We're a mid 30's couple that has cruised many times over the past few years (2x Princess, 3x Holland, 1x NCL). This was our first trip on RCI and we were really excited about it! We read the reviews which are overwhelmingly positive and went in expecting to be dazzled - unfortunately we weren't and here's why:
Food: I know it's very subjective but we felt it was the worst we've had on a cruise ship. 1. Awful breakfasts in extremely crowded venues. Eggs floating in grease at Johnny Rockets (not to mention straight out of the freezer bag Walmart style hash browns..) Cold, hard breakfast sandwiches at the Park Cafe (along with mass crowds). Even MORE massive crowds at the Windjammer buffet all clamoring after the same extremely mediocre food. Virtually nothing is cooked to order. Poor service and the same mediocre food in the dining room. We found the breakfast food so poor that we skipped it on disembarkation morning and went straight to IHOP (hardly high class) for a vastly better meal. 2. Mediocre lunches and dinners. The most tasteless prime rib I've probably ever eaten in the dining room. Other items decidedly mediocre. Decent service. 3. We tried Chops Grill and found it, again, mediocre when compared to the kind of land based restaurants it is trying to compare to (like Ruth Chris, etc). You know your Crab Cake is missing something when it doesn't have any crab in it (except a few tiny bits). HAL's Pinnacle Grill is better. 4. Baked goods were the lone exception to the otherwise bad food. Cakes, pies, rolls, etc., were quite good. I've read previously that Royal Caribbean spends the least on food per passenger of the major cruise lines and this seemed readily apparent to us. All the other lines we've tried (including Carnival) offered fresher, tastier meals.
Service: No question, worst we've ever experienced on a cruise ship. 1. Our steward was nice. He introduced himself quickly and always had a (fake) smile. That said, he did not have our cabin ready at 1PM on embarkation day which made things awkward. He also didn't turn down our room the first night. We've never had either of these things happen on Carnival, NCL, HAL, or Princess. He seemed mildly offended when I asked him to fill our ice bucket each night. I don't know if RCI stewards are worked even harder than their counterparts on other lines (seems hard to imagine how that could be possible) but I noticed ours working up until 11pm+ each night turning down beds. I've never seen them out that late before - it seemed like he was either not efficient or even more overworked (or both) than his colleagues on other lines. 2. Guest services is a joke. They run the lines for the front desk "McDonalds" style - one separate line behind each open station (person working the desk) means that if you get stuck behind someone with a complicated issue you'll wait forever while the other lines move around you. It's so incredibly stupid I haven't seen any other hotel or hospitality-related organization operate their desk that way - ever! Once you get up there good luck getting any decent service. The one guy I talked to told me his background was "security" and they just "promoted" him to guest service. His demeanor was that of a stiff security guard. I wasn't asking for anything major (notation of a birthday on a restaurant reservation, etc) and it was clear he had no desire to do anything for me except move me along (and give me an extension number to call so I can do it myself). 3. Beware of the "run around" and prepare to be cheated out of your money at Shore Excursions. I won't go into detail but we participated in an excursion that was cancelled halfway through due to weather (yes, at the exact halfway point). I expected half my money back (I realize they can't control the weather but if they cancel your excursion before you even go you get ALL your money back!) The Shorex staff took ALL WEEK (said things like "we're working on it" and "you'll hear from us soon" and "we have to talk to corporate" to give us a 10% refund that we learned about on the last day of the cruise (excursion was on day 2) by reviewing our charges on the TV. Shorex said they sent us a letter. Never got it. They blamed our steward for losing it. Steward said he gets blamed all the time for losing letters that were never written. And on and on. Asked them to resend us the letter. They never did. 4. The AquaTheatre was broken the entire week. We booked a cabin facing the AquaTheatre. They kept saying all week the theatre was being fixed, to the extent that mid-cruise they sent out a letter with showtimes for the last two days of the cruise. No shows happened. Compensation of some kind would have been appropriate - at least a token offering. This is an expensive cruise (the MOST expensive E Caribbean, in fact) and we, like many guests onboard, booked it for its unique entertainment offerings, paying more and expecting more. I very politely asked the assistant guest services manager (saw her on the Royal Promenade - would not wait in the guest service line AGAIN) if any compensation was being offered, and the response I got was "we provided alternative entertainment at the AquaTheatre" (which consisted of jugglers..) but she told me she'd get back to me with a more formal response. Unsurprisingly, she never did.
These are just a few examples of the quality of service we encountered onboard. There are others.
Now, obviously, being the biggest ship in the world we knew there would be lots of people onboard. We also read how most felt that crowding wasn't a problem. We found this ship very crowded. Elevators were almost always packed (and stopping at every floor). The buffet was horrendously crowded during breakfast. The pool areas were extremely crowded and lacking in shade. There were many long (and very very hot - no shade) lines to re-board the ship at St. Maarten and St. Thomas. TSA agents are more courteous than some of the security guards managing the re-boarding/screening process.
Cabins are OK - nothing special. They aren't any nicer than the cabins we've seen on other ships. Embarkation was smooth, and was getting off (we were quite happy to be leaving..)
So in summary - yes the ship is an amazing feat of engineering. But crappy food and worse service, for us, do not an amazing vacation make. I wish we could have simply taken a ship tour, watched Hairspray, the ice show, and skipped everything else. We'll never cruise Royal Caribbean again.
The bottom line is I think that the other major cruise lines offer a vastly better value than the Oasis of the Seas.