Last year we cruised on the NCL ship the Norwegian Epic and it being another Mega-ship, the experiences were very similar. Both ships had great shows, excellent food and many options for dining. I would do either ship again if they got better itineraries. These 7 day cruises on both ships have only three ports of call. One of which is their own private beach port. For the prices both these ships charge, they should stop at 4 real ports, not two real ports and their private beach port, like both NCL and Royal Caribbean do. For me, the private beach port is a total waste of time and nothing more than a huge moneymaker for the cruise lines. For the Oasis of the Seas, that port is called Labadee. Royal Carribean has a lease on this little sliver of land in northern Haiti until 2050. The Haitian government gets $6 per person on the ship every time it docks, so it does help Haiti out financially a bit. My problem with Labadee and ALL the private ports from all the cruise lines is that they make tons of money from guests at these private beaches. EVERYTHING you might want to do on Labadee is fee-based. The Dragon's Tail roller coaster is $22 per ride (the second rider is free), the zip line is $93 per ride (once trip across the water) and the water slide and water playground also charge for admittance, as do the parasailing and jet skis. The ONLY things free are the beach chairs and the buffet food, which you could get it you stayed on the ship. Don't get me wrong, the beach is beautiful, but there are only two small areas where swimming is allowed and the rest of the beaches are too rocky, so no swimming is allowed and life guards are there to prevent you from even trying to get in the water in those areas. On the plus side, if you get off the ship as quickly as possible, you can find either sunny spots or shady areas, whichever you prefer. The beach chairs are free, but be careful of the staff on the beach. They will open up or move a beach chair for you and have their hands out for a tip. Just walk over to the stacks of chairs and pick them up and move them where you want them, for free. No tipping is required and our cruise director told us to get our own chairs. The buffet food was good and plentiful in a couple different locations. The roller coaster was excellent and a must-do. We all enjoyed the zip line over the water, but we all thought the $93 price was WAY too steep for one zip line. Avoid the Artisan Village at all costs. The local vendors will hound you to death and shopping is very unpleasant. Royal Caribbean charges the locals a fee to sell their wares, so they hound you to death to get you to come into their stores. Plus, there are way too many of them. It would have been better with a handful of shops, rather than long rows of shops that are there now. We met a family whose son got badly hurt on the metal waterslide, so I would avoid that option. It was designed poorly and riders can slide up the side of the slide and hit their heads, which was what happened with this young boy, leaving him bloody and with two huge knots on his forehead. There are plenty of bathroom facilities and the ships sells liquor and beer here also so bring your key card with you.
The next port was Falmouth Jamaica, which is newer cruise port with nothing to do at the port except take a ship shore excursion or an excursion offered by one of the local, which we did. The ship tours are all very expensive and we also do shore excursions by the local at every port we go to and we usually pay about half or less than what the ships charge. We chose to board on the Rio Bueno river, which was a blast, but also dangerous. You can also go tubing or rafting from the same operator, so pick the way you want to go down the river. These are only class 1 and 2 rapids, so you are safe in a tube or raft. The board are a different story. When using the boards, you must wear elbow and knee pads, helmets, as well as swim gloves to help you safely navigate the rapids. Your knees and elbows and the rest of your body will scrape the rocks and bottom of the river at times, and it can be hard to stay on the boards through the rapids so it was a challenge. It was very fun, and we did fall off a few times and the current makes it difficult to get back on, but that is what made it fun too. We've already tubed and rafted on rivers before so we wanted to try something different and I'm glad we did. After your river adventure, you are given about 2 hours to relax and swim in the ocean, eat some food or drink some beer (at an additional cost). This excursion is only about 20 minutes from the port, so you don't have to worry about getting back to the ship on time. Do this excursion from an outside vendor and save $$$. Don't walk around Jamaica without a tour group as it is dangerous at times. There are a few new shops at this port, but nothing great. There is some shopping for souvenirs, a couple of bars and some restaurants. You can venture into the downtown area just outside the port, but it is not recommended as it is not safe for tourists and is basically an old commercial port. Not much to see, but prices are cheaper than in the immediate port area. You can also rent a taxi to Montego Bay for a 30 minute ride or go to Dunn's River Falls and climb up the falls, which is also very fun and a must do if you've never done it before.
The final port was Cozumel, Mexico, which is always fun even though it is getting run down and the shop owners have become more aggressive over the years. There are so many options and things to do here that you could spend a few days here. We rented Jet skis and parasailed, both of which were half the price of the ship tours and were longer in time. For a real treat, take the 30 minute ferry ride over to Playa Del Carmen and do some shopping or tour a cenote, which are really cool underground caves and caverns that you can swim in with a headlight. They also have a great monkey habitat called "The Jungle Place" but the tours book up fast so you have to book months in advance. Again, you don't need a ship tour here at all. You can catch the ferry over and back, just watch your time and make sure you are back on the ferry before the ship pulls away because the ship will NOT wait for you unless you are on a ship excursion. Snorkeling is free on Cozumel and is accessed from walking in from the beach, so NO tour is necessary. There are people all over trying to sell you snorkeling tours but you don't need them. Walk into the water at the beach and swim out a few yards and the coral reef is right underneath you. Bring your own snorkel hear with you and save some $$$. You can rent motorbikes, scooters or a car if you want to tour Cozumel on your own or just go to a beach or private all-inclusive resort, which there are several. Cozumel is an island and is mostly safe for tourists. The crime you hear about happening in Mexico is on the mainland and not in Cozumel. Walk back three or four blocks from the main shopping strip for the best deals on food and shopping. Prices fluctuate greatly, so don't buy anything until you've checked all the stores and done some careful negotiating. A great port of call not to be missed.
