Oasis of the Seas

First look at 150 Central Park restaurant by Michael Schwartz

In:
01Nov2011

A weeks after Royal Caribbean announced that super-chef Michael Schwartz will be taking over the signature specialty restaurant aboard Oasis of the Seas, Schwartz's restaurant is open and we've got our first look at what's cooking.

The Miami NewTimes was able to sample the restaurant's canapes with chef Schwartz and 150 Central Park's chef de cuisine, Jamie Seyba.

Schwartz said the biggest challenge for him was not being able to cook over an open flame because of the cruise line regulations, "I'm a fire guy, so working without flame was really hard at first."

Video: Michael Schwartz's new menus at Oasis of the Seas' 150 Central Park restaurant

In:
26Oct2011

Oasis of the Seas is voted best cruise ship for the Travel and Tourism

In:
21Oct2011

Royal Caribbean is celebrating again and this time double dose. In the voting of the 2011 Best of Travel and Tourism, the Oasis of the Seas was voted by readers of the magazine as the best cruise ship.

Besides the choice of Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean also received the award given to the Splendour of the Seas, the Top of Mind award, which means recognition for a large number of awards received by the ship.

"We are very proud of the result," celebrates Ricardo Amaral, director of Royal Caribbean to Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Oasis of the Seas, opened in 2009 was voted by readers who have traveled this year and could check the structure offered by the ship. Already Splendour of the Seas received the Top of Mind award after being voted the best cruise ship for six times.  

Interview with Chef de Cuisine for 150 Central Park, Maureen Brandt

In:
06Oct2011

The Chef de Cuisine for 150 Central Park on Royal Caribbean's Allure and Oasis of the Seas, Maureen "Molly" Brandt, is going to be a contestant on the ninth season of Top Chef, which airs in November.  Molly sat down for an interview with eater.com to discuss her life as a chef on a cruise ship.

Coming from working in restaurant kitchens on land, what has been the biggest challenge you've encountered cooking on a cruise ship? What's the biggest relief?
Sure, I miss gas heat, but that's surmountable. The biggest challenge of cooking on a cruise ship isn't the cooking at all, it's the inventory. On land you can just call up your favorite purveyors and order something different for the next days menu and it will be delivered in the morning. Here you have to plan a month to a month and a half ahead to get different products onboard. First I have to identify the exact product I want, and then contact our purchasing agents who then source it through a distributor at the best possible price. Then it's entered in to our inventory management system, and contracted for the Miami market. Then it's ordered by our onboard team 2 weeks in advance of the receiving date. It's a process! The biggest relief in cooking on a cruise ship is that I know absolutely that the cooks for the restaurant are going to show up every single day. Unless they intend to swim ashore I suppose!

What comes first when you design menus?
I have a really cerebral method to designing my menus for the ship. My first step is to figure out the focus ingredient of each dish for the menus. After a little over a year at sea I pretty much know what the tastes are of the demographic onboard, and that helps to determine what that focus ingredient will be. After that I decide on a theme per dish, and I don't limit myself, it could be a color, season, place, a classic dish.... really anything. Then I pick a the primary cooking method for each featured ingredient. After that I set up a grid, and work out the puzzle to achieve a balance of color, flavor, texture, and cooking method per each dish and tie it in to my decided theme.

If you could whittle down the list to the essentials, what would be your advice to a new chef at sea? What would be five things for chef Schwartz and his chef de cuisine Jamie Seyba to keep in mind as they prepare to execute the new menu with your help?
1. Have patience with the inventory.
2. Wear your track shoes.... Sometimes it's quite a distance between point A & B on the world's largest cruise ship.
3. Accept all assistance that is offered.
4. Invest in an alarm clock for those early United States Public Health internal inspection mornings.
5. Enjoy life onboard. Remember that this isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle.

What's the favorite chef hangout on board?
Probably the most popular place to decompress after work is to head to the deck 6 crew bar, located directly underneath the helipad. Some pretty epic parties are hosted there.

