Seeing Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas for the first time it is hard to believe she is actually a ship. It is really huge, at 361.6 metres long and 72 metres higher than the water line. There are 16 passenger decks jam packed full of things that make you go WOW!
On our voyage there were 8602 people on board, including the staff. You really feel like you have joined a new community. They divide the ship into sections they call neighbourhoods, I’m sure this is to help with finding your way around. Everyone looks lost and amazed on the first day.
There is Central Park featuring boutiques, many of the speciality restaurants, bars, and an actual garden with lots of real plants and trees.
The Pool and Sports Zone features several pools with different theming including a beach pool, kids pool, sports pool, adult pools, several spa/whirlpools and 2 Flow riders.
Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre featuring a gym with various fitness classes and equipment, there is also a jogging track that laps the whole ship which is approx. 600m. Plus the Vitality Spa with a number of services and treatments available.
The Boardwalk at the ships rear features a beautifully detailed carousel, more restaurants, bars, shops, two rock-climbing walls, and the Aqua Theatre (amphitheatre).
The Royal Promenade features the café, guest services, and more shopping, dining, drinking and entertainment options.
Youth Zone affectionately known to us as kids club, features a science lab, it’s own mini theatre, arcade games zone and several rooms to divide the different age groups of kids attending.
Finally, there is the Entertainment Place featuring the ship’s main theatre, as well as an ice skating rink, a nightclub, the casino, and smaller venues for jazz and comedy are featured here too.
There are so many things to do onboard, there is zero chance you could ever be bored. Each day they release a Cruise Compass (newsletter) which appears on your bed the night before giving you a run down of the following days activity options, these are extensive. There is the major shows, many health and lifestyle seminars, various trivia events, various sporting activities and competitions, lots of music options, dancing, meet and greets and lots of things that result in fun. This will also outline all the dining options available, which again there is an extensive list. That is the beauty of a Cruise, there is so much to do but if you prefer to lie by the pool and soak up the sunshine, that is an option too. There is something for everyone…..
As a large family we stayed in interconnecting rooms. We had different rooms for each week of our two week, back to back cruise. The first week we had interior rooms on deck 3. Initially, I was a little concerned about being inside with no window or fresh air but we were very happy with our room. It was in a terrific location, close to the main dining room and lifts plus very quiet. We have been on several cruise ships and we found the rooms on Oasis very small with little room to move once inside the room. This is not a huge concern for us as we were rarely in the room anyhow. Our room was clean and our room steward was very nice. We were happy here.
On our second week our room was a Boardwalk Balcony room on deck 11. It had exactly the same décor as our interior room, it also seemed to be the same size, again very small. It was clean and our room steward was just as lovely. We found this room very noisy and it seemed to shake in the wind, there was lots of vibration up here for some reason. We did prefer our interior rooms, which are also a much cheaper option. Win, Win!
We chose my time dining which had us eating in the American Icon dining room on Deck 3. Those who selected early or late dining would be seated in the Silk and Grande Dining rooms directly above us. I like ‘my time’ for exactly that reason, you can eat when you want, on ‘my time’. Our dining times varied a lot throughout the cruise depending on if we were in port for the day or not. We did not reserve a table on any night but you can. On one occasion we were asked if we would like a complimentary table in the Solarium due to the dining room being too busy, which we accepted. It was nice to try a different restaurant but I did not find the food any different. All the food was lovely and at a very high standard considering the amount of people they are feeding at any one time. My favourite meal in the dining room was the lasagne and my favourite dessert was the Crème brulee, I had this most nights as it was on the classics part of the menu. The classics were meals that were available every night, there were about 4-6 options for each course. Then there was the other choices that there was about 4-6 other options which changed each day of the cruise. We also had an invitation to dine at Giovanni’s table as we were doing back to back cruises. Again, it was very nice, however I didn’t see the value in paying extra money to dine here.
We ate the majority of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Marketplace. We found this a great option as we could go back as many times as we wanted. Great with kids as they can pick what they want and if they don’t like it they can go and get something else. The food options here were huge. For each meal, all the standard buffet options were on display, this also included several drinks that you did not need to have a drinks package to get. There was always cordials, water and tea and coffee plus often a few extras would be available like a sparkling wine for lunch or a smoothie for breakfast. Food was pretty much always available and there is no chance anyone would ever go hungry. Occasionally there was a line to get in, especially on port days as everyone seemed to be on similar schedules. Staff seemed to be able to direct people in the right places in order for the line to move quickly. One thing I did like was that on entry to the buffet area everyone was squirted with some hand sanitiser, it was not really an option.
