Oasis of the SeasRoyal Caribbean Cruise Line
One of the largest ships in the world -- the one that kicked off the equation of bigger equals better when it launched in 2009 -- Oasis of the Seas makes an impression even before you board. Dwarfing its counterparts at Port Everglades, the mega-ship looms like a condo building or perhaps an office park. The this-can't-be-a-ship effect continues as you board; lined with shops like Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Starbucks -- and most importantly, no outside windows -- the ship's Royal Promenade gives the impression of a hectic mall, rather than a cruise ship.
And yet, Oasis of the Seas (and its sister ship, the larger-by-a-few-inches Allure of the Seas) has been enthusiastically embraced as one of Royal Caribbean's most beloved vessels. Built in 2009, the ship changed the mega-ship industry, with first-at-sea features, such as Central Park, containing more than 12,000 live plants, and an innovative design that has two large interior areas open to the sky. Even with an official capacity of 5,400 passengers, Oasis regularly sails at 100 percent or more (maximum is 6,450), at a premium price point for the line. Its onboard attractions are so popular that up to 30 percent of the passengers never get off the ship in port.
So what makes Oasis of the Seas work better than other large ships? The secret is its neighborhoods, which carve the ship up into manageable pieces and keep bottlenecks to a minimum. The Boardwalk, designed as a nod to Coney Island, with two rock climbing walls and a carousel, feeds naturally into the aft deck sports and activity area several decks above, where you find the FlowRider surf simulator, the basketball court, the mini-golf course, a table tennis area and a short zipline. The teen clubs are also in this area; if you're traveling as a family, you'll likely spend a lot of time in this part of the ship.
Meanwhile, at the front of the ship, you'll find the Solarium, a two-story complex of loungers, hot tubs and pools for passengers 16 and older. Serenity continues a few decks below with Central Park and culminates with the Vitality Spa and Fitness Center. These areas of the ship seem remarkably kid-free.
A 2014 dry dock gave Oasis a refresh, and some of the changes may seem confusing to long-time passengers. The huge Opus Dining Room was divided into three separate main dining rooms, each with a different name and decor, in anticipation of a Dynamic Dining program that was never implemented. Suite passengers received private restaurants Coastal Kitchen, an airy Suite Lounge and private sun deck. Ten new suites were also added. Izumi, the popular hibachi joint, received an expansion. On the Boardwalk, Sabor -- a for-fee Mexican cantina -- opened, with an accompanying tequila bar. Hot dogs replaced doughnuts, and cupcakes were relegated to a case in Cups & Scoops. An increased focus on shopping led to boutiques for Michael Kors, Kate Spade and (in 2015) Tiffany's.
Cruising on a ship this size does come with certain requirements. If you want to see the shows and entertainment, you must book online in advance, as the theaters are simply not big enough to hold everyone. If you enjoy specialty dining, you'll want to make those reservations in advance, too. (However, most venues hold a certain number of seats open for walk-in customers and many were rarely crowded.)
To really have a good time on the ship, you might also have to adjust your onboard behavior. Take the buffet, Windjammer Marketplace: It's small and can get very busy during peak hours, so you're far better off choosing one of the other venues for breakfast or lunch. (It does slow down at dinner.) My Time Dining fans can find themselves waiting 20 minutes or more for a table, particularly on formal night. Good luck getting a chair by the pool on a sea day; Flow Rider lines can also get long.
That being said, Oasis of the Seas has plenty of spots that don't feel crowded, particularly if you don't mind zigging when everyone else zags. Stay on the ship during a port day, and you might be the only one in the very cool infinity hot tubs. Many of the ship's signature activities, such as the zipline and FlowRider, open before the vessel leaves port, so those who make it an early day can still have a turn. Book a specialty restaurant, take a walk around the track, get a pass to the Thermal Suite -- these are all ways to make your Oasis of the Seas trip feel like it belongs to you instead of the masses.
Oasis of the Seas features a breathtaking array of possible cabins, with everything from interiors and ocean-views to balconies overlooking the Boardwalk, Central Park and the Promenade. There are also two suites built on their own floor on Deck 17. How on Earth do you choose?
Start by asking yourself a few questions. Oasis of the Seas doesn't have much natural light around the ship, so if that's important to you, book a cabin with an ocean view or ocean-facing balcony. Like to be in the middle of things? Choose a cabin overlooking the Boardwalk or the Promenade. Central Park cabins give you a nice, leafy view. And the suite experience on Royal has undergone an upgrade with more perks and a dedicated restaurant, making the experience more like a "ship within a ship."
Keep in mind that even the most desirable suites and cabins aren't necessarily private. Many of the Crown Loft Suites directly overlook one of the busiest outdoor spots onboard -- the basketball court and FlowRider areas -- and other passengers can see the balconies. Rock climbers pass right by the balconies of the AquaTheater suites. Central Park and Boardwalk cabins can see into the rooms across the way. Choose a cabin too low, and you'll hear noise from below; choose one too high, and you could hear noise from either the pool deck or sports complex. (Make sure your balcony doors are completely closed to avoid this.)
So what's the upside? Boardwalk cabins that are located farther aft do offer sea glimpses and are terrific spots from which to watch performances at the AquaTheater.
The 2014 refurb saw 10 new suites added to the ship, overlooking either the ocean, the AquaTheater or the Boardwalk. These include two Royal Suites, six Grand Suites and two Royal Family Suites that can accommodate up to six passengers each.
All standard cabins have two twin beds that convert to queens, small sitting areas and interactive flat-screen TVs on which passengers can book shore tours, order room service, make dining and entertainment reservations, and check onboard bills. A handful of national U.S. networks like CNN and Fox News are featured, and for the kids, there's the Cartoon Network and a dedicated DreamWorks station. You can also order movies on demand (for a fee). Outlets are U.S. and are situated under the vanities (not particularly close to the bed).
Even interior cabins have enough shelves and hanger space, although in some cabins, it's a tight squeeze between the bed and the closet. Suitcases fit under the beds.
Bathrooms feature glass showers with shampoo dispensers and foot rests for leg-shaving; there is no conditioner or lotion, so bring your own. Hair dryers are located under the desks in the main cabin areas.
Interior: The majority of Oasis' inside cabins are 172 square feet, which feels spacious enough, but there are also smaller interior cabins with just 150 square feet of space. There are Promenade-facing interiors with large bay windows overlooking the indoor thoroughfare; these rooms are 193 square feet apiece. Accessible interior cabins are each 258 square feet.
If you normally choose interior cabins, keep in mind that most public spaces on Oasis, including the dining rooms, do not have windows. You have to work to find the ocean on this ship, so unless you're someone who really doesn't stay in their cabin or who can exist without a lot of light, these cabins could feel claustrophobic.
Ocean-View: Windowed cabins vary in size. Central Park-view cabins are each 194 square feet, while Ocean-views are 174 square feet. You'll find the Boardwalk-view cabins on Deck 7; they're 187 square feet. Accessible ocean-view cabins are 264 square feet.