When chefs eat on board what do they prefer (venue as well as dish)?
Well officially we eat most of our meals in the Garden Cafe, which is the crew buffet. However my favorite thing to eat for lunch is the Kummelweck sandwich at Park Cafe. It's roast beef at it's finest on a salty caraway seed roll with special mustard and horseradish. I probably eat 3-4 a week.

How often do you go off-ship and what's the first thing you want to do and/or eat?
I have a very unique contract that allows me to be off the ship for little pockets of time, and when I fly in to Miami my first stop is invariably Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.... No, seriously, it is! I crave his heirloom tomato and burrata salad, and crispy hominy. Other than that I try to get out to as many different restaurants as possible to see what other chefs are doing, as I'm so isolated on the ship. I also may get off the ship at ports of call, and typically I go for lunch and an icy cold adult beverage!

You are a second officer's rank. What does that role entail?
Actually I'm a 2 1/2 stripe officer, which I find pretty hilarious as a chef, but don't worry, no one is saluting. All it really means is that I'm in a managerial position running 150 Central Park from top to bottom. It also allows me some nice perks onboard and most importantly for me, the ability to go virtually anywhere on the ship.

What do you think of the menus chef Michael has developed? Are there any dishes that stand out in your mind and why?
I'm a big fan of Michael's food, and only wish that he had a restaurant on my permanent ship the Allure of the Seas! The biggest standout for me is his roasted Harris ranch short rib with Swank Farms watercress, cipollini onions, and romesco. It is a huge combination of flavors and textures, and the execution is spot on. I'll take two please!

Is there any product you are interested in working with based on what chef Schwartz is sourcing from South Florida farms?
After tasting the Pak Choi last night from Swank Farms I will definitely be finding a way to integrate it in to my winter menus. The flavor is so complex and vibrant, I could have eaten just a plate of that and been happy. 

Royal Caribbean premieres new menus by Award-Winning Chef Michael Schwartz Aboard Oasis of the Seas

In:
04Oct2011

Royal Caribbean has announced that Michael Schwartz will create new menus for the 150 Central Park restaurant aboard Oasis of the Seas.  Schwartz is the winner of the James Beard Award and will pick the menu for the signature restaurant.  Schwartz is best known for his commitment to sustainable and seasonal food at Miami's Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.

Michael Schwartz will be responsible for creating new dishes at 150 Central Park restaurant and will also pull some of his favorite recipes from his restaurants in Miami, Florida and Grand Cayman.  

Schwartz has hand picked his new Chef de Cuisine, James Seyba, to oversee the new menu's implementation and to engage with guests daily.  

Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Food and Beverage, Frank Weber, discussed the decision to bring Schwartz onboard, "Royal Caribbean continually looks to deliver the Royal Advantage to its guests through diverse and innovative dining concepts and the freshest possible ingredients.  By joining forces with chef Michael Schwartz at Oasis of the Seas' 150 Central Park, we are gaining a respected hometown partner who will help us to navigate and embrace the local agricultural community by hand-picking the most appropriate local small farms to supply ingredients for our premiere dining venue."

Chef Scwhartz is excited about the opportunity as well, "I am thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with such an acclaimed global brand as Royal Caribbean and to work with them to further the important sustainable philosophies I care so much about. It is so exciting for me to bring some of my favorite farmers' local products onboard for the first time, adding to the already impressive food and beverage offerings available to guests on Oasis of the Seas."

British writer tries out Oasis of the Seas

In:
14Sep2011

British new site BurtonMail sent one of their writers to Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas to see what all the hype is about.

The writer had concerns about cruising during hurricane season, but the temptation of being on the second largest cruise ship in the world was too much, "Well we put our fears to the wind and took the leap — to discover scorching temperatures and some of the most beautiful ports of call we have experienced."

The size of the ship seemed to really capture their imagination as well, "Without a doubt, if you are a first time cruiser you will be blown away by the enormity of this 5,400 passenger vessel which is 213ft high from the waterline and 1,187ft long."

They did manage to compare Oasis of the Seas to Independence of the Seas, a Freedom-class ship based in the United Kingdom that they are familiar with.

