Oasis of the Seas: Day 7, Our Final Sea Day :(

Our final day at sea couldn’t have started off better. Once again, clear blue skies and beautiful water were all we could see. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather all week, and this last day on board was no different.

Once again, looking to avoid buffet crowds and enjoy a more relaxed environment, we headed to Park Café for breakfast. This little spot really is nice, and while it doesn’t offer the selection the Windjammer does, it’s a fine substitute if you’re not looking for a buffet.

This final day at sea was fairly relaxed, with no shows on our agenda. After breakfast, we headed in for a round of trivia, followed by a towel folding demonstration. We enjoy these, but this one was pretty short. I think they quickly made two animals and ended it, lasting only about 5 minutes. Not sure what the rush was, and the guests around us seemed as perplexed about the rush as we were.

Next up, we headed for the zipline. This is something we’d been meaning to do since day 1, but decided to wait to avoid the lines for signing waivers (since the electronic waiver system in the cabin wasn’t working). Note that to do the zipline, you at least have to have socks on. If you don’t have closed shoes (tennis shoes, basically), but have socks, they’ll loan you shoes, but if you show up without socks, you’re not getting on. We were all set, and after a short wait in line, took our turns flying across the boardwalk! While not quite as exciting as the zipline in Labadee (we should have done this one first J ), it was still a treat to see the boardwalk from directly above it.

After a quick lunch in the MDR, we headed to the comedy club for Captain’s Corner, where guests could ask Captain Rob anything they wanted. It was a very entertaining hour, as he’s very well spoken and quite funny at times. I highly recommend attending this on any ship, especially this one.

After the talk, we headed to the Schooner Bar for progressive trivia. We thought we were in a good position coming in to the 3rd and final round, and scored 19 out of 20 on this one, only to find out we’d actually tanked the first round and ended up not placing in the top 3. Oh well, we had fun regardless!

After trivia, Bayley changed into a bathing suit, and we headed up so she could try the FlowRider. It wasn’t all that busy mid-afternoon, and she got on after a short wait in line. She was glad she did it, but took a hard fall into the rear barrier, and didn’t want to give it another go due to the resulting headache. We also watched the FlowShow later in the afternoon, where the Flowrider staff shows off their skills. If you have the time, this is really fun to watch, just be sure that you stand a bit back if you don’t want to get wet!

At dinner, it was time to say good bye to our wait staff. I can’t say enough good things about Gerson and Rydon’s work this week with us at table 649. They were very friendly and attentive, and they’re definitely one of the best MDR teams we’ve had in a long time.

We didn’t really have a lot on tap in the evening, so after a quick picture with King Julien and a stroll around the ship, we headed to the Promenade for the DreamWorks “Move it, Move it” parade. Even getting there 15min prior, the best spot we could find was near the aft area of the promenade, which was a mistake. If you really want to attend this, stay forward of the Prmenade Café, or you’re not going to see much of what goes on, in part because of the smoke they pump in at the beginning. Puss n Boots comes down in the Rising Tide, but he’s at the forward section of it facing away from aft.

I spent a little time after that walking around various areas of the ship, including a trip up to the Flowrider area to catch the sunset. Really, really amazing view from up there.

The rest of the evening consisted of the TV and Movie trivia round, held in “On-Air”, which wasn’t even close to the size they needed due to the large crowd that showed up. It was fun, regardless, even though we got knocked out in round 1. After that, it was time to pack and put our suitcases out, sadly.

That pretty much covers our final day on the Oasis of the Seas. Over the next couple of days, I’ll get our thoughts on debark and overall impressions of this cruise up and published. Hope you’ve found all of this useful and entertaining, I know we enjoyed experiencing it!

Oasis of the Seas: Day 5 at Sea!

Our second sea day was a mixed bag for me. I can’t really explain why, maybe it was the “alpha, alpha, alpha” call that happened just after 8am (medical emergency) that put a damper on my mood, but it took me quite a while to get in a “sea day” state of mind. The call happened as we were within sight of Grand Cayman, and we didn’t stop for any evac, so hopefully that means the person in question is okay.

