William Morris called ocean liners "the cathedrals of the Industrial Age"; I'm sitting in an English theme pub, sipping a pint of sweet American bitter, trying to decide exactly which god the Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest "megaliner", might be dedicated to.
The pub, the Globe and Atlas, is in the Royal Promenade quarter of a ship that organises itself not by deck but by neighbourhood (and is routinely described in its brochures as both "a floating city" and, rather more wildly, an ocean-going "nation").
In one corner of the pub a couple in their fifties seem to have split up suddenly to smooch with strangers.
I decide the Oasis, which sails out of southern Florida, is partly a tribute to XXXL, the American god of girth (although the cruise ship is 17 decks high it is - appropriately enough in the Land of the Free to Wear Outsize Shorts - the extraordinary broadness of its beam that makes it nearly half as large again as any passenger vessel ever built).
And the ship certainly pays cultish homage to Me-Time, the goddess of pampering and personal wish-fulfilment. But mostly, I decide , it is a hymn of praise that will echo down the ages to the deity of retro and recycling, to the virtually divine Pastiche.
As well as the English pub experience, the Oasis can provide beach experiences and Abba experiences, multiple shopping experiences and Champagne experiences, a fairground experience complete with hand-whittled carousel, a casino experience complete with row upon row of glassy-eyed slot machines, and more exquisite fine-dining experiences than you could possibly ever manage to experience in a week.
(Of course, this being the Caribbean, there is also an ice-show experience, just because they can).
Out on deck there is an addictive wave machine that simulates surfing (on which I immediately simulated wipeout), and a rock wall that simulates rock climbing, (on which, having failed to negotiate an overhang three times to the disdain of my Italian guide, I found myself dangling three storeys up, staring out to sea, with a rope between my legs above the boardwalk, simulating looking like a berk).
Strangely, given this breadth of experiences, one of the few "personal journeys" the Oasis of the Sea seems at pains to avoid is the experience of being at sea. You can go for hours on the Oasis without so much as glimpsing the ocean. Even the artwork ("7000 specially commissioned pieces") favours desert landscapes and forested abstracts to nautical themes.
The classic ocean liners of the past were built for purpose, ships of streamlined grace and power.
After the airlines usurped their function of getting from A to B, however, and cruise liners were born, the aim was to recreate at sea the most effective economic usage of space pioneered on land.
The biggest American cruise ships followed the Las Vegas model and became untethered air-conditioned leisure complexes and shopping malls with affordable accommodation attached. The Oasis of the Seas, with its 6296 maximum passenger capacity, takes this principle to somewhere near its conclusion.
In dock it looks like an apartment block. At its centre, eight floors up from the main deck, is a park, complete with 12,000 specimen trees and plants, surrounded on all sides by walls of balconied rooms.
This means that guests can have the option of a tree view and never have to contemplate the ocean at all; cabin fever, born of on-board rooms without a view, is close to a thing of the past.
In this respect, the ship's name, which was chosen in a competition in which 90,000 people participated, starts to seem less of a contradiction in terms.
The ship is an oasis within the sea, a sort of inward-looking gated community of the waves, moving its passengers restlessly from experience to experience, spending money.
The Oasis is full of mirrors and reflective surfaces, in the great glass elevators, along the mock boardwalk with its candy stores and seafood shacks, and sometimes where you least expect them.
More than once as I navigated from bar to "Art Walk" to "quarterback challenge" or "Name that Michael Jackson song" and back to bar, wondering if the next experience might be more authentic than the last, I was confronted by a pasty-looking malcontent who seemed to be dogging my steps, wandering towards me, bags under his eyes, conspicuous in his rumpled clothes among a coiffed throng of pastel shirts and capped-tooth grins, only to realise that it was my reflection.
As an antidote to such anxieties, the spa was doing great business in immediate rejuvenation - tints and waves and exfoliation, on-board Botox-style smoothing, and a headline treatment in which a layer of gold leaf was added to your face to leave you both looking like a million dollars and with the sense that you had just spent them.
The great thing about experiences is that, in contrast to the real thing, you can exert full control over them.
The owner, Royal Caribbean, has taken this philosophy firmly on board. The Oasis not only sets out to rule the waves - it seems to have obsessive-compulsive tendencies toward them.
