I hope this review is useful to those who have never cruised before, and who are considering a first time cruise on Oasis.
A little background on us: we've (my husband and I) traveled all over Mexico and the Caribbean, and in the last five years we've stayed mostly at all-inclusive resorts, generally adult-only ones in Mexico. So this review will naturally be a comparison of our cruising experiencing compared to a resort vacation. Sorry, can't help it! We are in our late 40's/early 50's and traveled with my sister and her teen daughter. We were all first time cruisers, except for my sister, who had cruised on Carnival back in the early 90's.
We originally were going to take a short Carnival cruise to see if we had sea legs. That short, inexpensive cruise morphed into Oasis of the Seas. In addition to simply enjoying a cruise experience, it was a dress rehearsal to see if we had sea legs for a possible Mediterranean cruise next summer. We discovered we had sea legs, but... we won't be taking that cruise. For various reasons.
So, if you have never cruised before, will you enjoy Oasis of the Seas?
Everyone is so different. Within our group of 4 cruisers, the breakdown was:
Me: Probably never cruise again but never say never
Husband: Heck no, never, ever, ever again, EVER
Sister: Yes, I might like to go on the Allure, the eastern itinerary
Niece: I love it so much I want to WORK on the Oasis
So here are some tips for Oasis, based on my summer experience, on a capacity sailing:
1. MAKE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS
Even if you choose My Time Dining, make reservations for each night. Make reservations for all shows. Otherwise, be prepared to stand in line. When making show reservations online through the RCL website, you must allow 2 hours for dinner in the MDR in order to make a show reservation; anything less than that will not allow the reservation to go through.
2. BE PREPARED FOR SMALL CABINS
I have said I really liked my cabin. I like cozy spaces. If you are not a fan of small spaces and can swing the cost, get a suite. They look amazing! Otherwise, get a cabin with a balcony so that your cabin feels a bit bigger. Either an interior or oceanview balcony, depending on how you handle looking at a moving motion. Be aware that the shower is very small in a regular cabin. This might seem like a no brainer to those who have cruised, but until I actually saw my cabin, I was still rationalizing that it would somehow, miraculously be the size of hotel room.
3. RCL EXCURSIONS ARE EXPENSIVE
Do some research and branch out on your own. You'll save some money and get away from the herd. Don't worry that you will miss the ship if you go off on your own. These ports of call are all used to cruisers - they know how to get you back to the ship, on time. Just pay attention to any local time differences versus ship time.
4. KEEP TABS ON YOUR TAB
You can check how much you have spent using the interactive interface on your TV. Things can add up quickly, and mistakes do happen. Be prepared to be nickled and dimed 24/7. "Would you like coffee, tea, cappuccino?" Be aware the coffee and tea are included. We had breakfast with a family from Colombia who had no idea that the cappuccinos they were enjoying at breakfast were not included. Freshly squeezed OJ is extra - we stuck with the Tang-like juice in the Windjammer and it was fine - and included. "Free" is not "free." The wine at the wine tasting, the free Botox seminar - you name it - are sales pitches. Photographers are everywhere like annoying insects. Caveat emptor. The upsell is everywhere. Even down to selling you water as you disembark in Haiti - where there is no potable water.
5. JOIN IN THE ACTIVITIES
My 17 year old niece had the best time of all of us. She joined in the activities. The belly flop contest, scavenger hunt, mini golf, trivia - if you like that stuff, you'll never be bored.
6. BE PREPARED FOR LOTS OF PEOPLE AND NOISE
I know this sounds, again, like a no-brainer, but when Oasis is full there are close to 8,000 souls on board. Distances are great, but for an able-bodied person, not prohibitive. Be prepared to wait for elevators - or take the stairs. As noted, the Windjammer at times is overwhelmed with people, noise, announcements. There are few places to go to get away from the crowds or the noise. Although the Boardwalk area seemed weirdly empty a lot, the creepy carousel music freaked me out after a while. As I have said in earlier posts, the pool deck was Hades for me. I had a hard time finding a quiet place during the day on Oasis where I could sit outside. I'm sure they exist somewhere. Although Guest Services was not able to tell me of any when I practically begged them to help me find a quiet place. Central Park is quiet (except for noise trickling down from the pool deck), but during the day I didn't relish sitting on a park bench for hours at a time. RCL does an amazing job moving people on and off the ship. I was amazed! The only instance of mob mentality I experienced on Oasis was during a "sale" of RCL stuff in the Promenade that I ran into while going for a cupcake. People went nuts (think: door openings on Black Friday, you've seen the footage, well not that bad but...) people went crazy for t-shirts. Hint: after the "sale" is over, the merchandise is still at its sale price. No need to join the mob! On embarcation day the Promenade was as crowded as a mall at Christmas, but that was to be expected. Our cruise was at capacity.
