We booked this cruise in 2008, well over two years in advance and before there were any reviews of the ship. But we were not worried because as Diamond members of Royal's Crown and Anchor Society we have been on many Royal Caribbean cruises and ships. We made our own air arrangements to Miami International Airport and then booked transfers with Royal Caribbean. The airline changed our flight and departure time but the Royal Caribbean representative was waiting and looking for us when our flight finally arrived about 30 minutes late. After we retrieved our luggage our wait for the transfer bus was about 15 minutes. The ride to the pier in Port Everglades/Ft Lauderdale was about 45 minutes and we arrived about 10:20 AM.. The bus driver handed over our luggage to the cruise line porters for transfer to the ship.
The terminal at Pier 18 that Royal Caribbean constructed for the Oasis and Allure is perfect to handle a large number of people. There were multiple security stations to screen carry-on bags, same types as at the airports. The terminal has more check-in windows than you find at many major airports and these are divided by cruise ship floor with a couple windows for each floor and separate lines for Suites, Diamond Plus/Diamond, and Platinum Crown and Anchor Society guests. It was early, about 10:45 AM, when we arrived for check-in but there was no wait at any check-in windows and it took us all of about 5 minutes.
There were four stations for boarding photos if you want them and so that process was very quick. The waiting area is on the second floor and there were two escalators and two elevators. There is a waiting area for each category of guests; Suites, Diamond Plus, Diamond, Platinum, and other guests. If you arrive before boarding starts as we did, boarding is by category with suites going first, then Diamond Plus, Diamond, Platinum, and other guests. There are two gangways for all to use and 2 or 3 Sea Pass scanner kiosks for each gangway. For us boarding was delayed until about 11:30 due to a Coast Guard inspection in progress but when it started it was very quick. Lunch was ready but our cabin was not ready until 1:00PM. After lunch and a quick walk around some of the ship we headed to our cabin. There was no announcement at 1:00 PM that they were ready, we just went along with a bunch more passengers through the door to our cabin. The cabin steward came by a few minutes later, introduced himself, and left a business card with his name and phone number.
The ship is truly amazing and not like any other you have been on or will you be on. I don't know what the total passenger count was for our cruise but the ship holds more than 5,000 guests easily and at no time did it seem crowded. I think it does not seem crowded because it is so big and it has activities for everyone; in the five "neighborhoods" on the ship. I would rate the ship an "A" minus and could easily rate it higher if it were not for a few "but's", or "if it were not for this" things I saw as not the best or needing improvement.
We booked a balcony cabin on deck 14 and although it was very nice it had a few "buts". Although it was slightly smaller than balcony cabins we have had on other Royal Caribbean ships, it was about as good as any balcony cabin we have had. It had a nice big closet with two sliding doors, a safe, and storage shelves in the closet. But it had only two drawers in the cabin vanity. So while there was plenty of space for hanging clothes there was very little for storing things neatly. The cabin does have a nice lighted vanity mirror and some low wattage wall lights. The bathroom was very nice and had an automatic night light that was always on so you could use the bathroom day or night without turning on the main light. This was great for bathroom visits at night. But the counter space in the bathroom was limited, the sink was very shallow, and there was very little storage space in there for toiletries. The balcony was a nice size but our cabin was one of a few on the ship that have a partially obstructed view due to support panels for the floor above. The obstructions cut about 30% off of the 180 degree view a balcony normally provides. Had I known that beforehand I would have booked a different cabin. If you book the ship DO NOT book a cabin on deck 14 near the rear elevators.
The 42 inch flat panel TV in the cabin was great but there was no TV guide and not much on TV other than ship information like the cruise director talking about activities, a channel describing port tours and shopping, and one showing the ship's position and camera. It also had ESPN, TNT, CNN, and TBS. There were pay per view movies, most costing $11.99, but only one free movie channel. However, we never knew what would be on that free movie channel because there was no TV guide.
A very big plus for this ship is it has the most advanced electronics that you'll find on any ship. In the cabin you can not only use the TV to watch programs but also, order room service, reserve shows, book ship's tours, view your personal calendar of activities you have scheduled, view a listing of restaurants on board, reserve restaurants, AND use the wireless keyboard to surf the Internet. However, there are no written instructions for using the wireless keyboard and we were unsuccessful in getting it to work. We did get logged in to the Internet but could not get past a keyboard problem:the "num-lock" key was on and we couldn't figure out how to turn it off. Even a visit to the purser's desk was no help with this.
The ship has WiFi Internet in cabins and all over the ship. It also has a couple places where there are terminals you can use to access the Internet. Four terminals are in the card room on deck 14 but these were on workstations that require you to face a wall and others could easily walk up behind you and watch what you may want to keep private. Another place for the Internet was on deck 7 at the front of the ship but this room had only 8 terminals in a small room, about 3/4th the size of a standard cabin, and the terminals there also offered no privacy. There are also a couple of Internet workstations in the Concierge Lounge, but none in the Diamond Lounge. Another Internet station listed on the touch screen I could not find as there were no directions to it.
