First a little background. My wife and I are 33 and 32 and have cruised 3 times before, twice with Royal Caribbean. This time we decided to bring our 4 year old on his first cruise and had been hyping "the big boat" for months.
We flew down the day before and stayed in a Springhill Suites about 3 miles from the port. Although I had selected the hotel because they offer both a free shuttle from the airport AND to the port, since I spend about 30-35 nights in Marriotts per year for work, I feel like I am qualified to say this is not one of the better Marrriott's in which I have stayed. The carpets were worn and three different milks we opened at the breakfast the next morning were sour. I wouldn't give it an "avoid like the plague" rating, because for less than $100 a night, it was serviceable.
We headed over to the port Saturday morning around 10:30 and as everyone else has indicated, the process of checking bags, getting sea passes, boarding the ship goes very quickly.
We were on board by 11:15 and despite my urgance that we should try and hit Park Cafe before things got too busy, I was overruled by our 4 year old who wanted to spend some time looking around the ship. About 12:15 we finally made our way to the Park Cafe to have our first experience with the much hyped Roast Beef sandwich. I must say, while I feared that it might suffer from "Blair Witch Syndrome" (something that is so hyped up that it can no way live up to expectations) the roast beef sandwich was in fact excellent. While I had read that the Park Cafe also had a make your own salad area, I had not read anywhere about the other panini's and quesadillas they had available. Although my wife deemed the salad area "disappointing" the panini's more than made up for it. Over the course of the week, I tried almost every Panini on the menu, but nothing came close to the Three Cheese Panini we had on that first day. Basically a grilled cheese on steroids. Highly recommended.
Here are my thoughts on some other subjects:
We ate 6 of our 7 dinners in the Main Dining Room and thought the food and service were both good. As with most cruises we've been on, service the first night was a little rough but improved as the week went on. In general the food ranged from good to excellent. My wife did have a couple of appetizers (Lobster Bisque and something else) that just weren't very good, but when you're on a cruise you just get something else. Of the 6 meals we ate there, I'd rate two of them as excellent and the other four as very good. Certainly we're you're cooking for 6,000, anyone expecting a 5 star meal is going to be disappointed, but even at its worst, I felt the MDR was better than your local Applebees.
As I touched on above, we all thought the Park Cafe was excellent. We had lunch there 3 times and loved the change of pace it offered from our previous cruises were we ate in the Windjammer nearly every day.
We did have a breakfast and a lunch at Johnny Rockets. Breakfast is free, lunch is a fee.
I had made us reservations for all three of the character breakfasts in the MDR on sea days, but we ended up only making it to one of them. Monday (Sea Day 1) my son elected to have a quick breakfast to get more time in the pool in lieu of dining with Shrek, and Day 3 we didn't get up until 8:15. Thursday is the ships "Chocolate Breakfast" so that combined with the opportunity to hang out with the Madagascar characters was enough of a selling point to get us there. Good food, nice experience.
Kids under 13 are not permitted in any of the specialty restaurants so we were not able to check out any of those, including the Solarium Bistro which is 16 and up.
The balance of our meals were spent in the Windjammer. Obviously anyone who's been on a RCI cruise knows the deal here. I thought it was no better or no worse than any previous cruise we'd been on. Finding a table at peak times is the hardest part, but again we've experienced the same situation on our previous RCI trips on the Mariner and Adventure of the Seas, so I didn't hold that against the Oasis.
