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Well, a few days off the boat (and reading about the cruise right after ours with Noro...ug!) gave me some time to finally put down some thoughts on this cruise. A few disclaimers: - I'm providing this purely as my experience. Others on the cruise may have experienced something different. Anyone reading this will likely experience something different. I've been on this and other forums long enough to know that at least someone who is smarter/better looking/funnier/more experienced/etc. than me will have their own opinion and comment below. If you'd like their opinion, I recommend you ask them; meanwhile this is just mine. :) - This wasn't our first cruise, but was our first on RCL and our first bringing our kids (14 and 18) - I ordinarily would not have chosen New Years to travel...not because of the timing or location, but because of the unreal costs that RCL submits you to for going over a holiday. Alas our work schedules and kids' school schedules drove us to this week, so we sucked it up and pressed on. Had we waited a few months and spent as much, we could have gotten one of those super fancy cabins. That said, no regrets. Our cheap cabin was perfect for what we had. Or more specifically, our cheap cabins. Given the age of the kids and size of the rooms, we opted for adjoining interior rooms. Note to families...an extra bathroom goes a long way towards a great vacation! :) - Given the above, I'll admit my expectations were high. We spent a lot for a military family who doesn't get this sort of opportunity often, so we wanted it to be everything and more. In many respects we weren't disappointed. Unfortunately in some, we were. So without further ado...this is pretty long so I'll break each day down, so grab a frosty beverage and sit back! Day -1: St Louis Not our first rodeo, so we knew it was important to get there a day early and avoid all the hassles/fiascos that could happen if coming in same day. We booked our flight from STL-MCO the day Southwest opened its tickets for December travel. $1200 for the four of us, round trip. Not exceptional, but good for us to be able to get there. Dropped the fam and the bags off at the terminal to let them check the luggage while I parked in the lot ($7 per day covered in STL!) and took the shuttle back. They hopped into the security line (TSA pre-check a must, so if you don't have it I highly recommend biting the bullet and doing it). We sat down at the restaurant across from our gate and ordered some food and a few drinks to help get vacation underway. Food was slow, which meant we finished and walked right into the boarding line just in time. I'm A-list due to all my travel, so was able to get onboard before the rest of the fam and they quickly joined and we were off. Full flight given the holidays. It was 30 December and I had a stack of SWA drink coupons that expired the next day....commence OPERATION DRINK COUPON EXPIRATION MITIGATION! Landed at MCO without issue, got bags and headed to transpo on lower level. Had originally planned to stay at a hotel near the airport and drive over the next morning, but then got smart and decided to spend a little more on the room and get us closer to the cruise port. That drove a change from Cortrans to Port-to-Port shuttles, as Cortrans only does morning runs and we landed after 4pm. We got downstairs and called Brenda, who radioed Craig and he arrived about 15 min later. Nice fella with a sweet new van, very clean, seats about 10(ish), and was even decorated for Christmas. He offered us cookies and water and got underway. We were his only passengers, so room to spread out, and the trip was easy with very little traffic. I felt bad...didn't have my hearing aid in so could barely hear him as he chatted the entire way. Checked into the Marriott Residence Inn Port Canaveral (actually did the online check-in) and up to our room. Standard Residence Inn (I'm a Marriott member, so tend to gravitate to their chain), nothing fancy or out of the ordinary except the basketball court outside our window with the family in matching shirts playing ball (they'd end up on our cruise too...damn, should have got matching shirts!). Called an Uber and took off for Grill's Seafood, right next to the terminal so we could scope it out. It was busy, as expected, waited about 45 min to be seated, but the bacon wrapped scallops were so worth it! (we're currently in the corn fields of Illinois...no seafood worth typing about....). Stayed for a while, then Uber back to the hotel where we parsed out the carryon bags for the next day and got to bed. Day 1: Port Canaveral Up about 8, breakfast in the lobby...very crowded, lots of cruise folks had the same idea I did! Borrowed a stapler from the front desk to attach our luggage tags and secured the shuttle tickets. $5 per head one way (some folks left cars at the hotel for the week, so they paid $10 round trip). Was surprised, most hotels have a complimentary shuttle, but given the number of clients I guess this made more sense (I think they sent over at least 4 shuttles with 20 people and bags each!). Drop-off at the terminal was quick...got off, got our bags, and handed them over to the luggage attendant. Well, handed three over. He put them on the cart and left the fourth and moved on to someone else's. No worries...I picked it up and loaded it onto the cart with the other three...didn't really want them separated :) Walked right through security without issues (passports in hand) and upstairs, basically right up to the check-in counter (I think there was one couple in front of us, other Boston Red Sox fans!). Lady at check-in told us this was the fullest the ship had ever been...6500...fun! No issues with our paperwork, we got "group 2" for boarding. Spent a few minutes perusing the lanyard shop (had to represent the Boston sports for the week!) and highlighted to the kids the ever-present Purel hand wash stations. Before long they started calling all the important people (Diamond, gold, etc.) but that didn't take very long and I'd say about 15 minutes after they started boarding we were called--I was amazed at how quickly. Up and in, again no issues, a few cheesy pictures along the way, obligatory "hey buy this package" stations, and just like that we were grabbing a glass of champagne (well sparkling white....) and exploring. Never been on Oasis before. She was HUGE! We made our way through the promenade, then to the back and outside. Explored the aqua theater, the climbing walls, and stopped for a hot dog before grabbing ice cream. And of course a Lava Flow cocktail from the bar by the aqua theater. Bartender was less than enthused that we were there already. But vacation had begun and I wanted to ensure I came out ahead of the drink package :) Touring the ship just increased the excitement (along with a stop at a few bars along the way). Stopped at the spa to make hair appointments for the girls for formal night. We found the teen lounge and the arcade (more on that later), as well as explored all the pools and common areas before heading to the room to check it out. Some have commented on Oasis age. I'll say the common areas didn't look bad at all, she was clean, bright and airy, and it's hard to believe 6500 others had just gotten off a Christmas cruise a few hours earlier. Throughout the week we saw small crews roping off various areas to do some maintenance, but nothing that impacted our trip. Will be tracking to see what "amp" they have in store for dry dock. Stopped by the excursion desk. Had already booked Nassau and St Thomas, but the one I wanted for St Maarten wasn't open online and needed to booked on the ship. Found out it wasn't open because it was full, but he offered to put us on the waiting list. Cool, sign me up! Both rooms! More to follow on this later... Then we headed off to our rooms. We were in 7404/6, towards the front of the ship, as mentioned inside adjoining rooms. Got to the rooms and the door between was locked. Requested it be unlocked, which meant they had to call a supervisor. That took over an hour...somewhat frustrating. The room was as expected, and I was glad they made the beds up right (together for us, separate for the kids). Unfortunately I was less impressed with the readiness/cleanliness of the room. There were still personal items/trash from the previous occupants, and the towels in the bathroom were the rattiest things I've ever seen, to include holes and pieces hanging off as they were torn up badly. One of our drawers didn't work (the ball bearing from the drawer slides could be found in the drawer and all over the floor) and there was no soap in the dispenser in the bathroom. But it's vacation...we had beds and a bathroom, it's all good! Decided to head out instead of waiting for the adjoining door, and took a different route down another hallway...and found our luggage! Not sure how that was supposed to work, as I heard a lot of folks later complaining they didn't have theirs (only to learn they were supposed to get it from the hallway). Anyway, we rolled it back to the rooms and unloaded quickly as to get the stuff hanging and get back on deck. Luggage fit nicely under the beds, we unloaded and hung a lot of stuff, used the closet cubbies for the rest. Really didn't use the drawers at the desk, mostly due to the fact one was broken. Muster drill was short and very generic. Our station was the spa, and the tv's weren't in sync with the audio, so it was interesting to hear and then watch...and then eventually the video just stopped working. The onboard speakers were an issue all week, especially for me even with the hearing aid in. We consistently had a very hard time hearing announcements from the bridge about anything unless we were in our room. I was surprised the bridge isn't connected to the deck's music speakers, as it would have been much easier to hear announcements that way. Anyway, after the drill we headed up to the Solarium and met a great bartender who mixed up some special set-sail drinks, made some virgin ones for the kids, and we watched the ship back away from the pier and get the vacation truly underway. He was the ONLY friendly bartender we met all week. Had hoped to get my daughter comfortable with the teen lounge, but unfortunately it was closed again til 8pm, which also happened to be dinner time for us. That became an issue, as she never really built up a comfort factor going there. Would have been nice for them to have multiple times that day that kids could go get introduced to the program and meet others. My son was a different case. At 18, he's not even allowed in the lounge (just turned 18, still a high school senior), so it made it slightly harder for him to meet folks his age as well. I'm sure he would have loved to hang on the Xbox in the lounge for a while with some of the kids and been fine, but couldn't. Back to the arcade to activate the kids credits and the freestyle cups, and then more exploring to include heading to the pool for the first time. Stopped by the pool bar for a few more drinks. Again, another bartender who just didn't seem happy to have us standing there (not exaggerating...I'm talking a big scowl on his face. And I have teenagers so I know what one looks like!). My favorite pool became our regular spot, the beach pool. Loved how as the ship moved the water would move in and out like ocean waves. Loved even more the drink staff that would come by and grab your card and bring your drinks. :) I will say I could definitely tell a difference between the drinks ordered at the bar and the ones brought out by the traveling staff...weaker for sure, but just meant I had to order more! Back to the room to change for dinner and met up with our steward again, who was finally able to track down someone to unlock the door between rooms. Showered and changed, and headed out a few minutes early to explore more on our way to dinner. We swung down to deck 4 to see the comedy club and art gallery, and found the casino. I'm glad we're not gamblers. The smell of smoke on that deck--without even going into the casino--it overwhelmed us. Couldn't handle it, so we went back up, across deck 5, then back down to deck 4 to enter dinner. Unfortunately the entrance to the MDR is right across from the casino...and the smell was still unbearable there. This was an issue all week, so we tried to never show early for dinner as we'd have to wait there inhaling the awful smoke smell. (should note we had originally planned Cats for 8pm, so had booked Giovannis for 530. But, given my picky eater and some of the 'feedback' we'd received on Cats, and given we'd already seen it before, we cancelled the specialty dining and stuck with MDR and skipped Cats. No regrets! MDR was easily one of the best experiences we had all week!) Doors opened and we were escorted to our table. Just four of us and a table for four, by a window (curtained, so no view). While initially I was bummed that we didn't get to meet others at dinner, I was soon thankful. See, I'm the "mean dad" who wouldn't activate an internet package. So without the distraction of cell phones, our lives were so much better. The fun conversations. The serious conversations. The ability to just relax and not be distracted. It was epic. We sat at table 619 (which is our anniversary, 6-19!) and met Rommel from the Philippines and Jaeyung from China. I think it was the first time they'd worked together, as he could barely pronounce her name when he introduced her, but they were a phenomenal team who made it their personal mission to make our meals exceptional. Selection was good, with some great appetizers, filling main dishes and tasty desserts. I think my son tried the fish of the day every day, and was never disappointed. Rommel was quick to learn our names and interacted with the kids, and Jaeyung was so polite and professional you could see she was nervous and just wanted to do a good job. This was a great team. After dinner we walked the track...we were FULL! Headed off to bed ready to make way to Nassau. I think this night we changed and headed up to the hot tub in the Solarium for a while. Could feel the ship moving that night...not an issue for the boys, but the girls definitely experienced some queasiness. Day 2: Nassau! We got up early to head to Deck 14 forward to see the sunrise. There were a few clouds, but made for a great sky. The wind though...wow! Now I understood why we felt the boat move so much. It was insane! Met a nice family from Canada and chatted about military life for a bit and then went back down to get ready for the day. Had a small breakfast delivered (just the light fare, anything more is $7.95), used this mostly as our extra wake up call each morning, and then made our way out to get underway. The one thing my daughter asked for was to see Dolphins. We had originally booked (through RCL) an excursion in St Maarten to do the Dolphin encounter, but a few weeks before leaving they cancelled it. Was pretty disappointed, but fortunately we were able to react and booked the one on Nassau. Changed our plans, as we had been to Nassau before, and honestly had just intended to stay on the ship that day. Oh well, Dolphins it is, so we took off. Went up first to the pool deck to check out towels...learned it wasn't necessary as they had a station at the gangway when you got off. Also grabbed a few more bottles of water (drink package!) before heading back down. Met up with a few hundred others in Studio B to get briefed on Blue Lagoon, got our wrist bands and made our way off the ship by 0900. I will say this part wasn't as organized on RCL's part. They had about a dozen different groups gathered up in Studio B, and each main point of contact had wrist bands to hand out...which quickly descended into chaos as he couldn't "reach" most groups so they started going to him, which clogged the aisle ways and only confused most passengers, especially those with smaller kids. Once off the ship, a short walk to a ferry gave us the chance to see two other ships in port, at which time the kids finally appreciated the size of Oasis! Ferry ride was about 40 min across the water, pretty cloudy and started to rain, fortunately we were on the port side and the rain was blowing on the starboard so we didn't get wet! (yes, this Air Force