The benevolent voice of Captain Bill Wright booms out from a thousand speakers from time to time, reminding you where you should be, or what you might be about to miss, and just occasionally referring you to the quite relaxed on-board codes of conduct.
The ship has its own form of swipe card security: every time you make a transaction, the server checks your face against the haggard photograph that appears on his till screen.
The system monitors your progress around the ship, along with 2000 security cameras. (There are rumours of on-board cells, which I failed to substantiate, perhaps on the superstitiously "missing" Deck 13.)
In a question-and-answer session the morning after last orders in the Globe and Atlas, I hear the chief executive of Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain, asked whether, since the boat is such a destination in its own right, the cruise company has thought of offering a trip like this one without an end in sight, a week-long voyage to nowhere, a costly cruise round the bay.
Fain assured his questioner that the idea has been thoroughly researched (you don't doubt it) and that punters have overwhelmingly rejected it. A ship has to be going somewhere, otherwise it would just be, well, drifting.
It might as well be a deluxe hotel with a sea view.
Where the Oasis goes, however, is very much determined by its dimensions.
The ship could not dock in any European port, for example; it requires custom-made facilities that can manage not only the particular mooring requirements of its 225,000-tonne bulk but which can also cope with the need to disembark up to 6000 people effortlessly.
To this end, in a strategy that happily adds to the corporate control of the overall experience, Royal Caribbean has built mega-piers at Fort Lauderdale, where the ship will be based (alongside, in a year's time, its sister, the Allure of the Seas) and also in Haiti and the Bahamas.
The beauty of this for the intrepid Caribbean cruiser is that the new ports come complete with a signature "resort facility": "Haiti" is distilled into a confected Royal Caribbean paradise called Labadee, built from scratch. Travellers can be abroad and on dry land without necessarily having to experience anything they would not encounter on the ship (Port-au-Prince, for example).
This controlled experience of foreign-ness seems to be duplicated on board. The Oasis has a crew of "2165 from 71 different countries". This fact is advertised each time a waiter or waitress introduces himself - which they do with punctual regularity - and implores you to "enjoy".
"I am Sanjay from India, please enjoy"; "I am Loretta from Trinidad, please enjoy." Our evening meal was served, with perfect grace, by an uneasy pairing from Hungary and the Philippines.
This United Nations of recruitment is designed, presumably, to leave you with the vague impression that you are in the midst of a great ocean-going melting pot - without ever straying too far from what looks like home.
The sense of familiarity, of every space looking like somewhere you have been before creates one of the more curious aspects of the Oasis of the Seas: the fact that you soon become accustomed to its gargantuan size.
One useful aspect of this loss of scale is that everything you consume is dwarfed by the immensities around you: the immensity of the ocean, the immensity of the ship and the immensity of a good many of your fellow diners.
Above the ship's main drag, a non-stop news ticker reminds you, lest you forget, of the steel miracle on which you are vacationing. Addressing guests with a nice update on "lords, ladies and gentlemen" - "royal family, celebrity elite, media partners ..." - it lists some of the more telling fun stats on a loop: there are 2.3m kg of water in the ship's swimming pools, say, or each day 50,000kg of ice cubes are produced.
Even these superlatives are hard to take on board, however, and the statistics you really want ("how many jumbo prawns do you serve in a week?", or "what is the average bar bill?") are, when I put them to head chef Ivor (from Germany, enjoy) not forthcoming. "We try to be about quality not quantity."
In search of a sense of the sheer power of the ship, I take a tour of the engine room with Norwegian chief engineer, Staale Johan Ludviksen.
He has a quietly infectious enthusiasm for his behemoth, which generates nearly 19,000 horse power in three "azipod thrusters".
The engines are started and stopped not with a giant brass lever, but with the click of a mouse on an "on-off" button on a screen.
The engine room has no visible moving parts; much of the pipework is encased in silver insulation, giving the whole a kind of spaceship quality.
Most of the engine is Italian, though it was constructed, along with the ship, in Finland.
When I emerge from below decks, it is into the teeth of a tropical storm. It's chucking it down on the boardwalk, and everyone has run for cover into the donut store and the temporary tattoo parlour. There's a gale howling around the mini golf course and every so often lightning illuminates the pool bar.
Many storeys below, the ocean swells and churns; the Oasis of the Seas, though, glides on through the squall regardless, doing business as usual. I consult my entertainment itinerary: Hans Christian Andersen on ice or karaoke time?