It’s finally here!

Oasis of the Seas that is!

The Oasis of the Seas was accompanied by a flotilla of small boats and doused by water cannons as it headed into its new home port of Port Everglades on Friday. Royal Caribbean executives and local leaders waited to greet the $1.4 billion ship, which has taken six years from conception to completion.

This year has been one of the most exciting in the cruise industry as by year end it will have seen the introduction of 9 new cruise ships. The biggest and most discussed new vessel is, of course, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Slated for her first voyage in December, this floating city will rank as the largest cruise ship in history. Weighing in at 220,000-tons, the 5,400-passenger ship has created a buzz ever since Royal Caribbean announced the project. The Oasis will feature neighborhoods that replicate land based sites like Central Park and the Boardwalk. Other innovations include an onboard “zip-line”, Aqua Theater and a bar that raises five stories like an elevator. These are in addition to the many distinctive features that are already present on Royal’s Freedom class ships.

While the Oasis may have been making the biggest splash, several other lines are showcasing new ships this year. Carnival are debuting the Carnival Dream. The Dream is the first brand new design for the company’s Fun Ship line since 2002. Some of the new features include the indoor-outdoor Ocean Plaza, with coffee shops, bars and ocean views, Cloud 9 Spa (Carnival’s Largest), two twister waterslides, (the longest at sea), and a two-deck mini-golf course. There will also be a new range of cabin types such as “cove balcony” cabins—closer to the water line than any other ship’s verandah staterooms and family-friendly accommodations with two bathrooms and sleeping arrangements for up to five people.

Many prefer somewhat smaller ships and the different ambiance they provide. Costa has taken a different approach by building a ship that can transit the Panama Canal. (many of the new builds can’t). The Costa Luminosa boasts a 3D cinema and a rollerblading track as well as a more extensive choice of itineraries. In a unique dual naming ceremony, Costa will be introducing Costa Pacifica, a sibling to the Costa Serena style of big-ship design, as well as the Luminosa.

Other new stars on the horizon include the Seabourn Odyssey, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit, and Viking Legend that will all lay claim to new designs and be the largest of all their fleet mates. The Odyssey will feature the largest spa on any luxury vessel. The 11,400-square-foot spa will span two decks and include indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, as well as a Kinesis wall in the fitness center and spa villas available for rent.

Many sister ships make their debuts this year with the introduction of Costa Pacifica, MSC Splendida, Celebrity Equinox, and AIDA Luna. These ladies take their design from their trend-setting older sisters and will share the title of biggest in fleet. The amenities on most of these ships will be fairly similar, with the exception of some changes in specialty restaurants and minor design modifications.

One thing is for certain, no matter your size choice, 2009 has been a great year to take a cruise and our office at CruisePlanners has been very busy as vacationers rush to book their cruises at bargain basement prices. It won’t last long though even with the arrival of all these new ships.

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