Sail Date: January 16, 2010
Ports of Call: St Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau
The following is my experience of a recent sailing on Royal Caribbean's newest ship Oasis of the Seas. Much of this is opinion based and may reflect differently than others that have cruised on this ship.
Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday to have a few days to relax before boarding the Oasis. We stayed at the Hilton Marina which is located directly across from Pt. Everglades. This is the former Marriott that was sold after major damage from Hurricane Wilma a few years back. A major refurbishment was done on the hotel. Overall they tried to give this hotel a "W Hotel" feel but failed in some areas. Overall the public areas are very nice but the rooms are another story. Not very large and the bathrooms are awkward. In place of a normal door that closes, they use two 14 inch panel doors with glass inserts that slide to meet each other. Not only do the doors not close well, they also have about a ¾ inch gap between the doors and the wall leaving an area that anyone in the room who wishes can look into the bathroom leaving little privacy. The balconies are very nice but I would choose the Hyatt over this hotel in the future when staying near the port.
On Saturday we arrived at the port around 10:15 via taxi and dropped off our luggage. They have two areas to enter the terminal. One for suites and one for general boarding. I assume that Junior Suites are included as I saw nothing stating any different. There were plenty of RCI agents to guide guests to the check-in counters of which there are many. They also take your security photo at the time of check-in. After check-in, you proceed directly to the waiting area if the ship is not boarding. The wait area is broken down by Suites, Diamond Plus, Diamond, Platinum and general boarding. They also have refreshment stations set up throughout the terminal. Once they started to board (11:15 AM) it was also done by the same order with the exception of weddings which were added in before general boarding. From the time that we entered the terminal, checked in and were seated it totaled ten minutes. The quickest and most organized embarkation ever for RCI and this port for me. By the way, you are not allowed to take photos of the inside of the terminal. Some did but I also watched as security went after the ones that they caught.
Stepping aboard for the first time is a huge WOW. You enter on deck five Royal Promenade which is wider and longer than the Voyager and Freedom class but also has many more venues including the Rising Tide Bar which was very popular on this sailing. The Royal Promenade also has a mezzanine which houses the Schooner Bar, Diamond Club lounge and the second level of Focus the photo area. Overall the Royal Promenade is very impressive. By the way, RCI finally got it right with the elevators on this ship. 24 that are larger and much, much quicker than those on the Voyager and Freedom class.
The Oasis is very much a ship for all nations. According to Ken Rush the Cruise Director, there were 5610 guests on board. The ship was over 100% capacity once again this week. Out of that amount, just a little over 3000 were U.S citizens. Large groups on board from Brazil and Canada. Overall a very mixed group. A lot of senior citizens on board. I have to say that I was surprised by the large amount due to the ship of this size. Very few kids on board and the ones that I did see were very well behaved. Not the same could be said for some of the adults but nothing that would take away from ones cruise. Overall I thought that it was a good crowd on board.
To me the ship never felt crowded. The neighborhoods seem to spread people out and also helps in a good traffic flow. Of course, when there are things like the parades and dance parities held on the Royal Promenade, there will be more than the usual amount of guests but this is no different than the Voyager or Freedom class.
There are three small Internet lounge areas on board. They are located on decks 7, 9, 14, two in the Concierge lounge and I believe that there was a couple in the card room on deck 14. The cabins also have internet capability though the in cabin TV but I found the keyboard to be a hassle. Trying to navigate with the lack of a mouse took forever and ate up minutes. They need to work on this. It could be a great tool if it worked better. Loved that they moved the Schooner Bar out of the hole onto the mezzanine of the Royal Promenade. It is more open and not closed in like the Voyager and Freedom class. Great views down on the Royal Promenade.
