Oasis of the Seas Cruise Review by robntawn: Oasis- A New Ship for a New Decade
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Oasis- A New Ship for a New Decade
Oasis of the Seas Review
A New Ship for a New Decade
I can remember first hearing about this ship 2 years ago, and thinking that there was no way it would be as big or as beautiful as it was described. I remember looking at the concept drawings and following the progress of the Genesis being built in Turku, and avidly searching out information and rumors about the final details of the ship. I remember the contest for the ship naming, and that I thought the name "Oasis" was stupid at the time. As soon as the bookings opened, I was on the phone and secured a reservation on the very first day. As the months and days progressed, I habitually logged onto Cruise Critic, sometimes multiple times during the day, in order to get the most up to date information. The days slowly passed, and soon the ship was fully built. I remember avidly watching the trans-Atlantic crossing of the Oasis, and anxiously awaiting each new update from RCCL. When she finally arrived in Ft More Lauderdale, I got up extra early just to watch the arrival via Inlet Cam. I enviously read the posts from the first cruisers, and most reviews were positively glowing. Soon enough, it was our turn to sail, and I wondered if the ship could live up to all of the hype and expectations of the past 2 years. I am happy to say that the Oasis did indeed live up to my expectations, and actually surpassed them in some instances. As with any vacation, it wasn't perfect, but it was by far my favorite cruise vacation yet. Below is my review of our recent sailing aboard the beautiful Oasis. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did...
We booked our hotel on Priceline over 6 months ago, and were able to get the Renaissance for $85 plus fees, an excellent value. This is a great way to get cut-rate prices on 4-star properties, and I highly advise it's use. The Renaissance is located on 17th St, very near the Cruise Port, and is in very close proximity to a multitude of restaurants, bars, and stores. Taxi fare from airport was $15, and took all of 10 minutes. There is a 24-hour Walgreens right across the street for last minute items. There is Crown Liquors 1 block west of the hotel, and a Winn-Dixie right next door to that. As far as dining options, Bravo Ristorante and Bimini Boatyard are just across the parking lot from the Renaissance. We opted for Giorgio's, which is a half block west, and located next to Einstein bros Bagels and Starbucks. Giorgio's is a typical strip mall cafe, but the food is fantastic and reasonably priced. We had a crispy Marguerita pizza, lasagna, and 2 glasses of Sangiovese for about $45. Excellent bread and hummus appetizer...HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The hotel is only 2-3 blocks from the bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway and the Cruiseport. We took a walk over the bridge and had some nice views of the blue moon and the dock. For breakfast, we opted for Einstein's. Quite popular and a bit of a wait, but again reasonably priced and good food. We spent $17 for 2 bagel and egg sandwiches, OJ, and coffee. We got checked out of the Renaissance and there are numerous cabs available for a $10 trip to the Cruiseport. Very convenient location and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Pier 18 Cruiseport:
RCCL has been advertising a curb to check-in time of 15 minutes, and it took us all of 10 minutes to get checked in at 1030. Very efficient, and the employees were exceedingly friendly and helpful. They knew our Diamond status without us saying anything, and we were directed upstairs to the Diamond waiting area, which had water, tea, and coffee available. There are also similar waiting areas for Diamond Plus and Platinum, and a nicer area for Suite guests. Their area had nicer seating and couches, and I personally applaud RCCL for acknowledging the extra money that these folks spent. There was a Coast Guard inspection scheduled, so we were told that it would be "a while" before we could board. As it turns out, we started boarding by 1130, and were onboard by 1145. They start the boarding process with Suite guests, then wedding parties and day visitors, then Diamond Plus, Diamond, Platinum, and finally new cruisers. It all goes very quickly, and only takes a few moments until you are walking onto the Royal Promenade for the first time.
