Allure actually tops out at 2 inches longer than Oasis, but we’re not going to quibble here—Oasis of the Seas is the megaship personified. Weighing in at 225,062 tons, Oasis and Allure are 45 percent larger than the next largest cruise ship (Norwegian Epic). The extra tonnage allows for a number of innovative features found on no other vessels, along with more pools, more restaurants, and more bars. The sheer bounty of activities and amusements was key to Oasis and Allure becoming “must-ride” ships during their first years at sea, allowing Royal Caribbean to charge a premium for itineraries that are virtually identical to ones offered by other cruise lines. So successful have these heavyweights been that a third, slightly larger Oasis-class ship is under construction for a summer 2016 arrival (there’s also an option for a potential fourth ship).
For now, Oasis and Allure alternate on seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades. Three destinations are visited on each itinerary, ports that had to be adapted to handle these mammoth vessels. We hopped aboard Oasis of the Seas to get a feel for what it’s like to ride this floating resort.
Editor’s note: In October 2014 Oasis of the Seas went through its first dry dock, to address normal maintenance issues, but also to make substantial changes to the dining, retail and entertainment offerings. The Tony Award-winning musical “Cats” has replaced “Hairspray” in the Opal Theater. Retail options Cupcake Cupboard, Willow, and Pinwheels have been replaced by Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Britto, respectively. The library on Deck 11 is being replaced with a new dining venue. A number of cabins have been added in various locations around the ship, and bandwidth for WiFi has been improved. Changes to dining aboard Oasis of the Seas are addressed on page 3 of this review.
About Our Cruise
It’s not hard to arrive for a cruise aboard Oasis of the Seas without a few built-in expectations. For instance, that the boarding process for a ship that carries 5,412 passengers (at double occupancy) can’t help but involve crowds and lines. In fact, the boarding process went smoothly—our wait to check in at the custom-built Fort Lauderdale terminal was no more than 2 minutes, and less than 10 minutes after check-in our numbered group was called for boarding.
We thought we might struggle with directions for the first few days, but there are excellent interactive screens at all elevator/stairwells, and Royal Caribbean has divided the ship into four color-coded quadrants: port/forward, port/aft, starboard/forward and starboard/aft. There are just two elevator banks, but these seemed to handle the demand well.
Another assumption was that such a huge vessel would have all the elegance of an apartment complex set adrift. But as we explored Oasis that first day, we discovered the “neighborhoods” conceived to help break up this megaship into different experiences, catering to a broad range of audiences, tastes and moods. There was the Royal Promenade, an interior shopping mall occupying a three-deck-high atrium within the ship (a feature that will be familiar to those who’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom- and Voyager-class ships). A floating bar rose and descended within the atrium, like a space-aged hovercraft. More revolutionary was the Boardwalk area, an open-air neighborhood occupying the aft section of Deck 6, flanked by eight-story walls of cabins rising on either side. There was a traditional wooden carousel, ice cream and donut shops, and a toy store setting the Coney Island ambience. But best of all was Central Park, a lushly landscaped garden with 12,000 plants, vines, flowers and trees—yes, live trees—at midship on Deck 8. Almost the length of a football field, the park had winding pathways, benches, multiple dining and drinking options, and somehow managed to convey the feeling that we were anywhere but at sea. Amazing.
Credit Royal Caribbean’s split superstructure design for making these and other innovative features possible on Oasis of the Seas. In the process, some cruise ship design conventions were thrown out the window: The ship’s spa and gym are located on decks 5 and 6, forward of the main showroom rather than just above the bridge, maximizing “dead” space within the bow and freeing up valuable upper-deck real estate. Even pools and sun decks up top were broad and appealing. (Check out Smithsonian's documentary about Oasis here.)
All Things to All People
The ship’s entertainment is as good as it gets at sea, including the licensed-from-Broadway production of the musical “Hairspray”—shorter, but otherwise admirably close to the original. The outdoor Aqua Theater is home to dive extravaganzas that we rank among the coolest things on the ocean. Most of Oasis is family-friendly, but there are extensive activities for children and teens, infused with DreamWorks characters such as Shrek.
Oasis is a great choice for families. The ship’s unusually diverse range of cabin size (many sleep six) is a boon for large, multi-generational families and other groups looking for a single ship that will satisfy a wide range of budgets and agendas. From zip lines to surf riders, ice skating to wine tasting, there is something for everyone (keep a close eye on the daily newsletter to keep track of all the goings-on).
Not everything was plus-sized. Our cabin was pretty conventional in girth and features, though heady suites are available for those who want to splurge. We were surprised that the ship’s main buffet option, Windjammer Café, was considerably smaller than similar venues on smaller ships. The comedy club was so small that we never secured a reservation for a show. But although certain areas of the ship seemed limited in capacity, there’s no denying the extent of dining and entertainment options available.
By our count, Oasis of the Seas features 17 dining options, plus snack shops. Not all of these are included in the cruise fare—nine require an upcharge ranging from a few dollars to $95 for a chef’s table evening with wine pairings. This is one ship where your cruise fare is only the start of the buying opportunities, and plugs to spend on dining, drinking, shopping, shore excursions and more are rampant—you can even buy ads in the daily newsletter to commemorate a traveling companion’s birthday or special occasion. We didn’t like sitting in the Boardwalk area to enjoy the calm and fresh air, only to have it interrupted by the ship’s Shopping Director, thundering over the loudspeakers to command us to attend a morning lecture. Frankly, the spending push is excessive. The trade-off was that most of the splashy activities and entertainment offerings were included. Still, don’t expect that your cruise fare is going to cover the cost of your entire vacation.
Is Bigger Better?
You can’t get around the sheer size of Oasis of the Seas, but what amazed us was that, throughout our cruise, we only felt overwhelmed when we looked at the daily schedule and tried to make choices between the many and varied activities and entertainments. Crowds were managed well at ports. Both the design team and the cruise director’s staff deserve kudos for putting a lot of thought into how to make the traffic flow, for the most part, seamlessly.
Still, crowding does occur. The four main pools—each themed to a different audience—were usually packed, along with the loungers alongside. For the big shows, "Hairspray" and the Aqua Theater, people arrived early to get the best seats. Yet for every location that was busy, other places were surprisingly uncrowded. The Solarium Deck usually had free loungers (and the plunge pool here was rarely occupied). The ship’s wine bar Vintages was usually deserted, and the menu of tapas here—with a surcharge—was a nice alternative to crowded restaurants. And Central Park—well, we can’t say enough about how appealing this space was. One drizzly afternoon we were delighted to discover a barrel-full of umbrellas parked at the doorway into the park.
Make no mistake: Oasis of the Seas represents anything but an intimate cruise experience, and anyone in search of a quiet break from the pace at home will want to consider a much smaller ship. There are some who argue that megaships like these are too big to sail (sailing at full capacity, Oasis carries almost 6,300 passengers and a crew of 2,400). But we were impressed that, given its size, Oasis hummed along like a well-polished machine, without the kind of traffic jams we anticipated.
In the first couple years following their debut, Oasis and Allure of the Seas commanded premium pricing. They were ships that had to be seen to be believed. To make a comparison on price and value we checked advertised cruise fares for these ships’ Eastern Caribbean itineraries, three and six months out. For these eight departures we found that Oasis and Allure cabin prices still averaged anywhere from 18 percent higher to more than double the fares for nearly identical seven-day itineraries out of South Florida aboard Norwegian Getaway, Royal Princess, and Celebrity Reflection, all of which are newer ships than Oasis and Allure. Is the hefty premium worth it?
We found that the dining options included in the fare were strictly average aboard Oasis of the Seas. While there were many additional restaurants available with a surcharge, most weren’t significantly better. Accommodations were comfortable, but also fairly average for newer, mass-market ships. However, the bevy of activities (most of which did not involve surcharges) was impressive at pretty much any hour of the day—many times we found ourselves having to make choices. And entertainment offerings were first-rate and diverse. For a multi-generational family holiday, these ships are hard to beat.
The distinguishing factor is—truly—size, and Oasis of the Seas is an architectural and engineering marvel. Dedicated cruise fans owe it to themselves to take a gander. But the ports we visited felt like a mere sideshow to the gee-whiz features on board. This isn’t unusual on larger ships, but a cruise on Oasis is about the ship, not about exploring the Caribbean.
While this first cruise was an eye-opener, would we sail on an Oasis-class ship again? Probably not. We enjoyed ogling the conceptual and engineering prowess that created Oasis of the Seas but cabins are more expensive than those on the newest ships from Norwegian, Princess and Celebrity. If we wanted thrill rides, we’d head to Orlando. For dazzling shows, you can’t beat Vegas. And when we want to see the Caribbean, we look forward to a smaller ship that doesn’t block the view.
On Oasis of the Seas there are a staggering 24 different types of cabins to choose from, including a few unusual cabin styles you won’t find anywhere else at sea. Given the wide range of price points, you’ll want to spend some time perusing the options.
Let’s start with the four basic categories. Interior cabins range from the “Smaller” Interior (150 square feet) to Family Interior units, which spread 274 square feet and can sleep six, a nice option for families that might otherwise book adjoining units. Units with no view represent 18 percent of the ship’s overall accommodations, but there are also Promenade cabins, which have a bowed window facing the Royal Promenade, the ship’s indoor mall. Outside cabins encompass the typical ocean view cabins, but also units with views onto the amusement-themed Boardwalk or tree-lined Central Park areas inside the ship (we’re guessing that the difference with the Promenade units being that they offer natural light). There are four different types of Balcony cabins, ranging from the Superior Oceanview with Balcony (what we stayed in), to balconies overlooking the Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods, to Family Oceanview with Balcony. Most of these are also available as accessible units, which offer more floor space and wheelchair-friendly bathrooms.
