At the Helm: Cruising into St. Thomas (VIDEO)
Per Kristoffersen may not remember the first time he parallel parked a car, but he’ll never forget having to park one of the world’s largest cruise ships at St. Thomas! Kristoffersen, Captain of Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas, appeared in a video released by the cruise line of their ship entering the narrow port of St. Thomas and how the ship must navigate the tight accommodations.
Navigating Port St. Thomas
There are several factors which make St. Thomas such a difficult port for such a large ship like Oasis of the Seas. The channel leading to the port is extremely narrow, flanked on one side by the island of St. Thomas and on the other side by Water Island. Along both islands are moored sailboats which narrow the channel for cruise ships even further. Weather can be another factor which makes the process more challenging as a stiff breeze requires the navigation team to make adjustments accordingly.
Navigators must follow the channel exactly as the depth of the water near the port leaves only 6 feet of clearance for the keel of the ship. Bow thrusters, according to Chief Engineer Risto Kurilic, are what make the whole process possible. The thrusters allow for tight, 90 degree turns with incredible precision to avoid running into the docks, other boats or running aground. A local pilot is often called for their expertise on the intricacies of the port, the weather and other conditions.
Technology and Experience
Thanks to advanced equipment like satellite positioning, bow and stern thrusters and of course, a team of expert navigators with years of experience sailing behemoth cruise ships, sailing into tight ports is easier than ever before. Captain Kristoffersen’s team aboard Oasis of the Seas is second to none when it comes to cruising these tight ports. Their expertise helps keep thousands of cruisers safe and happy on their much needed vacations!