guy is pretty proud of his nautical terms!) Great views of some amazing houses along the way, as well as Atlantis. Pulled in to Blue Lagoon and fortunately the clouds started to part. This is obviously a tourist attraction based on the large numbers of folks already there. We had wristbands that said we would do our Dolphin encounter at 11am, and it was 10am so we got off the ferry and hung out on the beach for a while. Water was chilly but we enjoyed some sand time and then sat down for a few minutes when the announcement came for 11am participants to make their way to the animal area. We gathered up our bags and walked over, where we were met by very friendly staff members who directed us down a dock to participate. The dock was quite full. We'd later learn that it was way overbooked. Suffice to say, our 11am encounter started closer to noon. We didn't mind at the time, as one of the trainers sat on the dock and chatted with us during the wait, having the non-performing dolphins do tricks and play with toys. When it was finally our time the ten person group entered the water and it was amazing. One at a time we'd lie in the water with our legs extended and the dolphins would come up from behind and push us a few dozen yards across the water so that we'd literally rise up out of the lagoon. It was awesome. Each person got this chance, then we all got in the water and got to pet, dance, receive kisses and even feed the dolphins. Overall the encounter took just under an hour and was one of the highlights of our vacation. Would definitely do it again! Unfortunately, the delay was costly. We were sternly warned...be on the ferry by 115pm or we wouldn't make it back to the Oasis in time. It was already 1250, and we hadn't had lunch or a chance to see/purchase photos. We divided up, with my wife taking the kids to eat while I waited in line for pictures. That line too was backed up, and by the time I got to the front it was time to go (and found out they didn't take AMEX). My wife ran into a similarly long line at lunch and wasn't able to order, so just picked up a few hot dogs and ran. We rushed to get back on the ship. So only critical feedback here would be to watch for overbooked excursions. Loved what we did, but missed out on the "beach day" relaxing portion of this as well as lunch, and the inability to review the pictures means we're trying still to get our hands on them online. This was likely a once in a lifetime Dolphin encounter, and I'm pretty bummed we don't have the pics to show for (note they don't allow your cameras, so couldn't take our own pics). A quick ferry ride back (with a stop at the hotels along the way for no one to get off/on) and we were back to the port in Nassau. Different arrival location than departure, of course, as they had to drop us off in the tourist district by the shops. Like I said, having been to Nassau before we weren't interested (still a pretty run down area, which always makes us wonder where all that tourism cash goes...), so we proceeded back to the ship. Brief delay as the local militia checked our IDs, then back to the ship. There was a very long line to get back onboard. Dropped off our towels and waited to get through security, then took the stairs. Did that a lot this week, the elevators were just too crowded or slow and we didn't want to waste time waiting on them. The girls headed off to the spa for their hair...so the boys headed for drinks, ice cream and more pool time. Also did some more exploring, watched a little bit of Ant Man on the big screen by the Aqua Theater, and eventually started to make our way back to the room around 545pm. The Promenade was crazy with picture lines, which was something we wanted to do, so we hurried back to find the ladies reading with their hair-do's all fancy and stuff. They always seem to get mad that the guys can SSS (sh*t/shower/shave) in less than 15 minutes :) This was formal night #1 and also New Year's Eve, so we went big. I wore my formal military uniform, we rented a tux onboard (pre-cruise booked, $101) for my son and the ladies had nice dresses. We made our way down to the Promenade for pictures, only to find the first crowd was gone, must have been the early dinner crew. We walked right up to just about every picture line and got some great pics. Met the captain, he was nice but not very talkative, and then made our way to a few more pictures before dinner. Another great dinner from our wait staff, and my daughter--who is a picky eater and normally doesn't eat much--ate like she never had before. Again we were stuffed after dinner and went on our now nightly walk around the track. We went to Dazzles for the "finish that verse" music competition, and eventually got seats and got to watch (wasn't picked to participate, bummer!) At this point we were moving again and once again hitting some significant wind (more on that later), so the effect on my daughter was growing. She wasn't feeling well (seasickness, not noro!) so we tried to walk and entertain her to keep her mind off it. We found the library, a few more lounges, walked outside to the carousel and stopped in the arcade (the old man can still school the 18 year old in air hockey!) before making our way back to the Promenade for the New Year's festivities. This was probably the only time this week we felt the sheer number of passengers onboard Oasis, as lots of folks wanted to be there at midnight for the balloon drop. Lots of champagne....kudos to the wait staff. I simply don't know how they walk with trays full of glasses while the ship is moving that much and there are so many people and still don't spill any!!! The clock struck midnight, I did my annual (very poor) "When Harry Met Sally" impersonation questioning the meaning of Auld Lang Syne, and we headed back to the room for some rest. Found a few towel animals, so the kids enjoyed seeing the steward's artwork. Day 3: At Sea! Vacation. Sometimes it means just being able to sleep in! I don't sleep well, but the rest of the fam does so I hung out in bed listening to the wind hit the ship as we cruised and everyone rested. My wife and I went to the cruise port shopping event (I was trying to be the dutiful husband...suffice to say, I love my wife. Even more after hearing about some of the ladies that go on cruises and their shopping habits!) I think we finally got the kids out of bed around 1030am, and headed to Johnny Rockets for breakfast. Got a table outside and enjoyed the breeze while we sipped on coffee and waited on our meals. You could tell it was the morning after New Year's. Much like I said that night was the busiest we had seen the boat, this morning was the scarcest...people were sleeping it off! Our breakfast arrived and the head waiter tried to help deliver, only to drop my daughter's bacon on the deck. No worries, a full plate of extra bacon arrived quite literally a few seconds later! Everything is better with bacon. My eggs were good, wife and kids enjoyed the French toast and pancakes and we talked plans for the rest of the day. We headed to the sports bar for Star Wars trivia. It wasn't overly crowded, but got the last few seats and geared up for some fun. We're geeks, so it was fun to answer some of the tougher questions (I won't spoil any, but suffice to say I might have schooled the 18 year old on random Star Wars facts even he didn't know!). Unfortunately we did get one question wrong, which I immediately realized when we were reviewing, but one other guy didn't so we came in second. Oh well, it was fun! Still couldn't convince my daughter to hit the teen club, so changed and went to the pool, enjoying the sun and once again the "waves" on the beach. Oh, and the drinks and the hot tub :) One note...remember the excursion we got "wait listed" for when we first boarded...well, they messed that up. We were checking the online account on the tv and found they had signed up my kids, but not us. Apparently he only wait listed their room, not both rooms, and when two slots opened up he assigned it to them. I went by the desk and tried to help him understand, he just couldn't comprehend why I didn't want the two slots. I guess he thought the kids could go and mom and dad could go enjoy themselves elsewhere! But more frustrating, despite all this he kept pushing for others...specifically the back stage/behind the scenes tour. It was a lazy day, just what we needed. I think we might have grabbed pizza...it's all a blur. The kids would sometimes head back to the room to read, or, in my son's case pull up ESPN as the Bruins were playing outdoor hockey in the Winter Classic and unfortunately it wasn't being aired as every tv was tuned into college football. Also a stop at the PADI Dive shop, as our excursion in St Thomas was the BOSS Underwater Adventure, and we had to sign the paperwork in order to get our tickets. Early that afternoon the assistant cruise director hosted our Cruise Critic meet and greet in the comedy club. It was fun, she had a lot of prizes and some cookies. Our family made out well, a BOGO for Johnny Rockets, a bottle of wine, a bingo t-shirt and an hour of internet access. Also fun to meet some of the folks we'd chatted with leading up to the cruise. Then more laying around doing nothing. But being lazy was worth it, that's what vacation is for, and the pool was relaxing. The girls went to a "pamper party" at the spa while the boys checked in at the back of the ship. It was windy and we had reservations for the aqua show, but I was worried the conditions would cancel it. I was surprised to find the performers practicing when we arrived, so we watched for a bit before eventually made our way back to the rooms to grab the girls and get them to the show. The aqua show....WOW! we were simply floored by this performance. But first, the entry. If you have reservations, still get there early. There were only four of us, but even arriving early it was hard to get seats (mostly because of the lady reserving 17 of them for her family, even though most of them didn't show until just as the show started). I'm all for a family vacation and understand wanting to sit together, but taking up an entire row should mean you have everyone there to sit in their seat rather than cause confusion for all the other folks who understandably will walk towards a row of not occupied seats. Anyways....the show. Great effects, great lighting, and amazing performers. Like I said, the ship was moving, so much so I was sure they were going to cancel the show, but didn't. I think we were cruising at about 19 knots, plus the wind and the boat rocking. But these dudes were jumping into a 20-something foot deep pool from 60+ feet in the air. Holy... Go. You must go. See this show. See it twice if you can. Wow. Then back to the room for SSS and head to dinner. More fun exploring and pictures along the way, tonight we decided on being a little more crazy and instead of letting the photographers tell us how to pose we told them. It was fun. Even stole some presents from under the Christmas tree as props for a pic :) Dinner again was amazing, ate entirely too much, and did our nightly walk around the track before my daughter went back to the room to read while my wife, son and I went to the comedy club (18 and over). Two comedians featured, both very adult-natured, and so worth it. First one was from Boston, so we fit right in, and he was spot on. Great interaction with the audience. In fact, he really didn't have a bit, he let the audience drive his act. Loved it. Second wasn't bad, but stuck more to a typical "routine" of one liners and even managed to tick off a woman to the point where she got up and left! :) Day 4: Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas (eventually) Another night of rocking and rolling on the waves, and we woke to the light room service knock at the door (all other days they called, so apologies to the dude who had to see me open the door in my boxers half asleep!). We had planned a leisurely breakfast in the MDR before getting off for our excursion, the room service was more of a helpful wakeup call and a quick coffee before heading down for the full event. Breakfast buffet today was in the MDR American Icon and featured some typical breakfast fare, some salad, fruit and a wide variety of sweets (I didn't really see the lunch part of brunch there?). Had hoped to see an omelet station, but didn't have one. While there the Captain came over the speaker to let us know the ship had encountered significant headwinds overnight, and that our arrival at St Thomas had been delayed by over an hour. We were to dock at 1030 but that got pushed to noon. He planned to "make it up" by staying in port an hour longer (7pm vice 6pm) and we'd receive word in our staterooms as to what the changes to our excursions would be. Ok, I get headwinds. That happens. We'll adapt. We were looking forward to the BOSS Underwater Adventure so we'd be paitent! We went to the Solarium to watch the ship approach the island. It was indeed windy, and we saw some sailboats along the way. As we got to port we realized he'd be doing a 180 and backing the ship in...cool. My daughter had gone back to get some things from the room, so I ran back to get her while my wife and son went to the top and back to see the boat literally back up. When I got to the room we got the call...due to the late arrival, our excursion had been CANCELLED! Ug. I'll admit, this is where I got really frustrated with RCL. There's absolutely no way, with GPS and all the technology available, that the crew didn't know at 0800 that morning (and earlier) that we'd be late. Why couldn't they have told us then? By the time they notified us, 1115am, it was too late to get another excursion booked. I was devastated. This was the one event my son had requested, and now we were without plans for the port we were really looking forward to. So we made our way off the boat and headed to the taxis. I had read about Magen's Bay and we decided we'd head there for the day. Found a driver who said it was the "second most beautiful beach in the world" (but looked bewildered and confused when my typical sarcasm kicked in and asked which one was first). He scurried up a few other passengers and brought us over to a beat up gold passenger van. Others jumped on open-air extended pickups. Price board showed $10 per person to Magen. This was definitely island life transpo at its best! I'm a city boy, and he and I got along great as he had me jump in the passenger seat. I know the role of shotgun...help the driver! I'd call out traffic and he'd jump at openings. My kids were probably comfortable as they're used to my city driving skills. Not so sure about the other passengers! We made our way north across the island and through the hills, til you could finally look down and see Magen's Bay. It was beautiful, but honestly didn't jump out at me like I'd hoped. I think partially it was the weather...slightly cloudy and a breeze. The water wasn't as blue as I'd imagine, and the beach not nearly as pristine. Further, the damage from the hurricanes 18 months ago was still prevalent. The trees were barren, many broken and without palms, and the beach was beat up pretty badly. Upon pulling up to the entrance, we were told there was a $5 fee as the driver pulled to a closed gate. I'm pretty sure that was a scam and had we stayed in the main lane it wouldn't have been mentioned, but we paid and made our way to the beach. I rented an umbrella (which we ended up not really needing) and we spent some time in the water testing out the kids' snorkeling gear that we had bought to use while not on the BOSS portion of the excursion. Unfortunately the water there was pretty boring...nothing really to look at, and the first 10 feet or so were very rocky so wear water shoes. We grabbed lunch. As expensive as I'd imagined. But a good burger nonetheless. I laughed that the bartenders and waitresses in skimpy bikinis were American mainlanders. A little more beach time, then we changed and went to find a taxi back. Slightly confusing as he had told us anyone could bring us home, then when we got there every driver had a list with the family names of folks they had brought out. No worries, we hopped onboard one and made our way back to the ship, with a brief stop to take some overlook pictures. Again, the