Guest Post: Oasis Takes its Sea Trial

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As a part of a continuing series of guest blog entries from the senior leaders of the Royal Caribbean International brand, I have asked Captain Bill Wright, Senior VP Marine Operations and soon to be first Master (Captain) of Oasis of the Seas, to give his first-hand perspective on the recently completed first sea trial of Oasis of the Seas. Obviously it was quite a “Wow.”

Capt. William Wright

Capt. William Wright

The hotel lobby in Turku, Finland is buzzing even though it is only 3:00 am on Monday morning, June 8, 2009. Pick-up vans and taxis are lined up to take the 65 Royal Caribbean employees who will join some 270 yard workers and vendor specialists and technicians to the ship yard where Oasis of the Seas is in final preparations for going to sea for the first time. The yard has only allowed a one hour boarding window from 3:30- 4:30 am with departure scheduled for 5:00 am to ensure the right tidal and wind conditions. Ironically, the first nautical mile of her first voyage will be one of the most challenging she will ever face. With only a few feet of water under her keel and a channel to navigate that is barely wider than her beam, conditions must be perfect.

As we arrive at the yard a new day is already breaking at latitude 59˚ north just a few weeks before the summer solstice. Boarding is efficient and everyone is issued a flashlight and an extra pack of batteries, a lifeline on a ship that is 90% dark with only limited areas having power for lights.

I was happy to see that my stateroom was on deck 12, the Bridge deck, were I would be spending a lot of time. My balcony had a dramatic view overlooking Central Park and the glowing morning sky.

The bridge is bustling with last minute activity and the yard Captain, Ari, is briefed on the ship’s state-of-the-art navigation and maneuvering systems. I am only onboard as an observer as the ship is still owned by the yard and I will first take command on October 28th, after delivery.

The day is perfect with almost a dead calm and a cloudless sky. Three tug boats will assist the Captain during the critical first nautical miles from the yard and the challenging, yet breathtaking, six-hour transit through the Turku archipelago; a snaking route through the thousands of islands between the yard and the open sea.

Finally, with four of the six main engines online, all lines are let go and Oasis of the Seas slowly moved away from the dock keeping a speed of less than one knot for the first hour of her first voyage.

Once clear of the initial shallow and narrow channel from the ship yard, the first of hundreds of precisely scheduled sea trial tests began with the testing of the massive anchors and windlasses in 70 meters of water. Each anchor is lowered to the bottom and control tests are made to ensure that the measuring devices are calibrated correctly between the forecastle and the bridge for how much anchor chain is out .

It takes over ten hours for the ship to depart the archipelago and for the first time she has a clear and open ocean horizon off her bow. The transit and tests have gone without a hitch and there is a noticeable sense of relief on the bridge now that Oasis finally has deep water under her keel.

With her tug escort left behind and now in open water, the first stress tests are conducted on the main engines. Speed is slowly increased and the engines and three azipods (the 360˚ rotating propeller units that give the ship her remarkable maneuvering abilities) are closely monitored in myriad ways to ensure proper performance. All goes well for the first few hours then suddenly the port pod shuts down immediately, followed by shut downs of the center and starboard pods. Everyone is concerned; especially ABB the manufacturer of the pods, a shut down of one pod should not cause shut downs of the other pods. Power is quickly restored to all three pods by replacing the thyristors, the equivalent of massive fuses, however the root cause of the shut downs is not known. Again, power is slowly increased as before when the center shuts down, this time however, the port and starboard pods remain online. Although ABB has their most senior technicians onboard they are not able to identify the root cause of the shut downs. There are concerns that the thyristors are central to the shut downs and there are not many spares remaining onboard. With time running and scheduled tests not being conducted, it is decided to airlift new fuses and an additional ABB technician to the ship by helicopter.

Six hours later and 12 hours behind the test schedule, the helicopter arrives with the ABB technician and a new supply of thyristors. With the new thyristors in place, speed is again increased to full ahead with no additional propulsion shut downs and testing again continues.

Although the pods are now operating at almost full load, there is still concern about why all three pods shut down the first time. The center and starboard shut downs were not related to the faulty thyristors for the port pod and suspicion is directed to the software programs that control the pods. ABB does not have a software technician onboard so it is again decided to airlift one to the ship, this time from Switzerland. He arrives less than 24 hours later and is quickly able to identify and solve the problem.

While the pod shut downs caused great concern due to the tight sea trial schedule, it should be understood that this is exactly why sea trials are necessary. Complex systems such as the pods cannot be tested at the yard; the ship needs to be at sea to experience full loads.

