We just returned from a great trip on Oasis of the Seas, western Caribbean itinerary. We traveled with our three kids, ages 15, 12 and 10 as well as another family of four. This is our 6th cruise. I was very apprehensive about the size of the ship and the crowds, but I was very pleasantly surprised that crowds did not seem any bigger than what I'd experienced on smaller cruise ships in the 2000 - 3000 passenger range. This was true with a few exceptions I'll note below.
Precruise we stayed at the Marriott Springhill Suites in Fort Lauderdale. I posted a review and pictures on Trip Advisor if you're interested. Definitely recommend this property for a precruise stay.
We were in balcony cabin 7140 on the port side near the front of the ship. Our children were in an inside cabin across the hall. We were happy with this deck as it was close to the promenade and Central Park. It was, however, eight decks below the pool deck.
For shore excursions, we used Barrett Adventures in Jamaica for river tubing and a waterfall. Great, great day. Highly recommend. In Cozumel, our sailing trip was canceled due to rough seas. We ended up at Paradise Beach Club. It was nice. In Labadee, we brought our own blow up rafts and just enjoyed the beautiful water and scenery. The kids did do an hour in the aqua park and loved it. We planned on doing the coaster, but ran out of time and energy. Remember the $15 cost for the coaster is per ride, not passenger.
We boarded the ship around 11:00am. This was a great time to get on as the ship is still pretty empty and you can get some great pictures. Porters at the dock took our luggage straight off the hotel shuttle so we had a minimum of schlepping to do. Rooms were available at 1:00pm and our luggage was delivered immediately after that.
Following are what I see as strengths/good things about Oasis:
1. It really didn't feel crowded (with a few exceptions I'll list later). My last cruise was the Celebrity Xpedition in the Galapagos with only 80 passengers. I loved the small ship cruising experience and was concerned I'd not like Oasis simply because of the size. I was wrong. There were always chairs available at the pool and plenty of spaces to go and get away from people. Royal does a superb job of moving people on and off the ship. Getting off for shore excursions we literally walked right off. No lines, no waiting. When we disembarked at the end of the week, we were in the first group called. We got off at 7:00am, got our luggage, hailed a taxi and were at the airport by 7:30am. Kudos to Royal for their organization.
2. Entertainment. In one word - superb! We saw every show (except the comedy show) and loved all of them. The talent they have is amazing. Our personal favorite was Hairspray, but all of them were impressive. We did have reservations for all the shows. We probably only needed them for the aqua show and the comedy show. The other shows ((Frozen in Time, Headliner (Beatles tribute) and Come Fly with Me)) were in the huge Opal Theater and there were always a few extra seats. The ice skating show is in Studio B, a smaller venue, but there were a few seats left at showtime. The comedy show is in a small theater (maybe 100 seats) so do get reservations for that one. Twice, we tried to show up standby and didn't get in either time.
3. Staff - They work so hard and every single one of them smiles and greets you when they pass you in the hallways. Our room stewards, Rocque and Dani, were terrific. Cleaning up after people must really stink, but they have a way of making you feel they're happy to do it and it's their pleasure. It really makes you feel welcome and adds to the enjoyment of the cruise. In the dining room, Dennis worked hard to get to know our names and tastes. It was a pleasure eating at his table. We chose anytime dining, but would try to make a reservation in his section in the am or the prior day. Cruise director, Richard Stacy, is a riot. That guy is definitely an asset to Oasis. He would have me in stitches everytime I'd see him. Staff on the sports deck were awesome. We used the flowrider, the rock wall and the zipline and every time the staff was awesome. They genuinely seem like they want you to have a great time, despite your abilities or fitness level. There was no attitude like "Only skinny or young people welcome." They helped everyone. In fact, I noticed them going out of their way to help several disabled guests have a good experience. Kudos to these guys and gals.
4. Cleanliness. The ship was immaculate. Employees are constantly painting, sweeping, vacuuming, polishing, etc..
5. Photo shop. You don't have to search for your pictures. On your seapass card, you are assigned a tower number and folder number. Facial recognition is used and all your pics are in your folder. If you're in to pictures, consider buying the photo CD ahead of time for $200. Onboard it's $250. It can definitely be a value if you plan ahead to take a ton of photos.
6. Solarium. Beautiful, calm, peaceful. You can look right out at the ocean from your comfy lounger. There's a pool in there, a jacuzzi, and the Solarium bistro for snacks. No kids under 16 so it's super peaceful. My favorite place on the ship.
7. Awe factor. You can't help but be amazed by this ship. A zipline, two rock walls, eight(?) pools, a diving show, Central Park, an ice rink, a bar that moves up and down three floors, a carousel... It is truly spectacular.
