The bulk of Oasis of the Seas' live entertainment takes place in the Entertainment Zone on Deck 4. Keep in mind that none of the ship's venues can accommodate everyone who wants to see a show; if your heart is set on not missing out, you'll have to book before you get onboard. If you didn't plan ahead, try to make reservations with Guest Services, either in person or over the phone, or show up at the venue at least 15 minutes before showtime to see if you can get in. (We found this worked for the ice show and Cats but not so much for the AquaTheater diving performances or comedians.)
Opal Theater (Decks 3, 4 and 5): The three-deck theater is home to Cats, the monster Broadway/London hit. The show has a four-year contract on Oasis, but due to its running length (almost three hours) and only a handful of popular hits (do you know any except "Memory"?),it seems to be a mismatch; many passengers leave before intermission. That doesn't mean the quality isn't good, as we found the show to be similar to what we saw in London's West End many years earlier.
A Headliner Act also plays there several times a cruise. During our voyage, the show featured a ventriloquist, but on other sailings, there might be an ABBA tribute or an a cappella group.
Studio B (Deck 4): This multipurpose theater can be used for special theater productions and events, such as mega-bingo. But its main claim to fame is as the home of the ship's ice skating rink. Free skating is available during sea days. The ship also puts on an ice show several times a voyage that is genuinely entertaining, particularly for children and international passengers who might appreciate a show without language barriers. During our sailing, we were impressed with "Frozen in Time," an exploration of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. (Once you realize that the skaters are performing their tricks while the ship is moving, it's hard not to be amazed.)
AquaTheater (Deck 6): Taking up the ship's aft near the Boardwalk, the AquaTheater is home to one of the signature shows of Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, and you'll want to make reservations online before you come. The 30-minute shows feature a team of Olympic-caliber divers, gymnasts and synchronized swimmers who splash down into the deepest diving pool at sea in a routine set to music. Don't miss it.
Comedy Club (Deck 4): Comedy shows are quite popular on Oasis, with both a PG and an adult version offered most nights. The venue is small, however, and it's one of the first offerings to book up in advance.
Oasis of the Seas has an abundance of programming throughout the day; you have to work to be bored on this ship. Expect to see plenty of trivia sessions, shopping and spa "lectures," art auctions, beer tastings and martini mixology sessions, dance classes and bingo. Movies or football games are occasionally broadcast on the screens near the AquaTheater. DreamWorks 3D movies are shown in the Opal Theater. The world's sexiest man and belly flop contests are held in the AquaTheater.
Oasis has three arcades onboard. The Boardwalk's version (simply named Arcade) has traditional carnival games like Skee-Ball. Full of video games, the Challengers Arcade on Deck 15 is conveniently located to the spots where teens hang out. Adventure Ocean, on Deck 14, also has an arcade for the younger set.
You don't have to have a child in tow to ride the carousel, also on the Boardwalk. It's free, fun and has plenty of cool painted horses and animals to delight kids and kids at heart.
The Royal Promenade feels pleasingly familiar among Oasis' many first-ever spaces. Yes, there's new stuff here, such as Rising Tide Bar, which travels from the Royal Promenade to Central Park. Sure, the Royal Promenade is wider, with nearly twice the girth of the Freedom-class ships. It's also noticeably lighter -- one aspect of the ship's new design is the skylights that let daylight in. The shops offer the usual suspects -- duty free that's actually pricier than that on the islands you'll visit, and Oasis souvenirs -- but there are a couple of new options. Willow, a shop geared to the 30-plus set, has lovely casual clothing (designers ranging from Eileen Fisher to Spirit), jewelry and accessories. There's a minimally stocked camera shop that could benefit from a little bit more merchandise (and perhaps could bulk up on the kind of stuff you really do need to buy on vacation; it was already out of camera memory cards when we paid a visit). Above it is a vast photo gallery.
