Just back from our RC Oasis of the Seas 7-day Western Caribbean cruise, July 6, 2013 sailing. One word...AMAZING. I have been on 9 other cruises in my lifetime and it had been nearly 8 years since my last cruise, so I had missed sailing on several classes of ships, which made sailing on the Oasis class all the more surprising. My husband and I sailed without our children this time, we are in our late 40s.
Departure: Was a breeze. We drove to the port and parked. Recommend rolling down your window when you pull up to terminal and yelling "drop off", you will be directed to the end of the loop. Pull up, double-park and start opening your trunk. A terminal attendant will help you the rest of the way unloading bags on a rack going to the ship. We tipped him $2 per bag. Then walk into terminal, with ID in your hand (requirement). We arrived at 10:30am and walked right up to a check-in counter for (Deck 9). Was through check-in within 5 minutes and into a seated holding area. Waited 5 minutes and then they started loading passengers. Was on the Royal Promenade 5 minutes later. This was the one and only time we felt like sardines since everyone was in awe of the Promenade's glitz and was hanging around there. Once we started walking around the ship that feeling passed quickly. Most people went to the Wind Jammer cafe for the big buffet. But we walked around and found the Central Park Cafe and had the most amazing roast beef sandwich and cup of fruit. It was perfect. You will have plenty of time for the Wind Jammer cafe later. Our stateroom was open at 1:30pm. Our luggage arrived at 2pm. Although our neighbors didn't arrive until 8pm.
I won't go day by day, but I will give some highlights that I have not read here that would have been helpful to have known.
Pre-book your nightly shows online before coming (which we did, but most didn't). The line to book shows was sooooo long. Don't miss a single show - they are all incredible. If you pre-book, arrive at show about 15-20 minutes early for a good seat.
Dinner: we had the early seating 6pm. I debated about My Time Seating, but the 6pm worked out just fine. There was only one day (Jamaica) when we were cutting it close, but honestly, you can arrive late and still get served, it's no problem. We booked table for 2 which was nice, those tables are lined up side by side and very close, so the table next to you is basically your table mates. Ours were great and we had fun talking about the daily events. You can order as many of anything that you want. We typically ordered 2-3 appetizers each (they are much smaller quantities, most are a small handful size). We each would order one entree and then a third to share between us. And one dessert each. Food was fabulous. We never ate at the specialty dining... why?
Packing: Ok, I admit it. Even though I put stuff back when I was packing. I embarrassingly over packed. And I'm not a rookie at this. We had 5 bags (1-26" bag for me; 1-26" bag for hubby; 1 garment bag; 1 large duffle for shoes and toiletries; and 1 large sports duffle for our snorkel gear, beach towels, and our liquor we snuck on in rum rummer bags; plus a 20-pack of diet coke). Honestly, you wear your bathing suit, cover-up, flip flops and hat during the day... EVERYDAY and then your dress and sandals for dinner. Most nights you just keep on your dress. On formal nights you change into capris and a top after dinner. That's it, really. I was NEVER cold on this cruise. The temp in the shows was fine. I saw a handful of elderly people wearing sweaters, but I never wore mine. Half of my suitcase of clothes is still clean, never worn.
Excursions: We waited until getting on the ship to book our excursions since we had RC shipboard credits and wanted to use those for excursions and stuff. DONT wait in the long line on the RC Promenade deck that is open when you board. The line is long and they will be there all day and all evening that first day, so come back later. Unless you want the Bob Marley tour which I heard booked and sold out fast. We did the Jet Ski excursion at Labadee, the Dunns Falls/River Tubing at Jamaica, and in Cozumel we just took a taxi to Chaukanaub Park (a 10 minute, $11 dollar per car load ride) and snorkeled there. Jet skiing was so much fun.
In Haiti all you need is your SeaPass. The food was soooooo good (jerk ribs and chicken). Bring your water shoes, because there are rocks and sea grass under the water. At first we went to the beach that you can see the zip lining from, but that is rocky and sea grass. Then we went to the family beach where the cabanas are and that was all sand. If you have snorkel masks bring them, no need for fins. Go snorkel under the cabanas near the cliff rocks, lots of tropical fish. There are lockers to rent, but you only need to rent one if you are doing an activity (like jet skiing, or zip lining), otherwise it safe next to your chair there.