7. WHAT PEOPLE TELL YOU ON CRUISE CRITIC IS OPINION
I include myself in this. Formal night is a great example. The night the ship comedian called "The GED Prom." Not my words, and not many people laughed when he said it. Lots of people are dressed in the MDR for formal night. I say dressed because I had read on these forums that everyone dresses up, there are lots of tuxs, etc... Not true in my experience. The couple sitting next to us in the MDR on formal night were, er, very casual. The man had on tropical shorts and a sleeveless shirt. I am no fashion police, but I thought those weren't allowed in the MDR at all? So... if you don't want to dress formally, don't. It is not enforced. The way I had read it on here was that it was required in the MDR. Maybe from prom goers who want it to be required, but it sure isn't. It is someone's opinion. As is this review.
8. DON'T EXPECT A MEANINGFUL CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
You will be funneled through duty free shops and RCL-owned port shops that sell tourist trinkets. Everyone speaks English. You can use dollars. All of this is fine, but don't expect to really get to know Mexico from the shops that sell vanilla and giant hats. The ports are benign, sanitized, Disney-like experiences that have no basis in reality. My cruise was like a benign trip through EPCOT vis a vis an international experience. The most multicultural experiences are found on ship, talking to the staff who hale from all over the globe. Or talking to people from other countries - there are lots of them! The best food for me on the Oasis was the ethnic food in the Windjammer.
9. EXPLORE THE SHIP
Take a walk on the jogging track. Explore the different areas. This ship is an amazing feat of engineering. They charge a bundle for a tour (really?) but people who took the tour say it is worth it.
10. COME BACK TO CRUISE CRITIC AND TELL YOUR EXPERIENCE
Before my trip, I ate up all reviews and forum threads about Oasis. Advance information is really helpful about this ship!
- My niece had a great time because she likes an activity-filled vacation. She's 17. It makes sense.
- My husband resented having to have everything planned, and on a time table. He is more laid back and spontaneous.
- My sister loved being able to bop into the casino and then go to a "shopping talk" to get her "free coupon book."
- I liked the shows, the ship itself, and the fact that we went to three places.
I think someone who doesn't mind planning (I remember reading on Cruise Critic to bring a highlighter to mark all the activities you want so you don't miss any), reservations, lots of people, and mall-at-Christmas atmosphere, who thrives on lots of people and high energy will have a wonderful time. Those who are seeking a relaxing, laid back, low key vacation should maybe look elsewhere. There were times I felt trapped. Trapped on a ship in the middle of the ocean with a lot of people. It was like being in a giant (very clean!) amusement park, on a hot summer's day.
One thing I do want to say: the ship's crew are amazing. If you have a special occasion, let them know. We were celebrating my niece's 17 birthday and my 25th wedding anniversary. This information was in our reservations. They remembered my niece's birthday, and sang "Happy Birthday" in the MDR. They got her name wrong, but so what? They also gave her a 5 minute ship to shore phone call so she could call her dad. It was really nice. They forgot our anniversary. My sister went to guest services to tell them (we didn't know) and the next day we had a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries waiting in our cabin. A very nice, amazing gesture.
All in all, this cruise showed us that we will not be happy taking a Med cruise next summer - we want a bit more depth in our Europe trip so we'll be doing a land based trip with only a couple of destinations.
Thank you for reading this long report. I also thank those readers who understand I am not trying to be "mean" and diss RCL or the Oasis. I am not telling you you have an ugly baby. Cruising turned out to not be my cup of tea. But I am not dissing those who love it - or why they love it. I hope you enjoy your cruises, and I hope this report is useful to people who have never cruised and who are considering the Oasis.
Happy travels, however you choose to go! Below is more information on some topics that might be of interest to first time cruisers:
SEA LEGS AND SEA SICKNESS
This might be too much information, but I hope it will help someone who hasn't cruised but it worried about being seasick. Four of us cruised. Three of us get motion sick. Badly. My sister and I have positional vertigo. My husband just gets motion sick, even in a car as passenger; he can't sit in the back seat. My niece is 17 and never gets motion sick. My sister and I went back to the doctor for the "head shaking" treatment for vertigo prior to the cruise. I only needed one treatment. My sister needed four. We had in our arsenal: Dramamine, Bonine, ginger pills, sea bands, Scoplomine patch, and some chemotherapy anti-nausea meds. When the ship started moving my sister was terrified. Anyone who has vertigo or has been badly seasick will understand the terror. I was fine, as were my husband and niece. The first night at dinner, I could feel that I was sitting backwards and the ship was moving forwards. I could feel the motion but it didn't bother me. My niece who never gets motion sick felt it, and took a Bonine. It took care of the nausea.