8. Activities. There is so much to do on this ship we felt we needed another week. We didn't get to do half the things we'd planned because there simply wasn't time to fit it all in. One thing in particular I'll mention was a jewelry making class they offered sea days at 1:45 and 3:45 and port days at 3:45. The first class is free and you get a kit to make earrings, a necklace and a bracelet. It's a fun and cheap souvenir and something that you could easily overlook in the cruise compass.
Now, for the areas where I think Oasis can do a better job.
1. Windjammer! Avoid at all costs. Every negative cruise ship stereotype comes to fruition in this place. People cutting in front of you, people eating off their plates while waiting in line (gross!), no place to sit, crowds, crowds, crowds. This was the only time I felt Oasis was not equipped to handle the number of people. The Windjammer didn't seem any bigger than the one on Freedom of the Seas, yet it's expected to serve twice the people. After one time, we said, "never again!"
2. Opening hours of restaurants. We felt very frustrated several times when places weren't open. For example, the dining room is only open for lunch on sea days from 12 - 1:30. (Great place for lunch. There's an awesome salad bar where you pick the ingredients and they toss it for you). We (and 1,400 other people) got out of a show at the aqua theater at 1:45 looking to eat. Dining room - closed. So everyone goes to the Park Cafe or the Windjammer where it's body to body and everybody's pissed off. Or you get back on the ship at 5:30 after being gone all day. Wipeout Cafe - closed at 5:30. So you rush down to the Park Cafe. Closes at 6. Windjammer closed until 6:15 and there's already a crowd of people waiting to get in.
3. Restrict smoking on balconies to a section at the back of the ship! This isn't unique to RCCL, but it's maddening when you pay for a balcony only to not be able to use it because someone nearby is smoking. It's just not fair to allow the rights of some people to intrude on the rights of others. Seems like it shouldn't be that hard to correct this problem.
4. Iphones. Great deal to rent them for $30 per phone for the week. However, it is $1,000 if you lose it or render it inoperable. $1,000! If you're using these to keep in contact with your kids, how confident are you they won't lose it, drop it in the pool, etc.. How confident are you that you won't accidentally lose it? $400ish per phone seems like a reasonable risk to me, but $1,000 is not. Either offer another way to keep in contact onboard or make the cost more reasonable.
5. Bar staff hassles you. Again, not unique to Royal, but it's annoying. Do I need five different wait staff to offer me a drink? Why can't they have stations for each server to cover so you don't get asked over and over and over again. Use caution with the bar staff at the aqua theater. One guy convinced me to order a bottle of wine rather than a glass because it's cheaper per glass and he'd deliver the unused portion to my cabin to drink later. Wrong. After the show, the bartender told me they'd only deliver it for a room service charge. I complained to management and they did deliver it for free. Another time, a guy came and took my friend's order and then turned to me and said, "I'll buy a drink for you." Stupidly, I said ok. Nothing's free, right? Well, he charged her seapass card for my soda. I told him I didn't want it then because my husband has a soda package and I can get it for free. We told him he said he'd buy it and he said he meant my friend would buy it for me. Hmm. Seems a little sneaky to me.
6. Park Cafe. Yummy salads and sandwiches like others have said. However, it's poorly organized in terms of crowd control. You have a salad line and a sandwich line which are not labeled. People are confused as to which line to get in and get angry when others go in the other line and they are perceived as cutting. It would be simple to put signage indicating which line is which. On top of that, the poor employees are constantly having to cut through the line of people to refill coffee pots, clear tables, etc.. I felt bad for them.
7. "Maintenance" of jacuzzis at peak times. Several times in the evening or late afternoon one or more jacuzzis were closed for maintenance creating crowds in the open ones. Isn't this something to be done in off hours?
1. Sorrento's pizza in the promenade- the cooked to order pizza where you select your own toppings looked vastly better than the premade stuff. Premade was basically like frozen pizza. Cooked to order looked much tastier.
2. Try the dining room for lunch on sea days. Very peaceful, nice service.
3. Avoid the scrambled eggs. They are some kind of add water, dehydrated stuff that's pretty flavorless and gross. If you get eggs, go for an omelet or fried.
4. Try to get a cabin configuration with the bed nearest the slider and the couch in front of the closet. Every other cabin alternates its setup and the one we had, with the bed in front of the closet makes getting to the closet tight. You also have to maneuver around the small amount of space between the foot of the bed and the wall every time you enter/exit the cabin.
5. Consider trying Vintages. It's a tapas/wine bar specialty restaurant in Central Park. It was very uncrowded and really relaxing to sit outside in the Central Park area. I think it's pretty reasonably priced. We had seven tapas (Spanish olives, bruschetta, saffron rice with seafood, cheeses, etc..) with two glasses of wine for $31. It's a nice snack or light dinner. Tons of ship's officers in there so you know it's good.
Overall, we had a fabulous week on Oasis. I probably won't ever do it again because it is pretty expensive in comparison to other cruises and there are so many other travel experiences I want to have. However, I definitely think it's a must do for everyone at some point as it's such a unique and amazing ship.