It's late November and you know what that means - Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is coming and if it's 2009 the World's hugest ship ever is in Ft. Lauderdale preparing for its Maiden voyage.
We were lucky enough to partake in a combination Naming Ceremony/Make A Wish fund raising overnight cruise to nowhere on the massive new Oasis of the Seas November 30 - December 1.
Of course I already know of the ship having read much in cruise magazines and blogs, but really didn't know the details until we knew we were going to be on board for a day. Although we have been on numerous cruises we have never been on any of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's (RCCL) ships before.
RCCL has a reputation for building big ships, really big ships, with relatively small cabins compared to some other lines although this has changed greatly in the past few years. Their ships also incorporate very innovative and unique features like rock climbing walls. wave riders for surfing and ice skating rinks. They are also into large indoor shopping/alternative dining/bar areas with lots of neon and regularly scheduled parades and interesting entertainment. Sort of similar but in a larger way to Carnival ships.
But it is a ship so when the opportunity presents itself go for it!
I knew the Oasis was different from pretty much any ship ever built or even conceived before. It has seven distinct neighborhoods, lots of pools, tons of alternative restaurants, a zip line, 2 wave pools, 2 rock climbing walls, a carousel, and even a Broadway sized stage to perform genusine Broadway musicals on. It also has two huge areas that are open to the sky with cabins looking in on both sides stretching 6-7 decks above - one is the Boardwalk with an Aqua Pool at the stern and the second is an area called Central Park. My thoughts were all this stuff belongs in Vegas not stacked on the hull of a ship - it would never work.
Well after our 18 hours on board I am forced to admit that is does in fact work! It's nothing short of amazing!
We arrived at the pier in Ft. Lauderdale at about 1:30 PM and were immediately impressed with the newly redone terminal. It is huge with what appears to be enough lines and space to actually check in 5-6,000 passengers (there were only 2300 for this Naming Ceremony/Benefit cruise). We breezed right through in about 15 minutes.
We boarded a little before 2 in the afternoon. You enter through one of two gangways into the Royal Promenade which is very impressive. We went directly to our ocean view cabin with balcony on deck 8 to drop off our small rolling bag and headed out to explore the ship.
The first stop was the Windjammer Cafe (the buffet dining option). There is tons of food from many different cultural backgrounds. Fortified with our lunch we headed out to continue our exploration the ship. We spent the next three hours seeing as much of the gigantor as we could. I actually think that we saw everything except the ice skating rink and the gym but who needs the gym when you walk several miles in a short afternoon.
We walked the Boardwalk and had a donut, explored Central Park, wandered through the pool areas and discovered the self serve frozen custard machines with ice cream cones near the kids pools - very cool. The spa is huge as befits the ship. We even found the computer room - a small room with only 6 computers - so we could check email. I know this doesn't sound like much but nothing is close and everything is big, really big so it takes time.
We ended up on deck 16 to watch us sail and celebrated with a champagne toast (on this brief cruise everything that is usually charged extra for was free (alcohol, wine, donuts, ice cream, etc.) - a nice extra.
Believe me, trying to compact a week's worth of seeing and doing into a few hours is stressful and exhausting. We finally returned to our cabin a few minutes after 5 so that we could wash up and get down to the Boardwalk for the official naming ceremony. In historical nautical terms the there is no naming ceremony, there is a Christening which both names and blesses the ship (traditionally something to the effect of "I name this ship the xxxxx. May God bless her and all who sail upon her." Is said and then a bottle of champagne is broken across the bow). The person who christens a ship is always a woman, always a well known woman. In the case of the Oasis of the Seas, the naming ceremony would be at sea so no bottle across the bow and a ship so large couldn't have only have one godmother, the Oasis would have 7 - one for each neighborhood onboard.
The official ceremony took place at the Aqua Pool at the very back of the ship (the stern). Only invited guests could actually get into the ceremony. Not having been one of the lucky few hundred we watched from our designated area in the Boardwalk (right next to the Aqua Theater). We watched on a big screen for a while and then went back to our cabin about 6;30 to watch the rest of it on the television as we changed for dinner.
There were many 'by invitation' dinners at the specialty restaurants for the dignitaries and celebrities who were on board one of whom was Michael Jordan (unfortunately we did not luck out and run into him but then again it's a big ship). We dined in the Opus Dining Room - the ships main dining area. It was a set menu for the Naming Ceremony and all in all it was wonderful. We were at a table for 4 with a very nice couple and had an enjoyable dining experience that included the night's free wine.
Following dinner we went to the theater to see the Broadway Musical Hairspray. The theater was great and the performance outstanding - the entire audience including Jane Seymour gave the cast an extended standing ovation. It was one of the best performed musicals we have ever seen and trust me we have seen a lot of musicals.
Then we were off to the casino where we played video poker for a while. Finally we headed back to the cabin for a few hours sleep before needing to disembark. We could not believe that it was after 1 AM when we finally got back to the room.
We chose to have our early morning breakfast at the full service Opus Dining Room again and it was very good, especially the coffee which was hot and strong. At a few minute before 8 we were off the ship and on our way to the car a little before 8 in the morning - 18 hours after walking onboard.
It was to say the least a WONDERFUL experience!!!!!!
Thoughts on the Oasis of the Seas
• It works - yes it's huge but it does work - you can get around and would easily see everything on the ship in a 7 day cruise - we saw most of it in 18 hours! • There's tons of stuff to do • Yes it's huge, but it's still a ship
• It seemed crowded at times to us and there were only 2300 passengers on board - what will it be like there are 5-6,000? • Maybe it's us and the cruise lines we have been on but we are used to not smelling any cigarettes anywhere on board - that was not the case in our short visit to the Oasis - you could smell smoke coming from the bar areas in many places