Upon check-in, you are given an overview of the week's activities, known as "The Planner", as well as a map and an information brochure discussing dining and entertainment options. This is quite informative, and a nice primer to this week's activities. Some have asked which dining venues are open upon boarding, and here they are:
Cafe Promenade 11:30am-3:45pm Mondo Cafe 11:30am-3:45pm Sorrento's Pizza 11:30am-3:45pm Johnny Rockets ($) 11:30am-3:30pm Seafood Shack ($) Noon-3:30pm Boardwalk Bar 11:30am-3:30pm Park Cafe 11:30am-3:45pm Giovanni's Table ($) Noon-2:00pm Vintages Tapas ($) 1:00pm-3:45pm Windjammer 11:30am-3:45pm Solarium Bistro 11:30am-3:30pm Wipe Out Cafe Noon-3:30pm
Here's a brief overview of the week's activities (final details in the daily Compass): Saturday: Noon-3:30pm Oasis 360 Planning Event Entertainment Place 11:30am-3:45pm Day Spa Tours Oasis Day Spa 3:00pm Adventure Ocean Welcome Aboard Show Aquatheater 4:15pm Guest Assembly Drill Various Locations 4:30pm Welcome Aboard Party Boardwalk Welcome Aboard Party Royal Promenade Welcome Aboard Party Pools 5:45pm Rockin Rhythm Parade Royal Promenade 7:45pm Welcome Aboard Show Studio B, Aquatheater 9:15pm-10:00pm Family Nightclub Blaze
Sunday: 7:30am Yoga ($) Fitness Center 9:00am-6:00pm Flowriders Open Sports Deck 10:00am Bingo Opal Theater 10:30am Live the Oasis trivia On Air 10:30am Meet and Mingle Dazzles 10:30am Art Walk Central Park 11:30am-1:00pm Family Festival Boardwalk 2:30pm Art Walk Central Park 3:45pm Bingo Opal Theater 7:30pm Captain's Reception Royal Promenade 8:00pm-9:00pm Family Karaoke On Air
Monday: 8:45am Spin Class ($) Fitness Center 9:00am-6:00pm Flowriders open Sports Deck 10:15am Bingo Opal Theater 10:30am Art Walk Central Park 10:30am Live the Oasis Trivia On Air 11:30am-1:00pm Family Festival Boardwalk 2:30pm Art Walk Central Park 5:00pm Love and Marriage Show Opal Theater 11:45pm The Quest Studio B
Tuesday: 7:30am Pilates ($) Fitness Center 8:45am Gravity Group ($) Fitness Center 5:00pm Meditation ($) Fitness Center 5:00pm Live the Oasis Trivia On Air 7:45pm Family Quest Studio B 8:00pm Name that 8os Tune Schooner Bar 8:00pm-9:00pm Family Karaoke On Air 10:15pm Battle of the Sexes Game Show Studio B 11:30pm 70's Disco Street Party Royal Promenade Midnight Comedy Improv: Throw me a Line Comedy LIVE
Wednesday: 7:30am Yoga ($) Fitness Center 3:30pm-5:00pm H2O Zone Family Party H2O Zone 5:00pm Bingo Opal Theater 5:00pm Live the Oasis Trivia On Air 8:00pm Family Karaoke On Air 10:15pm Finish that Lyric Dazzles
Thursday: 7:30am Yoga ($) Fitness Center 8:00am-6:00pm Flowriders Open Sports Deck 10:30am Live the Oasis Trivia On Air 10:30am Bingo Opal Theater 10:30am Art Walk Central Park 11:30am Men's Belly Flop Competition Poolside 2:30pm Art Walk Central Park 4:15pm Bingo Opal Theater 11:30pm twenty Nightclub Solarium
Friday: 7:00am Early Morning Stretch Fitness Center 8:00am-6:00pm Flowriders Open Sports Deck 10:30am Bingo Opal Theater 10:30am Live the Oasis Trivia On Air 11:30am Family Festival Boardwalk 11:45am Lollapalooza Parade Royal Promenade 2:30pm Art Walk Central Park 4:15pm Bingo Opal Theater 8:00pm Live the Oasis Game Show On Air 8:00pm Fountain Show Aquatheater 10:30pm Fountain Show Aquatheater
Walking aboard the Oasis for the first time is a jaw dropping experience. You enter directly on the Royal Promenade, and are struck by how much it looks like any mall at home. It feels so wide open because of the skylights above, and is very bright and cheery, yet elegant at the same time. There are the typical Royal Promenade venues, such as the Champagne Bar, Pub, Sorrento's, Cafe promenade, and RCCL logo shop. Now, however, there are higher end stores, as well as the Cupcake Cupboard, Mondo Coffee, and the On Air Club. It was nice to see Boleros take it's place front and center as well. The Royal Promenade never felt crowded, even with the throngs of people embarking for the first time. It really does a good job of dispersing the crowds, due to it's extra width and length, as well as the addition of a verandah with Schooners and the Photo Gallery, and the Diamond Lounge. We explored the ship stem to stern, top to bottom, over the next few hours. I will detail each section later in the review, but suffice to say that the first impression of this amazing ship is a good one. One thing I want to really emphasize is just how different each neighborhood is. You really do get a different vibe in each neighborhood, and it's like you have 7 different ships to explore. I was wondering if the size of Oasis would make it seem impersonal and cavernous, but it's just the opposite. Oasis WOWs you at every turn, and the neighborhoods feel intimate and separated from the rest of the ship. As a result, it just doesn't seem crowded, and you would never know that you were sharing this ship with 6000 other passengers.
