We chose this cruise because of the Kids Sail Free promo. We spent the night before at a hotel close to the airport, so no worries about bad weather or delayed flights--important, coming from New England. This was our first cruise and I definitely think the ship spoiled us! Embarkation was pretty easy, and they let us on even though we arrived earlier than our allotted time due to the limited shuttle service from the hotel. Muster was annoying with many weary travelers crammed into a small lounge. They had tech problems with the video, and there was no live person orienting us. Then there was a health emergency--obviously no fault of the cruise line or staff, and I hope the person was ok (we never heard), but it took a while for that info. to reach us. We were there for a while not knowing what was going on while they dealt with that. We were disappointed there wasn't any sort of "Set Sail Party" as I'd read about on other cruises--just a bunch of passengers gathered on the upper deck, and servers selling drinks (nothing for free, as my mother in law had on other cruises).
The "amplified" Oasis itself is fantastic for families. We LOVED the neighborhoods--very well kept, lots of nooks to explore, etc, and loved that our stateroom was located on the same deck as Central Park. It was nice and quiet at night, and close to the Central Park Cafe which was included in the price (and was the only place I could find a to-go paper cup of coffee). The library there was disappointing--really no selection for my avid readers (ages 12 and 9). The only book that looked appropriate for my daughter was in a foreign language. The ship more than made up for it with the beautifully renovated pools, water slides, Flow Rider, many hot tubs, rock climbing wall, zip line, Foosball/ping pong...all included! They did such a great job with the layout, it was hardly ever crowded. We were always able to find open lounge chairs in the shade, even on "at sea" days.
We were extremely disappointed in the Kids Club, which we had heard so much about. We watched a YouTube video on the newly refurbished ship that used the euphemism "a Montessori-based approach" to the club. Read: no organized activities, no 'camp counselors', no one to watch our kids for an hour here or there, etc. And they split the age groups so that my 12 year old son was lumped in with young kids (one group was ages 6-12, the other was 13+...although I will say he easily snuck in a couple times. But there was nothing to do except veg out with video games, whereas my friends' teens who sailed on another line got to tour the ship behind-the-scenes, do scavenger hunts, have organized sports games, etc). Basically, not a place either of my kids wanted to be, and my husband and I had REALLY been counting on that so we could actually relax.
Also disappointing was that I had read online pretty clearly that the Royal Caribbean app could be used without internet to message others who had the app, which we all downloaded in anticipation. Not so on the Oasis. We asked at Guest Services and were told it was available on other ships, but not ours. It may have been available on Oasis before the amplification, but not any more, though that was unclear; most staff are from other countries which is cool, but led to language barrier issues. With our party of 6 (Mom & Dad; 2 kids; 2 Grandmas), we had really been counting on that. We went old school, leaving notes for each other. But with 3 generations, every one was on different schedules and had different ideas about what to do, and trying to find each other on such a large vessel...well, you get the picture. Not a lot of relaxing for mom and dad. (Again though, at least there was plenty for the kids to do!!! And always free soft serve on the pool deck!)
The Windjammer buffet was great. We ate in the Main Dining Room a few times, but my pasta-loving daughter and gluten-free, egg-free, garlic-free, peanut-free husband both found the buffet much easier. I loved both. NONE of us appreciated the hard upsell we got at both places, every meal, trying to sell us Specialty Dining packages, tours of the kitchen, etc. It was a bit much. And although I really liked our room steward, I didn't like that an envelope marked "Tip Tip HOORAY" showed up on our last night, knowing that gratuities would be automatically added per person, per day, to the tune of $60/day for our family of 4. We believe in good tipping for good service, and I was already prepared to kick the steward a little extra at the end, and didn't need the envelope in my face. (Same thing on excursions by the way. Even though we booked through RC, it was not RC staff who led the excursion to Dolphin Cove in Jamaica. The DC-hired guide--who was very charming and informative--started hitting us up for tips before we had even arrived at our destination; also the dolphin trainer AND his assistant both hit us up for tips. I get it--we're the rich Americans and they have a lot less than we do--just prepare yourself!).
More on our Dolphin Cove excursion: Although we booked through RC, and followed the instructions on our tickets to the letter ("Left at the end of the pier; Gather at Station 1"), we still almost got left behind. There was a false station 1! A sign with a big "1" was located in the shade of a small building--great (we thought)! We were there exactly on time, and it wasn't crowded--great! After a while, it was weird--where was everyone else? Eventually we saw an RC guide walking with a numbered sign above her head (not a "1"), with a large group following her. I ran up to ask if she knew where our group was but she was too busy answering someone else's questions. I followed along until I saw a whole different area with a long line of people, and a 2nd station 1 sign! I asked a different guide who said all groups should be here. Ran and got my family, including our 2 seniors who don't move quickly, and luckily made it just in time. I'm still not sure what I did wrong as no one else seemed to have this problem, so maybe if you're a novice, ask the night before at the Excursion Desk above the Royal Promenade--don't just rely on your ticket, even if you think you know what you're doing! Also ask questions re: length of time. We knew it was an hour ride to DC, but weren't clear on whether travel time was included in their "length of tour" or not. It was, so when they advertise "4 hours," they mean 2 at the venue. And that included a 20 min stop at a souvenir shop that no one in my party wanted to do, and was not on the advertised itinerary.
