I have never written a review before but because of all the good advice I obtained from reading the reviews posted previously, I decided to write this!
We were really reluctant to book a cruise with 6,000 or our closet friends, but decided we wanted to experience the Oasis or the Allure. We booked a Jr. Suite on the Oasis. This cruise turned out to be our favorite cruise we have ever taken. It was outstanding even though we hated the ports. The ship is really the destination. Sailing to 3 of the most dangerous countries in the world was not our idea of a vacation, but in the end, it really did not matter at all.
We have never experienced better customer service than on this ship and we never once felt like we were with a crowd of 6000. Pretty shocking.
The ship is massive, gorgeous and truly a work of art. It is perfect for couples, families, small children, etc. There is something for every single person.
We always fly into the port the day before the cruise -- never the day of. Miss your cruise just once due to airline or weather issues and you will never do that again.
We stayed at the W in Fort Lauderdale. I would never stay there again. We got a good rate on the internet but it turned out to be a bad deal. The noise in the hallways of this ultra party place ended at 4am. The room was actually dirty and the floor in the bathroom was covered in mold. Disgusting. Horrible choice. If you are over 25 years of age and want a clean, comfortable room, this is not your hotel.
We waited to board the ship until 1pm. I would not go earlier since you can't get into your stateroom until 1:00pm. Who wants to lug your carry on luggage around? It took us 10 minutes and $15 to get to the port. Once at the port, there was no one in line. We walked right up to check in which took about 5 minutes. We were shocked beyond words to learn that we had been upgraded to a Crown Loft Suite. Speechless....We still can't figure out how this happened. A two story suite for the week! It could have been the nicest room we've ever experienced. The room attendants were exceptional. The bed was comfortable. Room service was very timely. We have nothing but high praise for the accommodations.
We were in our "cabin" by 1:35pm. Because of the reviews, we headed to the Park Cafe in Central Park for lunch and to have a roast beef sandwich. The sandwiches were great. Sliced prime rib on fresh roles with made to order salads. No lines.
Here are my general comments about the cruise:
- Pre book all your shows. Really a must. If you can't do it on line, call Royal Caribbean. Very easy. We saw the Aqua Show, Hairspray, Headliner and the Comedy Show. All very good and enjoyable. The musical group The Frontliners are terrific. Great choice by Royal Caribbean. The other trio on the ship and the gentleman who plays the guitar in the English pub -- not so much. This surprised us. There were other shows during the week that you didn't need reservations for. They were fun.
- Eat in the specialty restaurants. If you go on a cruise to save money, this is not your vacation. Chops is $30 a head for a $200 meal. Food was outstanding; 150 Central Park was $40 for a $300 meal -- one of the most exceptional dining experiences we've ever had. $15 for Giovanni's Table -- great food, service and atmosphere. So worth the extra money. I can't stress this enough. It's part of the cruise experience. Make your reservations before you board. Call RC directly.
- We ate in the main dining room 3 times. Food was "ok" but nothing more than that. Nights 1 and 2 were ok. Night number 3, the food was borderline uneatable. We did not enjoy the main dining room too much. We had the 6pm seating. The people who did My Time Dining were always waiting in long lines. That didn't seem to make much sense.
- If you book a suite ( anything above a Jr. Suite), you get to use the Concierge Lounge. This is an amazing benefit. Free alcohol until 8:00pm, great food, tremendous service. We spent every evening in the lounge until dinner. Great fun -- an extra special treat.
- If you go to Labadee, consider renting a cabana on the beach. Loved having the shade and a place to relax. They book up fast so do this in advance.
- Ate once in the WindJammer. I would avoid this place at all cost if you are the least bit picky about food. The food was terrible -- like a bad school cafeteria. Awful. If you aren't picky, then you will be ok here. It's just a mediocre to bad buffet experience. There are so many other good options.
- Breakfast at Johnny Rockets was decent. Never a line. Great service.
- SeaFood Shack had good food -- worth the few extra bucks you had to pay.
- We stayed by the Solarium pool on sea days. The Solarium is really beautiful. Even though everyone was outside, we never felt crowded. There were always lounges available and bar service was good. The pool is not really a pool -- just a small shallow place to get wet to cool off. The pools in the family area were much more crowded and full of children. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were always lounge chairs available.
- I used the spa twice. I thought it was ridiculously expensive, but I will say, the hot stone massage I booked was one of the best massages of my life. I also spent the extra $15 to use the thermal area. I don't think I would do this again as it is small and had a few teenagers running a round that were loud and obnoxious - pretty much ruining that "relaxing" experience. The spa team does not monitor this at all. Again, the massage was outstanding. The ship offers a physician who does Botox and other cosmetic services as well as a "technician" who will whiten your teeth. I found this odd. Who would do this on a cruise ship??? At twice the normal cost? A little weird.
- The fitness center is very well equipped but small for the size of the ship. We went everyday around 8:00am and the place was packed. Some days, you had to wait for a bike or a treadmill. The yoga classes and the spin classes were great. Staff was very nice.
- Loved the non-smoking part of the casino. Won $100.
- The cabins overlooking the Boardwalk looked very cramped and seemed very noisy -- they face the Aqua Theater and large outdoor TVs that play late into the evening. I overheard people complaining about how noisy they were. The cabins facing Central Park were probably much quieter. The cabin facing the Promenade had to have been REALLY noisy. I think an inside cabin with no window would have been better than one of these if you want sleep.
- Central Park in the evening was beautiful. It was the perfect place to sit outside under the stars with a glass of wine. It was quiet and never crowded -- really beautiful.
- Vintages Wine Bar was great. Served great tapas. Beautiful venue.
- The Viking Lounge on deck 17 has a beautiful bar. There was never anyone in it except the night the singers from the show Hairspray came and sang show tunes. That night, the place was packed. These people are amazing talents.
- We disembarked the ship at 7:15am. You have to be out of room by 9:00 and there is nothing to do the day you come back to port so why wait? We booked a 9:45am flight. It took us 10 minutes to walk off the ship and 10 minutes to grab out luggage and clear customs. Walked right out to a cab and in 10 minutes we were at the airport. Could not have been easier or less stressful. We could have booked an earlier flight.
Labadee is great day at the beach. RC has done a good job with the island but if you are not a sun worshipper, there is really nothing else for you. Haiti is not our idea of a vacation spot. Falmouth Jamaica is not exactly a place you would want to go back either. The port itself is new and nice but its just full of junk stores. If you take an excursion do it with the ship. Don't venture out on your own. Not safe. Cozumel Mexico is great if you want to snorkel or dive. There is nothing in downtown but junk stores (or diamond stores -- really??) and you are hassled to death walking down the street. I wouldn't do it again -- ever.
All in all we loved the cruise and the ship. It's truly an experience. We will book on the Allure next but will never do the Western Caribbean again. We wonder if we will like cruising on the smaller ships in the future. The Oasis kind of spoils you. I don't know how RC does this with 6000 guests on board, but they have everything down to a science. We were amazed at the high level of customer service.
Despite the poor ports, we had a fabulous time on the ship. I would recommend it to anyone.