Friday, December 18, 2009

Oasis Maiden Voyage-Post 3

Ports of call for the maiden voyage of the Oasis were three of the most frequented in the Eastern Caribbean: St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau, each of which dredged a little deeper and wider and/or did whatever necessary to accommodate the biggest ship in the world. Our first stop in St. Thomas was delayed about an hour while the gangway was adjusted, which is not unusual for a new ship. It was a minor glitch and the passengers took it in stride, thanks to regular updates by Captain Bill Wright. This time the Oasis docked at Crown Bay, as did the Ruby Princess on our previous cruise. This port is a little further away from town than Havensight, although shuttles to downtown run back and forth at a $4 per person fee.

Ben had never snorkeled at Buck Island, and it had been years since I’ve done it, so we booked a last minute RCI excursion with Captain Nautica. The power boat took us (very quickly!) to two different sites around the island for some excellent snorkeling. Friendly crew and nice snacks of fruit slices and shrimp cocktail. In the afternoon, we took the shuttle back to town to visit our long-time friend Navin Sakhrani at Grand Jewelers. A registered gemologist, Navin has provided knowledgeable fine jewelry advice, not to mention great jewelry, to us and our clients for over ten years.
In St. Maarten, we boarded the ferry to the main beach near town ($6 per person, roundtrip), and enjoyed a lovely day there. Umbrella/chair rentals started at $20 for the day, going down to $15 at the half-day cutoff. Frankly, we hadn’t visited downtown St. Maarten in a long time, and I couldn’t believe how much it had improved. Loved the shopping area, which was very convenient to the beach…which is where I left Ben. We stopped in to see Sunny Mahtani, Navin’s cousin, at the Grand Jewelers store there.

Finally came Nassau for just a half-day stop. I had packing and blogging to do, as well as Internet and BlackBerry issues to resolve, and never even got off the ship. Ben disembarked to get some photographs, watching the colorful Junkanoo dancers welcoming the Oasis in grandiose style.

Finally, I must tell you about the amazing entertainment offered. I’ve already mentioned the AquaTheater show. Next up on our schedule was the Broadway musical Hairspray. What a delightful show! It was a full 90-minute production, so again RCI breaks the mold of the traditional 45-minute-long song-and-dance review. I remember loving the NCL Sea’s version of Grease in the late 90s, and the NCL Jade presentation of a version of Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©; but cruise lines mostly stick to variations of Broadway reviews and musicals. Hairspray’s Natalie as Tracy, Brian as Edna, and Michael as Link created energetic characters who had us tapping our feet to the music. They were so enthusiastic and got standing ovations!

Frozen in Time is the Oasis version of Royal Caribbean’s signature ice shows at sea. These shows just keep getting better, and we never tire of watching them. How do they perform so well on such a small rink of ice?

Another mold-breaker is the stage show Come Fly with Me, an eclectic mix of singers, dancers, aerialists, and acrobats who sailed above the audience and dropped down below the stage floor almost faster than we could keep up! Admittedly, this first so-billed “final full dress rehearsal” was not without its hiccups. True to Cruise Director Ken Rush’s caution, the show was stopped and re-started when one of the performers wasn’t attached to the aerial hooks on cue, and another slid across state a little too exuberantly and slipped over the stage ledge. Nonetheless, we’re glad RCI allowed us to view the show, if still in its preparation stages. Once the kinks are out, it will truly be a spectacular show.

Headline entertainers for the maiden voyage were the Nelsons (Ricky’s twin sons), who delighted us old-timers with some of their dad’s songs and lots of photos from the Ozzie and Harriet days. Good-lookin’ guys, too, who have mostly cropped their long and flowing “Swedish babe” hairstyles and unfailingly lavished praise on the RCI orchestra for picking up their music with one 45-minute rehearsal. Nice job.

In my previous post, I omitted a restaurant from my “ones we didn’t try” list: Izumi, the Asian fusion dining venue adjacent to the Windjammer. We heard good things about, but Ben just isn’t into sushi and I’m not that crazy about it, either.

Time to wrap up these Oasis posts so I can focus on the holidays. May I just add that if you are a Royal Caribbean fan, you really must try this ship. I love the Voyager Class ships that introduced the Royal Promenade concept and ice rink, but (to me, anyway), the Freedom Class ships are simply larger Voyager Class ships. Yes, the FlowRider® and boxing ring add extra pizzazz, but it’s still a Big Daddy Voyager. Oasis, on the other hand, once again brings true innovation to the world of cruising. Neighborhoods do break up the crowds, and passengers can move in their own chosen realms. Prices will likely stay up for awhile, but stay alert for promotions!

Many thanks to Vicki Freed, RCI Senior VP of Sales and Theresa Scalzitti, RCI National Accounts Manager, for bringing that “magic cookie” prize to our national conference that placed Ben and me on the Oasis Maiden Voyage in the first place. And special thanks to Lisa Bauer, RCI Senior VP of Hotel Operations, and Captain Bill Wright (and his lovely wife Kiki) for making sure the maiden voyage went so smoothly. They were all over the ship all week mingling with passengers making us feel like family...and we did.

We wish each of you a Merry Christmas,
a happy and safe holiday,
and a smooth-sailing New Year!

More posts will follow after the holidays.

1 comment:

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