Dining - We mixed it up a little and tried a few different venues on the Oasis. *Giovanni's Table - Dined here for lunch and dinner. The cost was $15.00 for lunch and $20.00 for dinner. Lunch was not crowded on the day that we chose which was Sunday, the first sea day. Dinner was another story. Very popular and sold out most evenings. Not like Portofino but more of a rustic Italian restaurant. We thought that the food and service was very good. Would do it again. *Chops - Just like on the other RCI ships but we chose to dine outside overlooking Central Park. Very nice setting. Service was rushed and I would consider the food good but not great. We had the filet and it was not as tender as one would expect. Cost was $25.00 per person. *Park Cafe - Very popular venue. It's located in Central Park and there is no cost to dine here. They serve breakfast and lunch. We decided to have breakfast here before leaving the ship in St. Maarten. If you sit outside in the park area, it is much nicer. Seemed a little noisy inside for me. Food was very good for being quick serve. *Main Dining Room - Used "My Time Dining" and only ate here once which was the first night. With so many other venues to dine, it makes it hard to dine here as much. By the way, MTD was very popular on this cruise. One entire deck devoted to MTD. Food here was good but again service was rushed. Seems that they have stretched out the wait staff to handle more tables. I got tired just watching our server try to keep up with so much to do but in the end, he provided great service and we dined in about an hour and a half. *Windjammer - Much has been written about the WJ being too small for this ship but that was not my experience. The times that we ate there, no crowds or waiting but I do think that old habits are hard to break. With so many other non fee dining venues on board, it seemed that many still gravitated to the WJ. Food here was okay. Typical buffet food but a good variety. You can tell that RCI is trying to serve something for everyone considering the number of non U.S citizens on board. *Johnny Rockets - It is located on the Boardwalk on Oasis. More outside seating than before and the interior is smaller. Open for breakfast which is no charge. Lunch or dinner is $4.95 per person plus the cost of beverages. Overall, typical JR fare. *Seafood Shack - Cost to dine here is $8.95 per person plus beverages. For the cost you receive one appetizer, entrEe, and dessert. Food here was good but not great. I think that they need to revisit the menu. Why have wings in a seafood dining area? Key Lime pie was very good though. Sorrento's and Cafe Promenade area very similar in size to that of the Freedom class ships and were very popular. Pizza in Sorrento's was very good. Room service worked out great. Full dining room menu service for suite guests. Also, the standard room service menu was different on Oasis than we had on the Adventure back in May. Not sure if this is fleet wide. We did not try Central Park 150, Wipeout Cafe, Solarium Bistro or Izumi.
Entertainment - This is where there is a major difference in the Oasis and any other cruise ship that I have cruised. Head and shoulders better on the Oasis. Starting with Hairspray, a 90 minute show that goes nonstop. The level of the entertainers is top notch. "Come Fly With Me" was awesome. The title of the show states it all. A lot of aerial acts in this show. Not your typical cruise ship show. Not to be missed. RCI did a very good job in the design of the Opal Theater. Makes for a great place to watch the shows. "Oasis of Dreams" is the Aqua Theater show and again very good. I understand that this is still a work in progress as the show is currently 30 minutes long but will be adding more. They are also working on a second show called "Splish Splash" We saw them working on this a couple of times during the cruise. They also have a fountain show that was pretty good. Warning that if you sit in the first six rows or so, you will get soaked. Most learned quickly and moved back. Even further back will get you a spray from time to time. Ice Show was called "Frozen in Time" and again IMHO the best that RCI has produced. Do not miss this show. There were also other entertainment venues such as the Comedy Club, Jazz on Four, Blaze, Dazzles and a few shows shown in the Aqua Theater such as Summer Breeze and the Aqua Fountain Show. If anyone claims that they were bored on this ship, then it was their own fault as there are more things to do than time on the ship.
Stateroom - We had stateroom #10730 which is an Aqua Theater Suite. This became available about two weeks prior to the cruise and we decided to move from a Sky Loft Suite to the ATS due to the unique location of this cabin. The results were a mixed bag. The cabin has two bedrooms. One is the master and sleeps two and the second bedroom sleeps up to four by using the two uppers. There are also two bathrooms. One is the same as a JS bathroom and the other is about the same size as a standard cabin bathroom with an upgraded glass shower. The tub in the master can be an issue if you are over 6 ft tall. Your head will hit the ceiling. There is a living/dining area but the selling point to this cabin is the balcony. It is HUGE and has views of the Aqua Theater, back and side of the ship. Awesome views from all angles.