We ate at the MDR for both breakfast and lunch, which turned out to be a pretty good choice. The breakfast menu had some chocolate -themed breakfast items on them. Bayley had the chocolate pancakes and loved them. One of the cool things about eating at the MDR for both meals is that in addition to the menu choices, there’s a buffet you can eat off of too.

Between the two meals, Jen and Bayley took in the “Splish Splash” show in the aqua theater, and came back pretty overheated. The downside of watching a show out there during the day is that you can endure quite a bit of sun any humidity. Good show, just too hot to watch from out there.

Somewhere in there, I went for a stroll on the sundeck, on 14 forward. As mentioned before, it’s a pretty cool place to hang out and enjoy the view. While I’d hate to book a cabin up there due to the additional traffic it draws when in use (port side access only), I really enjoy the serenity it offers:

After lunch, the girls were signed up for a cupcake decorating class in Cups & Scoops on the Boardwalk, so we headed down to get going. The class was pretty cool, and besides them there were a few kids in there enjoying the fun as well. The class lasted just over half an hour, and cost $22/pp. A little pricey, but I get it, they’d be overwhelmed with people wanting to do it for the free cupcakes if they didn’t charge. Regardless, they had a blast, and each made froggy cupcakes!

After a bit of a rest, we headed to the Opal theater for bingo. I expected this to be a letdown after the fun that was the Bingo Boys on the Divina, and wasn’t wrong. We didn’t even end up playing. After standing in a ridiculously slow moving (and poorly managed) line outside the theater for bingo cards, we discovered that the cheapest package was $44. Uh, what? We just wanted to play one card and have a little fun, but had no intention of spending that much, so we left.

We decided to get ready for dinner (our final formal night) a little early so we could make the 5pm round of general knowledge trivia. Sadly, no win this time. Following our trivia loss, we headed up to the sundeck to take a few pictures of Bayley up there in her formal night outfit. There was next to no wind, and the observation decks up there made for a perfect backdrop:

Dinner was once again quite delicious, as I had some tasty prime rib. The highlight of the menu, however, was the dessert, which included baked Alaska and grand marinier soufflé. The latter was incredibly good, to the point that Bayley and I wish that’s what we’d had for each course ;).

We capped off the night with a quick picture with Po from Kung Fu Panda, followed by the ice show, Frozen in Time. It was a pretty good show, especially the part with the sand painter. I’m always amazed when I see that done, as I find it to be an incredible art. The performer last night was incredibly talented, as were all of the ice skaters.

We were all pretty dead at that point, and with Cozumel on tap the next morning, decided to call it a night. Sadly, we’re entering the home stretch here, with only a couple of days before we have to return home. Keep an eye out for my next post though, our day in Cozumel promises to be really fun!

Oasis Of The Seas: Day 2 Is In The Books!

Our first sea day here aboard the Oasis was both fun and frustrating at times. If I’ve learned one thing that needs to be passed on, it’s that anyone sailing a ship in this class needs to ensure they bring a large amount of patience. Between the elevator waits, buffet lines, and overall crowds in some areas, there are times where you really see the downsides of being on such a large ship. So how did the day go? Let’s take a look!

As usual, I woke up early, getting out of bed at 7am, throwing some clothes on, and heading to Windjammer for breakfast. At this point, not many people were up, so the buffet was pretty dead, and I was able to get a good seat:

I was a bit disappointed in the quality of breakfast up here, as the bacon and pancakes were both pretty soft (the pancakes a bit under-cooked). I didn’t even bother with the waffles, as they were way too soft for my liking. This seems to be a common theme with cruise ship buffet waffles, and while I get that it’s hard to cook for this many people, would it kill a line to cook at least one batch of waffles long enough for them to be golden brown?

