High-tech, hand-carved horses

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An unusual testimonial is posted on the website of an Ohio-based specialty manufacturer.

“The team members at Carousel Works have exhibited flexible attitudes considering the adaptations necessary to conform a land-based element into a nautical environment.”

It’s attributed to Denise Key-Tielebein, Royal Caribbean project senior analyst.

The reference is to a case of making something seen and not heard that brought high tech to bear on a decidedly low-tech project when Royal Caribbean built its Oasis-class ships.

No one had put a carousel on a cruise ship before.

It made sense to do it. New York’s Coney Island claimed the first U.S. carousel, built on its famous boardwalk in the early 1900s. Oasis of the Seas – and subsequently sister ships Allure and Harmony of the Seas – were planned with their own “Boardwalk neighborhoods” on Deck Six, each including a traditional carousel as its centerpiece.

As it happens, the main dining room for an Oasis-class ship is on Deck Five, directly below the carousel. The decks are made of steel. So harmonics, the science of sound, was brought to bear so the vibrations from a turning carousel on Deck Six did not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of dinner on Deck Five.

“Only because you don’t know what you don’t know when you’re doing something new like this, we weren’t sure what kind of noise and what kind of vibrations a carousel typically emits,” Key-Tielebein says. “So we did some factory testing before they shipped it out.”

Stethoscopes and more sophisticated equipment were used to listen for or map sounds that might normally be lost in the ambient noise of a land-based carousel. Technicians also tilted the carousel some five degrees to see how it would behave even in an unlikely circumstance.

“The Oasis-class, because of the size of the ship and so forth, is a very stable ship,” Key-Tielebein explains. “We were trying to do worst-case scenarios. Even during sea trials we were not able to list the ship, I think, more than 2 degrees. So we felt that five degrees was a very good number. And obviously if you’re in such weather that you’re getting a five degree list, we’re not going to be running the carousel anyway.”

Although it behaved very well, Key-Tielebein says, the Oasis carousel needed a significant alteration. A stabilization ring was mounted on the deck below the carousel, and bogey wheels that ride on and around the ring were mounted on the underside of the carousel itself.

Other changes were made to the first carousel at sea.

The normally solid, hand-carved carousel animals had to be hollowed out to meet fire restrictions based on weight. The paint on the animals and the rest of the carousel, as well as the lubricants in its bearings, were weighed for the same reason.

And a ladder was discreetly added to the carousel’s center column. On land, a carousel canopy can be maintained from the outside. But not on a ship, not even the largest ships at sea.