Balcony: Standard balcony cabins in every category -- Central Park, Boardwalk, traditional verandas with ocean views -- are typically 182 square feet each, with 47- to 53-square-foot verandas. Regardless of size, each outdoor space is furnished with a table and pair of chairs made of metal and mesh. Accessible balcony staterooms that face the ocean are 275 square feet with 42-square-foot verandas, while those on the Boardwalk and in Central Park have 73-square-foot balconies.
Mini-Suite: Junior Suites are 287 square feet; the additional space in each is taken up with a sitting area with a table and sofa. These rooms come with 78-square-foot balconies. In addition, bathrooms in these accommodations feature tubs instead of just showers. Accessible junior suites are 390 square feet, each with a 107-square-foot balcony.
While Junior Suites do not currently get suite perks, in 2016 they will be designated as Sea Class in the line's new "Royal Suite Class" program. Then, passengers in family-connected junior suites, family junior suites and junior suites will receive premium in-cabin touches, such as specialty bottled water; Hermes, Ferragamo and L'Occitane bath products; and pillow-top mattresses.
Suite: There are several suite categories (not including Junior Suites), all of which have access to the new Suite Lounge and Coastal Kitchen, which have replaced the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 17. In addition to a concierge, suite passengers receive a number of perks, including a nightly cocktail "hour" with free drinks from 5 to 8:30 p.m.; priority check-in; reserved prime seating in the main theater; access to full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus for in-cabin dining; luxury bathrobes and complimentary pressing for formal nights; access to a private sun deck with loungers and cabanas; an exclusive reception with senior officers; and free dining in the Suites-only Coastal Kitchen. (Suite passengers can also eat in the main dining rooms, but after experiencing Coastal Kitchen, they will be unlikely to leave it for the larger venues.)
In 2016, Suite class passengers will get even more benefits. Those in AquaTheater suites, Crown Loft suites, Owner's suites, Royal Family suites and Grand suites will be considered Sky Class. Benefits include premium bath products, pillow-top mattresses, free spa thermal room access, free high-speed Internet, an in-suite welcome amenity, specialty bottled water and in-suite dining options.
The Star Class includes the most comprehensive collection of benefits: all of the above, as well as 24/7 Royal Genie service. Royal Genies (or butlers) are trained and certified by the British Butler Institute. Royal Genies help passengers with restaurant and show reservations and in-room dining requests, as well as laundry, pressing, luggage handling and unpacking. Royal Genies also can assist passengers with creating and reserving customized shore excursions. Additionally, Star Class passengers receive a free fitness class, free in-suite movies, free mini-bar, daily gratuities included, access to specialty restaurants for free and a gratis Ultimate Beverage package.
Star Class is reserved for passengers in the two-deck Royal Loft suite, as well as the Owner's Loft suite, Grand Loft suite, Sky Loft suite and Two Bedroom AquaTheater suite.
The smallest suites are the Grand Suites at 371 square feet with 114-square-foot balconies. They feature marble entries, large bathrooms with tubs and two sinks, and a living area with tables and sofas.
The two-bedroom AquaTheater Suites (on decks 8, 9 and 10) are large (820, 720 and 659 square feet, respectively), with two separate rooms, a vanity with a chair in each bedroom, living area with double convertible sofa, dining room, marble entranceway, entertainment center and two bathrooms, one with a tub. But what really stand out are the location and dimensions of the enormous balconies, which are almost as large as the cabins themselves. The balconies give new meaning to the word "wraparound," allowing 180-degree vistas of the Boardwalk, the AquaTheater, rock climbing wall and open ocean, with space for stools, tables, chairs and loungers. Note the balconies also decrease in size by deck, starting at a vast 803 square feet on Deck 8, then shrinking to 716 square feet on Deck 9 and 648 square feet on Deck 10.
The 569-square-foot Owner's Suites each feature marble entries, large bathrooms with tubs and two sinks, as well as living areas with tables and sofas. The balconies are 246 square feet each.
The Loft Suites are two-deck accommodations that have been lauded for their layout and criticized for their garish, multicolored design. Crown Loft Suites measure 540 square feet with 98-square-foot balconies and feature living spaces downstairs with pullout sofas and bathrooms, as well as master bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, each with a shower large enough for two (his-and-hers shower heads), fog-free mirrors and limestone mosaic tile accents. Accessible versions of these suites are also available.
The Sky Loft Suites add some extra space. They clock in at 724 square feet with 376-square-foot dine-on balconies and extra showers in the downstairs bathrooms.
Moving up, you'll find the Grand Loft Suite, which sleeps four and has a private balcony with a Jacuzzi. The size is 972 square feet with a 163-square-foot balcony. The Owner's Loft Suite has the same amenities but is larger, at 1,250 square feet with a 172-square-foot balcony.
The Royal Loft Suite is the most opulent accommodation onboard. At 1,599 square feet with an 875-square-foot balcony, it's the size of a modest home. When you enter the cabin on the main level, you'll find a baby grand piano, a dining area with a dry bar for entertaining, a bath with a shower, a living room sofa that converts into a double bed, and a wraparound balcony with a dining area and private whirlpool. Upstairs, there's a master bedroom and a massive bathroom with a tub, shower, two sinks and a bidet.
The refit saw the building of two new one-level Royal Suites on either side of the Suite Lounge -- where the Pinnacle Lounge and Pinnacle Chapel used to be -- overlooking the main pool deck. Royal has pulled back from the garish colors that characterized the Loft Suites and replaced them with grownup slates, dark grays, browns and black marble in the bathrooms; there's also a distinct absence of shiny chrome.
While these suites are on one level (as opposed to the loft suites), Royal Caribbean has opted to give them a double-height ceiling. The suites are entered via a marble entranceway and have everything you would expect to find in a five-star hotel suite: huge dining/living room with L-shaped sofa, entertainment center with large flat-screen TV, wet bar, special refrigerator to keep wine cool, and a master bedroom with a vast king bed and a couple of chaise lounges in the corners. The bathroom is accessed via a flight of steps and is completely open -- no separate door. There is a standalone shower room, toilet and wardrobe.
Suite 1701 (on the port side) is bigger, at 1,250 square feet with a 172-square-foot balcony; Suite 1758 is 972 square feet with a 163-square-foot balcony.
Family: Allure also has several categories of family-friendly cabins, including insides (274 square feet), ocean-views (272 square feet) and balconies (290 square feet with 81-square-foot balconies). Each offers sleeping for up to six via two Pullman beds, a convertible sofa bed and two twins that can be turned into a queen. There are no tubs in the bathrooms. A number of these rooms also feature bunk beds, tucked away in what can't really be classified as a room. It's more of a space that's divided from the main room by a curtain and just has room for the bed. It's a neat arrangement -- ideal for smaller kids -- and adds a degree of privacy for adults. Book well ahead if you're looking to rope a family balcony.
The six Royal Family Suites, which get all the suite perks detailed above, are generously sized at 575 square feet. Each has two bedrooms and can accommodate up to eight people. Other features include a vanity with a chair in each bedroom, two Pullman beds, living area with double convertible sofa, marble entry, entertainment center and two bathrooms, including a master bathroom with a bathtub. The balcony is 246 square feet and comes with a table and chairs.
