I’m embarrassed to admit that I overslept. I normally wake up quite early and have time to do triage on my emails before starting the day. However, the long Finnish nights (and the previous day’s travel and activities) confused my circadian rhythm and when I did awake at 7:30 it was still pitch black outside. Nevertheless, I made it up to coffee with Adam Goldstein only a few minutes late at just after 8:00 am in the concierge’s lounge.
It was a good start to the day, looking out over the boardwalk and discussing the preparations for the upcoming events. We then walked over from the ship to the yard’s main conference room at their offices, a walk of maybe 300 yards. We arrived there around 8:45 — 15 minutes ahead of schedule — and found that everything was already in place for the closing.
The room was crowded with lawyers, bankers, representatives of the flag and of the class society, shipyard executives, our inspection team, etc. I was particularly pleased that two of Royal Caribbean’s founders and shareholders, Arne & Gjert Wilhelmsen, were also able to join the festivities. Everyone was in a very jovial mood and felt that the preparations both physically (for the ship) and paper-wise (for the closing) had been done very thoroughly.
While the closing involves hundreds of documents, there are only two documents that get signed during the formal closing. The first document is a formal transfer of ownership where the yard signs signifying that they are delivering the ship to us and we sign signifying that we accept the ship pursuant to the building contract. The second document is instruction to the bank to transfer the final payment from our account to the account of the shipyard.
The closing created conflicting emotions for me. On the one hand, it was anti-climactic. After millions of man hours, years of effort, endless argumentation and consideration, and tons of sweat and tears, a simple one page document saying it was complete didn’t seem momentous enough. On the other hand, signing a one page sheet of paper transferring a billion dollars (that billion with a B) is an awesome responsibility. Actually having to sign your name brings home the implications in a very strong way. Before signing, I obviously checked with Harri Kulovaara that all the technical elements of the ship were up to snuff and checked with Adam Goldstein that all the operational aspects were ready. Nevertheless, I have to admit that my hand hesitated a bit before actually signing that paper.
For the record, there were 230 comments left outstanding at the delivery of the ship. 230 comments for a vessel of this scale (the comparable figure for OASIS was 6,000) is an amazing accomplishment for which we need to be grateful.
Later that afternoon we welcomed all the VIP visitors onboard for the celebration and flag changing ceremony. Again a very emotional time. Unlike the morning formalities, this was much more ceremonial starting with bagpipes (of course), speeches and commendations. All proper pomp and ceremony. Even Shrek made his entrance. When Captain Hernan Zini gave the order to raise the ship’s flags, that really signified that the ship was ours and ready to be taken into service. After the ceremony and the dinner, the ship presented snippets of some of its entertainment which were extremely well received by all assembled.
It ended up being a long day for me and just before it ended Captain Zini had more news. The weather report showed some strong winds building in the morning and he decided that he wanted an early start which meant that I had to be off the vessel and waving its departure at 5:00am. Since my day didn’t end until after 12:30, I decided not to risk another oversleep. I spent the rest of the night returning calls and emails which I had not been able to get to during the previous two days and left the ship at five o’clock. Watching the ship pull away from the pier was awesome. Surrounded by total silence and a cold, dark morning, the slow progression of the ship away from the pier was majestic. It was hard not to be emotional to watch such a stately movement. Remarkably, I still wasn’t tired but I can tell you I slept well on the flight home.