Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, the 5,400-passenger ship that gave new meaning to the term "mega-ship" when it launched in 2008, underwent a fairly substantial overhaul in late 2014.
The purpose of Oasis' two-week dry dock was to bring the world's largest cruise ship up to date with the latest dining and technology innovations being rolled out on Royal Caribbean's newest ships. The biggest of these innovations is the line's Dynamic Dining concept, which will see the classic cruise ship main dining room abandoned in favor of a bevy of restaurants -- both free and for-fee.
Unfortunately, the complexities of retrofitting an existing ship with a new design concept means that most of the new eateries and/or menus won't be ready on Oasis until 2015. Royal says it will roll out the new Dynamic Dining concept -- nearly 20 restaurants, allowing passengers to ‘tailor' their eating experience to their own preferences -- on Oasis overnight on March 14, 2015. Until then, passengers will continue to have a traditional main dining room experience in the newly decorated spaces.
The restaurants that are already open include: Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar: A Mexican restaurant, which was first introduced on Navigator of the Seas, is alfresco on The Boardwalk -- making it well suited for a Caribbean sailing; and Coastal Kitchen, which is only available to suite passengers.
The big change involves carving out space in the Opus Dining Room -- a single dining room laid out over three decks and serving the same menu -- with the launch of three completely different restaurants: American Icon Grill, Silk and The Grande.
The three-deck space is still joined by a three-story atrium, but the line has worked hard to achieve separation -- adding sheer curtains to Silk and landscape-paneled dividers to American Icon Grill
Other changes/debuts include: The for-fee Izumi, the teppanyaki and sushi joint, is in the process of being moved and expanded; and Wonderland, an avant garde restaurant which debuted on Quantum of the Seas.
Internet. Oasis had its Internet service upgraded as part of Royal's partnership with O3B, which purports to offer passengers Internet speeds comparable to those available on shore. The Royal iQ app is part of the new technology package, as well, and will allow passengers to book reservations for restaurants, shore excursions and spa appointments directly from a smartphone or tablet.
Suites. The Oasis refurbishment also saw 10 new suites added to the ship overlooking the AquaTheater and Boardwalk "neighborhood." What's more, suite passengers will be able to enjoy a couple of exclusive new spaces on Deck 17 -- the Suite Lounge, the Sun Deck and the Coastal Kitchen suite-only restaurant.
Although it's been more than five years since Oasis launched, the ship has aged well, and its original industry-changing design touches -- such as the first-ever Boardwalk and Central Park at sea, which uniquely occupy space that's carved out of the middle of the ship -- are still legendary.
Also amidships, Entertainment Place, a hub for night owls, offers ice skating and disco, comedy and jazz, and a three-tiered theater that features "Cats," the multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway show. Particularly dazzling is the ship's AquaTheater, with its "deepest pool at sea," which serves as a platform for performers such as divers and synchronized swimmers.
The Royal Promenade could get ridiculously congested during parades, and you could wait a while for an elevator. But there were plenty of places to get away from fellow passengers -- such as the wrap-around promenade on Deck 5, and the aforementioned Central Park, which was quiet most of the time. There also are a couple of open-to-all balconies overlooking the AquaTheater (one's on Deck 11, starboard); there's another off-beat spot, all the way forward and above the solarium, which most people miss.
Sure, the ship is large, but it doesn't feel as massive as you'd expect it to and that's a credit to its design. The neighborhood concept really does work -- Central Park with its thousands of living plants is wonderful and there are reasons to be there day (Park Cafe for freshly made salads, sandwiches and breakfast fare; fun tours of art and foliage; and lots of comfortable chairs in which to read) and night (noshing at the outdoor tables at Vintages, the wine bar, and at Giovanni's, the ship's Italian restaurant). After dinner, the Entertainment Zone is a magnet. On sunny days, congregating on the pool deck is a typical activity -- and while it can be crowded, you can always find a lounge chair.
With the FlowRiders, H2O Zone, Boardwalk and incredible age-specific children's facilities, Oasis of the Seas is an obvious choice for families. However, the ship also appeals to active couples, mainly in their 30's to 50's (Central Park is a great place relatively kid-free spot to hang). The majority of passengers hail from North America, though many passengers on our sailing came from the United Kingdom and Europe, as well, keen to experience the world's largest cruise ship.
Seven-night cruises have two formal nights and five casual nights. A decent number of men choose to wear tuxedos for formal dining, though dark suits were more common on our sailing. Women are typically found in cocktail dresses or gowns.
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.