After 22 cruises, a person sometimes feels that they've done or seen everything that a cruise ship would have to offer. Still, being that this was our first cruise on a Ginormous of the Seas class ship, we knew that we would be totally blown way, and that is incredibly true in this case. I often wondered why Royal Caribbean charged so much for the "privilege" to cruise on these latest ships, but after experiencing all that the ship has to offer, I can safely say that I get it. With everything it has to offer, there are lots of people to pay. WOW is an understatement.
I usually write about the good, the bad and the ugly when referring to a cruise we've just taken, but in this case, there really isn't too much "bad or ugly" that could possibly be referenced, at least not at the fault of RC. I'll break things down according to all of the major topics:
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION: Smooth and smooth. I would say that it took no more than 15-20 minutes total, from the time we dropped off our luggage to the time we got on the ship. We stepped on board at 11:25 am; everything seemed to be very efficient. At debarkation, the longest wait was at customs, but even that was not very long.
DINING: Everything from the MDR to the specialty restaurants and all in between was very good. We dined at 150 Central Park, Chops, Park Cafe, Windjammer, Wipeout Cafe, Sorrento's, the MDR and the Chef's Table. The only disappointment was Chops. It just didn't meet our expectations, but that is not to say that it isn't worth checking out. The sides we chose were not that appealing, and our steaks were just ok. If you are a foodie like us, you might think to pass on the Chef's Table and do 150 instead as we found 150 to be even better. Things were kind of tight in the MDR; not much room to walk between the tables to get to your own. The food, however, was fantastic except for the "Garlic Tiger Shrimp" entrEe that was served on Monday, I think. They were not very good at all. Love the Park Cafe, but I just don't get everyone's passion for the famous roast beef sandwich. It was just ok in our opinion. You bite into it and half the sandwich comes out the other side! Windjammer was quite often extremely chaotic, with so many people wanting food at the same time. Still, the food was very good and especially the international cuisine. Also, I liked the Pretzel Dog in the Wipeout, but after 2 of them, I started to not like them anymore. All in all, the food was very good, and actually better than I had expected. In several of the venues Vitality flavored water was offered and I found it very good. I can't stand anything "sugar free," but this stuff was fantastic and a great option to the usual water/punch/tea that you normally find on a ship.
Note to my fellow tux wearing fans: don't bother. Most passengers were dressed decently on formal nights, but I didn't see many tuxes at all. A sports jacket will get you everywhere. I do miss adherence to the suggested attire guidelines and am saddened that cruising has come to this. Still, I fault the line since it is up to them to enforce rules or guidelines that they issue. I saw lots of shorts in the MDR as well. Sad.
ENTERTAINMENT: Nothing short of incredible! From "Oasis of Dreams" to "Hairspray" to "Come Fly With Me," they were some of the best shows we've seen on a cruise. My wife liked "Frozen in Time" more than I did because I'm just not into the ice show concept. Still, it was nice. Unfortunately, we missed the comedy show, but comedy is comedy. Loved Jazz on 4 and was disappointed at the lack of participation by other guests. We wished we had spent more time there.
SHORE STOPS: We did the western leg, visiting Labadee, Falmouth and Cozumel. We didn't get off at Labadee (been there, done that), but did venture out at Falmouth. Like everyone else has said, the port isn't done yet and will be awesome once it is. Still, get off the ship and check out the many vendors. Let me warn you though, do NOT go outside of the gate! You will be hawked and hounded like you never have before in your life. I do not fault the locals for trying to drum up business but they did it to a fault and we ended up not exploring a bit of the city as we would have liked. Cozumel was Cozumel.
ACTIVITIES: This ship is totally built for families, as there is so much to do and see on board. The Flowriders were getting a workout as was the zipline. All of the sports areas were utilized quite a bit, including the pool areas. I was also pleased that people could view the basketball finals as well as the hockey finals. Good move by RC on that one.
