As a cruise virgin, I referred to this board quite a few times as a lurker to help my husband and I decide which cruise to take, which excursions, how to get the most out of our vacation, and so forth. I thought I would return the favor by ... Read More
As a cruise virgin, I referred to this board quite a few times as a lurker to help my husband and I decide which cruise to take, which excursions, how to get the most out of our vacation, and so forth. I thought I would return the favor by posting a review of our trip.
Keep in mind this review is through the eyes of a first-time cruiser, so I can't really say how my experience compares to what it may have been like on another ship!
I went on the cruise with my 26 year old husband. I am a 28-year old graduate student, and this is shaping up to be my last spring break ever, so that was the occasion. We flew in to Ft. Lauderdale from Portland, OR the day before our cruise, and spent the night in Miami. Both my husband and I have been to Florida before, but not as adults, so we enjoyed the experience and it gave us time to shake off our 9-hours of flying before boarding the ship.
[Side note: I live in uber-casual Portland, and I was pretty flabbergasted by the nighttime dress code in South Beach where we stayed. Honestly, I have been to quite a few places that are known for their nightlife and on average I've never been to a place where the average young woman dresses more like a working girl. I include many major cities in North America, Latin America, and Europe. I realize this makes me sound provincial, but I was really taken aback! Even the hostess at our pretty upscale restaurant would have looked totally at home in one of Nevada's brothel lineups!! OK, moving on.]
After a quick drive to Ft. Lauderdale the next day, we boarded the ship at the pier. Our boarding time was 2pm and we got to the pier around 2:30, walked to the terminal and got right on. No lines whatsoever; it probably took under ten minutes. We had checked our luggage at the entrance to the terminal and it got to our stateroom before dinner, but it definitely took a couple hours, which was fine. There's a lot to see.
The ship, obviously, is very large. Here's where you have to keep in mind that I have nothing to compare this to. We had a 14th-floor stateroom with a balcony overlooking Central Park, and the view was pretty underwhelming. It was pretty, and having a balcony eliminated any claustrophobia from the room, but we could have been overlooking the central atrium of any Embassy Suites (excepting the fact that there are restaurants and a few shops off of the Park, which is actually pretty cool). At the time we booked, which was pretty last-minute, the ocean view balconies were about $200 more than the one we had. In retrospect I probably would've paid extra and gone with that.
I was worried that there would be noise considering we were directly below the pool deck and indeed could see it easily from our balcony. This turned out to be not an issue at all. Amazed at how soundproof those balcony doors are!!
Does anyone else think it's weird that the TV is almost not visible from the bed? Doesn't everyone watch TV from their bed when they're in a hotel? Is it just me, perhaps? Instead it is opposite the loveseat. Which frankly didn't get a lot of use, being as the room itself is so small. I don't know...maybe it's just my own lifestyle or something.
There is plenty to do. We did the flow-rider (extremely fun, I highly recommend this, even if it's not something you can imagine yourself doing), the zip line (meh), and we attended the ice show (Frozen in Time), the aquatic show (Oasis of Dreams), and the acrobatic show (Come Fly with Me). I thought Come Fly With Me was incredible, though my husband preferred Frozen in Time. We both loved Oasis of Dreams. All in all, worth going to. He refused to see Hairspray, but we heard it was quite good as well. Most people were shocked that we had passed that one up, but musical theater is just not remotely his thing.
We also got a lot of sun. Actually too much--we got a bit sunburned, and though it didn't really affect us too much, it was a bummer. Oh well, our fault! That's what happens when you live in a place where it rains 9 months out of the year. However it did give us a chance to see why they put one of the coveted formal dinners near the end of the cruise--Lobster Night is People! ;-D
We ate in the main dining room once for breakfast and twice for dinner, and spent the rest of our evening meals in specialty restaurants, which apparently is unusual! But honestly, it's still cheaper than a tropical vacation any other way if you just pay for drinks and dinner, and who wants to eat in a restaurant that large all the time when there are so many other restaurants on board? My caveat is that I'm a vegetarian (no meat, including seafood) so perhaps that was why I found the steakhouse underwhelming. We enjoyed all the food we had, but didn't find any of it to be out of this world. Neither would I call any of it bad.