Although delayed, the testing schedule proceeds 24 hours a day so rest is taken only a couple of hours at a time. It is a very unique and special atmosphere on the ship during sea trials. With only 316 persons onboard, all walking around with hard hats and navigating with flashlights, it is somewhat surreal, especially thinking that in only a few months Oasis will come completely to life with over 5,000 guests enjoying this remarkable ship.

The testing continues around the clock without any further set backs. Speed trials are held and Oasis breaks a top speed of over 24.4 knots at 100% power and easily meets her contract speed of 22.7 knots at 78%! Finally, at 1:00AM on Friday morning we were ready for the test I was looking most forward too, maneuvering! This is the time where we get to do things with the ship we will most likely never have the chance to do again. Like a “crash stop” to determine how quickly the ship can stop from full speed, putting the helm “hard over” at 20 knots and finding out what her top speed is going astern!

Test after test, Oasis amazed everyone with her performance and stability. Even the most extreme maneuvers could not get her to heel (roll) more than just a few degrees, unheard of for a large cruise ship! We have always said that ships with pod propulsion are the “sport cars” of ships, with that in mind, Oasis proved herself to be nothing less than a Formula 1!

The remainder of the tests went as planned and despite the initial delays, all planned tests were completed and we arrived back in at the yard only 10 hours delayed at 6:00 pm Friday evening.

Oasis will remain safely moored at the yard until her second sea trial in late September to be followed by her final departure after delivery on October 28 with yours truly proudly at the helm!

  • Michael Chiasson

    What an exciting event!! I hope to someday experience a similar adventure.
    It certainly is comforting to hear that the RCCL ships undergo lots of testing with their staff aboard.
    I’m looking forward to my next cruise and this adds to my knowledge of the ships. It makes for great conversation. Congratulations Captain on such a wonderful ship. I hope to meet you someday soon.

  • bethany

    I’m sailing on Oasis of the seas December 12. I’m traveling with my 2 yr twins. I would like to know why RCCL charges so much for the 3rd and 4th person in a room when they are babies and will not be eating your food. I would understand if they were adults and consuming your food.

  • Ann

    Thank you for honestly reporting that there was a problem and for the vivid descriptions you provided. This inspires confidence in the reporting; that you aren’t just painting a rosy picture as required by some corporate spin-doctor. This report is all very exciting! It’s wonderful to get news of a grand accomplishment in this time when so much other news is unpleasant.

  • Michael Manuele

    I would like to know what you are going to do for the passangers aboard the 4/26/09 Mexican Riviera cruise that was re-routed to San Francisco? There were numerous issues and deceptions onboard that have not yet been addressed. I was on that cruise and have not yet received any satisfaction. I did however, recive 2 phone calls basically telling me that RCCL will not do anything for us and that if we choose to spend our hard earned money on another cruise line, that would be fine. This is not the response I would expect from a so called world class organization. I am in touch with hundreds of other passengers from that week and we all feel the same…which is slighted by RCCL. We would like some consideration! I will be watching to see if this is posted and responded to. If it is not, I know what your answer is and we will continue to share our experience with others.

  • sandy nelson

    I think the Captain is a very blessed man to be able to serve and travel the world on such a beautiful ship with a wonderful line as RCL. If you need a nurse,please call me!I am ready to set sail forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Pamela

    Hello,do you have any idea when photos of the staterooms onboard Oasis will be posted on the website?

  • vfarrell

    We are booked for Dec. 5th 2009 can’t wait love cruising R C

  • Nicole

    Wow! My fiance and I will be traveling on December 12th as well. We are so excited, and are following the ship’s progress religiously. When we get married next year, we want to have our wedding on a cruise (with RCL, of course). What kinds of wedding packages / facilities will Oasis have? We plan on doing our research in person when we will be on board, but I don’t want to wait that long to start planning!

    Thanks for writing! I look forward to the next blog post!

  • Mike

    As a software test engineer I fully agree that it is best to find problems during trials! The ship sounds like it will be an amazing experience. We will be coming aboard next March. The cruiser in me can’t wait for the adventure and the engineer in me can’t wait to see this incredible machine up close!

  • Karen

    Captain Wright,

    My husband and I met you on the inaugural sailing of the Freedom of the Seas and we heard you talk about the new Genesis Class and how excited you were for it. Now the time has come and we will see you on December 5 on the Oasis to help share the excitment.

  • Kalli G

    I am sailing for the first time next month and am hoping all goes well. I would like to know more about
    Michael Manuele’s complaint.

  • sue zozzaro

    I sailed recently on Adventure of the Seas from June 7, 2009 to June 14. I was disappointed there was no midnight chocolate buffet. What happened to this wonderful experience. I definitely missed it. I look forward to your answer. =)

  • john vinyard

    Why has RCL taken away a lot of the incentives for frequent cruisers (my wife and I are both diamond plus) to cruise on RCL? In the past we could receive the diamond member discount, and certificates available and be able to use the discount given to RCL stockholders. It seems to me in the hostile financial environment we find ourselves due to a worsening economy your company would be embracing those who have been faithful in the past. We still love RCL but would like to be appreciated more.