hurricane damage...just so much left to be repaired on this small island. A quick stop for my daughter to do some shopping, grab the proverbial free Del Sol bag, and my son grabbed a color changing Frisbee and we made our way back to the ship full of sand. Line to get on was much shorter this time, as we were still about 90 min before last call. Headed back upstairs after turning in towels. Showers, etc. and then on our way back to dinner, with the obligatory stop at some of the picture stations. Dinner that night was as phenomenal as every other night. It was "Caribbean Night" so the staff all had their fun shirts on (of course I had to wear mine too!), and they danced during the meal to make it more fun (Chicken Dance is German though, not Caribbean!). Couldn't decide on dessert, so Rommel brought us a few extra. Another lap of the track (had to burn calories somehow!) and then made our way to the Opal for the Headliner show. Tonight we were treated to a show by ventriloquist (what's his name?). We're fans of Jeff Dunham, so this sort of show was right up our alley. We got there a few minutes early, so had a few more drinks (still trying to stay ahead of the drink package!) and watched clips he had of old ventriloquist acts, to include his own before the show finally started. He was ok, one main puppet and some little bits about himself, but the highlight was when he pulled a member of the audience on stage and used him as a puppet. Not sure it would have been as funny with any other audience member, but this due played along as if he were truly a part of the show. It was absolutely hilarious, and we're glad we got to see it. Day 5 Philipsburg, Saint Maarten The ship woke us with the engines once again forcing the ship to do a 180 and back into the dock in St Maarten. Today we went a little heavier on the morning room service call so that we could be ready to get off the ship when it docked (and, truth be told, my daughter simply loved the croissants!). Though we stayed an hour later in St Thomas to make up for our late arrival, they somehow managed to make up two hours and get us to port an hour early. After the obligatory stop for a few photos on the dock (once again we were parked next to two other ships showcasing Oasis' huge footprint), we made our way to the ticket booth for the water taxi. The port shopping folks gave us a coupon for $1 off each ticket, but then the booth said we could only use it at the dock. A short walk later and we got our wristbands, $6 for all day access, and we got right onboard the taxi and headed across to the main area downtown. We didn't have an excursion so we opted to hit a few shops and then spend some time on the beach. My wife diligently collected all the "free charm" coupons she could find, and my son was patient in her and my daughter's hunt for bling. As a reward, we found "The Yoda Shop", a small second floor 'museum' set up by the creator of Yoda. He had a lot of autographed merchandise and some interesting stories, and only charged an arm and a leg to walk through to see it all! Another brief jewelry stop where despite the sales lady's best efforts to get me to spend a few thousand more than I paid for the cruise on bling, and we managed to escape with earrings and a necklace for the wife and some small free pieces as a reward for my daughter. Made our way deeper into town...quickly realized the main shopping area had seen reconstruction after the hurricane, but any deeper and you hit the parts that needed a lot more help. We turned back towards the water, walked past a few more shops (they're persistent in trying to get you to come in!) and made our way back to the main dock area for lunch. There honestly didn't seem to be much in line of options, so we played the typical tourists and headed in to the Hard Rock Café. Passed by the shop and headed upstairs, where we sat at the bar and met a great local bartender who had a huge smile on his face. Ordered a few appetizers and actually activated the free wifi to check in on our puppies, then back to chatting and planning the rest of the day. From the second floor we could see the beach and the activities, and my son quickly focused in on the jet skis. Well, since he lost the BOSS excursion we decided renting a jet ski was the right approach. Our drinks were good (very strong!), I had a Caribbean made Guinness...have now experienced the nectar of the Gods made on three different continents! The food was slow, but good when it finally showed and we had great timing as the place got full quickly. Finished and went to pay...despite the sign/sticker on the door, they wouldn't take AMEX, but after learning that in Nassau I was smart enough to include a Visa in my day pack this time. Bartender was upset we added the tip (a pretty generous one) to the bill instead of leaving him cash. In hindsight I figured out that the restaurant probably takes a chunk of it from him, which sucks. We headed down to the beach and found a few chairs by the water. Of course we were descended upon quickly by the locals who "rented" the chairs. When he said $10 each I started to walk towards the jet ski rental counter, and he quickly followed with "how much do you want to pay". That was slightly amusing, wasn't ready to haggle for a chair, but he was eager to. Offered a combo deal for the chair, umbrella and jet ski, so I paid the $75 and filled out the waiver paperwork. They had about 6 jet skis, plus two more that they used to "corral" people when their time was up. Waited about 15 min before ours came in, and we took off. It was a blast, and my son probably still has bruises on his butt from catching some air :) My wife and daughter hung at the beach playing while we journeyed around the bay. Was able to get up close to many of the ships docked, to include Oasis. Wow. She's just amazing. Alas the jet ski cowboys came to rope us in after our time was up, so we headed back to shore where we put the new Del Sol color changing Frisbee to use in the water for a while. About 4 we started to pack up to head back, and there was a line forming at the water taxi station so it's good we started. No issues, got right onboard the next one and headed back to the port. A few shops along the way after we docked, but nothing we wanted to stop at so we headed down the pier and back onto the ship. Lines were somewhat confusing, as they had a separate entry at the far end of the ship just for crew, but some folks would motion for passengers to still use it while others further up turned passengers away. Nonetheless it was painless and we were through security quickly and back up to our rooms to cleanup. The kids were being lazy and I was eager to get out, so the wife and I headed out and got a drink on the Rising Tide and then sat down in the Schooner for another. We hadn't been to the Windjammer yet (mostly because I was trying to avoid it) but decided to check it out as the wife wanted some nachos. Well, it was Mexican night, so much to my chagrin we went back to grab the kids and headed to the buffet for dinner. As indicated, I was not disappointed by the food in the MDR (I know some reviews have commented on it, but I have nothing bad to say). I also know some folks in the pool had some negative reviews about the specialty restaurants (Chops was a frequent negative review by many folks we met on this trip). But democracy ruled, so we hit the buffet. I stopped at the bar, and waited patiently as the bartender there finished his text conversation before finally looking up and realizing I had been standing right in front of him (he made up for it with a really strong drink!). The taco meat was, well, bland (and very full of beans), the nachos were soggy, and the few other items we got just weren't appetizing at all. The key lime pie...which had received rave reviews...wasn't anything to write home about, and frankly I would have been happy had we never set foot in the Windjammer. Of the entire vacation, this was truly the only "negative" experience I think we had on the ship all week that I would provide critical feedback on. Conversely, not going to dinner as planned in the MDR opened the chance for us to wait in line for space available for the ice show. Originally the family expressed very little interest in attending, as they thought it would have been geared more towards a younger crowd. But after reading some of the other feedback I convinced them we should try it. A quick stop to once again school the 18 year old on air hockey, and we made our way to the line. Glad we did, we were already about 25 people back and we were still 30 min from show time, and the line only got longer from there. No worries, once it started moving we got right in and found four seats. The show was simply amazing. Amazing. On par with the dive show. The ice skaters, despite the boat's movement, were almost flawless in their very complicated routines...to include one segment where the male skater swung the female around and around (a la that old movie "Cutting Edge" when the hockey player becomes an ice skater...but I digress!) with her head quite literally inches from the ice. They did a multi-faceted tribe to Hans Christian Anderson with all his different story tales, the funniest of all culminating with "The Emperor's New Clothes", and one simply phenomenal segment where a Ukrainian artist told a story by manipulating sand art...hard to explain, but I was mesmerized. After my daughter chose to head back to the room while the wife and son and I headed to the Schooner for the Elton John piano tribute. We sat down at the piano itself and sang word for word along with every song. He switched up to Billy Joel, we still sung along word for word with every song. It was actually quite funny, he and I are huge fans of both, so it was a great night to be at a piano bar. Others around the bar laughed and commented to my wife that we must practice at home. Not so much practice as we just love the music, but was still a lot of fun. She headed off to bed, we stayed and sung some more, til about 1 and then finally headed back to bed. Day 6: At Sea Today we got up and decided to hit the Solarium for breakfast before the first of two epic days of relaxation. It was crowded, took us a few minutes to find a table but enjoyed the spread. Bacon. You know the routine. Found a few chairs not too far from the beach pool and spent the day enjoying the sun and making the most of our drink package. The kids explored, even took a towel folding class of their own. My son did the "super heroes" trivia, my wife read, and I enjoyed not being tied to a mobile device that was ringing off the hook. Met a few nice folks in the pool and chatted a while, ran down for a hot dog and some fries, watched my son on the zip line, and then back to the pool for more lazy time. Quite literally the first time in years I've had nothing to do, and it was awesome. I'm sure there was other stuff that day, but who cares! Back to the room via the Promenade for some snacks and saw the crowds all dressed up again for the second formal night. Did our SSS and dressed up again (note, they provided two different shirts with the tuxedo rental, kudos!). Girls had another fancy outfit and like a good military guy I reutilized the one I brought and we headed down for more fun pictures. First one was with the captain again, so walked right up and took that one. Had to highlight the jewelry I bought for the wife and blamed him....what I failed to mention earlier is that the port shopping guide is also his fiancé. She mentioned it. A few times. More than a few times. :) Got a bunch more pictures along the way, actually saw a few other military folks this time (it was so crowded on the first night I'm sure I just missed them) and headed down for dinner. Rommel and Jaeyun were on point, and tonight was crazy busy for them as it was also lobster night. I convinced myself I was on vacation, so I caved and ordered the Chops filet along with the lobster...figured a little surf and turf! I laughed as one of the other waiters had to peel apart the lobster for a girl at another table...made me wonder if that was part of the standard service! Our lobster showed, and it was delicious as expected. Unfortunately the kitchen didn't help our staff out, nor did the head waiter, as Rommel had to go all the way back to the kitchen to retrieve my filet. He rushed out and apologized profusely as he knew the intent was to have both at the same time. We learned that our section of the MDR is literally the furthest walk from the galley. I knew he was trying, and didn't for a minute think it was his fault, but he was over the top apologetic and even brought a few extra lobsters to the table (no complaints from my crew!). They also poured the champagne like it was going out of style, so we obliged. As indicated earlier, feedback on Chops wasn't great, and I unfortunately had to agree. My filet was more done (I had requested medium) than I wanted, a little crispy on the outside and the meat not nearly as tender as some of the others I've had. Cost an extra $20, and in hindsight I should have just gone with the NY strip off the MDR menu and made it easier (and cheaper). Lesson learned. As we tried to leave Rommel brought even more champagne...wow, it was flowing tonight! We took our glasses and departed for our nightly walk around the track en route to the Opal for the acrobat show. Again, another performance that didn't fail to deliver. While there may a lot of negatively towards Cats, the rest of the entertainment on Oasis was great! With a cast of four "main" singers, a group of acrobats and dancers, this troupe wowed us with their skills, and being a former theater stage crew techie, the props/stage were incredible! From folks flying in from above the stage and out over the audience, they captivated everyone and it was simply fun to watch. Glad we stuck around for it, would highly recommend to anyone. Back in the room we were greeted by more towel animals, this time the kids had a monkey hanging from a clothes hanger in the middle of the room. I wish I had my daughter's reaction on video...she probably woke the folks upstairs she jumped so high. Epic. Day 7: At Sea The wife and I got up around 8 on the last day for spa appointments. She was offered a "discount" based on her attendance at the pamper party earlier in the week. We got there and were greeted (or not) at the front desk by a woman who apparently didn't want to be there that day. Still, it was fun to see the rest of the spa attendants checking in, a long line of staff in their uniforms stretched from the desk to the entrance as each signed in...gave you an appreciation for the sheer volume of staff dedicated just to the spa. We filled out the paperwork and were separated to our individual treatments. I met Wanpen from Tailand...which was fortuitous as I was going for a massage and Thai stretching is by far one of the few ways my back responds. She attempted the expected upsell of additional services, but quickly realized I wasn't in the market and backed off without issue. She was quite adroit at her profession, and I was glad this would be the way we wrapped up our trip. When finished I went to find my wife, who unfortunately was unable to receive her treatment due to the machine breaking down (I guess this had happened to them earlier in the week as well). They asked her to come back later in the day and try again. We went back and got the kids moving and made it to the Solarium in time for breakfast just before they shut down the line. They had already run out of syrup and the coffee was empty, but the bacon was plentiful :) Another lazy day, this time we were fortunate enough to go early and find some chairs next to the pool. I will admit, the chair hogs were prevalent on this trip. Frustratingly enough, the same lady who reserved 17 chairs at the aqua show was also like a traffic cop that morning, reserving another 17 lounge chairs for her towels. I say that, as I spent the day in the pool, and pretty sure the only thing that occupied those chairs all day were her towels.... Got a little sun that morning, then lathered up as to not get burned and hung out in/out of the pool while the wife read. Hung in the pool for a while, and the kids went to the flowrider. Lots of fun. Then back to the