Our extened family was on this past New Year's sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. I should preface my review with some background information about my family to enable my readers to gain better insight into my review. We are a family of 4, DH, DS(16 yrs), DD(13 yrs) and myself. We have been on 6 cruises over the past 10 years: Disney Magic, Golden Princess, Splendour, Brilliance, Celebrity Equinox (Summer 2011) and finally the Oasis. We have always reserved in a suite, this time was no exception as we had a Grand Suite connecting to an OV balcony (10260-10262). We travel extensively and do appreciate luxury surroundings and fine service. Okay, so now you know that I set the"bar"quite high.......
PRE-CRUISE STAY: Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport North Cruise Port. We arrived very late into FLL. Based on TripAdvisor reviews and cost, this hotel provided outstanding service, very clean rooms (I am very fastidious in this department), and great transportation options. For what we needed, this hotel delivered. I would not hesitate to use them again as a pre-cruise hotel.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the port in the complimentary Hampton shuttle (be sure to pre-reserve the previous day) at 11:15. We were on the ship by 11:30 with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine in hand. WOW, that was amazing. I should mention that we were in a separate line for suite guests, actually it wasn't a line, it was more like we were escorted to the counter. We never did see the Suite Lounge for pre-boarding as we just kept walking right onto the ship! Absolutely painless. WOW.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Oasis is well, massive! The promenade on the 5th floor is exciting and high energy, filled with temptations of food, drink and entertainment. Our family quickly set about discovering our new home for the next week as well as connecting with our relatives ( who somehow managed to beat us to the ship....they were staying at the Renaissance.) A big thank you is in order to all CC members who have posted before, as their insight helped us with our preliminary navigation around the Oasis. Our kids pulled us into the Windjammer, tempted by the allure of so many offerings. For interested readers, this would have been at around 12:00Pm and we walked right in. We continued exploring the ship after lunch making sure to check our MDR table (great), sign up for the spin classes in the gym (this is a must, as they filled quickly), found the pools, concierge lounge, concierge sun area, restaurants, etc. Our excitement level was high.....but could the Oasis deliver the product we were hoping for without us feeling crowded with 6000 passengers onboard?
SUITE & CONNECTING OV BALCONY: As I had mentioned previously, we were in a Grand Suite connecting to an OV balcony (for our teenage children). This was an ideal arrangement for a family with older children. We had 2 washrooms, plenty of space, very extended deck (the partition was opened upon our request), and best of all, some privacy. The suite and stateroom were found to be exceptionally clean and well organized. The bed and bed linens were divine...yes folks, DIVINE. That is high praise coming from someone who adores her Frette linens. We knew that were would be more than comfortable for the next week. I should mention at this time, that we had just sailed on the Celebrity Equinox in the Med this past summer (I know, I know...where is that review...? It is coming), and I have to say the Royal Suite on the Equinox may have been a bit more luxuriously appointed in the wood and marble department, but our suite attendant (Kathiar (sp?) more than made up for the little less in dÃ©cor. WOW, he was amazing! He never failed to leave our room absolutely spotless and reorganized. Kathir was by far the best suite attendant I have ever had on any cruise. He always had a smile for us, always delivered the best towel animals, and quite simply he was a kind man who took pleasure in a job well down. WOW!
DINING: This is certainly a subjective topic, as literally, everyone's taste varies. Here are my thoughts:
MDR: Absolutely the best ship food in a MDR, ever! Now having said that, the courses were not always served as hot as I would prefer, but certainly very good for such a large dining venue. To put this in perspective, the Oasis MDR trumped the Equinox MDR and all previous cruises, hands down! Some of the highlights in the MDR included : great Caesar salad, great lobster tails, great chicken, great chocolate soufflÃ©, great crab cakes......OK, you are getting the picture. It was good! Waaaaaaaay better than what I was expecting. However to be clear, it is not the same as going to a fine restaurant. I was not expecting this, so I went with reasonable expectations and in my estimation, Oasis more than delivered. A special thank you to our wait staff, that contributed to making my parent's 50 th anniversary recognition and my Dad's 80th birthday so special. Thank you to Meriam and Marco, and our maitre'd (forgot His name...he was from France). Our servers were nothing short of outstanding, simply the best that we have ever experienced on any of our cruises! WOW!
Chops: WOW...on sea or on land, this restaurant was fantastic! Service was perfectly executed by Keisha and her assistants. The dinner was amazing....everything start to finish. Really! (my DH and I are foodies and have dined at some of the world's notable restaurants.) This venue is well worth the cover charge. Enough said!
Central Park: Good, but not as great as Chops. Great service.
Giovanni's: Missed this one, but my brother and his family (very discerning, as well), declared this restaurant superb!
Seafood Shack: Had lunch on the last day. It was great for deep fried fish. Excellent calamari and shrimp! We tend to avoid too much fried food, but had to try it once.
Park Cafe: Missed this one, too. I know, I know...the roast beef sandwiches! Too much food, too little time! However, My Dad and Mom went there several times for lunch and loved it!
