My boyfriend and I cruised on Royal Caribbean for the very first time in 2010 on the Freedom of the Seas traveling the Eastern Caribbean. We loved it so much, we wanted to experience the Western Caribbean side on the larger ship - Oasis of the Seas.
We booked our cruise through Royal Caribbean and our cruise agent took good care of us. He helped us make many decisions that helped to make our cruise experience on Oasis of the Seas a greater experience. First of all, when booking on Oasis, it is important to make sure you select the stateroom that best suits your needs. My boyfriend didn't want to experience turbulence or the feeling of seasickness, so we requested a room in the middle of the ship, mid ship level. Our agent recommended room 6668 on the 6th floor. We also were very particular about having a balcony. When we sailed Freedom, we had an interior room and it was nice, but dark. Not necessarily a place you want to spend much time. So we were willing to spend a bit more to get the balcony so that we could spend some quality private time throughout the trip on our own private balcony. And it so was worth it. Take my advice and spend the extra money for the balcony. You won't regret it. We had the option to purchase an Oceanview balcony, Central Park balcony or Boardwalk balcony. We personally like privacy and the view of the ocean so we went with the Oceanview Balcony. Good thing we did because when we got on the ship the Central Park balconies and the Boardwalk balconies were very public versus private and not something we would have been happy with. The agent also assisted us with booking the flights - however, just to be safe we made sure better options were not available online. We found the best prices and the agent took care of the final details.
As for gratuities, last year we paid upfront. We found that this was not the best idea because you did not get to choose who received what portion of your gratuity. It was evenly distributed. This year we elected to pay the gratuities at the end of the trip to ensure the proper persons were recognized for great service.
I highly recommend you book the transfer busing that takes you from the airport to the boat and back. It cost 30 per person. This makes things VERY convenient.
We booked Oasis of the Seas - Western Caribbean. Destinations included Labadee,Haiti; Falmouth,Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico. We arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport on April 30th and easily found our way to the transfer station. We were greated by Royal Caribbean transfer agents that helped us with our luggage onto the bus. The transfer was a bit hectic as there were buses awaiting various cruise lines and hundreds of passengers for each. Nonetheless, we arrived at the dock within 45 minutes of arriving at the airport.
We initially thought boarding the Oasis was going to be chaotic due to the volume of passengers (over 5000). However, it was a seemless process that took literally 10 minutes. We were on the boat around 1pm. This process was almost an hour faster than the Freedom and that boat had half the passengers. Upon boarding we got our photo id's and had our onboarding pics taken.
Rooms: Our room was everything we expected. It was beautiful and the balcony was breathtaking. The set up of the room was pretty standard. The bathrooms were small, as on many ships, but the shower seemed to be a little more spacious than we remembered. The only negative was the outlets that were under the vanity and a bit hard to reach. Otherwise, the room was great. The best part about our room was that we were LITERALLY right next to the elevator. Not only that, most activities and places that we would spend most of our time were on floors 4 through 8. Our room was smack dab int he midst of all this.
Food: The food on the ship was great. When we were on the Freedom, we spend a lot of time eating at the Windjammer because it was convenient and had a lot of options. However, on the Oasis, we spent very little time eating at the Windjammer. Yes, it was still convenient, but we found many hidden little treasures on the Oasis that provided for a great dining experience. Our favorite place to eat breakfast was on the balcony of our own room by ordering room service. The windjammer was the second place we frequented most for breakfast due to the variety of options. We spend many afternoons eating at the Park Place Cafe where you can get salads, fruits, and many specialty sandwiches to include the infamous Roast Beef which my boyfriend LOVED. As well as the, Tuna Melt Panini's which I LOVED. It was quick and delicious and NEVER a crowd. Another favorite lunch spot was the Seafood Shack where they had the best fried SCALLOPS I ever ate. There is a small charge for the Seafood Shack; however, if you love seafood it's a must try. For dinner, we dined in the Opus Dining Room on floor 3. We had a table of 6 and met some amazing people that we keep in touch with even today. The food at the Opus Dining Room was splendid. They had something for everyone. I am more adventurous with food than my boyfriend but even he was able to find items that he loved each night. The Surf and Turf night was my favorite. Our table guests raved nightly about the Tiramisu! Our head waiter - Ian, was great. The others were just OK. We made sure to tip Ian graciously. We also tried a couple specialty dining options. One night we dined at CHOPS with friends. My boyfriend and I had Filet Mignon and it was to die for. Very well prepared and GREAT service. The restaurant provided family style accompanying sides so we got to try many side dishes. The desserts were very eye appealing as well as tasty. The creme brulee was good but the Red Velvet Cheesecake was amazing. We also at a Giovanni's Table. This was the Italian dining option. I really enjoyed the italian style dining and the flavors but my boyfriend was disappointed. The restaurant had very little on the menu that he was willing to try. It's not like a typical Olive Garden menu by more specialty plating true to italian food. Both specialty restaurants had a small fee. Chops was $25 per person and Giovanni's was $15 per person. The service was impeccable at both restaurants. Other places to try for snacks - the Donut Shop - tasty free treats, and the Cupcake Cupboard (small fee). We heard raving reviews and had to try the cupcakes. They were good, but not great.