pool. Kids joined us off and on, finding time for zip lining, and then used the Johnny Rockets coupon we won to go to lunch together. We started to feel a few drops of rain...the first all week, so packed up to head back inside. I laughed. All the people in the pool, already wet, were freaking out over the rain. I guess it did come down a little later, but we were already back inside and missed it. The wife headed back to the spa to try her treatment again, and the kids and I went down to the sports bar for the Harry Potter trivia...that was crowded and lots of competition. I'll admit, I'm the Star Wars expert in the family, but by no means am I the Harry Potter guy so I was of very little help to their cause. That was until the crew member running it say they had hidden a snitch somewhere on Deck 5, and the Muggle of least value to the team should be dispatched. Now this was up my alley, and a chance to grab another drink. Didn't find it, but at least wasn't stuck in the over-crowded sports bar! We also activated our free hour of internet and checked into our flight for the next day. After the wife joined back up we walked a few of the shops (huge watch sale, but man, those things were HUGE! As big as the ship! I just can't imagine wearing a five pound watch!). We had waited til today, and t-shirts were 2 for $20 (always wait til the end of the week!), and then we headed up to the picture station. I had pre-purchased the picture package, $249. No kidding, we had 249 pictures taken. Too funny, $1 per pic! We actually purchased the autographed picture with the captain (I chuckled, as a few folks had asked to get their pictures taken with me while I was in my military uniform...wonder if I could have autographed a few and sold them!?). The attendant showed us how to download the pictures to our cell phones...but at 249 of them we decided to just wait til we got home and download them all from the cloud at once. At least now you know why we stopped at every picture station all week! We showered and changed for our last dinner, and chatted with the kids about the week and how they enjoyed it. Both agreed the dining room staff was the best, and also wanted to recognize the room steward. I had already set a tip amount in my mind, but they chose to supplement it with their own money to recognize these crew members. Will admit, was pretty proud of them for that action. We worked really hard to provide this vacation, and it was good to know our kids recognized the hard work of some of the crew that made it extra special. Dinner was great again, and the champagne was once again flowing freely. We had great conversations about the week, the highs and lows, what we looked forward to (and dreaded) about going home, and some additional conversation with our wait staff. The kids provided them their respective envelopes, and I think Jaeyun was nearly floored when she opened it. Glad we were able to bring some joy to her after the week of her bringing it to us. We got a picture with them and finished our desserts. Rommel must have had time to open his as well, as he came back, his face lit up with a huge smile. The kids still talk about them! We spent some time earlier in the day packing up the bags, but went back one more time to ensure everything was ready. The kids had made a towel turtle for Cleyton and left his envelope with it, and he had left them a nice note in appreciation. My wife and daughter stayed while my son and I went back to the Opal for the final comedy show, the same two we had seen earlier in the week. I won't get into the full details, but the dude sitting in front of us (he was front row) just wasn't wise enough to not pick an argument with the comedian from Boston. He tore him apart, and most of it was rather amusing. The other comedian repeated many of the same jokes we heard earlier in the week, wasn't as much fun this time around. We stopped after to meet the one from Boston and swap Beantown stories. Found out his daughter is also Air Force, so gave him my contact info and told him to have her look me up if she needs anything. Small world. Day 8: The end :( Once again, you could feel the ship shake as the crew turned her around to get back into Port Canaveral. We rose, finished packing up and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. For some reason, Park Café didn't dawn on me as being an option, or maybe it wasn't open. In any case, same impression. Everything is better with bacon, but even the bacon there was too salty. Oh well. Coffee and some eggs, and we were back to our room to grab our bags. Left our room about 745am. No issues getting off the ship, quite literally walked straight up to customs, they reviewed passports and were out. From ship to garage, less than ten minutes. Called Craig with Port to Port and he was about ten minutes out. Saw him pull in, walked down to the end to meet him and loaded up. Once again, we were his only passengers so we spread out...and crashed in our seats while he navigated back to the airport. Checked in with SWA (waited in A-list line, would have been easier to just do self check in), and made our way to security. TSA Pre-check is a must for MCO...very long lines. Made it through, and planned to go to the Priority Lounge you get with AMEX, only to learn that was in the other part of Terminal A. We left and had to go back through security on that end, which they gave us a hard time over because our gate wasn't there, but acquiesced when I explained we were going to the lounge. Made our way down and in...and it was like hitting a wall. The place was crowded, dirty and few open seats. Not worth all the effort we went through to get there, but we were there so we hung out a while and updated our friends online and went through our pictures. Eventually it got more crowded so we decided to leave and try the USO. The USO...why didn't we just go there first? Place is huge, clean, massive TVs, snacks, couches, and great people who are genuinely nice and interested to have you there...unlike the priority lounge. And it's free. Won't make that mistake again. Stayed there for half a football game, and then made our way back through security...again...I was surprised the TSA didn't flag us for multiple trips through. Had pre-paid for priority board on this flight as I wasn't sure we'd have internet to be able to check in, so we were able to get right on and seats together without issue. Quick layover in Philly and then home to STL. Left the fam to grab the bags off the conveyor belt while I went to get the car from parking. Well, I sat in the parking shuttle waiting for about 20 minutes before we finally headed to the lot. By the time we left, the final bag was coming off the line. Oh well. I was just glad the temp wasn't too bad, about 50, as to not be a shocker after 80s all week. It would snow on us a few days later. Talking about a reality check! Overall...yes, would definitely do this trip again! As indicated, while New Years Eve on the ship was nice, I'm not sure it's a "must do" at that price. I'm confident I could have spent half as much if we weren't shy about taking the kids out of school for the week, but definitely enjoyed our time on Oasis. A few salient points that, again, are specific to me so please understand that any negative comments about my perceptions will be wasted effort to type as I'm truly just providing my .02 cents worth... Rooms: - If you're the type that has to see the ocean as much as possible, then yes, spend the extra to get a view. Otherwise, we spent so little time in our room that the inside room was more than sufficient. I saw some pictures of folks with rooms actually smaller than ours...wow. Ours were tight, but that was why I went with two for the four adults vice having the kids sleep on the drop down beds out of the ceilings. (if my kids are reading this, you owe me!). - The adjoining room was convenient, but not a must. We could have survived with rooms close by/across the hall. - Our rooms were closer to the front above the spa. We felt the motion. Moreso, we felt the beat. Quite literally. If you want to sleep in, don't get these rooms, as Zumba (or something) starts every day in the spa at 0900. And your room will shake from the bass. - Magnets...yes! We did all the homework on what to bring/what not. This one was fun. I had printed small quotes that I posted on the kids' door a few times a day. I think our steward enjoyed them as much as us. But other stuff like the over the door shoe organizer and things like that, well we personally didn't have a need. Food: - We were never disappointed in the MDR. Never. While three of us tried different appetizers every night (my daughter is the picky one, so she loved her Caesar salad!), we never were displeased and asked for something different. Now that didn't stop us from asking for the shrimp AND the caprese.... Main courses were diverse. The fish of the day was awesome. The desserts....wow. - I wish we had done more breakfasts in the MDR, and even lunch for that matter - we're old school, cruised before the "specialty" restaurants were a big thing. Frankly we didn't miss anything. Part of cruising for us is the relationship you build with your dining staff. Floating (ha!) from restaurant to restaurant wouldn't have provided that opportunity so we were happy. Again, our opinion. If you want to go, go. - Johnny Rockets was...well...the same as the fast food place you go to at the mall. Actually, there you get the "diner" experience with folks singing and dancing to 50s music. I don't really see this as a "specialty" and had we not won the BOGO not sure we would have done anything there besides the breakfast (which is included). And at that, the cost of one burger was about the same amount I'd spend on three back home. We were disappointed the shakes weren't included as part of the drink package, but understand that's not a sustainable business model. - Re-read, and then read again my take on the Windjammer. Simply put, this was the disappointment of the cruise, and I'm glad we only went once. - Room service was always on time, only failed to call in advance once, and offered enough options that if we really didn't want to we could have avoided breakfast altogether. - Other opportunities...our bad for not trying more/others. Simply spent very little time in central park, and thus completely missed out on Park Café. Could have tried Solarium for dinner, but see above why we stuck with MDR. Staff: - I think I've bragged on MDR staff enough. Chefs (other than WJ) were good. Steward wasn't as personable as our other cruises, and left a bit to be desired with respect to room standards. Bartenders were simply grumpy all week. I'm all for extra tips (remember the drink package includes 18% on top of every drink), but they would consistently push the printed receipt hoping for more but provided very little in the form of "great service" that warranted it. - Cruise director: never interacted with him personally, but saw him onboard and saw all the videos. This week he also had his very young daughter onboard, and she was featured in his videos. Seemed like a nice guy. Proverbially off his rocker. His assistant was nice, but they didn't click. Seemed forced. - Officers: as indicated, Captain wasn't very outgoing, nor were many of his officers we interacted with. Some really got into dancing during latin night, but mostly just kept to themselves. - Sports: can't say enough good stuff about the zip line/rock wall/flow rider crew. My son is a self-proclaimed zip expert (staffed it at National Boy Scout Camp) and they were great engaging with him. Rock wall had a night climb, which my daughter showed up for just before closure. They initially told her too late, but saw her sitting on the bench looking disappointed and personally came over to issue her the gear and get her up on the wall. Flow rider...they have fun. But the best part was when one of the staff got on a board and "tandem" boogie boarded with a special needs young man who obviously was having the time of his life thanks to this staff member. The audience cheered and clapped, and it just made him that much happier. That is how you win over families on big expensive vacations. - Photographers: as I said, we stopped at EVERY one. Some were personable, others just clicked the trigger. Most tried the typical "ladies with your hands on your hips, guys with hands in pockets", but let us have some fun and choose our own poses as well. On the stairs leading to the globe behind Globe and Atlas they need a higher step stool, all the pics were taken from a too low vantage point and made them appear awkward. Some photographers dressed up on port days like pirates or sailors, fun! Many laughed or joked with me in uniform, faking a salute. Unfortunately the gentleman who checked us out at the end had absolutely no people skills, I wish one of the photographers we'd met during the week would have been there to interact with. - Art: the dude hocking art was just awkward. I think it's a pre-requisite for the job, but he came across as sort of creepy. Funny story too...he was talking a good talk (we call them war stories) with a pair of gentlemen when we walked through on the formal night. He saw me in uniform and clammed up quickly. I think he mistook me for a member of the crew :) - Excursion: I think they need a better trained staff here. Too many mistakes. - Voom: hard to find. We won the free hour, but despite repeated attempts to activate it couldn't until the last day. - Embarkation: great crew in Port Canaveral. Very friendly, eager to set the tone for the week. Activities: - Excursions: Can I beat a dead horse? I purposely went through RCL, despite the added costs, and still only got one of three that we wanted. Frustrating. - Teen club: I've heard RCL does a phenomenal job with the younger kids. This group, while young adults, wasn't very well organized or welcomed. Again, my personal experience with my daughter (she's a military kid, has moved a ton, every two years, does NOT have trouble making friends...), this just didn't jump out as a great bonus. Further, the 18 year old crowd is a tough one. He's not a drinker (international waters...pretty sure they would have served him without question!), but the few "events" they had weren't well organized/advertised/executed. - Pools: crowded, but not overcrowded. Chairs...well, chair hogs. We had a few windy days and the upper most deck was closed, so that drove a lot more folks down to the main level and Solarium, which was another area that a lot of towels enjoyed their day. Look forward to seeing what they do with Oasis in dry dock. Slides? Lazer tag? We never did mini-golf, our bad. But frankly not sure I saw a lot of folks there, so maybe a good place to re-evaluate use of valuable on-deck real estate. - Arcades: lots of "out of order" games, and too damn expensive to justify. One game of air hockey was $2.50. - Other events: we did the late dining, 8pm. Makes sense as you're not rushed to finish the day and get to dinner, but the options available for activities seemed focused on the 8pm timeframe, so we felt like there were times we missed out. Oh well. Wouldn't have changed our dining time so... - Spa: Don't feel like the "pushed" like other cruises we've been on. Although other cruises when you pay for a service, it entitled you to use the spa that day. Not so here. Wish they'd change that. - Cruise Critic meet and greet...very fun! Thanks RCL for doing it. - Trivia competitions: probably need to find a larger venue than the On Air, way overcrowded each time - Entertainment: I felt the on-deck band was good, they kept it up beat. Not so sure about the playlist (Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" about his kid falling out a window and dying? Not really cruise ship material....). As indicated the aqua show and acrobats were awesome, as were the ice skaters. I've yet to hear anything good about Cats so not sure why they've kept it so long, but didn't go so can't really speak to it. I'd think a more upbeat show (I know other ships have Mama Mia, Newsies, etc) makes more sense. The headliner was good, and the comedians as well. Only three couples for Love and Marriage, and each "won" (which, by the way, totally pissed off a lady I was chatting with in the pool!)

