The weekend before Thanksgiving, my husband Kelly and I had the opportunity to see Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, the Oasis of the Seas. It was a 1-and-a-half day travel agent “cruise to nowhere.” We could have spent a week on the ship and not seen all there is to see. One of Royal Caribbean’s slogans is “deliver the WOW!” and they sure did that on the Oasis. We were wowed when we set foot on the Mariner last February, but this was so beyond anything seen on a ship before, that words often fail to describe the “Oasis experience.”
First of all, the Port Everglades built a new terminal to process the 5,400 (6,300 if completely full) guests that will be embarking and disembarking every week. All around the Caribbean, ports of call will be building new terminals that can handle the world’s largest cruise ship. Sometime in late spring, Royal will be alternating east and west Caribbean itineraries, but for now it’s just the eastern Caribbean ports of call. In addition to all those guests, there is a crew of 2,100 on board. Some of the crew member jobs have never been seen on a cruise ship to date: such as synchronized swimmers, high divers, an artist who works in sand and is part of the ice show, and a horticulturalist for the 12,000 living plants and trees in Central Park.
I don’t think you could ever be bored on this ship. In addition to the normal ship board activities: bingo, trivia games, pool side sexy legs and belly flopping contests, karaoke and dance lessons, card room and library, movie theater and live music in the clubs, the Oasis has not one, but two surf simulators, a working carousel on the boardwalk, the longest jogging track at sea, full-size basketball court, mini golf, a zip line 80 feet above the boardwalk, ice skating as well as ice shows, parades in the royal promenade, and in the aqua-theater there are high diving, synchronized swimming and gymnastics, scuba lessons in an 18-foot deep pool, and a fountain that squirts 65 feet in the air. There’s also a rising tide bar, which literally rises from the royal promenade on Deck 5 to Central Park on Deck 8. Oh, did I mention the signature rock climbing walls? There are two of them, each 43 feet tall.
What about kids? There are no less than seven different age-specific youth programs: for infants of 6 months to those 17 years of age. Youngsters have a puppet theater and science lab. The teens have their own living room, video arcade, disco, and soft drink and snack bar.
Speaking of food, there’s more than enough to go around. Some eateries are at an additional charge, but most are complimentary. In addition to the three-story dining room and the buffet, there is Asian cuisine, a doughnut shop, ice cream parlor, Johnny Rockets and the Seafood Shack, Sorrento’s pizza, Cupcake Corner, and the Park Café. Then there are the specialty restaurants like Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and 150 Central Park, if you are looking for an extraordinary dining experience.
There are many bars and lounges with live entertainment. Speaking of entertainment, the Opal Theater will be doing the Broadway show Hairspray, in addition to other themed shows. There’s Blaze nightclub, Dazzles for music from big band to disco, Comedy Live and an intimate jazz and blues lounge. Did I mention the ice show and the shows at the Aqua-Theater, the spa, gym classes, and the casino? Well, if all else fails, you can grab a good book and relax by one of four pools or 10 whirlpools.
I think my favorite spot on the whole ship has to be the Solarium, an adults-only haven across the bow of the ship on Deck 15 with spectacular 180-degree views, a fresh water pool and, on Deck 16, two cantilevered whirlpools suspended 136 feet above the ocean. The Solarium Bistro serves health-conscious food. As night falls, the Bistro transforms into a starlit restaurant with specialty dining and dancing. (The teens have their own deck area on the rear of the ship.)
Speaking of the ocean, it’s easy to forget that you are at sea. During our short time on board, we were just slowly cruising, and never felt any motion. But they say that even at full speed, the wide beam of the Oasis makes for a stable ride. The beam is 208 feet; almost double the Panamax ships, the maximum width of ships that can transit the Panama Canal. The ship measures 1,184 feet long — that’s a bit longer than the Titanic’s 882 feet. The height is the same as a 23-story building. The Oasis displaces 100,000 tons, the same as a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. The ship’s tonnage is 225,282, which is a measurement of space, not weight. Oasis is 30 percent larger than Royal Caribbean’s Freedom class ships.
So how does one find their way around? By each set of four large banks of elevators, there are touch screen computers that will direct and map you to your room, to the theater or restaurant of your choice. It will show you current capacity of the restaurants, so you know which eateries to avoid. It will show you what’s going on at any given time, so you don’t need to carry along a printed agenda of activities. This information is also available on your interactive flat screen room TV. Advance reservations for shows and specialty restaurants are recommended, either online before your cruise or via your room TV once on board.
There are no less than 37 different stateroom options to choose from. How do you know which one is best for you? The answer is to always book your cruise through a travel agent; not an “Internet seller of travel” — they will not have the same quality of advice or answers to your questions that an agent will. Internet site employees do not take continued education, and I’m sure they have not cruised as many ships and lines as we have. And since there is not a charge for using an agent, I am always mystified as to why people continue to ignore our professional services. Are the Internet prices better? Seldom!
Due to our relationship with the cruise lines, many times we have access to extra promotions that are not available on the Internet. One of the reasons we affiliated with a host agency is so that we can provide our customers with a much larger selection of group sailings. Not only do groups usually come with a discounted cabin fee, they often offer extra amenities from free wine to ship board credit. So call us to compare. You have nothing to lose, and possibly a lot to gain.
We have another Quilters’ Cruise in September 2010, this time to Alaska on Holland America. Call Cruise Port Travel for details at (928) 472-7878. We are located at 900 W. Driftwood Dr. in Payson.
Kelly and Carol wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year.