With nearly two dozen places to eat onboard, Oasis of the Seas doesn't lack in choices. But it can be difficult to figure out exactly what's complimentary and what costs extra, as some restaurants are free at certain meals, then charge a cover at night. The line doesn't make it easy, either, to figure out what the prices are, as the cover charges aren't printed in your program. Look to the TV in your room for menus.
Oasis of the Seas is one ship where you will want to allocate some money for specialty dining, as the quality of the complimentary restaurants, particularly the main dining rooms and buffet, is not very good. We received mealy shrimp, chicken marsala without sauce and perhaps the strangest looking preparation of escargot we've had. Foodies will want to look elsewhere on the ship to eat.
In terms of crowds, the buffet and main dining rooms can get overwhelmed at peak times, particularly on formal nights and for MyTime Dining (where you can enter the dining room any time you'd like between set hours). Wayfinder boards around the ship tell you which venues are getting slammed, and occasionally the ship dedicates employees to steer passengers toward less hectic areas.
Oasis of the Seas has three main dining rooms for regular passengers and a dedicated dining room for suite residents. The restaurants are divided by floor and were each given a different name in anticipation of Dynamic Dining; that program, which required passengers to rotate through the various dining rooms, has been put on hold. Now all three restaurants serve the same menu each night, despite having different decor.
American Icon Grill (Deck 3): American Icon is reserved for My Time Dining between the hours of 5:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m; you can call for reservations or go see the maitre'd in person. If you don't have a reservation, the lines can be quite long. (MyTime Dining passengers will also have to prepay gratuities.) The decor is Americana, with photos of American landmarks on the walls.
Breakfast is served for everyone in American Icon Grill from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Start your day with a selection of pastries, a cereal bar, smoked salmon, eggs cooked to order, omelets, eggs Benedict, pancakes or quiche. (A Dreamworks character breakfast takes place in American Icon twice a cruise. Reservations are required, as is a fee of $10 per person for diners ages 6 and older.)
There's a Brasserie 30 lunch served there on sea days; it's intended to get passengers in and out for more fun. (None of the main dining rooms are open for lunch on port days.)
Dinners are the same in all three main dining venues. They're served as three courses, although you can order more than one. Starters might include caprese salad or creamy roasted garlic soup, escargots Bourguignonne or a classic Caesar salad. Main courses may include lasagna al Forno, chicken Marsala or roasted rack of lamb. Meat-lovers can also indulge in premium cuts. The Chops filet -- the same 9-ounce one you'll find in the specialty restaurant -- can be had for $16.95; add a lobster tail for surf and turf, and you'll spend $34.95. Classic items that are available anytime include linguini with Pomodoro sauce, grilled chicken breast, broiled filet of Atlantic salmon or Angus beef sliders. Desserts include warm chocolate cake, low-fat panna cotta or chocolate praline fingers. Gluten-free, lactose-free vegetarian and Vitality spa options (where a three-course meal can be had for under 800 calories) are marked.
All restaurants are fairly noisy, with friendly waitstaff who frequently parade and sing. (We heard O Sole Mio on Italian night.)
Grande (Deck 4): One of the three main dining rooms, Grande offers two seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. for passengers who choose the traditional, set-seating option. Decor is elegant with tones of gold; this dining room was originally designed to accommodate formal dining.
Silk (Deck 5): Asian-decorated Silk, the third main dining venue, also offers set seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Coastal Kitchen (Deck 17): Royal Caribbean's dedicated restaurant for suite and Pinnacle-level passengers has proved popular, despite grumblings from loyal-to-Royal passengers. (The restaurant replaced the Viking Crown Lounge, a favorite hangout.) The space is spectacular, with several-story windows providing incredible views, light and airy furnishings, and dining chairs that you can sink into. Breakfast features omelets, eggs cooked any style, eggs Benedict, pancakes and other items typical of a main dining room. The lunch menu consists of soups and salads, flatbreads, sandwiches (the grilled chicken is delicious) and light entrees, such as pasta primavera.
Two Mediterranean-inspired menus are available for dinner. Expect appetizers like Serrano ham-wrapped dates, grilled prawn and arugula salad, and flatbreads. Entrees include caramelized scallops, herb-crusted chicken breast, roasted rack of lamb, and beef tenderloin. Desserts include salted caramel pudding, dark chocolate tiramisu and citrus olive oil torta. While suite passengers can walk in for breakfast and lunch, dinner reservations are required; dinner is served between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. While Suite passengers can eat in the main dining room, we're not sure why they would, as the food and surroundings in Coastal Kitchen are far superior.
Windjammer Marketplace (Deck 16): The ship's buffet is perhaps the one place where you can really feel that you're sailing with 6,000 people. At breakfast and lunch during sea days, the area is hectic, with lines at popular stations and very few places to sit. (While the waitstaff does an admirable job of trying to keep tables clean, you will likely encounter crumbs and dirty dishes at peak hours.) It's much more manageable when the ship is in port.
Options for breakfast (open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.) include eggs, breakfast meats, fruit, cereal, smoked mackerel, bagels, pastries and selections for international travelers, such as miso soup and fried rice. There's an entire gluten-free station, too.
At lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), choose from cold salads, cold cuts, hamburgers and French fries, seafood in cream sauce, a carving station with roasted turkey, international selection like chicken biryani and vegetable curry, and a selection of cakes and desserts.
Windjammer becomes calmer at dinner, served 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Choices can include beef prime rib, pork loin with papaya sauce, Cuban congee rice, hamburgers and hot dogs, cold salads, warm salads, Indian specialties and a plethora of desserts.
Park Cafe (Deck 8, Central Park): Open as a casual spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Park Cafe wins online accolades for its signature roast beef sandwiches. Salads are also popular.
Wipe Out Cafe (Deck 15, aft): Located not too far from the FlowRider, this casual spot offers kid-friendly hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, sandwiches and pizza for lunch (11:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and late afternoon snacks (depending on the date). There's also a soft-serve ice cream station. At breakfast, this area has been set up as an omelet station to take pressure off Windjammer; it's usually open until 11 a.m.
Sorrento's Cafe (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Sorrento's serves several types of slices daily and gives you the option to create your own. Unfortunately, the result is chewy and uninspiring. It's open 24/7.
Boardwalk Dog House (Deck 6, Boardwalk): The Boardwalk Dog House serves -- what else? -- sausages of various types (chicken, all beef, bratwurst). Choose roasted peppers or onions for a topping, or opt for good ole ketchup, mustard and relish. Potato salad is available as a side. Hours are generally 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Room Service: Oasis of the Seas has a nice selection of items on its all-day room service menu, including salads, sandwiches and entrees like fried honey-stung chicken with ranch dressing and sweet potato wedges, and breaded filet of flounder with dill remoulade, seasonal vegetables and pan-fried potatoes. Pizza, a cheese plate and desserts are also available. There's a $3.95 charge between midnight and 5 a.m.
Room service breakfast is an option, too. Choices include scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, cereals, pastries, fruits and juices. Ours arrived hot and on time.
