First, a bit about us. We are from Topeka, Kansas. This was our seventh cruise, the third consecutive on Royal Caribbean. The earlier ones were to the Mediterranean and then Panama both on the Brilliance. We cruise every other year. One of my cruise rules is pick your destination and cruise that. I violated that rule. I'm tired of the Caribbean, but our son graduated from college and wanted this ship. We booked a year in advance.
In many ways, this ship is a destination. It is indeed beautiful. We thought the ship was stable and the ride was smooth. Our cabin was very quiet. The cabin doors open outward, which make a bit more space in the room. The ship is loaded with helpful advanced technology you see and use and much more behind the scenes.
First time cruisers should beware. From the embarkation and disembarkation at the terminal built especially for the Oasis, to bathrobes standard (?) in the room, from water and fountain shows to a zip line, this ship is unique. It is possible to, at least briefly, forget you are on as ship!
The ship is big, but in many ways it feels small. Perhaps that is intentional. Our room felt smaller, but usually we have a pull down bunk for our son. This time the couch made into a bed. The Comedy and Jazz clubs are indeed quite small, and the Schooner Bar felt small and strung out. The Windjammer buffet is small, but it might be designed that way due to the nature of the back end of the ship. The theater felt smaller.
Dining We ate in the main dining room every night. We thought the food was very good, but it is the menu you've expected and seen before. Still, it is good.
The Windjammer IS crowded, but you don't need to eat there. We ate breakfast there only once and lunch there only after coming on board. We did not buy any food while on the cruise. There are many other great places to eat that are free. The Cruise Director's video on the ship's TV also points these out.
* Solarium Bistro: wonderful breakfast. I personally loved the Muesli * Park Cafe: great breakfast of different bagels and various cream cheeses and breakfast sandwiches. We discovered this on the day we left for home! We wish we would have eaten there more. Lunch is quite good. (try the Roast Beef Sandwich) * Wipe Out Cafe: good hot dogs, burgers, pizza, (try the Pretzel hot dog!) * Cafe Promenade: cookies, deserts, sandwiches. The granola bars and brownies are quite good. * Boardwalk Bar: sandwiches, salads, corn dogs.(!) * Doughnut shop: doughnuts. I felt the filled ones are better. * Sorrentos: pizza (we never ate there) * Mondo Coffee Bar: sandwiches, deserts ( we never ate there)
Public Rooms Very clean and comfortable. The Schooner Bar is often the site for the Trivia games, but it is always crowded and sometimes difficult to hear. Take care of your ship photographer pictures early. The photo area can be crowded. Sophisticated facial identification technology is here. Ask how to use the computer system, which is linked to your Sea Pass card. You could legitimately find pictures of others in your folder. Don't pitch them. Those folks will want them.
Cabins Comfortable. Although it was supposed to be a bit larger, it felt smaller. The shower is, as always, small. The outlets under the desk were, to me, not inconvenient. The balcony was very nice and provided great privacy to read or enjoy the sea. I thought the balcony offered more privacy than that on the Brilliance.
Entertainment The Oasis has redefined entertainment not just for Royal Caribbean, but, in my humble opinion, for the cruise industry. The shows are excellent. Story is King, not just people doing things.
First, and this is CRITICALLY important, go online to the Royal Caribbean website, determine the show schedules, and make reservations for your selections well in advance of sailing. Nearly all shows can be entered only by reservation. That's OK with me. But, and this is also quite important, be in line for the show at least 20-30 minutes ahead of time and be in the line for those with reservations. Long lines will form fast. The shows are free but linked to your Sea Pass account. Your card will be scanned for admittance. Within 10 minutes of show time staff will let others in. If you are not there early, you could miss a show even if you have a reservation. Because of the large number of people on board, I understand and accept the need for reservations. To handle large crowds, it just makes sense.
* Welcome Aboard Show: I didn't think there would be one, but there was. No reservation required. Good, but standard cruise ship show. * Come Fly With Me: The key word is FLY. Imaginative and well done. Great live band. The show reminded me of a Cirque de Soleil show I saw two weeks earlier. Hope they have the same guest artists for you. * Comedy Show: pretty good, BUT BE EARLY (15-30 minutes) even with a reservation. The venue is small. * Headliner: Good, but it was Motown and not my kind of music. * HairSpray: very well done, great costumes and sets, high energy, performed very well. See it. * Frozen in Time (from Hans Christian Anderson stories): wonderful costumes, great story, pretty good skating. If, during your show, the skaters go off, the rink darkens, and a waist high box is placed on the ice with a person behind it, then WATCH CAREFULLY. You will be amazed. * Oasis of Dreams water show: Again, there is a story, not just great diving, exciting high diving, and synchronized swimming. Be in line at least 30 minutes early for a good seat. Sea or weather conditions may cause cancellation. Ask around. You might be able to see a full rehearsal in the afternoon as we did.