Two days in my sister was not feeling great so she put on a patch. Which she kept on until we were in Cozumel and I looked at her and one had almost no pupil and the other was ALL pupil. She freaked out a bit and I made her take the patch off immediately.
The whole week I felt the motion. Sometimes I be walking down a hallway and I'd sway side to side. I took ginger pills I bought on Amazon - so did my husband. They worked like a charm. I never felt sick until I got off the ship in Haiti. Then I felt somewhat nauseated. In Jamaica, I felt downright gross, but that was right before I was getting back on the ship. I drank a full-sugared Coke and took a Bonine and felt fine. When we disembarked in Fort Lauderdale, I was dizzy, rocking and nauseated. Badly. Which was made worse then the taxi driver accidentally closed the taxi trunk door on my head. I remained dizzy and rocking for about 5 days. I popped a lot of Bonine. Seriously. I was not sick ON the ship, only OFF.
Seas were calm the entire trip, by the way. The captain said he never needed to use the stabilizers. Ithink the rocking was excellent for sleep - I slept like a baby on the ship.
I thought the food was similar to what you would find at a mainstream buffet restaurant - like Golden Corral or Hometown Buffet and its ilk. It was always hot when it needed to be hot and cold when it needed to be cold. There certainly is enough of it. Staff makes fun of how much people eat. Even the Cruise Director made a snarky comment one night as she introduced a show. There are two statues poolside of rotund bathers, almost as if RCL itself recognizes that food and is abundance is part of the cruising appeal.
Food is everywhere. There is pizza, brownies, sandwiches - you name it. I thought the soups in the Windjammer were very good. As are the ethnic foods, Indonesian and Thai. Not as successful were things like toast - it tasted like it was toasted the night before.
We had one meal at Chops Grill and it was excellent. Similar to a Ruth's Chris.
The MDR had many of the same offerings as the Windjammer each night.
The service in the MDR and WJ was excellent.
Breakfast in the Windjammer was one of the least enjoyable dining experiences -- ever. They play announcements over and over asking you to eat -- and get out. Nicely. People hover over your table like vultures waiting for you to vacate the table. The up side: we met a really nice family from Colombia because we had to share a table.
For those of you who are wondering what type of drinks are included: water, flavored waters (lemon, etc), iced tea, coffee, and tea
Someone on CC called Park Cafe and its adherents The Cult of The Roast Beef Sandwich. Based on everyone raving about The Sandwich and the salads, we went to Park Cafe for our first meal on Oasis. The Sandwich was grisly, chewy and generally icky. The salad was a bunch of romaine lettuce tossed with some fairly pedestrian mix ins. After that lunch, I returned for pastries one day and those were very good.
Breakfast at Johnny Rockets is fine if you like fried foods.
We had a mid ship Central Park cabin, deck 11, 11617. I think we made the right choice with this cabin, and we chose it because we were afraid of being seasick looking at the ocean while moving. Good move on our part: looking at the ocean was a bit disorienting, and looking at Central Park helped us tremendously. Plus at night, the Park is the prettiest venue on the ship.
Our cabin was small, but cozy, clean, and very well appointed. Our bed was near the closet: my sister's cabin 11615 had the bed near the balcony. Lots of closet space, and a small safe that would fit an iPad but not anything more than a notebook. I am a fairly thin, normal woman, and the shower was very narrow. I expected that so no worries. But it is really small, if you haven't ever been on a cruise ship. One downfall of our location is the noise during the day. If you are seeking peace and quiet on your balcony, forget it. The pool deck is 4 decks above you if you are on Deck 11 and it is noisy during the day. Very noisy. Announcements, a calypso band, kids yelling, games. This was the thing I disliked the most about the cruise: the pool deck (more on that later). I loved the balcony in the early AM and at night. 11617 is next to the plant wall on one side, so... only neighbors on one side. The plant wall has, well, plants and they don't make noise.