With all of the different categories of staterooms available, it was hard to make a choice. We love our balconies, but wanted to try something different. Suite costs were too much for us, so we decided on a B-1 Boardwalk Balcony. We love being aft, so we chose 9729, which is the furthest aft B-1 on the starboard side. We reasoned that this room should give us some ocean views, as well as a nice view of the Aquatheater and Boardwalk. Those thoughts turned out to be correct, and we were delighted with the location and view that this room offers. The room has the couch closest to the balcony, and I like that set-up very much. I will echo some previous complaints about the closet and electric outlets. The closet is a sliding door type, located right next to the bed. It is very difficult to get things in and out of the closet, and there is not much storage space, although a bit more than usual because there aren't any life vests taking up room. The electric outlets are indeed under the desk, very inconveniently located, and requiring a lot of stooping down and looking for the outlet. This is a very poor design and I hope it changes on the Allure. There is a very nice flat screen interactive TV, with internet keyboard, and the TV swivels which allows viewing in bed. Kudos to RCCL for making such technologic advances. It's awesome to be able to pull up the daily planner, daily menus in ALL restaurants, and your own personalized schedule. It is also possible to book excursions and order room service from the TV...very nice indeed! I didn't use the keyboard, because I signed up for wiFi and used my own computer. Just an aside on signing up...What a hokey experience! We had to find RCCL Online, which was located in a converted cabin all the way forward on deck 7. There were about 8 computers in the room, it was stifling hot and crowded. It was easy to swipe my Sea Pass card and sign up for WiFi, but I sure wouldn't want to be stuck in that room trying to access the Internet. This was a very poor location, and I can only hope that it is temporary...OKAY, rant over...back to the cabin...The bathroom in the stateroom seems bigger than on previous ships, although counter space is more narrow. They supply you with various bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap...a nice touch! The shower is the revolving phone booth type, which is leaps and bounds better than those nasty curtains way back when! The balcony is quite nice. It has a rounded shape which seems to make it bigger, and I really love the larger table which allows you to eat outside if you so desire. The view to the Aquatheater is indeed fantastic, and we had a front-row seat to the fountain show last night. It's fun to people watch on the Boardwalk, and you get some very nice sea views and wake views from this location. As a trade-off, you are directly across from others, and you do have to remember to keep your curtains closed for privacy, but all in all I think it is a great location, and would book it again in a heartbeat. The noise is negligible from outside, and the doors really do make it quiet in the room. Finally, I am pleased to announce that bedtime chocolates and towel animals are back! We had chocolates and towel animals every night! I know it's not much, but we really enjoy this part of the cruise experience, and it was nice to see them return.
Crowd Control: We sailed very near capacity, with 5800 guests. I was worried about crowds, but these fears turned out to be unfounded for the most part. As mentioned earlier, embarkation was quite smooth and not huge crowds. Ordinarily when you first board, everyone tends to rush to the Windjammer and it gets very crowded. On the Oasis, there are many different venues open for lunch, and this tends to keep the crowds at a minimum. I would also like to mention the excellent use of interactive dining TV screens as well. These screens show the availability of each dining venue around the ship, as well as how busy each venue is. This is an excellent way to choose where you eat, and really helps with crowd control. That's not to say that it wasn't busy in the Windjammer, because it was at times. The Windjammer seems smaller than on other ships, and most people are accustomed to going straight to the Windjammer upon embarkation. I would recommend one of the other venues, including the solarium Bistro, Park Cafe, or Sorrento's. All of them were easy to get into upon embarkation.
