This was our first voyage on an Oasis class ship with Royal Caribbean and our 6th cruise with this cruise line. Our last cruise was on Freedom of the Seas. Based on everything we had seen about Oasis of the Seas, we were expecting an over-the-top experience. We couldn't have been more disappointed.
The check-in process was advertised as "15 minutes from curb to gangplank." Unfortunately, this was not the case. As Platinum Members, we were directed to a specific check in line and found ourselves standing there for over 20 minutes while the majority of the check in agents huddled together in what appeared to be a staff meeting of sorts. While this meeting seemed to stretch on for an extended period of time, we watched as other incoming passengers arrived, proceeded through other lines, checked in and were directed to the waiting area ahead of us. When the "meeting" finally broke, the agents began to man their stations but did not seem to be in too much of a hurry to get started. When one finally motioned for us to approach, she rushed through the check in process and neglected to give us any information about the ship or its scheduled activities. While in the waiting area, we noticed others had the embarkation day's Cruise Compass and asked where we could get one. That was when we learned we should have received it when we checked in. (Strike One.)
When our group was called to board, we decided to chalk up the check in as a fluke and looked forward to our cruise. As expected, we were directed up to Windjammers for lunch while we waited for our staterooms to be made available to us at 1 pm. There was ample food available and a nice variety, but there was no flow to the dining room. We felt we had to "elbow" our way through each island of food selections. Once we had our plates filled, it took us almost ten minutes to find two empty seats together. Of course, our food was cold by then. It was apparent this dining room was not designed to handle the large number of passengers onboard. (Strike Two.)
Promptly at 1 pm, the bulkhead doors leading to our stateroom were opened and we headed down the hallway to our assigned room. We were pleased with the room and its amenities. It appeared to have ample storage and we began to look forward to our upcoming cruise. Our Cabin Stewardess, "Ophelia," was an absolute pleasure to meet. We were immediately made to feel welcome and felt sure she would take care of anything we might need. (Backing off Strike Two.)
Our Lifeboat Safety Drill was certainly different than we had experienced in the past. On Oasis, there are no life vests in the staterooms; they are kept at each assigned muster station. This did seem to expedite the safety drill process, although I am not sure how it prepares passengers for a possible emergency other than familiarizing them with their muster location. In addition, even though they swiped our Sea Pass Cards to register our attendance at the drill, we received a message in our cabin advising we had NOT attended and the infraction would be "recorded" on our file!
This was not the only time they seemed to rely too much on technology. We had to reserve space at each show and, before we could enter the theatre, they had to scan our Sea Pass card to prove we were eligible to attend and did not have to wait in the "stand by" line. More than once, we heard passengers being told they did not have a reservation for the show when they insisted they had reserved the time. Too much reliance on technology and not enough "people skills" to handle the needs of so many passengers.
Our first introduction to our dining room staff was less than impressive. It was immediately apparent our table waiter and assistant waiter did not get along. This problem continually presented itself during each evening's dinner service. Consequently, the only dinners we enjoyed were the two evenings we spent at 150 Central Park and Chops, as well as the last evening, which we spent at Windjammers. (We simply did not wish to spend our last evening watching our two servers work together like oil and water!) (Strike Two is back.)
On our first full day, the worst happened. My husband was enjoying a turn on the Flowrider. Of course, he eventually lost his balance and rode the "wave" up to the back of the padded pit area. He has experienced this activity before and was not surprised at the ride. However, he never expected to suffer an injury due to an area of exposed framework because of a broken and buckled mat surface. The resulting injury required a trip to the Infirmary where the doctor had to apply a pressure bandage to counteract a golf ball sized hematoma under a lacerated forearm. Later in the day, we learned this break in the matting was well known by the crew that operated the Flowrider, but they were unable "to get the Flowrider company to fix it in port." So, instead of shutting it down in the interest of passenger safety, they continued to run the activity in the hopes no one would notice. Even when the medical staff contacted them, after my husband was injured, they continued to operate the Flowrider. It was not until the next day that we witnessed three members of the Engineering department make some superficial repairs so they could safely continue to operate. How long had this problem been in existence? It is a shame it took an injury to promote some sort of "fix." Had they been more proactive and concerned about the safety of their passengers, my husband would not have been injured and we would not have had to give up three days of planned activities on our cruise. (Strike Three!)
By now, we are more than a little disillusioned by our experience on Oasis of the Seas. To add insult to injury, the representative from the Safety Department had the nerve to point out we had signed a "Liability Waiver" in order to use the Flowrider, and that there is "always some risk associated with these sorts of activities." SERIOUSLY! Had it been under normal circumstances and an injury occurred, I would gladly agree. However, when there is an equipment malfunction that causes an injury, it is in very poor taste to try to pass it off as the fault of the passenger! (We're on a downward spiral here... Is there such a thing as Strike Four?)
Despite being unable to enjoy the pools, rock climbing walls, or fitness center, we opted to focus on what we could enjoy. We had wonderful experiences at 150 Park Central and Chops Steakhouse. The wait staff was beyond professional at both locations, and the food was incredible. We also thoroughly enjoyed the all the shows.
We were trying to put the bad experiences behind us and focus on the positive aspects of the rest of our cruise. When we noticed the tickets for our shore excursion (the only one we booked) showed a different report time than we had reserved online, we went to the Explorations Desk to inquire why. The agent looked at the reservation confirmation printout I brought from home and said simply, "That time does not exist." No further explanation. When we pressed her for more information, she would only say the report time was an hour later and we could not expect to return to the ship until just before the schedule time to depart the port call. So much for "guest service." But that was just the beginning.
When we arrived at the appointed place on the pier, our shore excursion group was left standing there for over an hour, until someone walked over to an RCCL crew member and inquired when we would begin our excursion. We left 1 hour late and arrived back at the pier 10 minutes after the scheduled time to raise the gang plank! And there were three more buses of passengers still to arrive back from their excursions! The ship was over an hour late departing Costa Maya! (Okay, I've now lost count of the "Strikes.")
Our departure experience put the final nails in the coffin of this cruise. Our Platinum status allowed us to wait in the 3rd deck dining room and enjoy a Continental breakfast. We were scheduled to depart in the Number 5 group and, when we arrived the Express Departure Group was already leaving the ship. When our group was called, it took several minutes to get an elevator back to the 5th deck. When we finally got there, we were instructed to stand aside so the passengers flowing out of the dining room on deck 5 could proceed off the ship. When we tried to tell the crew member that we were in Group 5, she said we would have to wait until these passengers had passed, then we could continue. Judging by the sheer number of people flowing out of the dining room, that would not have been for quite some time. Sadly, I did not react well. I had had enough and just wanted off the boat! So I ignored her instruction, took my husband's hand and walked past her into the crowd of departing passengers. All I heard her say was, "So I guess I'm just standing here for nothing!" Her sarcasm was merely one more "Strike" against Oasis.
Needless to say, our Oasis of the Seas experience fell far short of our expectations. The design, technology, and amenities onboard appear to be exceptional. On the surface, they certainly provide the "wow" factor. However, they were insufficient to handle the number of passengers onboard. Likewise, the staff seemed to be insufficiently trained to manage 6000+ passengers.
While we have enjoyed six past cruises on everything from Vision class to Voyager class to Freedom class, we will likely never book on an Oasis class again. We have three more cruises booked with Royal Caribbean. One has been paid in full and is scheduled within the next month. Hopefully, that cruise will redeem our faith in Royal Caribbean. If not, we will likely cancel the other two reservations and look for another cruise line to vacation with.