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Is Oasis of the Seas Going To Ruin the Cruise Industry?

Written by: Kuki

I may be the only writer in the cruise industry who isn’t salivating, in anticipation of the arrival or Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.

I have little doubt that the excitement of the debut of the Oasis will receive unprecedented media coverage; filled with glowing adjectives about the never before seen innovations, and the truly remarkable technology and design features which will adorn the largest cruise ship ever built. And in many ways it will be justifiably earned. I’m also quite certain this ship will be a huge hit for Royal Caribbean, and for quite some time garner higher demand for bookings, and higher fares than other ships in the Royal Caribbean family, and indeed competitor’s ships, new or old.

Oasis wasn’t built just slightly larger than the presently largest ship in the world, she’s almost a half again as large as the largest cruise ship presently at sea. Also, she isn’t going to be just a larger version of the same ships which came before her. She will be jam-packed with features never before seen on cruise ships. You can read about many of them here…
CruiseMates Oasis of the Seas Article Compendium

There are some concerns voiced that a ship this size will overrun the islands she visits on port calls because of the shear volume of passengers she carries. Frankly, I don’t see that being a problem. There is going to be so much to see and do on this ship on a seven day cruise that I envision a great number of people who sail her not getting off the ship at all during port visits. And that is where some of my concerns about her impact on the industry begins.

With all she is going to be will Oasis simply be a resort, which happens to be on water, rather than on land?

For some time the cruise industry has seen land based resorts and all-inclusive as their primary competitor for people’s vacation dollars. Over the last decade all of the cruise lines have been adding features which they believe help them to compete with that land based market. Such things as additional dining choices (along with flexible dining times), increasing choices for entertainment and shipboard activities, variety in stateroom plans and choices, and doing away with the traditionally more restrictive dress requirements cruise ships used to adhere to, have become common on all new ships from all the cruise lines… all in an effort to compete with land based vacation options.

Like most people I’ve appreciated many of the changes I’ve mentioned above. I enjoy the additional options and amenities. Yet, I do have to wonder if the Oasis won’t take this that step too far; a step that may change the industry as we know it.

I worry that Oasis, and her sister Allure currently under construction, will become the template for the cruise industry. Will the other cruise lines within the mass market cruise industry feel they have to go down the same road to compete with the sure success of the Oasis of the Seas?

In my mind I still see a cruise as holding a bit of sense of mystery and adventure. I’d be rather disconcerted if down the road that feeling dissipates and I start looking at them as nothing more than amusement parks at sea.

Will the Oasis of the Seas be a boon to the industry; a boost it needs in tough economic times, or will it set in motion a change in the industry that we’ll someday regret?

I admit it will take a long time before these types of ships begin to dominate the industry. But a decade goes by surprisingly quickly. Will we soon see the cruise industry as nothing more than a sea full of floating resorts, where the best thing about them is seen as a choice where you never want or need to get off the ship? If that turns out to be the case, they could save fuel and just remain tied up at the pier. At least that would lower the cost of the “cruise”.

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

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Comments

Comment from Tim Butler
Time September 9, 2009 at 1:11 am

I guess ruin is all in the eye of the beholder! Change is probably a better word. You have heard of the “Cruise to nowhere?” could ships like these start a trend of 5 or 7 day cruises that visit no port of calls? Think of the hurt that many ports could endure with these floating resorts just sailing in circles instead of bringing passengers to their lands.

I had never thought about how much more crowded a port of call would be when these ships stop. Can you imagine Cozumel? They, many times have 5-6 ships in port that carry 3000 passengers each. Add a couple of thousand more to that number and wow, talk about a crowd.

It will be interesting to see the impact these mega ships have on the industry as a whole especially considering the economic climate that is gripping the world right now. Could it be that these ships are being made with India and China in mind as future big time cruise customers?

Comment from Paul Motter
Time September 9, 2009 at 8:25 am

While I get your point, I don’t see it happening that way. The post 100,000-ton ship was first introduce in 1996, with Voyager, the first Royal Caribbean Mega-ship arriving in 1999.

Since then only eight ships as big as Voyager have been built. The Voyager and the Freedom-class.

It has not become a template – it has become an option.

The template for ships is actually between 90,000 to 110,000 tons, half the size of Oasis. Very few ships break that mold outside of Royal Caribbean.

And I should note that those that do (outside of RCL) do it mostly for scale, not to pack in more passengers. Solstice, Queen Mary 2, MSC Fantasia… do not feel like mega-ships, they feel like uncrowded bigger ships

Comment from Zydeco Cruiser
Time September 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

“Bigger is better” has diminishing returns and eventually turns negative.

