Imagine the Empire State Building, turned on its side, and floating in the ocean. That’s about the size of Allure of the Seas, which, with its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, is far-and-away the biggest passenger ship ever built. The volume of the ship is well over four times that of Titanic; it’s also twice that of a modern nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Allure sets sail for the first time December 5th, from Ft. Lauderdale, and will ferry passengers on week-long excursions around the Caribbean. Recently, Co.Design sat down with Adam Goldstein, the president and CEO of Royal Caribbean, the company that built and operates Allure, to talk about how you go about building what amounts to a 24/7 theme park for 6,300 guests with 2,400 crew that also floats and moves.
“Someone could write a ph.D. thesis on how you design something like this to be fun,” says Goldstein. And yet the simple answer is basically: more. Among the attractions aboard, there’s a professional production of Chicago; a water show featuring Dreamworks characters, acrobats, and high divers; a 3-D movie theater; two different steakhouses (among 22 other restaurants); a boardwalk; a “central park” sporting 12,000 plants; seven themed neighborhoods; a moving bar that cycles up and down three decks; an 18-foot deep pool; and a .43 mile jogging track.
The goal, according to Goldstein, is to provide so much entertainment that you can’t possibly see even most of it within a week. The attractions were designed by an in-house team, and between eight and ten different contractor firms, responsible for portions of the overall design. Perhaps the most innovative part of that process is that each team sits in on the project updates of the others. “It’s expected that you’ll put your two cents in about the other designs,” Goldstein says. “Lots of people are initially shocked.” But ultimately, it means that each team stands to benefit from ideas outside of their own firm.
As the ship design moves along, almost all of the interior spaces are mocked up in some way. The staterooms are mocked up precisely; meanwhile, the decks and communal spaces get both 3-D modeling, and full-scale modeling on giant, multi-story canvas renderings, so that the designer can understand how the space might actually feel. “Even though it was the middle of winter in a huge warehouse in Finland [where the ship was built], we sat below five stories of balconies, under space heaters, eating dinner at a table, to see if it was viable,” says Goldstein.
While he says that there’s nothing as big as Allure or Oasis on industry drawing boards, he still thinks that eventually you’ll see something akin to what happend in the last decade, when the crown for largest ship was passed almost every other year. The economics simply favor hugeness, since bigger ships don’t require proportionately bigger crews, and the payoff for a blockbuster ship such as Allure can be as little as five years, while sailing for 30. “The history of passenger ships is that they get bigger over time.”