Sailaway: There are many different choices for Sailaway on this ship. Most people chose the pool decks or Boardwalk, but we found a great site over the bridge. This area was originally going to be for the Adventure Ocean guests, but apparently RCCL has decided to use it for adult guests instead. It is easily accessed by going all the way forward, port side, on deck 14. There are great views, and you can move out on the wings to get an even better vantage point. We took our bottle of champagne and toasted each other as we left Ft Lauderdale.
Navigating the Ship: One would think that a ship this size would be difficult to navigate and find your way around. Surprisingly, that is not true. There is a lot of walking getting from one point to another, but the areas are logically laid out in different neighborhoods, and there are numerous interactive signs throughout the ship that allow you to type in your goal, and they will map out a route for you. These machines are multilingual and plentiful, usually located near elevators and hallways. There aren't any decks that become dead ends, and once you figure out aft and forward, it's quite easy to get around. If you are unsure whether you are port or starboard in the hallways, just look at the color of the carpet. Red carpets indicate starboard and green carpets indicate port. Another cool observation is with the elevators. When an elevator arrives, a red light indicates it going down while a green light indicates it going up. Similarly, there is one ding for up and 2 dings for down. And another thing regarding the elevators: there was never more than a few moments wait for an elevator the entire week. We tend to take the stairs most of the time, but when we did call for an elevator, it arrived promptly. One final piece of advice is to go to deck 5 (Royal Promenade) or deck 8 (Central Park) if you need to get from one end of the ship to the other. It is a much more pleasant and scenic way to traverse the ship, instead of trekking down the LONG hallways.
The Neighborhoods: By now, most people know that the Oasis is divided into 7 different neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are grouped together throughout the ship, and are different than anything RCCL has done in the past. By doing this, each area becomes separate and distinct, and to me it really made this ship unique. By going from neighborhood to neighborhood, it was like experiencing 7 different ships. Each area had it's own vibe and personality, and you could match them with your owns wants and desires.
Boardwalk: This area is located on deck 6 all the way aft. It is modeled after various seaside communities, and truly evokes a festive and laid-back feeling. Front and center is the beautiful hand carved carousel, which offers complimentary rides for young and young at heart. Before you get to the carousel, you walk down a hall of fun house mirrors and get to see each stage of the carving process for the beautiful carousel menagerie. There is a free donut shop, as well as an ice cream shop that serves reasonably priced treats. There is also a fun photo shop, a Build-A-Bear shop, a candy store, and a sundry store available. Restaurants include Johnny Rockets and the Seafood Shack, both of which charge an extra fee (except for free breakfast at JRs). At the end of the Boardwalk is the Aqua Theater. This is the home for fantastic diving and synchronized swimming shows, and is not to be missed. The quality of the show is similar to a Las Vegas production. This area was also used for the Sexy Legs contest, and they also showed some football games and a movie as well. On either side of the ship are the two rock climbing walls, both of which are higher and wider than anything RCCL has had before. Waits for climbing during our sailing were only 15 minutes or so. I think that they did a great job with recreating the ambience and energy of a real boardwalk, and really enjoyed this area. It seemed to be quite popular with families and children. Pool and Sports Zone: I must admit that I was worried that the design of the ship would make the pool areas crowded and non-functional. Because of the design, the center area is open and the pools are placed on the sides of the ship. My fears were unfounded, however, and there was plenty of room in and around the pools all throughout the week. There are PLENTY of sun loungers around the deck area, and it is very easy to get one, although it might not be right next to the pool. The Deck Crew is in full force, and they were removing items left unattended for 30 minutes...Kudos to them for this action. With 6000 people aboard, there is no room for chair hogs! You have your choice of the main pool area, beach pool, sports pool, or kids pool. There are also multiple hot tubs scattered about the area, including the infamous cantilevered hot tubs that stick out over the ocean. These tubs have an infinity ledge and 2 large TV screens above them, and are actually divided into 2 areas to allow a larger number of users at one time. They were in full use most of the cruise, but were nearly empty late at night, which is a nice experience with the mood lighting and relaxing atmosphere. I was surprised to find out that these hot tubs are NOT considered part of the adult Solarium, and as a result there were young children in them a lot. Unfortunately not all parents are willing to discipline their children, and there was a lot of splashing and horseplay at times, including splashing water on the TV screens...Not cool! We also really enjoyed the aft end of the ship with the 2 Flowriders, Zipline, basketball court, and mini golf. The zip line is fun, but it is over very quickly. Sign up as soon as you board (at Oasis 360 in Studio B), because times go fast. By Day 5, there were no appointments available. The 2 Flowriders were very fun, and they have them separated for stand up surfing on starboard side and boogie boarding on port side. The lines moved quickly, and I never had to wait longer than 15 minutes. It is busier during sea days, so keep that in mind. Another piece of advice is to do the online waivers for activities before you leave. This saves a lot of time in line, and allows you to start having fun sooner! The aft area is also nice for ocean views and relaxing, and there are loungers available back here. Very uncrowded and accessible.
