TURKU, Finland -- In spring 2006, the cruise industry was facing the most devastating hurricane season in modern times, soaring fuel costs and softening demand for its bread-and-butter Caribbean products.
Ah, the good old days -- the industry would kill now for the yields it achieved then.
That was also just before Royal Caribbean International delivered the Freedom of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever at that time. If there was a bright spot then, it was the "halo effect" that the Freedom was creating not only for Royal Caribbean's fleet but the entire industry.
Many people in cruising, including executives not associated with Royal Caribbean, have attested to the "Freedom effect," saying the ship raised interest in cruising and helped the industry as a whole.
This year, with the Oasis of the Seas, the stakes are higher, and not just because the ship is bigger. If ever the industry was in need of a halo, it's now.
Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain thinks it is already happening.
"We are getting an amazing response," he said during a tour of the Oasis here last week. "It creates a halo effect for other ships and in fact the whole industry. It shows what cruising is all about and kills the old myths."
The Oasis will once again put cruise ships back on the front page of major newspapers, as it already was in Finland over the weekend.
And people are already showing that they are willing to pay more for the Oasis, and during a very protracted booking time, they are buying the ship earlier than Royal Caribbean's others.
Fain said the Oasis is getting a premium that is 50% better than what the Freedom got over its predecessors, and 50% better volume as well.
"This helps travel agents who are earning better commission on these higher prices," added Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of sales.
The hope here was the Oasis effect could bring up prices for the rest of Royal Caribbean's fleet, and the industry too.