We had an outside balcony cabin on the 9th floor (9602) this trip and after years of reading about "Hump cabins" finally understand what all the hype is about. While the inside room is the same, the maybe 4-5 foot deep balcony that we had on the Mariner and Adventure was at least double the size (depth wise) this time. Width was the same, but having the extra depth basically doubled the square footage of the balcony. As a result, we spent much more time out there then we have our previous trip. As far as the room itself, the two biggest complaints that I had read and prepared my family for were the lack of storage space and the lack of outlets. Storage space was defiantly an issue for us. I could see how it would be workable for 2 people, but for 3 people it was really a stretch. Our bags did fit under the bed and so we ended up having to store some of our clothes for the 2nd half of the trip in our suitcases until we could swap out dirty for clean. For us at least, the outlets weren't an issue. There is one outlet by the mirror and another by the side of the bed by the telephone. You basically have to climb under the bed to access that one, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people that had commented on the lack of outlets frankly never knew that one existed. The one thing missing from this room that we had had on others was the clothes line in the shower. That was always nice for bathing suits and other things that needed to be hung dry, and the Oasis doesn't have those. Also, since we had a room with a pull out couch for our son, our room was backwards from the standard room it seemed. Most rooms had the couch first and then the bed against the window/balcony. For some reason in the rooms were the couch pulls out, this is switched so the bed is first and the couch is against the window/balcony. Not a big deal, other than it basically eliminated our ability to use the balcony after he went to bed at night. Had it been the other way around, we would have logged any more balcony time that we did.
My wife and I both agreed that the Oasis' entertainment was superior to that of any other ship we have sailed. I did reserve us tickets to all six shows (Hairspray, Comedy, Headliner, Come Fly with Me, Ice Skating and Oasis of Dreams) and we made it to four of them. Hairspray was good, but was consistent with what we had seen on our other trips but Oasis of Dreams and Come Fly with Me with both very unique. Oasis of Dreams was a Vegas-sequel show in the middle of the Ocean and theatre Come Fly with Me plays in was built specifically for the show and they take advantage of every facet to combine singing, dancing, trampoline-ing (is that a word?) with other gymnastic type stuff. The ice show was good as well, but as I had read on here before, the sand artists steal the show.
I'd picked our first two cruises based purely on itinerary so deciding to sail the Oasis knowing that we'd already been to all three ports was a decision we made strictly on having to see this ship. With the help of cruise critic and Trip Advisor, I had planned out what we would do on each stop. I've done into more detail about our experiences on the Nassau, St Thomas and St Marteen boards, but will post a small sampling about our doings here.
Nassau: Having already done the deep water dolphin interaction at Atlantis on a previous cruise, we elected to the Sea Lion Interaction this year. This was a lot of fun and our 4 year old loved it. Again, in an attempt to keep this brief, I'll say that I liked this better than the Dolphin experiences we had done there previously. We both felt like for less money, you get more time with the animals than you do with either the Shallow or Deep Water Dolphin interactions. Dolphins just have a better PR agent, so they get all the hype, but the Sea Lions are where it's at!
St Thomas: I had arranged a private charter company (Rumbaba Charters) to take us to St John for the day. Being a frequenter of cruise critic and reading the horror stories of going on excursions with 300 other people I have always used cruise critic and Trip Advisor to book my own outings. This trip however has set the bar on a whole new level. Again, more detail on the St Thomas board, but we spent nearly 6 hours on a boat with just our family, snorkeling where we couldn't even see another boat on the horizon. I think if I could be promised 10 days like this a year, I could clean toilets for the other 355 if I had to.
St Marteen: We spent the morning at Mullett Bay Beach which has become my new favorite place on earth. After a 30 minute cab ride, we were the only people on the beach for about 90 minutes until a catamaran filled with 200 people hanging off it, pulled up into the bay. It's truly the kind of place that cameras can't do justice and having the entire beach and water to ourselves for an hour and half was unreal. From there we walked over to Maho Beach and had lunch and the Sunset Beach Cafe while we watched the planes land. There's really not much beach at Maho beach anymore, so it turned out we were wise to do our beaching at Mullet Bay and then just visit Maho for the planes.
Sailing on the Oasis of the Seas I fear has ruined us for sailing anywhere else. While I could see how it's not for everyone, it's 100% for us. I've read that some people don't like it because they don't see the ocean enough, but for us where we spent most of our time either on our balcony or the pool deck, that wasn't an issue. The Boardwalk, the Flowriders, the Zipline, Central Park, etc were all outstanding. While we're already booked to check out Disney's new Fantasy next August, I could see a trip on the Allure in 2013 or beyond being next on the docket. Now that we've sailed the best, I just don't see how we could ever go back.