Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

Managing a Floating Garden on The World’s Largest Cruise Ships

My name is Thomas Brownlee and I’m the officer in charge of Horticulture and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. I got started in the field of Horticulture when I was in 11th grade as a summer gardener while on break from high school in Southern California, where I was born and raised. My degree is in Ornamental Horticulture and I hold a “Certified Desert Landscape Professional” certificate from the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix— one of the most prestigious certificates you can acquire in Arizona.

My whole career has been in the field of Public Park Maintenance Management, Commercial Landscape Maintenance Management and Resort Landscape Management. One day I got a call from Royal Caribbean asking if I was interested in a position managing Central Park. It took a few times for me to fully understand that this garden was on a ship. Long story short, I have one of those unique jobs that no one has ever heard of until they meet me. There are only three Landscape Specialists for our Oasis-class ships and I’m proud to be one of them.

RCI_AL-CentralPark01

I care for all live and artificial plants, and a big portion of this is, of course, Central Park. Royal Caribbean has a zero tolerance policy on pests. The only things permitted to move on the ship are guests and crew members. There are a few exceptions, such as service and emotional needs animals. There are also small birds, lizards and frogs that take up temporary housing in Central Park which are all considered bio-control as they naturally help me out with little plant insects. When we go to Europe next year, they will all be just fine. However, I will try to have the birds leave the ship as I do not want to introduce a Caribbean bird to Europe.

Right now, the park contains nearly 13,000 individual plants, vines, and groundcover seasonal flowers, including 56 trees representing a total of just over 100 species. All plants are contained within 46 planter beds plus two massive Living Walls containing 2,200 individually sized aluminum modules (containers). Plants are a mix of coastal and highland sub-tropical species, selected for their ability to survive and thrive both in Central Park’s three microclimates and in the geographical areas that Oasis sails. Other plants around the park are either native or grown through the Caribbean and South Florida. Many of them are common indoor plants.

I love to see our guests’ jaws drop when they first walk into Central Park. People just cannot fathom what they are seeing. They have heard about Central Park and they have a pre-conceived notion of what it may look like, but when they actually see it they are just speechless. I love giving the Garden Tours which are always interesting and there’s always lots of laughter. I get a lot of praise from the guests and it really gets me pumped up and excited.

A lot of guests get tricked by the ambient sounds in Central Park. From 6am to 6pm you will hear birds and from 6pm to 6am it switches to crickets. Interestingly enough, Royal Caribbean has a funny sense of humor. If you’re on Allure of the Seas throughout the day you will hear birds but you will also hear an occasional donkey, a dog barking, a flock of Canadian geese and a few other animal sounds that are impossible to have on a ship. Some guests will be sitting at the Trellis Bar having a few cocktails and when they hear a donkey the look on their faces is priceless. It’s at that point that someone will make a comment like, “Hey, did you just hear that donkey?” with the spouse replying “I think you have had quite enough to drink.”

RCI_AL-CentralPark02

Managing a floating garden on the world’s largest cruise ships makes for a very fluid environment. I have three full time gardeners (horticulturists) who maintain Central Park, the Solarium on Decks 15, 16 and 17, Oasis Dunes (our miniature golf course), various artificial plants throughout the ships and the IPM program. We have a very solid schedule. Each week my gardeners will perform two different inspections which take them throughout the entire vessel. One inspection alone covers 132 different areas. One can easily walk up to 10 miles on these inspections in just one day. I wore a pedometer once and clocked 8.9 miles. Each horticulturist is responsible for one third of Central Park. One horticulturist also takes care of the Solarium first thing in the morning before the sunbathers come out.

“Turn-Around Days” (Saturday at Port Everglades), are extremely challenging. All 6,400 guests get off the ship and 45 minutes later a new group of 6,400 get onboard. We have a very tight window to prepare the park for new guests. I also have to go to the terminal before any new guests can enter to ensure that it has been properly sanitized and treated as part of the ship’s Outbreak Prevention Plan (OPP). Additionally, if I have ordered replacement plants, I have to inspect the shipment on the pier for pests before it can be loaded onto the vessel. Then the three gardeners and I have to get the plants in the elevator and up to Central Park, unwrapped and placed—but not planted (planting happens over the next two days). At the end of the day when we set sail at 5pm, we’re exhausted, but it’s a lot of fun in hindsight.


Being open minded, patient and creative are important personal strengths for this job. Remember that there are hundreds of books that teach you all about gardening on land but not one book that tells you how to do it on a ship at sea. What works on land may not work on the ship and visa-versa so there’s lots of trial and error. If something fails we try to figure out why and then try another plant that we think will work best for that given spot. Guests and co-workers often stop me and ask if I am okay because I am known for staring at a planter bed or looking up at the Living Walls in deep thought. I am forever brainstorming.

