Oasis ship is just fabulous! Our family recently returned from a Western Carrib cruise for Easter break. It was our first cruise ever. I spent nearly 2 years researching the possibilities here on CC and want to return the favor of all those travelers who have shared their experiences before me. First off, a little background, I'm 43, my DH is 43, my DD is 14 and my DS is 12. All have agreed that this was one of the greatest trips we've gone on and we travel a lot. At no time did any of us think the ship was too big to manage. I walked back and forth across the ship almost constantly and no one would ever accuse me of being athletic (heh-heh!).
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale Thursday night for a Saturday sailing. It was great to be there with a few days to explore Fort Lauderdale. We went on an amazing Segway tour in Birch State Park. We stayed at the Springhill Suites in Dania. This was chosen mostly because we had free Marriott points and they offered free shuttle to the port. I recommend reserving a spot on the shuttle as soon as you check in.
On Friday, we went to the local supermarket and bought a case of water and 4 bottles of wine. According to RCI, each cabin is allowed to bring aboard 2 bottles of wine. We just stuck them in our suitcases that we checked at the port terminal. No problem. I also taped a luggage tag to the top of the case of water and checked that at the terminal. (the site says that you can't bring on your own water/pop but I figured it was worth a try since we drink a lot of water and wanted bottles for the excursions). Whaa-laa! It showed up in our stateroom, no problem. (The price we paid at the local grocery store ($4) for 24 was the cost for 1 bottle on the ship).
We were on the 10:00 shuttle for the port. As everyone has mentioned that the process was smooth and quick. I would not get there as early next time. I figured we'd have a better chance of getting on first if we check in first. WRONG. The way RCI does it, those that check in AFTER you actually get on first. Weird but true. You are placed by row in the terminal and they fill from the back. Those who just arrived before boarding got to enter the ship first because they were seated closer to the gangway. The problem is that you don't know exactly when they will start boarding because it depends on when the ship is clear of previous passengers. We boarded at 12:00.
Having done my research on CC, I quickly made my way to the card room on Deck 14 aft for the WOW phones and sent the rest of my family to Park Cafe for the Roast beef sandwiches and a table. (More on the WOW phones later). Roast beef sandwiches were good as hyped but surprisingly had a lot of fat on them. They were more like Prime Rib sandwiches with a salted bun. My husband went to find a place to watch the Marquette NCAA game (On-Air, deck 5) and the kids explored the ship while I struggled with Customer Service and Sea Pass issues. I really couldn't relax and enjoy until I resolved our problems. The worst part was that at the Guest services is very busy on the first few days and they don't have one feeder line. If you pick a line behind someone with a complicated issue, you are stuck there while other lines are moving along. (RCI please take note!)
STATEROOM: We had connecting Oceanview rooms 8102/8104. They are in the very front of the ship overlooking the helipad. There was plenty of room for us 4. (can't imagine sleeping 4 in a room although the couch pulled out to a bed). It was invaluable to have 2 bathrooms, 2 TVs, and a quiet place if someone wanted to take a nap. I think we'd get similar rooms next time. We didn't miss having a balcony. And Deck 8 is a great location. There was a bit of movement of the ship when we were out in the ocean on the first 2 days. You could especially feel this while lying in bed but can't imagine anyone getting sick from the subtle shift. We loved how the stateroom tv had your ongoing bill. I could verify every night with the kids what they were buying. I think this kept them more conscious of their spending. I think our on-board bill at the end was $1200, which included 4 additional excursions not book ahead of time.
WOW phones: don't bother. They did indeed sell out in the first hour and we were able to get 3 for our family. Basically, they rarely worked. They continued to read NO SERVICE. I rebooted like I was shown but it happened so often to all our phones that the kids stopped bringing them places and just left them in the stateroom. By day 3 if you bring them back, you can get a full refund which is what we did. We resorted to post-it notes on the mirror. That worked fine.
The cruise itself was a whirlwind of fun activities. We saw Oasis of Dreams, Come Fly with Me, Frozen in Time, Throw Me a Line improv show (family appropriate), Comedy show (just parents), played bingo, zip-line, ice skating, rock climbed, did the Flowrider, went to a napkin folding class, watched the Belly Flop contest -- everything gets an A+ from our family. My husband and son went on the All Access Tour of the ship and it was a great highlight for them. You need to sign up at Guest Services for this on Day 1 or 2 otherwise the tours fill up. They are offered on Sea Days. My daughter and I attended at yoga class at dawn on the helipad. That was spectacular! We also participated in a Flashmob. Lessons were earlier in the week and the performance was on the last sea day. So fun! Ricky Matthew's was a barrel of energy. We enjoyed watching him at the parades and at the shows. By the end tho, we did get warily of hearing "CAN SOMEBODY SCREAM?!"
