Embark - It was clear RCL was not prepared for an embarkation of this magnitude in Southampton. As a frequent floater, I received and email 4 days prior to embarkation letting me know I could board anytime after 12:00pm. Several thousand ... Read More
Embark - It was clear RCL was not prepared for an embarkation of this magnitude in Southampton. As a frequent floater, I received and email 4 days prior to embarkation letting me know I could board anytime after 12:00pm. Several thousand of us stood outside the terminal from 11:45am until 2:15pm before were even let in. Once we were let in, it was still somewhat of a "cluster." I am an Emerald Crown & Anchor and because that was not printed on my SetSail Pass, I had to stand in a line that was 3x longer. The gentleman who checked me in was nice enough and apologized for the long delay and for me having to walk through the wrong line. RCL blamed the delay on British Immigration not being set up and ready to go in time. So, how long did RCL and the British government know this ship would be embarking with 5K passengers today?!?!?! It was the worst embarkation experience in 12 cruises. The crowd was pretty composed but had it lasted much longer, they would have had a stampede the likes of a WHO concert on their hands.
Disembark - Two strikes and you're out. Its like they've never unloaded this ship. I was posting on Facebook each step of the way (including pictures) and friends who've sailed on Oasis before were horrified at my experience because they all said the breezed on and off in FLL. I stood in a line on Deck 5 in the Royal Promenade for 1 hour just waiting to get OFF the ship, then when I got into the luggage/customs area I saw another line that almost made me pass out. That line took 1.5 hours. So, 2.5 hours after starting, I finally was on terra firma and on my own. If this was my first RCL cruise, I would never sail them again just because of their handling of the embarkation/disembarkation process. It was deplorable and the worst I've ever seen on any ship on ant line. This was my 12th cruise (8th on RCL) and I've never experienced anything like this on RCL before.
American Icon Grille (Night 1) - Dinner on night one started out a mess. I was scheduled for an 8:30pm seating at table 216. I stood outside with everyone else waiting for the doors to open and when the let us in, it was a free for all trying to find my table. I looked and looked and saw everything on either side of 216, but no 216. I had 5 waiters and 2 managers trying to find the table, and they finally set me at a 2top that didn't have a number on it. The waiter, Anthony, from India, was about as close to a robot as one could get, no smile and very little personaity. I listened to him rattle off the same speech to each table on either side of me with equal stiffness. His first words to me were, "Good evening gentlemen...." Gentlemen?!?! Is there someone sitting with me I can't see. I started a largely flavorless and bland Eggplant & Artichoke Tart and a classic Shrimp Cocktail that tasted nice (that's kinda hard to mess up). For my main entree, I had an Atlantic Cod that was nice. It was accompanied with some very nice mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli I. Standard ship fare but nicely done. For dessert I had a Peach-Blueberry Crumble served warm with vanilla ice cream. It was not very warm, a little on the hard side. One of the things that is a sign of a good waiter is how attentive are they to the table and "it's" needs. I had laid several used butter wrappers from my bread on the table along with a straw wrapper from my diet coke. The trash sat there on the table the entire dinner. Anthony was efficient but would have been stellar had there been some personable interaction and less rehearsed and canned conversation. I HAVE experienced it on other ships so I know it can done. I saw him cutting up with coworkers and was incredibly warm and friendly with them. Too bad that isn't extended to the guests. The one redeeming factor of the dinner was a final conversation I had with Raul, the head waiter. He was very personable and took time to get to know the guests at all of the tables in his section.
American Icon Grille (Night 2) - Dinner on night two was much better regarding the food. I had a wonderful Melon & Proscutto salad, a bay scallops gratin, a nice tossed salad, a wonderful Shrimp ravioli and a chocolate pot de creme for dessert. The quality & flavor profiles of the food were head and shoulders above last nights choices. The service…. even after talking to the manager and offering some constructive feedback for Anthony - it was equally as stiff and im-personable as last night. Again, he is proficient and does his job as trained - but there was no human-ness about his delivery. It was as if he was reading a script and was not about to deviate from that script. He is professional, but just not personable.
Windjammer Marketplace (Buffet): This restaurant is a staple for RCL on all of their ships. This one is the best by far. The choices of food seem to be a notch up from the rest and the layout of the restaurant is clearly about 3-4 times the size of the others for obvious reasons, but it was still easy to get food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even though it is large, it is still serviced quite well.
Room Service: I only tried it twice during the cruise. Once, at about 10:00pm when I wanted a late night desert and coffee and it worked great. The second time when I wanted to order breakfast for the next morning. I place the order at about 11:00pm for it to arrive between 8:30am-9:00pm. At 9:30am, I called room service to cancel the order as I was tired of waiting, and the woman I talked to said, “Oh, we are having problems with the order system on the stateroom TV. We get some and some we don’t. I’m very sorry.” SO, if you are going to order room service via your TV, I would recommend following up on the phone to confirm they got the order.