With 36 years of working in the field of Horticulture, I’m often asked for gardening tips. Overwatering is the number one cause of problems in the garden. If in doubt, you’re probably overwatering. Plants are smart—they will tell you when something is wrong. You just have to be very patient and keep your eyes wide open to look for tell-tale signs. Another great tip is for fertilizing. I always tell people to fertilize twice a month at half the recommended rate on pay days. Why pay days? Because you never forget pay day and therefore you’ll never forget to fertilize. Your plants will thank you for that. Another great tip is when planting herbs or vegetables. If you get a great yield from your crop that’s great, but if it fails just make a note so that when the following planting season comes around, you can try something different. A successful garden is all about patience. I am also a huge promoter of going organic in the garden.

 

12 responses to:
“Managing a Floating Garden on The World’s Largest Cruise Ships”

  1. Caroline Reeve

    I experienced an amazing family (5) holiday in April on Oasis, on the Eastern Caribbean cruise……walking through Central Park to get to the dining room, was the perfect way to be sheltered from the wind, and arrive at the restaurant without feeling wind battered……..we would really love to holiday with Royal Caribbean again! Hubbie and I are wondering if we could spend a couple of days on Oasis next summer to celebrate our 20th Wedding anniversary – Will you be releasing sampler cruises on Oasis from the UK when she comes to Europe in 2014? It would be the perfect way for us to celebrate! Please let me know…….it would be wonderful if we could have this to look forward too.

  2. Tammy Anderson

    I loved the artical and think it is a very hard job. I’m a Polk County Master Gradener with a Landcscape certification.
    Thanks again Tammy

    • Adam

      Thanks for reading, Tammy!

  3. Roberta Ware

    Do you grow the mint used to garnish drinks and foods? If not, how is it stored so that it looks fresh even on the last day of the cruise?

    • Tom Brownlee

      Hi Roberta,

      No, we do not grow mint on the Ship. It is against USDA regulations. I cannot grow any Agricultural products and similarly, Guests cannot bring on or take off Agricultural products at a Cruise/Airport Terminal. The typical species is Mentha spicata and it is cut and bagged fresh for us and we keep in our coolers. Also try the following Mint in your drinks just to be different BUT grow it in pots and not the ground as it can be invasive:

      Chocolate Mint
      Lemon Mint
      Moroccan Mint
      Banana Mint
      Egyptian Mint
      Apple Mint
      Habek Mint
      Pineapple Mint

      Enjoy,

      Tom – Landscape Specialist
      Oasis & Allure of the Seas

  4. Cee

    Dear Mr Brownlee,

    Your article about managing the floating gardens/Central Park on the Alure of the Seas is very well written and inspiring. On the point that throughout your training and other experiences there were numerous books about gardening on land – but nothing on gardening at sea; I posit that you ought to write the [missing] book or series of books.

    My three daughters are currently cruising that ship, which made me curious about it. In researching the features etc, I came upon the article and thouroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing.

    • Tom Brownlee

      Hi Cee,

      Thanks for your comments. I hope Central Park inspires you to have fun in your Garden. Yes, I am thinking about “The Book”

      Enjoy

      Tom – Landscape Specialist
      Oasis & Allure of the Seas

  5. Rebecca Wells

    Sooooo interesting. I have a green thumb and am an avid gardener. I loved this article, Thanks so much, I take our first cruise on Allure in May and cannot wait to get to Central Park!

    I always wondered about the plants. Thanks again Mr. Brownlee.

    BecciBoo

    • Tom-Landscape Specialist

      Hi Rebecca,

      Hope to see you in May. I should be there.

      Tom.

  6. Steve

    I had done the inaugural “Oasis of the Seas” back in December of 2009 and I was amazed at Central Park. Everytime we went somewhere on the ship, I had to walk thru the park. I always sat there in the morning with my coffee people watching and gazing at the plantings. It is absolutely spectacular and would love to see how it’s grown these past 4 years.

    • Tom-Landscape Specialist

      Hi Steve,

      Well, the park has really filled in and lots of color. Soon we will be crossing the Pond as we head in to Rotterdam for Dry-Dock refurbishment where Central Park will receive a face-lift. Hope to see you back on Oasis.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Close

Connect With us

Tab indicator
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
@DibartAPA2011 It's the final countdown! What are you looking forward to most onboard?
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
Glacier views thanks to comaymay.
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
Time to chill out. #alaska http://t.co/H9gyjxpPMJ
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
@stellahancock Currently Navigator of the Seas is our only ship equipped with virtual balconies. Quantum of the Seas will also feature them.
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
@DonnaMunn We apologize for the delay. Could you please send us a DM with more information regarding your experience? Thank you.
Sightsee from your deck chair.

#royalwow views captured by guest poordany on Instagram.
Vacation over too quickly? Sail back to back on Oasis of the Seas this fall and experience Europe like never before.
http://bit.ly/1lRMvKl
Some of our favorite guest photos from Labadee. http://bit.ly/1iKMoVI
We had an amazing time showcasing Quantum Dining in Aspen. Thank you to our friends at +FOOD & WINE http://bit.ly/QuantumDining
Go behind-the-scenes of some of our favorite onboard shows. http://bit.ly/1m0EMOv
In case you missed it, watch our Quantum Entertainment Hangout with Kristin Chenoweth here: Live Google+ Hangout with Kristin Chenoweth and Nick Weir
All-new shows and a Broadway favorite - Quantum of the Seas will have it all. Explore the world-class entertainment onboard: http://bit.ly/QOTSEnt
Don't miss out - join our Hangout with Kristin Chenoweth at 4:00pm EST for a special #QuantumOfTheSeas Entertainment announcement, live from the +Hyde Bellagio in Las Vegas: http://bit.ly/KChenEntHangout
Questions about Quantum Entertainment? We’ve got you covered. Join Kristin Chenoweth on 6/11 at 4pm EST for a Hangout live from Las Vegas: http://bit.ly/1oDtVKX
Fort Morro: adventure 500 years in the making. #sanjuan 

JavaScript and Flash are required to view video content. View the playlist on YouTube.

