About Us - I'm in my 40's, husband in 50's traveling with 2 girls 5 & 8, & my sister, her boyfriend & niece & nephew 7 & 4 for Thanksgiving. The ship was fully booked this week plus 1250 kids on board, but it never felt crowded. We did early dining because of the 4 kids.
Departure- We traveled from Texas, so we arrived the day before & stayed at the Extended Stay America on 17th. Great value for the $ & very close to port & numerous restaurants. We went to Mai Kai for a bday dinner & Polynesian show for my 8 yr old & had a great time. The restaurant can be expensive, but they have heavy 1/2 price appetizers (chicken, beef,shrimp, etc.) & drinks from 5-7. The show at 7 was $10.95 (my husband was free with a coupon from the hotel kiosk, & kids were free, so it was a great deal!) Great atmosphere, cool show - we ordered the most awesome flambed dessert experience I've ever seen during the show, very cool bathrooms, & tiki garden. Worth the trip!
Embarkation - Embarkation was the easiest of any ship we have ever been on. We arrived at 11:00 & there were virtually no lines. We were on fast! Boarding pictures are used for the facial recognition system for all on board photography, so don't bypass the photos.
Photography - Take advantage of the photographers on the ship at each location throughout the ship. We avoided them the first two days, not wanting to pay $20 a picture, then realized that you can purchase an Oasis of the Seas photo book for $99 that incorporates professional photos & stats on all areas of the ship with pictures that you've had taken in each neighborhood. The first day, we turned away the photographers at the Sail Away party. I was surprised to see a picture of my 5 year old grinning between our legs. Thanks to their facial recognition system, it appeared in my photos when I scanned my Set Sail pass at the photo kiosk. You only get to choose 1 family photo for each port, but there are numerous other spots for Boarding, Promenade, Central Park, Dining, Formal Night, Entertainment areas, etc. They are automatically grouped by area, so you can select which pictures to put in each section of the book.
Cabin- We were in Cabin 8729, a B1 Boardwalk Balcony. I would absolutely book this cabin again. The view of the Aqua Theater was fantastic. You could also see the ocean behind theater, & a great view of the boardwalk. There was some evening noise from the huge TV screens on the back, but it was not unbearable - the kids didn't even notice. We loved watching the shows & Boardwalk activities from the balcony. Anytime we were in the room, it was great to open up the door & let the breeze in & hear what was going on outside. This was the kids favorite spot to sit out & eat late night room service snacks & watch a show.
We had a really rough day at sea - winds at 30-40 mph & we could really feel the ship rocking. My husband gets motion sickness on every dinner cruise, sightseeing boat, etc. but it did not bother him. They actually deactivated the sliding doors on the top decks preventing people from going outside with a sign warning of "Dangerous Winds"! The water in the swimming pools was sloshing back & forth out of the pools. The shows in the Aqua Theater were canceled as the water was flying of of the pool flowing 10 feet up across the viewing area! That was something to see! They quickly brought up the floor to keep the water in.
Dining Venues - We tried just about everything this ship had to offer. The 1st day I'd heard that the Windjammer was packed, so we went to Central Park. GIOVANNI'S was great - we sat outside & relaxed after boarding. Our favorite place on the ship was PARK CAFE. With our Cabin on 8, this was a great place to go in the mornings for bagels & cream cheese, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, grits, & muffins. I LOVED sitting out here with a cup a coffee before the kids & husband were up! Also for lunch do not miss the Roast Beef sandwich. Everything they say about it is true. It's hand carved & has more of the consistency of tenderloin than typical roast beef. They also have salads, other sandwiches & soups. I never felt like I overate here. MAIN DINING ROOM food was very good. The first night, we felt service was extremely slow with kids. We complained & surprisingly, everything was much faster for all other meals & we had no more issues. Thanksgiving was the least impressive of the meals with traditional turkey, dressing & pumpkin pie. Hubby & I did CHOPS GRILLE - great steaks & 150 CENTRAL PARK. We really enjoyed the set 6 course menu here & did it with the wine pairing. The menu featured really unique items like lager soup with caramel corn accent - bizarre combination - but it totally worked! The wine pairings were fantastic. By the time we left I was very tipsy! You may be better off sharing the wine as it is a full 5-6oz pour per person per course! IZUMI was really different. The kids loved the concept of cooking on the rocks. We had a small glitch here as we made our reservation online for 5:30, but they don't open until 6, which caused us to have to rush to make it to our show, which was frustrating considering that this restaurant is extra $. Guest services sent complimentary cupcakes from the CUPCAKE shop, but being a baker, I was not impressed with the icing, although they looked great.(I complained about the reservation problem to RCI upon return (how can the times be wrong online when the ship has been operational for a year)& received a $100 onboard credit for our upcoming cruise!)They send confirmations to your cabin for specialty restaurants, but we upgraded our cabin 6 weeks before sailing & 3 of the 4 sent it to our old room. We did WINDJAMMER for lunch on our first sea day - it was really packed, & avoided it except for one breakfast. We also did various snacks like Pretzel Dogs at the WIPEOUT BAR, sandwiches at PROMENADE CAFE & MONDO's, etc. MONDO's in the Promenade has great late night desserts. The donuts on the Boardwalks were surprisingly good. Hubby & the kids did JOHNNY ROCKETS. It' really hard to go wrong on this ship with so many dining options.
SHOWS- Definitely do all your reservations online in advance. I heard people complaining because they could not get reservations on board. I had the wrong time for the ice show, but was able to get in on standby with no problem. Come Fly With Me was really good & packed, so don't wait on that one, or the Aqua Theater shows.
ENTERTAINMENT - There is so much to do here, so I'll just mention a few things. The kids did ice skating. They provide the skates & helmets. Make sure to bring a pair of long pants & socks to take advantage of this. My 7 year old did the rock climbing. Get there at the start of the session to avoid big lines. They will close the session right at the time designated, even if you are already harnessed up, so get there early. My daughter freaked out when this happened to her- they closed when the Belly Flop Contest started. They were really nice & wrote her name down. When we came back later, she went right to the front of the line.
DECK PHONES - We were given a deck phone at Adventure Ocean because my youngest is 5. These were great to have because I could communicate with my sister (she also had one)& the room. I was really worried because the Royal Connect phones were not available this week, but the deck phones were free & worked great. I believe you can normally get these at Guest Services, however since they were at capacity, they were only available at Adventure Ocean.
ADVENTURE OCEAN - We went to the open house on Day 1 to register the kids & I was very worried when they said there were 1250 kids on board. Surprisingly, the kids club was never really crowded! My kids did the Kids Club on the Disney Cruise last year, & my daughter did not want to get sent "where the kids have to go when the parents want to do things without kids". Amazingly, they LOVED the kids club much more than on the Disney Cruise. Sessions were very well organized with different activities from science experiments to crafts. There are 3 "sessions" through out the day, with the last one ending at 10pm. After 10pm, there is a charge. The girls were excited about going & did not want to miss special activities. My niece wanted to use her spending money to close out the club 10pm-2am in the Late Night Party Zone! She was up later than her mom!
DEBARKATION- On debarkation day, we went to Park Cafe, for a last relaxing breakfast waiting for our number to be called. We were number 34 & were called at about 8:10, but left at about 8:30. They were a little behind schedule due to immigration - this is the first big line we encountered the entire cruise. We were off the ship & at the airport by 9:30. There was no line outside the airport, so we checked our baggage in very quickly. We went inside & were surprised to see a big line at the Continental counter!