The mind-boggling logistics of restocking and cleaning the Oasis of the Seas between Caribbean cruises.

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Once a week, after touring the Caribbean, the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, one of the world’s largest, calls into its home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for what is called “turnaround day.”

Just as an airplane makes money only when it is flying, keeping a cruise ship out at sea is essential for its profitability. But instead of turning over a few hundred airline passengers, this ship offloads 6,000 people, takes on new supplies and welcomes 6,000 more travelers — all in under 12 hours.

Logistics are essential on turnaround day, at once the first and last day of a cruise, and the busiest time for the ship’s 2,140 crew members. Oasis docks at about 6 a.m. and leaves by 4:30 p.m. In that time, more than 12,000 bags need to get off the ship, food must be stocked, beds made and bathrooms cleaned. Getting everything ready in time is part NASCAR pit stop, part loading of Noah’s Ark.

“Embarkation day is frantic,” said Rodolfo Corrales, the ship’s provision master, whose job is to keep the vessel fully stocked for its journey. “It’s not just busy, it’s crazy busy.”

Born in the 1970s, the modern cruise industry now counts more than 400 ships offering cruises tailored to many budgets and whims — from luxury ships sailing the Mediterranean Sea to mass-market holidays in the Caribbean Sea, still the most popular voyage for cruisers. Last year, more than 17 million passengers took a North American cruise, up from 7 million in 2000, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

The Oasis, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, caters to middle-class vacationers — there is a casino, an aqua-theater for highflying diving acts, and a Broadway-style production of “Cats” — and on a recent turnaround day during the winter high season, the Oasis was packed with families, retirees and young couples looking for a break from the cold.

24,000 bottles of beer

Before heading for a seven-day cruise to the Bahamas, the Oasis needs to stock everything a small city might need. This includes 24,000 bottles of beer and 1,400 bottles of Champagne. The Oasis rarely picks up any provisions during the cruise, only topping up its fuel tanks while visiting ports.

Bread is baked onboard, and 2,000 tons of fresh water a day are produced through a reverse-osmosis desalination system. A treatment system handles all the wastewater generated by the passengers and crew. That system, which processes 1,200 tons of wastewater a day, uses bacteria to break down waste, then mechanical and chemical systems to remove solids, and finally ultraviolet light to disinfectant. The water at the end is clean enough to drink, but is discarded in the sea. Any remaining solids are held in special tanks to dry and be incinerated.

Almost all trash is recycled aboard or repurposed. Bottles, cans and compost are crushed and frozen in cold-temperature rooms to prevent the spread of bacteria. Engine heat is used to heat laundry-room water and showers; air-conditioning condensation is also used as a source for laundry water.

Standing near one of the cargo doors on the dock, Lincoln Brooks, the ship’s inventory manager, keeps an eye on the clock. Around him is a jumble of trucks, forklifts and carts all moving at a steady clip. Every step is timed to avoid bottlenecks inside the narrow galleys as two dozen cold storage rooms slowly fill up with fresh vegetables, including 15,000 pounds of potatoes, 9,000 pounds of tomatoes and about 9,000 soda cans.

“I need to keep things moving,” he said. “I can’t afford for the captain to call me.” Rain can make work more hazardous and slow things down, but this was a crisp morning, and Brooks seemed relaxed.

The countdown before sailing started deep inside the ship, as well. A small legion of workers hustled along the main artery, a service corridor known as I-95 that runs nearly the length of the ship and allows fast access to any section.

Royal Caribbean has built the largest cruise ship terminal at Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, to handle the flow of passengers from Oasis and its twin, the Allure. To prevent long immigration-control lines from forming, departures are staggered over a few hours.

Getting the bags off

Passengers begin to leave their cabins about 7 a.m. and must be off the ship by 10:30 a.m. The main bottleneck is juggling the flow of bags. Passengers are handed color-coded tags for their luggage, which is collected the night before the ship reaches the port.

About 15 to 30 minutes after the last passenger leaves, newcomers start trickling in through one of two gangways linked to the terminal ashore.

Packing in passengers has been a winning formula for the business. (Until Oasis went into dry dock for a two-week maintenance last year, it had been in service for more than 1,800 days, or five straight years.)

