Oasis of the Seas January 16- January 23, 2010
My husband and I are avid cruisers and we made our reservations more than 18 months before actually sailing on the Oasis. We took the 7 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas, St. Maarten/Martin, Nassau, Bahamas plus 3 days at sea. We traveled with two other family members and two friends. Here is our review.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 11 a.m. and quickly checked-in with no delay and boarded the ship. Our rooms were not available until 1:00 p.m. so we rolled our carry-on with us as we explored the ship. We embarked right into the middle of the Royal Promenade, which resembles the royal promenade on the Voyager class ships. We began at the top deck and worked our way down.
The Oasis is made up of "neighborhoods" which I will briefly describe:
Solarium/ Sports Deck: There is a huge partially domed Solarium in the front of the ship. This area has multiple levels, is beautifully laid out, and has palm trees and tropical plants. There is a small pool (3-ft. deep) that is warm, plus two hot tubs. Covered verandas are furnished with large, beautiful "Tommy Bahama" style chairs with thick cushions and matching ottomans--perfect for reading a book or taking a nap. There are 10 cabanas along the very front of the Solarium that are like giant "Papasan" chairs with convertible tops. They are highly sought after and, unfortunately, a few selfish people grab them early and "hog" them all day long, leaving their belonging in them while they go about doing other things on board. There is a policy against such obnoxious behavior, but it needs to be better enforced. Also in the Solarium is the Solarium Bistro, which serves breakfast and lunch "healthy" fare but turns into a chic bistro at night for a surcharge. Located in the Sports Deck area is Izumi, the Japanese specialty restaurant available for a surcharge. We did not get a chance to eat at Izumi but our friends did and said it was outstanding. Adjacent to the Solarium on both sides of the ship, in a part of the ship that cantilevers out over the water, (inside the glass area) are two huge "infinity" style hot tubs with big-screen televisions. You can sit in the hot tub and look at the ship as though you were alongside it. Also on the sports deck are several other pools, including a cute kiddie aqua park that features fun slides, water guns and fun things to entertain them for hours and a "beach" pool plus sun decks and plenty of beach chairs. Beach towels are large and thick and have the Royal Caribbean name on them, which makes it feel like you are at a resort. You have to "check out" the towels and return them to the towel kiosk. The rest of the sports deck contains many amenities such as: full-size basketball court; miniature golf, ping pong tables; shuffleboard; rock-climbing wall; zip-line; flow-rider wave machine for surfing or using the boogie board. Everything is well laid out and spacious. Also on the sports deck is a dining venue called Wipeout Cafe plus a small beach shop that sells beach wear, suntan lotion, and other things. A free soft-serve ice cream machine with cones is located near the pools. Although it can get crowded, there were always lounge chairs available.
Vitality Spa and Fitness Center: The spa is huge and takes up 2 floors. There are the usual offerings plus additional special treatment rooms. The relaxation room could comfortably seat 16 people but was never that crowded. There is also a nice salon. I had a massage, pedicure, and reflexology as I am a spa junkie - my guilty pleasure on cruises. Located within the spa and fitness area is the Vitality Cafe where you can get a healthy snack, energy drink, or smoothie, and specialty coffee drinks. Some of the items in the cafe are free and some cost extra. The fitness center was huge. I never had a problem using the equipment, much of which is state-of-the-art. There are plenty of classes and lectures to attend, or you can do your own routine, which is what I did. There are some bikes available (for an extra charge) that have simulated interactive biking courses, which looked interesting. The fitness center has a stairwell that takes you down to the promenade deck, which is essentially a jogging track. Along the way are motivational signs and reminders to stop and stretch, and informational markers to let you track your distance.
