Cruising was myself, the over-planning mom, (35), my husband of 16 years (36), our 11 year old son, and our 7 year old daughter. We are a tight knit family that spends lots of time together. We have two cruises with Carnival and one Disney cruise under our belts, all short, 5 day or less cruises. So this was our first 7 day cruise, and first with Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise in January of 2009 while Oasis was still being built, with an offer of ½ price deposit and $500 shipboard credit from the travel agency, we jumped on the deal. We booked an oceanview balcony stateroom on deck 9 port side—wishing for a family balcony or better but unwilling to pay the extra money. Cruising the “largest ship in the world” was a draw. The design of the ship was impressive and something we wanted to try. Along the way we almost cancelled—worrying about crowds, about the size of our stateroom, about coming off a magical Disney cruise and trying Royal Caribbean. We ultimately decided we’d never know until we tried. About a year away, we got the Royal Caribbean Visa Rewards card and was able to use the rewards to pay $150 down on the cruise, as well as receive an additional $300 shipboard credit, I’d highly recommend getting it if you’ve booked far in advance.
With so much onboard credit, I didn’t really want to have to pay for booking excursions in advance. However, there were two that the kids just couldn’t miss while in Nassau, so I went ahead and reserved them pre-cruise.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at about 12:30 & hardly had to wait in line at all. About 15 minutes after we arrived curbside, we were sitting in the Park Café enjoying the famous roast beef sandwiches. (Yes, they are as good as advertised, we ate lunch there 5 of the 7 days!) The kids preferred the Wipeout Café, with its assortment of Tacos, Pizza, Burgers, Hot Dogs, and one of my favorites, the pretzel dogs. After this I was anxious to get the other shore excursions that I wanted booked, so I headed to customer service. That was the first mistake. After standing in line there for about 10 minutes, I was told I had to go the Explorations desk—an unmarked clock tower in the middle of the Royal Promenade. So I head over and stand around for another 10 minutes, only to be told that the excursion I wanted for St. Thomas was already sold out. Grrr. I was able to book the one for St. Maarten though.
Our stateroom was ready by this time, so we went there to check it out. The balcony was smaller than Disney’s balcony stateroom. Otherwise there was tight, but ample room for the 4 of us. Other than a couple of windy days, you could scarcely feel movement on this ship—I missed that at bed time. We had towel animals all but the first night, as my daughter had come to expect them and our room steward, “Janie” enjoyed seeing her reaction each night. The in-room account information is not really a good system at all—it did not allow me to book shore excursions on that first day (after standing in line for so long I was told that their computers were down), and our account balance never showed our total onboard credit, just a bunch of purchases and then negatives as the balances were taken back off the account. Very confusing and I was completely unable to figure out how much credit we had left without visiting customer service, and after my first experience there, I really didn’t want to go back.
So off to the main dining room at 6:00. There was an enormous line out the door. We stood there for a while, then someone announced that if you had a table assignment, you were to go on into the dining room. We did not. Grrr. So we stood in the line for at least 20 minutes, being about 7 back from the front of the line, and it never moved. The lady in front of us said she had already been there an hour. Frustrated, we decided to go elsewhere to eat and then get a table assignment when it wasn’t dinner time. (As we were walking away I vaguely remembered reading that it should be one of the first things you check when you get your seapass card) Why they wouldn’t go ahead and assign tables was a mystery to me. So we grabbed pizza at Sorrento’s, explored a little more, then called it a night.
On Nassau, my daughter and I took the Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter excursion. It was fabulous! My daughter even got a special snow globe for her collection, which security later confiscated at the airport going home. (You CANNOT carry on a snow globe!) My son and husband greatly enjoyed the Segway tour, my 11 year old being such a natural at it that the guide let him ride his better model Segway. We enjoyed formal night in the dining room after hubby went down around 2:00 for a table assignment. The food was good—some things better than others.
On sea days, my son lived at the Flow rider, and my daughter at the carousel. She and I went to the ice skating show and Hairspray together, and enjoyed both. The entire family went to the Aqua theatre show and the Headliner show, which was Mosaic, an acapella group. Both were wonderful shows. I have to admit though, the two sea days back to back at the end of this cruise got monotonous. By then we had seen everything on the ship, the daily scheduled activities were typically the same both days, and most we weren’t interested in anyway. My kids went to the kids club several times and had fun, but wanted a bit more of unstructured play time instead of always having to participate in each activity. The boardwalk had a wonderfully talented face painter, but you better get there early because she can only paint so many faces in her two hour time frame, and if you get there too late, you’ll be turned away.
We enjoyed St. Maarten more than St. Thomas, even though the other shore excursion that we actually got booked ended up getting cancelled at departure time. We just shopped and went to the beach at both of these places.
The only specialty dining that we did was the Seafood Shack—I’d equate it to a limited menu Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The kids enjoyed corndogs on the boardwalk while hubby and I ate there. Again, it was just good, but nothing fabulous.
So our overall impression of the ship is that it is, in fact, very impressive. Other than on the first day, crowds were never a problem. The size is proportionate to the additional people onboard. And despite other reviews I had read, we never had a problem finding a table at the Windjammer. The pool area did get crowded on sea days, but we would just hit them early, then leave by lunch time. Hubby and I strolled through the solarium one evening, and it was a wonderful space, but we never visited during the day. Our family all agreed that we did like Disney a bit better, but all in all, we had a wonderful vacation.