We consider ourselves experienced cruisers because this cruise was our 13th or 14th and it was our second cruise on the Oasis of the Seas. Our previous Oasis cruise was in October 2012.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the day prior to our sailing and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Convention Center on 17th Street. This was the second time we had stayed at this property. The hotel offers a shuttle to and from the airport and a shuttle to Port Everglades, which is about $8.00 per person. We took the shuttle back in October but were not happy with the fact that it stops at other properties on the way. Therefore, we took a taxi this time (2 people) and it cost less than the shuttle they offer. We found the hotel to be clean, the staff was very friendly and professional, and they had a very nice complimentary breakfast.
When we arrived at Port Everglades we were able to go in right away and take care of the paperwork that had to be done and pick up our SeaPass cards. Because we were booked in a Crown Loft Suite, we were able to wait in the Suite waiting area which is very nice. Right before 11:30 a.m. they announced boarding for suite guests and in a matter of minutes we were on board. Since we were hungry again, we went straight to the Windjammer for lunch. Cabins and suites weren't ready for occupancy until 1:00 or 1:30 p.m. -- I can't remember exactly. Needless we were excited to see our suite, so when it was ready we made a beeline to it and we were very happy.
How did we get a Crown Loft? Our original booking was for a Junior Suite, which we had had on our previous Oasis cruise. I continued to watch the pricing and about two weeks prior to sailing, Royal dropped the prices of the Crown Lofts. We decided to pay the extra money and book one and I'm so glad we did.
We didn't take any of Royal's shore excursions so I can't report on that.
We had My TIme Dining (MTD) so we were able to eat when we wanted to. We went to the dining room the first night and I thought the food was good. However, after two and one-half hours, yes I said two and one-half hours, our waiter still had not come to our table to ask if we'd like coffee and dessert. Apparently they use the dining room on deck 5 for the MTD and the tables/chairs are crammed in there. Finally, we just got up and left without having coffee/dessert. I don't know if they under staffed or what the problem was, but taking that much time for dinner is totally unacceptable to us. So, we went to the Windjammer every night thereafter for dinner since they serve the majority of what's in the dining room and we didn't have to really dress.
The Windjammer, I thought, was just OK but my husband liked it. They had a rather large variety from which to select for all three meals. I will say their mashed potatoes are really good. Even though I thought the food was OK, I did find something to eat at all meals.
Specialty Dining: We did go to Giovanni's one evening. Oh my, their food is wonderful. I had the lamb chops and my husband had the Veal Osso Bucco. First, the lamb chops were cooked to perfection and the Veal Osso Bucco was so rich. I had the Tiramisu for dessert and it was the best I have ever had.
As for entertainment, we did not go to any shows except we did see the Aqua show. We watched it from our balcony and that was fun. It was quite good.
Casino -- we spent lots of time in there playing slots and Blackjack. We had one Blackjack dealer, Dillon, who was very good and very friendly. Our bartender, Clifton, was the best. What I consider really amazing was one evening we were sitting by the bar and a bar waiter was walking by and just stopped dead in his tracks. We looked up and he was pointing to my husband and said "Hello, Mr. Jack." It was one of the bar servers from our previous Oasis cruise almost a year previous and he remembered us. It's amazing in the sense that with the thousands of people these guys meet that he actually remembered our names. His name is Jude and he's one of the nicest people we have ever met.
Ports of Call -- we went to Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We did not get off the ship in Nassau -- been there, done that. In St. Thomas we docked at Crown Bay, so we walked to a couple of shops at the end of the pier. There really isn't much of anything there unless you take a cab. The ship is just too large to dock at Havensight and to me that was a disappointment. In St. Maarten, we took a water taxi into town. There were just walked around, went to a couple of casinos and a jewelry store. Yes, I broke down and made a purchase, but found the salesperson to be very pushy even when I said no. If I told him no once, I bet I said it five or six times. The water taxi was $7.00 per person but you could ride it as many times as you wanted.
To the more controversial subject of smoking...Royal Caribbean has changed their smoking policy effective January 1, 2014. Currently smoking is allowed on "outside" balconies and in designated smoking areas. The new policy going into effect WILL NOT allow smoking on balconies. We are smokers and have always tried to have respect for those who do not smoke. In other words, if we're on our balcony having a cigarette and our neighbors come out, we either put out our cigarettes or finish the one we have and go inside. We have always done this. This is also why we book balcony cabins. As much as we like Royal Caribbean, we did not book a future cruise this time because of this new policy. We will try another cruise line that does offer balcony smoking.
Disembarkation was so easy. We used luggage express and because we were in a full suite, we could disembark at our leisure. However, when we got into the terminal, the line was a mile long. Supposedly because of the sequestration, they do not have as many customs agents therefore it takes more time to get through customs.
All in all it was a wonderful cruise. We made new friends and have lots of new memories. I highly recommend the Oasis of the Seas.