Oasis of the Seas Cruise Review by Skrizman: My high expectations were met!
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My high expectations were met!
We disregarded the suggested boarding time and arrived at Port Everglades at 11:15. We were onboard by noon, in time for our reservation at Giovanni's Table. Very good and plentiful Italian food at $15 per person. It was a calm way to start our exploration of the ship. We're very thankful for the tip from at least one Cruise Critic review. And so we pay it forward.
After lunch, we stopped by our room -- 14th deck, aft, outside balcony. Very well decorated and cunning storage spaces. I was surprised by the size of the balcony. Ever since springing for a balcony three cruises ago, we have never looked back. It adds one important dimension to your cruise -- a quiet place to enjoy the sea. I'm writing this passage from the balcony, which is roomier than the ones we've had on Celebrity and Carnival.
We did our initial reconnaissance, discovering the "hidden" sun deck above the bridge. You get to it from the 14th deck, taking the port side stateroom hallway all the More way to the front. It's a great spot for watching Fort Lauderdale glade past. We got the teenager her liability waiver and armband that allowed her to do all the risky sports onboard. While ere, we noticed no line at the zip line. My wife never ceases to amaze me. She is essentially a cautious person, but she steps right up to thrills like this. She had only flip-flops on, so she had to borrow my socks so that she could wear the zip line's loner shoes. I also zipped across, getting my first look at the Boardwalk eight decks below.
My wife and I sailed on a venerable Norwegian ship 20 years ago, a new-ish Celebrity ship 15 years ago, and the typical Carnival ship five years ago. The Oasis is in a class by itself. It is studded with fine art, decked and railed in teak. Tile, marble, wood paneling, and glass everywhere. You get the feeling you're on a high-end cruise.
After the sumptuous lunch on embarkation day, we opted to nibble for dinner. One-half of windjammer was open, and it was not crowded at 6:30. I can see, though, that this buffet restaurant would not be adequate for this size of ship at breakfast. So we followed Cruise Critic advisers and enjoyed our Day 2 breakfast in the Solarium (while the teen slept in). My wife, recently diagnosed with diabetes, was happy there were no tempting pastries. Just healthy, tasty choices such as musli and fruit, scrambles egg whites, and the like. Knowing what the day held in store, I felt righteous starting out this way. Besides, I had run 71/2 laps on the deck 5 track, a bit over 3 miles, so I had some calories in the bank.
My wife and I start our days early, so we found no trouble getting a couple of chairs next to the "beach" pool. By 10:30, we were experiencing our first crowded deck. You had to dip and dodge your way through the walkways on the pool deck. But by lunch, everyone had done their obligatory sun worshipping, and they spread to the ship's seven neighborhoods. We never felt that crowded again.
Dinner in the Opus restaurant was a pleasant surprise. The Cruise Critic reviews have been mixed, but I give the restaurant a rating of 8 on a 10 scale. Perfectly prepared medium-rare beef sirloin for me and a saffron-infused fish filet for my wife. We dined there four of the seven nights and were quite pleased with the quality and service. My wife had booked My Time reservations in advance, to accommodate our day and evening plans. We had the same waiter, Edison, every night we dined in Opus. He remembered that my daughter liked sherbet, that I liked a glass of wine served with the entree, that my wife liked one bottle of Peligrino and I liked two. My Time dining done this way retains the feature I like most about the traditional two-seating practice -- the connection with the wait staff. I slightly miss the table conversation that comes with communal seating, but only slightly.
We returned to our cabin at 10:30 the first night to find our daughter's stuffed animals perched on pillows, watching The Family Guy on TV. We've seen imaginative turndown services over the years, but this was the most clever. Well played, Wilbort.
All through the week, we had nothing but positive service experiences. Beverage service at poolside was sporadic, so we typically fetched our own drinks from the bars that were only a few paces away. We opted for the Royal Replenish pre-paid beverage feature, which for $20 per person per day gave us all the non-alcohol drinks on the menu, including little bottles of Peligrino and the virgin daiquiris the teenager loved. The penny pincher in me kept trying to calculate whether each if us got our $20 worth. In the end, I concluded it was worth it, if only because I could put the penny pincher on vacation and not worry about the bill we were racking up.
There are surprises around every corner. The teenager and I made a game of looking into the stereoscope installations throughout the ship. We were treated to scenes of happy, splashy babies and dogs, of flora, fauna, and mineral close ups, and of a startling snake skeleton. She discovered private little decks at the aft end of each stateroom hallway. They would be perfect perches to watch the aqua show on evenings you don't have tickets. And you will want to watch that show more than once.
The entertainment is top-notch. The Hairspray cast includes the actress who played Tracy in the Broadway show for three years. I expected some kind of trimmed-down, musical revue, but we were treated to a complete production. The ship's orchestra is fabulous, as are the jazz and salsa bands that played in the night club venues.
