BACKGROUND INFORMATION: We are a married couple, 35 and 39. This is our second cruise; we went to Alaska on our honeymoon last July on Holland America Oosterdam. While our cruise experience is limited, our travel/dining experience is not, and we found Oasis to be a truly incredible vacation.
HOTEL INFORMATION: We stayed at the Springhill Suites in Dania Beach the night before; great hotel, plentiful complimentary breakfast, very spacious rooms. I found the hotel on Hotwire approximately 10 days before and only paid $79, which included breakfast, airport shuttle and shuttle to cruise port. I would definitely recommend this hotel to others.
EMBARKATION: I was surprised how easy this process was; we had no wait to check in and obtain our SeaPass cards; once we had those, our wait to board the ship was approximately 20 minutes, but we were seated in a large waiting room, and didn't mind the wait at all. The only negative part of embarkation was beyond RCCL's control; it was POURING RAIN, which resulted in the gangway/ boarding deck (5) being slippery. There was plenty of staff to help passengers, but it was definitely a soggy start. Also, I suspect there will be a few reviews that complain about receiving wet luggage. From my vantage point on the gangway, I could see several bins of luggage that got stuck outside during the heaviest rain. Again, staff were hurrying to get all the luggage to a dry area as quickly as possible, but there were some bags that got completely soaked.
SHIP: The ship is in a word, remarkable. Entering the Promenade on Deck 5, I was astonished. The best comparison I can make is back to when I was little and my parents took me to Disney World...the jaw dropped look of utter amazement is the same look I had on my face walking onto the Promenade. I had looked at tons of pictures of the ship, read reviews, etc...but I wasn't prepared for actually being there. Truly breathtaking. I'll discuss other parts of the ship throughout the review, but overall, it's a marvel. There were so many times throughout the week I had to remind myself I was on a ship. Regarding ship size, ease of getting around, etc, I thought everything was very well designed. We never waited more than 2 minutes for an elevator (except for after shows let out, but we just took a flight or two of stairs to the nearest bar for a drink), and you can walk the length of the ship on almost every deck; our favorite was Deck 8...we strolled through Central Park everyday. My husband is 5 months recovered from major knee surgery, so I was concerned he would have mobility issues, but we didn't have any issues at all.
ACTIVITIES: There is so much to do on board, at all times of the day. I started out trying to make a list of all the things I "had to do"...I didn't want to miss a single thing. But then my husband suggested we just focus on the things we wanted to do; great suggestion. For us, the best part about this cruise/ship was that there were so many options of wonderful activities. I feel as if I could sail Oasis 5 more times and have a totally different experience each time. Some people might perceive this as a negative, or feel disappointed that they missed things, but I'm the opposite. Some of the activities we loved: Riding the Carousel, working out in the Vitality Spa Fitness Center (incredible gym), walking the outdoor track, watching Grease the movie in the Aqua Theatre under the stars, Calypso Party on the Boardwalk, 70s party on the Promenade, watching NBA games in On Air, playing mini-golf, lounging in the Infinity hot tubs on Deck 15, BINGO (I won $200!), getting strawberry frozen yogurt from Wipeout Cafe, Love and Marriage game show, watching the BellyFlop contest....to name a few. Things I missed that I'll try to do next time: Ride the Zipline and FlowRider, Rising Tide Bar, parades, flash mob dance class, cupcake decorating class, behind the scenes tour, Quest, Twenty (Miami themes dance party), art auction, 3D Movie in the Opal Theatre, have a flight at Vintages, etc.
One of my favorite parts of the cruise is that there was truly something for everyone...everywhere I looked, folks were having fun. I despise karaoke, but the folks in the karaoke bar were having a BLAST!! We popped in the Viking Crown Lounge (GORGEOUS) on the last night...there was a band playing and two couples dancing. Not our thing, but those couples could not have been happier...regardless of the activity, or your likes/dislikes, you will find something on this boat that brings you joy...likely many things. Ive rarely experienced a vacation where I always felt like I was in the perfect place, doing something I loved.
SERVICE: One word: INCREDIBLE. From our stateroom attendant to our servers to the window washers, EVERY SINGLE staff member I encountered greeted me with a warm genuine smile, asked me how my day was, and if I needed anything. The service on this ship was absolutely PERFECT!
STATEROOM: We LOVED our room. We opted to keep it simple, selecting an interior stateroom. Our room was spacious enough, well appointed, and very clean. Our location was ideal; Deck 10, forward. The room was always quiet, and well located for trips to the fitness center, Internet cafe, etc. I would recommend Deck 10 to anyone that prioritizes a quiet room. We were removed from the "noise" of the ship, but just a quick walk away when we wanted to be in the middle of the action.