My least favorite part of the cruise were the sea days. I know some people love them, but on Oasis, the pool deck was insane. The flow riders were packed. The pools were packed. The one area of the pool deck that wasn't insanely crowded was the smoking area. I used to be a smoker so I am really not all that bothered by smoke. But it smelled not so great because it was not totally open air, but partially enclosed by windows. For me, it was the sheer number of people and noise level for which I was unprepared. I was no able to spend any length of time on the pool deck without my iPod. And because of feeling motion sick, I wasn't able to spend a lot of time up on the highest decks. And the adult only area was hot, because it is mostly enclosed.
Lots of people thrive on the energy, action, and noise of the pool deck. Not me. And as I said, this was the least favorite part of the cruise for me. I felt like there was nowhere to go outside to find some peace, and have a comfortable chair. I could have one or the other, but not both.
There are many Jacuzzis on the ship. And four main pools. Which were insanely packed. One pool was closed due to "biohazard" at one point --an adult pool, not a kiddie pool.
There is a nice, quiet area aft, off the running track. There are some wooden deck chairs. You can get to the area easily from the Boardwalk area, over near the Aqua Theater. There are stairs. Follow them down to the aft area. Peace and quiet, if you seek it.
Labadee disappointed me and I felt trapped on a giant money-making Royal Caribbean island. Columbus Cove beach was insanely crowded and is a very narrow beach. The water is clear here, but there are tons of people. No water shoes needed for this beach. It was a lot like the pool deck in terms of sheer numbers of people. The other beaches (the ones under the zip line, Adrenalin Beach?) were so rocky you needed water shoes to get in the water. The water was murky, and replete with straws, cups, and other debris. If you wanted to walk between the two beaches you could walk a gauntlet of vendors shouting at you to buy! buy! buy! Royal Caribbean brings food from the ship, and it was fine. The whole thing had a cheesy summer camp-like feel to it. I would never return - there are too many other better ports.
Tip: bring water shoes, and small bills to tip the guy who sets up the chairs for you.
We sat on Adrenalin Beach and it was less crowded. There is shade under trees.
We ended up booking transport for $20 per person through Jaital round trip from Falmouth to Montego Bay. 30 minutes after we docked, we found the Jaital driver. The four of us along with another couple from Oasis (who had booked separately) went to Mo Bay. It is around a 20 minute ride, very easy. We were dropped at Doctor's Cave Beach and agreed upon a pick up time and place (4 pm, in front of Margaritaville). Remember: stay on ship time and not Jamaica time!
It is $6 per person entrance to Doctor's Cave Beach, and $6 for an umbrella and $6 for a chair (a wooden/canvas deck chair). In hindsight, we didn't really need the umbrellas because there are shaded areas in the back portion of the beach. Clean bathrooms, showers, a deck area for food/drink, and beach service.
I am a jaded, nit picky beach person. This was one of the most beautiful beaches in terms of the water - that I have EVER seen.
We hung out in the crystal clear water for about 3 hours until we got hungry. I wasn't feeling great - the land was rocking a rolling so we walked down the street for a Burger King snack. Doctor's Cave Beach will give you a stamp for entry. We decided we had had enough beach, so we headed down to Margaritaville - about a 5 minutes walk from Doctor's Cave. Margaritaville is a bit pricey, but it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours eating and swimming. They have a water slide on the top deck and it shoots you out to the bay below. The slide is fast and a bit freaky.
Falmouth port is very clean and very RCL World - the same jewelry stores, etc.. that you find in their ports. They are building a Margaritaville - right now there is just a t-shirt shop.
I think our "Jamaica Day" was well worth it, and was easy to plan. We were back in port by 5:00 pm.
We went to Chankanaab National Park for snorkeling. They have sea lion shows and stuff, but we just wanted to snorkel. From the International Pier where Oasis docked, it was a $10 taxi ride for four people. I had a coupon I had printed off the internet, so it cost $19 per adult for entry. We had our own snorkeling equipment so I don't know if they charge.
There are lots of palapas and wooden chairs. You need water shoes - the bottom is made up of rock and ironshore. There are steps to get in, except for one zero entry kiddie area. The snorkeling was okay, not stellar. Lots of the same type of fish - not a lot of diversity. But lots of what there is. T here is a really pretty lagoon too - not to swim in, but to look at for a backdrop for photos.
If you plan to snorkel, they give you a flotation vest. No need to pay, but you do need to leave a driver's license.
There is a restaurant on site that was about $12 per person for some tacos. Not bad.
Thanks for reading this long review until the end. Happy sailing to you!