The Suites are where Oasis of the Seas really goes to town. There are Junior Suites that encompass 287 square feet and have an 80-square-foot balcony, along with Grand and Royal Family suites. On a future cruise we look forward to trying the Loft Suites, two-story cabins found on decks 17/18 with two-deck-high windows (note that some of these face the Sports Court—the ocean is in the background). Also intriguing are the AquaTheater Suites, which occupy the “wings” that overlook the pool where acrobatic shows are performed most nights. There’s a Presidential Family Suite that can accommodate up to 14 people, while even larger are the Royal and Royal Loft suites.
Our Cabin: Superior Ocean View With Balcony
Measuring 182 square feet, our cabin was pretty average in size, but we liked the subtle wood (veneer) and sea-themed décor. The limited space was effectively utilized, and there was even room for a proper couch. Our king-sized bed was very comfortable, with fresh white linen bedding, however the comforter was showing its age, with filling bulging in various spots. On either side of the bed were tiny nightstands with built-in reading lamps, providing adequate light for reading in bed. A small, bright red splotch stained the carpet next to the bed.
We found storage space to be a bit limited for two. There’s one main closet with sliding doors, but there’s little space between the bed and the closet. There were sufficient hangers on two rods, as well as a shelves, one of which contained a small safe (not large enough for a laptop). Bath robes were not provided. Next to the desk is another storage unit with two shelves. The desk itself has three drawers. All in all, the room’s storage space is okay for two people, but three people sharing could be tight.
There was a heavy sliding door for the balcony, which opened and locked shut easily. On the balcony were two chairs and a small table. The sides of the balcony are lined with milky glass doors, which can be opened upon request (e.g. if your family is in the next room). At just 52 square feet, the balcony is not really large enough for sunning.
We found the compact bathroom to be slightly more generous than on some Royal Caribbean ships, though it’s still too small for two people to occupy it at the same time. The shower cubicle was slender but adequate, a pod with rounded sliding doors. The sink counter was a bit low, and there was little in the way of storage space for travel kits. We found the shampoo provided in the wall dispenser to be ineffective but, on request, our cabin steward brought bottles of shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap and moisturizer; these were somewhat better. Towels provided were thick and plush. There was a full-length mirror on the wall next to bathroom.
Generally we didn’t hear much from the hallway, but the sound of the door slamming in the cabin next to ours was quite audible—in fact, on the last night, as bags were being set out for pickup, we heard doors slamming all around. Announcements from the bridge could not be heard in the cabin, but announcements about port shopping lectures and Bingo sessions were quite audible inside the cabin (and everywhere on the ship).
Opposite the couch was a desk/dresser and vanity, with three outlets (110 volt) on top of the dresser, plus a European-style 220-volt outlet. The decent sized flat screen TV was interactive, mounted on the wall and adjustable to face the bed or couch. The remote didn’t communicate well—we had to punch buttons two or three times to change channels. This was especially frustrating when dealing with the TV's “message” box for our cabin, which was cluttered with (mostly) sales pitches from the spa, shopping venues, etc. There were nine to delete on the first day alone—a thankless task.
There was one main lighting system for the entire cabin that turned on next to the bathroom with additional switches on either side of the bed. There was also lighting on either side of the mirror above the desk. We really liked that there was a dim nightlight on in the bathroom at all times.
We found it unusual that there were no life vests stored in our cabin. The cabin manual said these were kept at muster stations.
We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Royal Caribbean. Note that photos below have been provided by the cruise line and not our reviewer.
Smaller Interior Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private bathroom and sitting area. (150 sq. ft.)
Interior Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long private bathroom. (172 sq. ft.)
Promenade Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long and private bathroom. Bay view window overlooking Promenade. (193 sq. ft.)
Family Interior Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Sofa converts to double, two Pullman beds, private bathroom and sitting area. (274 sq. ft.)
Ocean View Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private bathroom and sitting area. (174 sq. ft.)
Central Park View Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area, and a private bathroom. Central Park view bay window. (194 sq. ft.)
Boardwalk View Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area, and a private bathroom. Boardwalk view bay window. (187 sq. ft.)
Family Ocean View Stateroom Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Sofa converts to double, two Pullman beds, private bathroom and sitting area. (272 sq. ft.)
Central Park View Stateroom with Balcony Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, central park view balcony, sitting area, and a private bathroom. (182 sq. ft., balcony 50 sq. ft.)
Boardwalk View Stateroom with Balcony Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, boardwalk view balcony, sitting area, and a private bathroom. (182 sq. ft., balcony 47 sq. ft.)
Family Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Sofa converts to double, two Pullman beds, private bathroom and sitting area. (290 sq. ft., balcony 81 sq. ft.)
Junior Suite with Balcony Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Private bathroom with tub, sitting area with table and sofa. (287 sq. ft., balcony 78 sq. ft.)
Grand Suite with Balcony Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Private bathroom with tub and two sinks, marble entry, large closets, sitting area with table and sofa. (371 sq. ft., balcony 114 sq. ft.)
Royal Family Suite with Balcony Two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, two Pullman beds. Vanity with chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, marble entry, entertainment center, two bathrooms - master bath with tub. Private balcony with table and chairs. (575 sq. ft., balcony 246 sq. ft.)
Owner's Suite with Balcony Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Private bathroom with tub and two sinks, marble entry, large closets, living area with table and sofa. Private balcony with table and chairs. (569 sq. ft., balcony 246 sq. ft.)
Crown Loft Suite Two deck high stateroom with panoramic views. Master bedroom and bath on second level. Bedroom has two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Bath has a shower for two. Bath with shower on main level. Private balcony with chairs, dining area with dry bar, table/desk. Living room sofa converts to double bed. (540 sq. ft., balcony 98 sq. ft.)
AquaTheater Suite with Balcony - Deck 10 Two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, two Pullman beds. Vanity with chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, dining room, marble entry, entertainment center, two bathrooms - master bath with tub. Expansive balcony with table and chairs. (659 sq. ft., balcony 648 sq. ft.)
AquaTheater Suite with Balcony Two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, two Pullman beds. Vanity with chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, dining room, marble entry, entertainment center, two bathrooms - master bath with tub. Expansive balcony with table and chairs. Deck 9. (720 sq. ft., balcony 716 sq. ft.)
AquaTheater Suite with Balcony - Deck 8 Two bedrooms with twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, two Pullman beds. Vanity with chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, dining room, marble entry, entertainment center, two bathrooms - master bath with tub. Expansive balcony with table and chairs. (820 sq. ft., balcony 803 sq. ft.)
Sky Loft Suite Two deck high stateroom with panoramic views. Master bedroom and bath on second level. Bedroom has Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Bath has a shower for two. Stairway to second level. Bath with shower for two on main level. Private balcony with dining area. Dining area with dry bar. Living room sofa converts to double bed. Closets on each level. (724 sq. ft., balcony 376 sq. ft.)
Presidential Family Suite with Balcony Stateroom can hold up to 14 guests, must have at least 8 to book. Two Master bedrooms with Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long. Two Master baths with tubs. Two bedrooms with convertible twin beds/Pullman beds, one bedroom contains bathroom with shower. Guest bathroom with shower. Balcony with a whirlpool, dining area, and bar. Dining room with dry bar. Living room sofa converts to a double bed. (1,165 sq. ft., balcony 489 sq. ft.)
Royal Suite with Balcony Grand entrance with doorbell. Master bedroom with Queen bed and sitting area. Master bath with tub, shower, two sinks and bidet. Living room sofa converts to a double bed. Guest bathroom with shower, entertainment center, dining room with dry bar, piano. Private balcony with Jacuzzi and dining area. (1,284 sq. ft., balcony 345 sq. ft.)
Royal Loft Suite Two deck high stateroom with panoramic views. Master bedroom and bath on second level. Bath has a tub, shower, two sinks and bidet. Stairway to second level. Bath with shower on main level. Private balcony with whirlpool and dining area. Dining area with dry bar. Living room sofa converts to double bed. Closets on each level. Stateroom can accommodate up to 6 guests. (1,599 sq. ft., balcony 874 sq. ft.)
As befits a megaship, Oasis of the Seas offers more restaurants than any other cruise option, some of them included in the fare and some involving cover charges. In addition to the ship’s main dining room and primary buffet, Opus Dining Room and Windjammer Marketplace, there were eight sit-down restaurants involving a surcharge, plus nine other venues offering snacks and lighter meals, ranging from ice cream and cupcakes to pizza and tapas; some of these also involved additional fees, described below.
Among the surcharge restaurants there are two standout options, starting with 150 Central Park, the flagship restaurant on Oasis of the Seas. We found our meal to be excellent, not out-of-line with the not-insignificant surcharge. Foodies will definitely want to sign up for it soon after boarding. Another option is the Chef’s Table, offered only on select evenings in a private dining room, and priced $95 including paired wines. Both chef and sommelier talk you through the food preparation and wine selection as each of five courses is delivered. An intimate dining experience shared by just 14 guests at a time, we didn’t have time to try Chef’s Table on this cruise but you can read about a previous experience aboard Radiance of the Seas here.
But other restaurants involving an up-charge seemed okay, without being truly special. Some presented food that was a cut above what we tried in the Opus Dining Room, while others didn’t even aim that high. Two restaurants are found aboard Oasis that aren't on any other ship. Solarium Bistro—though available as a breakfast/lunch option on Allure of the Seas—is open each evening on Oasis with a menu of sophisticated fare against a backdrop of glass and stars. And on the Boardwalk is Seafood Shack, an open-air fried fish venue.
The specialty restaurants—most of which surround Central Park—do have a more quiet, relaxed atmosphere, and a couple represent a nice change-of-pace from Opus. Some of the venues book up quickly following embarkation, so it’s worth making reservations at the start of your cruise, especially if you have a larger party or want to dine at prime time, around 7-7:30. It’s also worth researching the dining packages Royal Caribbean sells, each shaving about 20 percent off your dining tab for three preselected restaurants.
