Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oasis of the Seas Maiden Voyage-Post 1

Ben and I re-boarded the Oasis December 5 for her maiden voyage—the first official “revenue” cruise. I must say that even with nearly 4,000 passengers, boarding still went very well. We reached the port around noon, were onboard by 1:00, and our luggage arrived shortly thereafter. Continuing passengers, Diamond Plus and Diamond boarded first, followed by the rest. Very efficient.

We can get a better feel for our Boardwalk Balcony cabin this time, since we’ve actually unpacked. For the two-nighter, we didn’t bother, but continually tripped over ourselves and bags. An interesting fact: the design of Boardwalk Balcony cabins results in a mirror-image configuration to the cabin next to it. Our current cabin is larger than our first one, with the bed closer to the closet, and the couch next to the sliding glass door. It can also sleep two additional persons on the couch. The first cabin was strictly double occupancy, with a smaller couch (much like the difference between the “E” and “D” balcony designations), and we have definitely appreciated the extra space. I can’t decide which location I prefer—our previous spot further aft with closer views of the AquaTheater, or our current location closer to the entry to the Boardwalk from the Royal Promenade that is a little more midship and is partially protected from the elements.

Storage space comes with a few challenges, but we’ve learned over the years to think creatively when deciding what to put where in our cabins. The nightstands are open-tiered shelves without drawers, and one cabin beside the desk is almost too narrow to use. But there are plenty of hooks, we greatly appreciate the nightlight in the bathroom, the flat-screen TV works great, and, most importantly, Royal Caribbean’s beds are heavenly. We give them the edge over Princess in that regard.

On the Ruby Princess, however, Internet access was much faster and more reliable than what we’ve experienced thus far on the Oasis. Although each cabin comes with a keyboard, the scrolling and mouse controls respond much too slowly, and WiFi access itself isn’t any faster. Add those problems with some BlackBerry issues, and you’ll understand why my postings will be less frequent while we’re sailing.

Moving on to entertainment, the Welcome Aboard show gave passengers a glimpse into the innovations they soon would experience on this amazing vessel. It was actually held in two different venues, Studio B (ice theater) and the AquaTheater, but simulcast throughout the ship. Included were brief “taste” performances by the skating and swimming/diving casts, coupled with a clever video clip introducing veteran cruise director Ken Rush.

One cool feature of the Oasis is the ability to book shows and select restaurants in advance before ever leaving home. We pre-booked the musical Hairspray, the “Frozen in Time” ice show, and dinner at the elegant 150 Central Park. Upon boarding, though, we could still get reservations for the “Oasis of Dreams” AquaTheater show, and passengers are told that if even they don’t pre-book, they can show up and be seated ten minutes before the show begins.

So far, I can report on half of the above. My only complaint about “Oasis of Dreams’ is that it was too short! The synchronized swimmers, aerialist, gymnast, and high divers performed beautifully for 30 minutes, followed by a two-song dancing waters show. Had yhe audience yearning for more. If you’re fortunate to sail on this ship, do not miss Hairspray. Talk about a talented bunch of kids! Count on 90 minutes of energetic non-stop fun and music.

I just know the burning question in your mind is, “Did you ride the zipline?” Let’s see, would you be referring to that narrow wire spanning the entire Boardwalk eight decks below? Yep, we did it. Had to check that one off our list, although I confess it wasn’t nearly as exciting as our zipline adventure in the Dominican Republic. What a concept, though: soaring above Johnny Rockets, the children’s game area, and the carousel, and in plain sight of the lucky residents of the Loft Suites at the aft.

For past passengers at the Diamond and Diamond Plus levels, the Oasis offers a special Diamond Club lounge with complimentary coffee all day and a special complimentary cocktail/hot appetizer party each evening. So many D/DP members booked this sailing, however, that these parties moved to the Jazz and Blaze nightclubs, a process that will continue whenever numbers reach comparable numbers. Makes you want to get those fifteen RCI cruises to your credit, right?

This whole neighborhood concept really works in dispersing crowds. We’ve yet to attend an event or go to an area when we couldn’t find a seat or chair. Granted, part of the reason is our less-than capacity crowd, but another reason is that people don’t gravitate to one area all the time. On the Ruby Princess, if you didn’t “claim” your lounge chair on the top deck by 9 am, you might not get one. Likewise, try to find a seat in the theater for a show inside 15-20 minutes prior to curtain time, and you’re out of luck. On the Oasis, there are so many pool options, coupled with Boardwalk activities, reservation-based shows, and meal choices, that there seems to be much more space per person.

Build a ship this size, and every department must think out of the box. Remember those photo galleries where you roam the displays trying to spot your photos captured by ship photographers? Try lining up photos in racks for 4,000 people and you’ll run out of room in a hurry. Instead, each folio card (your cruise card) contains a number directing you to an open binder on one of several carousel racks in the gallery. Works beautifully.

Likewise, the folks at the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness center were able to allocate more space to Elemis product sales via an attractive salon display, and add a Vitality snack area (extra fees assessed for both). And don’t look for it on the traditional top deck at the front of the ship, either. Instead, you’ll find it on Deck 6 at the front. The Fitness Center is well equipped, too, with a handy door leading to the Deck 5 Promenade jogging track just a few steps below. Who woulda thunk? And you have never seen such a clever jogging/walking track as on this ship. One wall is a full-sized pictorial of a race scene, with encouraging and motivating signs posted along the track.

My final post on the Oasis will focus on our ports of call and our final show and dining experiences.


jaimeandbelinda said...

Loved your blog. Saw the Oasis on the news recently. They showed the zip wire. Enjoy yourselves. Feliz Navidad. Belinda

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