  • Sardine Bruschetta a Sardine Bruschetta at Jamie's Italian. #jamieoliver #thischangeseverything 10 hours + 15 minutes ago
  • Szechuan Beef Short Szechuan Beef Short Ribs wit tamarind glaze, scallion and lime - and that's just the appetizer. #thischangeseverything 10 hours + 16 minutes ago
  • Edible green apple t Edible green apple taffy helium balloons in the making. #thischangeseverything 10 hours + 16 minutes ago
  • Not just for decorat Not just for decoration. Grant Achatz's green apple taffy helium balloons are entirely edible. 10 hours + 16 minutes ago
  • Oasis of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas. 1 day + 7 hours ago
  • The best part of bal The best part of balconies? Sunsets. #oasisoftheseas 1 day + 7 hours ago
  • Allure at dusk. Allure at dusk. 1 day + 7 hours ago
  • Allure of the Seas. Allure of the Seas. 1 day + 7 hours ago
  • Brown bears wait for Brown bears wait for sockeye salmon to jump at Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. 2 days + 7 hours ago
  • Humpback whale watch Humpback whale watching. #alaska 2 days + 7 hours ago
  • Our favorite place to chill out. #alaska
  • Next stop: Jamaica. @AwesomenessTV's @yomuscleboii climbs one of our favorites, Dunn's River Falls. Follow the link in our bio to watch the latest episode.
  • Every day should be a beach day. #stthomas
  • Arrive in style.
  • Swim. Sun. Lounge. Repeat.
  • Leave your inhibitions at the door with Wink, an adults-only showcase.
  • Spanning from the stage to mezzanine, the Earth Harp will bring the Royal Theater to life.
  • Drummer's paradise: the unbelievable Drum Wall is made of 136 drums and is exclusive to Quantum of the Seas' Sonic Odyssey show.
  • Grab some sunscreen, we'll bring the beach blanket. #roatan
  • Sightsee from your deck chair.
Royal Caribbean at the Food & Wine Classic

Monday, July 21, 2014 11:52 AM

By Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International I recently returned from Aspen, Colorado where Royal Caribbean International was the official cruise... Continue Here to Read More…

Have You Cruised on 30 Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 10:07 AM

By Adam Goldstein, President &amp; COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Less than four months to Quantum of the Seas! As one of my law professors like to say, the “relentless march of the... Continue Here to Read More…

Royal Caribbean Expands Cruise Vacation Offerings in Asia

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 8:30 AM

By Adam Goldstein, President &amp; COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. My latest travels brought me back to Asia the week of June 16 – 20.  As always, the pace and energy of the region are... Continue Here to Read More…

Personal Plans for the Second Half of 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014 9:51 AM

Blog by Adam A quick update on my other doings as the “empty nest” approaches even faster than the delivery of Quantum of the Seas. Our family continues our involvement with many aspects of... Continue Here to Read More…

How Entertainment on Quantum & Anthem Will Transcend Anything You've Seen on Land or Sea

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 4:22 PM

Blog by Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International Hello, everyone.  Last week I had the pleasure of being in Las Vegas where we announced the amazing... Continue Here to Read More…

Catching the Travel Bug: My Explorations through SEED

Friday, June 20, 2014 11:18 AM

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s community support efforts often focus on education and social services for underserved youth. Over the years I have written from time to time about my long term... Continue Here to Read More…

Kristin Chenoweth Talks Entertainment on Quantum of the Seas

Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:05 PM

Blog entry by Kristin Chenoweth Kristin Chenoweth is a Tony and Emmy Award winning Broadway, film, and television actress. She is also the official Quantum Experience Advisor for Entertainment and... Continue Here to Read More…

How to Take Advantage of Opportunities Across the Globe

Monday, June 9, 2014 11:27 AM

It seems fitting to write this from a shipyard in Germany, because what I wish I had known when I was 22 was how global and networked my business and my life would become. When I was 22, the only... Continue Here to Read More…

Official Royal Caribbean Cruise Schedule for 2015-2016

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 3:57 PM

We announce the upcoming deployment of our ships throughout the first half of each calendar year. We typically state what they’re going to be doing from one year in the future until two years in the... Continue Here to Read More…

An Easier Way to Plan for a Group Vacation

Friday, May 16, 2014 11:02 AM

It has been a while since my last blog, however I recently returned from my first multi-generational family vacation and I want to share some thoughts about that experience with you. You may be... Continue Here to Read More…