Editor’s note: In October 2014 Oasis of the Seas went through its first dry dock, and substantial changes were made to the ship’s dining offerings. New menus are set to be introduced in March 2015, along with Royal Caribbean’s “Dynamic Dining” concept. Among the changes:
The three-story main dining room (originally called Opus) is now three separate dining options: American Icon Grill (comfort food), Silk (pan-Asian), and The Grande (classic dishes and formal wear). As part of Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining plan, there will no longer be set seating times, or a “main” dining room.
Windjammer Marketplace, the ship’s crowded buffet option, has been expanded, taking over the space originally occupied by Izumi on Deck 16. Izumi has been moved to Deck 4 and features a teppanyaki menu.
Seafood Shack has been converted into Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar. The adjacent Boardwalk Bar is now Sabor Bar.
The former library has been converted into a new restaurant, Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine.
The Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 17 has been converted into Coastal Kitchen, a California-Mediterranean venue that is reserved for suite guests only.
Opus Dining Room
Encompassing three decks, Opus is an impressive space designed to seat 2,800 guests at a time. Round tables for six to twelve people are spread evenly about the room, and lining the walls are rectangular tables for two or four, covered with white linens. Between the table spread and the overall layout of the room, it’s elegant. But it is also huge and, in accommodating two seatings each evening, the operation mimics that of a big banquet hall, with servers rushing about, plates and glasses clanging.
For dinner, guests may choose from set dining times—6 and 8:45 p.m. on our cruise—or My Time Dining, which allowed seating any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. nightly. We made our booking about six weeks ahead of departure and My Time seating was full; we requested to change from the 9:30 seating after boarding, but our request could not be accommodated. Breakfast was available in the Main Dining Room daily, and lunch was offered on sea days.
There’s a nice selection of breads nightly but, as elsewhere on the ship, even though meals in the main dining room are included in the cruise fare, expect an upsell on things like bottled water. Filet mignon and lobster appear on the menu but they carry a surcharge: $14.95 and $29.95 respectively, or $37.50 for the surf and turf combo. Inexplicably, these items also trigger a 15-percent gratuity, even though guests are already paying a $6.80-per-day gratuity for dining room staff.
Our dinners here were decent, but nothing spectacular. In addition to six “classics” that appeared on the menu nightly—fillet of salmon, Manhattan strip steak, linguini pomodoro, etc.—other options were nicely varied, a half-dozen choices nightly that included a vegetarian dish nightly, as well as options that were gluten- or lactose-free. We had a number of good appetizers including a flavorful smoked chicken breast with green apple, walnuts, grapes and blue cheese dressing; a lovely “Roman” salad of artichokes, peas, tomato and prosciutto in a warm bacon-balsamic vinaigrette; and a perky little ceviche of shrimp, scallops and lobster. Entrées we liked included beef tenderloin which was cooked just as ordered (medium rare) and—though it arrived disheveled—a fillet of sole with a lemon beurre blanc. Less appealing was the chef’s “inspiration” another night, a pasta that was overcooked and burdened with a flimsy sauce. Desserts were also inconsistent: A low-fat panna cotta was surprisingly rich and tasty, but lemon merengue was disappointingly sweet for our taste.
The breakfast menu covered the basics well, and there’s an “express breakfast” station, with a buffet set-up. The menu listed individual fruits offered, but we asked if a fruit plate was possible—our waiter pulled together a generous assortment from the buffet, all ripe and tasty. We also ordered oatmeal, and requested nuts, raisins and brown sugar. The waiter went to buffet again and assembled a dish of pine nuts, pecans and walnuts—we appreciated the personalized service. The coffee was decent, and served in an oversized mug.
Our lunch here was just okay. The salad bar, assembled by servers, is a great option, and with several meat toppings one can easily assemble a hearty lunch in a bowl. The “express lunch” area also includes heated items, but they didn’t look too special, so we ordered fish enchilada off the menu—it came with guacamole that was pasty and not fresh, the fish tasted fishy. It wasn’t worth ordering. Other lunch items that looked more appealing included a harissa-charred barramundi fish, palm sugar grilled chicken on an Asian salad, and a tomato risotto with prawns and scallops. For dessert our waiter suggested we try his two favorites—a caramelized banana mille-feuille with ocean ice cream and a praline chocolate crunch lathered with Nutella. We found both way too sweet and rich to finish.
With seating for 736, Windjammer is the ship’s second-largest dining venue, but it is smaller than the buffet restaurants aboard Royal Caribbean’s (smaller) Freedom-class vessels. While there are more breakfast and lunch options on Oasis, we think this venue is not well equipped for the number of people who arrive for the first two meals of the day. Although Windjammer was crowded the times we visited, it wasn’t a circus—there seemed to be a concerted effort to escort arriving diners to tables before they surveyed the buffet. This meant we spent less time wandering around looking for a seat.
The food selection was mostly unsurprising, but some of it was decent and we particularly liked some of the international fare on offer. This included such dishes as Malaysian coconut chicken, cauliflower and green pea curry, tandoori chicken salad, pappadams, stir-fried beef, spring rolls, and a spinach and gruyère tart. More conventional offerings at lunch and dinner included grilled sea bream, chicken Marsala, beef Guinness, teriyaki salmon, and there was a station that featured roast sirloin of beef and other meats carved to order. Desserts are also displayed on an island, and the choices are many: cheese cakes, chocolate cakes, mousse, tiramisu and panna cotta, along with no-sugar and low-fat dessert options.
For breakfast, Windjammer offers various egg dishes, French toast, pancakes, donuts, bread, cold cuts, cereals, and fresh fruits. For Asian guests, there were soups and rice-noodle dishes. There are multiple drink stations with juices, water, soda, and flavored waters, along with a vending machine selling coke products.
Smack dab next to Windjammer high on Deck 16, Izumi is an informal Japanese-themed restaurant decorated with stereotypical bamboo, kimonos, and calligraphy. Open for dinner nightly and for lunch on sea days, the menu features sushi, salads, soups, and other Asian specialties. There’s a cover charge of $5 per guest ($3 at lunch), and all food is a la carte, starting at $2 for two pieces of sushi, or from $4 for rolls. While individual items are modestly priced, we recommend budgeting about $25 per person for dinner (not including drinks), and maybe about half that for lunch.
On this cruise we tried Izumi for lunch (you can read about dinner here aboard Radiance of the Seas here). The lunch menu is limited to a few rolls, priced $4 to $7 apiece. Following complimentary starters of miso soup and edamame, we enjoyed the salmon lovers roll—salmon sashimi and avocado atop of roll of crab and asparagus. It was light but tasty, and we enjoyed bantering with the cheerful Philippine waitresses; a sweeping view out to sea didn’t hurt.
Although you can order a la carte for dinner, there are also a few combo plates that shave a few dollars off the meal price. These included a soup and appetizers, and ranged $15 to $23 for a complete meal. The dinner menu included hot rock entrées—on which diners can grill their own meat—and hot pots (shabu-shabu), a kind of soup. These were good options for those who don’t care for sushi or sashimi. Izumi carries the ship’s standard drink list, but also features several sakes that could be ordered by the glass or bottle.
Perched on Deck 15 overlooking the Solarium, this venue is almost two restaurants in one setting. By day, breakfast and lunch are served from a buffet counter. It’s not as large a selection as what’s available at Windjammer Marketplace, but the emphasis is on healthier fare. At breakfast there were a few hot items, such as turkey bacon and scrambled eggs, but the focus is cereals (mostly packaged), fruit and yogurt. At lunch, we found various salads, couscous, fruits, soups, and a few hot, healthy dishes. For dessert, there were fruits, yogurts, and cookies. It was a nice, semi-al fresco atmosphere offering fresh air and sunlight—our one complaint was that chairs were a little clunky to move in and out of.
Unique to Oasis of the Seas, Solarium Bistro converts to a dinner venue after dark, with a $20 surcharge for dining. As with the other meals the dinner menu promises lighter preparations and leaner proteins, and we were looking forward to it. But the dishes we tried were disappointing, lacking in subtlety or finesse. We tried the Mexican shrimp bowl, with a crustacean buried in tomato salsa; the promised avocado was almost undetectable. The cauliflower and leek soup was a puree, topped with toasted almonds; we liked that it wasn’t loaded with cream, but rather than letting fresh vegetable flavors take the spotlight the soup was heavily salted. A salad of beets and spinach was okay, if conventional. Other starters on the menu included ratatouille in a baked eggplant, turkey rissoles, yellowtail tuna sashimi, chicken minestrone, seafood bouillabaisse and various salads.
For our entrée we found the salmon to be fairly decent, crusted with wheat germ and citrus flavors and sitting on a parsnip-spinach coulis. Other entrée options included char-grilled pork tenderloin, peppercorn seared bison tenderloin, Muscovy duck breast on lentils, and chipotle-spiced basa fish fillet. Desserts were presented on the buffet counter, and we choose sampler plate—none of the desserts we tried stood out as anything special.
The room, surrounded by glass and other hard surfaces, offers poor acoustics for an intimate, romantic night out. The clunky chairs were covered with fabric at night, which presumably helps mute the clatter, but despite the restaurant being barely a quarter full when we dined, it was loud.
Royal Caribbean’s steakhouse has been a bit hit-and-miss for us on other ships, and on Oasis our meal at Chops Grille was marginally satisfying, but the service really missed the boat. There’s an upcharge of $30 to dine here, which doesn’t sound unreasonable for a quality steak dinner, but remember: You’ve already paid for a meal at the main dining room so the steakhouse should be at least a cut above. It wasn’t.
We arrived right at our 9 p.m. reservation time and waited several minutes to be acknowledged at the front desk, then waited for a table to be set up. It’s a comforting room, with subdued lighting and wood accents, suitably he-man. After receiving the menu from the host, we decided on our order but then waited for more than 10 minutes to be greeted by our waiter. When the upbeat chap finally arrived we were welcomed to “the best steakhouse on the highs seas.” Despite the languid pace until now, suddenly everything shifted into overdrive, as though our distracted waiter was determined to process us as quickly as possible. Dishes arrived in swift succession, dressings were spooned onto salads heavily (right as we were saying “not too much”), and there was a push for the wine list’s more expensive selections.
