My wife and I are in our mid 40's and cruise about once a year. We are generally value cruisers, so our last few have been on Carnival. This year we chose to try one of RCL's newer megaships, the Oasis of the Seas.
With over 6,000 people on board, I was skeptical about this process, but RCL has this down to a science. We arrived at Port Everglades around 10:45am, were checked in and waiting to board by 11am. It was close to noon before we boarded, but this was due to lifeboat drills and some customs clearing issues.
Because of its design, I was concerned one would have difficulty staying "connected" to the sea. However, this was not the case. Even though some of the public areas like Central Park, the Royal Promenade, and the Boardwalk don't have panoramic views of the sea, you could find your way to some spectacular views in very short order no matter where you were. One of our favorite areas was Central Park, which is a great place to have a pre-dinner cocktail. The busier areas at night tended to be the Royal Promenade, where people gathered for photographs and shopping. This sometimes created problems with traffic flow, as there are no defined areas of travel from one end to the other. People would gather in spots along the promenade which sometimes created bottlenecks. But don't despair, you're on vacation! Once you know your way around, you can easily go around these areas.
Entertainment on this cruise was top notch. From off-Broadway shows like Hairspray to the aqua theatre, there was always something to keep you busy in the evening. There are a couple of things to note here. To get the best possible seating, take advantage of the reservation system RCL has implemented for the shows. It won't guarantee you a great seat, but it will get you a good one, as they let those people in first. Walk-ins are not let in until about 10-15 minutes before show time. In addition, be sure to book the Oasis of Dreams show at the aqua theatre early in the cruise. Sea conditions must be perfect for this show to happen, and they will postpone as often as needed. If you book early, you'll have more opportunities to see this show, which should not be missed.
With all the options onboard, some people may tend to avoid the Windjammer buffet, but we were pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety. Other options include Johnny Rockets ($), Sorrento's Pizza, Cafe Promenade and Park Cafe. Don't miss the roast beef sandwich at the Park Cafe. It definitely lived up to the hype. We ate in the dining room every night but one, and it was very good. We generally felt the quality was about the same as Carnival, which we feel is excellent. In the past, we've generally selected a dining time, but this time we decided to try "my time" dining. Overall we were happy with this, but there were times it felt "disorganized". On the very first night, it took us 30-45 minutes to get our appetizers. We discounted this as simply an "adjustment period". The next night (as we did the first night), we ordered coffee along with our dessert, but never got it. But, we are easy going cruisers. The rest of the cruise, service was very good.
We only ate at one specialty restaurant, and that was Giovanni's Table. The food and service was top notch.
From leaving the ship at ports of call to disembarking at the end, RCL simply excels at this. At ports of call, RCL has about four gangways to assist with the effort. We never waited to get on or off the ship.
We have been to Nassau many times, and since you're not there very long, we decided to venture out on our own for a bit. Not far from the ship is the Pirate Museum, which we decided to try. If you enjoy history, it was very interesting and offered a unique experience. After some shopping, we headed back to the ship.
We had only been to St. Maarten once and it was a long time ago. Needless to say, we didn't recognize it. However, we were extremely impressed. With a French and a Dutch side, this is a very unique island. Do what you can to experience both sides, it's worth every dime. We booked Bernard's Tours and it was similar to our St. Thomas excursion. We ate lunch at Sarafina's in Marigot on the French side of the island. It was very busy, but it's a must. The pastries are amazing. The entire area is very quaint, with almost a feeling of Nice, France. We also spent time at Orient Beach, which has a reputation for having nude sunbathers. While there very few topless, they now try to keep the "extreme" sunbathers on a more remote part of the beach. If you are traveling with a family, stay on the upper end of the beach and you should be fine. After all, you don't want to miss this beach! This is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, and I've seen many.
Shopping tends to be best on the Dutch side of the island where the primary currency is the guilder, but they accept the USD. On the French side, they will accept the USD, but primarily use the euro.
Overall, we loved St. Maarten and can't wait to go back.
We took an independent excursion with Godfrey's Tours. This excursion was about two hours of shopping, two hours of sight-seeing, and two hours at Megan's Bay Beach. While we enjoyed it, we wish there had been more shopping time. Megan's Bay is beautiful, but it was very busy. Overall, Godfrey does a nice job.