Regardless, I decided to head for the Promenade to fill my soda cup, as the Freestyle machines in Windjammer were in bad shape (all out of ice, one totally unresponsive to touch). Arriving at the machines outside of Sorrentos, I found one out of both ice and low/no calorie soda, which brings up my next gripe. I understand all too well how these work, so I know they can be problematic, but keeping it full of ice shouldn’t be a big deal (the same one was still out of the same two items at 11am), and as it happens, the machines are set up to electronically inform someone when a soda cartridge is almost empty, so unless they’re not set up right, someone should be pretty aware that servicing is needed. The other machine was fully operational, so I grabbed a Pibb Zero (with ice) and decided to check out the walking/running track on deck 5. Pretty cool use for the space, as I’ve found the equivalent deck on the last couple of ships we were on to be totally dead most of the time. There were quite a few people out there making use of it, too.

After walking it once and strolling around a few other areas, I headed back to the room, where the girls were starting to wake up. After getting ready, they wanted some food, so I walked back up to Windjammer with them. As soon as we arrived, we turned right back around. Yea, if you want to eat at the buffet, get there early. The line of people waiting for a table was pretty long, and considering it was something like 10:30 by now, there’s no way all of them got in before it was switched over to lunch. In our opinion, the Windjammer is way too small for a ship with 6200+ passengers. It’s the smallest buffet of any ship we’ve been on in the last 5 years, which seems really odd considering the passenger count.

The buffet plan thwarted, we headed to the café in Central Park, which turned out to be a good call. There was hardly anyone there, and we were all able to get something pretty quick. It’s not a full buffet, but does offer enough selection to be a decent substitute for waiting in some other line. I ended up getting a bacon egg and cheese biscuit, which wasn’t too bad.

Our lunch over, we did a bit more walking around, including passing back through the Promenade as some “sales” were happening. Wow, the crowd…

At that point we headed up to the zip line area to see if we could get a run on it in, but the line for waivers was ridiculously long, and the zip line had already closed for the morning. Side note here, you’re supposed to be able to sign the waivers electronically on the TV in your room, but it fails every time once you get past the general waiver, at least for us. Oops. Anyway, knowing we’d have to wait in that line to sign up to ride it after it opened back up, we decided to wait on the waivers, too. We were just past the start of lunch at that point, so we headed to the Solarium Café to check out the eats there. All in all, not bad, just more limited choices than what you’d see in Windjammer. Following lunch, we headed to the room to rest up for a bit. We had a few things on tap starting at 2, so getting in a little break sounded good to all of us.

Our schedule this afternoon had us in the Schooner Bar for a couple of hours enjoying some trivia. First up was the progressive, and while we don’t know what score we have currently, felt like we did okay. Following that was brain-teaser trivia, and we ended up being declared co-winners of it after tying another team with a perfect score, followed by both of us getting his only tie-breaker correct. The prizes included highlighters, zipper pulls, and even a backpack/water bottle. In our final round, the cartoon music trivia, we didn’t fare as well, but really weren’t too far off of the winning score (I think we lost by two). Not a bad afternoon, but I will say that we all agree the trivia sessions on the Divina were a lot more fun and lively.

After everything in the Schooner was over, we headed for the boardwalk, where the Daily Planner indicated we’d find some pirate themed stuff going on. Nope. The staff had some kids activities going on, and the performers were practicing in the Aqua Theater, but no pirates were found anywhere. Oh well, we hung out and watched the diving practice. They really are amazing. I have no doubt it takes a lot of guts to jump off those high platforms…

Next on tap was dinner, so we headed back to the room to change. Tonight was the first formal night, too. Dinner itself was good once again, with the highlight for me being the beef tenderloin and the bittersweet chocolate soufflé. Oh, and the birthday cake, which was finally delivered to the table tonight, complete with a round of singing. I have to say, the chocolate celebration cake on Royal’s gift site is absolutely delicious!

After a quick trip to the room to change in to more comfortable clothes, we headed to 4 so Bayley could get a pic with Alex the Lion from Madagascar. Yea, even at 20, she loves character pics! That pretty much capped the night for me, as I was feeling pretty tired. The girls participated in Majority Rules (which they said was “just okay”, again, not as good as on the Divina), and walked around a bit before calling it a night.

