The Arnett's- Mike, Dori and our daughter Megan
This will be the first time we have sailed out of Fort Lauderdale, our Florida cruises in the past have all been out of Miami. We came in the night before our cruise as we normally do on coast to coast flight. Do not want to start our vacation with any worries about flight delays causing us to miss our cruise plus it gives us a day to rest up and board the ship refreshed, not tired.
The next morning, the first thing I wanted to do is look out the window of our room to see if I could see the ship. Bummer, could not see it. I found out that we were on the wrong side of the hotel to be able to see her. I purposely ask for a room where I could see the ship in the morning and the lady at the desk stated that we would be able to. Well, so much for her knowing what side of the hotel the ship would be visible from. I went down the hall, looked out of the window at the end and lo and behold, there she was. She was big and beautiful.
We arrived at the cruise terminal about 12:30 am. As we entered the terminal, we were warmly greeted by a representative. Very nice, and personable. She lead us to another representative who was just as friendly. We have never been greeted this way before. Usually someone just points you where to go. This was really nice and makes you feel important. This was also the first time a ground representative recognized that we were repeaters. They knew what the Diamond Plus pins we were wearing meant.
The terminal is huge and has many windows for check in. I can understand why the process is so fast. Since we were in a suite, we received priority and the next available window was ours. I did not noticed a special line for Diamond and Diamond Plus. It may have been due to the fact that we got through the line so fast I just did not notice. We reached the window to check in and there are some changes here. They take your sea pass photo here versus just before you board the ship. This saves a lot of time boarding especially when a lot of people are boarding at the same time. There are over 6100 passengers on this sailing and I was amazed that we were on the ship in 8 minutes from the time we entered the terminal to walking onto the ship. This is the fastest that we have ever boarded. Hope this catches on in other terminals.
The Ship You enter the ship on deck 5 which is the Royal Promenade. Wow!! If you have sailed the Voyager or Freedom class ships, the first thing you notice is that this is much larger. It is wider and longer. It seemed to go on forever. I did noticed that there were only one deck of inside cabins overlooking the Promenade. Part of deck 6 also overlooks the Promenade. The photo gallery, Diamond Club, and the Schooner Bar and on the aft of deck 6 is the boardwalk. On this ship you have to think outside of the box. You have to see it to believe it!
Since we could not get into our cabins until 1:00 we decided to have lunch. Even though there were many places we could have had lunch, being traditionalist, we decided to go to the Windjammer for our first meal on the ship. Each end of the Royal Promenade there are 6 banks of elevators. We were surprised on the short wait we had since there were a lot of people waiting. These elevators hold a lot more people that other ships.
The Windjammer is nicely laid out. Many food stations to handle the large crowd. I was impressed on how easy it was to get our food without waits or lines. It is huge, so there are plenty of places to sit, as a matter of fact, during the entire cruise, we never had a problem finding a table.
After lunch went to our cabin on deck 8 to drop our carry on's off. Time to explore!! First area was Central Park since it was also on deck 8. You will not believe your eyes. The plants, flowers, trees and hard scape are truly remarkable. There are 4 decks of inside cabins with balconies overlooking this area. You will really love this area at night. We were sitting on one of the park benches with a glass of wine looking up and seeing stars in the night sky. Unbelievable, you are thinking to yourself that we could not possibly be on a ship. I could die here and be very happy!
Next, the Boardwalk. This is on deck 6 aft. Again, walking out, the first thing you see is the Carousal. Bigger than I thought it would be. As you enter, you will find 4 horses in different stages of carving. This is to show the sequence of how the Carousal animals were hand carved. Here you will find Johnny Rockets, donut shop, ice cream parlor, candy store and the Seafood shack. A couple of clothing stores are out here also. You will also, notice that there are 6 decks of inside cabins with balconies overlooking the boardwalk and the Aqua Park. Again, you get the feeling that you are not on a ship. The Aqua Park on the aft is really something to see. For our sailing it was not operational due to problems with the pumps and hydraulics. Really disappointing that we only got to see the show on the large TV screens that are there. I guess we will have to sail the Oasis of the Seas again to see the Aqua show. We were disappointed, but there are so many other things to see and do on this ship that our disappointment was short lived. There are 6 Aqua Suites overlooking the Aqua Park with huge balconies. Looks like you could have a big party on these balconies. Now let's go up to the pool area, deck 15. Again this will take your breath away. Both Dori and I look at each other and say "We can't be on a ship!" To give you an idea on how large this area is, there is a large opening in the center looking down 4 decks to Central Park. On both sides of this opening is two large pool areas. One area is a H20 zone for kids and the other side is regular pools. Not one on each side, but two. Aft of this area is the sports zone which has two flow riders, miniature golf, basketball court and the zip line. The zip goes over the board walk area which is nine decks below. Forward on deck 15 is the Solarium. This was quite a place also. Next, we checked out the Concierge Lounge on deck 11 and it was impressive. It has a two story glass window overlooking the Boardwalk and Aqua Park. The second level was used primarily for the Chef's Table but also had additional seating as well. As a matter of fact, this is the first cruise we have taken that the Concierge Lounge was not totally filled with people. We never had a problem finding a seat. They serve lunch every day and we did this a couple of times. Food was excellent.