The ship has two elevator and stair wells, one forward and another aft, and they are labeled on corridor walls as the "Lobby". Each elevator well has 12 elevators, six on each side of the ship. So going from floor to floor was pretty quick and easy. Lights over elevators going up lit up in green and those going down lit up in red. But while it was very easy to find your way before you board an elevator you may have a problem if you board without first figuring out where you want to go. The information in the elevators tells you where the floors and Neighborhoods are located but there is not a list of what's on each deck. You MUST get your directions before you get into the elevator. One great thing is an elevator button for "gangway" so you know exactly where to go to get off the ship in ports. And when the gangway is open there is a lighted sign on the wall on deck 3 to point you in the right direction. Regardless, you will have a hard time getting lost on this ship. This ship has the best information stations that you could want.
In each Lobby there is a very high tech interactive touch screen that is as good as doing a "Google" search for finding things and providing directions. The touch screens are about two feet wide and four feet high so information shows very well. With it you can find out what's going on ship and where; locate and get directions to any cabin or place on ship; look for a restaurant, lounge, show room, or any of the five neighborhoods on the ship. You just touch the screen's main menu for what you want and it will give you precise directions on how to get there by showing a deck plan for the deck where you want to go, and indication of how to get there by a broken red line from your location to your destination. If you need to first take an elevator or stairs it will tell you which floor to go to. The screen will also display upcoming activities from the Cruise Compass for the next 2-3 hours. So you don't need to carry a Cruise Compass with you or go find one. If you are looking for a place to eat it will display a listing of all eating places, complementary ones first, and the menu's for some places. And, it will also give you indication of current occupancy in the restaurants in terms of whether you will be served immediately or will have to wait. These touch screens are also located in/near eating places like the main dining rooms and the Windjammer Cafe Marketplace.
The Solarium was nice but almost always crowded and it was hard to find a seat there, especially in the padded wicker seats in the shade. The Solarium is on the top deck of the front of the ship and is one of the few places where you can sit and watch the ocean. If you are one like me who likes to sit on the promenade deck close to the ocean and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean this ship is not for you. There is really no traditional promenade deck as that deck space is used as a walking and jogging track and the life boats all hang on that deck obscuring the view in all except a very few places. There are about 30 seats on that deck on the very back of the ship where you can watch the ocean being churned by the ship's propellers. Solarium Bistro is open for complementary breakfast and lunch and had good food selections for healthy eating. It has a salad bar, and hot food and soup selections.
Unlike most other recently built Royal Caribbean ships the gym is not on the top deck just above or below the ship's bridge. Instead it is located on the front on the ship on deck seven with a stairwell to access the walking/jogging track on deck six. The gym has a full complement of exercise machines and free weights, plus spinning cycles. It was not really crowded when we went there and neither was the walking track. The gym did not feel as open because while it has four round windows on each side of the room, it does not have the floor to ceiling windows like Royal's other ships. One floor above the gym is the full service spa.
The Sports Zone neighborhood is on the top deck on the back of the ship and has two surfing simulators, a zip line, a miniature golf course, a full court basketball court, and six ping pong tables. Whenever we went there it was easy to participate because lines were not long for any of the activities. The area was well used but not overcrowded. The Zone has a Splash pool for kids not potty trained and a staff person was there to make sure diapered kids didn't get into the other pools and water works. There were always empty lounge chairs around, even some child sized lounge seats. Further forward are two more pools and hot tubs including a huge hot tub on each side of the ship that extend over the side of the ship just like on Freedom Class ships. These area were also well used but not overcrowded and always had empty lounge chairs around. Royal has now increased the penalty fee for not returning towels to $25 per towel, at least on this ship.
The Pedestrian Mall on the Oasis is different from the ones on Freedom and Voyager Class Royal ships because it is two stories. The main activities on the first floor are the purser's desk, the Promenade Cafe, a sports and kareoke bars and three other bars, and Sorrento's pizza. The second floor has the Schooner Bar and Lounge on one side and the photo shop, Focus, and the Diamond Club on the other side. So there are more places to hang out and enjoy or people watch. We were able to catch one of the parades there and some of the other entertainment like the Captain's party on the first formal night. One neat feature of the Promenade Mall is the Rising Tides bar which starts on the mall and rises up to the Central Park while you drink. You can enter and/or exit on either deck.
One deck below the pedestrian mall is the Entertainment Zone which has the casino, ice rink, comedy club, a jazz club, and another club called Blaze where Diamond member's cocktail hours were held each evening. The casino is huge and has one side for smokers and the other for non-smoking with a huge sign at the entrance so you know which is which. Although you could smell smoke at the entrance, the non-smoking side did provide a better alternative to allowing smoking all over the casino. The casino has a good variety of slots, although not the same ones you'll likely see in Las Vegas, but good and also all of the table games including a poker table. Blaze was a great location for the happy hours because it was large enough for everyone but never over crowded. It had two tables with four hot and cold hor dourve setups. The Diamond Club by comparison was relatively small.
