After always reading the reviews of others, and finding them extremely helpful and relevant. I have decided to return all those favors and write a review of my own. Be forewarned though, my review is like a three course meal, and not a quick late night snack.
My 11 year old son and I have been on two other cruises in the last 2 years. On Liberty of the Seas (RCI) and on Carnival Freedom. No more Disney World for us since being bitten by the cruising bug.
We arrived via Jet Blue from JFK to Fort Lauderdale, on time at 11AM on July 3rd 2010. Went straight to the port via taxi, approximately $15. The driver asked me what terminal number, and I was not sure, but I told him just look for the ship in the port that looked like it can eat the other ships for breakfast. Anyway, the terminal number for the Oasis was posted near the port entrance. Yes our ship was GINORMOUS. My luggage was immediately taken, and we went inside to be processed. I did not preregister online and had to fill out everything at the port, but was surprised that it took only a brief time and we were on the ship in under 15 minutes.
You enter into the Royal Promenade on deck five, and it was a beautiful sight. Not overdone, but sparkly, shiny, pretty and tasteful. As you already may be aware, the RP is akin to main street in a town. All the usual suspects were in attendance... Sorrentos Pizza, The Shop, Willow, Regalia, The Cupcake Cupboard, Globe and Atlas, Champagne Bar and others I do not recall at this writing, like two coffee places etc. Some of these stores I remember from Liberty of the seas, and others were new to me. Also on level five, Opus dining room (the only one) is in aft, it occupies parts of levels three, four and five(this is where my group met for the muster drill video). The Opal theater occupies the forward parts of levels three, four and five also. The rooms were not ready yet, because as you may already know the ship had arrived that same morning from its western caribbean cruise.
We headed to the windjammer on level sixteen, marveling all the way. Windjammer seemed smaller than on Liberty and not as lavishly decorated. No ice sculpture no watermelon and cantaloupe artwork. But still pleasing to the eyes. Food choices were decent. I was not expecting caviar, so I was not disappointed. I had some fish with rice and fruit. The drink choices were lemonade, iced tea and kiwi strawberry. With the usual coffee, teas and so on. Of course they want you to buy alcoholic beverages, but I do not drink so I just ignored them when they came around. I also was not interested in a soda package for me or my son. Really, who think children should have access to unlimited sodas.
Our luggage was already in the hallway when we left the Windjammer, but they were a couple doors down from our cabin (interesting). We took them to our cabin, which was #7717, overlooking the Boardwalk, directly across from the Seafood Shack. You have to pay additional to eat there. At first we watched people go in then come right back out after realizing its not free. But after a couple of days it started getting customers. My son ate there twice, its similar to Bubba Gumps. The board walk is nice, it have a free carousel(we were on the very last carousel ride of the cruise), Pets At Sea ... which is a Build A Bear imitation and the obligatory Johnny Rockets ($). Then there is Candy Beach, a photo shop and some other shops. The boardwalk is the entrance point for the lovely Aqua Theater which have live shows and movies. We could see it from our window.
The cruisers were not as diverse as on my other two cruises. But I guess not everyone in this economy want to pay a small kings ransom just to go on the largest ship at sea.
I may have neglected to mention that the room was nice, big enough for two, the bed was comfortable and the bathroom was practical. I loved the shower, I have no complaints there. After reading other reviews I do not know what other people were expecting on a cruise ship that carries six thousand plus passengers and approximately three thousand staff. On day two my toilet became clogged, I told Dean, my Jamaican attendant, and it was taken care of pronto. However I did not use his services much, since I told him I like to do my own housekeeping, and like to return to my mess the way I left it.
We did Atlantis waterpark on sunday July fourth. Went there last year with Carnival and it was rained out , spent the entire time in a cave like structure as thunder, lightening, heavy rain and high winds ruled. Carnival was kind enough to announce on return to the ship that they were issuing a full refund. I commended them, since its not their fault the weather did not cooperate. This time around was much better, but not without drama. We made it to the last ferry back to the Oasis just in time. Tour was to short for such a massive place(waterpark opens at 10 am, last ferry leaves at 1 pm). Son was on lazy river, and I could not find his exact location to tell him its time to go(in hindsight, should have let him take his walkie talkie in a water proof case). Alerted lost child, and saw him right after that (they had just radio his discription to all waterpark employees. The river was very slow that day due to the high volume of people on it, and he said he went around a second time. Each goaround is approximately 35-40 mins, per a guest services staff. We literally ran non stop to the harbour (we even took a short cut and jumped a semi high wall) and caught the last ferry just in time. Atlantis is my favorite, I loved marketplace restaurant, and the public toilets are exquisite. Must go again.
Also did St Thomas island and beach tour. The roads are at the edges of cliffs so it was a bit scary. But the driver was cautious. Mosquitoes abound in the afternoon at Madgen Beach in the parking lot. Son got several bites.