The list of entrées includes the usual steaks, broiled veal chop, mixed grill, herb-crusted jumbo shrimp, Alaskan halibut and pan-fried barramundi. We asked for the waiter’s steak suggestion and before the words were out of our mouth he recommended the filet mignon, which we ordered. He hurried off to the kitchen and barely two minutes later was back with the starter—beefsteak tomatoes, red onion and blue cheese. The tomatoes were hearty and beefy, the red onion ephemeral, but it was satisfying in its simplicity. It didn’t take long to finish this appetizer, and no more than a minute after the plate was taken away, another waiter brought our steak. The filet was slightly overcooked—we ordered medium-rare—but, egregiously, the meat was not a melt-in-your-mouth cut, as the best filet mignon would be. It was certainly edible, but nothing we’d make a detour for at home. The accompanying broccollini was fair, the stems undercooked and minimally seasoned. When our hefty baked potato arrived, the waiter was ready with condiments. We asked for “just a little” butter but he forked in several tablespoons worth. His suggestion: “You can pour some out.”
There’s not a lot of competition on the high seas when it comes to steakhouses, but if you’re going to promise the best, you’d better at least strive for Morton’s or Fleming’s quality (believe it or not, we find Carnival comes closest of the mainstream lines). Our food was adequate but not special, the service was rushed and inattentive—we felt like our table was the least-important one in the room. As the waiter brought the bill he said, “the service is up to you.” Actually, the service was up to him; the tip was at our discretion (Royal Caribbean says the $30 surcharge includes the gratuity)—we didn’t feel compelled to leave anything extra. In fairness, our waiter may have lacked some finesse and training. The restaurant overall was not properly staffed for the level of business, though not all the tables were booked. Whether this was an anomaly or not, we don’t know, but our experience at Chops was less than satisfying.
A trattoria-style Italian restaurant on Oasis of the Seas, Giovanni’s Table is located along tree-lined Central Park. With tables both inside and out the venue has an easy-going atmosphere that is popular among many guests. While the food isn’t terribly special, and the service we experienced was spotty, it’s a satisfying meal overall that justified the $20 surcharge. Giovanni’s is also open for lunch on embarkation day and sea days with a similar menu, and a $15 cover—actually, it would be a great spot for lunch on the first day.
A mouth-watering display of freshly cut prosciutto on the way to our table set the tone for a menu of pastas and Italian specialties like pan-seared sole, beef tenderloin, osso buco, and veal meatballs. Our waiter brought a basket of Italian bread and a plate for olive oil, reduced balsamic, and a grate of fresh, moist parmesan for dipping the bread.
For an appetizer we had the scallops, two served in the half-shell and topped with dollops of almond and red pepper mixtures. A lentil and root vegetable soup was deliciously robust, almost meaty-tasting. The risotto with forest mushrooms was served perfectly al dente—the flavor was warmly nourishing. For entrée we ordered the grilled lamb chops. They weren’t great cuts and arrived slightly overcooked, but the dish was reasonably satisfying with the chops surrounding a tasty vegetable caponata and sautéed spinach. The dessert, however, was a loser—a singular cherry in a thick cream atop Jell-O. The waiter noticed our disappointment and was ready to replace it, but we were already stuffed.
We found the service slow, paced to lovers staring in each other’s eyes (or maybe, as at Chops Grille, we had another waiter spread among too many tables). A couple dishes were delivered only after picking up an empty plate that had been sitting a little too long; our wine order was briefly forgotten. But lots of diners here seemed to be having a good time, and the outdoor tables are lovely set against the park—a nice, easy atmosphere.
150 Central Park
Facing tree-lined Central Park, this is one of the most elegant restaurants at sea, providing a refined menu, confident and attentive service, and an intimate atmosphere that is perfect for date night out. With seating for a mere 50 guests, it is the smallest dining room aboard Oasis of the Seas, with lush décor and voluptuous high-backed armchairs that reminded us of something out of Alice’s Wonderland.
There’s just a single, six-course tasting menu—actually, two different menus: one for the first four days of the cruise, the second used for the latter part. The courses are prepared with great care and detail using produce from small South Florida farms, by a dedicated kitchen and chef not shared with any other venues. There’s a $40 cover charge for dinner, and wine pairings are $75 (that's six glasses, but couples can request to share). Whichever way you go, we found the splurge well worth it.
Dinner began with a basket of breads accompanied by a sampler of six salts from around the world, each with their own distinct flavor. The first course of the Heirloom Menu was a delightful salade composée of multi-hued carrots (from Swank Farms, the menu announced) with pickled fennel, radish, olive and micro greens. This was followed by a robust, smoky tomato soup (Borek Farms), anchored by a dollop of house-made organic ricotta. The third course was a pair of divine scallops, perched atop brown rice and a smear of butternut squash—these would have made a fine entrée. The chicken that followed was superb, a sliced breast sitting over a ragout of dark leg meat, with a trio of lighter-than-air gnocchi gilding this succulent dish. Roasted lamb loin came next, served with chickpeas, preserved lemon and yogurt—another dish that stood well on its own. The menu wrapped up with a basil panna cotta, rising from a tarn of strawberry consommé, a pistachio biscotti propped on the side.
The meal was excellent, adventurous—there wasn’t a single course we would have changed. We did find the service a tad rushed, and we’d suggest alerting your waiter ahead of time to a leisurely evening, if that’s what you prefer. In addition to the wait staff being spread a bit thin, we also didn’t need the big upsell on bottles of wine and water.
Although we had no problem securing a table after we boarded, we recommend making reservations for 150 Central Park online ahead of your cruise (several evenings later in the week were completely booked). And although we loved the Heirloom Menu, we were sorely tempted to try a second visit to sample the Hearth Menu, which featured such items as cauliflower soup, pan roasted pompano, duck confit ravioli and beef filet. Ah, next time.
Situated right where you’d expect, on the Boardwalk, Johnny Rockets is familiar turf for anyone who’s been to any big-city mall. The chain offers burgers, hot sandwiches, and breakfast with a dose of retro diner charm, and the atmosphere is replicated right down to the (non-operable) nickel jukeboxes on each table.
From around noon till midnight daily, there’s a surcharge of $4.95 per person for meals, including dessert. Shakes and other drinks are extra ($3.95 for our root beer float), so we’d budget about $10 a person. We’re not sure why someone would opt for a meal at something as ubiquitous as Johnny Rockets, but we have to admit: We sat down, the 60s and 70s tunes pulsing gently in the background, and by the time our waitress brought over plates of fries and onion rings and squirted the ketchup into a smiley face, we felt happy to be here. No food item will take you by surprise—it's a half-dozen burger options along with sandwiches, hot dogs and a chopped salad—but it was all delivered quickly by an utterly charming waitress. And the root beer float? Some things just take you back to the best of childhood.
Johnny Rockets is also open for breakfast daily (perhaps to ease the crunch at Windjammer) and there’s no upcharge for the meal. Fried or scrambled eggs with sausage or bacon, omelets, pancakes, French toast—the selection wasn’t robust. We’d also say breakfast wasn’t finessed quite as well as the standard burger-and-fries menu, but it wasn’t crowded and it was al fresco.
Unique to Oasis of the Seas, Seafood Shack is an outdoor fish house opposite Johnny Rockets. Completely open-air, it has a boardwalk-y ambience, which is appropriate (given the location), and decorated with nautical flotsam and jetsam like buoys and surfboards. The menu is even stenciled onto a wood kickboard, surfer-lite music plays in the background. There’s an a la carte fee to dine here—appetizers are (mostly) $2.50 to $4.95 and entrées are (mostly) $4.95 to $11. The exceptions are Alaskan crab legs, served as an appetizer for $11.95, and the lobster feast, which includes two 6-oz grilled lobster tails for $18.
It’s rare that mass-market ships bring any non-frozen fish (or meat) aboard during embarkation, so what caught our eye on the menu was being urged to “Ask about our Fresh Catch Specials.” The special was dover sole, deboned at the table for $11—not a bad price, but fresh, we asked our server? “We bring it onto the ship frozen each week,” she said. Hmmm. If that was “fresh” how were the other items brought aboard?
Tortilla chips and salsa arrived with the server, and we ordered the “grilled catch of the day,” which turned out to be sole served with mashed potatoes, corn and peas, with a lemon beurre blanc. It was surprisingly similar preparation to what we had in the Opus Restaurant a couple nights later (without a surcharge and with slightly different accompaniments). A cone of Cajun potato wedges came on the side. Other entrée possibilities included a fried seafood basket with popcorn shrimp, calamari and fish fingers, a grilled Cajun platter and grilled jumbo shrimp; there were a couple burgers and barbecued baby back ribs available for the non-pescatarians in your party.
Seafood Shack never seemed very full, even just before and after shows in the nearby Aqua Theater were scheduled. While we found the open-air seating pleasant, loudspeakers from the video screens at the theater could be loud.
Wipe Out Café
Designed to serve as a utilitarian relief valve for the too-small Windjammer, Wipe Out Café is a limited-option buffet on Deck 15 for breakfast and lunch, open till 5:30 p.m. each day. It was great for kids, preoccupied by diversions on the Sports Deck, but we mostly steered clear. There are no tables inside the café, but limited seating was available next to the ping pong tables.
At breakfast the limited selection included eggs cooked to order, with a short list of fillings for omelets—ham, cheese, pepper and mushrooms. Our order took about 4 minutes one morning, but this was shortly after opening; the wait appeared to be longer as the morning wore on. Fresh fruit, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, and breakfast meats were also available. For lunch the menu shifted to burgers, hot dogs, fries, pizza slices and small selection of sandwiches and chips.