Entertainment Place: This area primarily consists of Deck 4, which includes Jazz on 4, Comedy Club, Blazes nightclub, Studio B, and the casino. It also includes the beautiful Opal Theater, where production and headliner shows are held. We are not big jazz fans, but this venue was quite popular with others when we walked past. The furnishings and ambience were quite nice. We did go to the Comedy Club, and it's design is based on a New York subway, including a subway map on the ceiling. It was really a lot of fun, and you should book early for this event. Get there early and sit up front if you want to be razzed by the comedians. One more note...there were always plenty of seats left right before showtime, so if you want to see the show and don't have reservations, head on down 5-10 minutes before showtime, and you will probably get in. Blazes nightclub is similar in design to the dungeon dEcor on many Freedom and Voyager class ships, except it is all on one level which is a much better design, in my opinion. This is also where the Diamond Happy Hour was held during our sailing. They had a full bar and hot/cold snacks, and it was fairly well attended. Studio B looks the same as on Freedom and Voyager class ships, and is where the wonderful ice show is held. Honestly, this particular ice show is the best that I have seen. Get there early for seats in the front, although just about every seat has good sight lines. Finally, the casino is absolutely huge. There are a multitude of slots, table games, and interactive electronic poker, blackjack, and roulette machines. They have a smoking and non-smoking side, and as long as you stay away from the middle section, it is usually pretty good smoke control. The casino has their own version of Lotto, and for $2 you pick 5 numbers...if you get all 5 in the nightly drawing, you get $10,000. Pretty bad odds, but for 2 bucks we tried (and failed) nightly. The Opal Theater is just gorgeous, with excellent sight lines in every seat. This is where Hairspray, Come Fly with Me, Headliner show, and Bingo are held during the cruise. Again, get there early for the best seats because it fills up quickly in the front. There are usually seats left on the sides and in the back, so even if you don't have tickets you will probably get in anyway.
Royal Promenade: This is very similar to Freedom and Voyager promenades as far as general design, but that is where the similarity ends. The Oasis Promenade is wider and longer, and is broken up in the middle with different kiosks, as well as the excellent Mondo coffee shop, which serves Starbucks coffee (for a fee) and awesome baked goods (free). As mentioned earlier, Boleros has a spot on the Promenade, and is a beautiful well-done venue. However, the smoking was extensive and it was very uncomfortable to be in for a non-smoker. Too bad because that is usually one of our favorite places to hang out. On a positive note, the pub is entirely non-smoking, which was nice. There are LOTS of stores scattered around the Promenade, with an excellent selection of high quality items. A lot of people were buying things, but it was out of our price range, so we just window shopped. I'm guessing that Oasis is pursuing the international customer here, who might have more disposable income to spend on shopping. The RCCL logo shop is indeed quite small, and was always crowded. They had an extensive selection of Oasis-related items, including the oft mentioned ship models. Hopefully this store size increases on the Allure. The Cupcake Cupboard is located front and center, and also incorporates a staircase that goes up to the mezzanine level. There had been a lot of grumbling about charging for cupcakes, but I don't see what the problem is. These are gourmet quality cupcakes, and at $2.50 each, they were a bargain. We didn't try one of these until the last day, and I'm sorry that we didn't do it sooner. They were that good! We tried to sign up for a cupcake decorating class, but by the time the schedule was released, we already had other things scheduled. If you are interested in one of these classes, head over there right away and sign up. Even if there isn't a schedule yet, the manager will take your information and call you when the schedule is finalized. Other places to grab a bite to eat include Cafe Promenade and Sorrento's, both of which are complimentary. An interesting option at Sorrento's is the "Make Your Own" pizza station where you pick out your toppings and they make you your own personal pizza. You can also order a pizza for takeout and take a slice or a whole pie back to your room with you. We did this on a sea day and had pizza and a bucket of beer while sunbathing above the Aqua Theater! The mezzanine level is an excellent improvement to the Promenade. Located on Deck 6, it houses Schooners, the photos shop, and the Diamond club. Schooners