In reading cruise reviews I have always found those featuring a great number of negative elements to be most enlightening so long as they're taken with a grain of salt and the understanding that they were probably written by people who are inherently hard to please. In writing a cruise review about RCI's Oasis of the Seas I'd like to follow the same pattern except that there is virtually NOTHING really negative I can think of to be derived from our recent five-day cruise.
First, a little background. My wife and I have now cruised eight times; we are in our early sixties, and we had a Central Park balcony cabin on deck ten. Though we are discerning, we're not hard to please. We found the Oasis, especially the week before Christmas, to be strikingly beautiful, well planned, well kept, well engineered, and undoubtedly the best sailing experience we've ever had. The entertainment was, without exception, the best to be found on the high seas with the possible exception of the Oasis' sister ship, the Allure of the Seas. Hairspray was just magnificent.
As mentioned before I have little of a negative nature worth mentioning, but I do have a few tips specific to sailing on the Oasis that others may find helpful. One of the most consistent complaints I've read about the Oasis is the inadequacy of the seating in the Windjammer. Knowing that, I ate there only once, but I did find that obtaining a plate, silverware, and drink, THEN seeking and saving a table BEFORE hitting the buffet eliminated the problem of the food getting cold while searching for a table. Likewise, if a table is difficult or impossible to locate, one can always simply leave and seek some other dining venue--The Solarium Bistro, Johnny Rocket's (free breakfast), The Opus Dining Room (highly recommended) or the Promenade Cafe. Check out the dining options on one of the numerous touch-screens before choosing any of the above and pay particular attention the the little "thermometer" indicating how busy each one may be. Expect the Windjammer to pretty much always be running at capacity.
While on the subject of food, the only poor service we receive on the entire cruise was at the Seafood Shack on the Boardwalk. Not only did I have to page a waiter, but we found the food to be only mediocre at best. RCI was well advised to replace this establishment on the Allure with Rita's Cantina (or was it the Dog House). Otherwise, the food and service aboard the ship were always exemplary.
I even had an opportunity to tour one of the galleys. I say "one of the galleys" because the ship has one galley for each of the three dining room levels, unlike many such multi-leveled dining rooms on other ships. I had a one-to-one hosted tour by the chief sanitation officer who, apparently had things so well under control he had some time on his hands. I was impressed by the number of hand-washing units I saw. The yards and yards of stainless steel was just that--stainless. Even the dirty dishes looked spotless. Tip, buy the ship's cookbook, it's about $30 and you can take with you the best the Oasis has to offer.
Tip: always...ALWAYS reserve your seats for the entertainment online before sailing and then be there at least 15 minutes before the show starts to assure a good seat (or any seat at all), otherwise, they go fast the last ten minutes before the show starts. Tip: grab a cloth seat in the Aqua Theater, they are among the most comfortable entertainment seats aboard the ship. They are tall enough in back to rest your head. As for the other entertainment, the Aqua Theater show "Oasis of Dreams" is always a bit iffy. They canceled the last half of the show we saw because of rough seas. The high diving is quite dangerous and the talent very expensive. What we saw was unlike anything on any other cruise ship. My wife like the comedy diving show "Splish Splash." I didn't see it. I was off taking pictures.
Boarding was quick and easy, almost what you'd call "rushed" once you made it through security. During disembarkation, we had the "privilege" of being randomly tagged by customs for luggage inspection, which took an extra hour for what I'd call a cursory inspection at best. The waiting took twice as long as the inspection.
We stopped at Cozumel. Unlike other cruise ships, Oasis does not muster shore excursions aboard ship but on or near the dock. That involves some walking and some degree of confusion at times, but it also seems more relaxed and casual, less like a cattle drive. We visited Passion Isle just north of the island of Cozumel (40-minutes catamaran ride not ideal for those prone to seasickness) which was a bit rustic but picturesque, uncrowded, and quiet (my wife napped in a hammock). I managed to fall out of my hammock (the powdery white sand is not as soft as it looks). The water in December is a bit chilly but not unswimmable and there were inflatable recreational "islands" in chest-deep water off shore. The buffet was typically Mexican and so were the three or four souvenir/crafts shops (all Mexican made items so far as I could see). I bought a cut conch flower arrangement. Tip: bargain the price down to at least half the starting price. I was offered a "Christian discount" of 20% right off the bat. I think I paid well less than half the starting price. The tour operators couldn't have been more accommodating, even hauling us "old folks" around in a jeep while the "youngsters" walked.
