Yes, Royal Caribbean builds INCREDIBLE! It's just that simple!
My wife and I just completed the January 23, 2010 sailing to the Eastern Caribbean. The first day of the cruise fell on the day of our 21st wedding anniversary! The weather was virtually perfect, our room very comfortable, the food completely satisfying, the service positive and pleasant, the entertainment the best we've ever seen on the ocean, the activities numerous and fun, and the ship...well...simply amazing!
We booked a D7 Balcony in August 2008. The price back then was literally half of what it ended up being towards the final months preceding the sailing date. It obviously pays to book as far in advance as possible. The nice thing about this with Royal is that if you decide not to go on your booked cruise you can get your full deposit back if the reservation is cancelled over 70 days out. (We've already booked the Allure for January 23, 2011. The booking price was 30% higher than for the Oasis during the same week, but there is no more mystery. Royal has delivered! It just doesn't get better than this!) Now for some details...
When we arrived at terminal 18 we only saw the front of ship. (We didn't really get a grasp of the size of the ship other than from pictures till we got off at the first port of call, St Thomas.) Once we dropped off our luggage and parked our car it was a short process through check in, as promised. Lots of friendly and smiling staff! The waiting area was very large which would be expected when boarding 5400 passengers. At around 11:30 we were cleared to board and onto the Promenade we went. As everyone else has stated, it was impressive to say the least...but there were a few glitches, a couple of which occurred right after boarding. I will get these out of the way first so I can then concentrate on all the great stuff!
First, most people who have sailed with Royal are used to heading directly to the Windjammer restaurant to eat. After all, eating is one of the biggest cruise attractions...all you can eat at that! However, the Windjammer didn't open till noon and it didn't take long for throngs of bag toting newly boarded passengers to pile up outside the restaurant entrance packed like sardines around the elevators with literally nowhere to go. My first impression was, "Ugh-oh! Is this the taste of things to come?" Thankfully it wasn't, and once the doors opened everyone herded on in...with space for all.
The Windjammer was smaller than either the ones on the Voyager or Freedom class ships, but once folks discovered the many other food venues we experienced no further crowding issues. In fact, we always found a window table the few times we went. I suggested in a discussion group I was invited to by RCCL the next day that the TV's in the waiting area could be better used to prepare the passengers as to what to expect in relation to dining. In short, it probably would be better for the Windjammer to be open as soon as passengers are allowed to board. It would also be a plus for passengers to know ahead of time what other food venues are available and exactly where they are located. This would help avoid unnecessary crowding of the Windjammer right after boarding. But again, once passengers became educated on dining alternatives there was no further crowding.
The second glitch came when endeavoring to change our table assignment for dining. I was able to get our table changed, but with a considerable wait...behind lots of other waiting passengers. There were apparently supposed to be 2 restaurant management staff manning different computers to handle the situation but there was only 1. This caused considerable wait time. Having just gone through the wait at the Windjammer my second impression was, "Ugh-oh! Now they're cutting back on staff in order to cut costs and help pay for this behemoth!" But thankfully again, this wasn't the case. Outside of this one incident there always seemed to be plenty of friendly and courteous staff on hand to meet every need.
The only other glitch (just to get them out of the way), one which I'm sure RCCL is diligently working on, concerns the online booking system and a mix up at the spa. We booked all our shows, spa treatment, excursions, and restaurants online in advance. Nearly everything went smoothly except that what is displayed in the room for your daily schedule isn't necessarily updated with the most recent information. In fact, it clearly states such. I'm not an IT wizard, but from what I've seen with other companies, including banks, real time synchronization should not be an issue. It would avoid many unnecessary calls from passengers to the front desk, etc, looking to confirm their real schedule and purchases.
We had booked a couple's massage for the first evening right after dinner, but when checking in at the spa we found out they had mistakenly put us into some sort of colon treatment! Ugh! No thanks! The spa accommodated our requested couples massage treatment but said they had to charge us for it and said that the customer service/front desk would automatically take care of it if we'd already paid for it. (The spa had no record of it in their system.) Well, the front desk didn't automatically take care of it. I had to take my case directly to them, but thankfully they finally got it resolved...and with a smile! As I mentioned earlier, I'm sure RCCL is working to resolve these IT issues. The in room TV interactive system has the potential to be phenomenal. RCCL is well on their way to being on the cutting edge for enhanced cruising enjoyment and satisfaction!
