As cruise lovers, we booked the Western Caribbean swing on Oasis just to experience the ship. I wanted to see the architecture while the DW worried about all of the people. Following advice from Cruise Critic, I booked all of the entertainment and dining options prior, which, I will admit, took a lot of the fun out of it. We love cruising because of the worry-free nature of it; go to the dinner, go to the show, it all works. Planning how to get this show in with that dinner just made it more stressful than I would have liked. That said, all the research paid off. We ate where we wanted and saw all of the shows without a problem.
We dropped the rental car off at FLL only to find out that the free shuttle service to the port no longer ran. No problem as a cab was immediately available, and cost only $15 with tip. Arrived at the port at 11:30 and were on board within ten minutes. Everyone I’ve talk to feared check in and it was actually the fastest and easiest in our experience. We walked around to take in the sights and learn what was what. As usual, the rooms were available at 1:00. As is well documented, the ship is beautiful, stunning in places, well-designed and exceeded our already lofty expectations. Yes, the Windjammer is too small, but that led us to discover the Solarium Bistro which ended up as our favorite place to eat. The setting is most attractive and calming and the food was tasty and healthy, words that frequently don’t go together.
The cabin (10202) on the 10th deck was the typical balcony layout, but felt slightly larger than usual because of how the closet and desk were designed. If you moved the coffee table to side and used it as an end table, it seemed positively roomy. Even the shower had an extra little bump out in the back which afforded just enough space to allow one to bend over and pick up the soap that you dropped. There was even a bar to raise your foot while washing you leg. We had picked this room in particular because it was on the “bump-out” an architectural feature that made the balcony about twice as large as usual. However, while plenty big enough for lounge chairs, it was only equipped with two standard chairs and a small table. We pleaded with the steward and his supervisor, but they wouldn’t change it (as we had on a previous RCI cruise with a similar situation). It made sitting on our balcony uncomfortable for long term reading and thus a waste on the extra money for that particular room. However, this proved to be really the only negative of the cruise.
Entertainment - This was universally excellent, from Hairspray to the Aqua show and all of the others. It struck me that the real value of having all those fellow passengers was that it afforded the higher than usual quality of the entertainers. The venues all worked well but the Aqua Theater is probably the best setting for a concert that I have been to.
Dining - The main dining room food was all good and well presented. The number of menu choices seems to progressively shrink (this time there were fewer salad choices than in the past), but we never had difficulty putting together an enjoyable dinner. We always opt for the late seating with a large table. This lets us meet new and interesting people from around the world and makes it not rushed when coming back from port. However with so many dining choices we only had four dinners there. We also ate at Chops which was excellent, as usual; Izumi, which was fun, with very good, but not stellar, Japanese cuisine; and our favorite, the Solarium Bistro. Quite simply, for dinner, this is a very attractive, up-scale restaurant with an incredibly diverse and tempting menu that followed through with superb tasting food. This proves that healthy food can be unbelievably delicious and attractive. I wish this concept would catch on elsewhere. Johnny Rockets was as usual and the roast beef sandwiches at the Park Café really were so good that this normally non-red meat eater had two.
Ports - Labadee remains our favorite stop. If you are going to the Caribbean, how can you not go to the beach? This makes it so easy. Our fears of how it would handle so many people were unfounded; we got waterfront, shaded beach chairs with no problem. Even the food has been upgraded. The jerk chicken tasted like real Jamaican jerk chicken, not the sweet stuff usually found in the US.
Costa Maya - Not much there if you don’t like shopping (me). The dolphin show area looked pretty sad. However, we went on the Mayan temple tour to Chacchoben
which was excellent. Informative, attractive, plenty of shade, no vendors bothering you with a comfortable bus and free drinks. In other words, just the opposite of what I had read. We recommend this excursion.
Cozumel - Took the catamaran (motorized) to Passion Island. Great beach, comfortable lounges that look awkward but aren’t, nice drinks, mediocre buffet, but great guacamole. Could have stayed several hours longer.
Service - As usual, well done and friendly for the most part. Our waiter in the MDR was actually too fast, bringing salad and soup at the same time. Warmed up as the cruise went on culminating in a fun time after dinner one night with us all trying to outdo the other with table tricks. Steward was pleasant and gave good service, but didn’t go beyond that despite efforts to engage him. Throughout the ship, everyone was helpful, smiling and friendly.
Other - This cruise had a significant number of non-US passengers, which we find adds to the cruise. It is fun to talk with different folks from different places. Sometimes, however, that can lead to a lot of smoking. However, with the exception of the casino, which was universally gross smelling, even in the non-smoking areas and on the non-smoking days, we did not experience a problem. Despite the huge number of passengers, we never felt crowded, always found a seat and didn’t have to wait in any long lines. The ship is simply so big with so many places to go that it just did not seem like there were 5000+ passengers on board. Indeed, there are so many things to do and places to eat at, and shows to watch, that a back-to-back cruise actually makes sense. One feature that hasn’t gotten notice is the running / walking track on deck 5. No other features to get in the way, at 2.4 laps per mile, it is the best of its kind at sea.
Disembarkation - Despite a delay caused by Customs, leaving was not a problem, A first for us was that the luggage tag had come off one of our bags and so it was not in the color coded area with our other bag. No problem, just went to a special bag area and it was right there. Went outside and got an immediate taxi back to FLL. The infrastructure is so well planned that the size of the ship just didn’t seem to matter.
Overall we went thinking this would be a one time trial but left so impressed that we are thinking of a back-to-back on the Allure (to see the different shows). It was that good.