  • Tito Geovany

    Majesty of the Sea!

    Great 3 and days vacation, we have given our employees few vacations on this ship and is great.

    As a member ot the Anchor Club our family have travel with Royal Caribbean many times.

    Hey Captain, since we use your services, our cruise ship logistics is dedicated to your industry, give us a call.

  • Ralph Pohl

    My wife and I really enjoy cruising on RC ships. The ships, staff and food has always been top notch. When we became Diamond members in the Crown and Anchor Society, we began taking more cruises each year. We appreciated the additional perks provided, however, now that most of them have been significantly reduced or eliminated, we have second thoughts on booking all of our cruises with RCL. Due to the increase in C&A members and the long term recession we’re in, we can understand cut backs. We concur with several of your changes that would reduce RCL expenses substantially, i.e. C&A concierge free alcohol beverage diamond members and above; yet others were of minimal value and would probably have no major impact overall, i.e. Free pass to Johnny Rockets. Would these cutbacks have occurred had oil prices remained below $50 per barrel? Did RCL consider buying oil futures when oil was at $35 per barrel in order to hedge on the market increase?

  • Steve Schmaltz

    Why don’t cruise lines invest in the application of nuclear energy in ships? I suppose that much of the techology is classified and should a terrorist event happen a nuclear release would dampen life on Labadee. If it could be accomplished just think of the corporate savings on fuel not to mention those cruises that could last a year! Keep up the good work. Looking forward to Oasis in Feb.

  • Steve Schmaltz

    Why don’t cruise lines invest in the application of nuclear energy in these ships? I suppose that much of the techology is classified and should a terrorist event happen a nuclear relase would dampen life on Labadee. If it could be accomplished just think of the corporate savings on fuel not to mention those cruises that could last a year! Keep up the good work. Looking forward to Oasis in Feb.

  • Yannick Haas

    Is Captain Bill Wright single!?!

  • Adir

    This is SO EXCITING! My wife and I are actually looking to book a trip on Allure as we prefer to embark on Sundays. Weve been on most of the different Royal Caribbean Class ships and love them all, especially the newer ones. Congrats on the new ships, and cant wait to try them out!!

  • john parrish

    My family is booked on the inaugural cruise set for December 5, 2009, we will be flying to Ft Lauderdale, though we have cruised many times on RCCL, we are very excited about this cruise. Much has been posted about RCCL’s cutbacks, I too have been disappointed to some extent. Hopefully RCCL will find other ways to reward their loyal customers. My family is very satisfied with our cruise experiences on RCCL, just keep the price right, thats the main thing.

  • Yannick Haas

    My children & I sailed on the Freedom in 2007. It was fabulous, but we did not get to meet the Captain. My daugter & I are booked on the OASIS June5th,2010. I would love to meet the Captain & also would like to know, how do you get invited to sit @ the Captain’s table, even for just one dinner. RCL is THE ONLY way to Cruise!!!!

  • Kateri Burnett

    I have sailed many many times with RCCL and have loved every minute I have been on their ships. They have always given us the best service we have ever had. They have gone well beyond what any other cruise line ever did. I had someone tell me one time (before we went on our first cruise) about the service on a Carnival ship and RCCL, On Carnival if your napkin falls they will pick it up and give it back to you, If you drop your napkin on RCCL they will catch it before it hits the ground. SOOOO True… I will tell yo my experience on a Carnival ship and RCCL. We went on our first cruise the first day at dinner I didn’t care for the taste of the water so I used lemons. I asked for lemons everytime I was given more water, the next evening at dinner I had a champaign glass with lemons round the rim of the glass and some in the middle every night after that. When we went on Carnival (one time only and NEVER again)I had a saucer with lemons on it. The reason I will not EVER go Carnival again is that we went with my daughters dance group to the Caribbean and our room didn’t have any air conditioning.I called for two days and then ending up calling the desk. And then we finely heard from our room steward. He told me all he could do is pull a fan in the room. And then we had to leave our door open to the hall to get any coolest. RCCL They stand behind there company and I have never had them not. When there was a problem with one of the ships we were going to go on in less than 3 days and had to dry dock the ship they found us another ship to go on and even gave us a free cruise.
    LOVE RCCL.. Thank you for all your wonderful and friendly employees.

  • Evelyn nocera

    Are there any plans to have more cruises leaving from Boston, preferably round trip? Bermuda and caribbean cruises would be awesome!

  • MishaPowerauto

    Amazing news, thank you! – cool!!!!