Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas: Impressions from the Inaugural Sailingby Mary Kraemer and Char Berger, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 02/04/2010
The two of us have a story to tell. One of us is anxiously awaiting her first sailing on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, and the other recently returned from the inaugural sailing. Follow along, as we share our experiences with you ...
A View of Key West
Months ago, I (Mary) became intrigued by Royal Caribbean's new ship, the Oasis of the Seas as it was still being built in the shipyard. The concept drawings of the ship, with all its amenities and new concepts such as 'neighborhoods' onboard were so radically different from other cruise experiences that I couldn't help being excited by it.
And as time progressed, I saw that others were excited, too, with newscasts and YouTube videos showing the ship sailing under the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark as it headed on its voyage to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (retracting smokestacks—how cool is that?) I remembered when my family went to San Francisco to see the magnificent Queen Mary II as she sailed (barely) under the Golden Gate Bridge, and marveled at the idea that the Oasis was 50% larger than the Queen Mary II! This ship had to be seen to be believed.
I have four children, ranging from age 12 to early 20's. They've had the privilege of sailing on cruise ships before, and have enjoyed it tremendously. But there's something exceptionally exciting for them about the Oasis other than sheer size. The idea of a zip line on a ship blows them away. They are excited about the two surf-simulator FlowRiders, being able to play minigolf, and, for my freestyle ice skating daughters, being able to skate while at sea in the Caribbean.
We weren't really planning on going on a cruise in January, but one day, I found myself playing a game of 'what if' as I looked at school vacation dates. When I checked, I found that we could book the last family stateroom with oceanview verandah that was available. The fact that this stateroom accommodated six people was astonishing to me; what a great option for larger families (like mine!).
As soon as my 89-year-old father heard we were going on a cruise, he said he wanted to go, too, and I booked him a stateroom with balcony overlooking the Central Park neighborhood of the ship. It will be so interesting to have an interior-facing balcony! My father uses a motorized scooter to get around, and it will come in very handy on such a large ship!
We have shore excursions and our FlowRider lessons set up, our online check-in is nearly complete, and I just received email notice from Royal Caribbean that our sailing is a month away! This spontaneous trip is our family's Christmas gift—thankfully, I don't have to try to figure out how to put such a large cruise ship under our tree! We will be sharing our multigenerational family's experience from the time we leave home until we arrive back again via blogs (www.mouseearsfun.com) and the MouseEarVacations Facebook page. With so much to see and experience, there will be a lot to share with you, which is so exciting!
Now, for those of you who can't wait for my reports, here is a short firsthand account from Char, who sailed on the inaugural just last month!
Simply put, everything about the Oasis of the Seas is unprecedented! This new class of vessel did not take a step forward; they ran away with new ideas and entered a whole new realm of entertainment and experiences for you and your family while vacationing.
You'll have wonderful port days, of course, enjoying the best ports of the Eastern and Western Caribbean plus their fabulous private beach day in paradise. The difference will be when you are onboard, and you can climb rock walls, stroll through a family open-air park with a carousel, enjoy crafts or even make a toy. Kids' play programs are extensive and broken out by age. These (and more) are just the daytime activities!
Evening entertainment includes an ice show with ten international skaters with Olympic backgrounds performing in shows of a caliber that matches their expertise. On another day you will see Olympic swimmers perform in the outdoor amphitheater with high dives and gymnastics combined in a Cirque du Soleil-style water show, ending with Bellagio-style water fountain shows choreographed to music.
Other nights feature a rocking 70's party where you can dance down the promenade to some of the best tunes of the era, and sit in the theater for a top-name musical performance; see the play Hairspray; come back the next night for a Las Vegas-style show; visit the Jazz and Comedy clubs; or dance in the nightclubs until the wee hours.
You can choose to dine in the lovely main dining room spanning three decks, or stroll Central Park to dine on fresh pizza you design yourself, indulge in Spanish tapas, enjoy selections from the deli, sink your teeth into a Johnny Rocket's burger or peruse the Seafood Shack back on the Boardwalk. Healthy choices are featured at the huge spa and workout area -- and I do mean huge. Asian food fans will love Izumi, and of course there is always room service or the Windjammer Café for very good buffet choices for any meal of the day.