Sabor Taqueria - This was one of my 2 favorite outlets on the ship. The food is very good, very high quality and quite ingenious. There service was great and the atmosphere was as well. They have 2 ways to order, a $20 pre-fix that allows for one item off each section of the menu or you can order ala carte. It was all priced well. We ended up ordering ala carte and got allot of food and it was still only $29 for two people. I would highly recommend this place whir on board. The only down side is during bad or cold weather, it is not good because it is basically an outside restaurant, but since this ship will be placed only in the Caribbean, it should be a problem (except for rain).
Solarium Bistro - This was the 2nd of my fav non-complimentary outlets on board. There is nothing bad to say about this new concept for OotS. The food again, is very high quality and since it is spa-inspired food, it is mostly quite healthy. I would say that many of the deserts were sugar free and yet they were delicious. There service was great (ask for Eunice) and the ambience amazing. If you make your reservation at sunset - you will get a very romantic dinner and sunset all wrapped into one. AMAZING! I ate breakfast, lunch & dinner there and wish I had done it more because it really is some of the best food on the ship.
Johnny Rockets - I always love this place and it is as normal on all of their ships. I love the burger, fries & shakes. I love the setting on the Boardwalk. The only downside is they don’t do the JR signature dancing of the waiters. But I can live without that as long as the food is good and the service is good which it is.
150 Central Park - The most expensive specialty restaurant on board at $40 per person. It is a very upscale restaurant. It is a 6-course meal that you get to choose your 4th, 5th & 6th courses from several options. 1-3 are chosen for you. The food was very good, the service was good, the ambience was good. It is nicer than any other F&B outlet on the ship and a good choice when you need to celebrate something special.
Chops Grille - I always do Chops when on board and it was good. It was pretty much what I have come to expect from Chops on every level. Food, service and quality were all good. The physical restaurant itself is much nice than any other Chops on any other ship of RCL’s. Overall, it was good.
Didn’t do Giovanni’s Table, Izumi or Vintages on this cruise. I had a bad experience in Giovanni’s on Rhapsody of the Seas and chose to stay away from it.
Vitality at Sea Spa & Fitness:
Thermal Spa - I chose to purchase the Thermal Spa package for the cruise because there is no complimentary sauna/steam room option on this ship as with so many other RCL ships. First the good - this thermal spa is really quite beautiful and nicely appointed. There are 2 steam rooms, one dry sauna, 2 rain showers and 4 heated lounge seats. All of the amenities in this thermal spa are really quite nice and certainly worth the dollars spent. It is a coed spa which was my first big complaint, but I just let it fall under the “it is what it is” idea. The big downside of the thermal spa is that it is incredibly very small for a ship this size. I have been on other much smaller RCL ships that have spa’s 2 & 3 times the size of this one. They only allow 30 passengers per cruise to purchase passes due to the size. The staff is incredibly nice and professional. I am just very surprised there are no steam rooms or saunas in the mens & women’s locker rooms free to guests. Im sure they had their reasons for doing this, but with the limit they have to the number of people they allow to use the facility, it can’t be a revenue decision.
Fitness Center - It is well appointed and quite large as you would expect for a ship this size - but it’s major downfall is that it is farther down in the ship, therefore it has no windows in it at all. It is very dark, very claustrophobic and not enticing to work out in. I wasn’t in there very often because of this fact.
Headliners - Cregan & Co. - Tonight's headliners, Cregan & Co. - Jim Cregan was Rod Stewart's original guitarist and collaborative songwriter... Ben Miller was a finalist in UK X Factor 2006... They did a great show of some of Rod Stewart's biggest hits. They were both great, but Ben was really really good. The only downside was their keyboardist was not on stage due to getting sick earlier today from seasickness. They did a good job covering for him, but several of Rod’s songs really need the keyboard… but it was still a good show.
Oasis of Dreams (Aqua Theater) - This show was AMAZING! Even if they had to stop it halfway through due to rough seas - what we got to see what spectacular. I would highly recommend if you are going to get tickets for this show (they are free, but you need to reserve it) - do it AT NIGHT. It is much more enjoyable at night with all of the lights.
CATS - RCL kept apologizing for “not being ready” to launch this show and kept putting it off and kept putting it off until the last day of the cruise - and even then they only showed a portion of the show. I was very confused by their not being “ready” for this show. It speaks volumes to the professionalism of their entertainment division that they didn’t have it ready by cruise time. I work in the event planning industry and while I certainly understand problems that come up in the moment of an event, a good event (or show) planner/producer has multiple contingency plans in place to accommodate execution. The show must go on. Each actor, dancer, singer, crew and production member should be incredibly proud of this production. It was of the highest quality. The dancing, singing, sets and overall production was really quite wonderful. This makes the 2nd Broadway show I have seen on the high seas (the other was "Rock of Ages" on Norwegian's Breakaway). Now for the not so good - this show is singularly one of the worst Broadway scores and books I have ever seen. I know it has a mass appeal (3rd longest running Broadway show in history) but if it had not been for the great production value, I would have nothing much to offer here. Kudos to every single RCL staff member who helped create this stellar production of a just so-so show.
