Oasis of the Seas Cruise Review by Call Me Al
- Sail Date: March 2010
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Group: myself, wife (ages 41), 2 daughters ages 13, 10.
Residence: Houston, Texas
Cruise: 4th —all with RCI. Priors: Voyageur of the Seas Western Caribbean 2008, 2009 out of Galveston, TX, and Sovereign of the Seas 1994 out of Ft Lauderdale.
I will write this review from the point of view of assuming you have chosen to book an Oasis cruise and want to learn about other cruisers' experiences and downstream decision making. Thus, in short, I recommend the cruise, so here is how we planned ours.
Departure. We flew IAH-FLL the night before as it is Spring break and the planes will be full with limited options for any problems with flights. We stayed at the Embassy Suites ($15 cab ride) using points, but would have been $220 or so for the night—breakfast included. Cab from the airport to the cruise terminal was $10. There is a CVS pharmacy down the street and several banks for last minutes items, and cash. From the curb to the ship really is 15-20 min as others have written.
Day 1. The ship is big, new, fancy, and fun to explore. We had an outside balcony standard, and an interior standard for the kids across the hall. We immediately got in line on the Sports deck—took 1.5 hours—to sign up for Flowrider lessons and a zip line appt. I recommend the private Flowrider deal—its $60/person for a group of 8, and I think you can sign up on line and save time. Definitely book all of your entertainment shows on line in advance. Specialty restaurants also. We had lunch at Winjammer—same as all RCI ships. We did our 4:15 muster drill, 6pm main dining room seating, and later saw the Hairspray musical.
Days 2-3 at Sea. This is great time for roaming the ship, enjoying the pools, going for a work out, trying the various unique features. For example, there is a free restaurant in Central Park—great for breakfast and lunch. The gym is ok but not forward facing as on Voyageur class. The Spa is a huge money grab pit—but aren't they all? The steam/sauna rooms are also now a surcharge service. On the 5th floor there is a jog track that wraps all the way around the ship—no shuffle board however. Another out of the way place is the 14th deck forward—you approach through the stateroom hallways portside and there is a doorway leading you to a forward deck and two winged balconies that extend to the sides so you can see the profile of the ship. In the same manner, there are hot-tubs extended over the sides forward port and starboard. The pool decking gets busy but there is room. The Solarium is very competitive for chairs—even more competitive are the forward facing cabanas. The Bistro restaurant in the Solarium serves eclectic health food. The boardwalk is fun for the kids. We passed on Johnny Rockets due to past experiences (why are we paying more for hamburgers?). The Seafood shack looks ok but not much different than the free food options (9$ for fish and chips?). The aqua theater is amazing—plain and simple.
Day 4. St. Thomas. We opted to rent a car to explore on our own. To pull this off, you really need to buy a guide book—we used the Fodor's guide to Caribbean Ports of Call. This turned out to be more complicated than planned as the ship lands in the Crown Bay part of the marina, but Avis is located at the opposite end so we had to cab over there. We drove to Magan's bay beach—$14 or so for entry and parking. They have facilities, and a basic restaurant/bar under a paviollion. This is a great beach day, and it costs < half that of an RCI paid tour. Our car was $60 for the day—you have to drive on the left! Then we drove on the scenic overlook highways and had a look at Coki beach area. Next, we toured the downtown for some shopping—parking here is a problem, however. A Taxi driver nearly hit my daughter when trying to get into the car and then gave us a dirty look when we yelled at her to stop. I gave her quite the tongue lashing she deserved and she yelled right back like we were in NYC. Since it was complicated getting the car, we decided to head back at this point. Overall, this was our least favorite island. The beach was nice, but the island is mostly run-down looking (similar to Montego Bay Jamaica) and the rude taxi driver left a negative impression. Shopping was standard for a Caribbean island, but would rank Cozumel, and Cayman Islands way ahead.
Day 5: St. Marten. Again, we rented a car for $60. This worked beautifully—10 mi walk from the pier in Philipsburg. This island is much prettier. We drove to the Butterfly farm for a tour, then lunch at a French Bistro on Grand Case Beach (French side)—Restaurant du Soleil. The butterfly farm is a nice alternative if you have had enough sunburn by this point. Certainly there are a lot of expensive adventure tours through RCI. Next, we circled the rest of the island and then parked to shop in downtown Philipsburg. It's a shorter day—due on ship by 4pm or so.
Day 6: at sea—more of same options. By this point we were getting good at flow-riding so spending a lot of time doing this. We ate at Chops Grill—recommend.
Day 7: half a day in Nassau. The weather was a lot cooler now but sunny—so not a good beach day. We walked/shopped downtown and then walked our way over to the Astradia Zoo—very nice. The have a unique parade of trained Caribbean flamingo's and other assorted wildlife—it's good for 2-3 hours. Then we took a taxi back for a little shopping then back onboard.
Return: We opted for the RCI tour of the Everglades. The attraction was that we had a late 6pm flight so needed an activity and this one drops you off at the airport. Its about a $50/person tour. It's average at best. There is a lot of waiting on the bus and waiting to get on the fanboat—all for a 45 min ride that costs $22.50 retail. Then there is an alligator show, and back to the airport—no food included. I don't recommend this—better off doing things yourself.
Final critiques: Pro: flowriders, overall service, dining room (appetizer/entrees), whirlpools, gym, crowd control not a problem, new ship/amazing designs, artwork, comedy show, water show, Hairspray, Ice show, Teen lounge/activities, Sorento's Pizza, photo service (well done, pricy), soda package (great deal for kids; adults should probably avoid the calories)
Mixed review: Cruise director Richard Spacey: manic, energetic, but sometimes corny and unoriginal. Others: Windjammer, Zip line (free, but lasts < 10 seconds), Viking lounge—de-emphasized due to loft suite areas.
Con: Instate computers filled with flaws, dining room deserts (universally poor on all RCI cruises), show Come Fly With Me, RCI tours 50-100% markup, $20 charge for losing a pool towel.
Did not use: Dazzles night club (looks great but we don't stay up late), Adventure Ocean (our 10 year old wouldn't go, Spa (too pricey), Specialty Dining (other than Chops Grille which was great), on board shopping (maybe the Tag Heuer and booze prices are great but not my thing).
Miscellaneous issue: the ship is so big it does present new problems. If you lose track of kids its hard to find them so need a clear plan of the day or 2-way radios. Consider a day bag to go to the pool with as its a long walk back in most cases.
Would we repeat? Yes, but not for a while. Next up for us is Alaska for Aug 2010 (Radiance), and on this cruise, we opted to book a 2011 cruise on the Brilliance for the 12 night Med/Greek Isle tour—for Crown and Anchor members you get $200/stateroom credit and 2 cruise credits for doing this on the ship through their loyalty program.
Prices paid: approx. $1500/person avg base rate x 4, airfare (IAH-FLL $365—2 with miles), $1300 onboard (7 bottle wine, flowrider lessons, everglades tour, photos, a few bar tabs), plus another 200-300 Island activities, car, etc.
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