Another relief valve for Windjammer, we like Park Café mostly for its location (Central Park) and a few variations on the usual buffet spread. For breakfast this included a bagel station with various spreads—cream cheese flavored with sun dried tomato and roasted garlic, with salmon, with apricot and craisins, etc. There’s also a make-your-own bagel station, with fresh salmon, cheese, tuna salad, and cold cuts. There were also packaged cereals, muffins, pastries, sliced and whole fruits, as well as breakfast sandwiches stuffed with scrambled eggs.
For lunch there was a salad bar along with several sandwiches, served cold or focaccia style with packaged chips. We ordered “today’s special”—turkey, avocado and cheese—though the waitress said it was served every day. The dessert counter offered cookies, cheesecakes, profiteroles, tarts, and sugar-free options.
Only complaint: Park Café was popular throughout the day, and at prime breakfast and lunch hours there was usually a shortage of tables.
Located in the Royal Promenade, Sorrento’s offered pizza—both whole pies and by-the-slice—against a clichéd Brooklyn backdrop of faux brick, garage doors and Sinatra references. We’re sure somebody felt right at home and, being open till 3 a.m. nightly, this was the spot to satiate late-night hunger pangs.
By-the-slice options usually included cheese and pepperoni, along with daily specials like Florentine, rustica or Mexican. There was a make-your-own station, arranged like a salad bar, where one could concoct their own recipe. Ingredients were a bit limited—ham, chorizo, shrimp, mushrooms, potatoes, olives, sliced tomatoes and arugula. Pizzas were turned around in 15 minutes. There wasn’t a great seating area here, so most guests took their pies elsewhere (to-go containers were available).
There are lots of other food options on Oasis of the Seas, though most involve a surcharge. At the Cupcake Cupboard we found an array of colorful creations, loaded with frosting—flavors such as chocolate mint, bubble gum, red velvet and turtle. We’ve had Royal Caribbean’s cupcakes on other ships and find them less-than-subtle, though admittedly they hit the spot for some. Cupcakes are priced $2.75 each, and gluten-free and sugar-free are also available (by advance order only). Cupcake Cupboard offers cupcake-decorating classes—we’ll try it someday, but the $22 charge for a one-hour lesson seems steep to us ($15 for kids age 4 to 11).
Out on the Boardwalk is the Ice Cream Parlor, with cups and cones starting at $2 for a single scoop, and a long list of toppings available for 25 cents apiece. Shakes, floats, sundaes and banana splits range $3.75 to $4.95. Opposite the ice cream is Candy Beach, where several dozen different candy varieties are dispensed, at 75 cents per ounce. Nearby is the Boardwalk Donut Shop, where very basic frosted donuts are offered, at no charge. We tried one, with sickly-sweet gloppy icing oozing from the top—we couldn’t finish it. (We had to ask: Why charge for cupcakes and not for donuts? We were told the cupcakes have a lot more frosting, and they’re made fresh onboard; the donuts are brought on board in bulk, before the cruise.)
A few other food options are worth mentioning, at venues described on the next page. In addition to coffee drinks, Café Promenade has a deli case with light snacks—croissants, walnut bread, scones, cookies and small sandwiches—available at no charge throughout the day and evening. The Vitality Café at the entrance to the spa had a small selection of more nutritious fare, also at no charge—wraps, sandwiches, fruit plates and yogurt. The Boardwalk Bar also had sandwiches and prepared salads, at no charge, along with bags of popcorn for $1.50 (most cruise ships offer popcorn for free).
At the Champagne Bar toasts with caviar, sour cream, diced onions and capers were put out at cocktail hour. Best of all was the tapas selection at Vintages, which included Spanish fare such as gazpacho, octopus salad, Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, with a small upcharge. We could have made a very satisfying meal out of those tapas.
Although there are plenty of options for dining on Oasis, there is also room service available, albeit with a somewhat limited menu. Breakfast can be ordered using a door tag left out before 3 a.m., or by calling room service. Delivery times for breakfast are in 30-minute increments between 6:30 and 10 a.m. Options included four varieties of packaged cereal, yogurt, a fruit plate and whole fruit (apple, banana, orange). Hot selections were limited to scrambled eggs or scrambled Egg Beaters, with sides of bacon, sausage or hash browns and baked tomato available. Apple or orange drink, coffee, tea and milk were offered while the baked items included wheat or white toast with butter and jam or pastries. Real, fresh-squeezed orange juice, mimosa, bellini and bloody Mary were also available, with a surcharge.
The standard room service menu was a little more diverse and included a soup of the day, fruit plate and Caesar or Mediterranean chicken salads. Sandwiches available were baguette with smoked salmon and cream cheese, turkey and Swiss cheese Panini and a steak sandwich served with fries. Entrées included fried honey-stung chicken, hamburger, spinach and artichoke dip with corn chips, breaded fillet of flounder, and cheese or pepperoni pizza. Desserts available were a cheese plate, chocolate and pear tart, raspberry cheesecake or cookies. A late night service charge of $3.95 was assessed for orders placed between midnight and 5 a.m.
We ordered breakfast for an 8:30-9 a.m. delivery. A call came to our room at 8:06 saying breakfast was on the way, the knock on the door came at 8:25. Our fruit plate included kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, a slice of orange and red grapes—a smallish portion, but nicely presented, as was the plate of pastries. But we also ordered Raisin Bran with a banana and there was no milk (apparently we were expected to check it off on the order form); the server offered to retrieve a carton for us and came back about 10 minutes later. Coffee was delivered in a carafe with creamer and sugar.
We ordered lunch one afternoon and were told to allow 30 to 40 minutes for delivery. But there was an attempt to deliver our order about 15 minutes later, when we were out of the room. A phone call came when we were back inside and redelivery was made a few minutes later, exactly 35 minutes after the order was placed. The sandwich was described as turkey and Swiss cheese Panini served on ciabatta bread, but it was prepared with crisp French bread—with the tomato and lettuce the sandwich was literally taller than it was long. We didn’t mind the bread substitution, but it was hard to eat, with the contents spilling out the sides with each bite. There was a side of cole slaw sweetened with pineapple. In a bowl on the side were packets of ketchup, mayo and mustard, along with salt and pepper. A glass full of ice was brought for our drink; the can of soda was delivered at room temperature.
We could barely keep track of all the drinking options aboard Oasis of the Seas, with an ambience and crowd for just about any mood. Including four pool bars and three coffee bars, there were 20 options to choose from, not counting bars found at a few of the restaurants. Some of our favorites, described below, included the Latin dance club Boleros, the tapas and wine bar Vintages, the quiet Trellis Bar in Central Park, and the audacious Rising Tide, a bar that floated above an indoor fountain in the Royal Promenade.
The ship’s standard drink list included wines from all over the world, with an expanded selection available at certain venues, such as Vintages and 150 Central Park. About two dozen wines were available by the glass, ranging from Castle Rock chardonnay, Peter Lehman shiraz and Beringer White Zinfandel for $7, to Clos de Bois merlot ($9) and Ferrari-Carano chardonnay ($16). All of these were available by the bottle, while the Champagne Bar had a good selection of bubbly, by the glass or bottle.
The beer list was fairly rudimentary, including the usual domestics like Budweiser and Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Coors Light and Miller Lite ($4.25, or $5.25 for 16-ounce aluminum bottles) plus Blue Moon, Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada ($4.75-$5.75 each). International beers included Beck’s, Coronoa, Dos Equis, Heineken Kirin Light, Pilsner Urquell, Red Stripe and Stella Artois. An expanded list was offered at the pub Globe & Atlas.
There were plenty of mixed drink options, along with special offerings at a number of bars, with prices ranging $5.75 to $10.25, though more extravagant cocktails could be concocted. Various drink packages could be ordered that offered the potential for slight savings: The soda package was $45.50 for seven days ($31.50 for age 17 and under), the beer package was $45 per day, the Premium package was $55 per day (including drinks priced $6.25 or less, except bottle water, soda and coffees), and bottled water and bottled juice packages were also available.
A 15 percent gratuity was added to all drink purchases, including drink packages. The ship’s drinking age is 21.
Open 24 hours, this was the main coffee shop for early morning java, located in the Royal Promenade. There was the ship’s brewed coffee, along with coffee drinks available for a surcharge. We didn’t try these, so we can’t compare it with the competent Starbucks offerings a few hundred feet away, but the main distinction here was the availability of liquor shots. Prices ranged $3.25 to $3.85 for 12- and 16-oz cappuccinos, mochas and chai lattes. Iced coffee drinks were available ($3.75 to $4) along with spiked coffee drinks for $6 and up. There was also a machine for fresh squeezed orange juice ($3.95 to $4.95).
There was a deli case here with different food offerings through the day, mirroring the cold selection available at other buffet stations. There were sandwiches, bagels with brie cheese, croissants, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies and scones—all of these were free. There are tables and chairs, but the ambience was less cozy than our coffee shops at home.
Located at the other end of the Royal Promenade, this was the first dedicated Starbucks outlet at sea, and we found most of the standard Starbucks coffee drinks on offer. Tazo tea and chai lattes are also available, along with Frappuccino drinks; prices were a little higher than we normally pay for Starbucks, starting at $2.85 for a tall (12-oz) cappuccino, $3.65 for a caramel macchiato, or $3.95 for a frappuccino. The cappuccino we tried was pretty comparable to the Starbucks we enjoy at home.
Vitality Spa Café
Located at the entrance to the spa, this bright spot was convenient for those coming off a workout, offering the same coffee drink selection as Café Promenade—it’s the first spa café we’ve seen where liquor can be added to drinks! But there was something here that wasn’t found elsewhere on the ship: smoothies that could be made with your choice of various fresh fruits and vegetables, including orange, apple, carrot, celery, beets, cucumber and ginger ($4.25 to $6.25); muscle builder, fiber fuel, l-glutamine and other powders could be added as well.
The seating area was a bit sterile for our taste, and completely lacking in natural light—not a great environment to enjoy the offerings. But we loved our carrot-orange-ginger juice, taking it out to Central Park to enjoy. There’s a small selection of sandwiches and fruit available, as well, at no charge.
