We have started down the visible path to delivery of Quantum of the Seas. For some reason this has got me reminiscing about stuff that has happened over time connected to our newbuilds. One thing you can be sure of if you stay in this business for a decade or two or three – you’re going to experience some unusual things. Here are a few.
One of the first experiences I can remember occurred in St. Nazaire, France the day before delivery of Majesty of the Seas in 1992. I came to the shipyard with a takeout lunch from McDonald’s and was escorted to a room where one unassuming man was silently leafing through papers. While I ate my lunch he suddenly and wordlessly ran out of the room at full speed. I later learned this was Svein Pettersen, Majesty’s Captain (and one of Royal Caribbean’s most distinguished Captains) who was advised that high winds had caused Majesty to break her ropes on one end of the ship and to begin swinging out into the river channel. Although the ship would not become our property until the next morning, Captain Pettersen was off and running to secure “his” ship which he was able to do without incident.
In the winter of 1998 – 99 we were so excited to show off Voyager of the Seas that we deluded ourselves into thinking we should bring some top travel agents and media to the shipyard in Finland to have them walk around a “ship” consisting only of steel in the dead of a Finnish winter. It was so ridiculously cold that we needed our guests to carry cardboard around to place under their feet wherever we asked them to stop and listen to us explain what an empty space was destined to become. On a warmer note, there have been several times in the dead of Finnish winters where the shipyard has hosted us and our guests for a dinner in Turku Castle which dates back something like 800 years. These dinners have been real highlights and probably the best way of conveying to us modern folk what it must have been like to spend a convivial evening in a lonely land in late medieval times.
In the spring of 2004, I enjoyed my first (and so far only) overnight conveyance of Jewel of the Seas from the shipyard in Papenburg, Germany down the River Ems to the sea at Emshaven. Since Jewel was several weeks away from delivery, the yard captain and team took the ship down the narrow river backwards. The bridge was completely dark (not to mention at the aft end of the backwards moving ship) and the scene looked like something out of a movie thriller. On top of that, it was the night of the NCAA Final Four basketball games and we sports-crazed Americans somehow bullied the operations team into putting the games on tv in the middle of the night because we were so sure our guests wanted to see them!
Back to Finland, in 2008 those of us who were involved with the idea of Central Park on Oasis of the Seas wanted to gain a true understanding of the ambiance of the venue. The only problem of course was that Central Park didn’t exist yet. That was a trivial obstacle to our Chairman Richard Fain, who asked Harri Kulovaara to work with the shipyard to create a one to one scale mock-up of Central Park in a remote building in the shipyard where no one (i.e., our competitors) could possibly come across it. Amazingly the newbuild team and the shipyard pulled off this feat to such an extent that we enjoyed a lovely dinner in our pretend version of Central Park (think of the town in the movie Blazing Saddles).
I note that these events occur about every five years, so I’m due for another memorable experience in the run up to Quantum of the Seas’ delivery in October, 2014.