Firstly the non-specialised restaurants on the Oasis have a limited selection. The buffet style cafe — the Windjammer —offers far less menu choices than the same-named venue on the Independence.

Plus you can’t help but notice where the Independence of the Seas blueprint has pretty much been recreated bolt by bolt in some areas — it’s a case of spot the difference at some venues between the Independence and the Oasis.

A few cost-cutting measures are also sneaking in much to the annoyance of Royal Caribbean’s faithful following. For example the DVD of your cruise is widely advertised as the way of keeping your cruise memories alive, but it’s only when you get it home you realize that what used to be a personalized offering of footage shot during your cruise is now just a one cut suits all DVD filled with ship documentaries.

These niggles in no way detract from an amazing ship but past customers do notice these changes.

Photo of the Day: Oasis of the Seas passing by Miami as seen from Freedom of the Seas

In:
13Sep2011

Port Canaveral's new cruise terminal will be able to handle Oasis class ships

In:
27Aug2011

Port Canaveral, Florida is celebrating the start of construction of a new cruise terminal with a scheduled completion date of July 2012.  The new terminal should be large enough to handle any cruise ship in the world, including Royal Caribbean's behemoth Genesis class ships such as Oasis and Allure of the Seas.

Port Canaveral Port Authority Chief Executive Officer J. Stanley Payne says the new Terminal 6 dock will be large enough to accommodate "the absolute largest cruise ships in the world," including Royal Caribbean's 6,200-passenger, Genesis-class ships.

Currently Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is home ported in Port Canaveral, which was the largest passenger ship ever built (by gross tonnage) from 2006 until construction of Oasis of the Seas, so large ships are something Port Canaveral can handle.

Tropical Storm Irene Alters Royal Caribbean itineraries

In:
21Aug2011

Tropical Storm Irene has caused Royal Caribbean to change a few cruise itineraries.  Oasis of the Seas will reverse its itinerary and now visit Cozumel first on Monday, Tuesday is a sea day, stop at Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday, stop at Labadee on Thursday, sea day again on Friday and return to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday

Freedom of the Seas will also reverse its itinerary and left port today to go to Cozumel first on Tuesday, followed by Grand Cayman on Wednesday, Falmouth on Thursday and Labadee on Friday.

Allure of the Seas will now stop at Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday instead of Monday. The rest of her scheduled stops at St. Thomas (Wednesday) and St. Maarten (Thursday) will take place as planned.

Finally, Serenade of the Seas will have its cruise order changed as well. It left from San Juan, Puerto Rico today and will  visit Aruba on Tuesday, Curacao on Wednesday, St. Kitts  on Friday and St. Thomas on Saturday.

Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein evaluates Oasis of the Seas, Labadee and Falmouth

In:
19Aug2011

Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein has returned from a trip aboard Oasis of the Seas for an on-site evaluation of what's happening not only aboard the ship but he took a careful look at the operations at Labadee (Royal Caribbean's private island) and Falmouth, Jamaica.

Adam seemed pleased with how Oasis of the Seas was running and thought things were going well.   He did seem to have an issue with the art program aboard Oasis of the Seas, presumably related to the art auctions, "I did state in no uncertain terms that I was less than pleased with certain aspects of our art program."

While on Labadee Adam felt that things went exceedingly well and found the operation at Royal Caribbean's private beach to be top notch.  That being said, he thinks Royal Caribbean can do more to market Labadee and prepare its guests for what's waiting for them, "My takeaway is we need to do an even better job of marketing what Labadee is. I spoke to someone who had visited a number of the cruise industry’s private destinations prior to coming to Labadee. He said he and his people were just not prepared for how much there is at Labadee."

At Falmouth, Adam characterized the progress at the port as "90% done".  He mentioned that the most important task left to do here is to complete construction of the arrival/departure terminal building, which should have been done by now but Adam says it will be done in September.

In terms of merchants, Adam says Royal Caribbean expects 70% of the available retail space to be occupied in the next few weeks.  He also hinted that some new restaurants will be added in the near-future.

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