Day 3 brings our first stop, Labadee, Haiti, which is Royal’s private island. We’ve got the zip line booked, and plan to enjoy the beach the rest of the day! More to come!


Disney Dining – Round 2

With everything going on the past couple of months, I haven’t had time to cover our Thanksgiving trip to Disney World, so it’s time to fix that. First up, our experience with the Plus Dining Plan, which gives each person on the plan 1 table service meal, 1 quick service meal, and 1 snack for each night of your stay.

This is our second time using the dining plan, but the first using one that included table service. As mentioned in my June post, I was iffy on getting the dining plan again, as I felt that I ended up eating a lot more unhealthy food than I would have without the plan, but the decision was made to go with the higher level plan this time around to see what we could get out of the table service meals.

We did a lot of planning for this, and I mean a lot. Jen was on the dining site nightly for several weeks trying to get our table service schedule just right, and in the end it paid off. We ended up with several character meals, including one for Thanksgiving dinner! Here’s a quick look at where we used the table service credits:

Be Our Guest: This was actually done as a quick service meal, but it was so much better than the first time that I wanted to include it. We were scheduled for an 8:00am breakfast here on our first day, the same time the Magic Kingdom opened. The nice thing about making dining reservations for that early is that you end up in the park before everyone else. There’s a separate line for those with dining reservations, and if I recall, we got in to the park about 7:50am to make our way back to the restaurant. They do have cast members along the way keeping an eye to be sure no one’s headed in a direction they shouldn’t be, but getting in the park that early is awesome. Here are a few shots of the (mostly) empty park I took along the way to the restaurant:


Additionally, we were second in line at BoG, so we got through ordering pretty quick and were able to easily get a table in the West Wing near the rose. The food was decent, too. I had the croissant doughnut, which was very tasty.

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Donald’s Dining Safari Thanksgiving Lunch at Tusker House Restaurant: This was (obviously) our Thanksgiving lunch, scheduled for 2:45pm. We’d had an awesome day already at Animal Kingdom, having done the Wild Africa Trek first thing that morning (I’ll cover that in my next post). We got to Tusker House around 2:30 and checked in, and maybe waited 5-10 minutes to be seated. The buffet itself did have some changes to it, with traditional Thanksgiving items laid out in addition to some of the normal menu items. One note here: the dessert table isn’t well placed, as it always seemed to have a line, and that line runs in front of the table that holds things like the South African preserves, Tabbouleh, and Hummus, which my wife was disappointed to discover only after she was full since she never saw those items until she went for dessert. Still, it was a fun Thanksgiving lunch, complete with Donald Duck and Friends!


Fairytale Dining Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table: Yea we did, and you should too! This isn’t an easy reservation to get, but Jen’s perseverance with the Disney Dining site paid off. Also note that this counts as two table service credits per person. We had a 9:05am reservation, and checked in slightly before that. After a short wait outside, were taken in to the lower waiting area where you meet and have your picture taken with Cinderella. After another wait for your name to be called, you’re taken upstairs to your table. The entire place is well done, with attention to detail in every aspect of it. Just like every other character meal, as you eat, the various princesses make their way around the dining area and stop at each table for pictures and autographs.

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Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare: We did this the same day we did Cinderella’s Royal Table, so it was a princess-heavy day. We were second in line at 1900 Park Fare when it opened for dinner, and for those with little ones, I highly recommend being there for the dinner opening. The little girl in front of us got to help them open the doors. Here, that means saying the magic words, and having Cinderella and Prince Charming open the doors, welcome her in, and lead her and her family to their table. I can only imagine how much that meant to her, so for other parents who want a shot at this for their kids, opt for the 4pm reservation and be there early!

