DID THIS CRUISE MEET OUR EXPECTATIONS - NO!!:
It exceeded them by a long way.
This was a cruise that my DW had requested for our 30th wedding anniversary, following on from a television program she had seen last year. Were we disappointed.................NO!!!
As usual, we arrived on the Friday, prior the cruise on September 25th, via Miami. This following a very good flight from over the "pond". Thanks BA.
We elected to stay in the Miami area and chose the airport Sofitel hotel, which we booked using the hotel's internet site for $80 (best value found) including breakfast. We did this because I thought that the hotels in Ft Lauderdale had hiked prices since last year due to the expansion of the port traffic I suppose. The Sofitel was a very high standard compared with what was available in FL for the same dollar price.
We picked a rental car up on Saturday morning from Dollar, which we had pre-booked some months earlier at $35 for an intermediate, with drop off at FLL. We took the free rental car shuttle to the port. On arrival at approximately 11.30am, our pre-tagged bags were ushered away by a porter within seconds (and a $5 tip). They were delivered to the room, and we had unpacked before the safety drill.
This was the best and shortest I have experienced. It took no more than 10 minutes from being dropped off the airport shuttle bus to walking on the ship. The gentleman we were directed too, was so polite, welcoming and very efficient.
We also took 3 bottles of water on board in our carry on bag with no problems whatsoever.
On entering the ship, I asked a member of the CD's staff, David Galbraith, the best place to head for lunch. He suggested the Solarium Bistro, and we duly made our way there - excellent choice!!, and not the problems that people experience in the Windjammer etc.
We went to our balcony cabin at around 1.00pm to drop off our carry-on's, and met Anderson, our stateroom steward. This man was very good, always polite, and, conspicuous by his absence, kept the room spotless and the toiletries filled up - and......chocolates on the pillow at night. Whenever we saw him, we were addressed by our names. How they manage to remember them all amazes me.
Initial thoughts on the cabin were that it was smaller than those we have had previously - however, due to the very clever design, we actually appeared to have more room, especially in the bathroom. We found it was great not to experience "Shower Curtain Cling" when using it. We then started our familiarisation of this magnificent leviathan of the seas. WOW, this is a completely different on board experience. Everybody has dissected it and commented on it previously, and I can only agree with the positive comments found on here. My favourite area was definitely Central Park. I loved the tranquillity of the area.
We chose My-Time dining in the Opus dining room, deck 5,and booked the same time, 8pm, and table for diner.
We had a great Table waitress (ROSA), and Assistant Waiter (GENUINE), both of whom came from the Philippines. They always greeted us with reference to our names, especially my DW who they called Lady J..., pulled the chairs back and positioned our napkins for us. They were always smiling and had a joke with us.
Our Head Waiter was Richard (from Romania) and was very attentive, and made a point of coming to us for a chat every evening to question us about the service, satisfaction etc. He even arranged a special Indian curry for me one evening, which was SUPERB - thanks Richard.
Service, across the board, on a scale of 1 to 10, was a 15!!- faultless. We did not encounter one example of any staff being rude or obnoxious, and that included Guest Services. I suppose that probably came from speaking to them as if they were human beings, and not slaves
The food was good, easily equivalent, if not better, than that we have had on previous cruises. The choices and quantity were more than satisfactory. I still can't understand people needing more than one appetiser and entrEe to satisfy an appetite.. Apart from one evening, when we chose the Seafood Shack to accommodate a show in the Aqua theatre (which was cancelled due to the weather), we were more than happy to use the Opus Main Dining Room.
In fact, the fried food in the Shack was not that good!! We had read a lot of reviews that really derided the food (on cruises generally) but we had no problems with the food, with that one exception.
Breakfast / Lunch-
Where to get it? Well, you could try the overcrowded, undersized Windjammer. But, it is best to try the alternative places. Park Cafe was our favourite for breakfast and lunch. It had really good breakfast rolls, cereals, yogurts, fruit, sandwiches, soups and salads etc, and, despite some earlier criticism, excellent beef sandwiches with the Kaiser roll soaked in jus.
The Solarium was also good for breakfast, but we found it to be quite hot, with no air circulating. I suppose that's the problem with eating in a glass house. The design could do with a minor re-vamp.
We did Johnny Rocket's for one breakfast and it was very good, but we wanted to stay away from fried breakfast.
We also looked in at the WipeOut cafe, and decided to walk back to the Park Cafe because the food looked awful. The pizza in Sorrento's was freshly made and very good.