The shows on board were a very high standard. Our headliners were Ronn Lucas the ventriloquist, and mo5aic, a great 5 man vocal ‘band’. They were both very entertaining and have long wrap lists for past achievements. Each week we had different comedy shows which were also very entertaining. They would perform in the comedy venue each night to an adult audience and had a family show at the end of the week in the main theatre. The Royal Caribbean weekly shows on board don’t change. This was one disappointment with being on board back to back as it is the same shows. One important thing about all the shows is they do sell out. It is very important to reserve them online before you board to ensure you gain access. For each show they did have a stand by line but this often only gave access to a handful of people. They also take bookings for the shows once onboard if there is availability. The major shows are Cats, Oasis of dreams, Come fly with me, and Frozen in time. Cats seems to be the full Broadway musical, it goes for 2.5 hours…probably at least half of the audience leave at the interval, need I say more! The entertainers do such a wonderful job, it was nice sitting in the front row as the cats come up to you and interact, however it does drag on somewhat. Oasis of the Dreams is performed in the Aqua theatre, they have world class divers and synchronised swimmers performing. It is amazing that they dive from right up the very top of the Royal Caribbean sign into the relatively small pool at the bottom. Worth it just to see this show for that. We also saw them rehearsing another show which looks like it will be released soon. Seems as if it has something to do with fishing and a shark, a bit of insider information for you all. Come fly with me is also another very good show, they have many aerial specialists who show off their many tricks, which is great to watch. Finally, Frozen in time is performed in the ice skating rink onboard, again world class, very talented entertainers who show off their many skills to the audience during the show. It was fun to give ice skating a go ourselves later in the cruise, it is much harder than it looks.
There are many other activities to keep you entertained whilst you are onboard, besides the ice skating which you need long pants and socks for. There are a couple of other extreme sports that are included in the price of the cruise. We tried Rock climbing which was a lot of fun, it was very hot on our cruise which made the grips very slippery, well that was my excuse for not getting to the top anyhow. I didn’t even attempt the zip line, with my small fear of heights there was no way I was zipping across the open central part of the ship. That thing was a good 10 stories high, no thanks! We did however try the Flow Rider, that was an experience. Yes, it is padded but it still hurts when you fall. It is very funny watching everyone else give it a go though. It takes a few goes before you get the hang of it.
I decided I liked laying by the pool relaxing much better on sea days. At times the securing of a sun lounge was a little difficult, despite there being 100’s if not 1000’s. There were so many different areas that you could lay but particularly on sea days this was a popular past time. Usually there were full sun chairs that you could get but we preferred semi shade which there was high competition for. If we had the kids we usually stayed near the kids pool but if they were at kids club we would try and get a spot near the beach pool for a bit of atmosphere with bands playing etc or the solarium for some peace and quiet. Competitions that they run that are a must not to miss on sea days include the very funny world’s sexist man and the belly flop competition, both run in the aqua theatre.
THE PORTS OF CALL-
The ports of call on the Eastern Caribbean route were Nassau, St Thomas and St Maarten, then on the Western route we visited Labadee in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico. It is very important to try and pick a shore activity that is going to give you the best experience in each port as you are only there for a fleeting time so you need to make the most of it. We tried to do a mix of Royal Caribbean organised tours, privately run tours and our own thing. I researched each place on the internet prior to leaving to ensure we could make educated decisions about what others who had been before thought were best.
From what I read about Nassau, most people were saying there was not much worth doing besides the Atlantis. We were not keen on another theme park as we had just been to Disneyworld (will also write a review on this, see KB 4 Travel on Facebook), so we decided to just go for a walk to the beach. Junkanoo beach is about a 10 minute walk from the port. There is currently a lot of construction in the area but the beach itself is still pleasant with crystal clear waters. It had a good atmosphere with some small bars and shops along the beachside. There are several souvenir shops to look in along the route to the beach to pick up some great mementos as well. Within the port area there are also a number of market stalls selling souvenirs, ladies that do hair braiding and massages etc. They require you to have photo id to get back on the ship at this port. We enjoyed our day here and found it very relaxing.
