Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Review
More than your average mammoth vessel, Oasis of the Seas left us awestruck in so many ways. But is it worth the added expense?
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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