Central Park, with its 12,175 plants and 56 trees, offers a lovely respite from the buoyant energy that otherwise permeates Oasis of the Seas. The flora and fauna ranges from an herb garden to towering (well, they'll be lofty someday) trees that offer a soft canopy. You may be onboard in an inner-facing space, but Central Park is open to the sky and, interestingly, through use of wind-controlling technology, there's a lovely breeze blowing through the area. Beyond the aforementioned restaurants, there are lots of peaceful nooks for simply curling up with a good book. On the retail therapy side of things, Central Park has the first Coach store at sea (thought sister line Celebrity Cruises does sell Coach products in the gift shops on some of its ships). The shop never seemed busy.
Oasis of the Seas features the largest and most sophisticated casino afloat, Casino Royale, located midship on Deck 4. There is a themed walkway entrance, and The Hall of Odds explores the history of gambling. Design elements include dramatic sculptures, crystal chandeliers, and hues of amethyst, aquamarine and ruby. As for the meat and potatoes of the casino, you'll find 450 slot machines; extensive table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps and Caribbean Stud Poker; a bar and lounge area; a sports book; a poker room; and a players' club. The space allows smoking, and the smell can filter out into the hallway in front of Grande.
Adult Karaoke takes place every night in Boleros. Other evening events include Liars Club, the Love and Marriage game, a guess the lyrics contests, dance parties in the Solarium and the Quest adult scavenger hunt. There's also a special Prohibition-themed party where passengers are encouraged to dress up as their favorite flapper or don gangster gear; it costs $35 for free food and all the booze you can drink.
Kids will enjoy the evening DreamWorks Parade, which includes characters like Puss in Boots, Alex the Lion from "Madagascar," Kung Fu Panda and Hiccup from "How to Train Your Dragon." Make sure you bring your camera. The ship gets adults involved too, with theme parades that include '70s night.
Oasis of the Seas Bars and Lounges
Oasis of the Seas does a brisk business in drink packages. We were told that 50 percent of the passengers buy some sort of alcohol, soda or water package before they board, and another 30 percent buy once they arrive. On a seven-night cruise, you'll have until the fourth day to decide if your consumption habits warrant buying a package.
Blaze (Deck 4, Entertainment Place): The ship's club, which focuses on hip-hop and modern dance music, can get packed with people prepped to par-tay; the dance floor is much smaller than you'd expect for a ship of this size. The space often doesn't open until 11:30 p.m., and there are frequently people lined out front to get in.
Jazz on 4 (Deck 4, Entertainment Place): This jazz club is a must for live music fans. Despite a prominent position in the ship's Entertainment Zone, the club is usually not crowded, and it's a nice place to listen to music without feeling too overwhelmed.
Boleros (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Live Latin music and a location in the heart of the ship mean that this club feels energetic, crowded and fun. Since Oasis draws many international passengers who love to dance, be prepared to be impressed by their fancy footwork.
Globe & Atlas Pub (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): This British-style pub draws drinkers during the day for a pint and people-watching. In the evenings, guitarists play well-known favorites.
On Air (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): A dizzying array of TVs on the outside of this Royal Promenade bar marks this as sports central for the onboard crowd. And crowded it becomes, particularly on Sundays during football season. (Some of the bigger games are shown on the large screen in the AquaTheater.) When the dust on the various fields settles, the space is turned over for late-night karaoke.
Champagne Bar (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): If you gotta have your fizz, this is your hang -- and on a ship that's more attuned to beer and colorful rum drinks, you may be one of the few people inside on most nights. (Cocktails and wine are also available there.) It does become more popular on formal nights.
Rising Tide Bar (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Sure, it's a gimmick. But who cares? It's fun. Patrons board this hydraulic space on Deck 5 in the busy Royal Promenade to drink and socialize as the platform slowly rises to Deck 8's Central Park. The bar's intimate size and its oddness factor make it a good choice for the single traveler events held there nightly.
