New York is about to be home to one of the world's largest cruise ships
There's a milestone moment coming this weekend in the cruise world -- one that has been mostly overlooked amidst the flurry of cruising restarts in recent weeks: New York City finally will become home to one of the world's largest cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean's famously giant Oasis of the Seas -- the groundbreaking vessel that ushered in the current era of 5,000-plus-passenger megaships -- on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, will begin sailings out of the New York City area's Cape Liberty Cruise Port.
Measuring 226,838 tons, Oasis of the Seas will be by far the largest cruise vessel ever to sail out of the region.
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Unveiled in 2009, Oasis of the Seas is an icon in the world of megaships. At the time of its debut, it was nearly 50% bigger than the next biggest cruise ship, and it was chock full of then-unprecedented features (three separate deck-top pool zones; a boardwalk-like amusement area that mimicked the Jersey Shore; and a tree-lined “Central Park” to name a few -- all part of seven distinct "neighborhoods").
Even today, Oasis of the Seas remains one of the world’s three biggest and most-amenity-filled passenger vessels. It's only surpassed in size by two sister ships that have rolled out since 2016, and only by a tad. It can hold up to 6,699 passengers with every berth filled.
Related: An even bigger Royal Caribbean ship is on the way
The first Oasis of the Seas sailing scheduled for Sunday out of the New York City area will be a non-revenue "test cruise" designed to show the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the ship is ready to resume operations.
Oasis of the Seas hasn't sailed with paying passengers since March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the CDC published a list of rules and requirements that cruise lines must follow if they want to restart cruises in U.S. waters. Among them, the CDC requires simulated test cruises with unpaid volunteers for any cruise vessel that plans to operate in U.S. waters without 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19.
Unlike some cruise brands such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean hasn't committed to operating ships with more than 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19, citing the large number of families with children who are ineligible for vaccines among its customer base.
The initial sailing of Oasis of the Seas will be a six-night trip to Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas.
Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean
Assuming all goes well with the voyage, Oasis of the Seas will begin regular sailings with paying passengers out of the Cape Liberty Cruise Port on Sept. 5.
Located just a few miles southwest of Manhattan in Bayonne, New Jersey, the Cape Liberty Cruise Port is one of three main cruise ports in the New York City area.
The restart of operations for Oasis of the Seas comes in the wake of a massive $165 million overhaul of the vessel.
The overhaul brought Oasis of the Seas several major attractions that have debuted on other Royal Caribbean ships in recent years and proved highly popular with Royal Caribbean fans. Perhaps biggest among them is Perfect Storm, a trio of multistory waterslides that first debuted on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas in 2016 and can also be found on the line’s three-year-old Symphony of the Seas.
At 228,081 tons, Symphony of the Seas is the current size leader in the cruise world.
Related: Everything to know about Royal Caribbean cabins, suites
Oasis of the Seas also received a version of Harmony of the Seas’ Ultimate Abyss, the longest dry slide at sea. It drops from the Sports Zone on Deck 16 to the Boardwalk area on Deck 6.
The overhaul of Oasis of the Seas also made it slightly bigger than it was before.
In all, the ship has 16 passenger decks. It is 1,187 feet long and 215 feet wide.
The huge success of Oasis and its sisters over the past decade helped to touch off a race to build bigger vessels among competitors. Over the past few years, rivals MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have both rolled out far bigger ships, and Carnival Cruise Line recently hit the supersize button with a giant new vessel, Mardi Gras.
Once it begins regular sailings with paying passengers, Oasis of the Seas is scheduled to operate seven-night departures out of Cape Liberty Cruise Port with stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau in the Bahamas, and Port Canaveral, Florida. Fares for the voyages start at $578 per person, based on double occupancy.
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