Background information. We are veteran cruisers in our mid-fifties, no children, and have done a variety of short and long cruises on several different cruise lines, including Disney, Oceania, RCI, Princess, Holland America, and Cunard. Our most recent cruises have been on Oceania and Disney. We decided to try a cruise on Oasis of the Seas, as we are both engineers by training and we were very curious to see this engineering marvel. Our last cruise on RCI was in 1991, on the old Nordic Prince. The last cruise we took just prior to this adventure on Oasis was an 18-day exploration of Norway and points above the Arctic Circle on the 700-passenger Nautica (Oceania Cruise Lines) in July, 2013 and we sailed on Disney Fantasy in March, 2013. Both of those experiences were excellent.
Booking the cruise and flights: Through our TA in February, 2013, we booked an outside balcony cabin on Deck 10 of Oasis, port side, midships, with a larger and more sheltered balcony. The prices were higher for Christmas week, but still quite reasonable. We used miles for our United flights from our home city to Ft. Lauderdale.
Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale and transfers to the ship: We independently booked one night at the Hilton Marina. The hotel is convenient to the port and has a great location on the Intracoastal Waterway; the room was acceptable, not great (some wear and tear), but the hotel has a nice pool area and outdoor dining option. We also had free breakfast the morning of embarkation. We used a shuttle service from the hotel to the ship (included in the hotel room rate). The van dropped off passengers at more than one dock.
Embarkation: This was extremely quick after passing through security and we were on-board by 1:00 pm and this was, in fact, one of the best embarkation experiences we have had. With 6,214 passengers on our cruise, we were extremely pleased with this efficient process. The luggage handlers outside were amusing (if you can say that) in their attempts to get larger tips.
Meet and Mingle: We had a very small Roll Call for this cruise, probably because it was during the Christmas week. The group met in Dazzle's on the first day at sea, almost everyone won something and no one had arranged any private tours.
Cabin: As noted above, we were located on Deck 10, port side, near midships (closer to the forward elevator bank). The outside balcony cabin was ready at embarkation, allowing us to drop off carry-on bags and begin exploring. It was about the same size as the one we had on Nautica and smaller than Disney Fantasy, but very clean and nice and would be quite acceptable for the cruise. We like the layout of the bathroom, with the shower enclosure and we also liked the deep, sheltered balcony. There was sufficient room in the closet and drawers for clothing and other items and the room was well-maintained by our cabin steward. Another nice feature were the lights over the pictures in the room, which made for a nice atmosphere in the room. We never watch TV on a ship, but did use the interactive features to view our reservations and shipboard account. The bed was extremely comfortable.
Ship information: Oasis of the Seas must be seen to be believed. There are seven distinct neighborhoods on this ship. Our favorite area was Central Park, the beautiful sheltered outdoor zone with almost 12,000 live plants; Central Park is also home to many of the specialty restaurants; I will remember this lovely place for as long as I live. We also enjoyed the ambiance on the Boardwalk and liked the adults-only Solarium (forward pool deck). The main pool deck is utter chaos most of the time and we avoided using the pools and spas. We did enjoy sitting near the Sports Deck area, with the view below of the Boardwalk and Aqua Theater. The Promenade on deck 5 (and a little on 6) is very popular and has several bars, the pizza place and many shops, but I felt it looked too much like an suburban shopping mall. Other than our muster drill, we never did get to the Entertainment zone on Deck 4 and also did not use the vast casino. The art works scattered throughout the ship are very lovely and we especially enjoyed the viewers that had 3-D pictures of flowers, sea creatures and crystals. Guest services were among the best we have ever experienced on a ship, with friendly customer service agents roaming the lines to answer those "dumb questions" and help passengers with their concerns and keep the line moving. The crew was also quite nice and approachable, including the very young-looking Captain Patrik Dahlgren. Public restrooms are easy to find and quite large and the huge elevator banks usually were quick (not always).
Activities: We relaxed and did not participate in any planned activities on board, other than the dining options and one show. The internet service was excellent (fast) and we used the unlimited plan for our devices (DH must stay in touch for his job).