DINING: Fabulous! We did traditional dining at 8:30. Our waiter was Memett from Turkey. He really made our family feel special. He remembered the kids favorite drinks by the second night and had them waiting when we were seated. We loved the MDR experience. I contacted the dining room by email 3 weeks prior to sailing to request a table for 4 by the window. I got a reply back within days that our request would be honored and it was. We did try 2 specialty dining restaurants but if we had to do it again, I think we'd eat in the MDR every night. It was so wonderful. They brought my son as much shrimp and lobster he wanted. When I couldn't decide between 2 entrees they brought me both. Really really great service. The other restaurants were Izumi -- which had excellent services as well. And we enjoyed the hot rock cooking and sushi. Giovanni's was okay. The service was mediocre and the food was fine, but we found ourselves wondering what we were missing out on in the MDR that night. The other places we tried were Windjammer -- horrible. It wasn't crowded at the time we went for a late lunch but the food choices were disgusting. I left there hungry. The Solarium Bistro was surprisingly good. My husband and I ate lunch there one day. My husband and son ate at Johnny Rockets for breakfast and said it was good. We also ate breakfast and lunch in the MDR and loved it. You can order off the menu or buffet. They bring you chocolate covered strawberries which was a nice surprise. We also ordered room service several times in the late afternoon and late night. They were slow but good. The choices were limited but we could find something we liked. You order thru the TV which the kids thought was fun, then they call to confirm the order to make sure it was intentional. Also we got the kids the soda package. This is a must. They now have the free-style machines to get any combination of pop you want but you need the special cup that comes with the package. Also, they kids could just go up to any bar to get a soda. They just showed their sea pass with the coca-cola symbol on it.
SERVICE: Exceptional. RCI must have turned a new leaf here based on past reviews. Every worker we encountered was friendly and helpful. Our stateroom attendant was Omar. He responded to our needs promptly. Ask for robes right away as they will provide them upon request given availability. I also asked Omar to make towel animals every night for the kids room (and skip ours). They are only supposed to do towel animals 3 times during the cruise so he had to check with his supervisor. He honored that request and I compensated him nicely for it because the kids were so excited to see what new animal was created when we returned from dinner.
EXCURSIONS: In Haiti, my DD and I went on the Cultural Experience. We took a boat to another side of the island and really got to interact with some Haitian people. The village we went thru was staged tho and not authentic. The beach we relaxed on was gorgeous! We had chairs, floats, and a bartender all to ourselves. We were stunned when we returned to Labadee for the rest of the day and saw the beaches crammed with people -- not relaxing at all. My DH and DS went on the Jet Skiing tour. They loved it. We met up for the BBQ lunch and went to the AQUA PARK afterwards. That was a lot of fun for all of us. They manage the AQUA PARK well with life guards and only let you play for the hour you paid for (wristband). An hour is enough. We were tired and took the tram back to the ship around 3:00. In Jamaica, DH and DS went on the zip-line and tubing tour. They took a bus and had a lot of fun with their group and guide. My DD and I stayed back and shopped at the port. In Cozemel, we all went on the Dolphin Swim, Pull and Push excursion at Channabb Park. That was well organized. They sent us in Taxis, organized us in smaller groups. We had a lot of time in the water with the dolphins. This was a highlight of our trip. I hear that Channabb park is beautiful and I wish we had more time to explore but it was hot and we all wanted to head back after our experience.
Departure day we did express walk-off and that was a breeze. Just went to the gangplank at 7:15 and walked right off. Were thru customs by 8:00. We rented a limo back to the Miami airport which was waiting for us. This was great because those waiting for the cruise shuttle were delayed. We had a 12:00 flight so really needed to leave quickly. The cruise shuttle to MIA was $30 pp. The limo came to $35 pp. No brainer.
What else can I say? We will definitely be cruising on this ship or the Allure again. There were a few things I would suggest to bring and some things I brought that I didn't need.
Bring: highlighter, post-it notes, tons of $1 for tipping (I ran out), tons of sunscreen (our family went thru about 8 spray bottles), case of bottled water, mailing tape to secure ship's luggage tags after you fly in, watershoes for everyone, goggles for the kids.
Brought but didn't need: the over-the-door organizer (there was plenty of room to store things, this never came out of the suitcase), extension cord (they fixed the outlet location problem, it now sits on top of the desk. 3 outlets).
Before you go: Don't forget to call your credit card company to tell them you'd be in these other countries during the cruise. Luckily we did that, but the couple in front of us trying to depart was not allow to leave the ship because their CC company thought their card was stolen.