The airline industry has discovered this. Airbus has a huge plane that has an extremely limited market. Boeing has one that will be more successful (if they ever get the bugs out).

When on a cruise ship (or plane), you are hostage to whatever the cruise line decides to charge you for goods and services – there is no competition. When I cruise, I want a balance between port days and sea days.

I think when problems happen with Oasis, they will be exponentially more costly than with smaller ships.

Some examples Outbreaks of noro or other illnesses; if a hurricane takes out on of the few ports, there will be no alternate ports available; late flights or computer glitches at check-in could cause a delay of a day or more, instead of hours; and God forbid, a fire.

Oasis is the wrong ship at the wrong time and I’m not sure there will ever be a right time. I think they will turn out to be Anomalies of the Sea and may even bankrupt RCCL.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time September 9, 2009 at 9:03 am

Zydeco…

Very good points. If something happens to Oasis it is a big deal. As far as hurricanes go, for the most part they will soon have both East and West Caribbean Itineraries, so they will have options as long as they plan far enough ahead.

The ship is the destination, moreover, so changing ports is less of a deal.

I think Oasis/Allure will remain more “singular” concepts, not a new trend. For one thing, Oasis ended up costing almost 600 million more than originally projected. Thats enough for another ship.

Plus – the cost to build out Port Everglades and the other ports of call was also expensive.

It just seems to me the world is not ready for more ships of this size. *IF* another line decides to build on they could use the same ports, but so far that hasn’t happened. The smaller ship has remained the template for most cruise lines.

There will always be smaller ships. Princess is so successful is because they have such a diversified fleet. They go to 100s of ports of call. They have a repeat passenger program to keep people on various Princess ships. That is a very successful model.

In the world of business you have to differentiate. Oasis is a differentiation, not a template. If everyone does it, it will become like overbuilt real estate. Oasis will serve to attract first-time cruisers, however. The word of mouth will be incredible.

I also can’t help noticing that RCL stock is soaring today on no news. Someone is accumulating this stock. It just broke through the $20 barrier, up over $2.

I actually recommended to people that they buy the stock just for the sake of getting onboard credit (not as an investment) when it was below $10. I hope some people bought it.

Comment from MagnoliaBlossom
Time September 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

I too have wondered where the megaships are taking the industry, especially in these economic times. What percentage of occupancy does a behemoth like Oasis have to have to break even? If they discount and hard sell Oasis, will that pull from their other ships? Contrary to popular belief, there are only so many people who can afford to spend savings on vacations and I am finding even some of my die hard cruise friends cutting back to one cruise a year or from several biggies to shorter cruises.

And while there are lots of folks who love to sail the huge ships, there are also a lot who prefer to not be one in a cast of thousands. I think many posters on the board echo that sentiment.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I would not look for other lines to play ‘me too’ anytime soon.

Comment from Zydeco Cruiser
Time September 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

On stock prices, CCL stock is also up. If someone cruises enough on either RCCL or CCL, I think it is a no brainer that you should own the stock.

By way of price comparison, 5 years ago, CCL stock was $46.93 and RCL was $44.58.

Currently CCL is $32.29 and RCL is $21.54. CCL stock is holding up despite the Arison family announcing last month that they were going to sell 8.5 million shares of CCL. Granted, 8.5 million shares is only about 1%.

I think that speaks volumes.

Oasis will be very popular in the beginning – all ships are. How much and how soon RCCL has to discount the cabins to keep the ship full will be a good indication of the success or failure of the project.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 9, 2009 at 11:11 am

I bought RCL at around $6 per share earlier this year, so I am a happy cruiser right now. I just wish I’d bought 1000 shares and not just 100.

I agree with Zydeco that a good indicator will be how soon RCI has to start dropping prices to fill the Oasis. If they have to go there during the first couple of years they are in deep trouble. Meanwhile, Carnival and the other lines are going to sit back and observe closely.

I believe many experienced cruisers will go on the Oasis once, just to say they have and to satisfy their curiosity. The first-timer ratio will be higher than the other RCI ships on the same itineraries.

Comment from Mike M
Time September 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I’m not salivating over Oasis or Allure. I know that MANY people are and I have no problem with it. Oasis will probably have a major impact on the cruising paradigm.

I don’t do mega-resorts or mega-malls. Even with all the “stuff” Oasis has to offer, it doesn’t make me excited.

I remember when I first read reviews of Radiance class ships. I was really excited about that. A liberal use of glass and a true feeling you were at sea. I booked as soon as I could. I wish that was the direction the cruise industry took. However they didn’t. Carnival kept building variations of the Conquest and Spirit class ships. (They have the Dream and the jury is still out on her) Royal Caribbean just kept getting bigger after three of the Radiance class ships. NCL did a build a nice sized fleet of Freestyle ships but has also jumped into the mega-ship world with Epic. I’ll sail Epic just because I want to see what it’s like and I do enjoy Freestyle but I’m not overly “excited” about the ship.