Dining: Our Opus Dining Room assignment was for late seating (8:30 pm) on the third level. We never made it to the dining room for any meals, so we cannot provide any information on that venue (we didn't even peek inside). We had already pre-booked four specialty restaurants for the week and added one more while on-board and had two casual meals the other nights. Although food experiences are subjective, overall we felt the dining experience on Oasis was very good to excellent (with two exceptions noted later in this section). A few meals rivaled the food experiences we have had on Oceania. The best specialty dinner overall was the Chef's Table. This exclusive evening is limited to small parties and is held in an alcove dining area above the Concierge Lounge. The five-course dinner and wine pairings were superb and so were the explanations by the sommelier and the chef de cuisine. A nice touch for the Chef's Table experience is the program of the meal and a seating chart of the participants, which included one of the senior officers and his wife. 150 Central Park was also superb and has a six-course tasting menu; we added the wine pairings (a bit pricy, but worth the cost). Chops Grille was also extremely good and we both had the 6-ounce filet, cooked to perfection, with excellent side dishes. The other two specialty restaurants we liked were Giovanni's Table and the Solarium Bistro (good meals in both). The only complaint about two of the speciality restaurants was the hard up-sell approach taken by our servers at Chop's Grille and Giovanni's Table. They would not take "no" for an answer on ordering more expensive wine and also tried to sell us numerous other things, including the RCI cookbook (we ended up getting it for free at the Chef's Table). Our two casual dinners were at the Seafood Shack (perfectly acceptable coconut shrimp) and Johnny Rocket's (tasty small burgers). We did room service for breakfast on two days, but found it more appealing to get something on most days from the Park Cafe in Central Park (the Park Cafe also had very good coffee). The pizza in Sorrento's in the Promenade was also quite yummy and you can get custom pizzas. Two dining venues we did not enjoy: We did late breakfast one time at the Windjammer Marketplace, but it and the nearby Wipeout Cafe, were not impressive at all. In fact, the Wipeout Cafe was a complete mess, with passengers handling the food, making big messes and dropping the utensils into food items (no wonder there was a minor outbreak of Norovirus on our cruise). Self-service should be a thing of the past on cruise ships, especially when children are involved and serving themselves.
Bars and entertainment: We visited several of the bars on board; our favorites were the Trellis Bar in Central Park, the Schooner Bar (a late discovery), the Solarium Bar and the fun Rising Tide Bar that travels from the Promenade deck to the Central Park deck. Bar service in general was excellent; prices were a little steep for a glass of wine, so we may consider the beverage package the next time. We saw one show on Oasis at the Aqua Theater (Oasis of Dreams). It was very good, but the thrilling high-dive finale could not be performed due to technical difficulties. We reserved this show in advance, which was quite helpful in getting good seats. We are not that interested in shows anymore, having spent many years going to operas, broadway shows and local theater companies, so this was enough for one cruise. We also saw the Oasis of the Seas big band in the Dazzle lounge one evening. The band was superb, the lounge was not (one of the weirdest designs I've ever seen, with lots of bad sight lines). Our favorite entertainment: Good wine and excellent food!
Ports: The ports were really irrelevant to this cruise as we have visited them before; the ship was our destination. We booked a cabana on Labadee that was very nice and had a excellent and fun ship excursion in Cozumel (Salsa, Salsa and Margaritas). We canceled out of an excursion in Falmouth and had no arguments about reimbursement, even though that was the same morning as the excursion (I had bad back pains that day). We also did a time-waster in Ft. Lauderdale to get to the airport that was merely ok, but we did see some beautiful homes and the beach area.
Disembarkation: Once again, we were very happy with the speed of our disembarkation from the ship. This is a very well managed process taking less than 20 minutes.
Summary: We booked this cruise with modest expectations, but were pleasantly surprised by the excellent dining we experienced, the beautiful huge ship and its artworks, and the fact that this ship often felt less crowded than many much smaller ships we have been on, even with the capacity crowd. We look forward to doing a similar cruise on Allure of the Seas, hopefully in the near future.