We had pre-booked the shows we wanted via the internet, prior to boarding
Hairspray - I thought it was "ok" for the first 20 minutes, then the high volume squeaky voices got on my nerves. I believe that the West End version would have been better than the Broadway version used on board. I met some of the stars in the taxi to the St Thomas Sky Ride - so arrogant, and full of their on importance
The Aqua show - Original booking was cancelled due to a rain shower. The allocated re-booking time was not convenient, so we missed this .
The Come Fly with Me show was nearly great, don't miss it. They made a few mistakes in the show.
The Headliner Show was the multi-talented entertainer - EARL TURNER. He was by far, the best headliner we have seen on cruises.
Coming from Europe, I have never heard of him before, an had no idea what is act was, until we caught the last 10 minutes of the early show on our way back to the cabin - so we stood in the stand by line.
The man was brilliant, and extremely talented, maybe because we grew up with the genre he performed, How realistic, was his take on growing up kids.
I had the pleasure of meeting, and talking with him in the promenade area, and despite what I have read on websites subsequently, I found him to be a very humble and genuine person.
Make sure you make your reservations before you go on cruise, so you won't be disappointed.
The promenade parades (all) are not to be missed. The energy put into them by the entertainers, Including the CD, is commendable, and so entertaining.
CRUISE DIRECTOR, and his staff.
Richard Spacey - what can you say about this man that hasn't already been said. He is by far the best CD around. His humour and energy levels are second to none..............Oh, and he's English.
We also came across David Galbraith on a number of occasions - Front entry of ship, In the Sky Bar (amazing), around the ship and at the Opus Theatre. A very polite, knowledgeable and helpful person. A true asset to the company.
No problems getting loungers, despite people "reserving" with towels etc.
The only issue was with ignorant folks not understanding that a line for the pool towels meant that they should go to the back of it!!
On St Thomas, we only took a taxi to the Skyride, and enjoyed the wonderful views of the island. (We had previously done a fabulous Sonny Liston tour).
On St Maarten, we had pre booked a "Bernhard's Tours" Island tour. We were personally greeted by Bernhard himself and then introduced to our driver "The Mailman". He was outstanding, and very brave. In the course of his duty - he was spiked by a sea urchin, whilst successfully attempting to retrieve one for us all to look at. The tour was $35 (increasing to $40 soon) and included as much Rum Punch, Beer and water that you could drink. The rum punch was so strong I think you could run a car on it!! Superb value for $35. Do not be hesitant about using this tour!!
In theory 50% of it smoke-free, but the other 50% is free to choke the free zone, so I would not visit there after the first attempt. Sorry, I've never smoked and hated the smell.
Neighbourhoods - The Boardwalk and Central Park (my favourite) are wonderful. I absolutely enjoyed these areas. Beautiful, fun and well thought-out. Central Park was a tranquil area to chill out. We both enjoyed a ride on the carousel, and visited the Ice Cream Parlour (scrummy). Yes, you paid for it but it made up for the free rubbish that was served around the pool areas.
We had no problems with "crowding", in fact it felt like there were less people on board than any of the others we have been on, and we did not spend a lot of time in our room etc. There were always plenty of chairs available whether you were a smoker or non smoker. One down side to the "rules" - they don't "remove personal items left unattended after 30 minutes" as they are supposed to.
We had a full scale evacuation on Friday 1st October in the middle of the ocean. The US Coastguard were needed to remove an ill patient for emergency treatment - I hope that he has since recovered.
During the later Captains Questions, one woman (I will not call her a lady) asked if it was her US tax dollar that had paid for the Coastguard rescue!! She did not bother to ask if the individual was American - or whether he was ok, but more concerned that she might be contributing to someone's welfare.
I wanted to respond, but could not get the microphone
If she is reading this, I would like to re-assure her that, if she ever came to Britain, and found herself in a similar predicament, she would get a FREE airlift, FREE medical treatment and FREE hospitalisation, all paid for by the British tax payer, with no one standing over her requesting her insurance details. Oh, yes.........and she would not be required to pay $14 to enter the country in the first place.
Was very easy - no stress at all. We did self assist and were off the ship at 08.00 am having had breakfast, and headed for the car rental area at FLL. It was interesting to note that the shuttle covered all rental agencies this year (including Avis). We were in Naples and checked in at our hotel at 10.30am, for the second week of our vacation.
I do believe your vacation is what you make of them. We had an awesome experience. Oasis was our first Royal Caribbean cruise, and by far, exceeded our expectations. It was well worth the price we paid for it. (bargain booked early - prior to launch).
I will definitely go back, as I believe that the bar has been raised by this ship, for our cruising standards.