Boardwalk: The Boardwalk is very cute. There are 2 dining options available for an extra charge: Johnny Rockets diner and Seafood Shack. We ate lunch at the Seafood Shack and enjoyed several different appetizers and entrees. The carousel is beautiful and I was dragged aboard by my Mother in Law --- and have to admit --- it was fun to ride it with the kiddies and their grandparents---very authentic. There are some shops on the Boardwalk such as: ice cream parlor; donut shop; old-fashioned candy store with many nostalgic candies; a gift shop with items for the beach; cute children's beach clothes, etc. Along the Boardwalk are decorative items you would find in a real boardwalk, such as pop-corn machines, 'funhouse" mirrors, and so forth. Even "Voltar" is available to tell your fortune. The Boardwalk has about 5-6 stories of "inside" cabins that overlook it. I would imagine those who took rooms overlooking the Boardwalk would be reminded of summers at the shore, as that is what it looked like to me. Those rooms were quite noisy, however, as I was told by fellow cruisers. At the very end (aft of the ship) is the fabulous Aqua Theatre. This theatre has stadium seating (comfy) and a stage with a 17 foot deep pool --- various diving boards and platforms, lighting, and 2 big-screens for movies and other special effects. The evening performance put on by former Olympic swimmers and acrobats was spectacular. The Aqua Theatre was flanked on either side by the Aqua Suites. I was very enthralled with the Aqua Suites for several reasons. First, the suites were stepped such that the lowest one had the largest balcony and the balconies decreased in size as you went higher. The balcony for each suite was a large wrap-around style balcony that appeared to have built-in outdoor bars. I would guess that the view of the Aqua Theatre, as well as the ocean view on the other side, was stunning; however, noise would definitely be an issue. There is also a 30 minute evening water show set to music (like at Bellagio in Las Vegas) that was very dramatic and well done. Those in the Aqua Suites were on their balconies viewing the water show and appeared to enjoy it.
Central Park: This venue was my favorite by far, perhaps because I am a native New Yorker. It was so pretty and peaceful and ...absolutely elegant at night. There are so many plants and park benches that you really forget you are on a cruise ship! There is a winding path that allows you to meander along and take it all in. Central Park has the high end shops (including a Coach purse store) and restaurants. Vintages, the on-board wine bar, was huge. We all met there one afternoon for tapas (small plates of tasty food) and wine flights (3 different glasses of wine based on varietals and/or vineyard) and had a great time. Restaurants in Central Park include: Chops Grille, Park Cafe, 150 Central Park, and Giovanni's Table. We ate at 150 Central Park for dinner and we were blown away! I felt like a judge on the TV show Iron Chef. There are two menus that alternate depending upon the day of the week. One of our table mates was afraid that she would not like the food because she is a rather picky eater; however, she loved it. The ambiance is very elegant, the service is outstanding, and the food just took our breath away! While my husband and I ordered a bottle of wine, our friends selected the wine-parings and really enjoyed it. There is a surcharge for the dinner and an extra charge for the wine and alcohol but this place is on my list of one of the most fascinating food experiences I have had. If you are a "foodie" and love wine, you really need to go to 150 Central Park ($35 surcharge applies). We ate lunch at Giovanni's Table (also a surcharge of $10 for lunch and $20 for dinner) but thought it was "just ok." They serve food family style. We like Sabatini's on Princess better. Central Park is also the final destination of the Rising Tides Bar. The bar is a slow-moving elevator that takes you up two stories inside the Royal Promenade and then ends in Central Park under a glass domed ceiling shaped like a wave and reminiscent of Tavern on the Green in NYC. We went to the Rising Tides Bar twice and really enjoyed it, especially at night, with all the twinkle lights in Central Park. Rising above Central Park are several floors of "inside" cabins that have windows overlooking the park and in fact, the cabins across the hall from us were those cabins. We were told by those cabin-dwellers that it was extremely noisy in those rooms. The Park Cafe was open for breakfast and lunch and was packed all the time. The cafe serves excellent fresh salads that you create and delicious panninis as well as sandwiches and desserts.
Also available for really serious foodies is Chef's Table which is available for a $75 surcharge, including wines. We did not have time to try this but it sounds really neat!
Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe: The Windjammer is very small. We do like the way RCCL organizes the food stations because it minimizes "traffic jams" and makes it easier and quicker to grab a bite. We enjoyed the variety of food, especially the Asian bar. The Opus Dining Room was elegant and we had outstanding service for the 6 pm seating. We sat next to the Captain's Table and behind it was a stage where musicians played the piano and/or violin during dinner. The menu selections were "good" to "great" and everything as well-prepared and delicious. There is also an anytime dining option, which is a nice alternative.