Free and Fee Dining
Cafe Promenade (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Next to Guest Services, this cafe has specialty coffee drinks for a fee, as well as the regular stuff for free; however, every time we tried to get a complimentary cup of joe there, either the carafes were empty, or they were out of cups. Free pastries are available at breakfast and throughout the day, and there's a nice selection of sweets (cookies, cake, Rice Krispies treats) and sandwiches; the ham and cheese croissants are good for a nosh. It's open 24 hours.
Johnny Rockets (Deck 6, Boardwalk): This suburban staple has an outpost on Oasis, serving up burgers, fries and shakes in the heart of the Boardwalk. There's a fee of $6.95 for lunch and dinner, but it's free in the morning, when you can get breakfast sandwiches, and fried or scrambled eggs, French toast, hash browns and other standards.
Solarium Bistro (Deck 15, Solarium): On the lower floor of the two-story space set aside for those older than 16, the Solarium Bistro provides complimentary healthy cuisine for breakfast (muesli and oatmeal, fruit, turkey bacon and sausage) and lunch (salad bar, light sandwiches).
At night, the space turns over to a fee restaurant ($20) that serves more elaborate healthy fare. Starters include toasted barley mushroom risotto, sea scallop and whitefish ceviche, and yellowtail tuna sashimi. A number of salads and soups are available, and entrees might include chipotle spiced basa fish steamed in corn husk with root vegetables; sauteed veal scaloppini; or Muscovy duck breast on lentils. A dessert buffet features low-fat and no-sugar offerings. Tellingly, the Solarium Bistro is the least popular restaurant on Oasis, we were told, which is a shame because the area itself, with fountains and pools, is lovely as a white tablecloth establishment.
Vitality Spa Cafe (Deck 6, Vitality Spa): Essentially a juice counter for the spa, this cafe attracts health-conscious passengers with yogurt parfaits, small sandwiches and low-fat pastries (free), as well as green and fruit smoothies (which cost extra). This area never seemed busy.
Starbucks (Deck 5, Royal Promenade); a la carte: Can't live without your pumpkin spice latte? No worries -- you can buy it at a kiosk in the middle of the Royal Promenade. Note that Starbucks drinks are not included in any drink packages.
Cups & Scoops (Deck 6, Boardwalk); a la carte: Oasis has brought back its partnership with Ben & Jerry's for its premium ice cream selection. Cupcakes are also available there, but as the tiny cakes losing their trendiness, Royal will be bringing in a selection of macarons.
Sabor (Deck 6, Boardwalk); a la carte: This Mexican restaurant replaces the original Seafood Shack and is open at lunch and dinner. The highlight is the guacamole, made to order tableside to your desired level of spiciness; the result is fresh and delicious -- and at $5, it's a bargain. Chips and salsa come complimentary, and the prices for other items are reasonable, with tacos and quesadillas at $5 apiece and entrees, such as mole short ribs or chicken and roasted corn empanadas, costing $10. A special tasting menu that includes the guac costs $20.
Vintages (Deck 8, Central Park); a la carte: Oasis of the Seas has worked to make this wine bar in Central Park a pleasant place for oenophiles, and in terms of decor and menu, it truly is. And yet the space seemed underused, and the wine tastings scheduled during the day were pricey at $40, even for serious sippers. At lunch and dinnertime, tapas can be bought individually (most for about $3 to $7), or sometimes the bar puts out a buffet where you can eat as much as you want for $10.
Chops Grille (Deck 8, Central Park); $39: Royal Caribbean's signature steakhouse is the most popular specialty restaurant on Oasis, despite the ship's plethora of options. Located in Central Park, the restaurant, open only for dinner, tries to replicate its land-based counterparts, but with servers who push upsells at every opportunity, patrons might find it a little harder to relax. (My table of wine-lovers particularly disliked the bottles of Caymus automatically put on the table, with a strong assumption that we'd buy that instead of a more reasonably priced Malbec.)
Your set price includes two appetizers, one entree (although you can order another for an extra charge) and multiple desserts if you're still hungry. Appetizers include forest mushroom soup with truffle oil, several styles of salad, colossal shrimp cocktail, charred beef carpaccio and pan-roasted jumbo scallops. Carnivores can choose from petite (6-ounce) and regular portions of filet mignon (9-ounce) and New York strip steak (12-ounce); the meat is served with a choice of bearnaise, peppercorn and bordelaise sauce. Other choices beyond steak include slow-braised short ribs, veal chop parmesan, roasted chicken, grilled branzino and everything-crusted tuna. In true steakhouse style, you order a variety of sides to share, including creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, truffled corn, roasted mushrooms and grilled asparagus.
Upsell opportunities on the entree side feature dry-aged steaks from Midwestern cows (Iowa and Nebraska) sold as 16-ounce strip steaks and 20-ounce porterhouse for $18. The server also brought out a monster Tomahawk chop that could have fed the entire table; that costs $29.50. Lobster is $21.
Save room for dessert, as the selections are quite tasty. Choices include a gooey chocolate lava cake, huckleberry cheesecake, red velvet cake and another chocolate cake that seriously came out like a chunk of fudge.
All in all, Chops is a fairly good value for the money, and it's a pleasant, quiet place to dine. On the night we went, a string quartet played in the park, and a soft breeze wafted through the open area; a roof over the outdoor portion of the restaurant keeps away any tropical drizzles. Reservations are highly recommended.
Izumi (Deck 4, midship); a la carte for sushi; $25 for hibachi: Royal Caribbean's popular sushi joint has been expanded to include two hibachi grills, complete with knife-wielding entertainment-oriented chefs. A hibachi dinner carries a cover charge of $25 for a meal that includes one choice of meat or $30 for two choices (including beer, chicken, lobster and shrimp). All meals receive a soup or salad, edamame, fried rice or lo mein, cooked veggies and dessert. At the sushi bar, the fish is good quality, and you can order rolls, sashimi, seaweed salad and other favorites like gyoza dumplings. Prices are about what you'd pay on land, with most rolls costing between $10 and $15. Edamame is free. An omakase menu is available for $35. It's open for lunch and dinner.
Giovanni's Table (Deck 8, Central Park); $25 dinner, $20 lunch: A sleeper hit among the specialty restaurants, this Italian trattoria, open for lunch and dinner, turned out to be one of our favorite meals. It offers quality food and none of the upselling we saw at Chops. Your set price includes family-style appetizers, such as caprese salad and antipasti (highly recommended), bacon-wrapped mozzarella on ciabatta bread, seafood stew and Caesar salad. Pasta dishes like crab ravioli, gnocchi, risotto and pappardelle come as a side or entree.
In terms of entrees, one person in our group dubbed his beef tenderloin a better cut than he had received in Chops earlier in the week. The veal osso buco, served with cheese polenta and green beans, turned out to be the standout dish. Another veal dish used tenderloin and filled it with porcini mushrooms, provolone cheese and ham. A dessert cart comes around at the end; if you're too full, take the tiramisu to go for a late-night snack.
All in all, the restaurant delivered a great experience for foodies, with none of the pretension we saw at some of the other specialty options.
