Just back from the Oasis of the Seas.... comparitive review....
Having been a fairly long-term lurker (and sometimes contributor) on this board, and having just literally got off Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas 3 days ago, I thought I would share my thoughts and opinions for any of you who have ever thought about what it may be like "on the other ship."
Again - before I start - let me say that I realize that some who read this may have gone on the Oasis and may have had a completely different experience, and may have a totally different "take." I fully disclaim that these experiences are OURS and these opinions are MY OWN and if you choose to cruise Oasis, you may have a totally different experience.
There - disclaimer over. :)
Now - some background. Who are we? We are long term (15+ years) DVC members who go to Disney every year. Kids are 11 and 9, and we have been on 3 Disney cruises, including the Fantasy last year and the Dream the year before that (both in their inaugural sailing years.) Our neighbors went with us on the Dream, and thought it was a little pricey, so we thought we'd check out Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. They had other friends who love cruising Royals's Freedom of the Seas, so they thought they would invite them along as well.
So, our group of folks were as follows: Me (44), my hubby (40), our kids (11, 9) and our friends (39, 38, 8, 5) and their friends (39, 38, 10.) We all had outdoor balcony rooms on the forward starboard (same as we always have on DCL.) I would say that all things considered, the Oasis was about $1000 cheaper than the Fantasy for our family, and we also received $700 in different shipboard credits.
First off... THIS SHIP IS HUGE! The embarkation process was amazingly painless, with the port seeming like a giant airport terminal. The check-in area was easily 3x the size of DCL, and literally it took us 15 minutes to check in, 2 minutes to have our picture made and then we were headed to the ship. There were no "assigned times" to arrive at the port. Hardly any wait times at all and the parking was incredible - our parking spot was literally 140 steps from the car to the ship. No parking deck! It is clear that nearly everyone flies in for their cruise.
Once on the ship, we are funneled into what my 9 year old said felt like a shopping mall. It was the Promenade Deck, which was indoors and contained all of the shops for the ship. It also had a few bars and --- this was interesting --- about 2 or 3 kiosks/counters that had featured "today only" items for sale every day. At first we didn't realize that the items were a one-day-only thing. The first night they had nothing but alcohol out (and they were swarmed.) I thought it was interesting that they had such huge bottled alcohol sales out int he central area of the ship on the very first night. "Not very kid friendly" I thought to myself. Little did I know this was only the tip of the iceberg.
We weren't really greeted by anyone as we got on the ship. We just walked on, not knowing which way was up. We decided to head to the Park Cafe in the middle of Central Park area to eat the famed "Roast Beef Sandwich" that everyone raves about. (Central Park is the park area carved in the middle of the ship that has trees, bushes, shrubs and walkways and is cut open to the sky. It really is remarkable.)
We got to Park Cafe and the famed "roast beef sandwich" consisted of one slice of beef loin on a salted weck roll about the size of our fist. It was good, sure - but not the level of raves I had heard and read about by everyone. No shrimp, no fancy buffets - no crab claws around the pool. Also, Central park was very HOT.
The good news is that our room was ready! No waiting - pretty much, we get on the ship and the room is ready right then. That was nice. We went to our room and were amazed by the KING bed with egg crate - that was the best part of the room was the bed. However there was no room for the privacy curtain between the adult area and kid area (we got to miss that privacy curtain!) And this was strange - the beds for the kids consisted of a sofa that made into a double bed, and a twin bed that came from the ceiling. Because the beds were different sizes, the ladder for the ceiling bed just didn't fit over the double bed below. So, in actuality, this room would have fit 5. I have no idea what the situation was, whether this was from a remodel or what - but it just didn't fit and clearly didn't look to be designed to work that way.
We met our room attendant at that point, and I asked him for ice 2x a day (he said no problem) and to clean out the fridge and honor bar (he said ok - but he didn't) and for him to make towel animals every night, because I heard that they didn't do that on Royal. Our attendant said "no, we don't do towel animals every night - we do them every other night, so you will only get them on sea days." I was a little taken aback that he would say no to what I thought was a simple request, so I didn't say anything. He also told us what he work hours were and when he was available and when he was not available. Again, I thought that was interesting.
The prices on the honor bar weren't bad - 2.50 for a can of coke - but we had purchased 2 cups for the unlimited soda package and we didn't need it. I never really understood why they had the "honor bar" in there in the first place if it wasn't to try to gouge us somehow? We were able to slap a bag tag on a case of water and bring that in no problem. And my husband and I split up and went through security separately so we each were able to bring on 2 bottles of wine.