Other shows or events * Be sure to check out The Viking Crown and Dazzles for good music. * We saw two parades in the promenade. Check the schedule for time. Watch from the Schooner Bar level and area for a good view. These parades are extremely well done. The costumes and props were varied, intricate, and colorful. Both were well worth the time to see. * The Belly Flop Contest. I know what you are thinking. Ho hum. Been there done that, too crowded around the pool. No!! See this one! It is at the Aqua Theater and is itself a show. The technology of the Oasis makes this event a "must see". * Fountain shows. Several times during the day and night, there are different fountain shows set to music in the Aqua Theater. See them if you can. They are pretty good. If you've been to Vegas, you've probably seen the Fountains of Bellagio. These are a "baby Bellagio". They even have a version of Sarah Brightman's "Time to Say Good-bye", at least on our cruise.
Excursions: Study the excursions on the Royal Caribbean website and book them in advance. Our tickets were in our room upon arrival. That is very nice!
Nassau: We did the Nassau and Paradise Island Tour (NS48) . About 140 people took this tour. It was confused and crowded getting to our individual van walking from the pier. Once we finally were in our van, 40 minutes after we "officially" left the pier, the tour was good. The driver was informative, and we made several stops. Be ready to tip in a couple different places. We actually went into the Atlantis resort, which I was not expecting.
St. Thomas: We skipped St. Thomas because of the crewman overboard incident. I was appalled by the insensitivity and selfishness of other cruisers because their vacation was "interrupted". However, Royal Caribbean did exactly the right thing. No matter who, no matter the likelihood of finding the person, no matter the probability of survival, no matter the circumstances, no matter the effect on 6000 others, human dignity made the decision easy to turn around and look. Royal Caribbean should not need to offer extra compensation for having the class to act with compassion, dignity, and according to regulations. We as cruisers come and go quickly, but the crew is there for months and is a family. Several of the crew were shaken. I visited with a young girl in Guest Relations about how the excursion refunds would be handled. I started by saying "I'm sorry for your loss ...". She was on the verge of tears and said she could give me a hug for saying that. Many others she had to smile at were demanding their own selfish interests.
St. Maarten: We did the Sensation and Beach Break with Lunch (SM25). This tour was also large and started confused, with, again, tourists acting selfishly. Our driver was very friendly, but he did not say much. That's OK because we could barely understand him. The lunch on the beach was OK. We drove around the island a bit, but did not learn much about what we saw or about the island. This excursion was of very little value
Service The service was good and friendly, but I think the staff is spread very thin. Even support staff smiles and greets. I know they are busy, but they always deferred to me in the hallway. OK, but I'm not that special.
Embarking and disembarking VERY easy, fast, and well organized. You can easily see the airport from the ship and vice versa. They are close. Taxi for us to the airport was $15 including tip. A bit more tip would have been appropriate.
General observations Sign your sports waivers on-line through the Royal Caribbean website before you go. Be sure to check-in on-line through the Royal Caribbean website before you go. The daily Cruise Director's show on the ship's TV is often informative.
There were a few times events were published in the schedule or on the digital sign boards, but they did not happen. This made scheduling confusing.
My wife and son did the zip line. I was ready to but did not get in line. I keep telling myself I would have done it. Many people did, but waiting in line for 30 minuets or so, in the hot sun, for an 8 second ride did not seem worth it. Our son had no inclination to do it again. He rode the boogie board flow rider once, after a long line, but had no desire for that again.
I felt the ship is almost too big. We usually see or connect with the same people during a cruise, our son makes friends at the sports venues; not this time. Even so, we had a great time. I suppose the Neighborhoods and small venues are designed to create intimacy.
We will gladly cruise Royal Caribbean again. We booked our 25th wedding anniversary cruise (to Russia/ Scandinavia - the destination first!) for next year, while on board, thus breaking our every other year rule