Not long ago we ventured out on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas for a seven-night tour of the Western Caribbean. We made only three stops along the way at Labadee in Haiti, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico.
An Oasis Class ship is huge. It can accommodate 6,780 guests. But the funny thing is, you really don’t feel crowded. We’ve read countless posts from potential cruisers saying that they absolutely hate sailing on these “monster” sized ships, citing long lines and big wait times because of the overcrowding. Truthfully, we don’t see it. A ship like the Oasis of the seas has 24 guest elevators, 9 complimentary restaurants and 8 specialty restaurants. There are 11 bars and lounges on board, many of which have entertainment at night or even in the afternoon. When you think about it, a town that size wouldn’t have all of these services. There are even 3 doctors and 5 nurses aboard.
Service is generally good aboard this and other Oasis class ships, and the entertainment is what we consider to be above average in the cruise business. The great thing about Royal Caribbean is that they have so many ships, they employ a large number of entertainers. If you make several voyages, you’re likely to see different shows each time. With the exception of the main stage shows and ice performances, you’ll even see different performers each time you sail on the same ship since they tend to rotate through the fleet. The ice performances and main stage shows, of course, are often specific to one particular ship because the sets are complex.
So, what makes an Oasis class ship so much more than other ships? Let’s take a look:
When you enter the Oasis of the seas for the first time, you enter on deck five and are presented with the Royal promenade. This is like the Freedom class ships in that it’s a central area designed to look like a street; maybe a typical small town in western Europe, or so it seems to us. There are shops and cafes, bars, just about everything you could need if you were visiting a small town on vacation.
Our favorite haunt was the Café Promenade. It’s a small café centrally located in the Royal Promenade that we used for our daily “people watching.” We would usually head down to the Café Promenade in the mornings after breakfast for another cup of coffee and a bran muffin. They serve up complimentary muffins and pastries, with sandwiches at lunch and dinner. Coffee and tea are also on the house, but you can buy specialty coffee drinks too. It made for some good competition for the local Starbucks that was located towards the forward end of the Royal Promenade.
Johnny Rockets is a hamburger chain that also has restaurants aboard the Oasis class and Freedom class ships. There’s an extra fee for lunch or dinner here, but aboard the Oasis of the Seas, breakfast is complimentary. We recommend Johnny Rockets if you’re looking for a burger that takes you back to mid-twentieth century America. They’re pretty close to the real deal as we remember them. Try the Peanut Butter Milkshake. If it’s not on the menu, ask for it anyway.
At the very back of the ship is the Aquatheatre. This is a pool that is close to thirty feet deep. You can take SCUBA lessons in this pool, and yes, there’s a five-star PADI dive center aboard the ship for this purpose. But the real reason for the Aquatheatre is for the show.
The Aquatheater presents one of those kinds of shows that you should plan to see early in your cruise, because you’re probably going to want to see it again. It’s hard to categorize, but the show you’ll see here involves water, high-divers, acrobats, and arial performances. Think of a circus-like stage show with a large swimming pool that is sometimes a pool and sometimes a stage, and even both. The stage raises above the water to provide dry land for performers, then lowers into the water for swimmers and divers.
There are also two rock climbing walls aboard the Oasis of the Seas, and they’re located at the Boardwalk.
Up on deck 8 is Central Park. This area is also open to the outside, but is located in the central part of the ship. In other words, it’s open to the sky with stateroom balconies along each side, but the front and back are closed. The unique thing about Central Park is that it’s what you might expect by the name. it’s a park, complete with lush greenery and trees with walkways. And yes, the plants are real. Along the walkways, you can encounter a number of shops and restaurants, including the Royal Caribbean signature steakhouse, Chops Grille. There is also a restaurant called 150 Central Park that is elevated even above Chops Grille. For a complimentary lunch or dinner, there’s the Park Café, which is very popular.
There are three and a half bars in Central Park. We say three and a half because the rising Tide Bar is on a hydraulic platform. Part of the time it’s in Central Park on Deck 8, and part of the time it’s on the Royal Promenade on Deck 5. When it’s in the Central Park location, there are fountains below it in the Royal Promenade.
Deck 15 and 16
Decks 15 and 16 are where you might expect all the regular outdoor activities to be on a cruise ship. The pools, golf course, zip line, and the two Flowriders for our surfer friends are located up top. There are four pools and six whirlpools aboard this ship.
There’s one pool designed primarily for the youngsters with bright colors and water features, but there’s also an area set aside for the more mature crowd, meaning guests sixteen and older. This is called the solarium and is located in the front of the ship on Decks 15 and 16. There’s a couple of whirlpools, a café, bar, and plenty of areas for sunbathing and relaxing. It’s a quite oasis on an otherwise lively ship.
Deck 16 is also where the main buffet style dining area is located. It’s called the Windjammer Marketplace and it’s located towards the aft part of the ship, with views of either side of the ship, the basketball court and golf course and the zip line that spans the Boardwalk below.
Normally, Decks 15 and 16 would be the main attraction on a smaller ship. And if this was a normal ship except with over 6,000 guests, this would be an overcrowding situation without a doubt. What makes the Oasis class ships different is the other areas mentioned above. The Promenade, Boardwalk, and Central Park and significant areas of interest by themselves, and they certainly draw a large number of guests away from the usual sun-bathing by the swimming pool activity that seems to be the standard on smaller ships. The existence of these other areas is how we can justify saying that crowds are not really an issue aboard these massive ships.
The Oasis Class and Freedom Class ships have an ice rink. It’s called Studio B. This is another of those shows that you’ll want to see early on in the cruise if at all possible, because each time we’ve seen the show, we wanted to see it again.
If you want to try your hand on the ice while at sea, there are times when guests can take to the rink too. On our last cruise, there were two distinctive times for skating; one set aside for skaters who needed skates, and one for guests who brought their own ice skates onboard with them. Normally we’d think that bringing ice skates along on a Caribbean cruise might be a classic case for overpacking, but not aboard the Oasis of the Seas.
This is not close to a complete guide to all the Oasis of the Seas has to offer. We didn’t mention the theater, the gym, the great walk and running path on Deck 5, or even the three level main dining facility.
There’s no question that one of our favorite cruise lines is Royal Caribbean, and it’s no secret that of their massive fleet of ships, our favorite class of ship so far is the Oasis class. We’ve been sailing on Royal Caribbean since the 1990’s and they’ve always presented interesting ships with the “right” design. We must be in the middle of their target demographics, because they always have just the right amount of bling, the right amount of opulence, with surroundings that both wow us yet make us feel comfortable while we’re on-board.