You have only to read the actual schedules of the new, 220,000-ton, 6,000-passenger Oasis of the Seas to understand the revolutionary nature of the changes it will bring about. I invite you to scan such cruise Web sites as VacationsToGo.com (www.vacationstogo.com) to learn how little contact the giant vessel will have with ports of either the Caribbean or Mexico. That site and others like it actually list the stops that it will make — or not make.
On weekly, seven-night sailings, the mammoth ship leaves each Saturday afternoon from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and heads south on its first night, then sails for six more days and nights. Every week, on all itineraries, it spends three of those six days simply at sea, stopping nowhere. And then, on an itinerary it follows every other week starting in May, it devotes the fourth of those six days to a stop at the "private island" (actually a "private beach") of Labadee on the coast of Haiti.
Labadee, as you may have experienced on one of your own cruises, is a totally isolated stretch of sand fenced in by barbed wire and guards to keep out Haitians.
Thus, on the fourth day, as on three other days, your only company and contact are the 6,000 other souls who have accompanied you on Oasis of the Seas.
Never miss a local story.
But wait; hope springs eternal! On the fifth of your six days on board the ship, it stops at something called the Costa Maya. And if you're like me, you mistakenly associate the Costa Maya with the Maya Riviera — the latter enjoying real Mexican towns and real Mexicans.
But your stop is not on the Maya Riviera, but on the largely deserted coastline well south (by 100 miles) of the Maya Riviera, a stretch of land just above Belize where commercial interests have built a tourist town ("Costa Maya") deliberately and exclusively designed and maintained for cruise passengers. In the words of the popular Web site Cruise Critic (www.cruisecritic.com) some time ago, it's "what you'd expect if, say, Disney World decided to create its own private island in Mexico ... a faux village."
Indeed, the privately owned Costa Maya is located a fair distance from the only real Mexican village hereabouts, which had a population of 200 people prior to the construction of the bars, restaurants and shops that make up Costa Maya.
And don't worry that you're in a foreign country. Another travel journalist (USA Today, March 27, 2009) has written that Costa Maya is entirely safe since it's largely removed from the realities of Mexico (except for the cruise-serving workers in it). "It's very clean. Very secure," says the port's head of marketing Cesar Lizarraga. "You don't see them, but there are surveillance cameras everywhere."
And needless to say, there are merchants aplenty to rent you beach chairs, zip-line rides (three of them), wave runners and short excursions to some very secondary Mayan ruins.
In other words, your fifth day on Oasis of the Seas is at what is, essentially, another private beach maintained solely for tourists. You have now spent five of your six days afloat solely in the company of your 6,000 fellow passengers.
Finally there's a short day in Cozumel, the only real port stop in an entire one-week cruise, and Cozumel has many detractors. I consider it the world's dullest port visit.
So, there you have it: A ship so humongous that it really can't go into most of the world's ports, a place designed for people who aren't attracted by the wonders of international travel. In a recent interview, I used the words "a dumbing down of the travel experience" to characterize Oasis of the Seas. I was being generous.