Last week, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line both staged big coming out parties for the innovative amenities on their newest vessels — the 220,000-ton Oasis of the Seas and the 150,000-ton F3. Both ships will be the largest tonnage at sea, but the comparisons stop there. Each ship offers a vastly different onboard atmosphere — one more family-oriented the other more adult-themed.
Wavy and crazy F3
Two months ago NCL introduced “New Wave” staterooms with their curving walls, domed ceilings and bathrooms broken down into individual components. It’s no surprise then that the cruise line that brought us “Freestyle Cruising” is launching five night life hot spots with crazy themes and never-before-seen at sea venues.
“What’s particularly unique about these spaces is they will have multiple uses — sunning, bowling, dining and, of course, party playgrounds,” said NCL president and chief executive Colin Veitch. He noted that there are less big areas on the ship and lots of small areas so guests never feel crowded.
The include Ice Bar that features a bar, walls, tables, stools, glasses and life-size sculptures made from ice. The POSH Beach Club is a private top-of-the-ship enclave. Halo, the Über Bar, is a private bar and lounge housed within the ship’s exclusive villa complex. Bliss Ultra Lounge, NCL’s around-the-clock entertainment and nightclub space, will reprise the line’s signature bowling alley. And Spice H20 is an adults-only aft pool deck experience.
Inspired by Scandinavia’s ice bars and ice hotels, NCL’s Ice Bar will be an ice chamber with changing hues to simulate the Northern Lights. Patrons will be given fur coats, gloves and hats to stay warm in a room where the temperature will not rise above 17 degrees Farenheit. A cover change to enter will include a drink or drinks.
The POSH Beach Club is a private top-of-the-ship outdoor entertainment complex. During the day, guests can lounge on white-cushioned day beds in private cabanas; at night, the space transforms into an open-air nightclub with a DJ and VIP bottle service. Programming ranges from sunrise yoga to an afternoon of nightlife with spiked POSH snow cones. The space turns into a dance club after dark.
Halo, the Über Bar, is a private bar and lounge housed within the ship’s exclusive villa complex on Deck 16. It promises “the best of the best,” from liquors to art and jewelry. Private gami0ng tables, including baccarat, add to what NCL describes as the sexiest nightclub on the ship.
Spice H2O, aft on Decks 15 and 16, features a huge LED screen. During the day, guests can sunbathe in lounge beds around the pool while listening to Asian tunes and nibbling Asian-inspired cuisine in Chinese to-go containers. As the sun sets, Spice H20 transforms into an Ibiza-inspired beach club with live entertainment and dinner served tableside or at the beds. Later, the mood shifts to a Latin vibe with dancing and entertainment.
Bliss Ultra Lounge and Nightclub, already on Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Pearl, will be aboard the F3 ships for all-day bowling or hanging out, transforming into a high-energy lounge by night with music videos and shadow dancers.
While the exact cover charge amount for each club was not disclosed, NCL says passengers will be able to purchase a “Beyond the Velvet Rope” package to gain access to the exclusive clubs.
The big O-asis
Set to launch in December 2009 will be the largest cruise ship in the world. Last month, Royal Caribbean unveiled one of seven neighborhoods on Oasis: Central Park, a large space of live trees and plants, lined with restaurants and retail and ringed by two towers of balcony staterooms. On Wednesday, the line revealed more neighborhoods, two-story loft suites with expansive views, a carousel, two rock climbing walls and the first zip-line at sea. “We’re proud to introduce a number of industry firsts on a level and scale that the world has never seen before,” said Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive of Royal Caribbean.
The latest neighborhood innovation is called Boardwalk, a space for families that is inspired by seaside piers of the past. The area will offer family-oriented eateries, retail outlets and carnival games. A handcrafted carousel will be the centerpiece and a zip-line will be suspended nine decks above.
AquaTheater is designed to offer two experiences. By day, the venue will allow passengers to swim in a large kidney-shaped freshwater pool, relax on sun loungers on tiered platforms or take SCUBA lessons. At night, the area will stage theatrical performances with acrobatics, synchronized swimming, water ballet and professional high-diving, as well as fountain shows synchronized to music and lights.
Additions to Royal Promenade, the heart of the ship, include a mezzanine level that overlooks the main promenade below. The area will house shopping, dining and entertainment options including the Rising Tide bar, which will traverse three decks as it ascends into Central Park. A focal point will be a giant copper globe sculpture built into the facade above the Globe and Atlas Pub, which will open up to create a surprise element as it unfurls on hinged hydraulics and becomes a bridge platform for performances.
Oasis will have another Royal Caribbean first: 28 two-level loft suites with floor-to-ceiling, double-height windows. The lofts will round out a new portfolio of 37 categories of rooms, many with unique views.
If these ship amenities sound like a lot — surprise! — NCL and Royal Caribbean say they aren’t done yet and will have more big unveilings as each ship gets closer to launch. It’s clear both cruise lines have tipped the scales of cruise ship innovation by developing truly unique cruise venues. Still, the question remains: What’s the real price consumers will pay to cruise on these big ships? NCL will have cover charges for the new party bars, whereas Royal Caribbean has stated their new amenities are priced into the cruise fare, but some wonder on a ship with 5,400 people how big the lines will be to utilize these attractions.