Nov 9 sailing with two families, 5 teenage girls aged 13-15, our 6th cruise on 5 different lines. We did months of research, kept track of all the reviews and forums here, booked our entertainment and excisions months in advance and made a big sacrifice pulling the kids out of school and activities. The end result was one of the best vacations we've ever had. Oasis class is a full cut above anything else for ship design, amenities, and entertainment.
Sailing on Oasis was like a trip to Disneyland. Everyone is excited to get there, the staff are clearly proud of where they work, and very little expense has been spared to deliver a top notch guest experience. The culture of Oasis, like Disney, seems to me to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We booked an aft outside balcony on deck 8 and our kids took the Boardwalk balcony. I was surprised how much I liked the inside balcony--a close and almost full view of the Aquatheatre, no noise problems, an escape from the heat and wind, and great people watching when there were actually people to watch. Privacy was not the issue I've seen in other reviews as not that many people were actually using their balcony.
The entertainment is miles above anything else I've seen on a cruise ship. Each show we attended ended in a standing ovation with the possible exception of the Headliner show which was a rock/blues act and not appealing to as wide an audience as the others. Oasis of Dreams in the Aquatheatre, Frozen in Time, and Come Fly with Me are jaw-droppingly 'Cirque du Soleil' good, and Hairspray seemed like Broadway quality. Booking these shows before you board is easy, free, and I would recommend you show up a half hour prior to showtime for premium seats (reservations do not mean reserved seating) and good drink service. People who didn't book are allowed in 10 mins before the show starts and it seemed most people were able to access the shows they wanted. The exception to the accessibility rule is the comedy show, which was good (and not as R rated as advertised, I counted one F bomb total!) but not really unique to Oasis.
The main dining room was typical of other cruise lines and we were lucky to have experienced servers who worked very hard, for example on the second night they brought our teens their drink orders from the night before as soon as they were seated and they always brought extra appie or entree courses for the table to sample. We ate at 150 Central Park once and it was one of the best culinary experiences of our lives, and it was indeed a journey best experienced with the wine pairing. Try to forget about the extra cost and trust these guys. We also did Izumi for lunch which was excellent food but the service and overall experience was a little blah and this was one of the few experiences that didn't exceed expectations on the ship. The roast beef sandwiches and salad bowls at the Park Cafe live up to the hype on this website.
The crew go through great effort to steer you away from the undersized Windjammer. Take them up on it, there are many little treasures around the ship and the Windjammer's offerings were typically basic. There are limited eating options on the ship after 9pm and I heard of waits for room service in later hours. If you haven't already had enough food by then :)
Our kids aren't pop hounds but got great value from the soft drink package. What I missed from prior reviews about the coke machines is that you don't have to drag the souvenir cup everywhere, you also get a sticker for your sea pass card and can access pop anywhere. I highly recommend it for kids and teenagers and there are many sugar free options as well, the coke machines are a lot of fun.
Different story on the alcohol package. Read the fine print on these packages, they vary by cruise ship and on Oasis they do not include speciality coffees. If you can get the package included when you book as seems to be the trend with some ships then go for it, but when both of you have to buy it you have to drink an extraordinary amount just to break even--and there is pressure to do just that, yes its fun on day one but by day 3 or 4 your body may not think it is fun anymore! We did very well taking on 5 bottles of wine between 2 staterooms (they asked about it but let us through at embarkation) and then relied on the 24 oz Fosters beer for $6.75, wines by the glass starting at $7, and 'dining room only' promotions that offer $45 bottles of wine for $25-30. Plus, like other cruise lines, Oasis crew were very forgiving if service was slow or a small mistake was made, and they would waive the entire drink order for our group. We had a great time every single day, didn't hold back on ordering what we wanted and our total bar bill per couple for the trip was $2-300, a far cry from the $110 per DAY that RCI wants.
We enjoyed the flow rider and zip lines, go in the early hours for minimal waits and also embark prepared--our family practically had the flow rider to ourselves in mid afternoon on embarkation day as others waited for their checked baggage and explored the ship. I completed waivers for everything on-line months in advance only to arrive to a 'systems down, please do the paperwork' but hey that's how cruising goes sometimes, right everyone?
The ship is the star of the show, as has been written by many. We absolutely loved Central Park for our morning coffee and lunches and there was always a great table available. Where else at sea can you enjoy a garden with 12,000 plants? Wow.
I echo the comments of others about the 6000 guests, you often wonder where everyone is and I would quietly chuckle to myself when other guests complain about waiting for an elevator for a couple minutes at peak times like after a show or on a port day. The Boardwalk is mostly deserted and reminds me of Disney's California Park before Carsland arrived, it could use some character. The Promenade (mall) seemed to be the heart of the ship, it is fun to walk through just to check out the scene and again, there was always a great table available for a drink or coffee to guest-watch. The Aquatheatre is amazing and the various shows there do it justice, this place is a genuine stroke of brilliance for RCI and what we didn't actually attend we confiscated our kids Boardwalk balcony.
Like all cruises, ports are what you make of them and we did off-ship excursions through shore trips and using trip advisor ratings but we did splurge on an over the water cabana in Labadee. We thought the value was great and the fact these things book out months in advance speaks for same, it was a memorable beach day. Our kids didn't even ask about zip lines or waterslides and be sure to insist on snorkel sets which are included but must be fetched, as well as all the floating mats you can use. About ports, if you are a true planner (meaning, over the top!) then check out the port schedules for your various stops and see how much competition you will have for cabs and private excursions.
Embarkation is brilliant and we waited in the holding area until the call came to board at 1115am which seems to be a common time. Disembarkation is a problem due to customs, not RCI. Book your flights for the afternoon to avoid the stress leaving the ship.
My family loves cruising but I don't know if we can go on another ship after this experience. During Captains Corner we were told they are building 2 more Oasis class ships and they won't be getting any bigger because the ports aren't getting any bigger. That's fine by us--Royal Carribean has nailed it with Oasis and we will return with them.