Pretty much all of the rest of the entertainment from the main theater to the other entertainment outlets was only so-so. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t to the level I had expected of the largest cruise ship in the world.
Photos: This ship has an AMAZING photography studio on board and guests can set private appointments with a ships photographer to have a 30-minutes photo shoot just for you. They will start in the studio and then take you around the ship to get some of the most amazing shots I have ever seen. I had Edwin and he was not only amazing to work with - but the quality of his photos and his attention to detail was amazing. He must have taken about 100 photos of me and I they have several packages you can choose form in various formats. They are much more expensive than the normal photos you can get on board but are worth every single penny. I generally try and get some new professional head shots while on a cruise to use in my work and I wasn’t disappointed this time. I’m not going to give pricing because if this is something that interest you, I don’t want whatever price I may give you to keep you from going in an having a photo shoot to see for yourself. If you do the shoot and don’t want to purchase any pictures - you don’t have to - but I can sure you that once you see them, if good quality photos are important to you - you WILL purchase even the smallest package like I did.
General Tips & Suggestions:
- Make sure when you ask when you get on board DAY ONE if there are any special discounts available at ANY of the specialty restaurants. On this cruise they didn’t do a good job of communicating it and we found out toward the end that there were certain nights (like formal night) that they were free or highly discounted in some of the outlets.
- Use the TV in your stateroom to book all of your show tickets on DAY ONE or TWO as they sell out quite quickly.
- The usual beverage package (for sodas) on this ship is kind of unique. The glass they give you has a “chip” placed inside of it that can be used in the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines placed throughout the ship for you to create you own custom soft drinks free. It is a really cool option and makes it easier than standing in line to get a drink at a bar all of the time (which you can still do). I found out that the “chip” is programmed for YOUR cruise only and when you leave the ship - it will no longer work in the machines. I asked because I thought to myself, “What of I purchase this cup and try and use it on another cruise on the same ship?" A crew member told me it won’t work except for this cruise.
- Breakfast in the Park Cafe is the bomb. It is not as crowded as Windjammer and the food is wonderful - and free!!!! Plus you get to eat breakfast in the tranquility of Central Park.
- I loved how the Guest Services Desk would allow me to split my total SeaPass bill at the end of the cruise onto up to 5 credit cards so the entire thing didn’t sit on one card for Express Checkout. Just got to the desk and give them the cards you want to split it to and it will automatically be split upon departure.
- If you are considering purchasing the Thermal Spa - they only seek 30 passes per cruise to it - so if you want it - get it on DAY ONE.
I was afraid that with over 5K passengers aboard, this ship would feel crowded - SO not the case. Only a few times (mainly on formal night and in the Royal Promenade) did I feel crowded. The ship is so big that there is generally not a feeling of being over crowded at all. On the note of 5K passengers, the main thing I noticed is that service levels seems to be a little down. I find it odd that you are on a ship where service is the name of the game, and as you are walking by a crew member, they lower their heads to not have to recognize you are talk to you. That happened more times than not. I was talking to some Diamond and Diamond Plus guests and they all said they have noticed service is down drastically from other sailings on the same class of ship (both Oasis and Allure). This is my first sailing on this class so I have nothing to compare it to, but I have noticed it seems to be down. No way to get made to order eggs in the morning, no made to order pasta stations (as on other ships), no concierge to help you make reservations, etc. In the Diamond Lounge, typically, there are ships officers that will visit with the guests and not once did I see officers in the lounge when I was in there. Since this was the first sailing out of dry dock, there were many changes on the ship that it seemed the crew was having a hard time adjusting to. There seemed to be lots of confusion about where things were, what times they were, how much they cost, etc. On the positive side - this is truly the most beautiful ship I have ever seen or sailed on. Its design, layout and appointments from top to bottom are innovative, imaginative and amazing. I never tired in 12 days of walking around just being amazed at the ship itself. It is markedly different and more beautiful than any ship I’ve sailed. RCL knocked it out of the ballpark with this class and I am glad they are building a 3rd Oasis class ship because the ship itself WORKS! It will be interesting to sail the new Quantum Class to see what it is like, but this ship is highly worth sailing and I would do it again and again (even with the few blips I found in service). I had a wonderful time doing my first Transatlantic on this ship and while I don’t think I need to do another sailing across the pond, I would sail this class of ship many more times. Read Less