Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oasis of the Seas, Day 1

Wow, the Oasis is quite a ship. There is so much to write about her that I’ll break my review up into small entries over several days. Additionally, please note that due to Internet issues onboard, I was not able to post my blogs until now—the day we embarked Oasis and boarded the Ruby Princess. After filling you in on the Oasis, I’ll move on to our Princess experience.

Overall regarding Oasis, though, I would tell you to put aside almost every routine you’ve come to expect on a Royal Caribbean ship, because this one breaks the mold, from the passenger entry point and cabins to entertainment and food.

First, I must say that the boarding process for our two-night inaugural went very smoothly with some 3600 passengers checking in, well shy of the 6000+ capacity, but still a lot of folks. On short inaugural cruises, passengers are usually asked to carry their own bags onboard. This normally isn’t a problem, unless, of course, you’ve got two more cruises following right behind with luggage to match! Ben and I got a workout that day.

The new port facility built expressly for the Oasis is incredibly organized with lots of smiling greeters and employees directing folks where to line up, and the numerous lines available served to disperse people quite adequately. It will be interesting to compare this boarding process with that of the inaugural 7-night cruise December 5, likely with an almost full complement of passengers and back-to-normal porter service. Our first impressions, however, give it a big thumbs-up.

You know you’re navigating unchartered waters as soon as you walk onboard—no longer through a narrow, congested entryway, but rather right onto the broad expanse of the Royal Promenade. If you’ve sailed on Voyager or Freedom Class ships, think bigger, wider, and infinitely more interesting! You truly don’t feel that you’re on a ship—and on the Promenade you’ve only just begun your tour of the seven so-called Oasis “neighborhoods.” Although the Promenade on Deck 5 is enclosed, it’s just up the ship from the Boardwalk on Deck 6, which is open to the sky.

Speaking of the Boardwalk, our “Boardwalk Balcony” cabin is one of several new cabin types with a view. From our balcony we have an excellent view of the aft AquaTheater and the Boardwalk, home to Johnny Rockets, the Seafood Shack, the carousel, and two rock-climbing walls. On the first evening, we sat in our chairs and watched the fountains of the theater dance to the strains of “Malaguena” and “Time to Say Goodbye.” Think small-scale Bellagio—lovely! I must hasten to add, though, that once we closed our balcony door, our cabin was virtually soundproof.

You may have already read about the Rising Tide Bar. A very cool way to slowly gravitate from the Royal Promenade three decks up to the open Central Park neighborhood. Okay, so that means part of the Promenade is open—but only to accommodate the glass-topped Rising Tide Bar. Confused? Maybe that’s why many of us had a hard time envisioning which areas would actually open to the sky before we could see for ourselves. Let’s just say it’s a way-cool concept.

Speaking of Central Park, balcony cabins overlook this neighborhood, as well, which is lined with boutique shops (Coach, The Parkside Gallery) and specialty restaurants (Giovanni’s, Chops Grille, Park Café, and the exclusive 150 Central Park). RCI hauled in over 80 tons of dirt to sustain this lush, verdant environment. At $35 per person, Central Park is the second priciest restaurant option onboard, with an award-wining, world-class chef in charge. (Only the Chef’s Table with wine pairings prices higher at $75 pp.) Ben and I have already made reservations at Central Park for the final evening of our 7-night cruise and look forward to testing out the hype for ourselves.

If you’re contemplating whether the Oasis might be a ship for you, just remember that with all these neighborhoods and options comes distance, i.e., a lot of walking. We almost got worn out just searching for some of the cabins and suites open for viewing. In our opinion this may not be the right ship for anyone who experiences difficulties in walking. And although the Oasis boasts 46 wheelchair accessible cabins, those people requiring extra assistance should always keep the time factor in mind when planning activities and dining. Having said that, I must add that we witnessed plenty of motorized scooters and wheelchairs making their way around the ship. Where there is a will….

More about this fascinating ship later!

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