Hopefully we have made clear by now to our readers that the land component of the Oasis of the Seas preparations is a significant area of focus for us as well as the governments and tour operators in each of the destinations. We very much look forward to the many enhancements that are emerging from these intensive efforts. Recently and unfortunately a colleague was quoted in a newspaper saying the ship is so magnificent that it isn’t necessary to visit the destinations. Au contraire. Our research has always shown that destinations are very important to our customers and in fact rank in the top group of decision criteria along with ship, price, sailing date and cruise line reputation. We have partnered with marquee destinations that have attracted and handled millions of guests over the decades. And each one will be better as a result of the preparations for Oasis of the Seas. In this blog entry, I have asked Patrick Schneider, Director, Shore Excursions, to update you on some of the highlights. Patrick is one of the leaders in Craig Milan’s Land Operations group.
My primary responsibility as Director, Shore Excursions is to oversee a team of account managers who identify and develop the tour programs offered worldwide on Royal Caribbean International as well as Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises. As a former Shore Excursion Manager onboard Celebrity, I am passionate about providing our guests the opportunity to experience amazing cultures around the world, to try new things they never thought they would and to simply escape from their day to day routine.
As many guests who will sail on Oasis of the Seas may have been to the ports of St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau before, our challenge was to add some twists on a current theme. Even if you have been somewhere before (even a couple times), there is always a new experience awaiting you. Many of our guests have tried ziplining, driving an ATV or parasailing for the first time on one of our tours.
So, we set out to find new experiences in ports that are well-developed and attract large numbers of cruisers every year – not an easy task for sure. But we are happy to say we have found new options in each port for our repeat guests.
In St. Thomas, we’ll have four tours that will be exclusive to Oasis of the Seas. These include a trip to St. John’s by Schooner that will stop twice for snorkeling in secluded cays which are only accessible by boat. We’re also offering a beach tour to Sapphire Beach and as of the writing of this entry, believe we are the only cruise line offering a beach experience on Sapphire Beach. We’ll have a local concierge available at the beach to assist guests. We’re adding an island tour with a twist – headsets. If you’ve taken tours with us in Europe, you may have used these and we believe this is their first appearance in the Caribbean. And finally, a trip to Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs with two stops for snorkeling. If you haven’t been to this unique island before, it’s a must see!
In St. Maarten, we’re adding a tour called The Extreme. Obviously, anything with a name like that, I had to experience for myself. It’s an intense ropes challenge course with zip lines up to 930 ft. long and 120 ft. high. Not for the faint of heart but a great experience if you’re up for it. (If not, you can always try the “little sister” to The Extreme, the Loterie Tree Top Farm Adventure.) On the Desert Island Escape, you can get away from the crowds on the island of Prickly Pear. No one lives on the island – the staff travels there each day to set up for visitors!
In Nassau, we’re offering three new tours at Atlantis. The first is a chance to swim with Giant Mantas (10 ft wide), sharks and other marine life (yeah, had to check this one out myself as well). There’s also a sea lion interaction at Atlantis so you can get up close and personal with these playful creatures. And, finally, a 9-hole round at the One and Only golf course which is currently only available to Atlantis hotel guests.
The first sailing of Oasis of the Seas has a call to our private destination of Labadee. If you haven’t been there recently, you’re in for a treat. In addition to significant improvements in the infrastructure on the site, we also have some new tours for you. Take a thrilling ride on the Dragon’s Tail Coaster – a not to miss experience! We have two different options for a boat ride with a stop to swim or snorkel. And a more laid back boat trip to discover the beauty in Haiti’s coastline and learn more about its history and culture.
Our team handles the tour programs for over 400 ports of call and we offer over 4,500 tours worldwide. We believe we can find a new experience for every guest who visits these fascinating ports, regardless of how many times they have been there before. That includes the ports Oasis of the Seas will be visiting.