Cruisin into 2019

Oasis of the Seas Cruise Review by otterden

7 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Well, a few days off the boat (and reading about the cruise right after ours with Noro...ug!) gave me some time to finally put down some thoughts on this cruise.

A few disclaimers:

- I'm providing this purely as my experience. Others on the cruise may have experienced something different. Anyone reading this will likely experience something different. I've been on this and other forums long enough to know that at least someone who is smarter/better looking/funnier/more experienced/etc. than me will have their own opinion and comment below. If you'd like their opinion, I recommend you ask them; meanwhile this is just mine. :)

- This wasn't our first cruise, but was our first on RCL and our first bringing our kids (14 and 18)

- I ordinarily would not have chosen New Years to travel...not because of the timing or location, but because of the unreal costs that RCL submits you to for going over a holiday. Alas our work schedules and kids' school schedules drove us to this week, so we sucked it up and pressed on. Had we waited a few months and spent as much, we could have gotten one of those super fancy cabins. That said, no regrets. Our cheap cabin was perfect for what we had. Or more specifically, our cheap cabins. Given the age of the kids and size of the rooms, we opted for adjoining interior rooms. Note to families...an extra bathroom goes a long way towards a great vacation! :)

- Given the above, I'll admit my expectations were high. We spent a lot for a military family who doesn't get this sort of opportunity often, so we wanted it to be everything and more. In many respects we weren't disappointed. Unfortunately in some, we were.

So without further ado...this is pretty long so I'll break each day down, so grab a frosty beverage and sit back!

Day -1:

St Louis

Not our first rodeo, so we knew it was important to get there a day early and avoid all the hassles/fiascos that could happen if coming in same day. We booked our flight from STL-MCO the day Southwest opened its tickets for December travel. $1200 for the four of us, round trip. Not exceptional, but good for us to be able to get there. Dropped the fam and the bags off at the terminal to let them check the luggage while I parked in the lot ($7 per day covered in STL!) and took the shuttle back. They hopped into the security line (TSA pre-check a must, so if you don't have it I highly recommend biting the bullet and doing it). We sat down at the restaurant across from our gate and ordered some food and a few drinks to help get vacation underway. Food was slow, which meant we finished and walked right into the boarding line just in time. I'm A-list due to all my travel, so was able to get onboard before the rest of the fam and they quickly joined and we were off. Full flight given the holidays. It was 30 December and I had a stack of SWA drink coupons that expired the next day....commence OPERATION DRINK COUPON EXPIRATION MITIGATION!

Landed at MCO without issue, got bags and headed to transpo on lower level. Had originally planned to stay at a hotel near the airport and drive over the next morning, but then got smart and decided to spend a little more on the room and get us closer to the cruise port. That drove a change from Cortrans to Port-to-Port shuttles, as Cortrans only does morning runs and we landed after 4pm. We got downstairs and called Brenda, who radioed Craig and he arrived about 15 min later. Nice fella with a sweet new van, very clean, seats about 10(ish), and was even decorated for Christmas. He offered us cookies and water and got underway. We were his only passengers, so room to spread out, and the trip was easy with very little traffic. I felt bad...didn't have my hearing aid in so could barely hear him as he chatted the entire way.

Checked into the Marriott Residence Inn Port Canaveral (actually did the online check-in) and up to our room. Standard Residence Inn (I'm a Marriott member, so tend to gravitate to their chain), nothing fancy or out of the ordinary except the basketball court outside our window with the family in matching shirts playing ball (they'd end up on our cruise too...damn, should have got matching shirts!). Called an Uber and took off for Grill's Seafood, right next to the terminal so we could scope it out. It was busy, as expected, waited about 45 min to be seated, but the bacon wrapped scallops were so worth it! (we're currently in the corn fields of Illinois...no seafood worth typing about....). Stayed for a while, then Uber back to the hotel where we parsed out the carryon bags for the next day and got to bed.

Day 1:

Port Canaveral

Up about 8, breakfast in the lobby...very crowded, lots of cruise folks had the same idea I did! Borrowed a stapler from the front desk to attach our luggage tags and secured the shuttle tickets. $5 per head one way (some folks left cars at the hotel for the week, so they paid $10 round trip). Was surprised, most hotels have a complimentary shuttle, but given the number of clients I guess this made more sense (I think they sent over at least 4 shuttles with 20 people and bags each!). Drop-off at the terminal was quick...got off, got our bags, and handed them over to the luggage attendant. Well, handed three over. He put them on the cart and left the fourth and moved on to someone else's. No worries...I picked it up and loaded it onto the cart with the other three...didn't really want them separated :)

Walked right through security without issues (passports in hand) and upstairs, basically right up to the check-in counter (I think there was one couple in front of us, other Boston Red Sox fans!). Lady at check-in told us this was the fullest the ship had ever been...6500...fun! No issues with our paperwork, we got "group 2" for boarding. Spent a few minutes perusing the lanyard shop (had to represent the Boston sports for the week!) and highlighted to the kids the ever-present Purel hand wash stations. Before long they started calling all the important people (Diamond, gold, etc.) but that didn't take very long and I'd say about 15 minutes after they started boarding we were called--I was amazed at how quickly. Up and in, again no issues, a few cheesy pictures along the way, obligatory "hey buy this package" stations, and just like that we were grabbing a glass of champagne (well sparkling white....) and exploring.

Never been on Oasis before. She was HUGE! We made our way through the promenade, then to the back and outside. Explored the aqua theater, the climbing walls, and stopped for a hot dog before grabbing ice cream. And of course a Lava Flow cocktail from the bar by the aqua theater. Bartender was less than enthused that we were there already. But vacation had begun and I wanted to ensure I came out ahead of the drink package :)

Touring the ship just increased the excitement (along with a stop at a few bars along the way). Stopped at the spa to make hair appointments for the girls for formal night. We found the teen lounge and the arcade (more on that later), as well as explored all the pools and common areas before heading to the room to check it out. Some have commented on Oasis age. I'll say the common areas didn't look bad at all, she was clean, bright and airy, and it's hard to believe 6500 others had just gotten off a Christmas cruise a few hours earlier. Throughout the week we saw small crews roping off various areas to do some maintenance, but nothing that impacted our trip. Will be tracking to see what "amp" they have in store for dry dock.

Stopped by the excursion desk. Had already booked Nassau and St Thomas, but the one I wanted for St Maarten wasn't open online and needed to booked on the ship. Found out it wasn't open because it was full, but he offered to put us on the waiting list. Cool, sign me up! Both rooms! More to follow on this later... Then we headed off to our rooms.

We were in 7404/6, towards the front of the ship, as mentioned inside adjoining rooms. Got to the rooms and the door between was locked. Requested it be unlocked, which meant they had to call a supervisor. That took over an hour...somewhat frustrating. The room was as expected, and I was glad they made the beds up right (together for us, separate for the kids). Unfortunately I was less impressed with the readiness/cleanliness of the room. There were still personal items/trash from the previous occupants, and the towels in the bathroom were the rattiest things I've ever seen, to include holes and pieces hanging off as they were torn up badly. One of our drawers didn't work (the ball bearing from the drawer slides could be found in the drawer and all over the floor) and there was no soap in the dispenser in the bathroom. But it's vacation...we had beds and a bathroom, it's all good! Decided to head out instead of waiting for the adjoining door, and took a different route down another hallway...and found our luggage! Not sure how that was supposed to work, as I heard a lot of folks later complaining they didn't have theirs (only to learn they were supposed to get it from the hallway). Anyway, we rolled it back to the rooms and unloaded quickly as to get the stuff hanging and get back on deck. Luggage fit nicely under the beds, we unloaded and hung a lot of stuff, used the closet cubbies for the rest. Really didn't use the drawers at the desk, mostly due to the fact one was broken.

Muster drill was short and very generic. Our station was the spa, and the tv's weren't in sync with the audio, so it was interesting to hear and then watch...and then eventually the video just stopped working. The onboard speakers were an issue all week, especially for me even with the hearing aid in. We consistently had a very hard time hearing announcements from the bridge about anything unless we were in our room. I was surprised the bridge isn't connected to the deck's music speakers, as it would have been much easier to hear announcements that way. Anyway, after the drill we headed up to the Solarium and met a great bartender who mixed up some special set-sail drinks, made some virgin ones for the kids, and we watched the ship back away from the pier and get the vacation truly underway. He was the ONLY friendly bartender we met all week.

Had hoped to get my daughter comfortable with the teen lounge, but unfortunately it was closed again til 8pm, which also happened to be dinner time for us. That became an issue, as she never really built up a comfort factor going there. Would have been nice for them to have multiple times that day that kids could go get introduced to the program and meet others. My son was a different case. At 18, he's not even allowed in the lounge (just turned 18, still a high school senior), so it made it slightly harder for him to meet folks his age as well. I'm sure he would have loved to hang on the Xbox in the lounge for a while with some of the kids and been fine, but couldn't.

Back to the arcade to activate the kids credits and the freestyle cups, and then more exploring to include heading to the pool for the first time. Stopped by the pool bar for a few more drinks. Again, another bartender who just didn't seem happy to have us standing there (not exaggerating...I'm talking a big scowl on his face. And I have teenagers so I know what one looks like!). My favorite pool became our regular spot, the beach pool. Loved how as the ship moved the water would move in and out like ocean waves. Loved even more the drink staff that would come by and grab your card and bring your drinks. :)

I will say I could definitely tell a difference between the drinks ordered at the bar and the ones brought out by the traveling staff...weaker for sure, but just meant I had to order more!

Back to the room to change for dinner and met up with our steward again, who was finally able to track down someone to unlock the door between rooms. Showered and changed, and headed out a few minutes early to explore more on our way to dinner. We swung down to deck 4 to see the comedy club and art gallery, and found the casino. I'm glad we're not gamblers. The smell of smoke on that deck--without even going into the casino--it overwhelmed us. Couldn't handle it, so we went back up, across deck 5, then back down to deck 4 to enter dinner. Unfortunately the entrance to the MDR is right across from the casino...and the smell was still unbearable there. This was an issue all week, so we tried to never show early for dinner as we'd have to wait there inhaling the awful smoke smell.

(should note we had originally planned Cats for 8pm, so had booked Giovannis for 530. But, given my picky eater and some of the 'feedback' we'd received on Cats, and given we'd already seen it before, we cancelled the specialty dining and stuck with MDR and skipped Cats. No regrets! MDR was easily one of the best experiences we had all week!)

Doors opened and we were escorted to our table. Just four of us and a table for four, by a window (curtained, so no view). While initially I was bummed that we didn't get to meet others at dinner, I was soon thankful. See, I'm the "mean dad" who wouldn't activate an internet package. So without the distraction of cell phones, our lives were so much better. The fun conversations. The serious conversations. The ability to just relax and not be distracted. It was epic. We sat at table 619 (which is our anniversary, 6-19!) and met Rommel from the Philippines and Jaeyung from China. I think it was the first time they'd worked together, as he could barely pronounce her name when he introduced her, but they were a phenomenal team who made it their personal mission to make our meals exceptional. Selection was good, with some great appetizers, filling main dishes and tasty desserts. I think my son tried the fish of the day every day, and was never disappointed. Rommel was quick to learn our names and interacted with the kids, and Jaeyung was so polite and professional you could see she was nervous and just wanted to do a good job. This was a great team.

After dinner we walked the track...we were FULL! Headed off to bed ready to make way to Nassau. I think this night we changed and headed up to the hot tub in the Solarium for a while. Could feel the ship moving that night...not an issue for the boys, but the girls definitely experienced some queasiness.

Day 2:

Nassau!

We got up early to head to Deck 14 forward to see the sunrise. There were a few clouds, but made for a great sky. The wind though...wow! Now I understood why we felt the boat move so much. It was insane! Met a nice family from Canada and chatted about military life for a bit and then went back down to get ready for the day. Had a small breakfast delivered (just the light fare, anything more is $7.95), used this mostly as our extra wake up call each morning, and then made our way out to get underway. The one thing my daughter asked for was to see Dolphins. We had originally booked (through RCL) an excursion in St Maarten to do the Dolphin encounter, but a few weeks before leaving they cancelled it. Was pretty disappointed, but fortunately we were able to react and booked the one on Nassau. Changed our plans, as we had been to Nassau before, and honestly had just intended to stay on the ship that day. Oh well, Dolphins it is, so we took off. Went up first to the pool deck to check out towels...learned it wasn't necessary as they had a station at the gangway when you got off. Also grabbed a few more bottles of water (drink package!) before heading back down. Met up with a few hundred others in Studio B to get briefed on Blue Lagoon, got our wrist bands and made our way off the ship by 0900. I will say this part wasn't as organized on RCL's part. They had about a dozen different groups gathered up in Studio B, and each main point of contact had wrist bands to hand out...which quickly descended into chaos as he couldn't "reach" most groups so they started going to him, which clogged the aisle ways and only confused most passengers, especially those with smaller kids. Once off the ship, a short walk to a ferry gave us the chance to see two other ships in port, at which time the kids finally appreciated the size of Oasis! Ferry ride was about 40 min across the water, pretty cloudy and started to rain, fortunately we were on the port side and the rain was blowing on the starboard so we didn't get wet! (yes, this Air Force guy is pretty proud of his nautical terms!) Great views of some amazing houses along the way, as well as Atlantis.

Pulled in to Blue Lagoon and fortunately the clouds started to part. This is obviously a tourist attraction based on the large numbers of folks already there. We had wristbands that said we would do our Dolphin encounter at 11am, and it was 10am so we got off the ferry and hung out on the beach for a while. Water was chilly but we enjoyed some sand time and then sat down for a few minutes when the announcement came for 11am participants to make their way to the animal area. We gathered up our bags and walked over, where we were met by very friendly staff members who directed us down a dock to participate. The dock was quite full. We'd later learn that it was way overbooked. Suffice to say, our 11am encounter started closer to noon. We didn't mind at the time, as one of the trainers sat on the dock and chatted with us during the wait, having the non-performing dolphins do tricks and play with toys.