My wife and I agree that this was the most stress-free cruise we've ever been on. It's simply astounding how easy it was to get on and off the ship, during ports of call and during embarkation and debarkation. The ship models and digital signage throughout the ship made it easy to get your bearings. We felt very comfortable letting our teenager roam freely with her newfound friends. There are a lot of things going on all the time, but we found the best thing to do was to keep the daily calendar with us and consult it when and as we had time. We didn't miss anything that was on our must-do list.
The ports on this itinerary were not the highlight of the cruise. But we knew that going in. I think cruising is not a very good way to see a country and learn about its people and culture. My wife and I have had our best experiences when we have struck out on our own. We once caught a cab to our favorite snorkeling area in Cozumel, enjoyed a wonderful morning paddling along the reefs, then ate lunch and watched the excursion boats from our ship arive and disgorge scores of our shipmates into the same waters. We lined up our own guides in places such as Dominica and Costa Rica, and were rewarded with visits to hidden gems and more meaningful interaction with locals. We do opt for ship excursions where we have not lined up guides in advance.
There probably is no place in the Caribbean that can absorb 5,000 ship passengers, so we did not set our hopes high on shore days. Even though the port notes that follow are not all positive, let me say that we enjoyed every day for what it brought us. We are extremely fortunate to have been able to have these experiences together. Less
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Cabin review: Oasis of the Seas 14320
Plenty of cunning storage cubbies. Spacious balcony. Nicely decorated.
Port and Shore Excursions
My wife and I made our first trip together here in 1993. We have returned over the years and have gotten progressively depressed by what's happened there. I no longer dive, so I doubt I'll ever go back. Cozumel has lost everything that was charming about it. Because we know the island and because we wanted to finally use the snorkel gear we lugged from Colorado, we took an $8 cab ride a couple of miles north of the International pier and did some shore snorkeling as we walked back toward the ship. We started early to beat the heat, and soon realized that ship's time was an hour ahead of local time. So we were using bar beaches at bars that were nowhere near ready to open. That turned out OK. We were able to stash our stuff at the ship and head back out for lunch in El Centro. We ate at a restaurant that has meaning for my wife and I, then waded through the street hawkers before giving up and catching a cab back to the ship. I'm afraid to say that I may not leave the ship should I ever find Cozumel on a future cruise itinerary. Sad.
Dunn's River Falls
I did not research the Dunn's River Falls climb in advance, and was surprised by now difficult it was. I was glad to have the traction of my water shoes and the hands of my compatriots as our guide Archer took us through the wildest parts. Other guides took a more cautious route up the side, but Archer, sporting the No. 1 on his guide shirt, snaked us up from the beach 940 feet to the top of the falls. On Archer's route, we saw foot holds worn into the limestone rock. I gladly gave him a $20 for our family of three. The way out of the park takes you through a seemingly endless alley of hawkers. It cost me $30 to get outta there, much to the dismay of my wife and the delight of my newly rasta 13-year-old.
Jamaica always has been on my bucket list. It's higher on the list after this brief taste.
Jamaica Bobsled Experience
My wife likes to be the family cruise director and days like this make me totally good with her in that role. She booked us on an excursion that took us to the "bobsled" ride on Mystic Mountain and a climb up nearby Dunn's River Falls. The bobsled ride satisfied the 13-year-old's fascination with the Jamaican bobsled team. Fact is, she had ridden a nearly identical coaster the day before at Labadee. These cars just had cowlings that evoked a bobsled. The starter and I agreed on an extra special push to give me a shot at catching up with my wife. Since I would owe him a Red Stripe, I decided to go full throttle, no braking through the hairpin curves. After careening through the lush jungle, I earned a warning from the track marshal just as I caught up to my sweetie. That starter has a good thing gong there. I highly recommend the jerk chicken and fiesta fritters at the restaurant at the top of Mystic Mountain.
This was our first corporate port, and it was as I feared. If I ever do this again, I will stay on the boat. You are in the worst of all worlds: in a country, but not really in it, not supporting their economy, not seeing even a glimpse of their culture. You eat food that is carted off the ship. You rent stuff from the same company you're already paying. The fun just feels manufactured. The one "excursion" I recommend: the zip line. One-half mile long and a 500 foot drop that zips over the bay at 40 mph. The harness they use is like a hanging lounger. I felt more secure on this than any other zip line I've enjoyed. Hop off the ship first thing in the morning and you probably can get on right away. Then get back on the boat for manufactured fun that you've already paid for. The water park is fun for youngsters, and the water slide is a good deal if your kids like to ride it over and over. Skip the coaster ride and do the exact same ride on Mystic Mountain in Jamaica.
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