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Cruise ship: How big is too big?

By Greg Goodsell
March 4th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship. It seats over 8,500 passengers and offers a plethora of fun activities. It has led some people in the travel industry to ask how big is too big?

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) Travel corespondent Margot Dougherty with Conde Nast Traveler says "long gone are the days when travelers boarded oceangoing vessels solely as a means to an end—to get from the Old World to the New and, if things didn't work out so well, maybe back again. When the advent of the Jet Age removed the imperative of transatlantic voyages, cruise lines rejiggered their vessels, morphing first into floating hotels that would sail from port to port and then, more recently, into destinations in and of themselves," Dougherty says.

She notes that the Oasis of the Seas has a handsome promenade where visitors can buy everything from cupcakes to gold chains, pizza parlors to karaoke bars. "There's little you can't do here on the Royal Promenade of the world's largest cruise liner—except perhaps believe that you're on a ship. At 222,000 tons, Oasis is the biggest cruise ship ever."

One of Oasis's biggest marketing draws is Central Park, "a 'neighborhood' with a walkway that winds around plant beds and past numerous opportunities for passengers to spend (money)," she adds.

"On average, 25 percent of a cruise line's profits come from onboard sales and shore excursion fees, so the more opportunities a ship offers guests to spend money, the more it adds to the bottom line."

On the surface, while the Oasis appears to be just another gaudy ode to greed and consumerism there is a humanitarian to the giant pleasure vessel as well. The ship makes a stop at the port of Labadee, a peninsula on the north shore of Haiti.

Dougherty adds that the struggling nation of Haiti "receives $6 for each cruise passenger, and the numbers take on new meaning given the Brobdingnagian size of Oasis  ... This year, when the need is more desperate than ever, passenger ships will call on Labadee 250 times. Assuming that the money actually does go to help the Haitian people, Royal Caribbean will have an even stronger case that sometimes bigger really is better,"

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