150 Central Park (Deck 8, Central Park); $40: The most upscale specialty restaurant on Oasis of the Seas has a six-course dinner menu developed by Michael Schwartz, with wine pairings available for an extra $75. On a seven-night cruise, the menu changes twice. A sample menu might be a baby beet salad with red quinoa, kalamata olives, pistachio and yogurt-poppyseed dressing; slow-roasted butternut squash soup; homemade fettuccine with Florida rock shrimp, chorizo baby vegetables and manchego cheese; mahogany black cod with whipped parsnip and baby bok choy; pan-roasted filet au poivre and chocolate salted caramel panna cotta with black peppercorn shortbread. The restaurant will substitute a course if you don't like an ingredient or have dietary restrictions.
Chef's Table (Deck 17, Suite Lounge); $90: This special six-course dinner, complete with wine pairings, is held twice per cruise. Only 14 passengers can go to each seating, so book early. Passengers meet in the Champagne Bar for a drink and then go up to a special table set up in the Suite Lounge. (While the set-up is in this restricted area, anyone can book the Chef's Table.)
A sample menu might include hearts of palm, served with avocado, tomato and Champagne vinaigrette; sweet pea soup with truffle poached egg and nueske bacon; butter poached lobster; beef tenderloin with morel mushrooms and smoked garlic-potato puree and a duo of chocolate mousse and chocolate lava cake. You'll also receive a copy of your menu to take home.
Between the two upscale dining experiences, which is the better value? If you're a wine lover and are interested in pairings, you're actually better off doing the Chef's Table than 150 Central Park. Keep in mind that Chef's Table almost forces you to be social, while 150 Central Park has tables for couples and groups. The Chef's Table can also last a long time; on my sailing, one group reported being there for over four hours.
Seven-night cruises have two formal nights and five casual nights; formal night is only applicable in the three main dining rooms. Although there is a tuxedo rental shop onboard, very few men choose to wear them, with dark suits or simply a sport coat and tie becoming the norm. Women are typically found in cocktail dresses, maxi sundresses or gowns.
The bulk of Oasis of the Seas' live entertainment takes place in the Entertainment Zone on Deck 4. Keep in mind that none of the ship's venues can accommodate everyone who wants to see a show; if your heart is set on not missing out, you'll have to book before you get onboard. If you didn't plan ahead, try to make reservations with Guest Services, either in person or over the phone, or show up at the venue at least 15 minutes before showtime to see if you can get in. (We found this worked for the ice show and Cats but not so much for the AquaTheater diving performances or comedians.)
Opal Theater (Decks 3, 4 and 5): The three-deck theater is home to Cats, the monster Broadway/London hit. The show has a four-year contract on Oasis, but due to its running length (almost three hours) and only a handful of popular hits (do you know any except "Memory"?),it seems to be a mismatch; many passengers leave before intermission. That doesn't mean the quality isn't good, as we found the show to be similar to what we saw in London's West End many years earlier.
A Headliner Act also plays there several times a cruise. During our voyage, the show featured a ventriloquist, but on other sailings, there might be an ABBA tribute or an a cappella group.
Studio B (Deck 4): This multipurpose theater can be used for special theater productions and events, such as mega-bingo. But its main claim to fame is as the home of the ship's ice skating rink. Free skating is available during sea days. The ship also puts on an ice show several times a voyage that is genuinely entertaining, particularly for children and international passengers who might appreciate a show without language barriers. During our sailing, we were impressed with "Frozen in Time," an exploration of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. (Once you realize that the skaters are performing their tricks while the ship is moving, it's hard not to be amazed.)
AquaTheater (Deck 6): Taking up the ship's aft near the Boardwalk, the AquaTheater is home to one of the signature shows of Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, and you'll want to make reservations online before you come. The 30-minute shows feature a team of Olympic-caliber divers, gymnasts and synchronized swimmers who splash down into the deepest diving pool at sea in a routine set to music. Don't miss it.
Comedy Club (Deck 4): Comedy shows are quite popular on Oasis, with both a PG and an adult version offered most nights. The venue is small, however, and it's one of the first offerings to book up in advance.
Oasis of the Seas has an abundance of programming throughout the day; you have to work to be bored on this ship. Expect to see plenty of trivia sessions, shopping and spa "lectures," art auctions, beer tastings and martini mixology sessions, dance classes and bingo. Movies or football games are occasionally broadcast on the screens near the AquaTheater. DreamWorks 3D movies are shown in the Opal Theater. The world's sexiest man and belly flop contests are held in the AquaTheater.
Oasis has three arcades onboard. The Boardwalk's version (simply named Arcade) has traditional carnival games like Skee-Ball. Full of video games, the Challengers Arcade on Deck 15 is conveniently located to the spots where teens hang out. Adventure Ocean, on Deck 14, also has an arcade for the younger set.
You don't have to have a child in tow to ride the carousel, also on the Boardwalk. It's free, fun and has plenty of cool painted horses and animals to delight kids and kids at heart.
The Royal Promenade feels pleasingly familiar among Oasis' many first-ever spaces. Yes, there's new stuff here, such as Rising Tide Bar, which travels from the Royal Promenade to Central Park. Sure, the Royal Promenade is wider, with nearly twice the girth of the Freedom-class ships. It's also noticeably lighter -- one aspect of the ship's new design is the skylights that let daylight in. The shops offer the usual suspects -- duty free that's actually pricier than that on the islands you'll visit, and Oasis souvenirs -- but there are a couple of new options. Willow, a shop geared to the 30-plus set, has lovely casual clothing (designers ranging from Eileen Fisher to Spirit), jewelry and accessories. There's a minimally stocked camera shop that could benefit from a little bit more merchandise (and perhaps could bulk up on the kind of stuff you really do need to buy on vacation; it was already out of camera memory cards when we paid a visit). Above it is a vast photo gallery.
Central Park, with its 12,175 plants and 56 trees, offers a lovely respite from the buoyant energy that otherwise permeates Oasis of the Seas. The flora and fauna ranges from an herb garden to towering (well, they'll be lofty someday) trees that offer a soft canopy. You may be onboard in an inner-facing space, but Central Park is open to the sky and, interestingly, through use of wind-controlling technology, there's a lovely breeze blowing through the area. Beyond the aforementioned restaurants, there are lots of peaceful nooks for simply curling up with a good book. On the retail therapy side of things, Central Park has the first Coach store at sea (thought sister line Celebrity Cruises does sell Coach products in the gift shops on some of its ships). The shop never seemed busy.
Oasis of the Seas features the largest and most sophisticated casino afloat, Casino Royale, located midship on Deck 4. There is a themed walkway entrance, and The Hall of Odds explores the history of gambling. Design elements include dramatic sculptures, crystal chandeliers, and hues of amethyst, aquamarine and ruby. As for the meat and potatoes of the casino, you'll find 450 slot machines; extensive table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps and Caribbean Stud Poker; a bar and lounge area; a sports book; a poker room; and a players' club. The space allows smoking, and the smell can filter out into the hallway in front of Grande.
Adult Karaoke takes place every night in Boleros. Other evening events include Liars Club, the Love and Marriage game, a guess the lyrics contests, dance parties in the Solarium and the Quest adult scavenger hunt. There's also a special Prohibition-themed party where passengers are encouraged to dress up as their favorite flapper or don gangster gear; it costs $35 for free food and all the booze you can drink.