I can’t say I’ll never sail Oasis but I can say that, at this time, I have no desire and Oasis mania seems about the same as teenagers screaming over the Jonas Brothers. :)

Take care,
Mike

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I just saw on the message board where Richard Fain is complaining that the Oasis fares aren’t high enough! Perhaps a bit of sales hype, but also perhaps a bit of frustration bubbling up?

Comment from Linda (Mom of DJ)
Time September 10, 2009 at 6:36 am

I think the interesting thing to watch will be how Oasis affects the bottom line.

With RCCL posting losses for the 2nd QTR while Carnival and other cruise lines were posting profits….I am not sure this was the best move for RCCL. (especially considering the financing dance RCCL had to do to get the thing built).

So while the size of the ship may be the topic of the day, the size of the affect on the bottom line may be the topic of the future.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time September 10, 2009 at 8:51 am

Keep in Mind RCL started down the Genesis path in 2006 – when cruise fares were high and unemployment was low.

If Oasis fares are holding up this well in this economy I suspect they will hold up for a few years – not at the initial level, but still at a nice premium. This economy will recover.

I do think that the early reviews of oasis will be critical – either people will be wowed or they will be disappointed, I don’t think there will be much middle ground.

If they are wowed I think we will see a whole generation of new cruisers filling the ship – and if you can capture the young adult market you have it made.

Comment from Zydeco Cruiser
Time September 10, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I think it is well established that mass market cruise lines have to appeal to all age groups.

Given the average age of the US population is increasing and not decreasing, I don’t see the young adult market, employed or not, as the ideal target market for one of the most, if not the most, expensive cruise ships ever built.

Especially since the recovery seems to be a jobless one.

Comment from GaNavy
Time September 11, 2009 at 7:28 am

I agree that Oasis will have huge buzz and probably lots of bookings, but I won’t be one of them. Too big, too many people (I have lived in towns with smaller populations than Oasis), too many inevitable crowds at popular venues, unattractive alternative performance times, and a lot less spontaneity. (“Fred, did you get the show tickets?”) Trying to keep all those people occupied in separate parts of the ship (instead of all in one or two places) is going to be one tough nut, and I can’t see how it won’t lead to a return of the rigid scheduling that for many people was a historic problem with cruising, one of the reasons they didn’t go on a cruise.

And I must say that the reviews I’ve gotten from friends who sailed recently on RCI have been decidedly mixed, with “low value” and “overpriced” being the most common comments. What I’ve seen on Oasis pricing doesn’t convince me otherwise.

I hope everyone who sails on Oasis has a fantastic time. But I’ll be the guy waving from that pipsqueak of a 120,000-ton ship sailing nearby…..

Comment from Paul Motter
Time September 11, 2009 at 9:19 am

That’s funny – the 120,000-ton pipsqueek. But now it sounds like people are just trying to talk the ship down.

I think one can be overly focused on size alone. Oasis has a passenger/space ratio that makes it in league with Holland America, and far roomier than the average Carnival ship. If you are worried about lines and breathing room, you are more crowded on a Carnival ship at 100,000 tons for 3000 people than Oasis at 220,000-tons for 5400 people.

I do think the distribution of entertainment will work with plenty of repetition of each show being the key. The venues are far apart and the ship is designed to keep people in various areas for extended periods – NOT all rushing to the same spot at the same times.

Although I dislike the comparison, which is more appealing to you, Disneyland alone, or Disneyland plus Epcot center?

With the latter you have far more people! But you also have more space and more activities.

I don’t think the point of the ship is to cannibalize the existing market, it is to attract a new market, the “ship as the destination” market. This is a family and young adults ship. It doesn’t matter what the average age of the US is, the most desired target market is young adults because they spend the most, especially in good times. Besides, there are already 100,000 berths for the older cruise demographic any given week in the industry.

If you look at economic timing, its ideal, the ship is selling at a premium now during bad economic times, and by the time the newness wears off the economy should be stronger so they can continue to keep rates up.

I am not saying I know for certain it won’t be a crowded ship or anything else. I am saying we need to wait and see. It all boils down to the “wow” factor. If the ship has enough “wow” you will cope with the format. People have a certain tolerance level where they are OK until they are not OK. The bigger the wow the higher the tolerance.

Comment from Kuki
Time September 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

I do agree with those who think Oasis will be a HUGE financial success for RCI. And I agree with Paul, the target market for her will be families, and young adult cruisers… and that she’ll draw them in!

