In my opinion this ship is not some smacked together garish collection of neighborhoods and attractions that I've read in opinions here on CC ( often by people who haven't sailed her ). It's an amazing design! People always write that, but I'm going to share some specific examples of what I found.
We've cruised a bit and found that this design thoughtfully incorporates many spaces and features you find yourself " wanting" on other ships, or the specific design "solved" problems such as bottle necks and crowding I've experienced on other ships (on most cruise lines) The public decks on 11,12, and 14, which provide quieter outdoor spaces for those in interior cabins. (though not when an Aqua Theater show is going on )
Another example is the Cafe in the Solarium. I used to find it so jarring to go from the relatively quiet Solarium to the crowded Windjammer and have to drag my plates back to the solarium. With the SC, I could stand up from my chair walk 10 paces, get my food, choose a table, or go back to my chair, never having to disrupt your mood or lose sight of the ocean!
Another example-you board (and sadly, leave a week later) the ship on deck 5. A changeable "sign post" on the light pole shows the way. But on the other days, with those doors closed, the signs change too and these areas become an out of the way place for the photographers to set up, or the seating area for Sorrentos. At no time on this ship did I feel that I had to squeeze by a ships photographer to pass through a public area.
Additionally, the lighting design on this ship is beautiful. There is natural light flooding the interior of the ship. In the evening the lighting is designed to enhance the mood of the neighborhood; romantic in Central Park, Coney Island fun on the Boardwalk etc.
Even the cabin lighting is well designed. The lighting can be adjusted to just having the art work lit, which creates a little mood lighting, or enough light for adults to get some chores done while the tots sleep (depending on just what kind of cruise you are on )
And that's what I mean when I say it's truly a design marvel and lives more comfortably than you would imagine sailing with 5000+ people.
Embarkation and Disembarkation- Another area where the design creates a seamless transition, clean, neat and fast.
Public Rooms- Again, the design is the difference. The intimate rooms are wonderful and never crowded because of the entertainment booking system, so everyone is not in the same place at the same time as on other ships. The Jazz on 4 club and Comedy Club, are wonderful intimate little rooms that enhanced they type of entertainment offered. The large public areas were large enough to accommodate the crowds (parades and Promenade parties were crowded, but less so than on other ships). I adore the adult only Solarium, and this is one of the best ever! Never had trouble getting a chair (even at 10 AM on a Sea Day) and it has an amazing view!
Cabin- Our cabin was small but efficient, everything was in excellent condition, except for the safe, which, in addition to being small had to be pried open. We eventually used a ribbon loop locked inside to open it. Our bed was near the balcony, and I found the outlet location under the desk near the small wall cubbies convenient for leaving the electronics on the low shelves there. Of course those with mobility issues would have a hard time reaching either. The bath was organized better than other ships baths, so felt larger and had more hooks for hanging things. The sinks are very low though.
Fitness and Recreation- We loved all the fun sports stuff, Flowrider, zipline and there were lots of other great options there. But we thought the Fitness Center/Gym was a disappointment. It was to small, laid out too maze-like, not enough or the right kinds of fitness equipment (one exercise ball, no resistance bands, few free weights)and the staff was not available for questions or assistance and when encountered, not friendly.
Enrichment- There were some fun and interesting things on offer we did not have time to try! Like the cup cake classes, and scrap booking, but too many of them are revenue raising opportunities like those in the spa and art gallery.
Rates- This is not a cheap cruise, but I felt it was an excellent value if you take advantage of the many things offered that would be an additional charge such as the Zipline, Flowrider, and the shows. Following pricing for a little while on this ship, leads me to think the best deals can be had by booking early; especially if you have to secure connecting, or close by cabin, cabins for more than 2 pax or prefer a specific location.
Dining-My caveat is that I am not a food person, but I have never felt that the Main Dining Room food was a strong suit for Royal Caribbean. It is often hit or miss, and somewhat bland. Oasis is better than other ships, good for food provided for 5000+ people, with little access to fresh ingredients and on a budget.
