Our group consisted of 6 people, my wife and myself, our two adult daughters, our son-in-law and our 7-month old granddaughter. We are "loyal to Royal", having completed 14 cruises with RCCL, many of them with our daughters when ... Read More
Our group consisted of 6 people, my wife and myself, our two adult daughters, our son-in-law and our 7-month old granddaughter. We are "loyal to Royal", having completed 14 cruises with RCCL, many of them with our daughters when they were younger. This was our third experience on Oasis-class ships.
Overall, we had a good time, and I think this class of ship is ideal for a group with a broad range of ages, as the various neighborhoods offer different experiences for different interests. But there were certainly opportunities for Royal to improve the experience.
Booking a family group
We needed three cabins for 6 people -- a couple, a single and a family of three. To my surprise, a 7-month old child counts as a full fare paying passenger, so with the single supplement for my younger daughter, we would wind up paying the equivalent of 7 passengers' fares for our group of 6 (there was no "kids sail free" deal when we booked). To get around this, we split up into three couples, with my son-in-law and granddaughter in one cabin, my two daughters next door, and my wife and I in a third cabin. Once on-board, we reconfigured the sleeping arrangements with no one from Royal being any the wiser. Seems like we should have been able to book the cruise with the room arrangements the way we wanted for the same price, but had to MacGyver the solution ourselves.
We had a mixed experience on this cruise. Our prior cruise (in November '18) was the best embarkation we'd ever had (Anthem of the Seas from Cape Liberty), so my expectations were very high that Royal had implemented the same innovations for Oasis. No such luck.
Arrival at the pier was chaotic. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. by car, and the departing passengers were still in the process of picking up their luggage, so the simultaneous drop-off and pick-up activity made for a very crowded terminal. After getting through the drop-off, pier-side parking in the garage was very quick with lots of availability.
Once into the terminal, the line-ups were significant. As Diamond members of the C&A society, we expected a bit of a fast track, but that didn't start until after security screening. The screening process was OK, and once we got into the Diamond line, we were processed quickly and were able to board the ship straightaway.
Our Travel Agent had a deal available that offered us one specialty dining experience per cabin, to be booked once we got on-board. We usually dine in the main dining room, and are always very pleased with the food and service there. But since the specialty dining was a "freebie" we decided to use it.
By the time we got around to trying to book a dinner time, things were pretty well fully booked. So if you're thinking of specialty dining it's a good idea to book ahead, or if you have a deal like ours, as soon as you step on board.
We booked 150 Central Park. Very nice food and attentive service, and no feeling of being rushed. The only disappointment was the "table side Caesar salad" ... true to the menu, the salad was prepared at our table side, but the dressing was already pre-made. In shoreside restaurants where we've had this, the server made the dressing from fresh ingredients right in front of us, starting with cracking eggs and whisking in the olive oil. At 150 Central Park, they might as well have brought out the bottle of Kraft dressing and poured it into the bowl. Table side Caesar salad done the Royal way is a "why bother".
Overall the experience at 150 Central Park was OK, but not something I would pay extra for. As a "freebie" it's OK, but next time around I'll look at some of the other alternatives before returning to 150.
The Royal "Babies and Tots" child care program is excellent! For a low fee ($6 per hour in the daytime and $8 in the evening) you can leave your child in the nursery so you can enjoy some "adult time". My daughter and s-i-l did this a few times during the week. They'd read ahead of time about the need to get in line early to book your times, so we went there directly after getting on board. It was a bit of a wait, but managed to book the times they wanted. If you plan to use this service, it's great, but be sure to plan ahead to get the times you want. Dinner time on formal nights book up very quickly.
There is a special-purpose Baby Splash Pool on the pool deck, designed for babies who aren't toilet trained -- they are allowed in the pool as long as they are wearing a special swim diaper. This was great for our granddaughter, it gave her a first pool experience.
Royal is one of the few lines we could find that really catered to parents of young babies, and we can't say enough positive things about this -- it allowed us to really enjoy a 3 generation holiday.
This is normally my "go to" choice for breakfast, but on this ship there is no custom omelette / fried egg station, or at least none I could find. You could get fried eggs and omelettes, but they were all pre-made and not necessarily the way you wanted them.
We also had two times when there was a huge line up to get into the Windjammer, extending out the doors. We've never experienced this before. In those cases, we turned around and went to the Central Park Cafe for the meal we were looking for, and there was no line up there.
