Thanksgiving Week: November 20-27th, 2010
Eastern Caribbean - Bahamas, St Thomas, and St Maarten
I just want to start by telling you that this ship is Incredible! It is huge and beautiful and RCI really thought of everything when they designed this ship. Now for the details:
ARRIVING IN FLORIDA: Our family (my husband and I are in our early 40s and we have two teenaged sons (13 & 14) arrived the night before and stayed at the Renaissance Hotel near Port Everglades. It was a very inexpensive shuttle ride ($6pp) to the Port.
GETTING ON THE SHIP: We got there a little before noon and boarding was very quick. We only had to wait behind one family and before we knew it they were snapping our "Welcome Aboard Photo" and we entered the Royal Promenade! Talk about smooth - my husband and I couldn't believe how easy it was to board. By 12:20 pm we set out to explore the ship (NOTE: There were signs posted that cabins were not available until 1pm so we did have to carry our small bags with us!)
THE TEEN CLUB: As I mentioned earlier, I was sailing with my sons who are 13 and 14 years old. They went up to the teen area as soon as we boarded the ship and by the end of the first night were hanging out with a group of 10 other teens. In a nutshell: they LOVED the teen program! While we had dinner with our kids every night and spent all day with them when we were onshore, we pretty much didn't see them for the rest of the cruise. There were several "Meet & Mingle" activities for the first two days and they made friends with about 15 others kids their ages. All the kids spent all of their "free time" together -- either in their teen only areas (The Living Room & Fuel), the Pool/Activity Decks, or at one of the eateries on the Royal Promenade. Teens have a ship curfew of 1am UNLESS they are in the teen lounge which has a curfew of 2am. Let's just say that my sons made the most of every minute!
CABINS: We were in adjoining rooms 9694 and 9696. These are balcony view rooms and seem comparable to other balcony rooms I've stayed in before on other cruises. Each room had two beds (hubby and I had ours made into one!) a sofa, and a vanity/desk area with a few drawers and a refrigerator. Bathrooms are tiny and the showers are round. You should bring a power strip if you are going to plug in more than two things under the desk since there are no other outlets. They do provide bathrobes, a hairdryer, bar soap and a dispenser in the shower w/ shampoo. The closet has two bars for hanging clothes and several shelves too. Our suitcases fit nicely under the beds who created extra space. Interactive TVs let you check your reservations, check out restaurant crowds, and review your charges amongst other things. We also had a wonderful stateroom attendants who made sure everything had a place. She also left some wonderful towel animals with our cruise information every night.
POOL / SPORTS AREAS: The kids loved the main pools and my husband and I loved the Solarium area (ages 16+ only). The ship was sold out and it was sometimes hard to find a place to "sun" but we always found some place to keep out stuff and enjoy the hot tub even if it was a little shady. Get out there early if you want to tan. The Zip Line was crowded but popular and so was rock climbing. There were two FlowRiders on this ship which made the waiting time much better. (NOTE: We arranged for our sons to have a private flow rider lesson. It wasn't cheap @ $60 each but they both said it was one of their favorite moments on board!)
FOOD: We found the food to be comparable to the other Royal Caribbean ship (Freedom) we have been on. We were located on the first floor in the dining room (Opus 3) and had the 6pm seating. The ship does hold 6,000 passengers and while there are places that you may find yourself alone, the main dining room is not that place. The tables are rather close together and we found ourselves weaving through tables the way you might have to do at a big wedding. Our servers were excellent. The waiter learned our names on the first day and our assistant waiter knew our favorite drinks and breads and kept them coming. While some reviewers complained of slow service we had quite the opposite experience. Our dinners were usually done between 7:15pm - 7:30 pm and that is with appetizers, entrEe and dessert.
We chose to eat at two of the specialty restaurants- We had a wonderful lunch at Giovanni's (we especially loved the fried calamari!) and 150 Park was absolutely fabulous. (NOTE: 150 Park is a pre-determined 6-course menu - you try it all!) The Chef came out and met with us and our waiter was wonderful and really KNEW what he was presenting to us (my son said he described the food like the chefs who present their food to the judges on Iron Chef). It was worth the $35 charge. Also, while we didn't eat at CHOPS, my son was able to order their filet mignon and have it served in the main dining room for $15 (the Chops fee is $25). He said it was delicious and ate it along side the lobster tails on seafood night!
The Windjammer buffet is a typical buffet. We did it twice and the food was good. Even at its most crowded, we were able to find a place to sit. Park Cafe was a wonderful spot for lunch and the Promenade Cafe had great snacks all day long.
For a small charge, we also visited Johnny Rockets which was just as good as the one at home. Also the Mondo Coffee Bar made some great drinks. Our favorite spot however was the Cupcake Cupboard which even offers a decorating class on sea days!
SHOWS: Before I boarded, the most frustrating thing about this cruise was the fact the shows required you to reserve your tickets in advance. I arranged for mine two months before I sailed and still didn't get all the times I had wanted. LUCKILY there was plenty of flexibility once I boarded. I was able to see all the shows I wanted to AND I saw two shows earlier than I had reservations for. What I thought would be a huge hassle turned out to be nothing.
The shows we saw were all incredible. Best shows I have EVER seen at sea! Hairspray was fabulous as was Come Fly with Me and Oasis of Dreams (the Aquatic Show). They had to reschedule that show a few times due to rough seas but it was worth the wait. Hubby and I also loved the adult comedy show and we loved the improve show "Throw Me A Line" on the last night as well!
SHOPPING AND BOPPING AROUND: I liked the shopping on the ship (having a Coach shop was a nice surprise) and I loved the new system of seeing your photos taken on the cruise. Everyone is assigned a binder and all your photos are placed inside it. Additionally you can view all your photos on a screen just by swiping your seapass card!
There were so many bars and clubs on this ship that I couldn't name them all. On Air had karaoke late at night, Boleros had latin dancing, there was an adult club, a jazz club, a club called Dazzles that had themed nights (80s music was my favorite!), etc. Definitely something for everyone!
Finally Interactive touch screens are located at the front and rear of the ship on each deck and make finding your way around effortless. Also the screens let you know what there is to do so you can never be bored! The elevators have the day of the week on the floor. And there is a gangway button on the elevator so you no longer have to guess which floor to go to when you want to disembark for a shore excursion!
MY FAVORITE AREAS: Central Park for quiet time. Beautiful day and night! Royal Promenade for shopping and snacking. Solarium for relaxing; the Vitality Spa for a great massage! And the theaters for the amazing shows!
The only NEGATIVE experience I had was on the last day of the cruise. We had signed up for luggage valet service and somehow our forms were "lost" and Guest Services said there was nothing they could do. There is nothing worse than having a relaxing vacation for 6 days and getting upset on day 7. I was persistent in my complaining that it wasn't acceptable and finally the Guest Services agent sent a supervisor from housekeeping (it was my stateroom attendant who took the form from the room) to speak with me. He then went with me to see the Guest Services supervisor, and he "took care of things" within 3 hours.
Because of that one little glitch, I would give this cruise 9.5 out of 10 stars. I would definitely take Oasis again!