is where most trivia games are held, and is the same nautical theme as other ships (including the fake gunpowder smell). Smoking is permitted near the bar, but again the ventilation is not good and it tends to waft over much of the common area as well. It wasn't as bad as Boleros, but still needs improvement. The photograph area is a huge improvement over past designs. Because of the sheer number of guests, photos are stored in numbered binders and not out in the open. You Sea Pass card will have your binder number on it. Just find that binder, and all of your pictures will be in there for your review. Oasis uses facial recognition software for sorting and storing pictures, and it seems to be quite accurate. You also have the choice of finding your pictures on a computer kiosk if that works better for you. There is an option for getting all of your pictures on a disk for about $250...a pretty good deal if you have a lot of photos. Finally, the Diamond Lounge is located at the opposite end of the mezzanine, all the way forward. There is a gate that you must slide your access card in order to gain entry. Once in the gate, there is a large patio that overlooks the action of the Promenade, and this is fun for people watching and relaxing. The room itself has multiple seats and couches, as well as the cappuccino machine that everyone loves. Happy Hour drinks were served in Blaze nightclub during our sailing because of the large number of Diamond members. I'm not sure if this will change as time goes on. I hope so, because the room itself is beautiful, and it seems like a waste of space if it isn't used. Most of the cruise it sat empty. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the Rising Tide Bar. This is a moveable bar that moves between decks 5 (Promenade) and 8 (Central Park). It holds about 30 people and is a wonderful place to relax and have a drink, or just people watch. I must admit that I didn't think it would be a big deal, but I was pleasantly surprised. The bar itself is located right in the middle of the action at the aft end of the Boardwalk. Not only does it transport you from the festive atmosphere of the Promenade to the serene atmosphere of Central Park, but it also serves as part of the decoration and ambience. When moving, there are multiple color effects and a water fountain show underneath the bar, and it is quite magical. It's hard to explain, but very cool to experience. It truly adds to the overall feel of the ship, and I can't imagine the Oasis without it. I applaud the Oasis designers for their forward thinking on this.
Adventure Ocean: I did not get a chance to explore this area since it was only my wife and I on this cruise. However, the facilities are extensive, and they take care of all ages from infant to teenager. The rooms looked colorful, and there was an extensive list of activities for each age category. We did get to see the teen area at the aft end of the ship, and it looked real fun! There were bean bags, computer stations, video game stations, foosball, smoothie bar, dance floor and a DJ. The arcade was also in this area, and had a large selection of video games. We were treated to a "Pirate Parade" made up of Adventure Ocean children, and it was cute. They all appeared to be having fun, and the staff was very interactive with them. From past cruise experience, I will say that RCCL has the best kids programs that I have seen (although I have not sailed on Disney).
Spa and Fitness Zone: I have heard a lot of grumbling about the "poor design" of the gym on Oasis, but I don't agree. There is an extensive amount of machines, including treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, and weight machines. The aerobic machines are very modern, allowing IPOD hookup for monitoring and saving your exercise routine and playing your own music. Each machine has a TV screen as well. There are the usual exercise classes (for fee) available, and the Spin class in particular is very large. I will agree that the color and dEcor are Spartan, but this is a gym...not a social club. You will not find a better stocked gym at sea, in my opinion. One shortcoming is the loss of public steam/shower rooms and public whirlpool. These were available in the past, and I could not find them on the Oasis. The spa is serene, and they have done a good job with the ambience. It is a beautiful area, and easy to navigate. There is an excellent health food and smoothie bar (for fee). There are multiple treatment areas for any conceivable spa treatment, and you can purchase a Thermal Suite pass for the week if you wish. The prices are typical for a cruise ship, and there is the inevitable hard sell for products after your treatment. Another innovation is the ability to prebook your spa treatments prior to embarkation, although there seemed to be plenty of availability early in the cruise.