Kids will enjoy the evening DreamWorks Parade, which includes characters like Puss in Boots, Alex the Lion from "Madagascar," Kung Fu Panda and Hiccup from "How to Train Your Dragon." Make sure you bring your camera. The ship gets adults involved too, with theme parades that include '70s night.
Oasis of the Seas does a brisk business in drink packages. We were told that 50 percent of the passengers buy some sort of alcohol, soda or water package before they board, and another 30 percent buy once they arrive. On a seven-night cruise, you'll have until the fourth day to decide if your consumption habits warrant buying a package.
Blaze (Deck 4, Entertainment Place): The ship's club, which focuses on hip-hop and modern dance music, can get packed with people prepped to par-tay; the dance floor is much smaller than you'd expect for a ship of this size. The space often doesn't open until 11:30 p.m., and there are frequently people lined out front to get in.
Jazz on 4 (Deck 4, Entertainment Place): This jazz club is a must for live music fans. Despite a prominent position in the ship's Entertainment Zone, the club is usually not crowded, and it's a nice place to listen to music without feeling too overwhelmed.
Boleros (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Live Latin music and a location in the heart of the ship mean that this club feels energetic, crowded and fun. Since Oasis draws many international passengers who love to dance, be prepared to be impressed by their fancy footwork.
Globe & Atlas Pub (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): This British-style pub draws drinkers during the day for a pint and people-watching. In the evenings, guitarists play well-known favorites.
On Air (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): A dizzying array of TVs on the outside of this Royal Promenade bar marks this as sports central for the onboard crowd. And crowded it becomes, particularly on Sundays during football season. (Some of the bigger games are shown on the large screen in the AquaTheater.) When the dust on the various fields settles, the space is turned over for late-night karaoke.
Champagne Bar (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): If you gotta have your fizz, this is your hang -- and on a ship that's more attuned to beer and colorful rum drinks, you may be one of the few people inside on most nights. (Cocktails and wine are also available there.) It does become more popular on formal nights.
Rising Tide Bar (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Sure, it's a gimmick. But who cares? It's fun. Patrons board this hydraulic space on Deck 5 in the busy Royal Promenade to drink and socialize as the platform slowly rises to Deck 8's Central Park. The bar's intimate size and its oddness factor make it a good choice for the single traveler events held there nightly.
Schooner Bar (Deck 6, Royal Promenade): Tucked up in a corner of the Royal Promenade, the Schooner Bar does double duty. During the day, it's home to numerous trivia contests. At night, it's a piano bar, where passengers indulge in classic cocktails while singing along.
Sabor Tequileria (Deck 6, Boardwalk): The tequila bar associated with Sabor adds a grown-up edge to the child-friendly Boardwalk.
Dazzles (Deck 8, midship): This two-story jewel-box of a nightclub hosts live bands, as well as DJs. It's a truly pretty place to get your groove on; we found it bumping during '80s night. Dancing there usually ends around midnight or 1 a.m., with Blaze taking over as the main spot.
Trellis Bar (Deck 8, Central Park): A lovely open-air bar in Central Park, Trellis is perfect for a drink before your meal at a specialty restaurant.
Diamond Lounge (Deck 11): The lounge for those "loyal to Royal" is now a two-story area on Deck 11 that comes with a view of the Boardwalk. Members can come in for complimentary snacks and drinks from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pool Bar and Sand Bar (Deck 15, Pool & Sports Zone): These two bars, port and starboard, provide the hordes at the four main pools with libations. (We never saw servers delivering drinks at any of the pools on the ship.) As you can imagine, they are both quite busy on sea days. The Pool Bar on the port side is where smokers congregate.
Sky Bar & Mast Bar (Deck 16, midship): Up one deck from the pool action, these two bars serve sunbathers on port and starboard sides of the Sky Walk, a fancy name for the walkway between the Solarium on one end of the ship and the sports area on the other. Neither is as hectic as their counterparts a deck below, so if you're frustrated with your service (or want to avoid the smoke), this might be your alternative. The Mast Bar is portside.
Wipe Out Bar (Deck 16, aft): Watching other passengers screw up on the FlowRider is a Royal Caribbean tradition. Why not have a drink in your hand while you do it? (Just don't indulge too much before you take a turn yourself.)
Solarium Bar (Deck 16, Solarium): Located on the upper deck of the two-story Solarium, this bar is the place to buy your drinks if you're camped out in the adults-only area.
Suite Lounge (Deck 17): The space formerly occupied by the Viking Crown Lounge is now split into the Suite Lounge (for suite passengers only) and Coastal Kitchen (see Dining). Royal Caribbean has done a good job converting this space, with a self-service buffet area at the back, well-spaced chairs and tables dotted about, and a long, low bar in the center connecting to Coastal Kitchen. It's light, bright, roomy and open 24/7, meaning you could, in theory, spend all your non-sleeping time there.
Suite Bar (Deck 17): Located on the Suite Sun Deck at the front of the ship, this bar is only open to suite passengers.
On Oasis-class ships, Royal has concentrated its pools and water activities on port and starboard areas of Deck 15, separated by the open-air skylight to Central Park. As a result, each pool feels more intimate than typical mega-ship pools, although the sea day crowds are as intense as you might imagine. Want to be the only one in the pool? It can happen. Go early on a day when everyone else is in port.
The Main Pool has a ledge for people to sit and has many loungers around it, arranged stadium-style. Unfortunately, this pool is also closest to the ship's outdoor smoking area, and you can sometimes smell cigarette smoke there. You need to check out beach towels with your room card; make sure you return them when you're done to avoid a fee.
Across the skylight from the Main Pool, the saltwater "Beach" Pool has tan-colored concrete -- not sand. But the area around the pool does have a clever slope that mimics the angle you might find at an actual beach, allowing some of the water to splash up around your ankles. This is the ship's most popular pool, probably because it has shade umbrellas; go early if you want a lounger, or go on a port day.
Separated from the aforementioned pools by a pair of bars, the Sports Pool is paired with the H20 Zone water park for kids. Royal Caribbean has no water slides, but we saw plenty of parents and kids having fun as they splashed through the colorful fountains. The Sports Pool is meant for active pursuits, such as water volleyball and water aerobics; as you might expect, it draws a fair number of kids during the day.
The Solarium has a thalassotherapy pool with fountains and jets that's just for those older than 16. (We saw a man enter with a child, and the disapproving looks he received shamed him into leaving.) Because the area is covered, you won't get the same tan there, however. Also keep in mind that a lack of kids doesn't mean that this area won't be noisy; we saw plenty of adults making as much of a din as you'd hear in the main pool area.
Nine hot tubs are scattered around the ship, some of them with edging to give them an infinity pool effect. Kids have their own bubbling tub in the H20 park, and they seemed to be satisfied with the whirlpools around the main pools, which kept them out of the two larger infinity-style ones (located between the main pools in the solarium, one on each side of the ship).
