|Oasis of the Seas in The Solent, on her first visit to the UK in 2009|
There’s much anticipation over the arrival in the UK next week of Oasis of the Seas, one of the two biggest cruise ships in the world.
Oasis will spend next Wednesday alongside at Southampton’s City Terminal, after a short season of cruises in the Mediterranean and an even shorter visit to dry dock in Rotterdam for her scheduled 5-year check-up.
Royal Caribbean’s 1,181-ft long ship, which can carry a maximum of 6,360 passengers and 2,164 crew is at least 40 per cent bigger than any passenger ship to have ever visited the port.
But it’s not the first time the ship has been in British waters. On November 2, 2009, I watched from the shore at Lee-on-the-Solent as the 222,900-ton vessel paid a brief visit en route from the Finnish shipyard where she was built to her future homeport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
A number of workmen who stayed on board when Oasis left Turku had to be disembarked before the ship began her Transatlantic crossing. Dusk was falling as the vessel came to a halt in The Solent and the men were transferred to tenders for the journey ashore..
Bringing Oasis further up Southampton Water presents its own challenges. Its crew are used to operating in the Caribbean, where tides do not reach the 15-ft range it may experience next week. Instead of using the air bridges from the terminal building, or entering the ship at its breathtaking Royal Promenade level, passengers are likely to embark low down on Deck 2.
It’s a busy day in Southampton with a total of four cruise ships in port as well as container and other cargo traffic. Oasis will wait until almost midnight before casting off and making a three-point turn at the port’s Upper Swinging Ground.
Even to get guests on board – some simply as day guests, others to make the 12-night crossing to Fort Lauderdal via Vigo in Spain – will stretch Southampton’s passenger-handling capabilities.
Extra check-in desks and security screening will be available – all good practice for when 4,200-passenger sister ship Quantum of the Seas arrives for a short stay at the end of the month, and its twin, Anthem of the Seas, begins regular cruises from Southampton next year. Royal Caribbean claim that by expecting Anthem’s passengers to check-in online, and with the use of mobile phone apps to track luggage, they will get guests from kerbside to cabin in 15 minutes.