This review is being written from the perspective of two grandparents with two well-behaved grandchildren, ages 10 (girl) and 14 (boy). I'll comment on the highlights of our cruising experience on the Oasis of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean on June 30, 2012 and compare to our experience on the RCL Freedom of the Seas last year at the same time.
- The Oasis is truly an amazing ship, as has been mentioned many times in these reviews. No need to repeat here.
- The shows (Oasis Dream, Splish-Splash, Come Fly with Me, Frozen in Time) were incredibly well done and incredibly entertaining. Even the Madagascar 3 3D movie was a wonderful experience. We did not see "Hairspray." Make sure you make reservations ahead of time or you won't make it in.
- From our perspective, the Oasis was much more crowded than the Freedom last year. Swimming pools were literally "standing room only" and very few empty lounge chairs. The Windjammer was nearly always packed. They even had to make announcements to people not to linger too long to make room for others. The Promenade was always crowded, even though outdoor Central Park and Boardwalk were usually almost deserted. The main dining room staff and Windjammer staff seemed almost overwhelmed at times. The Oasis is only slightly longer and wider, with one more passenger deck than the Freedom, yet holds 48% more people. Even though there were more elevators, the waits were much longer than on the Freedom last year. That seems to be a case of too many people in too little space.
- Seating in the main dining room was by family or group -- one family or group, one table. Last year on the Freedom, they sat multiple families with similar characteristics (all with kids, all from US) at the same table. This was great for making friends and conversation, whereas the Oasis method was not. The people at the tables next to ours couldn't speak English. Didn't like it much. Food was very good every night we attended. Wine service was a bit slow due to the extremely busy staff. Service on the Freedom was much less hectic and more enjoyable.
- Interestingly, the staff (room attendants, dining room staff, others) on the Freedom last year was almost exclusively male. On the Oasis, it seemed to about 50/50. The only reason I mention this is that the male staff on both ships generally seemed more friendly and accommodating than the female staff, although our female room attendant, Simone, was outstanding.
- Another interesting comparison with the Freedom of last year is that, on the Oasis, the international passengers mix was about 85% non-US (my estimate). This was only a problem in that it was very difficult to make friends, especially for our kids. Where we all made friends last year, this year we made none. I think the "trophy" status of the ship and the relative ease of traveling to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami (as compared to Orlando and Port Canaveral) was a contributing factor.
- The ports on this trip (Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten) were much more enjoyable than those on the Western Caribbean cruise on the Freedom last year. However, the stop in Nassau is so brief, it's hardly worth the effort. With the huge crowds returning to the ship, we had to be back in line by 1:00 pm for a 2:00 sailing. And we couldn't make it off the ship at 7:00 am after not having at least one sea day to rest from all the pre-cruise and sail day activity. Didn't like that much.
- The in-room Internet WiFi service was terrible. We could only get connected on our Apple devices about 10% of the time we tried. We continually received, "Internet not available" messages. Plus it was very slow (as expected from a satellite-based system) when connected. There was no problem last year on the Freedom.
- Embarkation was super efficient. We were on the ship in about 15 minutes after arrival at the port. Disembarkation was great too. We were off and had our bags in about 10 minutes. Of course, there were the usual lines at Customs but even that was relatively fast. This was a much better system than on the Freedom last year.
- Food was relatively good in the Windjammer, Park Cafe, Promenade Cafe, Sorrentos, and other non-fee eateries. Some have said the Windjammer is small but we didn't find that to be the case -- just big and crowded. The much-touted breakfast in the Solarium was terrible. Small and few food choices (a small subset of the same food as in the Windjammer). The turkey sausage was horrible, and the pancakes/toast were as hard as bricks. One time there was enough -- back to the Windjammer. With the kids we didn't partake of the for-fee restaurants, except for Johnny Rockets, which befuddles why this is a fee-based restaurant -- and drinks are extra.
- The AquaTheater deserves a special mention. What a pleasant way to watch water shows, movies, or to just relax. Hint: get there early for shows if you want one of the nice canvas chairs, not the hard benches. Another hint: there are two "secret" shuffleboard courts behind the huge AquaTheater screens.
- Our balcony rooms were as expected, nice, neat, and clean -- though not especially roomy. The beds and pillows were very comfortable. They were exactly like our rooms on the Freedom. Get a balcony room on the starboard side if you like watching port activities. We got our adjoining rooms right off the elevator hall (super convenient) and initially feared it would be noisy, but that was not the case at all.
- We were a bit surprised at amount of ship movement felt in our room (forward, deck 11) during a day and a half of sunny but windy, lightly swelling seas -- more than the three hours on the Freedom last year. It was not enough to cause discomfort -- it was just very noticeable. We assumed that movement would not be felt on such a large ship that was designed to minimize such movement. At all other times, all was still.
- If you want to take advantage of their baggage valet service ($20/person) that transfers your bags to the airport, checked through to your destination, and gets you your airline boarding passes, make sure your flight leaves after their "recommended" departure time of 11:30 am. Our flight was to leave 20 minutes too early and we didn't qualify. Bummer.
- RCL's recommended gratuities had increased over last year on the Freedom. I believe the increase occurred in July 2011.
Overall, our experience on the OASIS was overwhelmingly positive. However, our next cruise will be on a smaller less-crowded ship.