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Trees on the seas

New York City has many marvels, including the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Before either made an appearance on the New York scene, a sensation of a different sort, Central Park, came alive in the mid-to-late 1800s. Land for the large public park, or "open space," was acquired between 1853 and 1856 for around $5 million. The area from 59th Street to 106th Street between Fifth and Eighth Avenues is a marvel in its own right.

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According to the Central Park Conservancy Web site, "The soil was inadequate to sustain the trees and shrubs ... so 500,000 cu. ft. of topsoil was carted in from New Jersey. Lacking modern machinery, workers manually dug up earth, and blasted out huge boulders with gunpowder. More than 10 million cartloads of materials and debris were carted in and out on horse-drawn carts. Thirty-six bridges and arches were built and six man-made water bodies, fed from the city's water supply, were created."

Now let's jump ahead about 150 years and imagine the creation of another Central Park, this one on board the world's newest cruise ship.

It took six years to build Oasis of the Seas, the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in the world. The ship is owned by Royal Caribbean International, spans 16 decks and is capable of carrying 5,400 guests and a crew of nearly 2,000. Oasis of the Seas features the cruise line's new neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas, which includes Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and the Youth Zone.

This is what the view of Central Park will look like from an upper deck of Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, featuring 16 decks and carrying up to 5,400 guests.

Yes, a real Central Park with trees and gardens cruising the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

"Guests that arrive in Central Park for the first time are going to find this amazing lush garden," says Scott Wilson, a director of Wilson Butler Architects of Boston, in an Oasis of the Seas video about the park. "Probably one of the most dramatic perceptions of Central Park is from Deck 15. There's the canopy of trees, which give you the foreground, if you will. Below that is this amazing garden, which is a painting of color and the textures coming from the planting themselves. And below that layer is this tapestry of paving. There are over a dozen different paving materials that are woven together into a whole texture."

"It's just a very pristine little park where you can really find a quiet place to get away and the focus is going to be on the plants," adds Scott Butler, a director of Wilson Butler Architects.

Royal Caribbean International took delivery of Oasis of the Seas Oct. 28 from STX Europe in Turku, Finland. The ship will embark Dec. 5 on its inaugural cruise from its home port of Port Everglades, Fla.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.

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