Next Oasis-class ship to be built in France

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. confirmed its expected order for a third Oasis-class ship for delivery in 2016, but pulled a year-end surprise by ordering the ship from the STX France shipyard rather than the STX Finland facility that had produced the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

The third Oasis ship, not yet named, will undoubtedly have the trademarks of the class, including an open Central Park area in the ship's interior and an aqua-theater in the stern.

Newspapers in Finland first reported negotiations for a third Oasis ship with STX Finland, prompting Royal to confirm in late October that it expected to order a new Oasis ship by year's end.

RCCL never said which shipyard it was talking to, but further reports in the Finnish press said the government there had declined to offer the financial aid RCCL was seeking to place the order in Finland.

In announcing the order, RCCL Chairman Richard Fain didn't say why he picked the Saint-Nazaire yard, other than an allusion to a "compelling price."

Royal didn't spell out the price but said it expects to spend $1.3 billion on capital projects in 2016, when the new ship will be delivered. The Oasis of the Seas, delivered in 2009, cost $1.25 billion.

In another twist, Royal Caribbean said its compensation for the newbuild includes the transfer to STX France of the idled Pullmantur vessel Atlantic Star, a 1,200-passenger ship built in 1984 for Sitmar and originally named Fairsky.

Royal has a one-year option to build a fourth Oasis-class ship at STX France.

In its statement announcing the order, Royal said that even with the third Oasis factored in, its capacity will grow at a "historically low" rate of 3.5% annually from 2012 to 2016.

Included in that increase are the two 158,000-gross-ton "Project Sunshine" ships being build at Germany's Meyer Werft yard for delivery in 2014 and 2015.

Royal Caribbean has said those ships will carry about 4,100 passengers but has shared few details about their design, amenities or other distinguishing features.
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