Rock Climbing Walls (Deck 6, Boardwalk): Oasis of the Seas has two 30-foot-tall rock climbing walls, right near the AquaTheater. All of the equipment is provided, including helmets, harnesses and shoes. (You'll have to bring socks.) For beginners, one-on-one instruction is available for free, by appointment; open sessions are also complimentary. Children must be older than 6, and everyone needs to sign a waiver.
Ice Skating Rink (Deck 4, Studio B): Several times during the cruise, Oasis of the Seas converts Studio B into an ice skating rink for free skating. Long pants and socks are required.
FlowRider (Deck 17, aft): Oasis boasts two FlowRider surfing simulators, one for stand-up surfing and one for less-intense boogie boarding. Unless you're already a top skateboarder or snowboarder, don't expect to be an expert on the Flow Rider right away. Be prepared for wipeouts if you're a beginner (and don't feel bad -- the machine pumps out 34,000 gallons per minute). Oasis of the Seas offers private lessons for $552 an hour or group sessions for $69. Hardcore surfers can rent the FlowRider to use by themselves for $345 an hour. There's a height requirement of 52" for boogie boarding and 58" for surfing.
Zipline (Deck 15, starboard aft): Oasis of the Seas has a complimentary zipline that's short (82 feet) but scary enough, traversing the open-air Boardwalk. You'll need closed-toe tennis shoes and socks. Kids need to be at least 52" tall and weigh 75 pounds; for adults, there's a weight limit of 275 pounds.
Mini-Golf (Deck 15): The Dunes mini-golf course has interesting and colorful statues, with real room to spread out. It's a nice option for those whose kids aren't old enough to do some of the more challenging activities.
Sports Court (Deck 15): Oasis of the Seas has a fairly sizable sports court, used for basketball, volleyball, tennis and dodgeball. Expect to see tournaments during the week, as well as times for free play.
Table Tennis (Deck 15): Oasis of the Seas has one of the nicest areas for Ping-Pong that we've seen on a ship. The secret is that it's sheltered from the wind, so you have no excuse for missed shots.
The Boardwalk: Between the colorful lights, the merry-go-round music and the smell of the freshly minted waffle cones, the Boardwalk absolutely feels like the Jersey Shore or Coney Island. It's charming, for sure: We rode the carousel -- each horse, cheetah, etc. hand-carved out of wood and hand-painted -- until our faces hurt from smiling. The ride is free (no age restriction, though there is a height requirement if you want to ride alone) and lasts two minutes with old-fashioned calliope music creating the soundtrack as you spin.
There are also fun shops here, including a candy store, and an old-timey photo booth where you can print your own color or black and white snapshots in seconds ($5 for 6). One of our favorite Boardwalk diversions is the Pets at Sea shop, Oasis' answer to the "Build a Bear" chain that's popular on land. Pick the "skin" of the pet you want (rabbits, penguins, etc.) and staffers help you stuff it by attaching it to one of two big contraptions that look like oversized gum ball machines -- but instead of gum balls, there's stuffing flying around inside. The stuffing fills and puffs out the pet, along with a fabric heart you've placed inside. All manner of outfits, including a captain's uniform that looks fabulous on a stuffed bear, are for sale. The pet alone is $19.99; outfits are $12.99. If you buy both together, it's $29.99. Your pet leaves the shop in a cardboard box with a precut hole so he or she can poke out a furry head and see the sights.
As we noted before, one oddity about the Boardwalk area is that it doesn't draw the crowds you'd expect. Even on our cruise, in which there were many, many kids onboard, the only time we really saw people congregating here was during an evening, family-themed event. Otherwise, it was a ghost town.
The bulk of lounge chairs are situated around the pools and the Deck 15 Skywalk that runs between them. Deck 14 also has an extensive sun deck, complete with two observation platforms that stick out over the ocean.
Suite passengers have their own sun deck on Deck 17. Accessible by keycard, it has a bar, plenty of padded loungers and views of sea and sky.
The Solarium complex, for those older than 16, is found on decks 15 and 16 forward. It's mostly covered, which means the area can get quite steamy on hot Caribbean days. Within the area, you'll find the Solarium bar, the Solarium bistro restaurant, a thalassotherapy pool, two hot tubs and several decorative water features, along with several types of chairs and loungers. Like the rest of the ship, the Solarium can get crowded on sea days, but overall, we found it more pleasant than the main pool areas.
The Guest Services desk is found within the Royal Promenade on Deck 5. This mall-type area is also home to shore excursion desks, the future cruise office and the photo gallery, as well as several ATMs. The medical facility is way down on the ship, on Deck 2; it has its own operating room and X-ray machine.
Oasis of the Seas has quite a few shops. On the Royal Promenade, you'll find purse purveyors Michael Kors and Kate Spade, Solera for makeup and perfume, a clothing store called Prince & Green, The Shop for logo gear and other items, Regalia for watches and jewelry, and Port Merchant for duty-free alcohol.
But wait, there's more! The Boardwalk also has some stores to appeal to children, including Candy Beach and Star Pier with bathing suits and T-shirts. The artist Britto also has a gallery there. In Central Park, you'll find a Coach store and Tiffany's jewelry store. And finally, if you don't have snorkel gear or beach toys, there's a shop up on Deck 15 that will sell you what you need for your Caribbean adventures.
Park West has a small art gallery on Deck 8 in Central Park and next to Picture This, the portrait studio. There's a library on Deck 11 with a small selection of books. On Deck 14, you'll find the Seven Hearts Card Room for cards, board games and Sudoku. Conferences have their meetings on Deck 3.
With all the excitement over the new features, it seems Royal Caribbean forgot to include a decent Internet cafe onboard Oasis of the Seas. The facility -- two inside-cabin-sized windowless cubbies with a half dozen terminals apiece and four terminals that have hastily been set up in the card room -- is the most appalling we've seen on a cruise ship since shipboard Internet access was first introduced. There's no one manning the Internet operation here and on our cruise, and half the terminals weren't working for days at a stretch. The printers were also pretty mercurial. You have to call the front desk if you have a problem (and since no phones are available in the facilities themselves, you have to go back to your room). Staffers there were generous about issuing credit, but the operation is just atrocious. Best bet: Bring your own laptop if you plan to connect to the Internet for more than the most minimal time. You also have access via your in-cabin television.
Oasis of the Seas installed Voom, its super-fast Wi-Fi, during its refit. The cost is $15 per day, per device (with 50 percent off a second device for one person). The Wi-Fi is a highlight. We found that it always worked and was fast enough to pull down larger files and stream movies. A handful of computers in the Library are available for passenger use.
The ship lacks self-service laundry facilities. Expect to pay $30 for a two-day "wash and fold" full (trash-size) sack of mixed garments.
Lost? Look for the "wayfinders" located throughout the ship. These touch-screen digital signs can enlighten you as to where you are and in which direction you need to go to make that cocktail-mixing class on time.
Royal Caribbean rivals Disney for catering to the under-10s. Through Royal Caribbean's partnership with DreamWorks, trademarked characters materialize for photo ops, perform at the AquaTheater and tickle kids during a character breakfast. (The breakfast takes place in American Icon twice a cruise for a charge of $10 for diners ages 6 and older; reservations are required.) You'll see Kung Fu Panda in the Royal Promenade, Fiona in Central Park and the full DreamWorks army during the "Move It! Move It!" parade in the Royal Promenade. The ship also has a host of family-friendly cabins, with bunk beds and separate rooms (see Cabins).