Food-wise, it was the best buffet we had. The meat on the carving station was perfectly cooked, and everything else I had, including the mashed potatoes, was excellent. As we ate, Cinderella, Prince Charming, the step sisters, and the wicked stepmother made their way around. The sisters and mother were hilarious, too, as they were perfectly sarcastic to everyone they talked to. Case in point: when the red-headed step sister came over, she took one look at Bayley’s red hair and said: “Look at your hair color, it’s like we’re better than everyone else!”. At one point, one of the step sisters passed a crying baby a couple of tables over and loudly said: “Stop crying, you’re fine!”. Really funny stuff, everyone we saw was eating it up!

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Princess Storybook Dining Lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet HallOkay, maybe we went a bit overboard on the princess-themed character dining, but we really wanted to try Akershus. It’s similar to Cinderella’s Royal Table in that after you check in and have your name called, you have your picture taken with a princess, which in this case was Belle. After being seated, it’s the typical “eat while characters come by” setup. The food was pretty good, too. The appetizer portion of the menu is buffet style, with it being a “Taste of Norway” setup with meats, cheeses and seafood, among other items. There are two sides to the buffet table, with both sides being identical. This isn’t clear at first, and results in people walking the whole thing, slowing down the line as they cut in to see what’s on the opposite end. Somewhat annoying, but oh well. From the entree menu, I had the Traditional Kjøttkake, which is Norwegian meatballs on mashed potatoes. D-e-licious!


All of the table service meals were great, as was the Be Our Guest breakfast using quick service credits. Our other quick service meals were at places we ate last time, including Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs (still the best value for quick service, imo), Pizza Planet, and Contempo Cafe. All good stuff, I just didn’t feel the need to cover them again. We were disappointed in the specialty cupcake selection this time, as Pizza Planet only had a Thanksgiving-themed pumpkin spice cupcake (left pic), which was just okay. Contempo did have a few more options, including the creme filled cupcake I got (the chocolate one below). Mmmmmm.

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In the end, I felt the same way about this dining plan as I did in May with the Quick Service plan, that it’s not something I feel it necessary for us, but it may very well be a good option for a larger family. After everything was calculated, we’d saved close to $300 total by getting the dining plan (vs paying for each place we went outright), but then again, it’s highly unlikely we’d have done this many character and quick service meals, or even gotten as many snacks as the plan offers, so who knows if we would have even spent as much on food as the dining plan cost. I’d say that in both cases, the dining plans just “enabled” us to eat at more of the park options than we would have otherwise. I did enjoy it more this time, due in large part to the table service choices we made.

Five Delicious Eateries on the Norwegian Escape

The Norwegian Escape boasts 28 possible places to fill your belly as part of their whole Freestyle cruising setup. Being that there was no standard MDR with assigned dining times, we decided to give a few specialty restaurants a try, and pre-purchased the 3 meal dining package. Prior to this, I think we’ve only eaten in two or three specialties on all of our past cruises, so this was a big change for us. When it was all over, we hit 12 different restaurants over the course of this trip, including the free options and Supper Club.

We spent a bit of time trying to decide where to eat on the dining package, and after some back and forth finally settled on Teppanyaki, Moderno Churrascaria, and La Cucina. We set up reservations for all three ahead of time out of concern for seating availability once we got on board, as we only had certain nights available due to our conference schedule.

So how was the food? Honestly, it was all really good, which I wasn’t expecting. This is all going probably to come off sounding like I’m trying to suck up to NCL, but I mean every word of it. If we didn’t like something, I’d be more than happy to call it out, like I keep doing with the Supper Club. I truly left the ship amazed at how good these five restaurants were. Let’s take a quick look at the pay restaurants we ate at, in the order we dined there:

Teppanyaki: We love Japanese steakhouses. The ones we usually eat at are mostly chains (Kabutos, Nakato, Benihana), with our favorite being Kabutos. This blew those away. Absolutely delicious from start to finish. Service was great, the food was great, and our chef did an outstanding job. It really set the bar for the rest of the cruise in all apsects, as it was the first real meal we had on board. I had the filet and green tea cake. The fruit pic is my wife’s dessert, which the menu claimed to be exotic fruits. She liked it, but didn’t really feel it was all that exotic. Regardless, we left quite happy. One thing to note here, you never run out of rice. They cook enough for everyone to have at least two servings, so you can ask the chef at any time for more, as it’s sitting there on the grill staying warm throughout your meal. Another thing on the rice, they grill it up with garlic and butter, something we’ve never seen in this food genre. As my wife put it: I didn’t think fried rice could be improved, but I was wrong. The rice is amazing!


