It was out second cruise we had previously gone on Carnival Liberty and loved it so much we decided to get married on a cruise.
The Thursday before we left on the cruise we were offered an upgrade for $100 each to a Junior Suite. We jumped at it. We were not sad by this decision at all!
HOTEL: I like to get a big bang for my buck so we stayed at Sleep Inn in Dania. Sleep Inn provides free shuttles to and from both the cruiseport and the airport. It also has a complimentary breakfast which was decent. The hotel has a pool and hot tub and a fenced in pool area. Our group sat out there both nights we stayed. The hotel itself was reasonably priced if you book well in advance. The suites were roomy. Our king room on the main floor seemed a bit musty.
RENTAL CAR: Book way in advance! We landed in Tampa Airport and spent a few days in Florida first. So we rented a car at Dollar. We were really happy with our Ford Fusion - Sirus Satellite Radio, leather interior, only 300 miles... Dollar is located right outside the cruiseport and they have plenty of shuttles to bring you right inside. Someone met us right away to drop off the car and then we got right on a shuttle.
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION: Getting on the ship was super easy and fast. We decided to get off on our own and it was very fast.
Don't get off the ship when the ship docks at port. It's crazy!
The busiest time I experienced on the ship was the first day when no one had a room yet. The Windjammer also got pretty busy at breakfast time especially on Port days.
STATEROOM: Junior Suite with Ocean View Balcony - definitely a great upgrade. We had 8-10 people in our room before dinner each night and we ordered room service appetizers. There was plenty of room including a large walk-in closet which fit all of our clothes and suitcases nicely. The bathroom also had a tub!
SHOWS: We didn't make all of the shows. You really have to sign up way in advance online for the shows especially the comedy club unless you want to stand in line. The comedy club is super small. Even though they have 2-3 shows a night there is still a line up starting 45 minutes before and half of the people don't get in.
Hairspray was excellent! Even my husband liked it. The songs, costumes and dancing were fabulous.
Oasis of Dreams - sucked. Unfortunately, I just came back from Vegas and Cirque du Soleil "O" and had to compare the two. I would have thought that because the Aqua theatre was signature to RCL that they would have spent a lot more on this show. The costumes were simple and at no time was anyone in the show synchronized. The ship slowed right down to a crawl during the show and the dives from high up were heart stopping but they really need to put a lot more work into this show. Everything else on the ship was so elaborate (even the parade had super fantastic costumes) that I would expect the same from a show that has the ships name in the title. I didn't see it but I guess the comedy show at the Aqua theatre was quite good.
Frozen in Time - I loved this show. The costumes were great the skating was good, there was plenty of room for everyone (even those who didn't sign up in advance) and the stories were really fun. They had a guest during the show, who did sand art on a projector and it was truly amazing. She created a story with art that was jaw dropping.
Comedy - Lots of laughs - decent
Up in the air - a fun show, loved the plane - worth seeing
CRUISE DIRECTOR: Richard Spacey has so much energy! I don't know how he does it week after week. He is excellent. I don't much to compare to but from the reviews I've read his is probably the best around. He's funny and very in tune with his body..
ACTIVITIES: Zipline was fun and so was rock climbing. I had a wardrobe malfunction on the flow rider - wear a full bathing suit! The lines for the flow rider were decent. We waited an hour for the zipline and only about 15 min for the rock wall. We had a rain day and we spent it in the Schooner lounge playing card and every few hours they had trivia.
Johnny Rockets: My sister-in-law had a bad experience for breakfast a Johnny Rockets. But lunch there was fattening but delicious.
Main dining room: Food and service were really good but 2 hours for dinner is way too long.
Windjammer: Really busy at breakfast - always lot of choice. Enjoyed dinner there - just as good as dining room, more choice and only 30 min.
Giovannis: Excellent - worth the $15 - better to go with a group though as you'll get way more food. It's family style Italian. You can get a few appetizers and main courses to try.
