This was our first cruise and we spent a great deal of time in choosing and planning our trip. In so many ways this cruise exceeded expectations ... which is amazing since it's hype is enormous, but there were awkward moments and ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we spent a great deal of time in choosing and planning our trip. In so many ways this cruise exceeded expectations ... which is amazing since it's hype is enormous, but there were awkward moments and strange shortcomings that make us wonder if cruising is for us.
The really good:
We are becoming 'foodies'. The past few years, our vacations have included regular trips to New York and Chicago where we indulge in our Top Chef fantasies. While discussing recent lackluster food experiences at Sandals resorts with other guests, the term 'cruise-food' was introduced to our vocabulary. So we walked into this experience hopeful, but with the bar lowered. And we were schooled ... really.
Windjammer Buffet is the lowest rung, but there were surprises. I enjoyed the Indian food options and the fried rice (which sounds dull, but was actually quite well prepared ... especially with an over easy egg for breakfast) On several occasions, I found 'dressed-down' versions of main dining options, like; Seafood Paella (The same basic concept as served at Vintages), Chocolate Sensation Desert (again, sans the fancy presentation, but the same foundation as served with the formal night meal in main dining.)
The Solarium Bistro has the next, and very much higher rung up for breakfast and lunch. They had me with the Miso soup bowls. Just fresh ingredients in a bowl that they pour hot miso broth on top of. Simple, street-food concept done well. They also offered grilled tomatoes and zucchini, sauteed mushrooms ... attractive wraps and sandwiches for lunch. Lesson; Avoid Windjammer crowds and come here.
Main Dining Room/My Time Dining/Silk, Grande, Icon. (??? Someday, RC will figure themselves out ...) Having no prior experience, we were impressed. The service level was really good ... some of the dishes approached 'best-I've-ever-had' status. (The Kippered Herring for breakfast ... The Roast Duck entree for dinner ... genuine surprise.)
We tried every 'pay' restaurant on board. 150 Park with the wine pairing was one of our best dining experiences ... ever. Service and Food were incredible. (Ajeet was our most memorable employee on board. Above-and-beyond pride and service.) Giovanni's ... the little crepes filled with spinach and cheese were awesome. ( Gnocchi too ... Veal Shank with Polenta ...) Izumi was, again, quite a bit beyond my expectation level and a genuinely fun time. (More Sake Juanito! ... great guy.) At Chops, our waiter (Peter) recommended the mushroom soup ... which was excellent. He also pressed my wife to upsize to the 12 oz. steak when she ordered a 6 oz. medium rare, as, he explained, the smaller steak would be more difficult to get cooked correctly. He was correct and it was a great steak. Vintages was really a nice Spanish tapas experience in a great setting. Sabor was almost on par with a meal I had last year at Frontera Grill in Chicago ... which is near-blasphemy in foodie circles, but I'm saying it. Even Johnny Rockets delivered what it promised. There were low spots, (buffet meats drying under heat lamps, Cubed Pork Curry (???!!)) But not much to find fault with as an overall food experience.
Also really good:
Entertainment was all at a 'next-level'. We saw Cats, which has gotten some viral flack as a bad choice for a cruise. Having never seen it before, we were sort of lost in it's English 'almost-opera' -ness. But, we both were brought to tears by the performance of 'Memories' (Which, since I am not a fan of Lloyd Webber songs, leads me to compliment the extreme quality of the performers and the presentation.) Come Fly With Me was great fun ... again, the Opus Theater is an amazing setting. I found myself having to come to grips with being on a ship at the end of both performances. The (Adult) Comedy Show was great. The Aqua Theater diving/swim shows were absolutely unique. The designers of this ship were geniuses in incorporating the ship itself as a part of it's entertainment function. In both design and practice, Oasis is a work of art and by it's nature it is entertaining to be on this ship. The outside spaces and inside spaces offer a vast range of experiences in one larger-than-life package.
The (extra fee) Prohibition Party; So terribly lame. I felt sorry for the hostess and the wait staff, who were obviously going through the motions. Such a shame. If you offer a concept experience, you have to have performers who can make the concept live. We, as paying guests, came with costumes and had the 'wink-and-a-nod' party attitude. So much of what could have been cool was submerged by indifference from the 'not-at-all-themed-secret-guest-check-in' to the obvious apathy of the jazz band. Hint to Royal Caribbean; you can save this event by switching from the same-band-that-plays-smooth-jazz-here-every-night to folks with enthusiasm. Great musicians, but not a 'party' band. Side note: maybe you can get people more involved if you move some furniture for space enough to fit more than four couples on the dance floor.
The Cupcake Decorating experience; ... takes place in the customer serving space in the front serving lobby of the ice cream/cupcake shop. The line for ice cream forms around the table as you decorate cupcakes. How about setting up in one of the empty, unstaffed bars on the promenade for a bit? Felt a bit cramped and, sorry, weird here.
As with the examples above, the downside of the Oasis is the lengths RC will go to to have you part from your cash; many of which come across as petty and lame in comparison to the true high-bar experiences happening all around as a matter of course.
Chief example: The first port, Nassau. On a Sunday morning. From 7 until 1:30. Having been to Nassau outside a cruise ... nothing is open in Nassau on Sunday morning. Except excursions to Atlantis through the ship ... where the ship gets its cut. On any other day, plenty of other options outside Royal Caribbean excursions would be available. If the ship stayed in port longer, again ... day trips to resorts and attractions (besides Atlantis) would be viable. Nope. Nassau, 7 to 1:30. Terribly sad excuse for a port day and the motive is obvious.
While I'm on that soapbox ... look at the port facilities in St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We had a great excursion in St. Maarten (with Deiderick's SXM Tours) that we picked up outside the RC fenced-in port area ... out in 'the sandlot'. This is where all the locals (who can't afford the RC fees) set up shop. It seems very much like the ship gets its cut, or they find ways to marginalize the competition.
We did enjoy our day with Blackbeard's Revenge. (Oasis excursion to Buck Island and Honeymoon beach.) But the destinations filled with cruise passengers quickly and it felt like a fight for personal space at times.
Overall, we found ways to enjoy our port calls, but it is accurate to say we are glad we did the research and did not leave it to RC to set the standards for us.
Drink packages are priced to be just outside the realm of practicality, and then you are bombarded throughout your cruise with gradually reduced pricing. WiFi is available, with a hefty fee. In Room account balance management tech also spams you with constant jewelry and spa ads.
As first time cruise passengers, The Oasis was both outstanding and a bit of a struggle. We left our cruise feeling exhausted ... but that's really on us. There was so much to do and we felt compelled to try as much as possible. In hindsight, we would could have done just one premium restaurant and one excursion, no drink packages, no cupcake decorating and absolutely no 'Prohibition Party' ... and had a fabulous time just napping and soaking in the hot tubs. But that's not why someone comes on the Oasis, is it?
The Oasis is a remarkable and unforgettable ship. Truly unique, truly grande in scale. I am reminded of our one trip to Disney World. We did the research, closed our eyes, spent the money and had many wonderful experiences. But would we do it twice? Sadly, Nope. Read Less