Food Republic: We decided to eat here on a whim on night three. We hadn’t planned to pay for any food above the three we’d already booked, but it was well worth it. You order everything on an iPad at your table instead of the traditional server-based ordering, and the food itself was outstanding. Jen had chicken skewers and sushi (don’t recall specifics on that, unfortunately) and she really liked it. I had the 18oz Wagyu bone-in rib eye and it was some of the best meat I had all week, and was perfect with the chimichurri sauce that came on the side, although it stood on its own just fine too. As shown in the picture (which I wish was better quality), it arrived pre-cut, and every piece was perfectly cooked. If you only eat at one specialty on the Escape, this one should be at the top of your list. As shown, we had a window seat and ate as the sun set, which made the experience that much better.

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Cagney’s Steakhouse: Again, not on our original list, but we totally backed in to this one. Some friends or ours, also fellow agents, had been invited here by one of the NCL execs, Alex Pinelo, and they were able to invite two other couples along, with us being one of them, which we appreciated very much. We can’t thank him enough for the hospitality, and I have to say that the food, wine, and service was excellent! One of the best ship-board steakhouses we’ve eaten at, with our filet being perfectly cooked all the way through. Didn’t hurt that this happened on my birthday, so added bonus for me! We both had the baked potato soup and the 8oz filet. I had mac and cheese as my side (that was just okay) and the yummy chocolate cake for dessert, while Jen had the apple crisp. I think my only issue is how long it all took. Start to finish, I think we were there for more than two and a half hours, possibly three. I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth though, it was an excellent evening.

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Moderno Churrascaria: I love a good Brazilian steakhouse, so this was mostly my choice. Any place where people keep coming by my table with meat is good by me. I don’t remember a lot about the salad bar, other than there being plenty of choices, so I’ll go straight to the meat. My favorite was probably the signature steak, which if I recall was some sort of flank cut. Really, really good. The sausage was also a favorite of mine. Mmmmm. In addition to the signature, my wife’s other favorite was the grilled pineapple, which was also popular with both tables around us. The only filet I had was the well done one as it turned out, but by the time I realized it I was too full to try the medium version unfortunately. That was the only issue I had all night, and only an issue because I wasn’t paying attention when he said it was well done. All in all a really good night, and as usual I left the green button up way too long :). The plate of meat you see was shot right after I realized that and flipped the card to red. The dessert is a delicious cake they brought me for my birthday, which could easily have been shared with three to four people.

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La Cucina: We ate here on our last night, and scored a table outside. If the weather is right, this is definitely the way to go, the ambiance outside is outstanding. Eating a good meal out on a nice quiet deck at night? Yes please! We both had the meat lasagna, and agreed it was excellent. There’s a place near us (Arooji’s Wine Room) that has some of the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten, and La Cucina beat that. Hard to do, in my opinion.  I’d definitely eat here again, especially if we could sit outside. We both had the beef carpaccio in addition to the aforementioned lasagna. I had the chocolate torte for dessert, while Jen had the lemon curd ricotta cheesecake. That chocolate torte was super rich, but I powered through and finished it 🙂

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That about covers the pay restaurants we ate at. As mentioned in the last post, all of the other restaurants we ate at (Taste, Savor, Margaritaville, Manhattan Room, O’Sheehan’s, Garden Cafe buffet) were good too, with the notable exception of the disappointing food in the Supper Club for the Brat Pack show. We were very happy to see that Norwegian’s put some effort into improving the quality of the food on board, it’s definitely paying off. If anyone has specific questions on any of the dining venues we ate at, feel free to ask in the comments!

Full disclosure: I’m very much a meat and potatoes guy, and in no way claim to be a foodie, so YMMV 🙂

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