Royal Caribbean's complimentary children's program, Adventure Ocean, is centered on Deck 16. Kids are divided up into three groups: Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5), Explorers (ages 6 to 8) and Voyagers (ages 9 to 11). Children must be registered and fully toilet trained to take part in activities.
Royal Caribbean has recently become "autism friendly," and this extends to its kids programs. Oasis offers toys that can be borrowed for in-cabin use, as well as movies, games and activities that are suitable for kids with autism.
On a typical day, activities for Aquanauts include story time, face painting, science and art projects, and games themed around the movie "Madagascar" (in connection with Royal's DreamWorks partnership). Explorers and Voyagers have the same, as well as trivia, spelling bees and more advanced science and art projects. Families can come together for scheduled art and science programs, as well as movies.
Adventure Ocean opens at 6:30 a.m. and runs through 10 p.m. Kids are brought to lunch at the Wipe Out Cafe between noon and 1 p.m. and to dinner at the Windjammer buffet between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. There is no cost.
Group babysitting is available for children ages 3 to 11 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Adventure Ocean facilities, cleverly billed as the Late Night Party Zone with fun themes. (What 4-year-old doesn't want to go to a jumping party?) The cost is $6 per hour, per child.
For babies and toddlers, the Royal Babies program accepts infants at least 6 months old up to 18 months; after that, they are dubbed Royal Tots until 36 months old. Drop-off nursery service costs $8 an hour, and parents must sign up for their time in hourly increments. Besides the nursery where the cribs are, there is a large stay and play room, where parents can join their very young ones for story time, coloring and free-time play.
Royal Caribbean offers private in-cabin babysitting for kids older than 1 year. The staffers will bring Fisher-Price toys to your stateroom. The cost is $19 per hour, but the service is subject to staff availability.
Royal Caribbean divides teenagers into two groups -- ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 -- on paper, but in reality, most activities bring all of the young adults together. The teen area consists of three rooms: The Living Room, a hangout area; Fuel, a teens-only disco; and a video arcade. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.
On a typical sea day, teens can play board games, have a basketball knockout tournament, decorate bandanas, go on a scavenger hunt, take a mix class through the Scratch DJ program, take part in a rock climbing wall competition and play in an air hockey tournament. Theme parties, such as white night and prom night, are scheduled, and teens have their own karaoke contests and trivia sessions, as well as specific times to use the ice skating rink, the FlowRider, the Sports pool and the rock climbing wall.
With the Flow Riders, H2O Zone, Boardwalk and incredible age-specific children's facilities, Oasis of the Seas is an obvious choice for families. However, the ship also appeals to active couples and groups, mainly in their 30s to 50s. While the majority of passengers hail from North America, many international travelers from Europe and South America are also onboard, with up to 2,000 in the winter months.
At first blush, the two-story Vitality Spa & Fitness neighborhood on decks 6 and 7 seems to have it all. There's a cafe with healthy snacks and smoothies, an Elemis product bar, a beauty salon, a teeth whitening clinic, acupuncture and a medispa, all near the gym.
And yet, the experience is severely lacking. When you check in for a spa treatment, for example, you are sent downstairs to a windowless Relaxation Room in your street clothes, instead of a locker or changing room. You are then brought in for your treatment without being offered a robe, slippers or other amenities that seem part of the spa experience. (There's nary a lemon in your ice water to be seen, let alone natural light.)
Our treatment itself was very well done, although the practitioner did engage in an Elemis product sell afterward. A request to take a shower after the treatment, however, was greeted with a frown. She went out to get a robe and brought me to a hidden changing room, where I was given a locker and allowed to shower; apparently this is not standard practice. While you can buy access to the Thermal Suite for half price ($15) if you have a treatment, there weren't any saunas or steam rooms in this hidden changing area. There's no locker room in the fitness center, either, which we found strange.
Treatments themselves include facials, massages (including more exotic ones like bamboo and Thai poultice) and body wraps. Discounts are given for repeat visits, and there's a 10 percent reduction for morning appointments on port days, as well as specials. A 50-minute Swedish massage, for example, costs $119 regularly or $107 with value pricing.
The salon provides manicures and pedicures; hair, makeup and waxing services; and barbering. A shampoo and style starts at $35. The Go Smile teeth whitening treatment has an area all its own, but oddly, the medispa that offers Botox and fillers seemed hidden away on the spa's lower level. Mother/daughter and father/son packages are available, although there's no special area of the spa where they are done.
The thermal suite offers several types of saunas and steam rooms, as well as heated ceramic chaise lounges. Unlike thermal lounges we've seen on other ships, however, the room has no views or natural light, and there are no extra pools. (There is a private Jacuzzi that can be booked at extra cost.) A weeklong pass to the Thermal Suite is $199 for one person or $299 for a couple. Day passes are $30.
The gym on Oasis of the Seas seems small for a ship of its size, but then again, maybe people feel like they are getting enough exercise roaming around. (Pedometer users are almost guaranteed to make their step goals.) The space has windows (although no locker room) and features elliptical machines, treadmills, bikes, free weights and weight machines.
Complimentary fitness classes include stretch, total body conditioning and abs. There's a FlyWheel room; the indoor cycling classes cost $25. Yoga on the helipad sold out for $12 a class.
The jogging track on Deck 5 is covered, although your sea view is obscured by the lifeboats. We did enjoy the inspirational messages that urge walkers and runners to keep going. Once around the track is two-thirds of a kilometer; go 2.4 laps to make a mile.
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $13.50 per person, per day ($16.50 for those in suites). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs and spa treatments. The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar, and currency exchange is available at Guest Services.
Date Refurbished: 2011
Country of Registration: Bahamas
Regular Capacity: 5400
Maximum Capacity: 5400
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: International
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
|Experience the ship that revolutionized cruising, Oasis of the Seas® - its groundbreaking design introduced seven distinct neighborhoods built for ultimate enjoyment. Hop on a classic carousel on the Boardwalk®, then watch acrobats splash down in the AquaTheater, the first amphitheater at sea. Let imaginations soar in the Youth Zone - the largest kids' area at sea-or at the Pool & Sports Zone, where you'll find FlowRider® surf simulators and zip line views. Unwind with a stroll in Central Park® - a meandering garden lined with shops and fine restaurants - or melt away stress at VitalitySM Spa. Jazz up your evening with Broadway hit Hairspray, or hit the Royal Promenade for memorable moments with DreamWorks® Experience characters. Join us onboard the ship that changed cruising - a world where innovation rules.|
Health and Beauty
Dining InformationDinner Gratuity Policies
Waiter: $3.75 USD a day per guest
Assistant Waiter: $2.15 USD a day per guest
Head Waiter: $.75 USD a day per guest
Stateroom Attendant/Other Housekeeping Services: $5.00 USD a day per guest
Suite Attendant/Other Housekeeping Services: $7.25 USD a day per guest