At St Thomas we did a sightseeing and beach tour with Brenda and Franko’s a privately run tour that is highly recommended on Facebook. They were both lovely people who worked very hard for their high rating. Franko lead the tour and was very knowledgeable about the island, he was very passionate about sharing his country with those sharing our tour. The only 2 negatives were that they take you to specifically chosen shops, obviously where they get a cut, which happens on all tours. Then finally we toured the island looking at views of Magen’s beach and he spoke about how Magen’s beach is one of the top beaches in the world and then we get taken to another beach called Emerald beach. Explained that Magen’s beach has a cover charge but would have liked to get the option to actually go there. We were dropped at Emerald beach and told how long to stay, this time was not negotiable even though everyone requested to leave a little earlier. We decided there are much worse places in the world we could be stuck… a Caribbean beach was not so bad! We enjoyed our day and would recommend our tour guides.
St Maarten, was our favourite place across both Cruises. Here we did another privately run tour with Bernard’s Tours. Our guide was a laid back, casual guy called Mailman who was also very knowledgeable and passionate about his island. This tour was fantastic, I would highly recommend this to anyone coming to St Maarten, it is the perfect mix of sightseeing, beach activity and shopping. The island itself is very interesting as it is half Dutch owned and half French owned. The street signs all change, even the language spoken can change as soon as you cross the official boarder. You do things on this tour that you can’t do anywhere else in the world like Maho Beach where the planes land very close to your head and take off equally as close. The vibe at the local beach bars here is a lot of fun, you could easily just go here and chill out for an entire day if you did not want to do the touristy things. My kids loved a road side stop to feed the local iguanas, it was all very interesting and unique. Loved eating in the French Bakery for lunch and loved St Maarten, would go back in a flash.
Our next ports of call were part of our Western Caribbean Cruise. I found Royal Caribbean did not make the back to back experience that easy. You pretty much have to finish up everything for the first cruise and start it all up again for the next one. For us that included doing all the forms again for waivers and kids club, getting new sea passes, paying our bill etc. You even have to get off the ship, go through customs again and then wait to get back on. They do allow you to be some of the first passengers to board the second time but it was a lot more difficult than I anticipated.
Our first port on the Western Cruise was Labadee. We liked this port a lot. Although you are not really getting to experience Haiti itself as you are pretty much isolated in a Royal Caribbean beach compound. It’s a lovely beach compound at that. There are several beaches to choose from and several activities that can be done. One of the most popular things here is the zip line, it goes from high on the mountain top, over the beach and water to the shore, it looked like a lot of fun for those who were game. Not me! We did a dragon coaster, which was like a small roller coaster that you had the controls for and could go as fast of as slow as you wanted. There were some good views from the top of your ship and the beaches below. You only bought 1 turn of the ride as part of the ticket. We also did the aqua play area at one of the beaches, for this one you get an hour window. There was a lot of inflatable obstacles in the water that you could climb up on and play on. You need to be relatively fit to be able to pull yourself up onto these out of the water and it becomes quite difficult over the hour as you get tired. At this port there was a food buffet that was included and drinks available are purchased with your sea pass card. Or available as part of the drinks packages you have on board. It is basically an extension of the ship with what you have available to you. A really nice, fun, casual beach day was spent here.
