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dec 04

World's largest cruise ship sets sail

The world's largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, sets sail on its maiden voyage this weekend. The seven-night Royal Caribbean cruise leaves Fort Lauderdale on Saturday and stops in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau, Bahamas before heading back to Florida.

I recently explored the 6,296-passenger ship on a two-night preview sailing. As long as the Empire State Building is tall, Oasis has seven distinct neighborhoods, and the ship actually feels smaller than it is. From Central Park to the Boardwalk, each area is self-contained, so you don't feel overwhelmed. Even so, Oasis of the Seas is a bit like Las Vegas at sea—everything competes for your attention. In addition to the usual bells and whistles found on other ships, Oasis has a Cirque du Soleil-like aquatics show with synchronized swimmers and divers, a 90-minute version of the musical "Hairspray," and an ice-dancing show complete with skaters doing back flips. Did I mention the zipline and two FlowRider surf simulators on the 15th deck?

To help you navigate the big boat, Royal Caribbean has also joined the digital age. Every floor has touch-screen displays that can map your route on board. Other digital screens show the occupancy levels of the buffet and specialty restaurants. No more guessing how crowded the lines will be.

While in port, the ship towered over the other cruise liners, and when it was time to fly home, all the planes at the airport seemed awfully dinky by comparison. Though other people may prefer more intimate cruise experiences, I appreciated the massive ship's stability—unlike my experience on other ships, I never felt seasick. Now that's what I call an oasis.

December sailings still have availability; inside cabins start at $1,529. In 2010, cabins start at $1,100. oasisoftheseas.com.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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