Back to the room our steward told us at that point that there was a nice "sailaway" party on the pool deck after the muster drill. I had visions of Mickey and Minnie dancing and a big countdown, so we got ready for the muster drill and put on our swimsuits and headed to the pool for the party.
The muster drill - and that was similar to Disney except for one thing.... the life vests were stored in some closet near the theater. In all of the Disney ships, we had the life vests in our room. So, I'm not exactly crazy about the idea that if there was some emergency, I would have to traverse that GIANT ship, stand in some crazy hysterical line to get life vests then file into a life boat that held 300 people. I don't know - something didn't sit right with me with that whole situation. I wanted access to my life vest.
The "sailaway party" consisted of a steel drum band playing live music - no M.C., no countdown, no nothing. We just started moving. I turned to my husband and said "Oh look - I guess that was it!"
After that, we went to dinner. The food was fine, not remarkable. I would say, however, that our dining service team was exceptionally attentive. The dining room was luxurious and comfortable. Throughout our cruise, we never really got to know the dining staff - but I think that is because they were busting it to move the food and serve the tables so quickly, they didn't really make time for chit chat. Again, this is very different from the DCL experience, where you really get to know your servers and assistant servers VERY well... however it is at the expense of service. If we had asked for an extra entree or another appetizer, on DCL it took forever. Here, on Royal, it was done with the wave of a wand. However the food quality just wasn't on par with DCL.
After that, we went to our first show - the ice show. It was very good and extremely entertaining. However it was not full. I thought that was interesting.
We were tired, so headed back to the room. This was bizarre - that night our room attendant didn't put the ceiling bed down for us. I thought that was unusual, considering the fact he had MET our family. Like, our 11 year old son and 9 year old daughter were supposed to sleep in the same double bed??? We had to call at 10:30 p.m. to have him come back and set up the ceiling bed (not exactly what you want to do your first night.) He was very defensive about it, saying "I didn't set this bed up because you didn't tell me you wanted me to set this bed up." It was the most ridiculous thing - I just shrugged it off. He then started railing on how awful it was to work for Royal because the company didn't support its employees and basically let people take the tips off their account. At that point I didn't know what to say.
The next day was Nassau, and we had a nice room service breakfast (note: Royal's room service offers HOT breakfast, where DCL's is only continental. This is a major improvement over DCL!) Afterwards, we went to the pool deck. I must say, the pool deck at the Oasis is incredible. It has 5 pools and probably a dozen hot tubs. There are two elevated hot tubs right next to every pool - so parents can sit in the hot tubs and watch the kids in the pool. The pool deck really was exceptional in every way over any of the Disney ships in that there was something for everyone - 2 flow riders, 2 rock walls, a zip line, 5 pools and a water spash zone, not to mention the dozen hot tubs. Four of the hot tubs were enormous "infinity" hot tubs that were in wings over the side, so you looked down and saw the ocean below. Incredible. The pool deck is definitely far and away better than DCL.
We splashed in the pools all day and had a great time. That evening, we went for dinner, and I basically had the same thing the second night. I didn't realize it until I received my meal and I was like wow, this looks familiar... Had to send the steak back because it was overcooked. Afterwards, we checked the kids in the kids club for the first time and explored the ship as adults.
A note on the kids club. The environment of "Adventure Ocean" reminded me of a nice day care. It was bright, colorful and fun but nothing remarkable. It had separate rooms with different toys and areas, but the kids were segregated by age. This became a major issue for us during our trip. The ages are 3-5, 6-8, and 9-11. Our neighbors had to move their 5 year old up to the 6-8 group to be with her 8 year old sister. Our daughter who was 9 had to move "down" to the 6-8 year old group to be with her 8 year old friend. The boys were happy as clams in the 9-11 group.
Well, when her friend wasn't in the 6-8 kids club, our 9 year old didn't want to be there. However, it was a MAJOR problem for the Adventure Ocean staff for her to go back and forth from the 6-8 age group and the 9-11 age group. Halfway in the trip, the counselors started giving our daughter grief about it. My husband got VERY angry about this because he didn't think they should have put her in the middle of what was clearly an administrative issue on Royals part - they should have talked only with us and left her out of it. Meanwhile, our daughter wasn't happy in the 6-8 age group. She thought it was too structured, it felt "too much like school" and they were all required to play the same game at the same time. So, when we checked her in later in the week, the Adventure Ocean staff told us that we were no longer allowed to put her in the 6-8 age group with her friend - we said fine, she didn't like it anyway. As an aside and a disclaimer, she was fairly happy being in the 9-11 age group. Our son also liked the group but he did say that the counselors could get bossy at times and one point told the kids that they were going to kick out all of the kids who were allowed to check themselves out. He told us this the last morning of the cruise and I noted that on the comment card and identified the counselor by name who gave that threat.