Solarium Bistro: Lunched there one day. Fantastic!
Izumi: Lunched there.....pretty good. We are suishi connoisseurs, so we have very high expectations when it comes to raw fish. I would still go again, for light alternatives.
Windjammer: We never experienced any waits, but then again, I only visited WJ on embarkation and for one lunch. It is what it is...buffet. Lots of choices.
In-Suite Dining: We had breakfast delivered every morning for myself and the kids. The fruit plates and the salmon were amazing. I think the ship had a salmon farm hidden within the ship, for all the salmon that my DS was able to consume. Easily this was the best food, the best service, and scored high marks for managing to get our orders correct all of the time. ALSO, this was the best breakfast Food and service on any ship, PERIOD!.
I will always mention that my husband and I purchased the Platinum wine package. Average selection, some better than others.
ACTIVITIES: The first day out, DH, DS, DD had a flowrider lesson with Jeffrey and Phillip. They had a blast, thanks to the fun and kind guidance of these 2 amazing instructors. Thank you! The rock climbing wall was also a hit (been there, done that on previous cruises).Never did try the zip-line...looked fun but very short. Tried our luck at Bingo, my nephew managed to win 4 times in a row! We were thinking that he was going to need security detail to escort him out of the theatre, after that triumph! (P.S. He won on the bingo machines, not on the cards. ? ). I managed to win a couple hundred of dollars at Blackjack over the course of a week.....I do not play big, hence my meager winnings. I also managed to squeeze 3 spin classes at the gym. Great instructors, cheap bikes, and lack of cold air circulating for such an intense class. RCCL should look into this!
ENTERTAINMENT: The Oasis triumphs in this department! We loved Hairspray (fantastic), Come Fly with Me (amazing), Oasis Dreams(who could imagine!), and enjoyed the Headliner. We appreciated the diverse range of music offered in different areas of the ship. In my estimation, this is what sets this large class of ships into a league of their own. There are able to offer great productions, because they have the numbers to validate the cost of these venues. This totally worked for us. As an aside, do make your ressies prior to arriving (ASAP) for first choice on entertainment and specialty dining.
EXCURSIONS: St. Thomas. I reserved a private excursion aboard the Nightwind with Captain Rick and mate Nicki. This is a must do anyone who enjoys sailing and snorkeling. This is a first rate outfit. Highly recommend. St. Maarten. I had prearranged a day room at the Westin for 109.00 +taxes. Our family took a 15.00 cab ride over to the Westin Dawn Beach. Had a fantastic day on the quiet beach and pool and was able to shower in our room before departing. Highly recommend. Nassau. We arrived 2 hours late, due to strong system that slowed our travel. No problem, Our family has been to the Bahamas numerous times, we did not have anything booked, so DH and kids walked into town for quick look while I lounged on the concierge sun deck with my parents. Sweet!
CONCIERGE LOUNGE & STAFF: Beautiful lounge with gracious staff. My DH enjoyed a couple of breakfasts in here. We also enjoyed some quite delicious martinis and cosmos served by 2 wonderful waiters. I also have to mention Natalia, our most dedicated, personable and lovely concierge. Without a doubt, this lady would do well in any St. Regis, Four Seasons, or Peninsula hotel. Obviously, her love of people and her job showed. Nothing was too much to ask of Natalia, she always delivered. I noticed that even though she had queues for her services, she always responded diligently and with enthusiasm to each guest. WOW.
DISEMBARKATION: We did the self-disembarkation as we had a 10:15 Am flight. We left our room at 6:50. , went to the 5th floor promenade, walked off the ship ?, through customs, into cab at far left of terminal, checked in at airport around 7:15. Sitting in Delta Sky Lounge, 10 minutes later. Flawless. WOW.
CONCLUSION: My extended family chose this cruise because we thought that there would be something for everyone of all ages. It certainly did not disappoint. I was concerned that with 6000 people onboard, that we would feel crowded. I want to dispel that thought at once. Never, did I have that feeling that the Oasis was more crowded than other ships that I have previously sailed. The only time I felt some congestion was after shows, but the same could be said of all ships. I believe that RCCL has created enough venues to allow great flow of traffic. Kudos, RCCL. I also have to mention, that I have never received such gracious and willing service on any ship, ever. I liken the service onboard to a great Four Seasons hotel (of which I am a fan). Always, always, I was greeted by any employee with a smile and then was asked if I was enjoying the cruise and if there was anything they could do to improve my vacation. This included a gentleman (from Dominican...Wish I could remember his name), who was vacuuming the carpet by the elevators. As I was the only one at the elevators, he turned off the vacuum and asked if I was enjoying my time onboard. WOW! Even the cleaners had the right attitude. Folks, something is definitely working here.....I had one of the best vacations, ever! Royal service is alive and well. My family and I experienced it firsthand. I would recommend this class of ships for anyone that enjoys great service, lots of entertainment, high energy and the high seas. WOW.... I am a Oasliever ! Happy and safe travels, everyone. ?