DINING: Prior to boarding, I was most concerned about the dining on board after reading several negative reviews; I was pleased to find that the dining was one of the highlights of the ship. My husband and I partake in fine dining regularly, eating at 5 star restaurants once or twice per month; I know what good food is :) And the Oasis has it. Sure, there was room for improvement on some dishes, but overall, the food quality was great. We did not make it to Giovanni's or Izumi, an our Windjammer meals were limited, but we experienced most of the other dining on the ship. To be more specific:
MAIN DINING ROOM: We ate dinner here 4 nights. Overall, we were very pleased. My husband did receive a dish that he really disliked (it had about 200 capers on the plate...seriously, I have never seen so many capers on one plate in my life), but other than that, we enjoyed our food. On Thursday night, we had the much anticipated Fisherman's plate, and we were blown away by the size and quality of the lobster tail we were served. I was expecting the tiny ones you get from chain restaurants...but we received HUGE tails of very high quality...easily a $40 lobster tail in a fine restaurant. My husband liked it so much he ordered a second, and they happily brought it to him.
150 CENTRAL PARK: This was EXCELLENT! We ate the Winter Grove menu and couldn't have enjoyed the food or the service more. The chocolate Caramel tart they served for dessert was without question one of the best desserts I have ever had in my life.
CHOPS: The food was very good; service was a bit slow, and we had to wait a bit too long between courses, but our table had a view of the park outside, so we didn't mind. Both the fillet and Halibut were great, the Onion soup was good, but needed more cheese, and the Mud Pie was fantastic. The Creme Brulee was ok; not great, I'd pick a different dessert next time.
PARK CAFE: We didn't eat lunch here until Thursday, and wish we had discovered it sooner. The roast beef sandwich is as good as advertised, and the create your own salad bar was AWESOME. We also ate breakfast here almost everyday...fantastic egg sandwiches and yogurt parfait
JOHNNY ROCKETS: WELL WORTH the $4.95 per person cover charge. My husband thought the burger we had there was the best thing he ate all week...and he is a burger guy. It was really fun to have a dinner of onion rings, burgers, and cherry cokes...we don't do that often enough!
SOLARIUM BISTRO: Loved the lunches here, lots of options, nice salad bar, unique hot dishes. Breakfast here was good, but I hate turkey bacon (all they had) and love breakfast potatoes (there were none), so it wasn't my favorite.
WINDJAMMER: We had one breakfast and one lunch here; both were fine. My Windjammer expectations were realistic...food quality was ok, lots of options. But its a buffet on a cruise ship that holds over 6,000 people. I knew what to expect.
ROOM SERVICE: Only ordered once for breakfast, and it was good. Food arrived promptly, hot and exactly as described.
SORRENTOS PIZZA: Yum! Lots of choices, a perfect snack when passing through the Promenade
CUPCAKE CUPBOARD/DONUT SHOP: I consider myself a cupcake/donut snob. Seriously :) I actually plan trips around what cupcake ad donut shops I can visit, so was anxious to try these. I had one cupcake (Manly Breakfast, cinnamon cake with bacon cream cheese frosting) and it was very good...no where near the caliber of Crumbs, but better than I expected. The donuts were also good; on par with Dunkin Donuts. I tried the Key Lime, Cinnamon Creme and Boston Creme...I enjoyed each one. Definitely not the best donut I've ever had (those honors go to Top Pot in Seattle and Donught Factory in NYC), but enjoyable. If you're looking to save calories, you won't miss anything by skipping these, but I liked what I tried.
By far, one of the best things about Oasis is the numerous dining options; if you can't find something you love at a complimentary restaurant, something is wrong. If we wanted to eat it, we could find it. And while we chose to try some of the nicer up-charge restaurants, our dining experience would have been equally good had we stuck with only restaurants that were included.
ENTERTAINMENT: We saw every show except the Headliner (Earl Turner); my husband has a certain tolerance level for singing and dancing shows, and I had to give him a night off :) All of the shows we saw were excellent. I've read some reviews where folks compare Hairspray to the Broadway production, and that is a bit of a stretch in my opinion...I'm a Broadway nerd, and it definitely was not at that level, but I enjoyed it very much. Circle of Dreams and Come Fly with Me were great, the Comedy Show was very funny and Frozen in Time was perfect on a rainy at sea day. Definitely heed the advice of past cruisers and book all your shows in advance. I thought I would be annoyed by having to follow a schedule, but I wasn't at all. I actually appreciated having the shows planned in advance once I was on board.
PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: We booked our Atlantis excursion immediately after booking the cruise; we booked our St. Thomas and St. Martin excursion the night before at the excursions desk.
