Next week, I leave for the OASIS sea trial. Sea Trials for a ship are just what they sound like . . . taking the ship out to sea to make sure she operates properly in the ocean. The ship has been afloat for six months, but this is the first time that we will get to test out all the systems in a fully operating environment. The trial lasts about four days and the ship is tested for many key operating performance factors. The primary purpose is to test out those aspects of the ship that can’t be tested at the pier such as speed, noise, vibration, seakeeping etc. I am excited to see and feel how well the ship performs as we put her through paces.
Our contract with the shipyard includes extensive technical requirements and this is the yard’s first opportunity to make sure they meet them. Based on the quality of construction we have witnessed and all the modeling and simulations we have done, our technical people expect that the yard will comfortably exceed the requirements. BUT, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This is not the full dinner; this is more like the chef tasting the soup before he serves it. There will be a second sea trial later on where the official measurements are made and where the official grade will be awarded.
Another reason that the sea trials are so interesting relates to the interiors. During construction, the yard fills all the spaces with scaffolding and other material (which I continue to assert is designed purely to frustrate me). In order to be able to run these tests, much of that construction equipment has to be removed, and so we will get to see many of these areas uncovered for the first time. I am looking forward to it.
Another aspect of this early sea trial is that it gives us an opportunity to experiment with new ideas. One of the nice things about working at Royal Caribbean is the imaginativeness and creativity of our people. The upside of this is they often come up with weird and wonderful ideas that thrill our guests. The downside is that they often come up with weird and wonderful ideas that don’t really work in practice.
How do we distinguish? We try them out on sea trials where there are no guests and where we can experiment to our heart’s content. The trials take place far from land where there are no curious eyes except the passing fish. That way, when an idea fails the practicality test, we simply send it to the idea graveyard and no one hears about it again.
Fortunately or unfortunately, such privacy no longer exists, even out in the middle of the ocean. There will be about 350 people onboard overseeing the testing and most will have camera phones. In addition, many of these people have not been involved in the ship’s design and will therefore make a lot of wild assumptions about things they see. Accordingly, we can reasonably assume that these people will swamp the Internet with rumors – accurate and inaccurate – about things they see onboard.
In advance of the likely deluge of rumors, I would like to comment on two aspects. Firstly, we will not confirm or deny the accuracy of any such rumors and we will attempt to be evenhanded; we will be equally fuzzy about accurate rumors as we are about inaccurate ones. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear any rumors that arise and will comment to the extent I can, but don’t expect True Revelations here.
Secondly, I will comment on one experiment we are performing which has already been the subject of some rumors. This idea is to put an aerostat onboard tethered to the ship. The idea is interesting, but it has such a cornucopia of practical issues that I give it less than a 50% chance of being used on Oasis. If we don’t use it on the ship, I will consider it just another of the many ideas our people develop that didn’t work. On the other hand, if it is successful and we do decide to use it on the ship, I will consider it another of my better ideas. Remember, this is just one of many experiments we undertake and, unless we actually decide to go forward with it, one that you will never hear about again.
I will report on the sea trial from the ship and look forward to seeing the inevitable rumors. Our PR people worry about these rumors, but I welcome them because they show just how much interest there is in the development of this exciting new vessel.
 An aerostat is a lighter than air object that usually remains tethered to its base by a long wire. Some people erroneously use words like blimp or dirigible, but, the latter normally transport people or cargo over long distances. “Aerostat” is the broader and more accurate term. If this experiment ends up on the cutting room floor with many of our other discarded ideas, you will never again need to use the word “aerostat”. If it should succeed, we will make all our guests learn to say “an aerostat is not synonymous with a blimp” three times quickly before boarding.
 On reflection, I have to be realistic and acknowledge that having mentioned it, I won’t get away with never mentioning the aerostat again. I will therefore promise to report on our decision but please be patient; it may well take us several weeks to review all the test results and reach a decision.