In Jamaica, we booked RC excursion for Dunns Falls and Tubing. You will need a Photo ID and your SeaPass to get off boat. Wear bathing suit, cover up, and water shoes off the boat. Pack beach bag with towel, water camera, and bottle of water. Drive is almost an hour. But our tour guide told us fun facts the entire ride and it went by so fast. I must say, it really does make a difference if your van mates are fun. We had a great group. You leave all your stuff (including cash, and IDs in the locked van with the driver, it was very safe and no need to rent locker). Dunns Falls was fantastic. River tubing was so much fun too. The tubing ends literally at the ocean beach and lunch was included at the hotel there. That food was authentic and pretty good, we tried jerk chicken and also the local favorite goat (not my favorite but wanted to try it). It was a buffet. Followed by the ride home which all of us rested and slept on.
In Cozumel, we packed our snorkel gear (including fins, you will need them). You will need a Photo ID and SeaPass to get off ship. Walked through port to taxi waiting area. And took taxi to park. This is the same park that you would go to if you booked Dolphin excursion on boat. OK, word of advise, IF you want the dolphin excursion, don't do the boat for this one. Just take taxi and go to the park yourself. They will give you a good deal at the gate for dolphin stuff, plus then you are on your own and can do the other stuff at the park without being rushed or forced to be in a group. there are cabanas, sea lion show, snorkeling, authentic Mexican food, etc. there. We arrived around 10am and left around 4pm. Best guacamole ever. Bring cash. Chips/salsa/guacamole/2 bottle waters came to $14 plus tip. Life vests are free with ID. This port had the most shops, but the pushiest vendors. I will never complain again about a pushy vendor in the states.
Miscellaneous Items: Wear a cheap water proof watch. There are not many clocks on the ship and I was always asking people what time it was. We also packed a tiny light up alarm clock, not for the alarm, but to tell the time in the room. The phone has a clock, but it's hard to see in the dark. Pack a six pack of hook close pins. There isn't a rope in the shower to hang wet bathing suits. RC towels are $25 each if you fail to return them, so be very careful. If you have kids I would suggest packing beach towels. I heard lots of parents yelling at kids for losing towels. Wear sneakers the first day coming on ship and do the zip line that first day (lines are long after that). Bring bathing suit and do Flow Rider the first day, after that it's long lines. Don't bother with miniature golf, it's hot and frustrating without any barricades to stop your ball. If you like to dance and are adventurous, take the Mob Flash Dance lessons and be part of the Mob Flash dance towards the end of the cruise. Don't miss the Quest (Day 4), the Love and Marriage (Day 3), the Battle of the Sexes (Day 6), the or the Comedians. All of them are hilarious. If you love Karaoke, there is the On Air bar that is Karaoke every night, plus don't miss the Rock-a-Rokie, which is Karaoke to a live band (Day 5). I have an IPhone, so arrival day I took lots of pictures with that while we are still in port. I then shut it totally off after leaving port so that I wouldn't be charged roaming. BIG mistake. What I should have done was turn the Airplane mode on, turn the Text and Data off, and internet off and used it as my camera the entire cruise, plus then I would have had a clock. Oh well, will do that next time. Just remember only turning on the Airplane mode is not enough, you have to turn all the other stuff off.
We had $550 shipboard credit, which you would think would be plenty...NOT. Our final bill was $290. Here's how the bill broke out. Gratuities are $12/person/day = $168. Jet Skis $95/person = $190. Dunns Falls/River Tubing $119/driver = $238. That's $596 right there. And then we had a few pool drinks each day ($7.95 each), bought a Pandora-style bracelet at the ship sale for $39 (originally $135), bought a few $10 t-shirts on Day 6 during the t-shirt sale, and bought a few souvenirs. We didn't buy any pics, too expensive. One 8x10 is $24.95, yikes. There were families walking around with hundreds of dollars of purchased pics the last night. Wow. Plus don't forget we spent $99 in Cozumel ($11 taxi each way, park entrance fee $19 each with coupon, food in park, and souvenirs back at port). So be prepared for the extra expenses. And remember, we didn't do any specialty dining, drink packages, or soda packages. We mostly made drinks in our room with the liquor we snuck on and the 20-pack of diet coke we checked-in as baggage.
All-in-all it was a fantastic 7 days. The cruise director, Amy and her crew were amazing. The staff on board were also top notch. I will never be able to cruise on a smaller class ship again. I am now officially spoiled.