With those relatively minor glitches aside, let's get on with the WOW!
Main Dining Room: Great food, though sometimes I preferred the desserts at some of the other venues such as the Windjammer or Park Cafe. But that's no big deal: if you have a cruise sweet tooth head on over to the Park Cafe or Windjammer for a neat sweet treat after your main meal!
Windjammer: Less variety than either the Voyager or Freedom class ships but hey, there are a lot of other venues at which to eat freely including the Wipeout Cafe, the Park Cafe, Sorrento's, Solarium (for breakfast and lunch), the Donut shop, and the main dining room. Altogether there's more than enough variety to go around scattered throughout the entire ship. Hungry? Don't have to walk very far!
Chops: Great steaks and other things. Only drawback was that you had to pay an additional charge above the cover charge if you wanted a second entrEe. This is not the case in the main dining room.
Izumi's: Fantastic Asian cuisine! The cost is al a carte but very reasonable. My wife and I indulged in 3 different sushi rolls plus a file mignon hot rock (check out their video clip on oasisoftheseas.com) with a total bill of $23.00 including tip. (The service was so good we threw in a hefty tip.) Awesome!
Wipe Out Cafe: It was nice to have a "snack joint" right in the heart of sports land. It had hot dogs, hamburgers, and Mexican fare including tacos and nachos: just what the doc ordered when burning lots of calories!
We had a reservation for the Chef's Table for the last night but apparently not enough people signed up and it was cancelled. Still they gave us a chef signed copy of one of their cook books plus 2 aprons as a "consolation" prize. Hopefully next time...on Allure...we'll get to participate in what appears to be a fantastic food affair with wine pairing.
Hairspray: It's an hour and a half of non stop song, dance, and great entertainment! It's hard to believe it's "live" but it truly is. Where does the energy come from?
Aqua show: High dives...real high...with synchronized swimming, theatrics, and acrobatics. Sorry to reuse the term: incredible!
Come Fly with Me: More of the same awesome entertainment!
Headliner show: Tony Tillman certainly has energy!
We didn't do the comedy show(s) as it's not our "cup of tea" per say.
Sports Deck: I surfed! I took a lesson on the second evening and was able to move on from there. It was fun, and for a 57 year old I did pretty well. In fact I, along with some other ladies and gents approaching my age, stood our ground with many a youngster! The rock climbing wall on this ship is considerably more challenging than either the Voyager or Freedom class ships...or so it seemed. I made it to the top, but was exhausted afterwards. Mini golf: a blast as always! We didn't hit the basketball court...
With this getting kind of long, let me state what we enjoyed the most: Solarium! WOW! Relaxing, calm, beautiful...and only for adults! There are two hot tubs (this is besides the 2 cantilevered hot tubs just outside the Solarium which anyone can use) plus a pool. With 2 levels, a bar, and lots of covered and open seating including "private" cabanas, this was a hit for us!
Excursions: Although you really don't need to hit the shores at all when sailing on the Oasis...you probably won't even be able to experience everything this ship has to offer in one week...we headed out twice. We had heard so many great things about the beaches on St John that hoofed it on our own via taxi, ferry, and taxi to Trunk Bay at the National Park on St John. It was truly beautiful, ever as much as the best beaches in Hawaii. On St Martin we booked the Rhino boat tour through Royal. These 2 person water craft are fun! We traveled up the left side of the island to a secluded "clothing optional" beach on the French side. Being that the beach requires hiking to get to from the nearest road it wasn't crowded. Some beach goers wore swim suits; some didn't. No one seemed to mind either way. We stuck with our group enjoying the beach, the nearby rocks (took lots of pictures) and the clear water. At the port in Nassau we stayed on the ship enjoying encredible views of the ocean, the bay between Paradise Island and Nassau, and the Altantis Resort. We were able to secure a cabana that day in the Solarium section and watched as the moon rose over the Atlantis. Quite a view!
Enough said! Conclusion: Just do it! You won't regret it!