Viking Crown Lounge
Now this is a room with a view. Perhaps higher above the sea than any other cruise ship bar, the Viking Crown Lounge is located on Deck 17, just above the Windjammer buffet. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping ocean views, as well looking over some of the ship’s pool areas. The handsome lounge has a more sophisticated atmosphere than most other bars on the ship, and the live entertainment included easy listening and jazz. This venue was sometimes deserted (especially during the day when it was a good spot for playing cards), but when there was a 20-percent off “happy hour” every table was taken. The ‘tini we had was crisp and cold—perfect.
Mast Bar, Sky Bar, Pool Bar, Sand Bar
These four bars are located next to the pools, two on Deck 15 and two on Deck 16. They had the same drink menu, but the upstairs pair—Mast and Sky—were less busy, and a lovely hangout as the sun began to set.
Wipe Out Bar
Located between the FlowRider surf simulators, the Wipe Out Bar is a good spot to enjoy the brave antics of would-be surfers strutting their stuff. To accommodate for the fact that lots of kids tend to hang out in this area, the Wipe Out offers juice and soda in addition to its extensive drink list.
We liked this spot on Deck 16, which we found was overlooked by many guests. Located right above the Solarium deck and restaurant, there were lots of lounge chairs, most of which were shielded from sun. Frozen drinks were popular here, but the ship’s standard bar menu was also available.
Located on Deck 8, Dazzles is a two-level dance club with live music aimed at an older crowd. Behind the bandstand is a huge window overlooking the Boardwalk. With oversized black-and-white photos of Hollywood glamor icons, it’s a very comfortable venue to sit and listen to a live band (or have a private function). Every night, Dazzles has a live band play tunes from the ‘60s to the ‘90s, and everybody can get on the dance floor to show off their moves. But the space seemed oddly underused and, unlike Viking & Crown, it did not get busy during happy hour (when drinks were 20-percent off).
Rock and roll, oriental belly dance Note that the upper level of Dazzles is one of two designated smoking areas inside the ship.
Rising Tide Bar
Perhaps the most audacious bar concept on the seven seas, Rising Tide looks like a hovercraft out of a sci-fi movie—and that’s before it even takes off from the Royal Promenade. When the bar is open, every 15 minutes waist-level glass doors on either side of the bar close and the venue rises three floors to Central Park, where one may disembark or stay aboard for the slow descent back down. As the bar rises, a fountain emerges under the bar that can be viewed in the Royal Promenade.
Rising Tide also serves drinks (though we noticed plenty of guests who just came along for the ride), offering the ship’s standard drink menu, and the local special—a blue lychee martini. There are “singles” events several times a day, so it’s also a good place to find a date.
This lovely spot is located outdoors amid lush Central Park. There are just a few high tables and chairs, as well as some bar stools. Margaritas, martinis, mai tais and other smart cocktails are available, along with beer and wine.
Doubling as the wine bar and a meal option for tapas, Vintages is located in Central Park, offering tables both inside and out in the park. It’s a great spot for a pre-dinner glass of wine. The bar is full of plush sofas, comfortable chairs with pillows, all surrounded by wines in temperature-controlled coolers. A range of wines from around the world were offered, in regular-sized glasses, or in a smaller portions. Vintages also offers wine seminars, with times and prices available upon request.
What we liked was the small-plate tapas served daily till 1 a.m., priced $2 to $4 apiece. The Spanish menu included everything from tortilla de patatas (potato omelets), gazpacho, croquetas with rice, potato, chicken or crab, paella, pata negra ham, Iberian sausages, sardines smothered in marinara sauce, and a half-dozen desserts. A number of the items were available as part of combo platter: 5 tapas for $8, 7 for $11 or 8 for $13, plus dessert.
With lovely seating out in the park, a couple could make a fine, informal meal out of the combo platters. Vintages was overlooked by most guests—we felt it was worth discovering.
This is the outdoor bar located on the Boardwalk, between the carousel and the Aqua Theater. It was little used, except just before and after shows at the theater. In addition to the ship’s standard drink menu, some food items were available at no charge (“from Johnny Rockets,” a sign said, but they didn’t appear to be). Popcorn, however, was extra—$1.75 a bag.
Overlooking the Royal Promenade, the Schooner Bar will be familiar territory for Royal Caribbean regulars—its the line’s trademark sailing-themed bar with nautical decor, glass tables, blue armchairs, and a piano in the center of the room. There’s a long martini menu, various margaritas, iced tea, wine, and beer. Most of the ship’s trivia contests took place here—several daily, each themed around a different subject—and live piano music nightly.
The Latin-themed bar offered fun drinks and a dance floor to match. Boleros is decorated in bright orange and red tones, features comfortable leather armchairs, and it would be a wonderful place to hang out at night if not for one great flaw: Boleros is one of just a few places inside the ship where smoking is allowed. In fact, the smell at Boleros was so intense that smokers and non-smokers alike will quickly become uncomfortable in it. Day and night, the lounge was the smoker’s hub. We suspect the ventilation is not adequate for its use.
With its Latin focus, Boleros offers lots of rum and tequila-based drinks like caipirinhas, mojitos, and wines from that region. Boleros hosts the occasional live band and is a great spot to dance, with salsa dance lessons and competitions held on some nights.
Three guesses as to what was served here? Champagne was available by the bottle and by the glass, along with a short list of more intrepid concoctions—Moscow Mule, Gin Basil Smash, Cucumber Fizz, etc. It was a pleasant environment when there wasn’t anything loud like a parade going on, and in the evening a spread of toasts, caviar and fixings were put out.
This was primarily the ship’s sports bar, with TV screens lining the walls. We stopped by to take advantage of the nightly happy hour and a trivia contest had just concluded—the bar went from jam-packed to completely empty in a matter of minutes. Other events scheduled here included the requisite towel-folding demo and karaoke sessions as well as trivia.
Globe & Atlas
The old-style English Pub in the Royal Promenade offers a quieter place for a drink. The room is covered with dark, wooden panels, wood furniture, maritime accents, and comfy leather armchairs. The pub has the largest beer list of any venue on the ship, and in addition to its selection of international beers, the Bow and Stern also offers cocktails, wine, and liquor. Beer prices start at around $4.25, while cocktails begin at $5. Every night, the Globe & Atlas hosts a live musical act with the occasional sing-along.
Located on Deck 4, Blaze is the dance club on Oasis of the Seas, and mostly attended by younger adults (no one under 18 is allowed, though a couple early evenings there were young adults sessions announced in the daily newsletter). Red leather chairs and benches with high backs decorate the club, and an oval bar dominates the room. The dance floor is decent, and there are plenty of seats if you don't feel like getting up.
Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
Tucked away on Deck 6 forward, the Vitality at Sea Spa offered an array of body treatments. From facials and massages to skin care, salon services and acupuncture, there was something appealing for just about any cruiser. There was a Thermal Suite that featured heated ceramic loungers, an aromatic room, sauna and steam rooms, rain and fog showers.
Managed by Steiner Leisure, which oversees spa facilities on a majority of cruise ships today, prices are a bit higher than we find at most mass-market land-based resorts. Prices started at $119 for a 50-minute Reflexology or Swedish massage and ranged upwards to $199 for a 75-minute bamboo massage. The 50-minute couples massage was $269 (per couple) and the 50-minute couples rasul scrub was $95. Facials started at $125 for the 50-minute Try-Enzyme Resurfacing Facial; the Men’s Urban Cleanse Facial was $129. There were treatments designed for kids, and the salon offered hair, nail and waxing services. A seven-day pass for the thermal suite was $99, or $179 per couple. Starting from the first day, specials emerged, ranging from 15-minute bonuses to discounts on combo packages. A 15-percent gratuity was automatically added to the bill for all treatments.
The Fitness Center was located on Deck 6 and a stairwell lead outside to jogging track on Deck 5. In contrast to most cruise ship fitness facilities, there were only a few windows providing natural light. In addition to free weights, there were dozens of cardio and resistance machines, but we found some of the equipment in need of repair. We mounted one cycle and the seat wouldn’t stay locked in place; a second bike was okay, but the RPM was off; on a third the mechanism ground a bit. A fourth (!) bike seemed to work fine. Another day we tried the “Expresso” bikes that have a video game-like screen showing your route and other riders; we weren’t sold on the technology, but especially not when the bike kept pulling to the right (off the road) and after about 20 minutes the gears started slipping.
There were lots of instructors around the gym, but they didn’t go out of their way to assist (personal training sessions were $55 for 40 minutes, or $85 for an hour). There were several free classes available, including stretching and Fab Abs, along with “complimentary wellness seminars” such as How to Increase Your Metabolism and Detox for Health and Weight Loss that ended in pitches for pricey products. Yoga on the ship’s helipad was $12 per class, spinning classes were $15, and the Gravity Group was $30. The Fitness Center was open till 1 a.m. nightly.
Oasis of the Seas has four distinct pool areas, each with a different theme and all located on Deck 15. They’re decent sized pools (the water weight alone is said to be 2,300 tons), but when the sun was out and the ship was at sea, they were very crowded. Each of the pools has whirlpools and showers for rinsing.
The Main Pool is located on the starboard side and. Around the pool are a lot of lounge chairs and sun chairs, and this is the one pool with a transfer chair for those with limited mobility. The Beach Pool is designed to look like a beach, with water lapping up along faux sand and lounge chairs placed in the shallow water. Parasols are distributed evenly through the spot. On sea days the Beach Pool was the most crowded, and loungers were at a premium. Offering three lanes set up in the morning, the Sports Pool is designed for those who like to swim laps. But later in the day, this pool was just as busy as any of the others. Each of these pools are 4-feet 9-inches deep at their deep end.