During the stop at Nassau we opted for the Atlantis Beach Excursion. We erred in getting off the ship at the wrong gangway. I wasn't used to there being more than one. The Oasis has THREE! (Also the only ship I know of with escalators leading down to the gangway.) At any rate, we missed our intended tour bus so we were graciously permitted to travel with the guests from the Splendor of the Seas (berthed across the pier from the Oasis) on the bus for the 15-minute ride to Paradise Island. As for the Atlantis Resort, one might call it the land version of the Oasis of the Seas--opulent, well planned, huge, beautiful. I never seen so much marble in my life, even the restroom stalls were polished marble. We saw less than half of it. Don't miss the aquariums and the hotel public areas (four or five different hotels). The casino was gorgeous and decadently spacious. The upgrade ticket for using the pools was $120. We declined the privilege as did most of the hotel guests. The water was too cold. Only the kids were swimming and using the spectacular water slides. The Christmas decorations were lavish, unlike those of the Oasis, which one might best term "tastefully restrained."
Tip: If you order flowers for your cabin aboard the Oasis (and probably other ships) count on leaving them behind when you disembark. Customs won't allow living things to be removed from the ship. We ordered a decorated 24" Christmas tree ($61) which, since it was artificial, we were allowed to take with us.
The balcony cabins were nice, though about one foot narrower than those on other RCI ships and the difference was noticeable. Tip: move the coffee table to one side of the couch if you have any hope of navigating about the cabin with any degree of comfort. Hurray, there were electrical sockets behind and below the beds in addition to the misplaced ones under the vanity (what were they thinking?). The bathrooms were well designed and similar to those on other RCI ships.
Though we traveled the week before Christmas, we were not "clobbered" with Christmas, perhaps because of the broad spectrum of nationalities and ethnic mix we saw. I had anticipated not a great number of kids aboard since the cruise started on December 18th, well before (I thought) school should be out for the holidays. I guessed wrong. Kids of all ages were everywhere. I don't know which was worse, worrying about running over them or getting run over BY them. I told my wife, "What this place needs is about ten more kids." They were fun to watch, though, and no one enjoys cruising more than kids. The Oasis is a great place for them (especially the Boardwalk).
Tip: Central park is a wind tunnel that would do the Wright Brothers proud, especially when the ship is at sea, so either bring a scarf, ladies, or get a shorter hairdo. I had to laugh, one time a ship's photographer was set up in the park. That didn't last long. His portrait subjects (even the men) couldn't keep their hair in place long enough for him to shoot. The photo kiosks in the "Focus" gallery are great, streamlining the viewing and selection process immensely. Tip: The coupon books for Crown and Anchor members reduce the price for photos by half.
Tip: Don't bring a monstrous camera. A pocket digital of medium or higher resolution is much more convenient. Even my HD video camera was small enough for my pants pocket when the need arose. Tip: If the weather is even half decent, don't miss the sunset at sail-away time. Even though it rained most of the day we went on board, it quit and we had a gorgeous few minutes of sunsetting photo ops as we left Port Everglades.
Tip: If you drive to Lauderdale, stay the night before at a hotel providing a "park and sail" package (but don't expect such a package to be without cost). It will be cheaper than parking at the port, even with a $10 (each way) tip to the shuttle driver for handling your baggage (well earned). We stayed at the new Cambria Suites about 15 minutes from the airport and the port. The pool and spa were both heated and a welcome attraction for frosty Ohioans. Upon disembarkation, a shuttle is just a phone call away (half-hour wait).
I could go on and on singing the praises of RCI and the Oasis (actually, I have gone one and on, but anyway, the ship has to be seen and experienced to really grasp what a quantum leap in cruising the Genesis Class ships are in the world of cruising. All else pales by comparison. Yes, it's big, and at times there will be big crowds (especially after shows) but the ship is designed to handle them provided the guests know what to expect and make allowances accordingly. I hope this review helps in that regard.