Park Cafe: Didn't go there until the last day but wish I had discovered it before. Lunch was terrific. They make a salad for you with whatever you want in it - the paninis are terrific and I had a bite of the roast beef which was good but salty
Wipeout Cafe: Good for a fat filled lunch - everything was in the wrong order though
Solarium bistro: Good, healthy (not as tasty as other places but you get that with food that's not fried)
GROUP: As for being on a cruise with so many people it was a bit difficult to meet up and find each other so I'd suggest everyone bring walkie talkies.
I found it difficult to book group dinners before hand with RCL. You can't book tables more then 10 and 2 people weren't in our group so I wasn't allowed to book dinners from them online. I wasn't able to book all 28 of us in the dining room before the cruise but it was no problem when I got there.
For the wedding day I booked us in Giovanni's. They had said they weren't able to book more than 20 people at once so they made us book half at 5:30 and half at 6pm - and they made a huge deal about it. The restaurant had no problem when we all showed up at 5:30 - no one said a word. So if you are booking large groups for dinner and RCL is giving you a hard time - when you get on the ship it'll all be good.
PLACES ON THE SHIP:
SOLIRIUM: I thought that it would be super busy being the only adults only place but it wasn't too bad.
VIKING CROWN LOUNGE: a great place to go for big groups. Not too busy, not too loud, great service.
SALON: I got my hair and makeup done in the salon before the wedding. They did an excellent job. My cousin came in to take pictures and my hairdressers said she should put a few pins in her hair. She's a student and decided before the trip that she wasn't going to get her hair done she would do it herself. It took me 40 minutes to get my hair done and then I went on to makeup. He put a small bun in her hair and it took 10 minutes. He charged her the same as me ? We went back the next day to get her a refund but they made it really difficult and they wouldn't do it.. It was costly too... $86
WEDDING: The weddings the ship provided seemed expensive, short and unchangeable so I decided to find one myself. I picked St Thomas to get married in as they seemed to have the best wedding planners there. I used cruise critic boards to find my wedding planner - Leslie from Perfect weddings - there wasn't one think bad about her on the boards. I got a cruise package for 25+ people that included everything - decorations, transportation, food, drinks, photographer, videographer etc..
A good tip for getting married in the Caribbean is to look at bride's maid dresses. They are nice and light and easy to travel with. The men wore Hawaiian shirts and shorts. We got lots of compliments on their outfits! We all went bare foot!
We got married at Magen's Bay Beach in St. Thomas. The weather was beautiful, the water nice and warm. We had a pavilion, to block us from the sun and to eat under. It was perfect!
They brought my husband to the court house with the guests, then me with my parents and maid of honour. We did the ceremony, pics, cake cutting, champagne toast. Then we had a really nice lunch. We were going to do speeches after that but it was way too nice so everyone changed into their bathing suits and we hung out at the beach until it was time to leave.
We then had dinner at a specialty restaurant on the ship - Giovannis - dinner was only $15 a person and we also bought wine. We did speeches throughout dinner.
I made up a gift bag for every couple coming with us and they we a hit!! I put everything I could think of in them - bandaids, wet wipes, razor, body sponge (puff), body wash, pens, highlighter (every night they give you a schedule for the next day so you can highlight what you want to do), lanyard (guest services can punch a hole in your card and wear it around your neck), chap stick, hand sanitizer, sticky paper, and much more - most of this stuff can be bought at the dollar store. The bags I used I got for $3 - they were colourful bags that fold up and go in your purse but they had big handles - most people were using them as a beach bag. I made luggage tags for every person with my laminator. I gave everyone a welcome letter with all of the activities for the week and a list of everyones room numbers.
OTHERS: Don't buy souvenirs on ship till last 2 days... things go on sale!
SMOKING! There is smoking in most of the clubs. It was disappointing.
Oasis of the Seas was a fabulous ship - I would recommend it to anyone. I found the service equal to Carnival but the ship is amazing.
The beach was busy but not crazy.
There were changerooms and a little souvenir shop.
Magen's Bay was very nice but don't quite get it being top 10 in the world.