Lessons learned on the Oasis of the Seas
For Christmas 2018 we decided to take a cruise with the family on the Oasis of the Seas by Royal Caribbean. It’s in the Oasis class of ships which are currently one of the largest classes floating on the water. The ship is truly an Oasis on the water and engineering marvel with beautifully designed neighborhoods that control crowds and traffic and make it a pleasure to be aboard. There are many blogs and articles about the ship, including things like ship trivia, getting around on the ship, a plethora of pictures and videos - so we decided to focus our narrative on lessons we learned and share those with our readers.
If you have never been onboard the Oasis of the Seas or you just want to know more about where the ship currently travels to or perhaps learn more about the Oasis class of ships, here are some good sources of information;
Lessons we learned on the Oasis of the Seas
Overall we had a fantastic time; The ship had a lot of interesting things to do and there were venues for everyone. There were varied food choices to accommodate all types of palates. You could choose healthy foods, vegetables and proteins or eat lots of carbs and desserts. There were quality shows that were unique and varied (everything from ice skating to comedy to broadway shows and even a show with high divers and acrobats). If you were to see these shows individually in your home town it would be very expensive. The level of talent was consistently very high. The list of activities each day was huge and is listed in the daily briefing paper. If you didn’t have fun on the ship you weren’t trying hard hard enough.
And without further ado here are the things that we learned while onboard the Oasis of the Seas.
- Embarkation: Get there in the early middle of the boarding time. If you get there too early you’ll be waiting for a long time (the ship is being cleaned prior to allowing passengers to board). If you get there too late you might not get a reasonable parking spot. Be prepared to be seated and chill to wait for your boarding number to be called.
- The Oasis of the Seas at a glance: The ship is so big that it takes time to learn your way around. We discovered new things even on the last day. There are a number of articles about getting around, so maybe surf Google for specifics? The majority of the interesting things are on levels 5, 6, 8, 15, and 16. Decks 15 and 16 are where you will find the hot tubs and pools, buffet dining. the Solarium is forward & the Windjammer is aft. Sports (Basketball court, mini-golf, zipline, ping pong and Flow Rider) are at the stern. Promenade mall area on deck 5, Gym on 5 and 6. Each of the elevator areas all have a good list (mounted on the wall) of what there is and where to find it.
- Debarkation: Debark in the middle of the announced time frame, and keep in mind that the starting time may well vary, or be delayed. People who go early can wait in lines that queue up on the promenade deck and it can be very confusing. If you wait until the early birds escape it will be less hassle. We departed about an hour after the advertised wait time and it worked out perfectly.
- Shore Excursions: Research each port and things to do before you go. The cruise ships have special deals with certain activities and sometimes won’t show you everything there is to do. We experienced the steepest zip line in the world because we did our own research about what was available on St. Maarten (the Flying Dutchman)
- Ship Gym: Crowds ebbed and flowed - The crowd ramps up in the morning and then falls off again. Go while people are generally eating if you don’t want the crowds. It was never too crowded to get a good workout.
- Taxis on a Caribbean Island: These can take a while because the traffic gets thick and “we’ll get there when we get there, it depends on the traffic man!” Our kids left twice the amount of time needed and almost didn’t make it.
- Windjammer Cafe: Don’t arrive before it opens. Wait for 20-30 minutes after it opens to avoid lines.
- Ship's Staff: The staff doesn’t always know answers to questions outside of the area that they work in. Staff misinformation about reserving restaurants and other things, like whether there is a pool table on board.(there is not by the way).
- Communications with your Group: It’s difficult to communicate with members of your party on board. Bring walkie-talkies, because it’s difficult to find people on board due to the ship size. Take a look at the advertisement below this area for the kind of device that we wished we had brought.
- Crowds: Due to the number of venues, restaurants and activities we didn’t find the crowds to be any worse than any other ship we’ve ever been on.
- Shows: Go ahead and go to a show even if you didn’t book it. They release the seating to people without reservation 15 minutes before they start. We never had a problem getting a seat.
- Casino: When you win get up and walk away (LOL). Tables start at $10.
- Drinking Onboard: You are allowed to bring two bottles of wine (per room). Bring your wine and if traveling with friends who don’t drink wine - have them bring two more for you!
- Water Bottle: Bring a water bottle with you. You can fill it at any of the ship's "water stations" or use the cups they provide.
- Visiting Atlantis on Nassau: Go there on your own. If you take the ship's excursion, it will get you there before the water park opens and you will have to wait for at least an hour.