Schooner Bar (Deck 6, Royal Promenade): Tucked up in a corner of the Royal Promenade, the Schooner Bar does double duty. During the day, it's home to numerous trivia contests. At night, it's a piano bar, where passengers indulge in classic cocktails while singing along.
Sabor Tequileria (Deck 6, Boardwalk): The tequila bar associated with Sabor adds a grown-up edge to the child-friendly Boardwalk.
Dazzles (Deck 8, midship): This two-story jewel-box of a nightclub hosts live bands, as well as DJs. It's a truly pretty place to get your groove on; we found it bumping during '80s night. Dancing there usually ends around midnight or 1 a.m., with Blaze taking over as the main spot.
Trellis Bar (Deck 8, Central Park): A lovely open-air bar in Central Park, Trellis is perfect for a drink before your meal at a specialty restaurant.
Diamond Lounge (Deck 11): The lounge for those "loyal to Royal" is now a two-story area on Deck 11 that comes with a view of the Boardwalk. Members can come in for complimentary snacks and drinks from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pool Bar and Sand Bar (Deck 15, Pool & Sports Zone): These two bars, port and starboard, provide the hordes at the four main pools with libations. (We never saw servers delivering drinks at any of the pools on the ship.) As you can imagine, they are both quite busy on sea days. The Pool Bar on the port side is where smokers congregate.
Sky Bar & Mast Bar (Deck 16, midship): Up one deck from the pool action, these two bars serve sunbathers on port and starboard sides of the Sky Walk, a fancy name for the walkway between the Solarium on one end of the ship and the sports area on the other. Neither is as hectic as their counterparts a deck below, so if you're frustrated with your service (or want to avoid the smoke), this might be your alternative. The Mast Bar is portside.
Wipe Out Bar (Deck 16, aft): Watching other passengers screw up on the FlowRider is a Royal Caribbean tradition. Why not have a drink in your hand while you do it? (Just don't indulge too much before you take a turn yourself.)
Solarium Bar (Deck 16, Solarium): Located on the upper deck of the two-story Solarium, this bar is the place to buy your drinks if you're camped out in the adults-only area.
Suite Lounge (Deck 17): The space formerly occupied by the Viking Crown Lounge is now split into the Suite Lounge (for suite passengers only) and Coastal Kitchen (see Dining). Royal Caribbean has done a good job converting this space, with a self-service buffet area at the back, well-spaced chairs and tables dotted about, and a long, low bar in the center connecting to Coastal Kitchen. It's light, bright, roomy and open 24/7, meaning you could, in theory, spend all your non-sleeping time there.
Suite Bar (Deck 17): Located on the Suite Sun Deck at the front of the ship, this bar is only open to suite passengers.
Oasis of the Seas Outdoor Recreation
On Oasis-class ships, Royal has concentrated its pools and water activities on port and starboard areas of Deck 15, separated by the open-air skylight to Central Park. As a result, each pool feels more intimate than typical mega-ship pools, although the sea day crowds are as intense as you might imagine. Want to be the only one in the pool? It can happen. Go early on a day when everyone else is in port.
The Main Pool has a ledge for people to sit and has many loungers around it, arranged stadium-style. Unfortunately, this pool is also closest to the ship's outdoor smoking area, and you can sometimes smell cigarette smoke there. You need to check out beach towels with your room card; make sure you return them when you're done to avoid a fee.
Across the skylight from the Main Pool, the saltwater "Beach" Pool has tan-colored concrete -- not sand. But the area around the pool does have a clever slope that mimics the angle you might find at an actual beach, allowing some of the water to splash up around your ankles. This is the ship's most popular pool, probably because it has shade umbrellas; go early if you want a lounger, or go on a port day.
Separated from the aforementioned pools by a pair of bars, the Sports Pool is paired with the H20 Zone water park for kids. Royal Caribbean has no water slides, but we saw plenty of parents and kids having fun as they splashed through the colorful fountains. The Sports Pool is meant for active pursuits, such as water volleyball and water aerobics; as you might expect, it draws a fair number of kids during the day.
