Background info -
I sailed with my mother and my DD (2 years). We both left our DH at home and made this a girl's getaway. This was my 13th cruise, my 4th with RCL. I've sailed on all the major lines, Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, HAL, Norwegian and of course RCL. We aren't loyal to any brand, typically cruising for the itinerary so this cruise was a departure from the norm for us. The Oasis is an awesome ship, the best I've ever sailed on. I know this next statement will be controversial... but I think it is the best ship that has ever sailed. It may not be for everyone, but they have certainly thought of everything. It is a destination all to itself and incredible experience that I was blessed enough to have had.
We flew in to Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta early Sunday morning. The flight was on time and our baggage arrived with us, we were off to a good start. The cab fare was about $15 to the Hilton Marina. We booked on Priceline (I love Priceline) our bid was accepted at $49 per night. (My bid criterion was, 4 stars, downtown area, for those of you who are interested). It was a nice hotel, good but not great. I thought it deserved a 3 star rating instead. I would definitely stay there again though. It was recently remodeled, contemporary/modern dEcor which I love. They put is in the West Villas which faced 17th street. So, we were able to see the cruise ships from our room. That was what we wanted most. As soon as I got my first glimpse of the Oasis it was love at first sight. ? She dwarfed the other ships in port. It really helps to build anticipation for your cruise.
The hotel was in a great location. It was off of 17th street, with many things to do within walking distance. It was next to a water taxi stop. This seemed like a good way to explore the area. I think it was $13pp, 10pp for seniors and $8 for kids. I'm not certain of that though because we ended up not taking it. I picked up some last minute things from the dollar tree, the grocery store and the drug store. There was also a Starbucks, Einstein Bagels and Georgio's, a delicious Italian restaurant nearby. Georgio's had awesome brick oven pizza. The next day we pretty much explored the area near the hotel on foot. We did go to the Cruise Critic dinner at the Rustic Inn and met many of our fellow cruise criticians. We ate tons of crablegs and got to kick of our Oasis experience with our online friends. The next morning we took a very short cab ride to the pier about $13.
Embarkation - Embarkation was oh so painless. This is what embarkation is supposed to be like. I was so impressed because I expected it to be a mess. We arrived about 9:45am. We thought we might have to wait in line outside but no such thing. As soon as we got out of the cab we went straight into the terminal. First they split you in two directions. Half the decks go left, half the decks go right. Then we walked straight up to security. There was no one in front of us. We went through security and then were split again by individual deck number. There were maybe 50 different lines open (another 50 or so on the other side), several for each deck. We had already printed our set sail passes online, so there was nothing left but to show passports, a major credit card and take our photo. It took all of five minutes. We then passed behind the desks where they were taking the embarkation photos. The next attendant handed us group numbers and told us that we would board when our number was called. (I was told that Diamond members don't get group numbers they are called to board separately.) The entire process took maybe 15 minutes. We headed upstairs to the waiting area and sat in the holding area with hundreds of other cruisers. I think this helped to speed the process tremendously. There was a play area which DD loved, many flat screen TV's and tons of seating. My daughter played on the indoor play gym while we waited until the ship was cleared. We waited maybe 30-40 minutes until they began boarding. We ended up not having to wait for our group number to be called because we met up with the rest of our cruise critic friends and we were allowed to board first. I believe it was around 11am. I don't know what the experiences were like for those who arrived later in the afternoon, but for us embarkation was as good as it gets.
Cabin- We booked a Category L- Inside Cabin (forward)on Deck 11. We don't spend much time in the cabin, and prefer to use the money to travel more frequently instead. The cabins had hair dryers, flat screen TV's, outlets located under the desk (parent of toddlers may want to bring outlet covers, they are about well within reach of little people) limited drawer space (3 drawers), fridge, many cabinets, 6 shelves in closet, tons of hangers, a safe, 2 night stands and sofa table. There was standard under the bed storage, a sofa which slept 2, under the sink storage. One of the features I really loved was having several light settings. The bathroom had a dim and full light setting. No more stumbling in the dark to find and use the bathroom. The cabin itself had standard general lighting, accent lighting- just illuminating the paintings and task lighting- lamps by the bed. I found this particularly useful with a little one, as she goes to bed before I do. It was easy to dim the light so that she could sleep, while I had enough lighting to entertain myself in the cabin. I attended our cruise critic Cabin Crawl (a great idea), so I saw nearly every category cabin (except the lofts) there was. I saw the ocean view, balcony, owners and junior suites, promenade view, handicapped cabins, central park view and boardwalk view cabins. There were definitely some gorgeous living spaces to be had aboard this ship.
