Some background on me: I'm 30, have been to 21 countries, 1 previous cruise on DCL (and loved it), and I have a 7 year old son who did not come with me on this cruise. I came alone and joined a 2 other couples. We were a group of 5 for basically dinner only. Basically, I cruised single.
I flew in on Friday for a Saturday embarkation to Ft Lauderdale. FLL seems tired and inefficient. I stayed at an awesome privately owned hotel—the Alhambra Beach Hotel. It's reviewed very well on Tripadvisor. My experience mirrored all the good reviews. It's a great little place. 50 feet to your left had you on the beach; 80 feet to your right had you getting on a water taxi on the intercoastal hwy. It was convenient. More importantly, it had everything you need for a great price point. They even had baskets of sunscreen and welcomed you to use whatever you needed at the pool. They had chairs to take to the beach as well as towels. There were no fees. The hotel was right beside a great restaurant as well. I had a great pre-cruise day.
We embarked around 11:30 Saturday. RCCL has that down well. It was super-quick. When we went it, you could not go to your room yet so we didn't. They even had the hallways closed off. So we went upstairs and ate in their buffet—my favorite restaurant basically as I was not impressed with the main dining room. I booked an inside cabin as it was just me. It was very small but well-appointed. There was no wear and tear I could see. Aside from its smallness (which I chose!) I was pleased with my room.
The greatest benefit to pulling 6000 paying customers on one giant flotilla was the caliber of the shows. The Oasis of the Seas has fantastic shows. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cirque-style show "Come Fly with Me". It was very cool. The talent was shocking—it's a cruise ship! And yet the shows were done so well with such talented people. Oasis of Dreams--the aqua theater show—had a mix of high diving, synchronized swimming, trapeze artistry, trampoline work, and a beautiful score. The aqua theater also has a fountain show. Very cool. The ice skating show on this ship was based on classic fairy tales. The skating was superb. They also featured a sand artist in this show. I also saw Hairspray. It was the original Las Vegas version. It was excellent. I went to a Q&A session at the main theater and they were very talented people. The entertainment on that level was exceptional for land, much less at sea. I want to also mention that the cruise director, Richard Spacey, was great. Very funny.
They also had a lot of activities. 2 Flow riders: one for surfing and another for boogie boarding. There is a huge sports deck, a tiny mini golf and 5 pools. Yes, 5, but some of the spas were as big as the pools... don't let that mislead you. There is 1 pool with cool fountains in the adults-only area forward on deck 15. There are 2 midship and 2 behind those. 3 are for anybody and the 5th is a conglomeration of kid splash areas. On this massive ship, however, they forgot something as basic as a slide. There is also a really short zip line. You have to do it, but after you do you are left with the sensation that all the effort to get suited up and ready isn't worth a 12 second run. It's a whole lot of build up for little reward. The 2 coolest water areas for me were the cantilevered spas hanging off the sides. I spent a lot of the cruise in these spas and in the Solarium pool. The jogging track on deck 5—instead of enjoying the exercise while admiring the ocean, you get to admire the lifeboats or basically what look like submarines. You see nothing of the outside unless you are all the way aft. It's a pretty disappointing jogging track. There are nice chairs at the back to sit and read. The gym is nice—with the expected views of the ocean. The windows are not floor to ceiling. They are large portholes. Yes, they went classic nautical...in the gym.
Spa—the salon and spa competence was high. I waited until they had specials and got 5 services for 75 minutes for $129. I also had my hair cut. They did a great job all around. The spa suites do not have views nor do they have balconies to the outdoors. Everything is enclosed and internal except the gym.
Dining--There is one main dining room on 3 decks, fully aft. I don't think it is the servers' fault, but the service is lacking. RCCL has lots of fees—they want you to eat at the fee restaurants. And so they cut costs in the main dining room—I think to fund their shows and activities they had to cut somewhere. It's incredibly hard to feed lots of people in the main dining room. First off, some tables are always empty as the diners utilize the for fee places and how can they plan if some waiters have TOO many guests and others few? 2nd, the food is subpar. Fine dining, it's not. 3rd, with so many people, your servers don't really learn what you like. The attention to detail isn't there. It was not a treat to dine. There were long lulls in the dining. I found myself suffering through dinner to go off and eat elsewhere. We ate at Chops one night and the steak was nice. But the service was not anything better than at your local dinner place at home. Chops is $25 a head a meal. For 4 of you, that's $100. Cruises are considered affordable because the food part is supposed to be covered. Other meals are $35 or $20 at the various restaurants on the ship. Foodies won't be happy on this ship. I also ate at Vintages which was really nice—great wine list and good tapas. It sits off Central Park. But it's a la carte. They also on RCCL charge for soda. Ready to drop $60 to drink soda? You have to buy a soda package. Otherwise at dinner you are drinking water, lemonade, or tea (and the litter two are not made nor brewed, respectively, as they are powder mixes). I did find the mixed drinks quite good. Unfortunately 2 of the bars are right off the Shopping, I mean, Royal Promenade. And your view is of: the stores and shoppers, and "$10 Sale" signs. Drink enough and you won't realize you're on a ship in the Caribbean. The best complimentary meal in town (but only open 11a-6p) was at Park Cafe. You can get great salads, a fresh cut roast beef sandwich, and terrific soups.