The kids-oriented H2O Zone features shallow pools for toddlers and babies, along with deeper areas for older kids, topping out at 3-feet 5-inches deep. Interactive sculpture fountains have geysers and sprinklers and look like a lot of fun (we restrained impulses to jump in). One of the pools is a whirlpool with glass walls—this was popular. The Baby Splash Zone had a pool that was 2 inches deep; swim diapers were required under a bathing suit. Fair warning: the area is almost always loud and crowded, but we loved the child-sized loungers available in this area.
There’s also The Solarium, an adults-only lounge area with a plunge pool and whirlpools (see “Decks,” below). Located just outside the Solarium are two large, half-moon shaped whirlpools cantilevered off the side of the ship. They’re built into nooks that extend 12 feet out from Deck 15. There are two televisions located at these whirlpools showing sports events, but we found the ocean view to be a lot better.
Most of the ship’s other recreational activities are concentrated around the Sports Court, located on Deck 15 aft and overlooking the Boardwalk. The actual Sports Court is set up for basketball and soccer, and wrapped by a glass wall. The crew organizes soccer and basketball tournaments and everybody’s invited to participate. Nearby are six Ping Pong tables, and table tennis was popular (as well as being the one recreational activity shielded from the elements). Oasis Dunes is the ship’s miniature golf course, with nine holes for play.
The star attraction accessed from this deck is the FlowRider, surfing simulators that are exclusive (at sea) to Royal Caribbean’s newer ships. Oasis of the Seas has two of these wave machines—one for boogie boards, one for stand-up boards. There’s a minimum height requirement of 52 inches inches for boogie boards, 58 inches for surfing. For those who’ve never surfed before, it’s a challenge to get the balance right. Aside from the height issue, we saw all ages trying it out—and everyone takes a few spills before getting the hang of it (the bar next door isn’t called Wipe Out for nothing). So Royal Caribbean requires FlowRiders to sign a waiver before jumping on a board, releasing the cruise line from damages due to injury.
Tip: Soon after embarkation, spring for one of the first available lessons on FlowRider. Many cruisers don’t try out the surf simulators until the second or third sea day, and then lines can be long. A lesson speeds the learning, and the lines to ride later in the cruise won’t be as frustrating. One-hour lessons are $60 for a group session with 4 to 8 others. Or you can rent the FlowRider (with private instructor) for $480 per hour—a good option for families.
Royal Caribbean was the first to bring Rock Climbing Walls to sea, and Oasis was the first ship to have not one but two walls. The climbing walls are located below the FlowRiders, accessed from the Boardwalk. There are multiple routes on each wall offering varying degrees of difficulty. Although a line was solidly in place after the first couple days of the cruise we never saw the second (port side) wall open. Loaner climbing shoes are provided; socks can be bought or rented. Royal Caribbean’s liability waiter had to be signed here but, ingeniously, the pad containing the waiver also covers the FlowRider and Zipline, so we only needed to sign once for the whole cruise.
The first Zipline at sea stretches across the Boardwalk, from one end of the Sports Court the other. While it pales in comparison to the speed and length of some of the ziplines we’ve tried in the Caribbean, it is a bit scarier than we expected—the first step is a doozie! Open-toed shoes are not allowed, and neither are cameras or other paraphernalia. This is definitely worth trying on embarkation day, while everyone else is getting their bearings—there was essentially no line that day, but almost always a wait thereafter. The line moves relatively quickly—about one rider per minute (the whole ride takes barely 5 seconds)—and we never saw more than about two dozen in line.
Other diversions: Behind the Aqua Theater are two Shuffleboard courts with equipment. These aren’t discovered by most guests, so they weren’t used much during our cruise. In Studio B, the Ice Skating Rink is open for guests when the ice show is not performing or in rehearsal (times are listed in the ship’s newsletter). Loaner ice skates are provided; full, long pants and socks are required.
Owing to its size, there are lots of outdoor areas on Oasis of the Seas, catering to various interests. Offering splendid views across the bow of the ship, the Solarium on decks 15-16 was not enclosed, as the name implies, but mostly covered by glass. It was probably the least crowded sun deck on the ship. Kids age 15 and under were not allowed, so it stayed fairly quiet, the music was subdued. Lounge chairs are distributed over two levels, as well as cushioned chairs with ottomans, some of which are shaded. We were always able to find empty loungers, even on sea days.
There is a plunge pool here (with a fountain in the center it wasn’t conducive for much beyond lolling), along with two hot tubs sequestered between ersatz palms—all saw little traffic during our cruise. On either side of the entrance to the Solarium are half-moon shaped whirlpools cantilevered 12 feet off the side of the ship.
Circuiting most of the ship, Deck 5 has the ship’s 2,200-foot-long jogging track—2.4 laps equals a mile. Most of the track is enclosed by the ship’s lifeboats, but the very aft portion of the deck is open to the view (located just behind the Aqua Theater, this was a nice little hangout). Along the track are motivational signs, to inspire you to run a little longer, but we found that the narrowness of the track causes congestion, with slower walkers and runners often in conflict.
Above the Solarium, Deck 17 is another sun deck, but during the day it's designated for Royal Caribbean gold card members only. There are huge beach chairs, sun chairs and lounge chairs, and a bar. It’s very quiet, even on sea days. After 6 p.m. the area is opened to all, and nicknamed Cigars Under the Stars.
The Boardwalk is located on Deck 6 aft, and represents one of the neighborhoods on Oasis. The three most popular features were the Aqua Theater, Johnny Rockets and the rock climbing walls—other aspects made this area feel like a money pit. The carousel, however, is free to all. On Deck 8, Central Park is another outdoor neighborhood on Oasis, with some 12,000 plants and a piped-in chorus of bird and cricket sounds. Most of the specialty restaurants are located around Central Park, along with the art gallery, but you won’t find much sunshine here. The main sundeck is at the very front of Oasis, on Deck 14. There are some lounge chairs and two binoculars, as well as a nice view down to the helipad. Deck 16 is the sundeck directly above the pool areas. Sun loungers and chairs are all around this deck, and two small bars are in the middle, so nobody has to go far to get a drink.
Shows & Entertainment
Oasis of the Seas offers what may be the richest entertainment schedule at sea. This is, in part, due to sheer size of the ship—there are several big venues, and live music going on in multiple settings at virtually all hours of the day—but Royal Caribbean has done an excellent job of catering to the diverse range of guests on board. Deck 4 is designed to be the primary evening entertainment hub, with the casino at one end. The main showroom here, Opal Theater, seats 1,394 in a comfortably broad, raked arc offering great sightlines throughout, and cup-holders at every seat—only the front row of the balcony is partially obstructed (by a railing). We found the Opal’s acoustics to be terrific, and the sound mix at the performances we saw was great, not overdone.
The marquee show at Opal is “Hairspray,” an abbreviated 90-minute version of the Tony Award-winning musical. With a cast of 21 singers and dancers and a 5-piece live band, the show is scaled down slightly from Broadway, but otherwise comparable to the touring version. It’s an entertaining tribute to R&B set in Baltimore, with a sly undercurrent of both racial and sexual politics for good measure—all-in-all, a refreshing change of pace from the usual Motown tributes occupying most cruise ship showrooms, and well-suited for all ages. Also playing in the Opal Theater was “Come Fly With Me,” a 45-minute musical review of (loosely) air-themed songs. Designed just for Oasis, it’s a big show, with a prop plane coming onto the stage at one point. It has a slick Vegas feel, with a couple showstoppers where the staging, performances and concept gelled beautifully.
Editor’s note: The Tony Award-winning musical “Cats” has replaced “Hairspray” in the Opal Theater.
Note that, with just three performances of “Hairspray” and “Come Fly With Me,” seating capacity in Opal is not adequate should everyone onboard want to attend. We didn’t have a problem getting into either show without a ticket, but advance bookings (free on embarkation day) are recommended.
Unique to Oasis (and Allure of the Seas) is the Aqua Theater, a 720-seat outdoor venue that faces aft—a pool is the stage, with diving boards towering above. The 35-minute headliner is “Oasis of Dreams,” a breathtaking Cirque du Soleil-meets-Esther Williams water spectacular. Ignore the show’s airy-fairy storyline and enjoy the acrobatic display by 16 gymnasts, aerialists and divers, all wearing skimpy little bathing suits that show off toned physiques. There were just four performances during our cruise, at least two of which were standing-room-only. The seats are comfortable, interspersed with some benches; note that the first three rows are designated as a “splash zone.”
Another Royal Caribbean specialty is Studio B, an ice rink located down on Deck 3. Though open for ice skating sessions at select times (see “Other Recreation,” above), Oasis has a 12-member team of skaters who perform “Frozen in Time,” an ice show based around the tales of Hans Christian Anderson. The Ugly Duckling, the Red Shoes, the Emperor’s New Clothes and other stories are brought to life in whimsical fashion, with an enthusiastic reception from the audience. There were five performances during our cruise; the venue has a 775-seat capacity.
Other performance venues of note included Comedy Live, for standup shows, almost all of which were designated for age 18 and up. We looked forward to sampling the acts—two comedians performing in succession—but we were unable to secure an advance reservation, and were instead advised to join the standby line at least 45 minutes before showtime. Although there were 15 performances scheduled during our cruise, the venue seats only 120, meaning only about one-third of the ship’s passengers could attend all the shows combined. The last night of cruise the comedians were moved to the Opal Theater, and it was still filled to the rafters. Our advice: Get a reservation before embarkation. One other venue worth checking out was Jazz on 4, which featured a decent singer backed by a three-piece combo. The sound was good, but we weren’t lured in for some reason.
With 523 slot machines and 24 table games, the Casino Royale is huge—and busy. Aside from size, we didn’t find too much that made it different from other casinos at sea, though we did spot a Baccarat table, which seemed pretty unusual. The starboard side of the casino is a smoking area, while a discrete area on the port side offered slot machines in a relatively smoke-free environment.
The casino bar in the casino will make you any drink you want, but the drinks aren’t free for gamblers like they are in Las Vegas. But the more you play the slots, the more points you can earn towards various rewards (as small as a key chain, or, if you earn enough, dinner at Chops Grille).
