This was my third cruise. My first was 7 years ago on Celebrity from Ft. Lauderdale, the second was less than a year ago on Carnival out of Galveston and this one was Oasis from Ft. Lauderdale. Our flight and hotel arrangements were not booked through RC. We flew from Tulsa to Ft. Lauderdale the day before we cruised on Southwest. I've decided I'm not a big fan of Southwest boarding (chose your own seats) because delays are so common now and if you're late getting on the plane things can be pretty hectic. Otherwise it was an easy and uneventful flight into Ft. Lauderdale. We were able to get a rental car and drive around a bit. We stayed at the Hampton Inn - Cruise Port/Airport which provided free shuttles to/from the airport and cruise port. They were very accommodating and we had no problem catching shuttles when we needed them.
Embarkation was as easy as I've read here regarding Oasis. It took 15 minutes from entry to boarding the ship and that included getting a security bracelet for my six year old daughter. Our shuttle picked us up at the hotel at 11am and my 11:30am we were exploring the beautiful Oasis of the Seas. I'm sure a lot of this will be redundant but this ship is amazing! PIctures and videos do not do her justice. When we first saw her from a distance, she didn't seem that big but the closer we got the more we realized this is not an ordinary cruise ship! The Royal Promenade is amazing and at first it seemed that maybe the ship would be over crowded. Don't let that first entry fool you. People tend to get on the ship and stop with jaw dropped in the Promenade and it gets a little congested, but continue strolling past and the crowd thins out significantly. We looked around for a bit and then caught some lunch in the Windjammer. I know that's a no-no, but the Park Cafe had a huge line. Word about those roast beef sandwiches has gotten out! The Windjammer was fairly typical of the main cafeteria areas on the other boats we've been on as far as being crowded goes. It was so packed that we had to take our plates out on the deck to eat (darn having to sit in the sunshine and breeze atop this amazing ship!). The food was far better than what we had on Carnival in the cafeteria area but not nearly was well done as that on Celebrity. However, I DO like the circular set up in the Windjammer on Oasis. It does seem a little chaotic but I prefer that style over the straight line. I feel like there's more freedom to grab what you want and not feel "in the way" so much.
At 1pm as promised our room was available. We had 11254 - a Grand Suite that was a few doors down from the elevators, Library and Concierge Lounge. We had a WONDERFUL location. The 11th deck is quiet - never heard noise from any of the public areas - and has easy access to the Concierge Lounge. This was our first time having that benefit and it was SO worth it! We were able to grab lunch, light breakfast items, coffee, soda - any time we wanted - in a nice, non-crowed environment that looked down over the Boardwalk area and the Aqua Theater. Our room was fantastic as well. Our balcony was very nice sized with two loungers, two regular chairs and tables. We were up high enough that our plexiglass stayed nice and clean and we could see easily through it. We felt like we had adequate outlets. There were two on the dresser by the main bed, one by the fold out couch and one tucked near the dining counter. There was almost too much storage space if you can imagine! We had a hard time remembering where we'd put things. The bathroom was huge for a cruise ship and the shower/tub was more than adequate. One thing I did miss was that the tub was not a whirlpool style tub - but then again, I really never had time to actually sit in the tub.
Activity wise, we didn't engage a lot in the big things like the zip line or climbing wall. Nor did we ice skate. We did attend the parades and had a great view of the flash mob. And do NOT miss the last night's surprise in the Royal Promenade! Be sure and get there early and find a good spot. Try to locate yourself opposite the side with the Irish Pub if you can .. I'll not say any more.
As for entertainment, we saw Frozen in Time - DO NOT MISS THIS! It was very well done! We also saw Mosaic - a headliner - and they were phenomenal! We were real losers about the other shows and missed them due to other activities we were interested in, but I heard nothing but great comments regarding all the shows on board. We did watch some of the divers rehearse for the Aqua Theater show and that alone was breath-taking. And of course anything involving the cruise director was hysterical and wonderful. He did a great job! The neatest discovery was a cool little Jazz quartet that stole us away from many of the bigger shows - loved them!
