This one’s a bit overdue thanks to a pretty hectic schedule, but the delay also gave me a bit of time to reflect on the whole week and not be too blinded by the debark experience. Let’s get right down to it!
After a really smooth embarkation, I was surprised at how bad debark was. We had a 10:05am departure time, which we thought was fine, but delays pushed that back to just after 11am. No biggie, we had a couple of days for the drive home and weren’t planning on doing it in one day anyway, so we hung out in the promenade area waiting for our number to come up. When it did, we headed to Silk, waited our turn, and exited the ship. Then the real fun began.
After exiting the gangway, we waited in a bit of a line that took us into the typical warehouse setup where you have to find your group’s pile of bags. I really missed MSC’s conveyor-style setup at this point. Once in there, we located our bags and headed for the customs line. Wow. We walked the length of the warehouse, back and forth multiple times, winding our way to where the customs desks were. Frankly, there was no need for the line to be setup the way it was, there was no wait at all, other than having to stop constantly for people having trouble walking their bags through the maze. Pretty poor line management in here, in my opinion. Getting through customs was pretty fast after we got up to the front of the line, so we headed outside to find our parking shuttle. The failure in design of this terminal became even more obvious at this point.
Since we were late getting off the ship, we were now in a sea of people trying to both depart and arrive. The side of the terminal set up for shuttles is way too small to handle the number of people coming and going during busy times. Only a few shuttles at a time can get in there and park due to the limited number of primary spaces , so there are attendants working the line of incoming shuttles and buses, only allowing new ones in when others fill and leave. For some reason, they were leaving the spaces in the center of the lot open most of the time, which seems like wasted space. We stood out there for at least 30min while our shuttle was in line waiting on access to the pick up area. During all of that, you’re basically having to navigate around all of the people arriving at the terminal, which makes for a really fun time. All in all, I think we ended up at our car around 12:30pm or so. Definitely one of the slowest debarks we’ve ever had.
Moving on, the cruise itself was fun, as I think I’ve showed throughout the previous posts. I do think I’ve finally found a ship that’s too big for my tastes, however. It’s a beautiful ship, I just felt (for lack of a better word) disconnected from everything going on around the ship the whole week. Hopefully my reasoning behind it will become apparent in my positives and negatives, but feel free to check out the previous posts from each day too, as I think I called most of this stuff out in each of those.
- As mentioned, it’s a beautiful ship, it really is. Plenty of things to photograph, certainly not the older style decor.
- The food in MDR was good all week. Royal had been one of our favorites for food, but we weren’t sure what to expect since we hadn’t sailed them in 8 years. We weren’t disappointed in the main dining rooms! The pizza, however, had no shot against MSC’s.
- Our MDR service was excellent. Gerson and Rydon provided some of the best service we’ve had in a long time! Gerson mentioned he was retiring in the not too distant future, best of luck to him, enjoy it!
- Bayley and I enjoyed Johnny Rockets, and frankly, the cover fee isn’t bad at all. I think it was $6.95/pp, which allowed you to order whatever you wanted from the menu, save for shakes and alcohol.
- I really liked the boardwalk area, cool spot to hang out.
- The girls had fun at the cupcake decorating class. Granted, it was $22/pp, but still, it was a fun time for them. The other kids in the class seemed to be enjoying it, too.
- All of our excursions were a blast. That big zipline in Labadee is really, really fun, too. The stuff on Labadee and the waterfall/river tubing were the ones we did through Royal, and we were not disappointed with any of them. Score one for ship-sponsored excursions!
- With the exception of Cats, we enjoyed the shows we attended. We made it to Frozen in Time, two of the shows in the Aqua Theater, and Come Fly with Me and enjoyed them all.
- The Dreamworks partnership is pretty cool, and gives kids (of all ages :)) the chance to take pictures with characters all week.
- I don’t think I’d stay in an inside balcony again. It was nice to be able to watch the aqua shows from the balcony and see what was going on around the boardwalk, but I missed the direct view of the ocean and the ability to just sit out there and relax. One key downside of the interior balconies is that they get little to no airflow, so it was really hot humid on our balcony a few times. I tried writing blog entries out there a couple of times and even in the morning, the humidity was too much to deal with after a few minutes.