Down on deck 6 was the Diamond Club. A little smaller but still large enough to handle a lot of people. Since there were only 20 Diamond Plus people on this cruise, and over 120 Diamond members, we used the Concierge Lounge exclusively. We wanted to check where our table was in the main dining room. We usually do this just to see where we are and how big our table is. We were on deck 5 (second level of the three level dining room) and had a table for 7. It was on a small island overlooking the lower level of the dining room. There was a bridge from the main floor to our island. Very unique. There were about 5 other tables on this island. Needless to say, this is one big dining room. We met our table mates that evening. A couple from Upland, California. That is only about 20 miles from where we live. Small world. Our other table mates were a husband and wife Travel Agents from Vancouver, Canada. We enjoyed each other's company the whole cruise.
There are many other features on this ship that I will let you discover for yourself. Don't want to tell everything.
I will mention one item that many people could not find how to get to. There is a wing bridge overlook on deck 14. You see people out there, but how do you get there? You are looking down at it from the solarium, but you don't see how to get there. Well, the only way to get to this secluded area is to go down to deck 14 forward on the port side. There is a doorway that takes you out to the wing bridge. Not many people out there, but what a view.
One other great innovation on this ship is the digital information screens located on each deck, both port and starboard sides in the elevator lobbies. This not only gave you a graphic of the deck you were on, but would guide you to anywhere on that deck just by entering the place you wanted to get to including your cabin. The other neat thing was that it would give you real time info on the what the occupancy percentage was for each of the dining venues. It was nice to be able to know how crowded a place was before you got there. Helps you decide on where to go. Also, the Focus Photo gallery was very unique. Instead of looking all over for your photos, there are carousels where all of your pictures are in a folder. Your folder number is imprinted on your sea pass card. Simply go to you folder, pull it out and there are all of your pictures that have been taken during the cruise. Does not get easier than that!!
All of the shows were fantastic, especially "Hair Spray." Do not miss this. The cast singing and acting was impressive. The stage production was as good as any land based Broadway show you will find. One thing I really like was that to control the crowd easier, you had to have reservations for all of the shows. This was so everyone on board would not try to go to the same show. If you did not have a reservation, you had to wait on the side until all persons with reservations were seated. Any no-shows then went to the people who were waiting. I suggest you make your reservations "on-line" before you sail.
The only shore excursion we did was the Atlantis Adventure in Nassau. This was our first time in Nassau and we wanted to see the Atlantis resort. Our stay was short due to having to leave Nassau so early to get to St Thomas. Our shore excursion was from 8:00am to noon. The water park does not open until 10:00 am so there was not much time to do the slides and other things they have there. We spent the first two hours in the Digs. This place is fascinating! Once the water park opened and by the time we got there, it was a two hour wait to do the "Leap of Faith" water slide. Needless to say, we did not have time. Upon leaving Nassau, Diamond and Diamond Plus members were invited out on the Hilo deck for a sail-away champagne party. On this ship the Hilo deck is not open to the passengers like it is on other ships. Can't remember why, but they did tell us. It is only used for special occasions and parties.
On St Thomas and St Maarten, we have been there many times before, we just got off of the ship and shopped. One note, there are so well organized, we never had a long wait to get off or back on the ship. With this many people (the ship was full) we were very surprised. On St Thomas, due to the size of the ship, we did not dock at Havensight , but at Crown Bay on the other side of town. It is a $4.00 taxi, each way to get to town. There was a small shopping center at this dock but nothing like Havensight.
Disembarkation This went as fast as getting on the ship. It took us 10 minutes to get from the Dinning room on deck 5 to hailing a cab to go to the airport. Luggage was easy to find and going through customs was a breeze. Amazing.......
We will definitely do this again. You can not see everything in one week. There is just to much to see and do. The food was great, the friendliness of the staff, the ship. We would have been just as happy if the ship just sailed around for 7 days and did not stop anywhere. This cruise, for us, was the ship and we were not disappointed. In quite a few areas we were very surprised and still wonder how they do it with so many people to serve. Let's hope this kind of service and people control processes get transferred to the other ships. Like a said, you have to see it to believe it!! I could go on and on, but you need to experience this ship yourself. Just be prepared. It is really something special.
Oh, by the way, Megan and I did do the Zip line. It is short but exciting!!
Michael C. Arnett