We did not eat at any Specialty restaurants except for Giovanni's at lunch on embarkation day. It was very good, better than a chain Italian restaurant, but not as good as "little Italy" or "North End".
The other included food venues were excellent in my opinion, the food was very good, but more importantly, I like the variety offered by all the different venues and that all the passengers didn't end up in one place. We especially enjoyed Sorrentos, Park cafe and Solarium Cafe. Each place had a few unique things they did and therefor did them better than on other ships where the exact same food is offered in alternate venues.
Entertainment: WOW!!I found all the shows un-missable and ordinarily my DH and I don't bother with cruise ship shows.
Here is my run down:
Oasis of Dreams: This is an unusual show, with little plot but because of the venue being unique to Oasis, and unusual entertainment (divers, acrobats and swimmers) it was a must do on my list for that reason.
Comedy Club: standard comedians in a fun intimate setting. We laughed our heads off. If you like comedy you will love it, if you are easily offended by non pc jokes/language, maybe not!
Hairspray: an outcast 1960's Baltimore teenager gets her big chance on a local teeny bopper dance show, only to realize she has to make some hard choices when she learns it's segregated and some of her friends aren't invited. A nearly full length Broadway style musical. I loved it, but I love musicals! Some found it too long.
Come Fly with Me: A very "Cirque Du Soleil " type show with some really "never seen before" effects, not just on a cruise ship- anywhere! We loved this and would see it again!
Frozen in Time Ice Show: An ice tribute to the tales of Hans Christian Anderson...colorful, fun and includes at least one scene that will please everyone in the family. Also, the sand artist is unique and I've never seen one anywhere else. We were enthralled by the amount of scene and costume changes.
Headliner: The level of quality seems up a notch from other ships, I didn't particularly find our guy's act that personally appealing to me, but he was entertaining and energetic enough for us to stay for the show.
In addition to all these major shows, many smaller shows popped up on the schedule that were also excellent and fun, although not such major productions, such as "throw me line".
We felt we would have happily paid $50- $75 a ticket for each of these shows in the Boston/ NY area, and all of them were included, so we are glad we didn't miss one! This is what made our cruise feel like a real value!
Service- I kept waiting for someone to wow me, so I could hand over my wow card. But it was excellent service everywhere, people worked very hard, but never above and beyond. Frankly, I think there are too many people, and these folks too stretched to do anything spectacular for any one passenger. Any attempts seem to come off as phony. For instance, my DH celebrated his BD on our cruise, but RCI had the wrong day, so all day people were wishing him a happy birthday on the wrong day base on a message that popped up when he used his card. And yet, our waiter never brought over a dessert and sang. We weren't upset about it, but you cant have a close personal relationship with 5000 people for one week. And having automatic cash register messages don't really count.
Shore Ex- Ours were hit or miss...
In Nassau the Rainbow Reef Snorkel tour felt a little canned and while the fish were nice, the area was not really great snorkeling.
In St Thomas, we enjoyed the Water Island Biking tour. It was one of the best, most authentic excursions we've been on from a cruise ship. And Honeymoon Beach was a lovely place to swim for a while after the biking.
In Ft Lauderdale, we booked the Hollywood Extended stay. We found this to be an excellent value, they transport you to a community center where they hold all your luggage, provide you with a trolley pass and advice about what to do, and you can enjoy the area of Hollywood before heading to the airport. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Hollywood, which has a very old-timey 1960's Florida beach feel and plenty to do in addition to the beach, which is lovely. We were able to rent bikes and travel to Anne Kolb nature center which was about a mile away (and on the trolley line). This is an area I would visit again, and I like excursions that introduce me to a place that I would like to explore again!
Value-We really felt that this cruise was an excellent value even though it's more expensive than other cruises. It offers a lot of extra things that aren't offered on other ships. The entertainment was excellent and very different form what is offered on other ships. There are interesting and varied dining venues offered for free. There are activities on board that are not offered elsewhere (like the zipline, carousel). But best of all I feel the design which allows the crowds to disperse to activities that interest them and avoid bottlenecks, was well worth the extra expense.