The Solarium has a thalassotherapy pool with fountains and jets that's just for those older than 16. (We saw a man enter with a child, and the disapproving looks he received shamed him into leaving.) Because the area is covered, you won't get the same tan there, however. Also keep in mind that a lack of kids doesn't mean that this area won't be noisy; we saw plenty of adults making as much of a din as you'd hear in the main pool area.
Nine hot tubs are scattered around the ship, some of them with edging to give them an infinity pool effect. Kids have their own bubbling tub in the H20 park, and they seemed to be satisfied with the whirlpools around the main pools, which kept them out of the two larger infinity-style ones (located between the main pools in the solarium, one on each side of the ship).
Rock Climbing Walls (Deck 6, Boardwalk): Oasis of the Seas has two 30-foot-tall rock climbing walls, right near the AquaTheater. All of the equipment is provided, including helmets, harnesses and shoes. (You'll have to bring socks.) For beginners, one-on-one instruction is available for free, by appointment; open sessions are also complimentary. Children must be older than 6, and everyone needs to sign a waiver.
Ice Skating Rink (Deck 4, Studio B): Several times during the cruise, Oasis of the Seas converts Studio B into an ice skating rink for free skating. Long pants and socks are required.
FlowRider (Deck 17, aft): Oasis boasts two FlowRider surfing simulators, one for stand-up surfing and one for less-intense boogie boarding. Unless you're already a top skateboarder or snowboarder, don't expect to be an expert on the Flow Rider right away. Be prepared for wipeouts if you're a beginner (and don't feel bad -- the machine pumps out 34,000 gallons per minute). Oasis of the Seas offers private lessons for $552 an hour or group sessions for $69. Hardcore surfers can rent the FlowRider to use by themselves for $345 an hour. There's a height requirement of 52" for boogie boarding and 58" for surfing.
Zipline (Deck 15, starboard aft): Oasis of the Seas has a complimentary zipline that's short (82 feet) but scary enough, traversing the open-air Boardwalk. You'll need closed-toe tennis shoes and socks. Kids need to be at least 52" tall and weigh 75 pounds; for adults, there's a weight limit of 275 pounds.
Mini-Golf (Deck 15): The Dunes mini-golf course has interesting and colorful statues, with real room to spread out. It's a nice option for those whose kids aren't old enough to do some of the more challenging activities.
Sports Court (Deck 15): Oasis of the Seas has a fairly sizable sports court, used for basketball, volleyball, tennis and dodgeball. Expect to see tournaments during the week, as well as times for free play.
Table Tennis (Deck 15): Oasis of the Seas has one of the nicest areas for Ping-Pong that we've seen on a ship. The secret is that it's sheltered from the wind, so you have no excuse for missed shots.
The Boardwalk: Between the colorful lights, the merry-go-round music and the smell of the freshly minted waffle cones, the Boardwalk absolutely feels like the Jersey Shore or Coney Island. It's charming, for sure: We rode the carousel -- each horse, cheetah, etc. hand-carved out of wood and hand-painted -- until our faces hurt from smiling. The ride is free (no age restriction, though there is a height requirement if you want to ride alone) and lasts two minutes with old-fashioned calliope music creating the soundtrack as you spin.
There are also fun shops here, including a candy store, and an old-timey photo booth where you can print your own color or black and white snapshots in seconds ($5 for 6). One of our favorite Boardwalk diversions is the Pets at Sea shop, Oasis' answer to the "Build a Bear" chain that's popular on land. Pick the "skin" of the pet you want (rabbits, penguins, etc.) and staffers help you stuff it by attaching it to one of two big contraptions that look like oversized gum ball machines -- but instead of gum balls, there's stuffing flying around inside. The stuffing fills and puffs out the pet, along with a fabric heart you've placed inside. All manner of outfits, including a captain's uniform that looks fabulous on a stuffed bear, are for sale. The pet alone is $19.99; outfits are $12.99. If you buy both together, it's $29.99. Your pet leaves the shop in a cardboard box with a precut hole so he or she can poke out a furry head and see the sights.