We had an opportunity to go in the Concierge Lounge for Diamond Plus members and it was very nice with a view of the Boardwalk and Aqua Theater. Above the Concierge lounge is location for the Chef's Table. That's the place where for $75 per person you can sit with just 12 other people and enjoy a meal that the chef serves and explains how each dish is made. That's way out of my price range and I didn't consider the location, up a flight of stairs from the Concierge lounge, particularly exclusive. A better location would be the Pinnacle Lounge of Deck 17. It was a much nicer and more exclusive venue with a much bigger and better view.
Central Park was a great place to go and relax away from most people and it offered the Park Cafe for complementary breakfast and lunch. The other places there, like Giovanni's Table, 150 Central Park, and Chops, require a fee to eat.
The Boardwalk is a nice place and yes we did ride the carousel. In fact there were more adults riding it than kids. The free donuts are as good as Dunkin Donuts and I highly recommend the Seafood Shak. We had the grilled Cajun seafood platter and it was excellent.
The main dining room, called the Opus and not to be confused with the Opal theater, is three levels, decks 3, 4, and 5. The top level, deck 5 is for My Time dining. The dining room is nice but I have seen better on other Royal Caribbean ships. I think the decor of the dining room on the Radiance class ships is better. The dining room had oval windows that appeared to have shades over them as I could never see anything out of them. So the room was not very light. We had a table for two and our service was great but we had very few other guests in our waiter's service area. There were two tables for four people on either side of us that were never occupied all week long. In fact most evenings there were quite a few empty tables and/or seats in the main dining room. The food was great with a couple exceptions. The lasagna was terrible and on the last evening my steak was cooked more than I wanted it. Otherwise the food seemed to be standard Royal Caribbean dining room fare, except there was no baked Alaska. The lobster on the other hand was great. So the ship's size did not appear to affect the food service.
The ship has five shows that it is recommended that you make reservations for. While we made reservations, there were people who had not who showed up looking for a chance to get in if others were no-shows. When you make reservations there are no tickets issued. You show up at the show room at the reserved time and there are staff people there who use hand held scanners to scan your cruise card for entry. This worked great because you never had to worry about a lost or missing tickets; its all in the computer system. And if you forget what you reserve just look at your personal calendar on the cabin TV. One problem I noticed was there were seats reserved in the main show room, in the Aqua Theater, and in the ice rink for people in suites. But there were not staff people at those locations to direct people away from them. So when we went to shows people were complaining because they could not find a seat and yet there were lots of empty seats in the reserved areas. Other people were asked to move when they were not suites guests. The ship needs to do a better job with this.
The best of the shows in my opinion was "Hair Spray", followed by the production show, "Come Fly With Me", and the ice show, Frozen In Time. We were told in a back stage tour that Royal has paid for a license to do hair spray for 2 or 3 more years and then they will consider whether to renew. Royal owns then rights to the other shows so they will likely be there for years. The Aqua Theater show was good but while the diving and synchronized swimming was good the story line it tried to portray was very weak. The comedy club just needs some better comedians. A couple people we talked with said they also left after the first comedian finished.
This ship requires a change in mind set about meals. On most Royal ships passengers think in terms of the main dining room and the Windjammer buffet for meals. On this ship are there several options for all meals in complementary venues. One important piece of paper that you'll receive in your boarding package and/or in your cabin is a sheet of paper with all of the restaurants listed, their location, which meals they serve and which are complementary. I had read that the Windjammer was overcrowded for breakfast and lunch and you couldn't find a seat. We did not experience that at all on any of our visits there. We ate in the Windjammer as well as the main dining room and also tried the Solarium Bistro for lunch; Sorrento's pizza for lunch where you can order with your own topping; the Park Cafe in Central Park for breakfast, and the Seafood Shak for lunch. The food in all of the places was great and we never had to stand in a long line or wait for a table. The one big problem in these places was the self service coffee and tea service. They did not have the self service line set up properly for a smooth flow at that stations. The cups were not in the right place and the coffee and hot water urns ran out and you and to wait for refills. It would have been must better to have the servers at the station serve directly to cups.
We had been to all of the ports before and so didn't do any shore excursions. We did get off the ship for a day at the beach in Labadee and there were no changes since our last visit there. The private island spot is very nice but I think that Royal Caribbean needs to invest in a mass infusion of sand to build up the beach on the ocean side of the island. Most of that side is too rocky to go in the water, even at the end where its permitted.
So in conclusion, my recommendation is you must cruise the Oasis, or Allure, at least once. It is something that you must experience. The problems, "buts", I listed are minor and the positives far outweigh the few minor things. The food and service are comparable with what you'll get on other ships and don't worry about the size of the ship, and the passenger count, reducing the enjoyment of your cruise. There are far more restaurants, bars, and lounges than you'll be able to get to in a week long cruise.