Royal Caribbean, which has the world’s three largest cruise ships, doubled its revenue in the last decade to $8 billion last year. And profit per passenger has risen, as well, to $148 last year from $136 10 years ago. The company is also moving away from traditional, all-inclusive formulas to offering services and amenities for an extra cost. About a third of its revenue now comes from selling items during port visits or sales onboard — Wi-Fi access, for example. Passengers can pay up to $400 to connect two devices for seven days to download movies or make Skype calls from the middle of the ocean.

A few years ago, Royal Caribbean brought in experts in industrial productivity, including DHL and the German carmaker Porsche, to help manage complex flows on the ship. As an example, the efficiency experts helped determine where to locate waiter stations in the main dining room to reduce the number of footsteps needed to serve hundreds of diners simultaneously.

“We have everything down to a fine art,” said Martin Rissley, the ship’s hotel director. “The minute efficiencies you can create in the process make a big difference in the end.”

Vast laundry

Down in the lowest decks, the laundry room quickly filled up with dirty linen, with bags lining hallways and piling up in corners. By the end of the day, the crew washed 93,000 pounds of laundry. Bedsheets are folded automatically in presses. But 29,000 towels are folded by hand.

Crew members, who come from all over the world (many are from the Philippines), work long shifts. Some will stay onboard for four months at a time and work seven days a week, taking short breaks during the day, then head home for a two-month rest period. It can be grueling and repetitive work. Eight butchers, for instance, spend the cruise chopping up 25,000 pounds of meat each week, working in two shifts of four.

This obsession with detail and planning has become necessary as cruise ships get ever bigger. But risks also come with size. An engine fire on the Carnival Triumph two years ago crippled the ship at sea for several days. Toilets clogged, food perished, and passengers slept on decks to avoid the stench in their cabins.

Carnival has since fitted its ships with emergency generators to avoid another similar mishap. But the ship’s plight turned off many would-be cruisers, and bookings dropped industrywide. Cameras aboard helicopters showed images of makeshift tents on the pool deck, and passengers described their ordeal in apocalyptic terms.

“It’s like being locked in a Porta-Potty for days,” one passenger, Peter Cass, a physician from Beaumont, Texas, said at the time. “We’ve lived through two hurricanes, and this is worse.”

The hazards were also apparent in January 2012 when the Costa Concordia, also owned by Carnival, ran aground off the coast of Italy after its captain steered it off course, and then delayed evacuating the ship when it hit rocks by the island of Giglio. Thirty-two people died. The captain, Francesco Schettino, was convicted of manslaughter and abandoning the ship with passengers onboard.

Accidents bring action

“These accidents were definitely a wake-up call for the industry,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of the Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research firm. “Cruise companies learned the hard way, and many of the newer ships now have redundancies built in them.”

Harri Kulovaara, Royal Caribbean’s chief naval architect, acknowledges that larger ships have challenges. Royal Caribbean had to come up with new lifeboats that could fit as many as 370 passengers, instead of 180, because adding enough smaller vessels would have taken too much hull space.

But Kulovaara, who is considered one of the industry’s most innovative architects, said that bigger ships also provided safety features. Thanks to its width, Oasis remains stable while cruising, even in bad weather. The ship is powered by six huge engines — each about the size of a school bus — that can produce extra power when encountering strong crosswinds as it enters a port, for instance.

Most important, its engines are housed in two separate rooms and can be operated independently if needed. This redundancy, common in new Royal Caribbean ships for more than a decade, became the norm for new cruise ships after the Triumph episode.

“We never set out to build the biggest ships in the world,” Kulovaara said. “Size creates certain challenges, of course. But the driver is really what is giving us a unique design and a unique vacation for our guests.”

One of Oasis’ most distinctive features is an open-air atrium that runs down the middle of the ship. It allows sunlight to come inside the vessel, enabling some inside cabins to have balconies. Those cabins can be sold at a premium. Prices for a seven-night cruise in March vary from $1,109 per person for an interior room (without windows) to $2,999 per person for a suite.

Soon, the Oasis will depart. Weather is the main cause of delays and can have ripple effects on future cruises. For instance, when fog recently delayed a ship from docking in Tampa, Florida, for more than a day, Royal Caribbean mobilized a “war room” of staff members onshore to rebook flights for delayed passengers and find accommodations for more than 3,000 people who were waiting for their ship to show up.

The last passengers trickle in and visitors leave, including the piano tuner who boards every two weeks to work on the ship’s five grand pianos. At 4:30 p.m., the odyssey begins again.