- A fun night club: "Dazzles" (located aft on Decks 8 and 9 in between Central Park and the Boardwalk). Small dance floor, and an energetic band each night.
See the walkie-talkie units below? These are the kind of devices we wished we had brought with us! Click either image to go to Amazon and view that radio.
Ship's Sporting Activities
The three images above should give you a good idea of the wide range of sporting activities available onboard. The first image is the basketball court, and it is enclosed to preclude losing balls over the side! The second image was taken in the cardio area of the ship's gym, and the third image is the Flow Rider being ridden by my oldest son.
Advantages of a big ship
- Huge amount of things to do and see
- Lots of shows and venues each night
- Difficult to get bored when there are so many activities
- More of everything - food options, more pools, more activities, more places to hang out, restaurants.
- Large gym and walking track (2.4 laps around the ship equals one mile)
- Crowds are controlled by having so many choices, people are spread out across the ship
- Large casino
- Crowds dispersed nicely
- There are 14 cabin categories available; the largest is the "Royal Loft Suite" at 1,599 square feet with a 879 square foot balcony. The smallest are the "Q category" 140 square foot "interior cabins". For a complete description of all cabins and sizes, go here
Disadvantages of a big ship
- More difficult to meet people because you don’t really see anyone twice due to the size of the ship.
- More people (if you don’t like more people).
- Ship size precludes getting to all locations due to it’s size.
- Sometimes it was crowded getting off the ship and larger crowds on shore due to the number of people onboard.
- Staff doesn’t know answers to questions outside of the area they work in.
- Ship overall size is somewhat overwhelming.
Royal Caribbean Kudos
- No saving (or reserving) chairs (signs everywhere!).
- Towels tracked (by your Cruise Card) so people don’t leave them on chairs.
- Staff is very accommodating and pleasant.
- The ship is very well kept, clean.
- Comfortable rooms and beds.
- Crowds managed nicely in the buffet.
- Rooms/bathrooms are well designed. There is room for everything you need.
- Food is good. There are lots of choices to accommodate all types of palates. You can choose healthy vegetables and proteins or eat lots of carbs but the flavors were nice at the buffet. The biggest downside is the crowd. We think the food is several steps above Carnival Cruise line food.
Royal Caribbean Nits
- Price of drinks are incredibly high, example; The bars do not have bananas, but if you wanted a banana daiquiri they will make it for you if you bring them the bananas. Two banana daiquiris for $34 (even though they were good) seems pricey! We don’t drink enough to warrant the drink package so we ended up really not drinking much at all due to the cost.
- A lot of things cost extra and if you didn’t want to pay extra it reduced the number of things to do.
- No internet packages for less than a day makes it too costly to indulge.
- Not being able to bring water on board is annoying - although water on the ship was fine and many of the "water stations" could accommodate a water flask.
- Staff misinformation about reserving restaurants and other things like whether there is a pool table on board.
Suggestions for Royal Caribbean
- It’s difficult to communicate with members of your party on board. The Royal Caribbean app for your phone should have a messaging (perhaps SMS) function to allow families to communicate better even if they don’t purchase internet. Yes there is a phone system for cabin-to-cabin voice or messaging, but if your party is out on the deck somewhere, you have no way to reach them, so you have to search for them. There were many times when we didn’t find our family members all day long. To be completely fair, there does seem to be a product being developed by Royal Caribbean that will use RFID to locate members of your group, called WOW Bands. We were not offered this on the Oasis of the Seas, so it isn't clear whether or not the service is operational. Update: And now Royal Caribbean is backing away from the WOW Bands and going with a new App called "Excalibur". Click here to read their press release and their thinking behind it.
- Internet - it would be nice if they had packages by the hour or half day rather than full day only.
- Please continue those high quality shows!
Ports of Call
- Visiting Atlantis on Nassau: Investigate going there on your own. If you take the ship's excursion, you will have to get up very early and then it will get you there before the water park opens and when you depart the ship you will have to wait in lines with everyone for a long time to get on a bus to get to Paradise Island. We were wishing that we had planned for a taxi in advance.
- St. Thomas: We did the Catamaran sail and snorkel to Buck’s island. The boat was nice and boat staff was great however there wasn’t much to see in the water and our trip was scheduled for 2 in the afternoon so we got back after dark. Other members of our group went to Sapphire beach prior to our excursion and enjoyed the beach and swimming.
