with boats, yachts and tugboats, as well as all the police boats trying to control the boat traffic, trying for an up-close look.
I was as much fascinated by the tugboats and enormous lines used to tow the boats as I was by the ships. The outside of them would be all I’d know of them for many years, till the dippy TV show The Love Boat gave viewers an inside view of the ships – and probably created a huge market for singles-only cruises.
Aboard for food coverage
Only recently have I been aboard a cruise ship – a small one daytripping to the Bahamas for my son’s wedding. It was just one grade above a ferry; nothing to get excited about – but the drinks were good.
I toured a Holland-America ship last year when they introduced new gourmet dining partners and I was covering them – friend Charlie Trotter was among those designing menus for the ship. It was impressive, as was the food – with a host of nice spaces and restaurants, decks – an art gallery – and my favorite: the captain’s bridge. Learning how they stabilize the ship on rough seas with outriggers was fascinating.
One giant ship
That ship pales in comparison to the size of the Oasis – the Titanic of the seas today, apparently.
Just the facts: It weighs 220,000 tons, has 15 decks, carries a crew of 2,150 and 5,400 passengers. It’s 213 feet high with a beam of 154 feet. It’s powered by eight V-12 engines with 17,500 hp each; it travels at 20.3 knots at cruise speed.
It’s got a mess of activities – the FlowRider (a surf simulator), a zip line, big spa, live theater (Chicago is on stage this voyage), casino (I can use my new Vegas skills – maybe), several restaurants, “Central Park” – with live trees and paths, a mini golf course and rock climbing wall – to name a few. I think, there are 22 pools – the main activity of cruisers is pool-lounging.
I’ll be reporting back sooner or later – I’m aboard to cover the food and restaurants initially, but will be writing about the whole experience.
Wish me luck.