An Oasis In The Cruise Desert?
Cruise Week

Cruise sellers are scrambling to make money this year, and some are hoping the launch of Oasis will offer at least a little relief in the second half of the year. The new ship is definitely creating consumer buzz, and prices are actually going up, not down. One national retailer observed: If it weren’t for the economy, Oasis business would be staggering. As it is, it’s merely very strong.

Royal Caribbean leader Richard Fain is well aware that his company is onto a good thing. "The response to Oasis has been gratifying, and I think that is good news not only for us but for the agent community as well," Fain told Cruise Week. "Oasis is one of the few ships where we are actually raising our prices even in this financial environment, and that means higher commissions for the agents."

Some feel the initial audience for Oasis may reflect its appeal to knowledgeable repeat RCI customers and that its giant size might be too confusing for first-timers. But Fain says first-timers are a big market for the ship, partly because its size enables product features new to cruising.

"I believe that the overwhelming excitement is good news for the whole industry," he says. "Her extraordinary features will help attract non-cruisers to look more carefully at all that cruising offers. Oasis is not just a great commission source for travel agents who sell the ship, but it is also an immense source of marketing for them and the whole industry to help drive traffic through travel agency doors."

The concerns Cruise Week has heard regarding Oasis mainly center around logistics like getting on and off and even getting to and from the ship. One agent said it’s the reverse of NCL’s former situation in Hawaii. "With Pride of Hawaii, you sold the destination as being great, but warned people about service standards and the ship. With Oasis, it’s the reverse – an incredible ship, but the land experience could be minimalized by the very size of the ship."

The delay of the new port in Jamaica could portend possible problems ahead. And the head of an agency group recently told Cruise Week that the huge numbers of incoming and outgoing passengers on Saturdays may be too much for Ft. Lauderdale’s Airport to handle efficiently.

Fain isn't worried. "At the early stages, there were some naysayers who worried about the size. But as the sheer scope of the new features and amenities became apparent, these voices have begun to waver. And as people began to appreciate the intimacy provided by the neighbourhood concept, any concerns about the ship itself have begun to disappear altogether."

Fain says any fears regarding Ft. Lauderdale airport are without merit. "Although Oasis is larger than the average, the volume of passengers at the South Florida ports will increase by only about 2% compared to last year. This increase is negligible in the context of the enormous volume of air travellers handled by the airports in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami."

Referring to the readiness of destinations for the behemoth ship, Fain says: "The delay in starting out a new destination in Jamaica is an example of the lengths we go to make sure all aspects of the vacation meet our standards….we won’t start there until we are sure that it is up to snuff, and as much as it disappoints us to delay that, we have done so to ensure the guest experience not only on the ship, but on shore, too."

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