- St. Maarten: Some of us went to the Flying Dutchman zipline (click here to see our video of the zipline ride) and ate lunch after that at Karakter beach. We took a taxi and the driver gave us his card so we could call when we needed him. Other members of our party went to a beach and fell in love with St. Maarten. They want to go back one day.
The Oasis of the Seas Fitness Center
As you can see in the above images, a number of cardio machines. A decent stretching area, a small free weight area and lots of weight machines. I would have preferred a larger free weight area but overall we were able to get in good workouts.
As we stated earlier in this post, you had to be careful about the "gym arrival time" or you could bump into other gym enthusiasts. Our basic plan was to get there as close to 6AM as possible.
Cruise Insider Tips
- Try to relax and lose the stress of it all in the first day. It will take some time to get used to the ship and where to go but try to lighten up and enjoy the process of it all.
- Specialty Dining; We took advantage of the Royal Caribbean "buy one - get one" (BOGO) dining option which allowed us to eat at specialty restaurants two nights in a row for the price of one. It had to be used in the first two nights (depending on who you spoke with) but was very worth it. Apparently not as many people book the first two nights so this is a good deal and worth it if you plan to do specialty dining.
- Make show reservations early even if you want to change your mind. However - go ahead and try to go to a show even if you don’t have reservations. They release the venue to people without reservations 15 minutes before the show starts and most shows seemed to have space.
- Check to see if you have the international cell phone package with your provider prior to leaving. That way you can use it when in port and likely pay less than what the ship would cost you for internet. For example the AT&T family plans offer a $10 per day international option for many countries and locations. We used it in St. Maarten.
- Research destinations before you get there. It’s difficult to research on board as the ship information about a destination is geared toward the ships offerings. If you want to see things the ship doesn’t offer you should research before you go. We did the Steepest zip line in the world based on research prior to getting off of the ship.
- If you have a Starbucks addiction bring your Starbucks gold card - it will work on the ship.
- Go to the gym early or while everyone else is eating at dinner time.
- Don’t forget to relax!
Cruise Cost saving tips
- Royal Caribbean allows its passengers to bring up to two bottles of wine per cabin onboard on embarkation day. Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size and should be brought on in your carry-on luggage. This would allow you to save money on drinks.
- If you plan to drink frequently, then get the drink package. However, if you don’t plan to drink at least 4-5 drinks per day, the drink package would be too expensive. Members of our family group did obtain the drink package and they felt that they saved money by doing so.
- Parking at Port Canaveral; it is worth paying the money to park right next the ship. The last thing we wanted to do when we disembarked was to wait in another line. Yes, there are less expensive parking lots further west on route 528, but the Royal Caribbean parking garage isn't that much more expensive.
Nassau, Paradise Island Bahamas
The seven day cruise from Port Canaveral visited Nassau, St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and St. Maarten. All visits were "day stops only", just enough time to do a quick island exploration, and an evening ship's departure.
At Nassau, we selected the excursion to the Atlantis Resort waterpark as it looked like the most fun thing to do, and it had been on our bucket list for a while.
This was a "ship's excursion" so they arranged for tour buses to transport everyone there. We got there too early, and had to wait for an hour for the waterpark rides to open.
The procedure the ship utilized to get everyone onto their tour buses, was that we were told to gather on the pier next to the ship, and then everyone headed to Atlantis was marched over to hop onto the tour buses. Atlantis is only a short ride away, and then we hiked through the resort to get back into the waterpark area.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
The above image is Sapphire Beach, and you can easily see how pretty it is! This is where most of our group went to prior to the snorkel cruise.
Celeste and I decided to skip the morning excursions, because we wanted to be ready for the afternoon/evening catamaran cruise & snorkeling trip. So we did some minor shopping and then hung out on the ship and relaxed till our Sapphire Beach group returned and met us on the cruise ship dock.
The first snorkeling event was to see the turtles swimming in Turtle Cove on Buck Island. There were a number of turtles swimming about or searching the sandy bottom, so most everyone got a chance to see at least one turtle.
The second snorkeling event was in Shipwreck Cove on Buck Island. There is a very good video of the wreck on YouTube.
This is the "official" Flying Dutchman picture of us headed up to the top to ride the zipline. As you can see in the background, the views of the island are fantastic.
If you would like to see a great video of our descent on the zipline, it is on YouTube here.
After the zipline ride, we caught a taxi over to Karakter Beach, next to the island airport. We ate lunch here, hung out for a while, and then caught another taxi back to the cruise docks to do some shopping.
