The Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, had more media coverage than any other new ship to date, but now that the hype is over, is the cruise ship going to live up to expectations? We were lucky enough to be on the first sailing of the Oasis of the Seas and would like to share our thoughts and impressions with you.
The Oasis is like an urban community at sea, where guests can seek out neighborhoods that fit their personalities and interests: you can stroll through entertainment districts, eat in sidewalk cafes, relax in a tree filled park or indulge in over 10,000 square feet of shops. There are a total of 7 distinct neighborhoods.
Central Park: Spanning more than a football field in length, and open to the sky, pleasant surprises include quiet reading areas, a Chess Gardens with large scale pieces, the Pergola Garden, an interpretive garden featuring vegetation from various Caribbean locales, and a sculpture garden highlighting work by international artists. 254 balcony cabins overlook Central Park. A horticulturist will offer tours throughout the cruise. During the day you can lounge around, stroll along the winding paths or enjoy lunch at the Park Cafe. In the evenings, Central Park comes alive with a wine bar and three specialty restaurants to choose from. One of the most surprising things for me was that there was a lovely breeze in Central Park even when the ship was not moving.
The Boardwalk: The first thing you see when you enter this area is a beautiful hand-carved wooden carousel. There is no charge for the two minute ride, and plenty of adults were enjoying themselves throughout the day. Walk through and you will feel like you are in Coney Island, where you can enjoy shops, various restaurants and carnival games. At the end of the Boardwalk is the 600 seat AquaTheatre. Two rock climbing walls are cleverly included in this area.
Royal Promenade: This area is considered the heart of the Oasis of the Seas. You can watch street performers and parades, enjoy nine restaurants and trendy bars or shop at more than half a dozen shops. Don’t forget to stop at the first ever cupcake shop at sea, the Cupcake Cupboard where you can choose from different flavors daily. The Rising Tide Bar takes you from the Promenade deck up to Central Park while you enjoy a drink and amazing views.
Pool & Sports Zone: Adventurous guests will love this area. Try your hand at surfing on one of two FlowRider surf simulators. Join a game of basketball or ride a zipline nine stories up. While on the zipline, look down for a amazing views of the Boardwalk, especially at night. For the less adventurous, you can play mini-golf or relax in the Solarium, which is an adult only area with its own pool and four whirlpools. Kids can enjoy the H2O zone with playful spray jets, a slide and wading pools. This neighborhood has a total of eight restaurants and bars.
Vitality at Sea Spa & Fitness Center: Visit the Thermal suites, enjoy a relaxing spa treatment or work out on more than 100 cardio and resistance machines. Take a yoga, spinning or kickboxing class. There’s even a list of spa treatments for kids and teens.
Entertainment Place: This is the entertainment district on the Oasis. Watch the Broadway musical Hairspray, enjoy amazing ice skating shows, see live jazz performances or stand up comedy. You can also dance the night away at the nightclub or try your luck at the casino.
Youth Zone: Over 28,000 square feet are dedicated to children of all ages. Not only are there individual programs for various age groups each with their own counselors, computers and activities, but they also include time to participate in experiments in the first ever Science Lab at sea, as well as art and crafts time in the Imagination Studio with great Crayola products. There is a 100 seat Adventure Ocean theater which lets kids learn about theater arts and performing. Teens have their own area one deck up with a nightclub, outdoor area and lounge. First ever at sea, is a program designed for children 6 months to 3 years of age (called Royal Tots).
The ship offers a number of other cruise industry firsts. There is an 18 foot pool, where those interested can take scuba diving lessons during the day. The pool is located in the Aqua Theatre, which also offers elaborate water shows by night with divers and fountains synchronized with music. There is an Auburn Speedster in the Promenade. Perhaps the boldest move was the number of tropical plants that need to be maintained in the Central Park neighborhood. There are over 12,000 trees plants, vines and flowers.
The ship is very easy to get around, and if you are unsure how to get somewhere, there are electronic signs near every elevator. All you have to do is punch in your cabin number and it will show you the way. You can also see the daily cruise activities and restaurant menus from this screen.
Is the ship perfect, no. We found the counter space in the cabins to be too small. For much of the entertainment, you need to get tickets in advance as performances sell out, which means people may have to be on more of a schedule than they would like to see some of these attractions. We are concerned with parking when the ship is full, as there is no shuttle service once the two nearby parking lots are full. We have heard some complaints that the ports of call are not exciting. True, but the ship is a destination in itself.
We realize that the Oasis is not for everyone, which is why it’s so wonderful that there are so many amazing cruise options these days. We can all agree on one thing, that the Oasis of the Seas is a beautiful and innovative ship.