Overall, our experience with the Windjammer on Oasis was disappointing. Our prior cruise on Oasis, and our cruise on Allure both had better Windjammer experiences, so hopefully Royal is aware of the problem and is working on improving it.
The main production show on Oasis is the musical CATS. Strange choice. Aside from the one big song (Memory), there's not much to this show. Many people left at intermission. And it's a frequent enough happening that the comedian in the Comedy Club (great venue) jokes about it when he says "Welcome to the Comedy Club, an intimate venue seating 60 people, which is still more than see the 2nd act of CATS". We sat through both acts, and the singing and dancing were excellent, but overall the show wasn't that entertaining -- which is what I thought of the show when I saw it 30+ years ago in Toronto.
Other entertainment on the ship was excellent. The Aqua Show is a must-see. The Comedy Club is great for stand-up, and the Jazz Club had performances by some of the cast members of CATS, doing both Jazz and Broadway standards.
One of the real strengths of the Oasis-class ships is the "neighborhood" concept. Central Park, in the middle of deck 8, was our favorite, an area mostly used by adults. The Central Park Cafe was a good spot for a light breakfast or lunch, without the line ups of the Windjammer buffet. Vintages wine bar is there, along with a couple of the specialty restaurants. The Rising Tide bar stops in the middle of Central Park, and you can ride it down to the Promenade on deck 5.
Kids are the focus of the Boardwalk, with it's hot dog stand, carousel, candy shop and Johnny Rocket's diner. We stayed away from that area mostly, as it's pretty chaotic, but if you have young kids, it's the place to be!
While the ship was full of kids of all ages, we found many spots we could hang out that were relatively quiet. The Solarium, at the front of the ship on the pool deck, is an adults only retreat with lots of loungers, a restaurant and bar.
There is a well equipped fitness facility on-board, and an excellent walking / running track on deck 5. The track is 666 meters long (about 725 yards), so you don't have to go around in small circles like on most ships to get a significant distance. It wasn't very busy, and from some spots on the track you get a good view of the ocean (or port) as you walk or run by. This is one way Royal has really taken advantage of the overall size of this class of ship, it is the best walking/running track I've used on any of our cruises.
The service in the Main Dining Room was excellent, and the team we had looking after our table ensured that we had a high-chair for the baby, and a fruit cup and steamed vegetables at the table quickly, so she had something to play with (or eat) while the adults contemplated the menu.
The only negative in the MDR for us was the wine service. We started getting a glass of wine at the Champagne Bar just before dinner and carrying it into the restaurant, so that we wouldn't be sitting waiting for 15 minutes for our wine order. We've had this same experience on other Royal sailings, I think it's their service model to really limit the number of Bar Servers on duty in the MDR.
After a very optimistic start (our luggage tag numbers were called about 30 minutes ahead of schedule) disembarkation was a disappointment. Just prior to us getting to the gangway, Customs & Immigration shut down the process due to a backlog of processing people. We waited more than 45 minutes in line before the flow of passengers started again.
A real positive for Royal in all of this is that several of the ship's Officers made appearances in the line up to apologize for the delay. They did what they could to ensure that we were informed of what was going on, and I give them credit for this. They also brought a drink cart around to offer people coffee & juice while they waited.
Once in the luggage warehouse we quickly found our bags and then joined the big snaky line to speak to an Border agent. One of the largest ships in the world was in port, and CBP only had half of their inspection lines open. This isn't under Royal's direct control, but I would expect they could influence the number of agents.
I contrast this to the disembarkation from Anthem of the Seas last November, where each passenger could choose to line up to see an agent, or step in front of a camera which used facial recognition to determine if the person was OK to proceed, or needed to go to "secondary inspection". We chose facial recognition, and were waved through immediately without any delay. This innovation should be implemented across the fleet!
While my review may sound negative, overall we had a good time with the family, and would recommend Royal Caribbean, and an Oasis-class ship, to anyone looking for a multi-generation vacation. A key tip is to make sure you sign on to the Cruise Personalizer well in advance of your trip and book your main shows and any specialty or MyTime dining you want. Once you're on board it's much more difficult to find the times you want, and the way they schedule the shows, you may find that dinner conflicts with your preferred showtime. If you take an hour ahead of time, it will save you lots of frustration while on board. Read Less