Indeed, Royal Caribbean’s new Oasis of the Seas, the most innovative ship of our time, is in the final throes of construction at Turku’s STX Europe shipyard. Oasis is slated to depart the yard at the end of October; its first official cruise begins December 5.
Oasis’ sister ship, Allure of the Seas, is starting to take shape next on the next dock. And it’s important to note that STX’s Turku yard has produced other prototypical ships, especially for Royal Caribbean, that include its then-revolutionary Voyager class of ships and its evolutionary Freedom class vessels. Turku is also home to Crystal Symphony and Holland America’s Prinsendam (built originally as Royal Viking Sun for now-defunct Royal Viking Line), among others.
On this visit, we’re here first and foremost to pay a call on Oasis of the Seas. As an added bonus (!) -- throughout the week we will offer a variety of perspectives not just on the ship but also on this gorgeous coastal region. The tales we’ll tell will focus on the fabulous cruise ferry industry, which hatched so many of the ingenious ship features we think of as being created by mainstream vessels.
For fans of cruising in the Baltic region, especially those who’ve sailed the usual itineraries that call at Stockholm and Helsinki, we’ll offer a locals’ perspective via a quick overnight voyage on Silja Europa, one of many cruise ferries that ply not only the Swedish but also the Finnish archipelagos. It’s the locals’ way to travel by ship. And Turku itself, with its historic capital, picturesque setting on and around a series of islands, and strong arts and culture scene, is delightful port of call that’s off limits for bigger ships (its dock is limited in length rather than draught). Kudos to Fred. Olsen for offering calls to Turku on some itineraries.
(If you’re reasonably adventurous and making a repeat visit to Helsinki, Turku’s an excellent day trip but do keep an eye on the clock -- and make sure you return back to your ship on time).
I’m traveling this week with my husband, Teijo Niemela, editor of the industry business-to-business Cruise Business Review (cruisebusiness.com) who, more importantly, is the world’s foremost expert on Finland and its cruise traditions. He can answer anything about cruising and is the source of most of the more interesting tidbits you’ll read here.
This being a blog, it’s your forum too. Please do not hesitate to ask questions (about cruise ferries, Turku, the Finnish and Swedish archipelagos, and last but by no means least, Oasis of the Seas, which we’ll get a good look at on Thursday and Friday). For more details on what’s on Oasis of the Seas’ agenda, read here: http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=3383.
Carolyn Spencer Brown
Editor in Chief