Cruise Guide: Oasis of the Seas set for big debut

By Michael Coleman

A new Royal Caribbean cruise ship is set to turn the industry on its ear when it debuts in late 2009.

Its not just the sheer size of the vessel which is turning heads this week some 220,000 tons, 5,400 passengers and 2,700 staterooms but rather what Royal Caribbean will do within the space of the worlds largest cruise ship.

Oasis of the Seas will feature cruisings first neighborhood concept complete with a Central Park, Boardwalk (look for eateries, retail outlets, carnival games and a handcrafted carousel) and AquaTheater, a venue that will host acrobatics, synchronized swimming, water ballet, professional high-diving and elaborate fountain shows – synchronized to music and lights – in the evenings.

Look, too, for an urban living concept aboard the ship as 28 two-level loft suites an industry first – will also be introduced. The ship will feature 37 different categories of accommodation

Two rock-climbing walls and the first zip-line at sea, suspended nine decks above Boardwalk, have also been incorporated in the design.

But, the Pool and Sports Zone and the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center neighborhoods, unveiled this week, have only added to the vessels wow factor.

Stretching the length of the ship, the Pool and Sports Zone will feature private cabanas, pools and two FlowRider surf simulators and a sports deck with the first Beach Pool at sea. It will have a sloped entry, flanked by two whirlpools.

Look also for an intimate adults-only Solarium featuring a tranquil swimming pool, two serene whirlpools, and four cantilevered whirlpools suspended 136 feet above the ocean. The Solarium will feature a Bistro by day then it transforms into a romantic and intimate setting for specialty dining and dancing under the stars.

Royal Caribbeans signature H2O Zone a kid-friendly onboard waterpark has also been designed for the young at heart. Separate wading and current pools, as well as a dedicated infant and toddler pool, will be surrounded by both adult and child-sized lounge chairs. 

The water fun aboard the ship does not end there, however. The more competitive set will find haven in the Sports Pool, where afternoon water team sports will include basketball, badminton and water polo while the morning hours will be dedicated to lap swimming. 

Royal Caribbean favorites such as the nine-hole miniature golf course, Oasis Dunes, will challenge players of different abilities while the Sports Court will house basketball and volleyball courts.

The Vitality at Sea Spa, meanwhile, will include a Thermal Suite featuring heated tile loungers, saunas and steam rooms; three couples massage suites and seven individual treatment rooms. Kids and teens will also find their own dedicated Spa in which to enjoy specially catered services. 

The Fitness Center will offer a varied selection of the latest cardio and resistance equipment for working out alone or for joining one of several onboard classes, including spinning, kickboxing, Pilates and yoga. 

The 16-deck ship will sail year-round from Fort Lauderdale. Bookings open Sept. 3.

Cruise Guide: Luxury lines unveil shorter itineraries

By Michael Coleman 

Short cruise getaways are now being offered by many of the worlds leading premium and luxury brands.

Best known for in-depth itineraries and longer days at sea, premium lines like Celebrity and Holland America and luxury brands (Cunard, Regent, Silversea) are tapping into consumer demand.

Celebrity Century, for instance, will return from a summer/fall season in Europe to offer a host of short itineraries departing from Miami in 2009. These include a two-night roundtrip to the Bahamas; four-night roundtrips to Key West and Cozumel; and five-night voyages to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Georgetown, Grand Cayman. An alternate five-night itinerary combines Key West with Georgetown. Look for these voyages through April, 2009.

The pioneer of transatlantic travel, Cunard, continues to be the only cruise line to offer regularly scheduled, six-day transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2. In addition, the ship will offer two special short cruises, roundtrip from New York in 2009: a five-day Fourth of July Getaway to Halifax, Nova Scotia and Boston July 1-6; and a four-day Labor Day Getaway to St. John, New Brunswick over the Labor Day weekend. 

Cunards Queen Victoria will offer four, four-day trips in Europe in 2009, all roundtrips from Southampton: the Spring Adventure featuring Cherbourg, Rotterdam and Zeebrugge departing May 2; and the “Gallic Getaway” featuring the same ports and departing August 29, October 22 and December 5. 

The West Coast, Caribbean and Australia/New Zealand will be the star attractions for Holland Americas short cruise program in the coming year. Five ships will offer one- to five-day sailings from Vancouver in September as the vessels are repositioned to other parts of the world. Destinations include San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. The Oosterdam also will make a three-day trip on September 27, from Seattle to Vancouver. 

Newly-christened Eurodam offers a three-day roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale October 15 to the Bahamas. On March 16, 2009, the Volendam will feature a three-day sailing between Auckland and Sydney.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has one itinerary that is less than one week in length. On May 10, 2009, the Seven Seas Navigator will depart from Funchal on the island of Madeira and arrive, six nights later, in Monte Carlo on the European Riviera. After a day at sea, the ship will call at Malaga, Valencia, Barcelona, and St. Tropez. 

Silversea, meanwhile, offers a unique twist for potential passengers. The lines Personalized Voyages program enables vacationers to check in and check out from their voyage according to their own needs and wishes. 

Instead of being locked into a fixed number of days aboard ship, Silversea guests are able to customize their voyage by selecting their ports of embarkation and disembarkation, creating a journey as short as five days. This could mean a few days on the French or Italian rivieras or a luxurious honeymoon experience completely tailored to individual interests and personalized time frames.