Right now there is a design flaw with the Oasis. She likes to spew out a lot of soot and it falls not only on the Aqua Theater but also on the Aqua Theater Suites. RCI has known about this issue from day one and is currently working with the shipyard to remedy the situation but it made our balcony unusable most of the time and we had some head butting with Guest Relations over this. We felt that RCI should have had a cleaning schedule to come and take care of the balcony several times a day. The cost of this cabin is not cheap and when you cannot use the best part of the cabin, it becomes a waste of money. We also had a horrible raw sewage smell in the master bath. After four calls to maintenance and several visits to Guest Relations to try and get the smell handled, an email to Miami took care of it. Guest Relations on this ship left a lot to be desired.
Neighborhoods - Very smart move on RCI's part. IMHO this makes a large ship feel small in many areas. It does a great job in keeping the guests spread out throughout the ship. Wasn't sure how I would feel about Central Park but it was my favorite place on the ship along with the Royal Promenade. It was nice being able to sit and relax at times with a slight breeze blowing through the park. Also, dining or having a cocktail at night while sitting in the park is very nice. The Boardwalk is nice but to me it was missing something. It needs more of a boardwalk feel with games. The Solarium is beautiful and was in full use during this cruise. I expect by summer that it will get a little warm here as it was toasty at times on this cruise. The Aqua Theater was really nice. There are still plenty of places for one to connect with the sea on this ship.
Ports of Call: Not going to spend a lot of time on the ports of call as they are the run of the mill eastern Caribbean stops. It was stated by Adam Goldstein that the Oasis would only dock on the Starboard side. This is not the case. We docked Port side in St. Maarten so that the crew could lower the rescue boats and take them out for the safety drill. The only port that seemed crowded was St. Maarten. There were five ships in port and four of them were very large. The lines for the water taxi were long.
Prior to the Oasis entering service, there was a lot of conversation on Cruise Critic about how getting on and off this ship in port would be a nightmare. Actually this ship was easier than just about any other ship that I have cruised. RCI thought this one out in design. When you enter the elevator, just touch the "gang way" button and you are dropped off on the gang way deck. No worry about trying to find out which deck is for debarking the ship in port. Also, when getting ready to board the ship in port, RCI required the ports to have a security office set up with six security screeners. You are completely cleared to board the ship before leaving the security office. Really makes boarding process easy. They also have certain elevators set aside in each bank for express use. The "express" elevators only go up to drop off guests returning to the ship. Once it reaches the top, it goes straight back to the gang way deck. Very nice.
Overall I loved this ship. It has to be experienced to really appreciate what she has to offer. Photos and videos cannot do it justice. She is not for everyone. She is large and requires a lot of walking if you want to see the different areas of the ship but she is also one of the easiest ships to move around on. You cannot get lost as there is great signage around the ship to help guide you to your destination. It was amazing to walk around and see the attention to detail that RCI put into this ship. The lighting of the public areas at night really make the Oasis come to life. If you're the type person that loves to sit all day and just look at the sea then I would suggest taking a different ship as you will not get the traditional experience from Oasis. Getting on and off this ship was much easier than I have experienced on ships much smaller. I was not worried about this in the port of calls but had my doubts when it came to the actual embarkation/debarkation in Ft. Lauderdale but the worry was for nothing. We used self debarkation and from the time that we walked off of the ship to curb side at the airport was twenty minutes. Outstanding.
We chose to take the Oasis again in May. For me it will be hard to go back to another ship for the Caribbean route. So much to do and see on the Oasis. She also was popular in the ports as folks on the other ships wanted to see and hear about this ship. I feel that RCI has a winner on their hands with Oasis and Allure and judging by the amount of people booking both ships, I don't think that we will see any types of discounts anytime soon. She's not perfect but pretty darn close.