It is a bird? Is it a plane? Just what is that object floating above the Oasis of the Seas' stern? It looks like a balloon and rumors have been circulating that it's some sort of dirigible-style ride for the ship's thousands of passengers to enjoy. Perhaps it's the ultimate in high tech parasailing?
Richard Fain, Chairman and and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., shared a hint about the object—an aerostat*—and how that, as well as other "trial balloons" are launched during the sea trials of new ships.
In his Chairman's Blog, Fain said, "Another aspect of this early sea trial is that it gives us an opportunity to experiment with new ideas. One of the nice things about working at Royal Caribbean is the imaginativeness and creativity of our people. The upside of this is they often come up with weird and wonderful ideas that thrill our guests. The downside is that they often come up with weird and wonderful ideas that don’t really work in practice. How do we distinguish? We try them out on sea trials where there are no guests and where we can experiment to our heart’s content. The trials take place far from land where there are no curious eyes except the passing fish. That way, when an idea fails the practicality test, we simply send it to the idea graveyard and no one hears about it again. Fortunately, or unfortunately, such privacy no longer exists, even out in the middle of the ocean. There will be about 350 people on board overseeing the testing and most will have camera phones. In addition, many of these people have not been involved in the ship’s design and will therefore make a lot of wild assumptions about things they see. Accordingly, we can reasonably assume that these people will swamp the Internet with rumors—accurate and inaccurate—about things they see on board."
"In advance of the likely deluge of rumors," Fain continued, "I would like to comment on two aspects. Firstly, we will not confirm or deny the accuracy of any such rumors and we will attempt to be evenhanded; we will be equally fuzzy about accurate rumors as we are about inaccurate ones. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear any rumors that arise and will comment to the extent I can, but don’t expect True Revelations here. Secondly, I will comment on one experiment we are performing which has already been the subject of some rumors. This idea is to put an aerostat on board tethered to the ship. The idea is interesting, but it has such a cornucopia of practical issues that I give it less than a 50% chance of being used on Oasis."
So, just what is the purpose of the aerostat flying high above Oasis of the Seas and was the experiment a success? Fain has promised to report on it in his blog, but asks for your patience. It may well take the folks at Royal Caribbean several weeks to review all the test results and reach a decision as to whether whatever its intended use is will float.
*An aerostat is a lighter than air object that usually remains tethered to its base by a long wire. Some people erroneously use words like blimp or dirigible, but, the latter normally transport people or cargo over long distances.