What it takes to keep a city afloat
In one day, the world's largest cruise ship prepares to set sail with 700 tons of supplies, 80,000 beers, and one bagpiper.
Keeping more than 6,300 people fed, housed and entertained while floating in the middle of the ocean is no small task.
The world's largest ship
The Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, aims to accomplish that feat nearly every week. Almost five times as large as the Titanic, the Royal Caribbean Cruises Lines ship, which first set sail last December, is almost as long as five Airbus A380 airplanes, or about four football fields. It has 24 restaurants and its own leafy "Central Park." During the week-long sailings, about 700 tons of new supplies are needed, all loaded aboard each Saturday. Guests consume about 20 gallons of maraschino cherries and 80,000 bottles of beer. Feeding more than 8,000 guests and crew takes 26 kitchens and some seriously complicated logistics.
Traveler demand for cruises is up this year - a big turnaround from last year when the recession hit the industry hard.
Lavish features onboard
Over the past decade, cruise ships have been redefined as operators have brought on-board more lavish features and activities. The Oasis, for example, has two rock climbing walls, a zip line that allows guests to fly through the air, and surf machines so passengers can hang ten without leaving the boat.
Royal Caribbean also has three other ships that can each hold more than 4,000 passengers. "Going to the larger ships just allowed us to offer so many more activities, " said Richard Fain, the company's chairman and chief executive. "We thought people would like it and if they liked it they would pay more...and at the same time, it would offer economies of scale." A one-week Oasis trip in the Caribbean this year costs about $1,458 for an inside cabin and $3,200 for a two story "loft suite" facing the ocean.
Keeping the ship in order
Ensuring a floating city the size of the Oasis operates smoothly is challenging. Cleaning the ship, doing laundry, and fixing things are a 24-hour job for crew members. Dozens of people and 18 robots wash windows each day. "It's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you're finished, you start again," says Chris van Raalten, ship manager for marine operations.
Robots take care of hard-to-reach places and metal baskets move crew along the upper decks where there are no balconies to support them. Scheduling cleaning can be challenging. Since the washing can't always be done in port, it often happens while this ship is at sail.
In the ship's belly, the laundry room hums 24-hours a day. Almost three dozen crew members wash more than 20,000 pieces of linen daily such as towels, table cloths, and sheets. Table clothes, sheets and napkins are fed into giant machines that press them. Clothes and towels are all folded or ironed by hand.
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