When we arrived at DC, we got left behind again (6 people inc. 2 seniors--herding the cats!) so we never got our free drink, never got the orientation, and pretty much had to fend for ourselves. It was difficult because our 2 seniors had bought the "Encounter," which is different than the "Swim". We thought we'd be entering the water separately but we were all told to get in together, with a group we didn't know (one of whom was blind and required extra assistance from the staff). This made things quite stressful when the trainer was trying to sort us all out, with my mother in law who's hard of hearing, and my kids freaking out that they had accidentally been lumped in with people who weren't going to swim with the dolphin. Eventually it worked out and everyone (who had paid for it) got to swim with the dolphin. After reading about all the other fun things to do at DC--snorkel with rays, walk the nature path, see sharks, iguanas, and birds, take out a clear-bottom kayak, we had only enough time to swim with the dolphin and eat lunch, and that was it! Our guide actually came and got us before we were done eating! No time to do anything else, including viewing the photos they take to sell you. That was very disappointing. And we were back at the ship with hours to spare. Our driver was great--he definitely avoided getting us into an accident with a crazy driver due to his diligence and skills. Despite the stress, my kids LOVED swimming with the dolphin. It was the one thing my daughter picked to talk about at school yesterday. (They also had baby bunnies...)
Despite the risk of being left behind if you don't make it back to the dock on time, I would recommend hiring your own taxi and doing it on your own time. Before doing it, I was very much in the camp of--just pay the extra money and don't have the stress. HA! Risky, yes, but it was so stressful anyway, and you'd get more time for a lot less money. My husband and son did it in Cozumel after our planned snorkel excursion was cancelled due to red flag warnings. They toured ruins, saw iguanas, and even got to snorkel a bit on the calmer side of the island (not the Nat'l Marine Park, so it wasn't glorious, but for a kid who'd never done it before it was still fun). They also made it back to the ship with hours to spare, and it was way less rushed. (Note: Cozumel is a lot smaller than Jamaica, with only one main road that goes around the island, so I may be comparing apples to oranges here).
More about the cancelled excursion: I get that that happens, through no one's fault. Apparently the authorities didn't tell Oasis before hand, as there was no warning to us. We got up early, got ready, got ourselves out to the pier and through Customs (after asking the night before at the Excursion Desk to double-check exactly where to meet!!), all the way to the meeting point, only to be told by non-RC guides about a red flag warning, and that all water activities were cancelled. After wiping my daughter's tears away, we tried to find an RC staff to see if there was another excursion we could do. For a while there was no one. Eventually, with another couple who was in the same predicament, we found two RC staff at a table in one of the bars. They were very helpful and promised full refunds--until we all figured out they were from a different RC boat than Oasis, and they had no idea where an Oasis staffer was. We had to ask around and eventually got pointed towards the one Oasis staff, hidden among a throng of people, who had to deal with all of us and our cancelled trips. We were promised full refunds, and we all made the best of it. My daughter and I enjoyed a pretty empty cruise ship while my son and husband had their ruin/iguana/snorkel adventure. Later we started seeing partial refunds to our onboard account, but nothing close to the amount we'd paid. My husband and I spent a long time at Guest Services trying to sort it out with a very nice man who was a "senior rep" with a thick accent, who wasn't able to confirm how much we had originally paid, only that we had gotten our refund. The issue was confounded because we had used our $100 on-board credit to purchase the excursion, some of which was listed as "refundable" and some as "non-refundable." It wasn't until we got home that I was able to check my credit card statement and see that they had only refunded half of the excursion. I called RC Customer Service, and finally got a representative I could easily understand, who figured out that they had refunded the 2 adults but not the 2 kids. She immediately issued a refund to our credit card. BOTTOM LINE: RC/Oasis needs to have MORE VISIBLE on-the-ground excursion staff on the piers to help answer questions and deal with problems!!
Entertainment: EXCELLENT in terms of quality. Don't miss the Aqua Show! We went the first night. There were some technical glitches, but it was a fantastic, energetic way to start our first cruise. Oasis' policy about reservations is useless and unhelpful though. You can pretty much attend any of the bigger shows, even if it's "full," though you may have to wait in line. We were told online there were only 2 reservations left for "Cats," on the final day, yet there were tons of empty seats when we arrived. I actually felt bad for the performers, who were wonderful. The reservation policy made it so that all 6 of us never got to see a show together, as by the time we figured out that there were often empty seats despite what the app said, half our group had already seen the show (because we could never all get reservations together!) That happened both for "Cats" and for the ice show. And we couldn't message each other once we were in the theaters to let others know about the empty seats. So frustrating.
Disembarkation: Smooth as could be. Wish we actually slept in a little later, or took the time to swing by Central Park Cafe to grab a bite on the way out. We had been told how awful it could be and how long it could take (even by the Guest Services people!), but we had left our tagged suitcases out the night before and it was all there waiting for us, easily found. We even got out "late" due to my husband not believing me about the time we had been told to disembark, so we never even made it to the dining room where we were supposed to wait for our number to be called. We just got right off and got our suitcases and left, to a line of waiting taxis where we caught a minivan to the airport. We arrived at our gate more than an hour before our flight. 4 stars! (5 circles?!)
Bottom Line: Despite what sounds like an overall critical review, I would absolutely do it again--but maybe not with my family!!! 3 generations was difficult to handle for those in the middle of the "sandwich." This would have been an absolute blast with my husband and friends. (I kid, somewhat--I would just go into it with more realistic expectations. As a mom who works from home, looking for a getaway, this was a lot more work than expected. If I was going to go with my family again, I would look into a ship that includes texting, and has a better Kids' Club. If you want to spend all your vacation time with your kids, or if your kids are old enough and responsible enough to let them run loose for hours at a time, this is a truly awesome boat! Read Less