I got off the Oasis of the Seas Saturday after a weeklong Eastern Caribbean Cruise. All I have to say is, wow! Everything that was said about how big, nice and new the boat is was true. I spent a lot of time reading reviews in the year leading up to my cruise, so I will try to expand on some things that I learned over the past week.
Embarkation – this was as fast as everyone said it was. Our ticket told us to arrive at the pier no earlier than 2 PM. We got there around 11:30 and within 10 minutes we were on the boat. I’m glad we had this extra time to eat and explore while the boat was relatively uncrowded.
Speaking of crowded, the boat was close to capacity during the week, but it never seemed too crowded. We always found a good seat by the pool or a seat at the Windjammer without much effort. The Park Café did fill up a bit around lunchtime, but if you weren’t trying to sit inside the café, you could grab food and go.
Many people had talked about how the ship was too big and they couldn’t or didn’t make their way around the entire boat. This was definitely not a problem for me. The boat is big but is divided into neighborhoods which are easy to navigate.
My wife and I had a ocean facing balcony cabin on the 12th floor. The cabin was to be expected, nice and small. The balcony was a good size, enough for a small table and 2 chairs and the view was great!
Shows – We saw almost all of them: Oasis of Dreams (Aqua Show), Come Fly With Me, Hairspray, Comedy Show, Ice Show, Splish Splash and the Headliner Show. We made almost all show reservations online beforehand, but the standby line was never too long and it appeared that everyone who wanted to get in did. The Aqua Show and Come Fly With Me were our two favorites. Lots of acrobatics and special effects and never a dull moment. We are not that into musicals, so we left Hairspray about half way through, but it seemed to be very well done. The Comedy Show, Headliner Show and Ice Show were all good. Splish Splash was the ‘comedy’ dive show, which had good diving moves, but lacked any real sense of humor or storyline. We were told there was a new crew of divers on the boat this week, so it may improve over time.
Food – We ate almost everywhere, and all the food was great. I thought the quality of the food in the main dining room was good. Chops was one of the best meals I ever had on a boat or otherwise (get the onion rings), and the lasagna at Giovannies? was awesome. Like others have said, the Giovannies menu for lunch and dinner is the same, but it’s much less expensive for lunch. Johnny Rockets was good for breakfast (like a classic diner), but had limited healthy options. For breakfast, the Solarium was tasty and had many healthy options, but the Windjammer and main dining room buffet had most of the same stuff. The Room Service breakfast was not very good and had a very limited menu, we only did that one day and I would stay away from it if I could. We also tried Izumi, the sushi restaurant. It was good, but they charge a flat cover charge plus a per-item cost. It seemed a little excessive, but they had the ‘hot rock’ cooking where you cooked meat on a stone at your table. It also had a great view if you go near sunset time. Sorrento’s Pizza was good, nothing spectacular, but it was definitely tasty and open late. The Promenade Café was open 24/7 and had a rotating variety of sandwiches and deserts, some were better than others.
I’m a big coffee drinker and it seemed like they had Seattle’s Best Coffee at every venue, which was a little strong (not as strong as Starbucks), but good. They did have a coffee shop on the Promenade, which made all the standard coffee drinks, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay for something that I could get for free. I did stop by the Donut Shop on several occasions, and the donuts were along the consistency of Dunkin Donuts, but a little doughier, with thicker frosting.
Daytime Onboard Activities – We spent the majority of days by the pool. The cantilevered hot tubs were very cool and it was great to have that perspective of the ship. The bar staff was always around and hocking the specialty drinks, but it never seemed excessive. There was lots of shady or sunny spots to sit in, depending on your preference, and the calypso band was great and had music pumping throughout the speakers on the pool deck. We only ventured to the Solarium a few times, but it’s definitely warmer in that area. There is glass covering some of the Solarium, the remainder is relatively opened, but it seemed that the glass prevented most of the breeze from coming in to cool things down. We did have one rainy/cloudy day where the glass covering the solarium was a benefit. We did a couples massage and my wife got a manicure/pedicure. The treatments were good, not great and expensive.
Evening Onboard Activities - We spent many nights in the casino at the blackjack tables. It was easy (maybe a little too easy) to take money off your Sea Pass card to gamble with. They charge you $1.50 per every $50 you take off….so bring cash if you want to save a few bucks. We stopped into Blaze (the night club) and Dazzles (a live band club) a few nights but never stayed for long. On 2 nights they turned the upstairs of the Solarium into a night club with a live DJ, which was great. The Rising Tide Bar is very cool and is great for a drink. If you don’t mind smoke, they turn part of the private outdoor deck (I think it was for Diamond+ members) into the cigar bar every night from 7 until 1 AM. It was a great outdoor spot with lounge seats and a nice view. I would highly recommend it. They also have cigars you can purchase there, which weren’t too expensive.
Speaking of expensive, the shops onboard were more expensive than the ports. Lots of people would think this is obvious, but the jewelry store staff was persistent that their prices couldn’t be beat and they would match any price you got on the islands. We shopped around and saved a few hundred dollars by buying watches and alcohol off the ship. The Cruise Director was hilarious and his staff was great. They definitely made for a lot of great comedy and activities.
Ports – Nassau was a quick day, I think we docked around 9 and had to be back on the boat by 1:30. We did a stingray snorkeling excursion that was fun, but didn’t leave much time for anything else. St. Thomas was nice too. Once off the boat you need to hop into these shady dozen person open-air taxis to get to the downtown and shopping. It only costs $4 per person, but some of the drivers were a little over aggressive. We did some quick shopping downtown and then did the Mini-Boat Snorkeling Adventure. The boat rides were fun but we didn’t see many fish on our snorkeling trip. Plus the ride to and from the excursion was a good 45 minutes each way. The good thing we learned about St. Thomas was that apparently customs allows double the amount of alcohol, tobacco and merchandise for purchase before duty, as compared to the other islands. St. Marten was the best port. Once on pier, you board a water-taxi to take you to the downtown part of the island. There was tons of free beach space that was just a few feet from the dock. Also, the deals on alcohol and jewelry were the best of any of the ports. It’s definitely worth it to hold out if you know you have some things to purchase.
Disembarkation – was smooth and easy. We chose to carry our own luggage off. We had from 6:30-7:30 AM to exit the ship. We got some breakfast and walked off exactly at 7:30. We were out of customs about 10 minutes later, quick and easy. It did seem like there were little activities planned on the last night. I know some people go to bed early, but there were no evening shows or anything really going on past 9 p.m.-- one of the only negatives on our trip.
In all, it was a great cruise on a great ship. The ship was sparkling clean with people constantly cleaning and supervisors always around for quality control. It definitely seems that Royal Caribbean’s quality control keeps everything in check. We are already looking to book another week on Allure next year for the Western Caribbean. Happy Sailing.