Like Mary said, there are two FlowRiders that allow you to test your skills at surfing, and are just one choice in the 21 pools aboard the ship. Take a zip line ride across the atrium. Shoot 9 holes of golf. The art gallery has an unprecedented approach with fresh work shown daily and innovative auction and education opportunities.
See what we mean? We hope that this partial list of activity choices delivers the message we've been struggling to make clear. This is a new form of cruising, unlike anything ever before! We encourage anyone and everyone to give Oasis of the Seas a try!
About the Author: Mary and Char are agents with www.CruisingCo.com and www.MouseEarVacations.com, in business since 1987. Char is currently on a whirlwind tour of Europe, and Mary is looking forward to her first Oasis of the Seas cruise in January!
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I wanted to post and tack on my opinions about Oasis. My housemate and I were not only on the inaugural voyage, but the pre-inaugural voyage. Both voyages were simply AMAZING to say the least.
We had a promenade view cabin (one of only 18, I think) and had a great view onto the promenade. Not a bad view, although we spent very little time in the cabin to begin with.....there was just SO much to do. I've been on cruises before, and there were times on those cruises where there was downtime to just sit and relax, but to be honest, I had all of 30 minutes during the cruise to relax and just people watch.
Let's see ..... some high points:
I personally love what they're doing with the muster drill now. You don't have to go to your cabin and get your life jacket! You just go to the muster station (in an emergancy, they pass the life jackets out at the muster stations). The sea pass card is scanned to make sure everyone is where they need to be. Really efficient and better organized.
Hairspray is a MUST SEE! In fact, if you can arrange for it, try to see it twice. (Although they want you to "reserve" tickets for a show, which doesn't cost anything, you can always get in standby as they release open seats 10 minutes before curtain.). The other main theatre show, Come Fly With Me is also really well done, and has some "wow" special effect moments in it. Oasis of Dreams (the high-diving show) is also really good, some of the things they do with that are amazing as well!
If you can arrange for it, a dinner at 150 Central Park is really worth the $35 surcharge! I heard Victoria and Alberts at WDW is doing something like a 12 "small" course meal for $200....150 Central Park's meal is a similar style, but (at least on the inaugural) it was only 6 courses, but REALLY good food. One of the courses we had was some Kobe beef pieces with shittake bacon. Our of our friends with us is a vegetarian and was open to tasting a piece of it and actually liked it (since it was not a meat product!). To me, it really did taste like Bacon! But one piece of caution, if you want to go there, either get your reservation in BEFORE you depart or as soon as you get onto the ship. They hold a thing called Oasis 360 where you can get all your special bookings done (spa, flowrider, zipline, dining, etc.). We went on the actual maiden voyage, and even though we were one of the first people on board (we were part of the consecutive cruisers group that still had to disembark but went back on as soon as the ship cleared customs.), by the time I got to the Oasis 360 people to make sure our reservation was still there (which because of some unknown problem had been lost), the best we got was on the Wait List. Thankfully, we did get to eat there. But get the reservation done EARLY and when you go to confirm make sure you have a printout of your confirmation!
Another event to not miss is something called The Quest. This is a VERY WILD scavenger hunt event and all the items you need are already in your posession (ex. Something with two hands (a watch), or a writing utensil from the ship....don't bother taking a bag of stuff you think they might need. I've heard they won't let you do that!) If I recall, they had two versions, a family version and a more adult version. I didn't make the family version (due to something else I wanted to do going on), but did get to the adult version (which I'd imagine was rated "R")....you can do a Youtube search for "Quest Royal Caribbean" and see some of the wilder things they do. It's well worth going to.
Another thing they do is in the comedy club that I really enjoyed. Some of the nights, instead of a late night 12:30 comedy show, they do an improv show. I was actually drug up onto the stage and placed in a game of Party Quirks with the intention of being a famous historical figure. Because of my looks (long hair, bearded, hippy-looking), the audience chose "Charles Manson". Not knowing who that was, I asked one of the performers from Hairspray that were also part of the show and they gave me the description of (who I found out later was) Jeffrey Dohmer (sorry, I don't know how to spell his last name). So I'm trying to play the wrong person....they got it right though!