Food - this should be a review all it's own for this ship! As I've said, the Windjammer is pretty typical. Nothing spectacular but nothing to complain about either. My six year old loved going there. We only ate there two times after the first visit and those were at odd times. Sorrentos came in very handy when needing to grab a quick bite. The pizza seemed typical once again of cruise ship pizza, not great but very much fit the bill for a quick bite. We did finally get in to the Park Cafe for a snack the last afternoon and had the roast beef sandwiches that everyone raves about. They are really good! I'm not sure I'd stand in line again for one, however, and the place was ALWAYS swamped. Our second day on board we caught lunch at Izumi's by reservation and it was fantastic! We have a great sushi place where we live, but it doesn't come close to Izumi's. The seafood was SO fresh and the flavor combinations were amazing! We got spicy shrimp tempura roll, some kind of seared tuna/shrimp roll and california roll and they were fantastic! The service was amazing as well and later in the week when I called for dinner reservations, our server answered and knew our names immediately. The service there was some of the best I've ever experienced anywhere. We also had reservations for dinner at Giovanni's Table. We really enjoyed that meal as well, and again, the service was excellent. The food was amazing and the atmosphere is to die for. It's one of the many places where you quickly forget you're on a ship. Our favorite dining experience by far was 150 Central Park. I ate there with my 15 year old son. I did the wine pairing and would go back tomorrow, even knowing the menu would be the same. The flavor combinations, the knowledge of the server, the personalized service - incredible! We wish we'd booked the Chef's table too! Our one big disappointment was Chops. I'd read mixed reviews and now I understand why. We got pretty shoddy service - it seemed like the wait staff was way over stretched - and our food was just average. I probably would not opt to go back to Chops after our experience. We did My Time Dining for the main dining room and my biggest fear is that we'd lose the feeling of personalized service from not having the same staff every night. Turns out we had the same staff for two of three meals but it would not have mattered. The service was excellent - MUCH better than that on Carnival and equal to that on Celebrity. The food was very good - obviously mass produced, so there are limitations, but nothing to complain about what so ever. And as always, my kids were treated like royalty.
The ports of call were interesting. This was my first time in Labadee and I loved it! It felt safe. And with concierge privileges, we were able to reserve a cabana on barefoot beach and have lots of privacy and enjoy an amazing day at the beach. Lunch was a good BBQ spread and it was the most relaxed excursion I've ever done. We never entered an area where we were pressured to buy anything. We did have one big issue with shore excursions, however. We had booked parasailing for my son and I for the afternoon with the intent of taking my daughter back to the ship to go to the kids program since she was too young to participate. I did a lot of research trying to find the right time for the excursion and to line it up with her group activities. We got back on the boat to discover that the kids were actually on shore for the day and there was no way to take her to the group activity. Twice the first night on the boat and twice the second day I'd inquired with the kids staff about availability and they'd each time told me "port days they can come and go at any time from the time we get to port until 5pm - no restrictions - we feed them lunch and dinner at no charge as well." Turns out that wasn't the case for Labadee so no excursion and no refund. It was disappointing to say the least, but we took advantage of time on the ship and it worked out fine.
We opted to stay on board in Jamaica. We had an interesting offer from our cabin attendant and his "friend" who said they knew someone in Jamaica who could drive us around for the day for $100. I was not willing to take the risk though it sounded interesting. I'm very curious to know what the cruise line would think about that if they knew...
In Cozumel, we booked the semi-sub excursion and really enjoyed it. It was a great way for my daughter to see the sea life and coral without trying to snorkel. Later we opted to shop just in the port area and had a good, relaxing afternoon.
Getting on and off the ship at ports was super easy.
Shopping on the ship was a blast with all the shops available. I even got a good deal on a new camera. And of course brought back the standard tax/duty free liquor.
To compare Oasis to the other cruises we've been on, I remember Celebrity Century being a great ship. It seemed a little on the stuffy side, but the food was amazing as was the service. Carnival was a big disappointment. We sailed on Ecstasy and it seemed like an older, smaller, cheap ship. Most cruisers on Carnival seemed to be from Texas so it didn't have the international feel we got from Century or Oasis, and the food was several steps down in all venues. However, Oasis out did both previous cruises in a number of ways. First and foremost, the service was amazing! I've never been treated so well by so many different staff members! Second, the food was fantastic! There was never a time when I chose not to eat something because "it just isn't any good". Third, the entertainment seemed to be eons above everything we saw on the other two ships.
For us, Oasis' size was a great attribute. We saw a majority of the ship, but didn't do everything to be done by a long shot and despite our best efforts. We left ready to be home but wanting more from this amazing ship - and we WILL be back! It's true what has been said - the ship IS the destination and the ports are a sideline. If you're not big on ships and the cruising aspect, maybe Oasis is not for you, but if you love to cruise for the sake of cruising do not miss Oasis! You won't be disappointed!
Extras that made a difference - Grand Suite for concierge services. Valet services that transport your luggage to the airport - you say bye to your bags the night before you port and say hello at your home airport - greatest service ever! Specialty restaurants - wonderful and well worth the money for the most part.