It cracks me up to read the way they tout the no-cost pizza joint as being "just like a converted factory" or something. More like just like a Sbarro in your nearest shopping mall. That said, it was convenient to be able to grab a free pizza or little sandwich in the Promenade whenever we wanted to.
The shops: I found them pretty underwhelming, so I'm glad I didn't go for the shops. For example, we got sunburned (see above) and no shop on board had aloe. I don't expect to get anything I want--this is a floating city, after all--but seriously, aloe? Isn't that something that they should stock, given the fact that approximately 75% of the people had visible sunburns?
The drinks--wow. I put myself in the hands of my bartenders, and just told them what I liked and asked them to make me "something good without tequila." I got different drinks every time and they were incredibly strong every time. Good job, bartenders! Obviously, heavy drinkers will spend a lot on cruises. The omnipresent cocktail servers and the bars every ten feet make sure of that. Luckily I am not a heavy drinker (2 drinks per day on vacation, perhaps?), and my husband doesn't drink at all (alcohol, that is)!
My fellow cruisers were fine. Apparently there were 500 teenagers on board (according to a kids' services staffer who we chatted with on the elevator) and a decent number of senior citizens, but I would say it was largely middle-aged people, young families, and people in our age range (20s and 30s).
Here's something that may be controversial given my reading audience on this board! Probably the most annoying recurring trait I found in our fellow cruisers were the frequent cruisers who felt the need to start every conversation with, "I've been on 27 cruises, and this is my 14th on Royal Caribbean, and...." and then they would proceed to compare this ship with every other ship in a self-important fashion. Seriously, about half our conversations started this way and went on for about twenty minutes. Generally, we would hear about ways in which the Oasis compared unfavorably to their other cruises, such as "Giovanni's Table is not nearly as good as Portofino's," or "This ship is too big, it takes forever for the elevators." I got really over that type of attitude by the end of the trip. Save it for cruisecritic.com, people! :-)
By the way, we did see a guy wearing a Cruise Critic t-shirt on the pool deck one day. Anyone want to own to it?
Crowded: yes, it was a bit crowded on the pool deck, but it was easy to find secluded areas to look at the ocean and read, as well. I really spent about ten minutes total waiting in lines on this cruise.
Finding our ways around: Seriously I am notorious for getting lost in large office suites, etc so I was sure this would be an issue for me, but I never had a bit of trouble with it. I saw some people consulting the maps on the interactive televisions that were near each elevator lobby and was baffled. If even I could do it, awful as I am, who are these people who couldn't...and what must their lives be like when driving around? :-)
The staff were extremely polite, and pretty friendly (some more than others). However, more than one of them told us that their staff quarters were half the size of what they were on other cruise ships, and they are worked to the bone--not a day off. Now, they have two months off for vacations, but it still seems pretty rough to me. When I'm not a graduate student, I'm a therapist, but I don't think it was my active listening techniques that drew this information out. I think the staff is legitimately discontent. That said they were very good to us.
I mention the Port and Shopping Guide, "Shopping Shelby," in my review of St. Thomas, below.
I had a massage and facial in their spa on the 5th day. WOW--I was very impressed with the size and feel of this spa. Incredible! Can't believe they have a spa like this ON A BOAT! All in all, in keeping with the impressive scale and amenities of everything else on the Oasis.
I'm not sure what else to put in this review, being so new, but please see my port reviews below.
A final note: we used RC's valet service at the end of the trip. They took our bags the night before and we didn't see them again until we arrived in Portland late that night, and provided a boarding pass. In other words, the day of disembarkation, we simply got off the ship, took a cab to the airport, and walked through security to our gate. No check-in, no messing with luggage, nothing. I'm less conservative with money than my husband (he would fairly say less sensible), so I thought it was great. He thought the $20 per-person charge was a bit pricey, but given that we had four hours to kill between disembarkation and getting to the airport, ultimately worth it. Read Less