Central Park: Finally, there is Central park. This area is probably the most mentioned innovation on the Oasis. They have successfully incorporated a living park in the middle of the ship, replete with open spaces, serene atmosphere, and wonderful dining venues. Even though you know you are on a ship, when you step into this area you feel as if you have been transported into a real park. This is where 150 Central Park, Chops, Giovanni's Table, Park Cafe, and Vintages are located. Each and every one of these venues is wonderful, and you also have the option of eating al fresco, if you so desire. The lighting at night is spectacular and not to be missed. It is a wonderful and peaceful place to have a drink at night, while toasting your good fortune to be sailing aboard the Oasis. The area is completely alive with various plants, shrubs, and trees, and it is fun to wander and look at the work that has went into creating it. We were lucky enough to meet Llaszlo, the chief landscaper, and he gave us a personalized tour of the area. This was an unexpected and welcome surprise, and his pride and dedication was readily apparent. It is this personalized level of service that keeps us coming back to Royal Caribbean. For those of you with money to burn, there is also a Coach store in Central Park, as well as an extensive art gallery. They offer twice-daily Art Tours from here, which is informative and interesting. We absolutely loved this area, and found ourselves here on a frequent basis. Entertainment Without a doubt, Oasis has the highest caliber of entertainment that we have experienced on any cruise. Because of the large number of people aboard, it is imperative that you prebook your entertainment in order to get the times that you want. Some people have complained about this, but I thought it was a great idea to have everything pre-planned. I understand that some people are very spontaneous and just want to relax while on vacation, and that this change may be hard for them. I, however, love to plan every detail of my vacation before I leave, and this is perfect for me. I will admit that there were some conflicts with my pre-booked shows and the daily Oasis schedule, but they were few and far between, and I was usually able to switch things around to accommodate my wishes. I would also recommend My Time Dining in order to get the most out of your scheduling. There are some copies of the Compass floating around now, which may help in the scheduling department. For those of you reluctant to prebook your entertainment, you will have the opportunity to book once you board, either through the Box Office, Oasis 360, or your interactive stateroom TV. You may not get your first choice, however, so just be aware of that. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, you can just show up at the desired show 10-15 minutes before showtime. There will probably be seats available, albeit not in the best locations. Oasis of Dreams: This is the Aqua Theater show, and is simply not to be missed. It consists of synchronized swimming, diving, and aerial acrobatics that take place all around the theater. Keep your eyes open because you never know where the action will occur. The show incorporates the large TV screens that flank the stage, and they serve to further the story as well as showing the action from different angles. The athleticism and energy level of the performers is palpable, and it is on par with a Cirque de Soleil show.
Hairspray: This show takes place in the Opal Theater, and is based on the Broadway show of the same name. It is actually a truncated version of that show, and most songs and scenes are present. Again, the energy level of the cast is fantastic, and the singing and choreography are top notch. You can also see the professional quality of the sets and scenery, and the orchestra does a great job with the music. We sat in the front row, but I would recommend sitting a few rows back in order to see all of the action on stage. This production was on a par with some Broadway shows that I have seen in New York City, and again I say it is not be missed.
Frozen In Time: This is the ice show that takes place in Studio B. Briefly, it is an interpretation of the stories of Hans Christian Anderson set to an awesome soundtrack with superb skating. The skaters were quite energetic, and there were multiple jumps, spins, and moves incorporated into this show. The sets were very colorful, the choreography was flawless, and the degree of execution was top notch. It truly looked like the skaters were having fun out there, and it definitely reflected on the quality of the show. It was hands-down the best ice show that I have seen at sea.
Come Fly With Me: This show takes place in the Opal Theater, and was also quite entertaining. It really shows off the stage's capability, and involves a lot of aerial activity taking place overhead. There is a high energy level throughout the show, and again the choreography is top notch. The use of trampolines in this show is unique! To experience the best of this show, sit in the middle of the theater about 5-6 rows back from the stage. As with the Aqua Theater show, keep an eye out all around you for different things happening. The show itself was entertaining, and if it were the only show that I saw, I would say that it was the best. However, with all of the great shows available, I would rate it #4. Still, it is not be missed. In fact, try not to miss any of the shows. They are that good!