When it was finally our time the ten person group entered the water and it was amazing. One at a time we'd lie in the water with our legs extended and the dolphins would come up from behind and push us a few dozen yards across the water so that we'd literally rise up out of the lagoon. It was awesome. Each person got this chance, then we all got in the water and got to pet, dance, receive kisses and even feed the dolphins. Overall the encounter took just under an hour and was one of the highlights of our vacation. Would definitely do it again!

Unfortunately, the delay was costly. We were sternly warned...be on the ferry by 115pm or we wouldn't make it back to the Oasis in time. It was already 1250, and we hadn't had lunch or a chance to see/purchase photos. We divided up, with my wife taking the kids to eat while I waited in line for pictures. That line too was backed up, and by the time I got to the front it was time to go (and found out they didn't take AMEX). My wife ran into a similarly long line at lunch and wasn't able to order, so just picked up a few hot dogs and ran. We rushed to get back on the ship. So only critical feedback here would be to watch for overbooked excursions. Loved what we did, but missed out on the "beach day" relaxing portion of this as well as lunch, and the inability to review the pictures means we're trying still to get our hands on them online. This was likely a once in a lifetime Dolphin encounter, and I'm pretty bummed we don't have the pics to show for (note they don't allow your cameras, so couldn't take our own pics). A quick ferry ride back (with a stop at the hotels along the way for no one to get off/on) and we were back to the port in Nassau. Different arrival location than departure, of course, as they had to drop us off in the tourist district by the shops. Like I said, having been to Nassau before we weren't interested (still a pretty run down area, which always makes us wonder where all that tourism cash goes...), so we proceeded back to the ship. Brief delay as the local militia checked our IDs, then back to the ship. There was a very long line to get back onboard. Dropped off our towels and waited to get through security, then took the stairs. Did that a lot this week, the elevators were just too crowded or slow and we didn't want to waste time waiting on them.

The girls headed off to the spa for their hair...so the boys headed for drinks, ice cream and more pool time. Also did some more exploring, watched a little bit of Ant Man on the big screen by the Aqua Theater, and eventually started to make our way back to the room around 545pm. The Promenade was crazy with picture lines, which was something we wanted to do, so we hurried back to find the ladies reading with their hair-do's all fancy and stuff. They always seem to get mad that the guys can SSS (sh*t/shower/shave) in less than 15 minutes :)

This was formal night #1 and also New Year's Eve, so we went big. I wore my formal military uniform, we rented a tux onboard (pre-cruise booked, $101) for my son and the ladies had nice dresses. We made our way down to the Promenade for pictures, only to find the first crowd was gone, must have been the early dinner crew. We walked right up to just about every picture line and got some great pics. Met the captain, he was nice but not very talkative, and then made our way to a few more pictures before dinner. Another great dinner from our wait staff, and my daughter--who is a picky eater and normally doesn't eat much--ate like she never had before. Again we were stuffed after dinner and went on our now nightly walk around the track. We went to Dazzles for the "finish that verse" music competition, and eventually got seats and got to watch (wasn't picked to participate, bummer!) At this point we were moving again and once again hitting some significant wind (more on that later), so the effect on my daughter was growing. She wasn't feeling well (seasickness, not noro!) so we tried to walk and entertain her to keep her mind off it. We found the library, a few more lounges, walked outside to the carousel and stopped in the arcade (the old man can still school the 18 year old in air hockey!) before making our way back to the Promenade for the New Year's festivities. This was probably the only time this week we felt the sheer number of passengers onboard Oasis, as lots of folks wanted to be there at midnight for the balloon drop. Lots of champagne....kudos to the wait staff. I simply don't know how they walk with trays full of glasses while the ship is moving that much and there are so many people and still don't spill any!!!

The clock struck midnight, I did my annual (very poor) "When Harry Met Sally" impersonation questioning the meaning of Auld Lang Syne, and we headed back to the room for some rest. Found a few towel animals, so the kids enjoyed seeing the steward's artwork.

Day 3:

At Sea!

Vacation. Sometimes it means just being able to sleep in! I don't sleep well, but the rest of the fam does so I hung out in bed listening to the wind hit the ship as we cruised and everyone rested. My wife and I went to the cruise port shopping event (I was trying to be the dutiful husband...suffice to say, I love my wife. Even more after hearing about some of the ladies that go on cruises and their shopping habits!) I think we finally got the kids out of bed around 1030am, and headed to Johnny Rockets for breakfast. Got a table outside and enjoyed the breeze while we sipped on coffee and waited on our meals. You could tell it was the morning after New Year's. Much like I said that night was the busiest we had seen the boat, this morning was the scarcest...people were sleeping it off! Our breakfast arrived and the head waiter tried to help deliver, only to drop my daughter's bacon on the deck. No worries, a full plate of extra bacon arrived quite literally a few seconds later! Everything is better with bacon. My eggs were good, wife and kids enjoyed the French toast and pancakes and we talked plans for the rest of the day. We headed to the sports bar for Star Wars trivia. It wasn't overly crowded, but got the last few seats and geared up for some fun. We're geeks, so it was fun to answer some of the tougher questions (I won't spoil any, but suffice to say I might have schooled the 18 year old on random Star Wars facts even he didn't know!). Unfortunately we did get one question wrong, which I immediately realized when we were reviewing, but one other guy didn't so we came in second. Oh well, it was fun! Still couldn't convince my daughter to hit the teen club, so changed and went to the pool, enjoying the sun and once again the "waves" on the beach. Oh, and the drinks and the hot tub :)

One note...remember the excursion we got "wait listed" for when we first boarded...well, they messed that up. We were checking the online account on the tv and found they had signed up my kids, but not us. Apparently he only wait listed their room, not both rooms, and when two slots opened up he assigned it to them. I went by the desk and tried to help him understand, he just couldn't comprehend why I didn't want the two slots. I guess he thought the kids could go and mom and dad could go enjoy themselves elsewhere! But more frustrating, despite all this he kept pushing for others...specifically the back stage/behind the scenes tour.

It was a lazy day, just what we needed. I think we might have grabbed pizza...it's all a blur. The kids would sometimes head back to the room to read, or, in my son's case pull up ESPN as the Bruins were playing outdoor hockey in the Winter Classic and unfortunately it wasn't being aired as every tv was tuned into college football. Also a stop at the PADI Dive shop, as our excursion in St Thomas was the BOSS Underwater Adventure, and we had to sign the paperwork in order to get our tickets. Early that afternoon the assistant cruise director hosted our Cruise Critic meet and greet in the comedy club. It was fun, she had a lot of prizes and some cookies. Our family made out well, a BOGO for Johnny Rockets, a bottle of wine, a bingo t-shirt and an hour of internet access. Also fun to meet some of the folks we'd chatted with leading up to the cruise. Then more laying around doing nothing. But being lazy was worth it, that's what vacation is for, and the pool was relaxing. The girls went to a "pamper party" at the spa while the boys checked in at the back of the ship. It was windy and we had reservations for the aqua show, but I was worried the conditions would cancel it. I was surprised to find the performers practicing when we arrived, so we watched for a bit before eventually made our way back to the rooms to grab the girls and get them to the show.

The aqua show....WOW! we were simply floored by this performance. But first, the entry. If you have reservations, still get there early. There were only four of us, but even arriving early it was hard to get seats (mostly because of the lady reserving 17 of them for her family, even though most of them didn't show until just as the show started). I'm all for a family vacation and understand wanting to sit together, but taking up an entire row should mean you have everyone there to sit in their seat rather than cause confusion for all the other folks who understandably will walk towards a row of not occupied seats. Anyways....the show. Great effects, great lighting, and amazing performers. Like I said, the ship was moving, so much so I was sure they were going to cancel the show, but didn't. I think we were cruising at about 19 knots, plus the wind and the boat rocking. But these dudes were jumping into a 20-something foot deep pool from 60+ feet in the air. Holy...

Go. You must go. See this show. See it twice if you can. Wow.

Then back to the room for SSS and head to dinner. More fun exploring and pictures along the way, tonight we decided on being a little more crazy and instead of letting the photographers tell us how to pose we told them. It was fun. Even stole some presents from under the Christmas tree as props for a pic :) Dinner again was amazing, ate entirely too much, and did our nightly walk around the track before my daughter went back to the room to read while my wife, son and I went to the comedy club (18 and over). Two comedians featured, both very adult-natured, and so worth it. First one was from Boston, so we fit right in, and he was spot on. Great interaction with the audience. In fact, he really didn't have a bit, he let the audience drive his act. Loved it. Second wasn't bad, but stuck more to a typical "routine" of one liners and even managed to tick off a woman to the point where she got up and left! :)

Day 4:

Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas (eventually)

Another night of rocking and rolling on the waves, and we woke to the light room service knock at the door (all other days they called, so apologies to the dude who had to see me open the door in my boxers half asleep!). We had planned a leisurely breakfast in the MDR before getting off for our excursion, the room service was more of a helpful wakeup call and a quick coffee before heading down for the full event. Breakfast buffet today was in the MDR American Icon and featured some typical breakfast fare, some salad, fruit and a wide variety of sweets (I didn't really see the lunch part of brunch there?). Had hoped to see an omelet station, but didn't have one. While there the Captain came over the speaker to let us know the ship had encountered significant headwinds overnight, and that our arrival at St Thomas had been delayed by over an hour. We were to dock at 1030 but that got pushed to noon. He planned to "make it up" by staying in port an hour longer (7pm vice 6pm) and we'd receive word in our staterooms as to what the changes to our excursions would be. Ok, I get headwinds. That happens. We'll adapt. We were looking forward to the BOSS Underwater Adventure so we'd be paitent!

We went to the Solarium to watch the ship approach the island. It was indeed windy, and we saw some sailboats along the way. As we got to port we realized he'd be doing a 180 and backing the ship in...cool. My daughter had gone back to get some things from the room, so I ran back to get her while my wife and son went to the top and back to see the boat literally back up. When I got to the room we got the call...due to the late arrival, our excursion had been CANCELLED! Ug. I'll admit, this is where I got really frustrated with RCL. There's absolutely no way, with GPS and all the technology available, that the crew didn't know at 0800 that morning (and earlier) that we'd be late. Why couldn't they have told us then? By the time they notified us, 1115am, it was too late to get another excursion booked. I was devastated. This was the one event my son had requested, and now we were without plans for the port we were really looking forward to.

So we made our way off the boat and headed to the taxis. I had read about Magen's Bay and we decided we'd head there for the day. Found a driver who said it was the "second most beautiful beach in the world" (but looked bewildered and confused when my typical sarcasm kicked in and asked which one was first). He scurried up a few other passengers and brought us over to a beat up gold passenger van. Others jumped on open-air extended pickups. Price board showed $10 per person to Magen. This was definitely island life transpo at its best! I'm a city boy, and he and I got along great as he had me jump in the passenger seat. I know the role of shotgun...help the driver! I'd call out traffic and he'd jump at openings. My kids were probably comfortable as they're used to my city driving skills. Not so sure about the other passengers! We made our way north across the island and through the hills, til you could finally look down and see Magen's Bay. It was beautiful, but honestly didn't jump out at me like I'd hoped. I think partially it was the weather...slightly cloudy and a breeze. The water wasn't as blue as I'd imagine, and the beach not nearly as pristine. Further, the damage from the hurricanes 18 months ago was still prevalent. The trees were barren, many broken and without palms, and the beach was beat up pretty badly. Upon pulling up to the entrance, we were told there was a $5 fee as the driver pulled to a closed gate. I'm pretty sure that was a scam and had we stayed in the main lane it wouldn't have been mentioned, but we paid and made our way to the beach. I rented an umbrella (which we ended up not really needing) and we spent some time in the water testing out the kids' snorkeling gear that we had bought to use while not on the BOSS portion of the excursion. Unfortunately the water there was pretty boring...nothing really to look at, and the first 10 feet or so were very rocky so wear water shoes. We grabbed lunch. As expensive as I'd imagined. But a good burger nonetheless. I laughed that the bartenders and waitresses in skimpy bikinis were American mainlanders.

A little more beach time, then we changed and went to find a taxi back. Slightly confusing as he had told us anyone could bring us home, then when we got there every driver had a list with the family names of folks they had brought out. No worries, we hopped onboard one and made our way back to the ship, with a brief stop to take some overlook pictures. Again, the hurricane damage...just so much left to be repaired on this small island. A quick stop for my daughter to do some shopping, grab the proverbial free Del Sol bag, and my son grabbed a color changing Frisbee and we made our way back to the ship full of sand. Line to get on was much shorter this time, as we were still about 90 min before last call. Headed back upstairs after turning in towels. Showers, etc. and then on our way back to dinner, with the obligatory stop at some of the picture stations.