Now for the ship. The Oasis of the Seas is stunning in every way. We had in balcony overlooking Central Park which we really liked. Other friends that came with us prefer ocean view balconies. That is just a personal preference. I like to people watch and water views for 7 days bores me, so these cabins were perfect for us. The cabins are small with one bed and a sofa that can also fold down into another bed for a 3rd or 4th person. I don't see how three of four people can fit in these small rooms, but they are adequate for a couple. We spend so little time in the room that it doesn't matter to us anyway. We like to be on deck or where the action is and on the Oasis of the Seas there is always something going on. My complaint about the room is that the bathroom shower is tiny and the sink is very low. Minor issues that we got used to. There are three plugs on the desk and one underneath the desk if you need to charge a camera or a laptop and each room has a flat screen interactive tv which can be used to check your account and other things. The room steward was flawless. We decorated out outside cabin door as well as our inside glass door going out to the balcony. We had three adjoining cabins so the room steward opened up the dividers on the balconies for us so we had one huge balcony that we all shared. There are plenty of large elevators on this ship, so getting up and down between decks was never an issue.
The food was excellent in the restaurants and in the buffet. There were many food choices and the menu changed daily. The buffet is large, but it can be crowded at times, but nothing to complain about. They are very strict about using hand sanitizer before entering any restaurant or buffet, which is good so people don't spread germs. There are lots of food choices, but most of them require additional fees. Stick with the free buffet (The Windjammer) or the free dining rooms if you want. There is also a Johnny Rockets ($3.95), as well as a handful of pay restaurants. We ate the Chop House ($30 fee), which is the steak house on the ship. It was outstanding in both food and service and worth the $30 fee. Reservations are required for most of the pay restaurants and they fill up fast. We booked ours as soon as we walked on the ship. Overall excellent food, except for late at night. The pizzeria (Sorrentos) closes at 3 am and the pizza there was marginal at best. The promenade cafe is open 24 hours but is VERY limited in their offerings. Mostly sandwiches and a few desserts.
All the shows were outstanding and we saw them all except for Hairspray due to a scheduling conflict with a dinner. I heard it was also a great show from several passengers. Don't miss the Oasis of Dreams show or the Come Fly With Me show. They are excellent. We had superb comedians on the show as well as a fantastic ABBA review show called Abbacadabra.
There is ALWAYS something going on somewhere around the ship, be it a parade, contest, show or demonstration. You can always find something to do. The Flow Rider and zip line are a blast (they are both free). There is also a rock climbing wall and a free carousel that we enjoyed. They have table tennis, a nine hole miniature golf course and outdoor basketball courts. They offer free ice skating in 30 minute sessions, but they do require you to wear a helmet, which I think is overkill for adults ice skating. At night they have an ice show on the same ice rink which was also very good so don't miss it. There were two parades on our cruise and they were both great and different, so don't miss either. They are on sea days in the Royal Promenade, but get there early for a good viewing spot. Our cruise director, Ricky Matthews was the best we have ever had on any cruise line. You saw him all the time and he was very entertaining and full of energy and good cheer. He opened and closed all the shows and participated in all the parades and activities throughout the week. He's a busy guy and earns his pay. Also don't miss the dance parties they have at night in the Solarium and on the Royal Promenade, you WILL have a great time.
The Solarium is an adults-only part of the ship with its own hot tubs, a tiny pool and a bar. You must be 16 or older to get in and that is a plus if you don't want to be around young kids. The only problem with this area is that it is covered in glass and is HOT all the time. We did enjoy this space though because of the no children policy. The other pools are open to everyone and there is a nice children's only play area with water features. There are two ice cream machines next to the pools with soft serve ice cream (the sign says "frozen yogurt" but it tasted like ice milk to us), so you can grab a cone to cool down. The pools and hot tubs are way too crowded to enjoy during the day, but they do keep someof them open at night when most people don't use them.
Bring a yellow highlighter with you and carefully read your "Daily Compass" newsletter and highlight all the things you want to see and do on the ship. If you don't, you may miss one of the activities you may want to participate in. They have a fairly large fitness center that was never too crowded and was kept clean. Check out Dazzles the two story night club for some fun entertainment. They have both live bands and DJ's, so pick a time when your favorite type of music is playing. Blaze is also a fun nightclub with a DJ every night playing disco, top 40 and hip hop. Not to be missed. Jazz on 4 is a live jazz club and Boleros is a Latin themed nightclub with live bands and also has Latin Dance lessons at certain times.
As you can see, there are many things to do on this ship. The ship is nearly 4 years old now and is showing its age. Some maintenance needs to be done, but overall it looks great and is spotless. You will not be disappointed. It was a fantastic week and the positives far outweighed the few negatives on the ship. Remember, you are not allowed to bring on irons, extension cords, knives over 4 inches or any alcohol. They do screen you luggage for alcohol so if you want to smuggle some on, order some Rum Runner flasks, they worked well for us. For a ship that holds nearly 6000 guests, getting on and off the ship was quick and easy at each port and at the beginning and end of the cruise. It feels like you are in a resort hotel and not on a ship. There is very little to no movement on the ship, so no Dramamine or patches are necessary. I guess that is due to its sheer size.