Next, we went onto Jamaica. I was most looking forward to going here as we had an expectation on what it would be like. The whole chilled relaxed vibe that Jamaica has, was what I was looking forward to experiencing. I could not help but be a little disappointed. In this port we did a Royal Caribbean shore tour to Dunn’s river falls and inner tubing. Firstly, I don’t think the tour guide was that happy to be there, she really did not give us much information about the country at all on the way to the falls. On every tour I have ever done in any country you usually get a little commentary on where you are going and what you were doing, what you might need etc but information was very limited. The falls themselves were fun, we managed to get a great guide here to help us up the falls. The water was much cooler than I expected. You need to be semi fit to be able to climb up the large boulder type rocks through running water, the guides are very helpful as they show you the safest way to do things. Was very glad that we had an organised tour as we were taken straight to the front of a very long line waiting to climb. It all seemed quite disorganised, or perhaps it was organised chaos but we managed to get to the top of the falls and enjoyed doing it. Afterwards we thought it would be nice to take a stroll through the market on the way to the bus. Was very surprised at how pushy and forceful the store holders here were, this was unexpected in Jamaica for us as it goes against the chilled, relaxed “yeah man” vibe. They were actually quite rude and abusive if you did not look in their store or at them when they yelled at you. This did not give the Dunn’s river falls or Jamaica itself a good name in my book. Onto the inner tubing, again no explanation, no safety briefing just straight into the tubes, thrown onto the river rapids and away we go. As I was with my young kids, to me this activity felt unsafe because we were not pre-prepared. We floated down the river and were herded along by the guides. They tried to make it fun by singing a few songs etc but I still found it a little stressful. Would not recommend this activity if with kids, adults were fine as they could steer themselves away from twigs poking their own eyes out. We then moved onto a quaint hotel/restaurant for a buffet lunch that was part of the tour. For some reason I just felt uncomfortable and pressured with the way they asked for drinks or when they took photos and requested you pay extra for them. It just wasn’t the chilled out relaxed vibe I was expecting. We then returned back to the ship which was over an hour away in almost silence. Towards the end the bus driver even took over from the tour guide to say a few words, we stopped at the required shopping centre on the way there of course. Still a good day out but probably not what I had expected Jamaica would be like.
Our last port of call was Mexico, the ship docks in Cozumel which is an island off Mexico. We had another shore tour with the ship company booked here. Our tour was the underground Mayan ruins and cenote. Once off the ship you catch a ferry across to Mexico where you meet up with the majority of the shore tour companies, staff direct you onto the ferry by tour number. Again, the issue I had with this tour is the lack of information. Once we arrived at the cenote they were very good, they let us know about what we needed to do etc but I would have loved to hear more about Mexico in general, maybe a guided tour on the way there or back, but nothing. The cenote was quite spectacular, the water was very cold to swim in as you are swimming underground in the limestone caves. It was amazing to look at all the different cave formations within the cenote and underwater with snorkel and mask, as it was crystal clear. There was plenty of time for shopping prior to and after going to the cenote, not that we selected the tour for the shopping. They also had an interesting presentation on Tequila, it just went on a little long. Was good to get to taste test the distinct types of it. As part of this tour a Mexican lunch was also provided. The guides were quite nice and very knowledgeable once we were at the cenote but outside of the cenote this was obviously not part of their job.
I can’t help but compare my first week’s experiences with private tour companies and their passion towards their job. The great deal of effort they put in to get your favourable feedback to ensure future business is directed their way. I got the impression the Royal Caribbean organised tours did not need positive feedback to ensure they would have more customers the next day. If I was to return I would look closer at private tours and where possible use these. Not only are they much cheaper but with my limited experiences, better. The only reservation I would have would be making it back to the ship on time but any reputable company would ensure you would not miss the ships departure time.
Our last experience with this cruise was our final shore tour back to the airport in Port Canaveral. We chose the NASA tour. This tour guide Doug was very good, he knew all about NASA and picked out the best bits to show us in the brief time we had there. We found NASA very interesting as we have heard and seen so much about it on TV. Was great to see the space ships in real life, as well as where they take off from. It is good to see so many private companies now entering into this market around the area as well. The future in space travel looks very interesting. This is a great way to slowly end your cruise holiday. Everyone had flights booked after 5pm so there was plenty of time to make it to the airport on time.
The two weeks we had on board Oasis of the Seas went by much too quickly. I could have easily stayed on longer. The staff onboard the ship generally go out of their way to make the passengers time onboard great. The room stewards and restaurant servers in particular work so hard for us. They are mostly happy vibrant people who play their part in making our holidays relaxing and enjoyable. Cruising is just so easy. It is a fabulous way to travel around and see so many different places/countries without the hassle of packing and moving each time. I would recommend cruising to anyone. It suits all ages and all types of people no matter what you are interested in. Royal Caribbean is great, yes, but there are many different cruise companies that have amazing itineraries. As a travel agent based in Australia I am more than happy to discuss what would be good for you. To contact me you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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