It goes without saying that this ship is enormous. I expected that certain areas would get really crowded. There were some crowds but not as bad as I expected. There were 4,827 people aboard our sailing (according to a security officer) but it never really felt like it. There were many, many public spaces and people seemed pretty much dispersed among them. Of course during the parades and the 70's party the promenade area got really crowded.
Boardwalk- This was such a cool area. Several public spaces here:
-Aqua Theater- an awesome idea, in addition to the shows, they opened it at some points for swimming. Since they have those large TV screens, this would be a good place to have movies by the pool like Princess does. -Seafood shack- ($8.95pp) a casual fee restaurant, with a terrific menu -Smile- a costume style portrait place. There were many costumes to dress up in and have your pictures taken. Pretty expensive though I think the cheapest package was about $100 and the individual photos were about $35. ( I never saw anyone in here) -Pets at Sea- I'm not sure what this place is, it looks like a build-a-bear shop except for stuffed pets -Ice Cream Parlor- ($) sells ice cream, banana splits etc -Donut shop (free)- about 6-8 different types of donuts -Pinwheels- a clothing/toy store for kids -Candy shop- sells candy for a whopping $11.69 per 1b -Star pier- sells hats, sunglasses etc. -Johnny Rockets- (4.95pp) burger joint -The Carousel (free)-like any other -They also have a cute photo booth. It wasn't working for our sailing but I thought it was a nice touch.
Promenade- This is very similar to the Voyager class, just a little bigger. There were many stores and places to eat:
-Rising tide bar- I didn't actually get on it but it was cool to see. There is a fountain underneath when the bar is lifted so you get a fountain display too. -Guest services- needs no explanation, but there were frequently long lines here -Regalia- jewelry store -Promenade cafe- sells pastries, sandwiches, expresso, lattes etc ( I believe the food is free but the coffee and stuff is extra -Cupcake Cupboard- sells cupcakes $2.50 each and soft drinks -Globe & Atlas- this is pub style bar -Royal Port Merchants- sells alcohol by the bottle -Solera- sells perfume -The Shop- sells T shirts, souvenir -On Air- I think this is intended to be a sports bar (yes sports fans they did air the football games), karoke was also here sometimes -Champagne Bar- I loved the elegant design of this bar but it was frequently empty -Willow- sells clothes, sunglasses, purses -Focus- sells cameras and camera supplies, upstairs Focus continues as the place to view your photos -Sorrento's (free)- pizza. (Even create your own pizza, where you can pick your toppings and they bake it your way. -A caricature stand- to have an artist draw caricatures from a photo $45+ -Prince and Greene- I believe I saw clothes here too. -Boleros- a Latin club/bar
Central Park- this is a relaxing, park like setting. It is beautiful when it is lit up at night. Most of the fee restaurants are here.
-Coach- sells the infamous Coach handbags -Parkside Gallery- an art gallery -Picture This- a photography studio similar to Olan Mills etc -Park Cafe- (free) a nice place to eat Panini's, soups and salads. The salad bar is kind of like Doc Greens where you pick your toppings and they toss it right in front of you. -Chops Grille ($25pp) - steakhouse -150 Central Park- ($35pp) I'm not sure how this one would be classified, there is a variety of food here but it is definitely upscale. -Giovanni's Table- ($15pp) an Italian restaurant (similar to Portifino's but the menu was different) -Vintages- It appeared to be a wine bar, but I rarely saw anyone in it
We had 1st seating. I thought the food was pretty good, especially considering the volume of the food that was being prepared. Given all of the eating venues to choose from, the dining room was very full most evenings. We ate there every evening. There were tables of all sizes. I saw quite a few tables for 2. We were seated at a table for 4. There were also many 6 and 8 person tables.
We had every breakfast in the Windjammer. It took a few minutes to locate a table each time we went there. It was typical breakfast fare. There was always a line for the omelet/cook to order eggs. Don't be fooled if you just see a few people standing there. They give you a number and take your order. There are often many more orders being processed than there are people waiting. One day I stood for 15 minutes, just waiting to have my order taken. Then there were still 10 orders waiting to be cooked in front of mine. It was chaos. There were 3 people back there cooking, scrambling to fix orders and them tell them apart once the owner returned to retrieve them. I gave up and went to eat something else. I did finally get an omelet later in the week. It was good, but probably not worth the time it took to get it.
I had a terrific burger in Johnny Rockets. It's classic Johnny Rockets food though, same as the Voyager class.
I loved the seafood shack. It has a great, open air by the beach sort of feeling. You pick 3 options from the menu for $8.95. I chose to have 2 appetizers and an entrEe rather than have desert. It was good. I really wanted to get back there because there were so many things on the menu I wanted to try. I simply ran out of time. There was a short wait when we arrived. We were given a pager, just like the land based restaurants and within a few minutes a table opened up for us. (Note to parents- I was not charged for my 2yr old)
We also ate at Sorrento's. Once you have pizza on Princess you are spoiled. Every other line is 2nd rate. It was decent pizza, IMO better than the other RCL ships. I also found the create-your-own pies were better, since they were hot and fresh from the oven.
