I wrote the article that I wish I had had access to when planning our first cruise. To see the comprehensive review with photos: http://www.frictionfactor.com/1749
We are ocean front beach cottage people. Until recently we hadn't even considered a cruise. In the comprehensive article I give background about our decision criteria for everything range from which cruise line to use, which ship, which cruise, which cabin, and all in between, including our answers, and how well that worked out. There is considerable information about things we wished we had known in advance, questions that were hard to get answered (and the answers we discovered).
As we embarked on our cruise on Oasis of the Seas, our anxieties melted into the realization that we had hit a home run.
Where we stayed the night before the cruise: Best Western Plus Airport/Cruise Port Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We were very pleased for its comfort, convenience, affordability, and the help we received for our transportation needs.
Dining: When we signed up for the cruise, we were given a choice of dining at a private table or at a group table. We chose the former and got the best of both worlds. Your table, waiter, and assistant waiter are assigned to you for the entire cruise (your choice of early or later dinners) whether you use it or not. While we could enjoy private dining, the small tables are close together which offered the opportunity if one wishes, to socialize with couples sitting in adjacent tables. We had very enjoyable company, so it worked out well. Our waiter, Radostin from Bulgaria, was outstanding as was our assistant waiter, Radney, from the Philippines. Radostin and Radney were very personable, remembered our preferences, and treated us as if we were very special guests throughout the entire cruise.
Radostin was very familiar with the chefs and their meals and had a knack for making perfect suggestions. I was never disappointed in following his recommendations. Every course he served was prepared with excellence and artistic appeal. I cannot think of any way this aspect of our cruise could have been improved.
We were impressed by the actions taken on Oasis to protect passenger health. When entering and exiting any restaurant and at strategic points throughout the ship, we were provided with Purell antibacterial hand gel and polite insistence on its use.
We lucked out. We had reserved a guaranteed ocean view balcony and, thankfully, ended up with a stateroom assignment that was good: Cabin 11150, Category D3 -- Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony. We were relatively high and forward on the port side of the ship. The advice given us to minimize motion that causes seasickness was to be low near the center of the ship. We did not follow that rule and we loved the location of our stateroom. Not only were there no seasickness issues, but we had a magnificent view. There seemed to have been opportunity for motion sickness as the winds were very high the first couple of days. And, indeed, during some performances the rolls and surges of the ship were apparent, enough to cancel one of the high dive performances and enough to be entertaining during a performance of Hair. But no stomach twinges for my wife or me, nor did I observe any guests hurrying from the show. All in all, a very satisfactory result that has boosted my confidence for the future...albeit, still wondering how much different it will be aboard a smaller cruise ship. I am assured that modern vessels have good stability systems, but I will reserve judgment for personal experience.
We made reservations in advance of the trip for the evening shows and that worked out well since many shows were fully booked by the time of the cruise. Our preference was to eat early (6:00pm) and go to the shows afterward, though we could have reversed that (dine at 8:00pm and go to earlier or late shows). We enjoyed the various performances that we attended. We were impressed with the size and grandeur of the Opal Theater, the very existence of an ice skating rink and ice shows (the rink being available to passengers during off-times), and the amazing Aqua Theater at the ship's stern with its cliff-diving height high dive and its deepest-on-the-seas diving pool. The Aqua Theater has an adjustable floor that becomes a dry stage, an ankle-depth water dancing area for some performances, or a deep pool. At times we just enjoyed sitting in the stands to watch practice diving.
With up to 8,000 passengers and staff you may expect crowded conditions, and at certain times and locations you would be right. During the sun-worship hours chairs around the pools were completely taken. So if you are there to tan in the sun, you will find it challenging to find a perch during prime time. Long rows of lounge chairs are so close that they touch which can be very claustrophobic. Happily, we were always able to find comfortable places to lounge in the shade with wonderful views of the ocean. On some nights there are parties and entertainment on the Royal Promenade and it is shoulder to shoulder for the length of the main drag. We loved the excitement (in reasonably short doses). In the comprehensive article I provide details about specific amenities and events in addition to details about our stateroom and its comfort. I also list things we recommend that you remember to bring including things you may wish you had considered.
Ports of call and our choice of excursions: Before our cruise, we spent a lot of fun time exploring the many, many available excursions sponsored by Royal Caribbean. We watched videos on the Internet to get a better idea of what to expect on the excursions that sounded interesting to us. As we did, we zeroed in on our choices and scheduled them in advance. Some passengers prefer to simply stay on the ship and enjoy uncrowded pools and other venues. You may also enjoy simply going into port and taking a self-guided tour.
Remember when you schedule your excursions that the times quoted are ship times, not local times.
We elected to try some excursions and these were our choices:
DAY 3, 16-Apr-2012, Labadee, Haiti
Labadee Snorkel Safari, 08:30 AM
Labadee Wave Jet Tour -- Driver, 01:00 PM
DAY 4, 17-Apr-2012, Falmouth, Jamaica
Green Grotto Caves & Dunns River Falls, 10:30 AM
DAY 6, 19-Apr-2012, Cozumel, Mexico
Caverns & Beach Exploration By 4ï¿½4, 07:00 AM
We thoroughly enjoyed the ports and the excursions (that were not cancelled due to high wind at Labadee).
Next Time: Transatlantic? Alaska? Pacific, South Seas islands? New Zealand?
I have learned since our cruise that Celebrity is the 5-Star sister company of Royal Caribbean. If it really is nicer/better than what we just experienced then it must be truly amazing, for our cruise on Oasis of the Seas exceeded even our very high expectations.