BAHAMAS: We did the Ultimate Atlantis Adventure w/o lunch, for $299 per person. Swimming with dolphins has eluded me on two previous vacations, and I didn't want to miss out this time. The excursion was great, we had an awesome day, and I didn't mind the cost. But there are some negatives. First, you are only at Atlantis from 8:00ish to 1:00ish...and the dolphin swim takes a good bit of that time. While our Ultimate Package gave us access to everything at Atlantis, there is no possible way we could have seen everything. We opted for the water park over the Aquarium, and had so much fun...but I left Atlantis wishing I had more time there. The other negative is how many different Atlantis excursions there are; the descriptions of each online and at the excursions desk are quite general and vague...and the price points vary greatly. I decided on the $299 trip early on because I wanted the ability to do everything without concern for what I had access to...but looking back, I think I could have spent less money and still done the dolphins and the water park...maybe. To be honest, I'm still confused :)
ST. THOMAS: My husband selected an excursion from those that were still available (and there were many still available the night before); we waited because we wanted to know the weather, etc before we booked. He chose the Snorkel/Sail trip to Christmas Cove and Honeymoon Beach, which was a day of sailing, snorkeling, and beach, including bbq lunch, and all you cared to drink, beer and delicious rum drinks included, for $99 per person. The excursion was 6.5 hours, so it took the entire port time; I can't speak to anything else in this port. The excursion was great, and I recommend it overall, but again, there were a few negatives. The ship is a true sailboat...a pirate ship named Bones :) But...if the weather forecast is for choppy seas or windy conditions, and you are prone to motion sickness, skip this trip. I'll skip the gross details, but I threw up 4 times in a bucket during the sail to the snorkeling cove...the crew was very helpful and nice, but I have rarely felt that sick; others on board were sick too. Use caution if you get seasick on small boats. Once we arrived at Christmas Cove (also called Turtle Cove) we put on our snorkel gear and jumped in. Our snorkel guide, Jordan, gave us a great tour...seeing the endangered sea turtles was INCREDIBLE. We also spent time over a reef, the fish were abundant. Although I was still feeling a bit queasy, I absolutely loved the snorkeling. One other word of caution though...this is not snorkeling for beginners. If you are not a moderate to strong swimmer, book a different excursion. You MUST be able to SWIM to enjoy this trip. I attribute the difficulty to the rough seas that day, but the swimming was a workout. After snorkeling, we sailed to Honeymoon Beach; it wasn't as big as I expected, but the swimming was enjoyable, and the bbq lunch was very good. Overall, I would go on this excursion again...and that's saying a lot considering how sick I got, but I'm not sure the excursion description adequately characterized the trip...it was a lot more strenuous than I expected.
ST. MARTIN: I'm in LOVE with this port; can't wait to return. We took another excursion for the morning to the Butterfly Farm and shopping in Marigot. I LOVE butterflies, which is why we went. My husband was a trooper :) This excursion was great, but were were only at the Farm for 45 minutes, and shopping for 45 minutes...the rest was travel time on the bus. Our driver gave us a great tour, and I appreciated learning about the island; but the majority of time on the tour was bus time. After the excursion, we boarded Oasis, had lunch, changed to swimsuits, and headed back out. We took the water taxi to Phillipsburg ($6 pp r/t, right in port, quick ride, overall awesome) and rented chairs/umbrella on the beach for $10. After beach time we shopped around Phillipsburg a bit, before catching the water taxi back to port...right at 4:30 :) The only negative here was again related to the excursions desk on board; I specifically asked if it was easy to get to a public beach and rent chairs/umbrellas in St. Martin without booking a beach excursion and was told no...I was told the "Afternoon Beach Break" for $42 a person was the only way to do that. I decided not to spend that after booking the morning excursion, and hoped I could figure something out on my own. When I saw how EASY AND ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE the water taxi was, and that there were HUNDREDS of chairs for rent directly across from the port, I was a bit annoyed...really the only time the whole trip I was irritated about anything. I understand the excursions desk is trying to make money...but if you want to spend the day on the beach in St. Martin, you will have no problem doing so for very little money. The beach is also lined with restaurants, and jet skis, etc available for rent...for about $16 pp (not including food or water rentals), you can have an awesome beach day!!!!
Overall, the 3 ports were all great...we had excellent weather, which helped, but I would highly recommend the Eastern route based on the ports.
If I could change anything about the cruise, it would be the information available online and on the ship about the various excursions...I wish the descriptions were more detailed, and the shore excursion staff could provide better information, especially when asked to compare multiple excursions. But this slight negative was so minor in comparison to the rest of the wonderful experience.
DISEMBARKATION: So easy; we were tagged in the 8 am group, but didn't leave the ship until 8:45, and we were never hurried at all. Once we were off, our luggage was right there, customs lines were short, and taxis lined up to take us to FLL. Taxi cost was $15 total for 2 people, including tip; cheaper than arranging through the ship.
SUMMARY: I would recommend this itinerary and this ship to anyone; I could not have enjoyed my vacation more. I read well over 100 of the available reviews on CC before booking, and had some minor concerns based on some of the negative feedback. To each his own...it's not my place to question the opinions of others...but I just don't understand how anyone could possibly have a negative experience on this ship. After two cruises in 10 months, our next trip will likely be land based, but our next cruise will definitely be with RCCL, and most likely on Oasis again (or perhaps Allure).
If you select OASIS, enjoy her. I suspect you'll have the trip of a lifetime.