Most reviews tend to dwell on the negative. It's so easy to find things you don't like on a cruise ship. Most people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to food and service on a cruise ship. If you've cruised before, and understand the way things work on a cruise ship, you can easily get past any shortcomings on a cruise ship, even the mega ship Oasis of the Seas. With 6,000 fellow cruise passengers on every voyage, exceptional service is sometimes too much to expect, but I found several crew members who strived for it.
I am going to focus my review on tips for guests with disabilities. I cruised with my elderly mother who has issues walking great distances, and let's just say that even for the fit; a walk from one end of the Oasis of the Seas to the other can be exhausting. We worried extensively prior to the cruise, whether we should rent a wheelchair or motorized scooter for our cruise. Royal Caribbean doesn't provide any guidance for guests with disabilities on their web site. We opted to bring a fold up walker, but it wasn't long before we arrived at the cruise terminal that we realized a wheelchair would be necessary. You have to ask for boarding assistance at the check in desk if you need it, as they don't offer. It wasn't until we got to the gangway that we realized the incline was too steep for mom. So we flagged down someone to help. There were wheelchairs in the hallway but with all of our carry-on bags, we needed hand pushing the wheelchair.
We got on the ship and proceeded to the guest services to inquire about a loaner chair for the length of the cruise. Signed some paperwork and they said a chair would be delivered to our stateroom by 3 p.m.. That never happened and the next day I had to follow up. After spending 30 minutes at guest services, they were finally able to find a wheelchair that had most of its parts. The chair was a godsend except during the most crowded elevator times.
There wasn't any information about how wheelchair accessible our ports of call were so we didn't dare get off the ship for our first two stops (Falmouth Jamaica and Labadee Haiti). I'd love to hear from other travelers if these ports were wheelchair friendly. We did make it off the ship in Cozumel Mexico. The merchandise area near the port has wheelchair ramps but a lot of dead ends and the grade is awfully steep in a couple of areas. We didn't go far. Be aware that you are a sitting duck for those pushy vendors and there is no room in most of the shops for shoppers in wheelchairs. Have an escape plan in your head at all times.
A couple of things to note if you are cruising with a wheelchair or motorized scooter. Embarkation day will be most difficult for you. First day cruise passengers are oblivious and callous to those in wheelchairs and scooters. It will be difficult for you to get on an elevator, or find a place to sit and eat. Seats in the Windjammer are non-existent for able bodied travelers and a wheelchair or motorized scooter will put you at a further disadvantage on the first day. The Park CafÃ© is tiny. There is barely enough room to walk through this place, let alone with someone with a walker or wheelchair.
Another shortcoming for guests with disabilities is disembarkation day. They ask guests needing help to meet in the promenade at the Starbucks stand. We waited there and nobody seemed anxious to help us. When I approached a crew member she asked what our departure number was and said there were a few people in front of us. She never asked our name or put us on a list. They don't announce the departure numbers in the promenade for some reason so we missed our departure window. We had to ask again and finally a very nice crew member was there to assist us. The crew member can only take you from the ship to the terminal, and then you wait for another person to assist you from the terminal through customs so be prepared for a second wait. We were so rushed by our assistant from this point that we forgot to claim one of our pieces of luggage. Only the immediate family is allowed to accompany the wheelchair through customs so it really caused a fuss with our extended family traveling together.
Here is some tips you may want to consider.
#1. On embarkation day, eat lunch before you arrive at the terminal, and don't arrive before 1:30 p.m. when your stateroom will be available. Determine which elevator bank (forward or aft) is closest to your stateroom before you board and proceed to that bank of elevators when you get on the ship. There is no place to stash your carry-on luggage if you arrive before the staterooms are clean and you will regret having it with you in the dining areas.
#2. Enjoy the time in your stateroom until the safety drill. Exploring the ship is not a good option because of the crowds. First day on the ship is always pandemonium. You don't need the stress.
#3. Wait until the last minute to leave for the safety drill and have a plan with something to do on the promenade after the drill. It will be at least 30 minutes after the drill ends before you can get on an elevator, so you might as well use this time to explore the promenade, have a drink, or watch some television. I wish the cruise line would create an elevator queue for those peak elevator times but I'm probably just dreaming.
#4. Avoid the stateroom hallways in the morning and early evening when the stateroom attendants are changing linens. The linen trolleys leave barely an inch between you and the wall if you are in a wheelchair. Better yet, select a stateroom closest to the elevator lobby as you can. My mother could walk to the lobby and I would set up the chair there.
#5. If you need to get from the front to the back of the ship, do it by way of deck 5 (promenade) or deck 15 (pool deck) for easier navigation. Then take the front or rear elevator to your final destination.
#6. When leaving the ship during ports of call. Take the elevator to deck 2, even though everyone else is being directed to deck 3. There is an escalator from deck 3 to deck 2 that won't work for you.
#7. Don't let a walker be your only option. We watched a fellow passenger using a walker collapse when his knees gave out after only making it to the end of the pier in Cozumel.
#8. If you are attending a show in the main theater. Ask a crew member to show you to the elevator that takes you down to the front of the theater (on deck 2). I saw one family member push their family member down 20 steps because she didn't want to sit in the back row.
#9. Don't expect the crew members to treat you special or to offer you assistance. You will need to ask if you require help.
I hope this advice will help you have a wonderful experience onboard an amazing ship. Just remember it is a big ship with a lot of passengers competing for attention and service. Learn to ask for what you want instead of waiting for it to be offered. You will be waiting a long time.