St Marteen was nice also, did similar tour on similar roads. Orient Beach was kind of rough since its on the Atlantic side of the island. Also we were warned that the beach was a clothing optional beach. But only one female was seen topless (not from our ship). Son was in the water he did not see. This tour served food, but it was low quality. Meat was not thoroughly cooked, not many food options. The bus was nicer and the driver was telling jokes, some were funny. Even the passengers got into sharing their own, which made the ride more enjoyable.
I did not buy as much souvenirs as prior. It seems like the same stuff everywhere you go. They just change the name of the places on them. Even RCI stuff is similar to the ones from Liberty.
The shows were nice, my favorite in the order of most to least favorite are... Hair Spray (even with a show stopping technical difficulty), Frozen In Time (one of the ice skaters fell), Come Fly With Me (performers are from Hair Spray), Oasis Of Dreams (in the Aqua Theater), the headliner show was the group Mosaic (bought their CD for $20). The Comedy show had two very funny comedians. One said he is banned from performing on Carnival because he made a joke about a passenger who had fell overboard. I bought his CD DVD combo for $15.
What else... Loved central park very tranquil, even have butterflies. There is a Coach store in CP. Tried the roastbeef sandwich in Park Cafe. Was instantly addicted. Cruise director Richard Spacey is a real talent. Loved his RC TV sketches, they are a riot. The Quest was very funny as well, the things he got ordinary people to do for points was unbelievable. Like men wearing lipstick and high heels in bras while carrying a purse. The interactive touch screens near the elevators get an A+ ... They tell you what is going on at that moment and help you navigate. You can also enter your cabin number and it shows you how to get back to your cabin. You need it on a ship this large. The bellyflop contest was won by the smallest contender. He earned it though. Also the bios for the contenders were shown on the big screens. One guy said he is banned from seven all you can eat buffets in Las Vegas. Another said his diet consists of cats, and he is responsible for missing pets in his neighbourhood.
We only ate in the main dining room once, but the service was excellent and the food was high quality. We both had lobster. We meant to go back but since I had chosen second seating dinning at 8 30pm, by the time it rolled around I was already in a food come from the other places I had eaten. Solarium Bistro is free for breakfast and lunch only. Their food is for the healthy eaters, yet delicious. Took photos on second formal night. New easy system for locating photos now. You swipe your card with the photographers and swipe again to locate and view them in the photo place (not the one on the boardwalk). Also you look for your tower and folder number to find them already printed. Way easier.
There are two Flow riders, none of which I tried. I enjoyed watching the novice surfers. They mean it when they say females need to wear a one piece or a tee shirt. You really can lose your clothes on there if you do not take heed.
I did not see many people doing the rock climbing walls (there are two), or the zip line. Deck 14 forward have a little known viewing area that is really nice. You enter through the left hallway with the cabins. I read about it on here and it is for real.
I do not agree with prepaying gratuities. I think the concept is outrageous. How can you express gratitude for something you have not yet received. Also what would be the incentive for staff to please when they know their gratuity may already be in the bag. RCI is really pushing this prepay option. I give Dean $25 cash on the last day. I did my own housekeeping remember. But considering how many people you tip while vacationing, sometimes it can make you feel exploited. Everybody from baggage handlers to bus drivers expects to be tipped.
All in all, it was a wonderful cruise, even though I did not win at bingo (my $55 was really just a donation to RCI). But two sisters behind me both won separately. I like family disco in Blaze, my son wowed no one with his one trademark dance move. I missed the parades on the RP, son said it was nice. At first he thought the Rising Tide bar was some kind of spaceship concept. But its really just a bar that floats between RP on level five and CP on level eight. But it does look like a spaceship when you are looking up at it. At times I saw people in it with their young kids. Once a little boy was asleep next to his parents, his head resting on the counter. I thought, what a way to influence young minds.
My son liked to go on short errands and tours around the ship without me, he was thrilled (I am usually the paranoid overprotective mother). But we communicated via walkie talkies the minute he was out the door. My cell phone only worked in St Thomas. Also I saw kids younger than him walking around the ship by themselves. He also had no interest in the kids club for his age group. For whatever reason, he avoided it like you can catch Swine Flu by just being there. Last time on Liberty I forced him to go, they have nice activities, based on their brochure, like Gaga Ball (whatever that is). He loved the arcade though, but a little to much for me. Made a donation of $90 there, mostly on a silly game called stacker. I then deactivated his seapass card.
The ship is super clean as to be expected. Everywhere you go someone is cleaning. In central park the gardeners are always about. The elevators are only full right after a show lets out etc, so do no believe what you have read otherwise. Getting off the ship was a bit tedious, you have to listen for your number. We were eating breakfast in the Windjammer when our number was called. When we got to the fifth level it was like a cattle ranch.
Took free shuttle bus from port to Fort Lauderdale airport. Where I had reserved a rental car to drive to Sawgrass Mills Mall (been there before, its huge), since my flight left at 5pm. The Mall was also an after cruise tour you could book through RCI as well, but it made more sense for me to do it my way. Also it would gave me more time at the mall and more flexibility.
I am still on vacation at this writing, so I have the time and luxury to write the longest cruise review ever. Hope it was helpful. Any questions email me at Inspirn@gmail.com