Dinner that night was as phenomenal as every other night. It was "Caribbean Night" so the staff all had their fun shirts on (of course I had to wear mine too!), and they danced during the meal to make it more fun (Chicken Dance is German though, not Caribbean!). Couldn't decide on dessert, so Rommel brought us a few extra. Another lap of the track (had to burn calories somehow!) and then made our way to the Opal for the Headliner show. Tonight we were treated to a show by ventriloquist (what's his name?). We're fans of Jeff Dunham, so this sort of show was right up our alley. We got there a few minutes early, so had a few more drinks (still trying to stay ahead of the drink package!) and watched clips he had of old ventriloquist acts, to include his own before the show finally started. He was ok, one main puppet and some little bits about himself, but the highlight was when he pulled a member of the audience on stage and used him as a puppet. Not sure it would have been as funny with any other audience member, but this due played along as if he were truly a part of the show. It was absolutely hilarious, and we're glad we got to see it.

Day 5

Philipsburg, Saint Maarten

The ship woke us with the engines once again forcing the ship to do a 180 and back into the dock in St Maarten. Today we went a little heavier on the morning room service call so that we could be ready to get off the ship when it docked (and, truth be told, my daughter simply loved the croissants!). Though we stayed an hour later in St Thomas to make up for our late arrival, they somehow managed to make up two hours and get us to port an hour early. After the obligatory stop for a few photos on the dock (once again we were parked next to two other ships showcasing Oasis' huge footprint), we made our way to the ticket booth for the water taxi. The port shopping folks gave us a coupon for $1 off each ticket, but then the booth said we could only use it at the dock. A short walk later and we got our wristbands, $6 for all day access, and we got right onboard the taxi and headed across to the main area downtown. We didn't have an excursion so we opted to hit a few shops and then spend some time on the beach. My wife diligently collected all the "free charm" coupons she could find, and my son was patient in her and my daughter's hunt for bling. As a reward, we found "The Yoda Shop", a small second floor 'museum' set up by the creator of Yoda. He had a lot of autographed merchandise and some interesting stories, and only charged an arm and a leg to walk through to see it all!

Another brief jewelry stop where despite the sales lady's best efforts to get me to spend a few thousand more than I paid for the cruise on bling, and we managed to escape with earrings and a necklace for the wife and some small free pieces as a reward for my daughter. Made our way deeper into town...quickly realized the main shopping area had seen reconstruction after the hurricane, but any deeper and you hit the parts that needed a lot more help. We turned back towards the water, walked past a few more shops (they're persistent in trying to get you to come in!) and made our way back to the main dock area for lunch. There honestly didn't seem to be much in line of options, so we played the typical tourists and headed in to the Hard Rock Café. Passed by the shop and headed upstairs, where we sat at the bar and met a great local bartender who had a huge smile on his face. Ordered a few appetizers and actually activated the free wifi to check in on our puppies, then back to chatting and planning the rest of the day. From the second floor we could see the beach and the activities, and my son quickly focused in on the jet skis. Well, since he lost the BOSS excursion we decided renting a jet ski was the right approach. Our drinks were good (very strong!), I had a Caribbean made Guinness...have now experienced the nectar of the Gods made on three different continents! The food was slow, but good when it finally showed and we had great timing as the place got full quickly. Finished and went to pay...despite the sign/sticker on the door, they wouldn't take AMEX, but after learning that in Nassau I was smart enough to include a Visa in my day pack this time. Bartender was upset we added the tip (a pretty generous one) to the bill instead of leaving him cash. In hindsight I figured out that the restaurant probably takes a chunk of it from him, which sucks.

We headed down to the beach and found a few chairs by the water. Of course we were descended upon quickly by the locals who "rented" the chairs. When he said $10 each I started to walk towards the jet ski rental counter, and he quickly followed with "how much do you want to pay". That was slightly amusing, wasn't ready to haggle for a chair, but he was eager to. Offered a combo deal for the chair, umbrella and jet ski, so I paid the $75 and filled out the waiver paperwork. They had about 6 jet skis, plus two more that they used to "corral" people when their time was up. Waited about 15 min before ours came in, and we took off. It was a blast, and my son probably still has bruises on his butt from catching some air :)

My wife and daughter hung at the beach playing while we journeyed around the bay. Was able to get up close to many of the ships docked, to include Oasis. Wow. She's just amazing. Alas the jet ski cowboys came to rope us in after our time was up, so we headed back to shore where we put the new Del Sol color changing Frisbee to use in the water for a while. About 4 we started to pack up to head back, and there was a line forming at the water taxi station so it's good we started. No issues, got right onboard the next one and headed back to the port. A few shops along the way after we docked, but nothing we wanted to stop at so we headed down the pier and back onto the ship. Lines were somewhat confusing, as they had a separate entry at the far end of the ship just for crew, but some folks would motion for passengers to still use it while others further up turned passengers away. Nonetheless it was painless and we were through security quickly and back up to our rooms to cleanup.

The kids were being lazy and I was eager to get out, so the wife and I headed out and got a drink on the Rising Tide and then sat down in the Schooner for another. We hadn't been to the Windjammer yet (mostly because I was trying to avoid it) but decided to check it out as the wife wanted some nachos. Well, it was Mexican night, so much to my chagrin we went back to grab the kids and headed to the buffet for dinner. As indicated, I was not disappointed by the food in the MDR (I know some reviews have commented on it, but I have nothing bad to say). I also know some folks in the pool had some negative reviews about the specialty restaurants (Chops was a frequent negative review by many folks we met on this trip). But democracy ruled, so we hit the buffet. I stopped at the bar, and waited patiently as the bartender there finished his text conversation before finally looking up and realizing I had been standing right in front of him (he made up for it with a really strong drink!). The taco meat was, well, bland (and very full of beans), the nachos were soggy, and the few other items we got just weren't appetizing at all. The key lime pie...which had received rave reviews...wasn't anything to write home about, and frankly I would have been happy had we never set foot in the Windjammer. Of the entire vacation, this was truly the only "negative" experience I think we had on the ship all week that I would provide critical feedback on.

Conversely, not going to dinner as planned in the MDR opened the chance for us to wait in line for space available for the ice show. Originally the family expressed very little interest in attending, as they thought it would have been geared more towards a younger crowd. But after reading some of the other feedback I convinced them we should try it. A quick stop to once again school the 18 year old on air hockey, and we made our way to the line. Glad we did, we were already about 25 people back and we were still 30 min from show time, and the line only got longer from there. No worries, once it started moving we got right in and found four seats. The show was simply amazing. Amazing. On par with the dive show. The ice skaters, despite the boat's movement, were almost flawless in their very complicated routines...to include one segment where the male skater swung the female around and around (a la that old movie "Cutting Edge" when the hockey player becomes an ice skater...but I digress!) with her head quite literally inches from the ice. They did a multi-faceted tribe to Hans Christian Anderson with all his different story tales, the funniest of all culminating with "The Emperor's New Clothes", and one simply phenomenal segment where a Ukrainian artist told a story by manipulating sand art...hard to explain, but I was mesmerized.

After my daughter chose to head back to the room while the wife and son and I headed to the Schooner for the Elton John piano tribute. We sat down at the piano itself and sang word for word along with every song. He switched up to Billy Joel, we still sung along word for word with every song. It was actually quite funny, he and I are huge fans of both, so it was a great night to be at a piano bar. Others around the bar laughed and commented to my wife that we must practice at home. Not so much practice as we just love the music, but was still a lot of fun. She headed off to bed, we stayed and sung some more, til about 1 and then finally headed back to bed.


Day 6:

At Sea

Today we got up and decided to hit the Solarium for breakfast before the first of two epic days of relaxation. It was crowded, took us a few minutes to find a table but enjoyed the spread. Bacon. You know the routine. Found a few chairs not too far from the beach pool and spent the day enjoying the sun and making the most of our drink package. The kids explored, even took a towel folding class of their own. My son did the "super heroes" trivia, my wife read, and I enjoyed not being tied to a mobile device that was ringing off the hook. Met a few nice folks in the pool and chatted a while, ran down for a hot dog and some fries, watched my son on the zip line, and then back to the pool for more lazy time. Quite literally the first time in years I've had nothing to do, and it was awesome. I'm sure there was other stuff that day, but who cares!

Back to the room via the Promenade for some snacks and saw the crowds all dressed up again for the second formal night. Did our SSS and dressed up again (note, they provided two different shirts with the tuxedo rental, kudos!). Girls had another fancy outfit and like a good military guy I reutilized the one I brought and we headed down for more fun pictures. First one was with the captain again, so walked right up and took that one. Had to highlight the jewelry I bought for the wife and blamed him....what I failed to mention earlier is that the port shopping guide is also his fiancé. She mentioned it. A few times. More than a few times. :)

Got a bunch more pictures along the way, actually saw a few other military folks this time (it was so crowded on the first night I'm sure I just missed them) and headed down for dinner. Rommel and Jaeyun were on point, and tonight was crazy busy for them as it was also lobster night. I convinced myself I was on vacation, so I caved and ordered the Chops filet along with the lobster...figured a little surf and turf! I laughed as one of the other waiters had to peel apart the lobster for a girl at another table...made me wonder if that was part of the standard service! Our lobster showed, and it was delicious as expected. Unfortunately the kitchen didn't help our staff out, nor did the head waiter, as Rommel had to go all the way back to the kitchen to retrieve my filet. He rushed out and apologized profusely as he knew the intent was to have both at the same time. We learned that our section of the MDR is literally the furthest walk from the galley. I knew he was trying, and didn't for a minute think it was his fault, but he was over the top apologetic and even brought a few extra lobsters to the table (no complaints from my crew!). They also poured the champagne like it was going out of style, so we obliged. As indicated earlier, feedback on Chops wasn't great, and I unfortunately had to agree. My filet was more done (I had requested medium) than I wanted, a little crispy on the outside and the meat not nearly as tender as some of the others I've had. Cost an extra $20, and in hindsight I should have just gone with the NY strip off the MDR menu and made it easier (and cheaper). Lesson learned.

As we tried to leave Rommel brought even more champagne...wow, it was flowing tonight! We took our glasses and departed for our nightly walk around the track en route to the Opal for the acrobat show. Again, another performance that didn't fail to deliver. While there may a lot of negatively towards Cats, the rest of the entertainment on Oasis was great! With a cast of four "main" singers, a group of acrobats and dancers, this troupe wowed us with their skills, and being a former theater stage crew techie, the props/stage were incredible! From folks flying in from above the stage and out over the audience, they captivated everyone and it was simply fun to watch. Glad we stuck around for it, would highly recommend to anyone. Back in the room we were greeted by more towel animals, this time the kids had a monkey hanging from a clothes hanger in the middle of the room. I wish I had my daughter's reaction on video...she probably woke the folks upstairs she jumped so high. Epic.


Day 7:

At Sea

The wife and I got up around 8 on the last day for spa appointments. She was offered a "discount" based on her attendance at the pamper party earlier in the week. We got there and were greeted (or not) at the front desk by a woman who apparently didn't want to be there that day. Still, it was fun to see the rest of the spa attendants checking in, a long line of staff in their uniforms stretched from the desk to the entrance as each signed in...gave you an appreciation for the sheer volume of staff dedicated just to the spa. We filled out the paperwork and were separated to our individual treatments. I met Wanpen from Tailand...which was fortuitous as I was going for a massage and Thai stretching is by far one of the few ways my back responds. She attempted the expected upsell of additional services, but quickly realized I wasn't in the market and backed off without issue. She was quite adroit at her profession, and I was glad this would be the way we wrapped up our trip. When finished I went to find my wife, who unfortunately was unable to receive her treatment due to the machine breaking down (I guess this had happened to them earlier in the week as well). They asked her to come back later in the day and try again.

We went back and got the kids moving and made it to the Solarium in time for breakfast just before they shut down the line. They had already run out of syrup and the coffee was empty, but the bacon was plentiful :)

Another lazy day, this time we were fortunate enough to go early and find some chairs next to the pool. I will admit, the chair hogs were prevalent on this trip. Frustratingly enough, the same lady who reserved 17 chairs at the aqua show was also like a traffic cop that morning, reserving another 17 lounge chairs for her towels. I say that, as I spent the day in the pool, and pretty sure the only thing that occupied those chairs all day were her towels....

Got a little sun that morning, then lathered up as to not get burned and hung out in/out of the pool while the wife read. Hung in the pool for a while, and the kids went to the flowrider. Lots of fun. Then back to the pool. Kids joined us off and on, finding time for zip lining, and then used the Johnny Rockets coupon we won to go to lunch together. We started to feel a few drops of rain...the first all week, so packed up to head back inside. I laughed. All the people in the pool, already wet, were freaking out over the rain. I guess it did come down a little later, but we were already back inside and missed it. The wife headed back to the spa to try her treatment again, and the kids and I went down to the sports bar for the Harry Potter trivia...that was crowded and lots of competition. I'll admit, I'm the Star Wars expert in the family, but by no means am I the Harry Potter guy so I was of very little help to their cause. That was until the crew member running it say they had hidden a snitch somewhere on Deck 5, and the Muggle of least value to the team should be dispatched. Now this was up my alley, and a chance to grab another drink. Didn't find it, but at least wasn't stuck in the over-crowded sports bar! We also activated our free hour of internet and checked into our flight for the next day.