Park cafe- I had a great Panini and custom topped salad here. It was pretty crowded whenever it was open. It made me miss Carnival though, because IMO they have the best deli area.
I also ate at the Cupcake Cupboard. This was such an average cupcake it is hardly worth mentioning. I had the red velvet one. I've had far better cupcakes from Publix. Sure they are cuter and have different varieties but I didn't think it was very good. There were seldom more than a few people here either. There are better desserts at the other eating venues.
The Donut Shop- I'm glad this was free, because it was the same donut found up in the Windjammer.
I was satisfied with the service. It was on par with my other RCL cruises. There were some mishaps on this sailing, but nothing bad enough to really sour my experience.
There were certainly some. If you sail on any cruise and don't expect any you need to reevaluate your expectations. Particularly if you choose a maiden voyage, you should expect some glitches. It will be interesting to see how many of these get fixed for future sailings.
1. We were in 1st seating originally and mistakenly switched to 2nd seating. We didn't have any drama switching back to first but there were a lot people who experienced this.
2. The first night in the dining room was a bit chaotic. There were no staff members standing at the door when we arrived. Some passengers arrived and just stood and waited, others begin wandering the very large dining room looking for their tables. It was a mess. The staff looked flustered too, it took 10—15 minutes before we were even greeted by our assistant waiter and needless to say that dinner that first night was very slow.
3. Long waits for omelet's/cooked to order eggs
4. Guest services frequently had long lines. It's to be expected I guess with so many passengers, but still. I think this will get better for subsequent cruisers particularly as people become educated on how many things they can do on the interactive TV's in their staterooms.
5. Some activities weren't publicized well. We read the compasses but still didn't know about the 1st parade until they announced it on the PA system fifteen minutes before. There was also at least one time when the compass was revised and reprinted
6. Cancelled shows- We knew before sailing that "Come Fly with Me" was not going to be shown. However, we were scheduled for the Aqua Theater show the first afternoon and that was cancelled too. When they rescheduled it, it was ½ hour before formal dinner night. Most people are getting ready to eat then.
7. Late compasses- We didn't get the night before. We got them early in the morning. On a ship with as much to do as the Oasis we would have liked to highlight and plan the next days activities the night before.
If you are the kind of cruiser who is easily upset by little things, maiden voyages are not for you. We aren't. It didn't affect our overall cruising experience at all, but you should be aware that some kinks need to be worked out.
Entertainment/Shipboard Activities - Wow! That's all I can say. Until the Voyager class, I preferred Carnival's "never a dull moment" approach to cruising. RCL surpasses that with this vessel. There were so many activities. Some of them were offered at the same time and I was conflicted and forced to choose. I also left some activities early so I could catch a little bit of each. Hindsight, I'm not sure I like the idea of booking shows pre-cruise. Without the benefit of the Cruise Compass, I unknowingly chose times that I wouldn't have if I had seen the Compasses first.
The Aqua show was so cool. It was a mixture of synchronized swimming, acrobatics, diving and a water fountain display choreographed to music, similar to the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was shorter than I expected though, lasting only about a half hour.
The Ice Show was incredible! I saw the Ice shows on both the Adventure and the Mariner and this show was even better. They were a series of treasured childhood stories set to ice. As though it couldn't get more magical, there was an artist, (I believe she used sand) who told a story through sand art. It was moving.
I didn't care much for Hairspray. I left after the first 30 minutes. It wasn't that the show was bad as much there were better things to do. There were many people who liked it though.
I was really impressed with the family festivals on the boardwalk. We rode the carousel more times than I could count. There was a band, steel drums that the kids could play with and tons of games for little people like ring tosses, face painting etc. It was a kids' fantasy. My DD loved this area soooo much. There were also wooden boat, car and bus that the kids could climb in and pretend to drive. Every time we left this area DD cried. All that was missing was a clown or magician some cotton candy and popcorn. The interactive Lego game wasn't working yet but I think that too will be fun for the little ones.
I skipped the Freedom Class ships so the flow rider was new to me. I loved it. I made the mistake of trying it for the first time on the last day. It was about a 30minute wait in the broiling sun. I wiped out nearly the second they let go of my hands but boy was it soooo much fun. If I tried this the first day, I would have returned again and again.
I also tried the zipline. I'm not a risk taker type person so it took a lot for me to try this. I was terrified, before, during and after. I think I stopped shaking about 10 minutes after I got off. I will likely not do it again, but I'm glad I had the experience. I will say that RCL took many safety precautions. That did offer me some comfort.