Boardwalk-aft deck 6. I don't get it. It's a cool idea but you need to do something there. They stuck a carrousel there, a couple kid stores, and 2 for fee restaurants. It's by the aqua theater. Oh and the rock walls I forgot to mention. But after you visit it once—it's kind of a place you don't keep returning to.
Central Park—Deck 8. I loved Central Park. It had a lot of plants and great food at Park Cafe. It was after dark though picture taking mayhem. You couldn't walk through it without being stuck in someone's portrait. The ship's photographers just lined them up there—no path was clear.
Royal Promenade—home of guest services, a "cafe", a pizza place, a jewelry store, a RCCL store, a designer stuff store, another designer stuff/ jewelry/ handbag store, the camera store, the photo center place, a bar, a sports bar, and another Latin bar. Plus the Explorations excursions desk and multiple shopping kiosks for whatever they were featuring. $10 sales, watch sales, etc.
Solarium—really nice area with a fountain pool and spas. The cantilevered spas were near here. And there was a nice bar and the Solarium Bistro here. There's a glass canopy and "rivers" dividing the deck. Decks 15 and 16 forward—so great views.
Ports—The Western itinerary is limited by the girth and length of the Oasis.
Labadee, Haiti: I have to question RCCL here. Other lines have stunning private islands. So RCCL got in the game and got a chunk of Haiti. And then charges you a fee to use almost everything except the beach. But "to help the local economy" they've invited the local Haitians in (who are desperate economically) to get your chair for you at the beach and they expect a tip. They're tip collection hats and jars are out in front as they play music. Their hands are out to get you a chair, to find you a spot on the beach, etc. They stroll along the dining pavilions and walk around collecting money for playing for you while you ate lunch and try to hawk their cd's. Why do RCCL's customers put up with this? I'm not against growing Haiti's economy—but this isn't the way. RCCL first built a fence around Labadee to keep the locals out and then invited a few in. There is one market with prices. And a Haitian in there told me to watch my money on Labadee. No where felt safe. I spent money on an all day locker. There is also a very intense haggling market that to get to certain areas you have to pass through. They are VERY aggressive. And this is RCCL's private getaway? The beaches had cigarettes all over. And trash. And it's an awful shame. The surrounding area was stunningly beautiful. And I went on 2 excursions here (and I'm glad, else I would not have good memories). They built the world's longest zip line over water. It was fantastic. That excursion is good value for money. You get a practice short zip line and then you ride on vehicles up to the top of a small mountain to get to the long zip line. So you get 2 zip line rides. It was really fun and they are super safe. They also have a water park (for a fee) and float mats (for a fee). You can't snorkel here. Staff informed me that the locals have overfished it so there aren't many fish in the area. I also did the wave jet runner excursion. I had only ever done it on the lake before, but this was a lot of fun. Our guide was fantastic and you get to see the reef where Christopher Columbus wrecked his ships. We had nice equipment.
Falmouth, Jamaica: I wish we'd gone to Ochos Rios. I had things I wanted to see there. Falmouth might be a nice place in 10 years. For now, most of their historical sights are either in disrepair or they look nothing like they did. Falmouth reminded me of various towns in Mexico. But the city centre wasn't developed nor recovered enough for middle class tourists to wander out. And most didn't wander out except to go on excursions or to take the free bus to go... shopping! I went on Chukka's River Tubing Safari. It was great and I recommend Chukka. But I regret that both Ochos Rios and Montego Bay are an hour each away. And that you can't explore much unless you are on an excursion. RCCL saw $ there.
Cozumel, Mexico: Great port—our giant ship got stuck on the most inconvenient pier of course. But I've always liked Cozumel because I dive. This cruise, however, I did not get off.
I was looking for a place to meet people and enjoy myself. I wanted to go to a cooking class or see the inner workings of the ship. I adore history and loved the classic golden age of travel. The ship is so massively large, that the likeliness of you meeting some of the same people in secession and getting to know them is really slim. I did get to make some jewelry and I did get to see the backstage of the theatre, but I was disappointed with the activities on board as they were simply not to my taste, but they may be to yours. The trivia sessions even had a minimum of 2 people required! The ship is contemporary with lots of laminate paneling, chrome and glass. And odd contemporary art. I love art, but I did not enjoy most of the art on Oasis. The ship didn't feel nautical to me at all. I like a deck to walk to see the ocean—the jogging trail failed me. But if you have a family or large group that will move and do activities together on the ship, Oasis could really work for you, it's made for groups. Tweens and teens will love all the activity and I can see the grandparents hiding in some quieter areas. The shows are outstanding and the highlight of my trip. I wasn't very impressed with the areas for the littler ones, but that's just my impression. The dining was super lackluster and a good meal costs money. Though again, I'm not sure about the service.
I see the allure of Oasis (ha ha). But its size was for me a detriment. And the truth is it wasn't for me. So read everyone's reviews and decide if what Oasis offers fits you and your wants.