Another thing that is a fun thing to do and a great way to learn more about the ship is a thing they call Live the Oasis. It's a book and walking tour throughout the sections of the ship, complete with trivia (where the answers are found during your walking tours). If you take the book and the answered trivia clues, they give you little buttons. (We got all 6 tours done and the associated buttons) And if you go for their Live the Oasis daily trivia sessions, they give away prizes (at least they did during the inaugural!)
One of my favorite memories from the trip was pulling into Nassau. I went out to see the ship pull in to port and saw the Disney Wonder docked next to us.....and got to see Goofy waving at our ship from there! (I guess even the Disney characters are amazed by Oasis!)
Unfortunately, due to a slight mishap on the zipline, I did get to see their medical facilities (we're still not sure what I did differently on my second ride on the zip line, but I did happen to come in contact with the pulley in a bad way.). They are really top of the line and their staff really took great care of me there (the head doctor even called our cabin to check up on me later in the cruise....I don't know if any of the other cruise line's medical departments do that!).
I could really go on and on about the things I liked, and the things I didn't like (yes, there were some things I didn't like), but that'd not only take me all night to type up, but I'd probably bore people. :-(
The 11 days were just not enough time to do everything on the ship (I didn't get to do the rock climbing wall for example), and 7 just wouldn't be enough either, I'm really hoping to go on another sailing on Oasis or even her sister ship, Allure of the Seas, sometime again soon.
Are things like zip-lining & rock climbing extra ?
When I booked a cruise on RC Oasis it was because we couldn't get a booking on the new Disney Dream. My family had date restrictions between HS finals & a military deployment. We were already planning on visiting WDW at the end of May 2011... So I thought the next best thing would be the Dreamworks Experience on Royal Caribbean's newer ship the Oasis. I chose the Western Caribbean itinerary since we'd already done an Eastern trip via Disney. I didn't think anything could top our experience we had with DCL. Having been on 2 other cruise lines no one had yet compared or exceeded Disney just yet. I was proven wrong. I fell in love with the Oasis and I don't even think I saw half of what she has to offer.
I too loved the touch screen info boards near the elevators or stairways. Very easy & informative. There really is a lot going on at any given time. I will mention that no one does characters as well as Disney but RC still gets an A for effort. The character breakfasts were fun but Disney does it better - or maybe it's just cuz I love the Mouse so much. The Dreamworks parade on the promenade was fun (and crowded) but a must see!
I have never zip-lined before but I made it a point to do so - what an awesome opportunity! Yes, zipping is free as well as the rock climb, flow riders, mini-golf & ice skating. However, each person has to sign a waiver (you can do this with your online check-in or pre-boarding). I loved that they took a picture (available for purchase) of each person zipping... Time it right and the ocean sparkles behind you looking a beautiful blue! At other times or depending on weather you still have an ocean background but the water can be gray and blends in with the bits of ship in the pic.
My family enjoyed the shows - we attended every featured production and our cruise director had us laughing before & after each performance as if a bonus comedy act! He was awesome (we love you! Love you more!). I look forward to booking an adventure on the Allure only to experience the different shows offered.
The food was phenomenal but I only recall eating once at the upper level buffet. We dined in the main dining room every night. We did enjoy going to Johnny Rockets a couple times. My daughter was delighted to find out that everything on the menu was all you care to eat (minus the shakes and ice cream) - there is a $4.95 dining fee for food items but clearly that is nothing compared to all the hamburgers, chicken, fries & onion rings you could want! JR's is my husband's favorite hamburger joint as a kid so it was icing on the cake that there's one at sea.
Bottom line: I'm torn as to which ship and/or cruise line I want to experience next. The only thing I do know is that I want to and will return to both! Now I just have to figure out a way to decide who gets me first!
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Updated 02/04/2010 - Article #421
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