Parades: Just a quick note on the parades on Oasis. There were 2 parades, as on the Freedom and Voyager class ships, and they are held on the royal Promenade. Both parades were high energy, frenetic, and visually stimulating. The best place to watch is in front of Sorrento's or the pub, which is where most of the action takes place. It is real cool seeing the globe above the pub "crack open" and a walkway emerges with performers. We also had an aerialist performance which took place toward the Rising Tide Bar, so keep your eyes open all around you.
Hits and Misses: Hits: 1. The professionalism and pride throughout the ship is widespread. Every staff member that we came in contact with was universally happy, smiling, and eager to assist. 2. The technology available on the Oasis improves your experience immensely. From the ability to prebook specialty restaurants and entertainment to the interactive stateroom TVs to the interactive signage in the public areas, everything ran quite smoothly. The elevators were quick and efficient, and lines were few and far between. 3. The neighborhood concept effectively divides the ship into different experiences, depending on your mood and desire. It also serves to keep crowds at a minimum, and allows concurrent activities in different areas. 4. Terminal 18 is just fantastic. Check-in occurs rapidly, and by taking care of the photographs early in the process, you literally walk right on the ship without muss or fuss. In the event that you check in early, there is a large and comfortable waiting area available, including separate areas for repeat cruisers and suite guests. 5. Getting on and off the ship at port areas is quick and efficient. Simply hit the "Gangway" button in the elevator, and you are whisked to the gangway level. Once there, an escalator takes you down to the exit and there are multiple machines available to swipe your card in order to leave. Similarly, doing the security screening off the ship allows quicker boarding when returning to the ship. These changes remove known bottlenecks and make it very easy to debark and embark the ship.
Misses: 1. There were actually very few misses on this ship, and most of them are related to simply "growing pains" associated with the rollout of a new ship. Some employees didn't know particular answers to questions, but even then they were polite and quick to find an answer for you. 2. I realize that smokers have just as much of a right to experience the Oasis as non-smokers, and that there should be places set aside for smokers. It is hard to do this fairly, and no matter what is done, not everyone will be satisfied. I'm not sure what the answer is, but better ventilation in smoking venues would be a start. I do applaud RCCL for having a smoking AND non-smoking side of the casino, which makes it easier for both groups to enjoy the area. 3. The shops on board are numerous, although overpriced in my opinion. This is a mass market cruise line, and I felt like the shops were a little high end and expensive for a mass market line. However, if full shopping bags are any indication of success, I may be in the minority on this one. For sure, the logo shop needs to be enlarged on the Allure. 4. I was sad to see the cantilevered hot tubs being overrun by unruly children during the day. These are such a nice experience, and I really wish that they were adult use only. 5. This next statement is not necessarily a complaint, but more of an observation. This is the first cruise that I have gone on that I have heard so many different languages spoken. According to the CD, Americans and Canadians accounted for just over half of the population, which left about 3000 others of different nationalities. Every time I entered an elevator or different venue, I was bombarded with a multitude of dialects and languages. Most of them were travelling in extended groups, and at times I felt like the outsider. On more than one occasion, that group took over the area and we ended up leaving. I'm guessing that RCCL is marketing to a worldwide crowd, so maybe this is a harbinger of what the future holds for further cruises. I would expect this from a foreign port, but was not expecting to see it out of Florida. Again, this is not a complaint but an observation of sorts.
Final Thoughts: Hopefully, I have not bored you with my review. There is so much to see and do that it is nearly impossible to describe every aspect. This ship is unlike anything that you have ever sailed on before, and the experience will be entirely different as well. Some will like it and some won't. I absolutely loved the experience, and it was hands-down the best cruise vacation that I have done. Of course, I love the big ships and the multitude of activities that they offer. I also love the technological advances that this ship offers, and applaud RCCL for it's forward thinking when designing and building it. They have done a great job of creating a ship that offers different experiences for different moods, and of dispersing a huge number of people throughout the ship so that it doesn't feel crowded. Even with embarkation and debarkation, the traffic flowed smoothly and efficiently, and we rarely found ourselves waiting in line. Bravo, RCCL, for creating the Oasis. She is truly a new ship for a new decade, and you should be proud! Less
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