Oasis of the Seas: Debark and Final Thoughts

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.

Positives

  • 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.

Negatives

  • 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.

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 6 in Cozumel!

Our final stop on this cruise was in Cozumel, a port we’ve been to several times in the past. Normally we use this as a beach day and just grab a cab to one of the local resorts, but having already spent a day on the beach in Labadee this time, we decided to try a dune buggy excursion through a supplier we’ve used in the past for both clients and ourselves, ShoreTrips.

The ship docked pretty early, and started allowing people to get off at about 8:15. We weren’t scheduled to meet our tour guide until 11am ship time (10am local time), so we hung out and ate breakfast at the MDR before getting off to check out a few of the local shops. It was pretty humid, and none of us really had the patience to walk all of the port shops in that heat, so after picking a couple of things up, we grabbed a cab to the Hotel Cozumel and Resort where we were scheduled to meet our guides ($12 for 5 people for the cab ride).

On arrival, our guides Omar and Ronny from Cozumel Buggy greeted us and led us over to some seats in the lobby. Once we got all checked in with them and they went over what the tour entailed, they led us and the two other groups to our buggies. These things were pretty cool, just note that whoever is going to drive needs to be able to drive a stick, all of their buggies have 4-speed manual transmissions.

We started with a drive out of the city, following Omar all the way, and eventually ended up driving along the incredibly scenic coastline before stopping at a little resort for about 30min of beach time. Here you can order food and drink if you want, but you do have to pay for it. The guide carries water and soda in his buggy that’s included, so we didn’t choose to buy anything, we just hung out in the ocean for a while:

After the beach break, we got back in the buggy and drove down the coastline a little more before stopping at El Cedral for some Mayan history. The guide gave us a talk on the history of the town, and took us for a little traditional Mayan food. We also had the chance to take pictures next to a Mayan temple and purchase some items from local vendors.

Next up, we drove around the remainder of the island’s coastline and back to the hotel we started at. That brought us to the last parts of the excursion, snorkeling and lunch, in that order. The snorkeling itself was just okay, as you hop in the water from a pier across the street and swim out in to a rocky shoreline area. We did see some small fish and a couple of rays, but it was pretty choppy, and I think the three of us were pretty well spent by the time we got back to the pier and got out.

After getting out and dried off, it was time for lunch. We ate at the hotel’s buffet and were served fajitas, along with a few sides. They cooked up both beef or chicken, but ran out of chicken near the end of the line. I had the beef, which wasn’t bad, but the fries on the buffet were pretty cold. Oh well, for the most part I think everyone got filled up before we called it a day and grabbed cabs back to the boat.

We were all pretty worn out, and decided to skip dinner in the MDR, as nothing on the menu really seemed worth getting cleaned up and dressed up for. We had tickets to Come Fly With Me, the acrobatic show, so we hit that up at 8:30. It was a pretty good show, save for the singing.

After the show ended, we headed to Johnny Rockets. This isn’t free for lunch or dinner, but at dinner you pay a $6.95/pp cover charge and can eat whatever you want on the menu. Soda and water are included, but shakes and anything with alcohol is extra. I had the Route 66 burger while Bayley had the grilled cheese, and we both ordered the bacon cheese fries. Yummy… I have a lot of working out to do after we get home to burn all this off…

That about covers day 6. I’ll try and get my recap of our final day aboard the Oasis done tomorrow, with a post on our disembarkation experience and final thoughts a few days later after we’ve had some time to decompress and put our thoughts on the sailing together.

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 4, Visiting Jamaica!

Going in to the cruise, I think we all were a bit apprehensive about stopping in Jamaica. Our only other visit to the island was 8 years ago on an NCL cruise, and it ended with a pretty serious injury to one of my daughter’s hands due to negligence on the part of the zip line operator. That was also the cruise where we saw that if you’re late coming back from a cruise line sponsored excursion, they will in fact wait for you. Due to the injury we were an hour late getting back to the ship, and obviously the last tender from shore before departure.

On this stop, things couldn’t have ended any differently. We booked an excursion through Royal that took us to Dunn’s River Falls for a climb up the falls, followed by a lunch stop at some resort, and ending with a 35-minute river tubing trip. There were a couple of lows, but overall we had a lot of fun!

After getting off the ship and meeting at the designated location for our tour, we were broken up into two groups of ~15 for the bus ride. It was nice not being packed into some large tour bus, the small groups were perfect. On departure, they told us they were changing the order, and that we’d do the falls first, so that we could avoid the larger crowds that show up later in the day. That was fine with us. After about an hour of riding in the bus, we arrived at the falls to a mostly-empty parking lot. There were a couple other small tours there, but the place never felt overcrowded.

After getting all checked in, we were assigned a guide and videographer and were led to the bottom of the falls. For those who have never done this, it’s really not that hard. They scrub the path every morning to keep it from getting slippery, and are always pointing out the best spots to step on the way up. Now, there are times that your group has to hold hands and form a human chain while climbing, but overall it was pretty easy to get around. The guide was great, and while the videographer did a good job of capturing everyone along the way, we chose not to pay the $40 for the DVD, as I had my GoPro with me.

After the climb, they lead you back to the bus through the little market place there, where you do encounter some pushy shop owners. This is one of my least favorite parts of Jamaica, as we all remembered it having some of the pushiest locals of any port we’ve stopped in, and this area was no exception. After a string on “no thank you” responses, we made our way back to the bus to head out for lunch.

The lunch stop was some little resort along the way where you get access to a buffet with some mediocre eats. Things like jerk chicken, rice, beans, salad, and assorted deserts. One thing to note here, on the way in they give you a very small glass of rum punch. That’s the only free drink you get here. Period. Bring water… Also, a very pushy gentleman will take your families picture on the way in, and try to get you to buy it on the way out for $10. He’s a pretty bad photographer, as a few pics were blurry, and ours was fogged over. Yea, no thanks.

After leaving the resort, we took a short drive to the starting point for the river tubing. This was an absolute blast. The last time we did something like this was in Belize, cave tubing, and we were highly disappointed. That wasn’t what I consider tubing, as they pulled us down the river the entire way, there was zero current. Here, there was plenty of current, with a few small drops along the way. Nothing to fear though, it was really, really fun!

After tubing, we all loaded up in the bus for the long ride back. As we were leaving, it started raining pretty hard, which made the drive back even slower. On arriving back at the port (around 4:30pm ship’s time, if I recall), it wasn’t raining there yet, but was about to start. We walked through a couple of shops and picked up a few small items before heading to the ship right as it started pouring. One nice thing about the enclosed shopping area at the port, the store owners aren’t pushy like they are everywhere else.

Even though we got back pretty close to dinner time and were soaked and tired, we managed to get ready and make it on time, and enjoyed another tasty meal with more excellent service from our wait staff.

After dinner, we headed over to Dazzle for Battle of the Sexes, but the best we could do seating-wise was an upstairs section against the center glass, and even with that view, couldn’t really see a thing. A lot of people seemed to be really unhappy with the views in there, and a number of others left without being able to find a seat. That was a pretty popular game show that was held in a really horrible venue. I think we stuck it out for 10 minutes before we decided to head to the boardwalk so Bayley could take picture with the penguins from Madagascar:

That pretty much did it for the night. Bayley went hunting for a snack, but with some very limited options at 9:30pm (basically Sorrentos and the half a dozen items in the promenade café), chose to skip it. We’re still really surprised at how limited late night snacking is on a ship this size.

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