After the wife joined back up we walked a few of the shops (huge watch sale, but man, those things were HUGE! As big as the ship! I just can't imagine wearing a five pound watch!). We had waited til today, and t-shirts were 2 for $20 (always wait til the end of the week!), and then we headed up to the picture station. I had pre-purchased the picture package, $249. No kidding, we had 249 pictures taken. Too funny, $1 per pic! We actually purchased the autographed picture with the captain (I chuckled, as a few folks had asked to get their pictures taken with me while I was in my military uniform...wonder if I could have autographed a few and sold them!?). The attendant showed us how to download the pictures to our cell phones...but at 249 of them we decided to just wait til we got home and download them all from the cloud at once. At least now you know why we stopped at every picture station all week!

We showered and changed for our last dinner, and chatted with the kids about the week and how they enjoyed it. Both agreed the dining room staff was the best, and also wanted to recognize the room steward. I had already set a tip amount in my mind, but they chose to supplement it with their own money to recognize these crew members. Will admit, was pretty proud of them for that action. We worked really hard to provide this vacation, and it was good to know our kids recognized the hard work of some of the crew that made it extra special.

Dinner was great again, and the champagne was once again flowing freely. We had great conversations about the week, the highs and lows, what we looked forward to (and dreaded) about going home, and some additional conversation with our wait staff. The kids provided them their respective envelopes, and I think Jaeyun was nearly floored when she opened it. Glad we were able to bring some joy to her after the week of her bringing it to us. We got a picture with them and finished our desserts. Rommel must have had time to open his as well, as he came back, his face lit up with a huge smile. The kids still talk about them!

We spent some time earlier in the day packing up the bags, but went back one more time to ensure everything was ready. The kids had made a towel turtle for Cleyton and left his envelope with it, and he had left them a nice note in appreciation. My wife and daughter stayed while my son and I went back to the Opal for the final comedy show, the same two we had seen earlier in the week. I won't get into the full details, but the dude sitting in front of us (he was front row) just wasn't wise enough to not pick an argument with the comedian from Boston. He tore him apart, and most of it was rather amusing. The other comedian repeated many of the same jokes we heard earlier in the week, wasn't as much fun this time around. We stopped after to meet the one from Boston and swap Beantown stories. Found out his daughter is also Air Force, so gave him my contact info and told him to have her look me up if she needs anything. Small world.

Day 8:

The end :(

Once again, you could feel the ship shake as the crew turned her around to get back into Port Canaveral. We rose, finished packing up and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. For some reason, Park Café didn't dawn on me as being an option, or maybe it wasn't open. In any case, same impression. Everything is better with bacon, but even the bacon there was too salty. Oh well. Coffee and some eggs, and we were back to our room to grab our bags. Left our room about 745am. No issues getting off the ship, quite literally walked straight up to customs, they reviewed passports and were out. From ship to garage, less than ten minutes. Called Craig with Port to Port and he was about ten minutes out. Saw him pull in, walked down to the end to meet him and loaded up. Once again, we were his only passengers so we spread out...and crashed in our seats while he navigated back to the airport.

Checked in with SWA (waited in A-list line, would have been easier to just do self check in), and made our way to security. TSA Pre-check is a must for MCO...very long lines. Made it through, and planned to go to the Priority Lounge you get with AMEX, only to learn that was in the other part of Terminal A. We left and had to go back through security on that end, which they gave us a hard time over because our gate wasn't there, but acquiesced when I explained we were going to the lounge. Made our way down and in...and it was like hitting a wall. The place was crowded, dirty and few open seats. Not worth all the effort we went through to get there, but we were there so we hung out a while and updated our friends online and went through our pictures. Eventually it got more crowded so we decided to leave and try the USO.

The USO...why didn't we just go there first? Place is huge, clean, massive TVs, snacks, couches, and great people who are genuinely nice and interested to have you there...unlike the priority lounge. And it's free. Won't make that mistake again.

Stayed there for half a football game, and then made our way back through security...again...I was surprised the TSA didn't flag us for multiple trips through. Had pre-paid for priority board on this flight as I wasn't sure we'd have internet to be able to check in, so we were able to get right on and seats together without issue. Quick layover in Philly and then home to STL. Left the fam to grab the bags off the conveyor belt while I went to get the car from parking. Well, I sat in the parking shuttle waiting for about 20 minutes before we finally headed to the lot. By the time we left, the final bag was coming off the line. Oh well. I was just glad the temp wasn't too bad, about 50, as to not be a shocker after 80s all week. It would snow on us a few days later. Talking about a reality check!


Overall...yes, would definitely do this trip again! As indicated, while New Years Eve on the ship was nice, I'm not sure it's a "must do" at that price. I'm confident I could have spent half as much if we weren't shy about taking the kids out of school for the week, but definitely enjoyed our time on Oasis. A few salient points that, again, are specific to me so please understand that any negative comments about my perceptions will be wasted effort to type as I'm truly just providing my .02 cents worth...

Rooms:

- If you're the type that has to see the ocean as much as possible, then yes, spend the extra to get a view. Otherwise, we spent so little time in our room that the inside room was more than sufficient. I saw some pictures of folks with rooms actually smaller than ours...wow. Ours were tight, but that was why I went with two for the four adults vice having the kids sleep on the drop down beds out of the ceilings. (if my kids are reading this, you owe me!).

- The adjoining room was convenient, but not a must. We could have survived with rooms close by/across the hall.

- Our rooms were closer to the front above the spa. We felt the motion. Moreso, we felt the beat. Quite literally. If you want to sleep in, don't get these rooms, as Zumba (or something) starts every day in the spa at 0900. And your room will shake from the bass.

- Magnets...yes! We did all the homework on what to bring/what not. This one was fun. I had printed small quotes that I posted on the kids' door a few times a day. I think our steward enjoyed them as much as us. But other stuff like the over the door shoe organizer and things like that, well we personally didn't have a need.

Food:

- We were never disappointed in the MDR. Never. While three of us tried different appetizers every night (my daughter is the picky one, so she loved her Caesar salad!), we never were displeased and asked for something different. Now that didn't stop us from asking for the shrimp AND the caprese.... Main courses were diverse. The fish of the day was awesome. The desserts....wow.

- I wish we had done more breakfasts in the MDR, and even lunch for that matter

- we're old school, cruised before the "specialty" restaurants were a big thing. Frankly we didn't miss anything. Part of cruising for us is the relationship you build with your dining staff. Floating (ha!) from restaurant to restaurant wouldn't have provided that opportunity so we were happy. Again, our opinion. If you want to go, go.

- Johnny Rockets was...well...the same as the fast food place you go to at the mall. Actually, there you get the "diner" experience with folks singing and dancing to 50s music. I don't really see this as a "specialty" and had we not won the BOGO not sure we would have done anything there besides the breakfast (which is included). And at that, the cost of one burger was about the same amount I'd spend on three back home. We were disappointed the shakes weren't included as part of the drink package, but understand that's not a sustainable business model.

- Re-read, and then read again my take on the Windjammer. Simply put, this was the disappointment of the cruise, and I'm glad we only went once.

- Room service was always on time, only failed to call in advance once, and offered enough options that if we really didn't want to we could have avoided breakfast altogether.

- Other opportunities...our bad for not trying more/others. Simply spent very little time in central park, and thus completely missed out on Park Café. Could have tried Solarium for dinner, but see above why we stuck with MDR.

Staff:

- I think I've bragged on MDR staff enough. Chefs (other than WJ) were good. Steward wasn't as personable as our other cruises, and left a bit to be desired with respect to room standards. Bartenders were simply grumpy all week. I'm all for extra tips (remember the drink package includes 18% on top of every drink), but they would consistently push the printed receipt hoping for more but provided very little in the form of "great service" that warranted it.

- Cruise director: never interacted with him personally, but saw him onboard and saw all the videos. This week he also had his very young daughter onboard, and she was featured in his videos. Seemed like a nice guy. Proverbially off his rocker. His assistant was nice, but they didn't click. Seemed forced.

- Officers: as indicated, Captain wasn't very outgoing, nor were many of his officers we interacted with. Some really got into dancing during latin night, but mostly just kept to themselves.

- Sports: can't say enough good stuff about the zip line/rock wall/flow rider crew. My son is a self-proclaimed zip expert (staffed it at National Boy Scout Camp) and they were great engaging with him. Rock wall had a night climb, which my daughter showed up for just before closure. They initially told her too late, but saw her sitting on the bench looking disappointed and personally came over to issue her the gear and get her up on the wall. Flow rider...they have fun. But the best part was when one of the staff got on a board and "tandem" boogie boarded with a special needs young man who obviously was having the time of his life thanks to this staff member. The audience cheered and clapped, and it just made him that much happier. That is how you win over families on big expensive vacations.

- Photographers: as I said, we stopped at EVERY one. Some were personable, others just clicked the trigger. Most tried the typical "ladies with your hands on your hips, guys with hands in pockets", but let us have some fun and choose our own poses as well. On the stairs leading to the globe behind Globe and Atlas they need a higher step stool, all the pics were taken from a too low vantage point and made them appear awkward. Some photographers dressed up on port days like pirates or sailors, fun! Many laughed or joked with me in uniform, faking a salute. Unfortunately the gentleman who checked us out at the end had absolutely no people skills, I wish one of the photographers we'd met during the week would have been there to interact with.

- Art: the dude hocking art was just awkward. I think it's a pre-requisite for the job, but he came across as sort of creepy. Funny story too...he was talking a good talk (we call them war stories) with a pair of gentlemen when we walked through on the formal night. He saw me in uniform and clammed up quickly. I think he mistook me for a member of the crew :)

- Excursion: I think they need a better trained staff here. Too many mistakes.

- Voom: hard to find. We won the free hour, but despite repeated attempts to activate it couldn't until the last day.

- Embarkation: great crew in Port Canaveral. Very friendly, eager to set the tone for the week.

Activities:

- Excursions: Can I beat a dead horse? I purposely went through RCL, despite the added costs, and still only got one of three that we wanted. Frustrating.

- Teen club: I've heard RCL does a phenomenal job with the younger kids. This group, while young adults, wasn't very well organized or welcomed. Again, my personal experience with my daughter (she's a military kid, has moved a ton, every two years, does NOT have trouble making friends...), this just didn't jump out as a great bonus. Further, the 18 year old crowd is a tough one. He's not a drinker (international waters...pretty sure they would have served him without question!), but the few "events" they had weren't well organized/advertised/executed.

- Pools: crowded, but not overcrowded. Chairs...well, chair hogs. We had a few windy days and the upper most deck was closed, so that drove a lot more folks down to the main level and Solarium, which was another area that a lot of towels enjoyed their day. Look forward to seeing what they do with Oasis in dry dock. Slides? Lazer tag? We never did mini-golf, our bad. But frankly not sure I saw a lot of folks there, so maybe a good place to re-evaluate use of valuable on-deck real estate.

- Arcades: lots of "out of order" games, and too damn expensive to justify. One game of air hockey was $2.50.

- Other events: we did the late dining, 8pm. Makes sense as you're not rushed to finish the day and get to dinner, but the options available for activities seemed focused on the 8pm timeframe, so we felt like there were times we missed out. Oh well. Wouldn't have changed our dining time so...

- Spa: Don't feel like the "pushed" like other cruises we've been on. Although other cruises when you pay for a service, it entitled you to use the spa that day. Not so here. Wish they'd change that.

- Cruise Critic meet and greet...very fun! Thanks RCL for doing it.

- Trivia competitions: probably need to find a larger venue than the On Air, way overcrowded each time

- Entertainment: I felt the on-deck band was good, they kept it up beat. Not so sure about the playlist (Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" about his kid falling out a window and dying? Not really cruise ship material....). As indicated the aqua show and acrobats were awesome, as were the ice skaters. I've yet to hear anything good about Cats so not sure why they've kept it so long, but didn't go so can't really speak to it. I'd think a more upbeat show (I know other ships have Mama Mia, Newsies, etc) makes more sense. The headliner was good, and the comedians as well. Only three couples for Love and Marriage, and each "won" (which, by the way, totally pissed off a lady I was chatting with in the pool!)
otterden’s Full Rating Summary
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Dining
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Entertainment
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Ages 16+
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Cabin Review

Interior
Cabin 6V 7406
As indicated above, opted for inside as to be able to get two cabins...for what we spent, we could have probably gotten a large suite during non-peak cruises but that timing wasn't an option for us. Cabin was sufficient...we just don't spend a lot of time there. I did see some of the cabins that actually were smaller (didn't think it possible) with less room between the two twin beds and a smaller desk. I wasn't pleased with the cleanliness when we arrived (see above, still personal items left over from previous cruise) as well as the ratty/torn towels. Didn't end up having as much interaction with our steward as we did previous cruises. Room was right above spa...zumba at 0900 is early on sea days! Be ready for it! Finally, up front, so we felt the wind, we felt the waves, and we still felt the azipods as the ship moved/positioned.
Deck 9 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews