I'll first start by saying that I'm writing this review to honor and thank all those who have written about the Oasis over the last year. I think I've probably read every single one of your reviews, enjoyed most and found plenty of helpful hints that made our trip even easier and more memorable. In no particular order:
We sailed the Western Carribean but because of Hurricane Tomas we ended up skipping Labadee and adding Nassau on the end. Without a doubt I would tell you that my only major regret is that I didn't do the Eastern Carribean. Cozumel is okay (more later) but all in all everyone I spoke with agreed that the Eastern itinerary is much more enjoyable especially for first timers.
Pre cruise advice and info: Go ahead and book all the dinner reservations and show reservations that are available prior to the cruise using the pre cruise planner. Many, many of the times are not available by the time you cruise and you'll be disappointed. I would advise signing up for each show so that even if you decide to change the time once you're underway you at least have options. Remember, RCCL let's you standy by for each show and releases seats 10 minutes prior to show time. They do swipe your seapass electronically to ensure you have a reservation. For me it worked every time.
I would also recommend checking in on line so that all your documents are printed and ready to go when you arrive at FLL. Also remember to order your bag tags online as this really speeds up the process.
We decided to park rather than take a cab (we live in the area) and the parking was very convenient and 15$ per day.
There is a special entrance for suite guests (we were staying in the Crown Loft Suites). You are met immediately by a RCCL rep and they lead you through the very quick check in and boarding. We arrived about 1130 and were on the ship by about 1145.
My advice when boarding the ship is go straight to the Park Cafe in the Central Park area for the famous roast beef sandwiches and other light deli items. It's one of the few things open and if you don't make it back later you wont' feel like you missed something. After lunch take a quick walk around the ship paying special attention to the Solarium (forward at deck 16) Central Park (mid ship at deck 8) Royal Promenade (Deck 5 and also the deck you enter and leave the ship on) and finally the aft area where the Boardwalk is (deck 6).
At one the rooms are ready and you can go up and put your bags away and check out your stateroom. We stayed in the Crown Loft Suite and I can't say enough good about this room. It's located in a special card accessed area in the aft of the ship on deck 17. The room features a full bath downstairs along with a very nifty dining table (it moves back and forth so that you can stow it out of the way when not using it) along with a flat screen tv, full couch and reading chair. Your balcony is large and there are 20 foot floor to ceiling glass windows to enjoy the view. I would recommend the starboard side rooms as the view will be better while in port. There is a loft area upstairs with your queen bed, another flat screen tv that pops out of the ceiling on command, a dressing/slash make up area and a full bath with a two person shower. The shower also boats a ceiling mounted rainforest shower head as well. Really all very nice. Our cabin attendants were Cherry and Mari Sol and I can't say enough about how much they made our trip. They were always there when we needed them and suprised me on my birthday with chocolate covered strawberries and champagne.
Other suite ammenities include access to the concierge lounge on 11. Three reasons to go. One, the best breakfast on the ship is available in the lounge cooked to order and served in a luxurious private club style. Second, there is a cocktail hour from 5 - 830 where all bar drinks are gratis along with nice cheese and fruit displays pre dinner. Take advantage of both, you paid for it and it's worth it. The last reason may seem mundane but had me returning over and over again. They have a machine that grinds and instantly brews the best cafe latte I've ever had. The machine is available 24/7 and saved me alot of extra money by preventing me from paying for specialty coffee in the other areas. Our concierge was Ricardo Mock and he was excellent (note to RCCL, consider having the concierges in the lounge for longer hours)
Also included for suite guests is the ability to walk into any performance without reservations simply by showing your gold card. There is also special reserved seating in most all venues for suite guests / another big plus.
Amenities for suite level rooms also include a cocktail reception with the captain and other officers. Go, it's fun and you will meet most if not all of the specialty restaurant managers that you'll be asking for help from later on.
Hairspray was by far the best broadway style show I've seen hands down. I was suprised by how much we all enjoyed and everyone on the ship agreed. A must do for everyone. A very close second is come fly with me also performed in the theatre later in the week. Amazing, amazing amazing. The Ice Show is great, the aqua show was okay. Didn't make it to the comedy club although heard very good things about it. Did see the Love and Marriage game and it was a hoot. Richard Spacey is very great at what he does. At first you think he's a bit goofy but when you realize that he's working his butt off to make sure you have fun and he honestly likes to be there and do what he's doing you gain a great deal of respect for him. What energy, we should all be so blessed.
The street parties on the RP were all great. Make sure you look at your cruise compasss (delivered to your room the night before) to ensure you get to do what you want when you want.
I'll start by saying we never once went to the dining room. I heard good and bad but can't say myself. We did visit Giovanni's (excellent, must order the hand sliced proscuitto and great value), Chops twice (best veal chop I've ever had including the capital grille) Vintages (a wine bar with spainish style tapas and a huge wine list)Room service from the suites menu (as a suites guest you get a very much upgraded room service menu which is really just awesome), Izumi for sushi (best spicy tuna roll I've had in a long time and the cooking at the table on the hot rock was very cool) and the piece de resistance was sitting at the chefs table.
The chefs table is pre booked for 14 guests per evening and is served on the second floor of the concierge lounge. The fee includes a five course meal, four paired wines and a signed copy of the RCCL cookbook. The value is immense when you consider we were drinking 50 - 100$ bottles of wine and you had the executive chef explain in detail how he prepared each dish along with the sommelier who discussed each wine, how it was made, where it was grown and why it worked with the course it was paired with. An amazing experience for everyone but for foodies it's a must. Pre book it by calling RCCL ahead of time or see the concierge on day one to book it.
Never, ever go to the Windjammer unless it's your only option. It's crowded and the food is okay.
Do plan to go to the solarium for breakfast and lunch, simply perfect. Also remember that when all else fails, you can get a quick slice of pizza at Sorrento on the RP and small sandwiches and sweets 24 hours per day at the Promenade Cafe.
We bought the water package, it was totally worth it. We didn't buy the soda or wine package and I'm glad we didn't. We had more fun ordering by the glass and trying a bunch of new and different things.
We swam with dolphins in cozumel which was a very nice excursion. We had a small group, the dolphinarium is well maintained, very clean, well run and your groups are small enough that you get good quality time with the dolphin. We splurged and bought the photos afterwards because they were very well done but keep in mind that a good deal of negotiation can happen before you settle on a price.
We did not go to Coasta Maya but instead hung out and enjoyed more of the boat. We walked in Nassau for one hour but got back on and did some more Oasis exploring.
On departure we opted to sleep in and leave about 9am. It was a little disorganized at first but then picked up after a few minutes and we were in the car by 930 or so.
If anyone from RCCL reads this I have just a few thoughts on making a great experience a spectacular one.
1. Guest services desk on 5 was not well organized. Lines were generally long, agents to assist were limited and I found myself being drawn out of my general haze of happiness when I waited for over a half an hour to see an agent when it appeared that there were a bunch of folks just reading their computers and generally trying not to make eye contact with anyone in line. Managers in charge, do yourself a favor and watch whats happening in your guest services area at 8 o clock on the last night. It's not pretty.
2. Consider other ports of call, especially with the addition of the Allure.
3. The interactive tv system worked very well and was impressive in it's breadth of offerings. One thought, it seemed that as you added and deleted reservations for spa offerings, dinners, etc the system didn't update itself thus leading to some confusion for us during the week. This is probably something fixed very easily.
Final thought, all service organizations are about their people as much as their product. RCCL has done an outstanding job of picking the best people available from around the world to make sailing the Oasis the best experience possible. Good job and congratulations. Remember, these gentlemen and ladies work their butts off seven days a week with little time off to make all of us happy. Don't forget to say thank you, don't quibble over the gratuities or even adding something extra for amazing service.
Richard Spacey said something at the end of the cruise that I thought was profound. There were over 8000 people on our sailing including guests and staff representing over 80 nationalities. Everyone got along, learned a bit about other cultures/languages/religions and had a great time along the way. The lesson is clear for us all.
Again, to all those that posted before me and offered great tips and advice, thank you!