My husband and I had the pleasure of cruising the Oasis as qualifiers with a large incentives group. There were several hundred people in our group. The ship served as an excellent venue both for formal group functions and informal gatherings. My only previous cruise experience was aboard a 100 passenger Windjammer sailing ship. My husband had been on the Enchantment of the Seas once previously.
A few surprises. First, the ship is large enough to handle all 6600 passengers and 2200 crew members without feeling the least bit cramped. On-boarding and such are relatively painless. There were many venues to explore and always places to go without feeling cramped or crowded.
On the other hand, there was a surprising amount of swaying movement, especially considering the size of the Oasis. We left wondering if they had been cheap, perhaps not running the stabilizers to the fullest potential, crimping on fuel expense. Because the ship is so large, and presumably outfitted with the best technology, the only other presumable explanation is that the height of the ship was getting caught in the wind. Many experienced cruisers commented that the ship was moving much more than ever they had experienced on smaller ships. I have never experienced motion sickness in my life, but I got sick on the Oasis. A little bit of Dramamine and I was better in a few hours.
As other reviewers have noted, the Windjammer Dining area was always crowded, and frankly an uninspired space. We avoided it.
Our favorite lunch place was in the Solarium Bistro, where the specialty is fresh, healthy food. There they offer light, low-fat, low-sugar, high grains kind of fair. Its an upscale atmosphere, and for adults only. For a buffet, it contrasts sharply with the Windjammer experience.
The themed areas of the ship really are fantastic- Central Park, The Boardwalk, The Promenade, etc. Because there is so much to do, none of these places ever felt over-crowded. The 70's dance party in the Promenade was terrific- it drew an appropriately sized crowd to give a "street party" atmosphere.
Our biggest frustration was the prepaid wine package. We upgraded to the Diamond Wine Package. We prepaid for 12 bottles of wine for $500. Based on the wine list, we felt this was reasonable and saw many wines on the list that we like. However, once we were aboard we found it very difficult to actually use the wine from the package. The wine package is ONLY available in dining rooms, not bars and not your stateroom. And then, most specialty restaurants hard-sell against the prepaid list. The Opus Dining Room was however, great about it. After we were firm, Solarium was fairly good about serving our favorite fume blanc every day for lunch.
As near as we could tell, they waiters only get a commission from the regular wine list. At the fancy 150 Central Park restaurant we were actually told that ordering from the prepaid wine list would "offend the chef". Come on! We had to get very creative to make sure the wine didn't get wasted.
The food and service in the main dining room was fantastic. Our server Anna was truly wonderful.
We went scuba diving in St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I would not recommend diving with the ship excursion group. In each case, there were 30+ divers on one boat. Although the boat was large, this just isn't how we like to dive. In both cases, the dive guides were rather cavalier.
Our dive in St. Maarten actually ended up being rather dangerous. We were dealing with some rather strong currents. Visibility was only 40 feet at best. The dive plan was to start going against current. Makes sense. Then, descend as fast as possible as you swim against the current. Make way to a large grouping of rocks where there is a break from the current. This is where I have a problem. It usually takes me 10 minutes longer than everyone else to clear my ears. I asked if I could make a controlled descent, using the mooring line or any other available drop line to allow for my ears to reach equilibrium. I always try to get permission to be the first one in, get on the anchor line and start working the ears. I usually need to be at 10 feet for 10 minutes and then I'm good to go. The dive master says "No, on this dive we all stay together. You are just going to have to go down as fast as possible and you can swim parallel to the group at a higher depth as you adjust."
So, predictably, we stayed as a group for a while... me at 10 feet depth. When the rest of our group reached 30 feet in depth, they came into a different current, a slower current. So, there I was at 10 feet, fighting strong current, barely able to inch my way forward. And the team at 30 feet lunged ahead, freed from the stronger currents above. I followed their bubble trail for a while, but eventually lost even that. Of course, since I was swimming above them, they didn't know they had lost me right away. We were out of visual contact for more than 5 minutes. I kicked as hard as I could, trying not to panic. I gave myself 4 more minutes and had determined if I didn't find that rock formation (and team) within that time-frame, that I would have to return to the dive boat alone.
Just when I was ready to give up, they came into my sight. By then, my ears had adjusted, and I was able to properly partner up with my dive team. So, when the dive master signaled, "Are you OK?" there was an extra special hand signal that I wanted to share. When we returned to the boat, we learned that there were four divers in another team who abandoned the dive almost immediately because they didn't feel strong and/or confident against the current. Another four divers didn't do the dive due to nausea. It was overall unpleasant. I found the dive operator rather ambivalent and cavalier.
Overall, the cruise was great. It was very fun as a large group. My husband and I probably aren't cruise types, but we enjoyed the vacation.
The luggage valet was awesome. It took us literally 10 minutes to depart. Our bags went directly from the ship to the airline check-in. It costs $20 per person, and saves you from fetching your bags as you pass through customs. Love it!
The photo service from the ship is very cool. There are professional photographers everywhere. They take your photo at the beginning of the ship, swipe your card. Then, every other photo is tagged using facial recognition software. At the end of the cruise, you can buy photos (printed). They offer a CD, which I had planned to purchase. But they only offer one price point for $300 for all pictures. That price includes stock photography from the ship with this as well. We didn't get enough pictures taken of us (really only six). My husband was irritated by the ships "paparazzi"... Some other friends sought out the camera man, and ended up creating a special cruise book. For $100, this book integrated their photos with ship photos and port photos. The book tells the story of the cruise. It is very well done! I wish I had paid attention to the book option. I would have loved to have had the book, and for the quality, $100 was a reasonable price. My advice to you: Find the camera man, become a photo-whore!
Luggage fit great under the bed. Rooms are well laid out. Easy to use.
Scuba Diving was not great. The coral reef is rather sparse in the sites that we dove.
Scuba diving was ok. The reef was colorful and had been beautiful sea fans and gorgonians. We saw a couple Caribbean reef sharks. In our opinion, the dive operator was not good.
The port of Nassau is very industrial feeling and smelling. We took the boat taxi to Paradise Island for $3 per person. It took 45 minutes and was not a pleasant ride. In the future, I would make private arrangements for any transportation out of that area.
Paradise Island is like a mix of the Bellagio in Las Vegas and Disney World in Florida. It is awesome to behold. But, it is very busy. We struggled to find an intimate niche to relax. We only had a couple hours, so I'm sure if we'd had more time we could have found a comfortable place to relax.