I’m just hoping the other mass market lines don’t make it their goal to build more of those types of ships to compete.

A decade from now I want to see the same variety of choices as exists today, including new build ships.

Comment from Suzanne
Time September 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I don’t think anyone can predict her ‘target market’. She is SO very different from any ship that has sailed before her that I think it is impossible to predict the demographic she will attract.

I think there will be many who board her with high expectations, only to be disappointed. That is the nature of building your expectations too high and I think many have done this already.

I have been saying since the beginning that I think this ship will attract a totally new demographic to the market. Her offerings appeal to a larger, more trend setting and savvy group of individuals (just the ridiculous cupcakes alone! ;-) .

But that is what makes her so exciting to me. She’s just too different for words.

Comment from Lisa
Time September 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I view this ship as a sort of Disneyland at Seas. YES! build it and they will come- But how many times? Considering the much higher price, how many people will go to the Disneyland of the Seas more than once?

Comment from Suzanne
Time September 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Well, I have an annual Passport (Premium) at Disneyland and I try to go at least twice a year. If I lived closer, I’d go monthly! I think this ship will have a lot of repeat business, just like Disney.

Comment from Debbie
Time September 13, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I think that the Oasis is going to be an amazing ship and an experience to remember. However, we probably will skip this one. I imagine disembarkation to be a nightmare (which way did my luggage go?). The fares do seem lower than one would expect so I anticipate many, many more add-ons. I would also anticipate that families will find this appealing and that the number of unattended(and often ill-behaved) children will increase significantly. I wish RCI the best, they’ll need it.

Comment from cookie
Time September 14, 2009 at 9:11 am

If you really like the motion of the ocean bigger is not better. Who wants to be on a ship with 5000 people. Not this cruiser.

Comment from lynnees
Time September 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

I can’t help but think the Oasis will damage cruising as well as land-based. It will be a big hit at the beginning but once the novelty wears off where is it going to go. Too expensive, too big, too crowded, too hard to embark and debark.

Competition with land based – for awhile – til people realize they are paying more, getting far less room and, after the have done everything there is to do on this monster, getting bored.

Getting off this ship is going to be a nightmare, and for those of us who need to go the airport and catch a flight, it’s going to be hell.

There will still be other ships. The other cruislines aren’t going to be stepping aside.

Comment from Brad
Time September 21, 2009 at 1:24 am

I have to disagree. There will remain a cruise line and cruise ship for everybody. The cruise lines would be foolish, from a business perspective, to only cater to those that enjoy large ships. Smaller, more simplistic ships are less expensive to maintain than the largest with the newest technologies. That being said, if the mainsteam lines want to focus primarily on large ships, the best way to go about it is to splinter off companies that specialize in smaller ships for around the same costs. That is how I would do it anyway, but that is just me.

Comment from Lauren Traub Teton
Time November 23, 2009 at 11:26 am

I was on the ship at sea and shot short hosted videos showing just what it’s like! Meet the handsome Captain, experience the late night club and casino scene, see the Flow Rider and Ziplines in action, embarcation, staterooms, and more at http://www.Twifties.TV
Lauren Traub Teton
founder Twifties, the FUN People around 50, and UP!

Pingback from Oasis of the Seas Cruises – Virgin Holidays Cruises
Time November 27, 2009 at 9:33 am

[...] buildup, have you been persuaded to book a place the most hyped ship in the World? There have been naysayers but the fact is Royal Caribbean & cruise agents like us have been inundated with potential [...]

Comment from darlingsapphire
Time March 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

Magnificant cruise liner – I just pray that
the people voyageing her will have pure respect for her (oasis of the seas)and not throw greediness and selfishness her way. The reason being is it took long hard
hours of men’s labour to fulfil something
this magnificant just to please people.
her way.

Comment from darlingsapphire
Time March 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

A cruise liner like the Oasis of the Seas
requires a relaxed, calm state of mind.
There should be no passengers who can’t
manage a tranquil state of mind.Only one
thing wrong – there should not be any
alcohol served on this cruise liner, and
inspection should be as rigid as airports -
after all look what alcohol and drugs do to
some people. It would be a total disgrace
to her majestry “Oasis of The Seas”.

Comment from cruiser1
Time June 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Kuki I Hate to disagree with u oasis of the seas did over run islands and in cozumel it was not crowded with three others ships at port

Comment from Susie
Time March 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Last week, the Magic could not dock or tender in Cozumel because there was no room and the water was extremely choppy…..feeling bad for those that had excursions planned.

Comment from Cruisemanic
Time February 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I think Oasis is still the one that rocks. I used to work for Royal Caribbean and my admiration for the company has grown bigger since the existence of Oasis and Allure. I’m glad they had ordered the third one.

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