Just for the record, the Princess Juliana International Airport is immediately adjacent to Karakter Beach. This is the famous airport where people line up on the beach to get blown into the water by airplane jet exhaust. Take a look at this YouTube Video to see what it looks like.
The cruise docks area was filled with small shops, with every kind of merchandise you can imagine. Rum, tee shirts, hats, jewelry, etc. There were even a number of bars where you could indulge in some adult beverages.
A spin around the ship
Basketball courts near the stern of the ship. Very popular place, always busy, but pickup games seemed to be the norm.
One of the adult pools - there are four pools onboard, this one catered to the adults and kids have their own pool play area.
This is the Opal Theater; we saw two shows here and it is a very comfortable venue with an excellent sound system. The theater seats 1,380 and it is also the gathering place for various excursions, etc.
The Central Park area (deck 8) looking forward from near the aft elevators. Central Park has 12,500 plants, 62 vine plants, 56 trees and bamboo.
There are two main elevator areas, one forward and one aft with 12 elevators in each area. Yes they could get busy at various times, so each elevator group is flanked by a set of stairs.
Near the speciality restaurants in Central Park; Giovanni's Table is on the starboard side (right) and the Chop's Grill is on the port side (left) of this forward looking picture.
Yes the speciality restaurants are not inexpensive, but as we explained earlier, we bought the Royal Caribbean "Buy-one-get-one" (BOGO) meal plan. It should be noted that the two restaurants that we visited had very high quality selections.
Looking up from in the Aqua Theater area at the rock climbing wall.
This view gives you some idea of the size of this ship doesn't it?
The "Aqua Theater Suites" are located in that structure that connects to each side of the ship. Each suite is very large, and provides occupants with a bird's eye view of the Aquatheater area below.
Did I mention that we were able to enjoy a couple of NFL games on those huge Barco LED screens? What a great way to watch a game; sailing through the Caribbean Sea, comfortable temperature and seated with other NFL fans!
Yep, when you are traveling with a family that watches the Washington Redskins whenever possible, you know we are going to be out there in the Aqua Theater at game time!
Interesting Oasis FactsThe following statistics came (in part) from our friends at Cruise Critic
- The Oasis of the Seas is 1,184 feet long, 208 feet wide, has a 30 foot draft and is 213 feet high above the waterline. In comparison, the original Panama Canal locks are 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long. Even the new Panama Canal locks are but 180 feet in width, so clearly this ship will probably never be found in the Pacific Ocean!
- The ship contains 3,300 miles of electrical cables -- roughly the width of the U.S.
- 110,231 pounds of ice cubes are made daily.
- Central Park has 12,500 plants, 62 vine plants, 56 trees and bamboo.
- The AquaTheater pool is 17.9 feet deep and is one of the largest pools at sea.
- 4.7 million pounds (564,000 gallons) of fresh water are consumed every 24 hours.
- The ship has 7,000 works of specially commissioned artwork.
- There are 20 chefs, 222 cooks and 102 sanitation and cleaning culinary crew.
- All breads and pastries are made fresh onboard. The bakery has a machine that makes 4,000 rolls an hour.
- Consumption in an average week: 15,600 pounds of beef; 16,000 pounds of chicken; 18,000 pounds of potatoes; 8,000 gallons of ice cream; 10,200 bottles of beer; 86,400 eggs; 45,000 pounds of fresh fruit; 62,000 pounds of fresh vegetables; 2,225 bottles of wine; 3,500 bottles of water; and 18,000 slices of pizza.
- There are a certain number of people that feel that the Oasis class ships are "too big". We did not find that to be the case. We felt that the size of the ship allowed for a wider separation of crowds. For example, at meal times, with so many choices, no one place was over crowded. Yes, if the ship were to anchor and ferry passengers ashore, the size of the ship would cause huge delays in getting off & on. But every port we visited had good docking facilities that could accomodate the Oasis of the Seas.
- Bigger ship means more entertainment and a much larger gym than you will find on the smaller cruise ships.
- Do your own due diligence for excursions in each port. Royal Caribbean is only going to advertise/talk about excursions to places they have arrangements with. This is not a "negative comment" it is just a reminder that you might miss out on something in a port that you could have had fun at.
- Our balcony cabin was very comfortable and a decent size. The bathroom had a "real" shower door and the hot water was plentiful. Our cabin attendant was very friendly and told us repeatedly that if we needed anything to just let him know.
- To see all of our 2018 Caribbean Cruise pictures, click here.
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