We tried the mini-golf. They had a kiddie course right next to the regular course. DD enjoyed playing golf too.
Beyond that we did bits of Jazz at the Jazz club, Karoke at On-Air, I went by the scrapbooking and my mom went to the jewelry class. We rode the Carousel, spent a few moments in the casino. We went to Blaze on family night, went to a spa seminar, shopped, poolside music, went to the puppet show, I was disappointed that they didn't do the Cupcake decorating that I read about. When I asked they said it was only on the 7 day sailings.
Adventure Ocean- The kids' facilities were exceptional. They had an arts and crafts room, a science center, their own theater. The kids seemed to genuinely be enjoying themselves. I peeked in the windows a few times to see what the older kids were doing but I primarily participated in the Royal tots.
Usually the under 3 group is a forgotten bunch, but not on this ship. Even though her activities
I went to Royal Tots too on the embarkation day. I was told I had 7hrs that they would hold for me until 8pm on Day 2. Any hours that I hadn't scheduled would be released to other cruisers.
There was nursery sitting for $8 an hr. There was also in cabin baby- sitting ranging in price from $10-$15 per hr. I did not use this to see if there was any truth to it. I wouldn't feel comfortable with that. I didn't encounter any parents who used the in cabin services, but I did talk to a few who used the in-nursery baby-sitting services. They were very pleased with the care given.
I did go the Royal Tots room several times. (I checked out toys periodically.) I saw Barney videos and other such cartoons as well as lots of fisher price toys, life- size foam blocks (which my daughter loved) books, stack-em toys, shape sorters and the like. My criticism would be that the toys looked appropriate for the under 18 mos crowd, but the the 18-36 mos crowd might be bored with the activities that I saw. I didn't see the kinds of toys out that my daughter (she will be 3 in Feb) frequently enjoys. One praise- is that I did witness them cleaning the toys with a bleach water solution at the end of the session. They said they do that at the end of each session, since they know this group places many things into their mouths.
The final thing that I would add is that I did attend the playgroup for the 18-36 mos crew. Those toys were much more appropriate. However, the playgroups were in a different room than the nursery and I'm not sure if they drag them over when in the baby sitting service. There were tons of the battery operated cars, jeeps etc but they had no batteries.
I will also say that the parades, puppet show, family festivals, boardwalk activities, carousel, toddler golf course provided phenomenal experiences for this group. My daughter is still saying "Ship mommy, ship". I guess she doesn't realize we can't sail every day. She absolutely loved the cruise and there were so many things for this age group to do. I even utilized the Baby Splash Zone for the un-potty trained crew. They checked for diapers (I was even asked once if she was wearing on as her swimsuit covered it). There was an attendant watching for the crossover kids.
I am so impressed by the level of activity for this group that is largely ignored.
A note about specialty dining- When I inquired onboard, Chops, 150 Central Park, Giovanni's Table, Izumi, Chef's Table and Solarium Bistro (the others kids were allowed) were all for 13 and older. Prior to the cruise some of the postings we read on RCL's website and at CC led us to believe that you could dine here before 7pm with the 13-under crowd. When I spoke with the reservation staff this was not the case. 13 and over period. If you press them you can get past this. I spoke with management at guest services and they called over for me. I was interested in Giovanni's at the time. They said to call Giovanni's and tell them that I spoke with Guest Services and I would be allowed to book. I never did. I just wanted to see if they would allow it. So, it seems like you will need to be persistent if you would like to dine in these places with the little ones. It will be interesting to see what others with small kids were told onboard????
Labadee- Personally if I had my way, I'd rather go to nearly all other ports of call before I would choose Labadee. That said, they have made dramatic improvements since the last time I visited. The most obvious change was the ability to dock. Tendering would have been a nightmare with so many guests. There are more vendors there now. (The pressure to buy was almost as strong as Ocho Rios and the Nassau braiders. They have a tram to ride to many portions of the Labadee. Which is good idea. Of course they have their own zipline and roller coaster. There was also an Adventure Ocean waterplay area for the kids which I thought was a really good idea. There were several open air areas to eat. They all had the same menu but it was definitely necessary to split the cruisers rather than to try to feed us in one area. There is probably more but I am all reviewed out. Feel free to ask questions...
I read somewhere on this board that there were no public computers onboard. There were. They were in the card room. There were only a few though. This is probably because there are keyboards in all of the staterooms. You can have internet access directly in your cabin regardless of whether you bring your own laptop.
Here is the link to the Adventure Ocean and Royal Tots schedules
Here is the link to the cruise compasses
Spa and fitness menus..............