In Labadee, my boyfriend booked the Zipline which is the longest zipline over water in the world. This was one of the reasons we booked this particular cruise to Western Caribbean. The day of the labadee port, it was a bit rainy and windy out. Not the most pleasant weather. It got so windy that they lowered the weight limit on the zipline. My boyfriend is 6ft 5 and quite thin, but he was over the new limit. An hour later they said the winds were so high they were cancelling all the ziplines for the rest of the day. Had we been there one hour earlier he would have been able to participate. He had his money refunded. The beach at labadee was beautiful and we took some great pictures. Had the day been sunnier, we would have enjoyed it more. This is a great excursion if the winds are not high.
In Falmouth Jamaice, we booked the Dunns River Falls excursion. I had heard so many great reviews about this that we HAD to do it. It was cost effective and so much fun. We boarded a bus that took us on a 45min ride to Dunns River Falls. We had a guide on the bus who reviewed landmarks and the history of Jamaica along the way. This excursion requires water shoes. Rather than pay $6 in Jamaica and risk not getting a pair that fits, buy them before you leave. They can be found reasonably at Walmart and Target. Once there we were escorted up the falls by a tour guide in groups. It was not overly physical but you had to be careful because it was slippery. All the way up the fall a cameraman followed the group and video taped the adventure. They also took pictures. You could purchase the video for $40. We decided to purchase the video and we are glad that we did. It was an amazing experience and we highly recommend it. You will however, go through a walkway ont he way back to the bus where you will be hounded to purchase items. Everyone in Jamaica also is very expressive about tipping. The tour guide, cameraman, and bus driver all follow you back to the bus awaiting their tips. They are well deserved tips but a bit uncomfortable nonetheless.
In Cozumel Mexico, we booked the Dolphin Push, Pull and Swim. This was our favorite excursion. We recommend buying a water camera cause the pictures here are expensive to buy. Water cameras run about 20 dollars. They take professional pictures of each interaction with the dolphins that you can buy at the end. We had the opportunity to pet the dolphin, swim with the dolphin and be pushed on a boogie board by a dolphin. At the end of the swim, we also got to swim with a Manatee and baby sharks. At the end of our excursion it started to downpour. We were lucky because it was beautiful throughout the excursion. We had lunch at a local outdoor restaurant in cozumel. The food was ok. As I mentioned the pictures here are expensive. It is $25 per picture or you could buy a disk for $100 per person. Nonetheless, we loved this excursion and would highly recommend it to anyone even families with smaller children.
I highly recommend booking your entertainment in advance as recommended by Royal Caribbean for the Oasis of the Seas. We were able to see every show that we prebooked. If you don't prebook, it is likely you will not be able to attend the viewing of your choice. My favorite shows were in the Aqua Theatre. The divers and entertainers were world class olympians and entertainers from all over the world. The comedy shows and the comedy headliner show was funny but not gut busting. I've seen better comedians in Pittsburgh. But it was definitely entertaining and well worth the time to go. We highly recommend getting involved in the activities on the ship to include the "Quest" show (which we WON!!!), the Love and Marriage Show, the Battle of the Sexes - just to name a few. My boyfriend spent a lot of time int eh Casino in the later evening hours playing poker. This boat has a huge casino but not as many people playing poker as he had hoped for. He won a final seat int he Poker Tourney where they were giving away a free cruise on the Allure of the Seas in December to the winner; however, they were six players short to give out the cruise. They ended up playing for cash and he was the overall winner :)
The spa is quite expensive but I was able to get a discounted spa service by booking the "HAPPY HOUR" massage the day we were at port in Jamaica. If you book a happy hour massage, you get a 1 hr massage for $99. I was able to upgrade to $119 and get a Hot Stone Massage. This was a great deal and I enjoyed the massage. My only criticism is that they made an error in my billing. She added more to the tip than I gave and I definitely tipped graciously. This was the only billing error on the entire cruise.
Other recommended activities on the ship:
The zipline on the ship was fun. I cried for about an hour before doing it, but in the end I conquered my fear and it was fun.
We never tried the flowriders because they looked like it could be a painful fall, but a friend of ours swore by it and said it was such a thrill to try it.
This ship has many professional photographers that document your time and fun throughout the cruise. We had so many pictures taken that we decided to purchase the CD package which was 299 for ALL rights to EVERY picture taken on the cruise. We ended up with 89 professional pictures that we could have printed at our leisure. Otherwise, it costs $20 per 8x10 picture. They have a gallery where your pics are displayed and stored throughout the week for your viewing as well as an electronic kiosk to view your pics daily.
Departure was as easy as boarding. We did early departure which is at 6am to ensure you get to the airport in time for your flight. You basically depart the ship with your bags and board the bus to transfer back to the airport. We grabbed breakfast in the Windjammer before departing and we were on our way. This is the saddest time of the trip...and the hardest to leave. We got to the airport and couldn't remember our flight number and what airline because it was different from the trip to. We finally reached Royal Caribbean and an agent verified the correct info. The only negative piece here was that our flight didn't leave until 1:30pm and you could not check your bags at the airport until 3hrs before your flight. Therefore, we had to wait there with our bags from 8am till almost 10:30am. So you definitely want to verify this upfront.
I know this is long, but I hope you find this information helpful in your planning of your cruise. This was a great experience for us on an amazing ship. We loved the Oasis of the Seas. We now have visited both Eastern and Western Caribbean. We are open to recommendations for our next cruise. Thinking Alaska at this point.