Oasis of the Seas Entertainment
The Entertainment Zone is home to Studio B ice rink for shows and free skate, the Opus three-deck theater (where performances of "Hairspray" take place), a comedy club (book reservations in advance; it's popular and the space is small so can't accommodate huge crowds) and a jazz bar with superb live music. Blaze, a one-story nightclub, is located down here as well.
Passengers will see evidence of Allure's "Dreamworks Experience" throughout the ship, in the form of 3D movies in the main theater, high-energy character parades in the Royal Promenade and special daytime shows at the AquaTheater.
On the Boardwalk, all the way aft, you'll find said AquaTheater, where evening shows take place throughout the week. This is a don't-miss event! Reserve a spot, but there are also seats (and standing room) along the back. There are two 18-meter dive boards and 20 performers dedicated to the space: six divers, four synchronized swimmers, six acrobats and four specialty divers. Another fun fact: There are nearly 2,000 nozzles on and above the stage for synchronized water shooting. I seriously had my heart in my throat when the high diver leapt off a platform that seemingly scraped the sky; he sliced into the water with barely a splash (on another night, when winds and sea were a bit feistier, he did not perform and I was frankly glad).
Many of Royal Caribbean's favorite bars and lounges are found in the Royal Promenade. Bolero's jumped to a packed house every night, with terrific live music and lots of dancing. The Schooner Bar's new location, on the upper level of the Royal Promenade, is controversial as its windows have no view, but I loved sitting in chairs that ringed the promenade on formal night, and watching the world go by!
The top-of-the-ship Viking Crown Lounge, which here provides a stunning view forward from its lofty perch on Deck 17, is gorgeous, but is mostly forgotten. It was empty most nights. Also struggling to attract passengers at night was Dazzles, a two-deck nightclub with a great view looking toward the back of the ship and the AquaTheater. It was home to theme nights (like 80's music).
Oasis of the Seas features the largest and most sophisticated casino afloat: Casino Royale. There is a themed walkway entrance, The Museum of Gaming, exploring 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.
Oasis of the Seas Public Rooms
Oasis of the Seas boasts two fascinating public areas that are new to cruise travel.
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.
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 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.
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 my cruise, 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 Spa & Fitness
In the Pool and Sports Zone, Oasis of the Seas' top-ship neighborhood, you'll find a "zero entry" pool that's great for gradually wading into deeper water; a sports pool (think water-jousting and pool volleyball); and the H2O Zone that's just for kids and features several brightly colored water-spraying sculptures.
Oasis of the Seas is the first cruise ship ever to feature its own zip-line, which runs diagonally across the Pool and Sports Deck, above the Boardwalk. For those who dare to try it, the zip-line offers an amazing (and free) aerial view of the carousel and other attractions, so be sure to look down! You'll need to sign a waiver, obtain a wristband and prepare for what could be a long wait. (It will take about 10 minutes just for the staff to harness you properly.) You will also be required to empty your pockets and wear sneakers and a helmet. This is definitely a fun option, especially at night when the Boardwalk's festive lights are aglow. However, it may not offer much of a thrill for passengers who have already tried land-based zip-lining, which usually offers a longer and more picturesque experience.
There are also two FlowRiders, the surf simulators that made their debut with the Freedom class. Both are located on Deck 16 aft, with the Wipeout Bar wedged conveniently between them. One note: If you're intrigued by the FlowRider and have never surfed before, we suggest boogie boarding first. Surfing isn't as easy as it looks, as one of our staffers found out the hard way (see our Oasis of the Seas FlowRider video
Despite a vast spa facility, the ship's gym, which has been moved from Royal Caribbean's more traditional top-deck, full-windows locale to amidships and is illuminated by stingy portholes, is underwhelming. Parts of the spa itself also suffer, ambience-wise, due to the new location (particularly fluorescent in feeling is its salon, which has no outside view to the sea at all). One nice touch: a stairwell inside the gym leads directly down a deck to the ship's running track.
Our spa experience was particularly ... stressful, which frankly defeats the purpose of going to a spa. Staffers were disorganized (didn't reserve the treatment properly, charged more money than I was quoted, mixed me up with another passenger, then gave me a hard product sell afterward). Ultimately the spa manager did refund the disputed amount but she was snarky and unpleasant. I was so disgusted I decided to skip other treatments I'd planned to book.
Other down-notes on the ship's spa and gym facility include the fact that the gym is a deck above some treatment rooms and noise there can intrude on the supposedly serenity-inspired ambience below. As well, the ship's anchor appears to be located just underneath the relaxation room and the noise is quite audible at times.
Prior to taking the cruise I was quite enamored of the adults-only, glass-roofed Solarium, but after being onboard I was ultimately disappointed. It was always packed -- very difficult to find a chaise -- and the spare furnishings were simply sterile rather than hip. It wasn't as warm and welcoming as it could have been (Princess Cruises
definitely does a better job with the concept with its Sanctuary spaces) and perhaps there's some way to moderate the crowds.