Oasis of the Seas has a pretty small Library tucked away on Deck 11. Whether because the shelves weren’t full to begin with, or everything was cleaned out on the first day, we found the shelves less than half-full on the second day of the cruise. Just above on Deck 14 and somewhat larger, Seven Hearts was the game room, and also doubled as the ship’s main internet station. “Self led Bridge play” was scheduled for an hour or two most days of the cruise, and there was a small selection of common board games such as Scrabble and Checkers. Located in the middle of the Boardwalk, the Carousel was pretty to look at, but didn’t see a lot of action.
Located almost at midship in the Royal Promenade, the Explorations Desk was where shore excursions could be booked. We liked that this was built around a clocktower, and although we would have expected that the design would have impeded organization and traffic, it was an approachable collection of freestanding desks that were staffed up as needed. The Guest Services Desk nearby was open—and busy—at most hours of the day. Staff behind the desk worked diligently to keep the line moving, but a lack of stanchions (ropes) to keep the line orderly was a problem the times we were here.
There are several venues available for groups, starting with the Pinnacle Chapel, an airy and attractive facility on Deck 17 that can accommodate at least 50 guests, comfortably seated. Nearby is the Pinnacle Lounge, another private meeting space (and opening unto the Viking Crown Lounge next door). A more traditional Conference Center is located on Deck 3—four conference rooms accommodating from 50 guests (seated theater style) up to 120. The rooms can be combined for a total of 4,424 square feet of meeting space.
Royal Caribbean offers one of the cruise industry’s most extensive kids programs, and Oasis of the Seas has all the bells and whistles, broken down by age bracket. Pre-teens were accommodated on Deck 14 forward, while the teen area was on Deck 15 aft. There was even an informal program for 18- to 20-year-olds. An open house was hosted for families on embarkation day.
Starting with the youngest cruisers, the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery handles children age 6 months to 36 months, at an hourly rate of $8 per child, till midnight daily. The nursery stocks a basic supply of essential childcare items, but parents need to bring diapers, bottles and milk, food, sippy cups and an extra set of clothes. A Fisher-Price toy lending service was available (great for keeping luggage to the essentials). Parents were allowed to leave the ship for shore excursions, and in-cabin babysitting services were also available.
Children age 3 to 11 are handled at the Adventure Ocean facility with its own science lab and theater, and corresponding activities scheduled for three sub-groups: Aquanauts (age 3-5), Explorers (age 6-8) and Voyagers (age 9-11). Individually they participate in scheduled, age-appropriate games and science experiments. Hours vary (the facilities were open longer on sea days), but generally activities were scheduled between 9 a.m. and 2 a.m. There was no charge for kids, including meals, though a fee of $6 per hour applied for children 11 and under participating in the late-night activities (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.). Children 8 and under had to be signed in and out by parents; with parental consent Voyagers were allowed to sign themselves in and out.
Teens age 12 to 17 have their own parent-free space on Deck 15, the Living Room, a lounge with Wii, a music studio, reading materials and internet stations (teens received a reduced rate of .30/minute). Many activities took place around the ship—Sports Deck, Scavenger Hunt, etc. There was a dedicated disco for teens only, Fuel, with Scratch DJ 101 sessions and a different party theme each night (Miami/Latin, Vegas, etc.). Fuel was designated for age 12-14 from 10:30 to 11:45 p.m., and after midnight the older teens took over. Note that a curfew for all public areas of the ship was in effect after 1 a.m. nightly for guests age 17 and under, unless accompanied by an adult.
There were two arcades: the Kids Arcade at Adventure Ocean and the Video Arcade located next to the Living Room.
It’s not just the biggest cruise ship, Oasis is also the biggest shopping mall at sea. While most of the wares on offer were pretty typical for a mainstream cruise line, the number of guests aboard allowed Royal Caribbean to think a little more broadly than usual.
The main shopping area ran through the Royal Promenade on Deck 5 and started with Regalia, a watch and jewelry store, featuring such brands as Tag Heuer, Tissot, Longines and Sophia Fiori. At Focus we found a decent selection of consumer-grade cameras from Canon, Pentax, and Nikon, including underwater cameras. Port Merchants carried an array of sundries, liquor, snacks, and ship souvenirs, while Prince and Greene offered cosmetics and perfumes, and Willow offered clothing, predominantly women’s apparel. Just upstairs from the Champagne Bar was the photo gallery, where we could peruse the handiwork of the ship’s crew of photographers. Eight-by-tens were $19.95 each, but there were various packages available, up to and including a bound photo book of 34 photos for $149.95.
As befits a location facing Park Avenue (or so we might think), Central Park had the ship’s two high-end shops. There was a Coach store—a first for any cruise ship—with the leather goods beautifully displayed just like at a mall at home. Next door is the Parkside Gallery which has a better-than-average selection of art pieces for sale. Several art auctions were conducted during our cruise. Next door to that is Picture This, a small studio for portrait photos.
In the Boardwalk area shops aims for whimsy, and includes kid-friendly Pinwheels, with plush toys and a Pets at Sea set-up, something like Build-a-Bear (the stuffed animals were $22 each, or $32 with one set of clothing). Next door, Star Pier had active-wear and accessories from Puma, Quiksilver, and Swatch. And of course, in keeping with the Coney Island flavor, there was a Zoltar animatronic fortune-teller machine, dishing out sage wisdom for a buck.
Overall, we found service to be disciplined and pleasant. Oasis of the Seas is a big machine to run, and management seems able to inspire consistently good service from crewmembers, especially in the restaurants. But on some occasions the strain of catering to so many guests showed.
We wanted to switch from an assigned seating time for the main dining room and went to Opus the first afternoon to request the change. A hostess told us My Time dining was full but she would put us on the waitlist for a change, and to check back later. When we did, a host told us there was no waitlist and wanted to know who had told us of one; he then called the hostess by phone and engaged in a verbal debate that escalated into accusations. On at least two other occasions we overheard crew conversations that shouldn't have been shared with guests.
We also found that dining in the specialty restaurants was sometimes poorly paced—either too slow or (usually) too fast. In each instance we felt that the number of servers in the venue was inadequate for the level of business. This was a particular problem at Chops Grille, where an inexperienced waiter rushed us through our meal in careless fashion.
The ship’s newsletter, Cruise Compass, arrived in our room each evening, containing detailed information on the following day’s schedule. There were so many activities to keep track of that it was easy to miss out on some events. On the first day of our cruise, a document called The Planner was available at the “box office”—a reservation desk set up at Studio B during embarkation—providing an overview of the major shows and events taking place throughout the cruise. Picking up The Planner, and making reservations for shows, are essential first-day duties to get the most of an Oasis of the Seas cruise.
The amount of printed marketing materials delivered to our cabin was somewhat less than normal, in contrast to the deluge we typically receive on a cruise. However, our interactive TV had a “message” box, and a plethora of communications flooded our way, demanding for attention—there were nine messages to delete on the first day alone!
Internet access aboard Oasis of the Seas left something to be desired. Three internet stations, known as the iCafe, had a collection of PCs for surfing the web. The first two, on decks 7 and 9 forward, seemed like afterthoughts—a couple of spare areas near elevator shafts that weren’t quite big enough for an inside cabin. How claustrophobic and unappealing! At least the station on Deck 14 aft—inside Seven Hearts, the game room—was more open. The basic rate for internet access was .65 per minute, but packages were available that brought the per minute rate down—60 minutes for $35 (.58/minute), 100 minutes for $55 (.55/minute), etc. In the Teen Zone, the basic rate was .30 per minute.
WiFi was available ship-wide for those who brought their own laptops, but we found the service clunky—at least three times we were charged for a minute then kicked off; a charge for another 3 minutes appeared on our bill despite having purchased a package. When we stopped by the main iCafe to correct our bill an attendant never seemed to be present, even during scheduled hours (the Guest Services desk later took care of the overcharges).
It’s also possible to access the internet from interactive cabin TVs, a system we didn’t try out.
Editor's Note: After our cruise, Royal Caribbean upgraded the WiFi system on Oasis of the Seas. An unlimited internet package was also made available—$179 for the duration of the cruise.
There were three dress codes recommended, though minimally enforced. The dress code for Casual evenings (four nights of our cruise) was dresses or slacks and blouses for women, sport shirts and trousers for men. There was one Smart Casual night of the cruise: dresses or pantsuits for women, jackets for men. Two nights were designated as Formal and the suggested dress was cocktail attire for women, suits and ties or tuxedos for men (tuxedo rental can be arranged through Royal Caribbean in advance of the the cruise).
Bare feet, shorts, tank tops and caps were not permitted in the Opus Dining Room and all specialty restaurants.
There are no self-service laundry rooms aboard Oasis of the Seas. Washing, pressing and dry clean service were available at typical hotel rates.
General Health & Safety
A Muster Drill was held prior to embarkation, and the crew checked cabins to make sure they were vacant. Key cards were scanned at the entrance to each muster station, and the safety briefing was conducted primarily via a video presentation, followed by a live demonstration on how to wear life jackets. Lifeboats are located on deck five.
The Medical Facility is located on Deck 2. The facility was staffed from 8 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. daily. There were hand sanitizing stations positioned at entrances to most restaurants.
On our cruise, Oasis of the Seas was designated as non-smoking, except for specific areas, including cabin balconies. But Royal Caribbean revealed a more restrictive smoking policy, effective January 1, 2014. Smoking will no longer be allowed on guest balconies. Designated outside areas on the port side of the ship will be set aside for smokers; smoking will not be allowed in the Boardwalk or Central Park areas of the ship. E-cigarettes will be allowed only in designated smoking areas. Guests found to have been smoking in cabins will be subject to a $250 cleaning fee.
For information on Royal Caribbean’s tipping and service charge policy, see here.
For information on Royal Caribbean’s alcohol policy, see here.
For information on Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program, see here.
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