As we noted before, one oddity about the Boardwalk area is that it doesn't draw the crowds you'd expect. Even on our cruise, in which there were many, many kids onboard, the only time we really saw people congregating here was during an evening, family-themed event. Otherwise, it was a ghost town.
The bulk of lounge chairs are situated around the pools and the Deck 15 Skywalk that runs between them. Deck 14 also has an extensive sun deck, complete with two observation platforms that stick out over the ocean.
Suite passengers have their own sun deck on Deck 17. Accessible by keycard, it has a bar, plenty of padded loungers and views of sea and sky.
The Solarium complex, for those older than 16, is found on decks 15 and 16 forward. It's mostly covered, which means the area can get quite steamy on hot Caribbean days. Within the area, you'll find the Solarium bar, the Solarium bistro restaurant, a thalassotherapy pool, two hot tubs and several decorative water features, along with several types of chairs and loungers. Like the rest of the ship, the Solarium can get crowded on sea days, but overall, we found it more pleasant than the main pool areas.
Oasis of the Seas Services
With so many passengers and crew, Oasis of the Seas is as big as many towns, so the services offered are extensive.
The Guest Services desk is found within the Royal Promenade on Deck 5. This mall-type area is also home to shore excursion desks, the future cruise office and the photo gallery, as well as several ATMs. The medical facility is way down on the ship, on Deck 2; it has its own operating room and X-ray machine.
Oasis of the Seas has quite a few shops. On the Royal Promenade, you'll find purse purveyors Michael Kors and Kate Spade, Solera for makeup and perfume, a clothing store called Prince & Green, The Shop for logo gear and other items, Regalia for watches and jewelry, and Port Merchant for duty-free alcohol.
But wait, there's more! The Boardwalk also has some stores to appeal to children, including Candy Beach and Star Pier with bathing suits and T-shirts. The artist Britto also has a gallery there. In Central Park, you'll find a Coach store and Tiffany's jewelry store. And finally, if you don't have snorkel gear or beach toys, there's a shop up on Deck 15 that will sell you what you need for your Caribbean adventures.
Park West has a small art gallery on Deck 8 in Central Park and next to Picture This, the portrait studio. There's a library on Deck 11 with a small selection of books. On Deck 14, you'll find the Seven Hearts Card Room for cards, board games and Sudoku. Conferences have their meetings on Deck 3.
With all the excitement over the new features, it seems Royal Caribbean forgot to include a decent Internet cafe onboard Oasis of the Seas. The facility -- two inside-cabin-sized windowless cubbies with a half dozen terminals apiece and four terminals that have hastily been set up in the card room -- is the most appalling we've seen on a cruise ship since shipboard Internet access was first introduced. There's no one manning the Internet operation here and on our cruise, and half the terminals weren't working for days at a stretch. The printers were also pretty mercurial. You have to call the front desk if you have a problem (and since no phones are available in the facilities themselves, you have to go back to your room). Staffers there were generous about issuing credit, but the operation is just atrocious. Best bet: Bring your own laptop if you plan to connect to the Internet for more than the most minimal time. You also have access via your in-cabin television.
Oasis of the Seas installed Voom, its super-fast Wi-Fi, during its refit. The cost is $15 per day, per device (with 50 percent off a second device for one person). The Wi-Fi is a highlight. We found that it always worked and was fast enough to pull down larger files and stream movies. A handful of computers in the Library are available for passenger use.
The ship lacks self-service laundry facilities. Expect to pay $30 for a two-day "wash and fold" full (trash-size) sack of mixed garments.
Lost? Look for the "wayfinders" located throughout the ship. These touch-screen digital signs can enlighten you as to where you are and in which direction you need to go to make that cocktail-mixing class on time.