CABIN: We selected 11233, a balcony cabin overlooking Central Park. This was actually a mistake in hindsight as we didn't spend much time on the balcony. We prefer seeing the water but chose the Central Park balcony to see what it would be like. The cabin itself was very comfortable and seemed bigger than most standard sized cabins we've sailed in. Also, we found it distracting that much of the sounds from the pool deck would echo though the CP area. Next time we'll choose a cabin on the water.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: We really enjoyed using the Diamond Lounge. It took us a long time to get to this level and we're happy to reap the rewards. Great loyalty move by RC, as was the much improved coupon booklet.
The fountain shows at the Aqua Theater were also quite nice, as were the four "hidden" lounges at the aft of the ship. If you go all way aft on decks 11 and 12 you can walk out onto a nice deck area that overlooks the aft and enjoy the view. We highly recommend this area. Also, as has been mentioned in the past by other reviewers, a nice place for sail away is all the way forward on deck 14.
The service was also top notch, but it was as we expected from Royal. Plus, kudos to the photo gallery concept. This area of cruising has needed this type of improvement. Finally, the Vitality Spa was very well laid out and we did enjoy the offerings they had.
This won't take long because there are few negatives that one can find on this ship in our opinion. Still one of the nagging problems I had during this cruise was the lack of the "cruise-like" feeling. I found it disappointing that the ship was so "mall-like" and less like a cruise ship. Unless you either walked on the running track (deck five), the pool deck, or if you had a balcony cabin facing the water, you never see the water! Plus, with very calm seas, I hardly ever felt the ship "moving," which I kind of missed. On most ships, as you walk through a public place such as a lounge, you can look out the window and see the water. With this ship, you don't have that and I really missed it.
Also, we didn't like the way the workout room was set up. It didn't face a huge panel of windows like on most ships and felt rather claustrophobic. Still, it did have a variety of offerings which were being put to good use, just not by us. I don't spend that kind of money to work out. I'll do that when I get home!
Contrary to another review I read about this same cruise, wait times at the elevators did sometimes stretch a bit too long. Lots of people to move all at the same time, and that lends itself to longer wait times, to be sure.
I'd also venture to wager that the Seafood Shack is not long for this world. We never saw more than two tables occupied, and the menu wasn't that great. Judging by all of the Hispanics on board, I think a Rita's Cantina would be perfect for the space.
Most of our problems with the cruise stem from the passengers themselves. Our pax total was 6,009, and that is just too many people to be with for seven days. It amazed us at how self-absorbed some people can be. When you and your family walk out of the theater, don't stop in front of the doorway and start talking about what to do next. There are 500 other people trying to get out and you are blocking the way! Nope, they didn't care. Also, there was one ethnic group (which I will not mention) who simply would not move out of the way ever. As they approached you, they would just put their head down and bowl ahead. My wife got knocked over several times, all by the same "group" of people. Finally, I got tired of it and would just stop as they approached me. I'm over six feet tall, and had no problem actually making them walk around me. Common courtesy indicates that people on both sides move slightly for the oncoming traffic, but for some reason these people would not. Even as we stood in line for customs at the end of the cruise, this same group went under the line roping to get into our shorter line, only to be stopped and sent to the "non-U.S. citizens" line. Amazing! I understand that it's all in the numbers, but courtesy is courtesy, isn't it?
With all of these people, you have lots of germs, and for the first time ever, my wife and I are both sick with a hacking dry cough after this cruise that was probably caused by the excessive amount of people we encountered on the ship.
This is a first for us and we hope it will not happen again.
Many of these problems I mention are not the fault of RC. The ship and its crew delivered an excellent experience. I would highly recommend the Oasis for people to experience with their families. As for us, we won't be in a hurry to book one of the Behemoths again. The Oasis class is quite impressive, don't get me wrong. It's just not for us.
Finally, a note to RC: for the next class of ships, I recommend the same style as this one, except chop it off at the end of Central park and put some aft cabins right there with no Boardwalk and no Aqua Theater. Plus, add some windows in the Promenade so that I can see the water. That would make for a lovely ship.