ALLURE OF THE SEAS has arrived. Lisa Bauer and Captain Hernan Zini have chronicled the crossing in their blog and webisodes respectively. It has been an unusually smooth crossing in many ways. The first is literal. The seas were very calm and — while they had to deviate twice to skirt around some Atlantic storms — the seas were smooth and easy. In addition, the calm waters made it easier for the crew to complete all their prep work. Operating equipment needed to be checked out, rehearsals organized, and generally the ship prepared for the public. The smooth crossing helped but so did the fact that the ship was so complete at delivery. One indicator of how smooth the crossing was is the fact that the ship used 700 tons (185,000 gal) less fuel than OASIS did on her crossing (and I don’t think that had anything to do with Hernan’s claim that ALLURE is lighter and longer than OASIS).
But safety first and the crossing was filled with safety drills, drills and more drills. In fact, they calculated that more than 20,000 man-hours was devoted to safety training and that it meant the crew had to walk 7,000 kilometers as part of the drills.
The smooth crossing also gave the ship time to stop in Freeport and undertake testing and calibration of the Dynamic Positioning System (“DPS”). The DPS allows the ship to navigate easily in areas where smaller but less maneuverable ships can’t go. It also allows the ship to remain in one place without an anchor. This capability is very powerful. It avoids the danger to coral reefs that anchoring can present and allows the ship to “station-keep” in one spot better and more accurately than normal anchoring. For thousands of years, ships have weather-vaned around a long anchor chain, moving with the wind. With DP, we can remain fixed within a few feet without any physical link to the ocean floor.
I strongly considered going to Freeport and joining the ship for the last night of it’s crossing but decided against it. Instead, I went up to John L. Lloyd State Park in Ft Lauderdale to greet her when she arrived. It was a beautiful morning. I arrived during darkness and watched a magnificent sunrise silhouette the ALLURE waiting on the horizon. Someone told me that it had been cold and damp last year for the OASIS arrival but I said that my only memory was how wonderful it had been.
Nova Southeastern University had graciously invited a number of our people and other interested parties to watch the arrival from their facility on the harbor. The location was also the site of Nova Southeastern’s new Oceanographic Lab which has been designed to especially study Coral Reefs. My only jealousy is the fact that their construction period is so much shorter than ours.
Finally, I got to board the ship. I went by the warehouse storing all the plants for Central Park. It was impressive to see just how many plants there were, how varied they were and how well organized they were. It was also impressive to see the veritable army of people in uniform waiting to board. Police, CBP, USCG, and an alphabet soup of other agencies making sure that everything was up to snuff. I also met Harri Kulovaara and together we went to the ship. After US Customs and Border Patrol cleared the ship, we went up the gangway where Raymond Gschaider, the Hotel Director, and Julie Sherrington, the Guest Relations Manager were there to greet us with warm and happy smiles. I went through security and then down I-95 (our name for the main “street” for the crew that runs the entire length of the ship and gives access to all points along the way). It was buzzing with the excitement of finally arriving in South Florida and preparations for the onslaught of interested parties. I was humbled by how excited they all were and how warmly they greeted me as I made my way down the long thoroughfare. Everyone seemed to be rushing somewhere, but I was slow because there were just too many people to greet and celebrate with.
Finally we made it to the conference room where we did the debriefing. This is usually a long process of reviewing the outstanding issues and review the plans for dealing with them. Here, it was a breeze. The whole meeting lasted only a short time and consisted mostly of positive reports from all.
The immediate priority was preparing for the US Coast Guard inspection and the US Public Health inspection. Both had had earlier inspections in Finland, but this was the ultimate test. And Hernan knew they were coming prepared to be especially thorough. The ship has attracted a great deal of attention and he knew that the authorities were not going to take any shortcuts. In the end, the training paid off. By Friday night, we knew that the Coast Guard not only passed the ship, but gave it not a single comment; remarkable for a space of over 1.25 million square feet and a crew of 2,200 people.
Then Friday night, we had the great honor of hosting the Chairman’s Gala celebrating the commissioning of the guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham on Saturday. Jason Dunham was a United States Marine who sacrificed his own life in Iraq by jumping onto a live grenade to save his comrades. His sacrifice was instantaneous (not a lot of decision time when a grenade is on the ground at your friends’ feet) and heroic. Very much in the finest traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps. And very much deserving of the Congressional Medal of Honor which his parents accepted posthumously on his behalf. The reception was a wonderful way to honor his valor and the commissioning of the vessel named in his honor. In attendance were his parents, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Commander of the Second Fleet and the Captain of the destroyer. I have never felt so protected.
That evening, I also had a chance to walk through Central Park. It was a pleasant evening and the bulk of the plantings were already installed. It went much smoother than last time because (a) it’s always easier the second time, (b) the boxes were better configured so they needed fewer adjustments and (c) the plants had been better organized and prepped so they were lusher and moister.
Finally, the ALLURE OF THE SEAS and the OASIS OF THE SEAS crossed paths as OASIS left port and ALLURE returned to her berth at the port. Since they are normally in on Saturday and Sunday respectively, this is the first and may be the last time they do so. See photo attached.