- The entertainment staff just didn’t seem that in to it. It’s probably not fair to be judging this right after two sailings on the Divina, but most of them really seemed like they were phoning it in, the energy level just wasn’t there, and at times they were reading off of canned trivia sheets they seemed to be looking at for the first time. Just an overall lack of preparedness in several cases.
- The venues for some activities are just poorly designed. The battle of the sexes for example, was hosted in Dazzles, which is not designed to host something like this. A good chunk of the upstairs seating can’t see the main stage clearly, and from what I could tell, a lot of people downstairs were having the same issues. We were up against the center glass upstairs, couldn’t see what was going on, so we left after 5min. Other venues on the ship (like On Air and Comedy Live) seem have similar issues with sight lines and capacity for popular events.
- The reservation system for shows needs work. We felt like we needed to book our shows prior to sailing to be able to get in, so we booked a couple of months out. By the time we sailed, we’d more or less forgotten what shows we had tickets for and on what days we were set to attend. Sure, we should have printed it out, and yes, you can navigate the TV menus to find your reservations, but some sort of visual reminder would be helpful. Frankly, between this and the Escape, I’ve learned to dislike this sort of setup on larger ships. There’s enough to do when getting ready for a cruise without having to worry about making restaurant and show reservations ahead of time.
- The Coke Freestyle machines were in a bad state all week. Heck, the one in Challenger’s Arcade didn’t have carbonation the entire time. Many were out of ice constantly, and on a number of occasions, half the soda cartridges were empty. Part of the reason I got the soda package was the presence of Freestyle machines, so constantly having to walk to other areas of the ship to fill my cup up was annoying. Ran in to a lot of people in those lines that seemed to feel the same way.
- Windjammer. Again, wow. This place is way too small for a ship this size. I ate breakfast up there once or twice and had no issues because I tend to get up pretty early, but each time there would be a line of people waiting to get in as I left. Once all the tables fill up, they line you up outside until tables free up. We saw this at all three meals, so if you want to eat there, get there early. Heck, right after we boarded, we headed up there as soon as it opened, and were the first ones in. By the time we were done, there was a really long line of people waiting to get in.
- Overall, we were surprised at how early some of the included (no-fee) eateries on board closed for a ship this size. By 9:30, you’re pretty much relegated to the few items in the promenade cafe, or pizza at Sorrentos for any late night snacking.
- I don’t really understand all the love for the Voom internet. Granted, we only got the social media package, which is throttled (and it showed), but reliability was a bigger issue on Oasis than any sailing we’ve been on in the past year. Way too many instances of it being completely out over the course of the week.
- We’ve seen other agents complaining about items they purchased for clients from Royal’s gifts site not actually getting delivered during the sailing, so I was a bit leery a bout ordering anything, but since it was a milestone birthday for Jen, wanted to do something. I ordered the paisley room decorations, which were there as ordered, but the celebration cake I ordered for delivery in the MDR on night 1 did not. I said something to our head waiter, who hadn’t been informed of any cake order, but he fixed it and delivered the chocolate/chocolate one the next night. Not sure I’d use the gifts program again, however, considering how often we hear about delivery failure.
As I mentioned, it was a fun week overall regardless of any issues, and I’m glad I finally got to sail an Oasis class ship, but it may be the only time I do so. I should be clear that the number of people was never a direct issue. Once you figure out what areas to avoid during certain times (see: Windjammer), the crowds never seem any worse than smaller ships, save for the bingo line, which was just bad. I guess the good thing is that this sailing was the first in a long time where we haven’t blown money on bingo :).
Even if we don’t sail an Oasis class ship again, I was happy to be back on Royal, as the some of the stuff we really liked about them on past sailings were still there, namely the outstanding MDR service and good food. I’d love to try Quantum class, as well as enjoy some of the smaller classes on future sailings.