Staterooms: We had a balcony cabin as did our travel companions. It was located mid ship on deck 12 and was very quiet and adequate, but considerably smaller than the same type of cabin on the Voyager Class ships. We were very space-challenged but managed to hang or fold all our clothes and get our 3 suitcases under the bed. The bed was extremely comfortable. We had a nice flat screen TV but there were hardly any programs available. RCCL obviously does not want you to hang out in your room! The TV was connected to a keyboard, which you could use to monitor your account, review all menus for each evening, connect to the internet for a fee, and learn all about what the ship has to offer, plus it had many other features. Our balcony was huge, and we were able to get the glass partition moved so that we could double the balcony size with our neighbors (travel companions), which made it even better. The balcony was covered and yet was sunny if you stood by the railing. The railing was higher than usual so that when you are sitting, the railing does not obstruct your view. We had a table and two chairs and were able to host the sail-away party for 6 in our room. The bathroom was really tiny with just a small corner stand-up shower, which was smaller than a coat closet. The sink and toilet were so close together that one could use both simultaneously! We are both tall and had issues banging our elbows in the shower just trying to wash our hair! If you are of large girth, you would probably have a problem with the small showers. I understand the junior suites have a tub-shower, which is much larger. The Royal Suite was a few doors down from us and it looked spacious and magnificent. There were some traditional inside cabins but most of what would be "inside" cabins on other ships has windows overlooking Central Park, the Boardwalk, or the inside of the Royal Promenade. In addition to the Aqua Suites, there were Sky Suites overlooking Central Park, which I would probably really like, except for the noise factor. The2 -story Loft Suites are located near the Viking Crown Lounge, as is the wedding chapel and Concierge Suite. Our stateroom attendant was excellent and she did a great job keeping our room clean and tidy. We gave her a big tip.
Entertainment: The entertainment on board was over-the-top excellent. There are so many shows, you really have to manage your time well to see everything in 7 days. In addition to the Aqua Theatre water acrobatic spectacular, we saw the Broadway musical Hairspray; the aerial production Come Fly With Me (like a Cirque du Soleil show); Frozen in Time (a stunning ice show based on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen), the Headliner (an excellent singer-comedian that took us back to Motown and Rock 'N Roll), and two excellent comedians, who performed in the Comedy Club. There are many venues to enjoy in addition to the theatre, including a sports bar, Boleros night club, Dazzles night club, a karaoke bar, and on... and on. The NFL playoffs were taking place during our first 2 days and you could watch from any of the big screens located throughout the ship, or in your stateroom.
Getting Around the Ship: You would think a ship this huge would be hard to maneuver but that was not the case. There are only 2 banks of elevators, and located outside each bank, is a simple-to-read board for each floor telling you what is where AND there is a computerized interactive board that you can use to locate your room or any other place by answering a few questions. The info board also had wait times for the various dining venues so you could decide where to eat based on space available. There were numerous elevators and rarely did we wait long. There were two stairwells (Port and Starboard) behind the elevators. Finally, there were ship's models located near the elevators, (like all RCCL ships have) to help you locate various places by deck.
The Ports: We have traveled the Caribbean and been to St. Thomas, St. Martin/Maarten and Nassau many times so we did not take any excursions on this trip. We walked around and did some shopping and then got back on board. You could disembark in 4 different places so you never had to wait on line. Getting back on the ship was a cinch, too: no problems, no wait, and no effort. It was a breeze.
Overall: The Oasis was not just a cruise ship; it was a resort on water. We were enthralled with the ship for our first two days (both sea days) and had so much fun exploring every nook and cranny. There are some vestiges of a traditional Royal Caribbean cruise experience on the Oasis (i.e., the "newlywed" game show and The Quest) but there was so much more than anything we had ever experienced before on a cruise ship. It really felt as though we were at a resort by the sea. It was a destination in itself! We loved every minute of it and would definitely cruise again on board the Oasis ... or check out the Allure when it debuts.
On the negative side, I would say that sometimes we felt like we were being "nickeled- and dimed" with all the surcharges, some of which are unnecessary in our opinion. Still, even if you prefer smaller, more intimate ships, the Oasis experience is unique and unparalleled at this time. I do not know what RCCL has planned for the future but they have certainly outdone themselves this time and have raised the bar quite high, in our opinion. If you are thinking about cruising aboard the Oasis but worried that a big ship would be too crowded or overwhelming, don't worry. RCCL has done a magnificent job of designing the ship to accommodate large crowds. There are so many different interesting and fun public areas on the ship that you never feel too crowded or overwhelmed. It is well presented and well managed. Go ahead and hop on board and experience cruising at a whole new level.
E & A