Now - for the thing that really concerns me - the first night we dropped our kids off in the kids club, our daughter got really seasick and was in the bathroom the whole time. With the kids club, you have to pick the kids up by 10:00 p.m. or else you are charged $6/hour per kid. We dropped her off around 8 p.m. and when we got there at 10, we were told she wasn't feeling well. The room was also very hot and stuffy. She was bright red. The Adventure Ocean staff told me "yes, we left a message on your room phone that she wasn't feeling well." MY ROOM PHONE??? WHY WOULD I BE IN MY ROOM WHEN THE KIDS WERE IN THE KIDS CLUB? I then realized that they had NO pager system, NO mechanism to find me other than calling me out over the PA system if there was a problem. This was a MAJOR thing that made me uneasy over the rest of the week. For that reason, we didnt leave the kids in the kids club over 2 hours at any stretch without checking on them. What a pain it was to have to go up and check on the kids every hour and a half or so because we didnt have a pager or anything.
Royal has these iPhone thingies we could check out, but they were $40 each, and I had read that they didn't work well. Our friends stood in line for 45 minutes to get them, but they gave their last ones out to the people right in front of them, so they didnt get them. Frustrating. So bottom line - the kids club doesn't give out pagers or anything. For a ship that size, and the money we paid - this really floors me. Shame on you, Royal, for not offering anything like this for parents. Again, tip of the iceberg.
So, the next day was a sea day and we had an amazing time on the pool deck. Had to pull the kids away to make our reservations for the broadway show on the ship. We had ressies for 2:30 p.m. show of "Hairspray." I had read reviews, and had concluded it would have been okay for our kids --- but our neighbors both concluded the opposite for their younger girls so they skipped the show.
I must say, "Hairspray" was awesome. Incredible singing, dancing, acting - it was fabulous and the kids loved it. BUT - at the 2:30 show, they had gratuitous profanity!!! I mean good grief, if there are going to be kids at any show, wouldn't it be the only matinee? Couldn't they have taken the profanity out of that matinee show? Also, having not one but two guys dress in drag made for quite the interesting dinner conversation later that day...
And that brings me to the cruise director. We had "Ricky" as our cruise director. Ricky is from Jamaica and although he was friendly and enthusiastic, he was a complete and total Queen. I never once saw him in any type of sea uniform. He wore jeans and a polo that was usually so tight it was painted on. I must say, however, that he was at EVERYTHING. Every show, nightly parties - Ricky was EVERYWHERE, making announcements, telling jokes being his lovable Queen self. By the end of the trip, it dawned on me that he really wasn't the cruise director - he was really the "Em Cee" of the ship. He was the great announcer, the great face for everything - but he was running around so much - on TV, at shows, making announcements, that there was no way that he could actually PLAN stuff. So, he had a "director of activities" who actually did that (although I wasnt certain I think he was also gay as well.) But Ricky being a complete queen didn't matter to me except in one regard - there was definitely a "pro-gay" slant to activities and the entire ambiance of the ship. Again, I am generally okay with this but I just wasn't expecting it. You may say "how?" Well - there was electronica/dance music pretty much at every turn. The last morning of the ship, we were eating in the Solarium café for breakfast there was quiet electronica music and I actually heard the word erotic in the song. I was like um, okay. There was a Love & Marriage show (adult only) where they analyzed the relationship of three couples and one of the couples was a gay couple. Also, they had not one but TWO different late night "1970's Disco" parades/parties on the Promenade deck. TWO? They videotaped each of these events and played them back through the ship TV so you could watch. Let's just say that for the 70s parties there was a sea of folks in YMCA gear - bare chested men wearing vests and cowboy hats doing the conga through the crowded Promenade. "Ricky" was also bare chested wearing a giant orange afro that was about 12" thick at any side. And then, you know Hairspray with the cross dressers.... JM J Bullock another night in the Viking lounge singing Broadway torch songs& For the final show "Come Fly With Me" there was a number where they had just men dressed in these leather shorts/leather shirt unitard outfit wearing wigs with cornrows hanging upside down from inverted umbrellas with their legs spread eagle, twirling about. Our neighbor said it was "a bit on the gay erotica side" --- I was thinking the same thing, so it wasn't just me.
In the middle of the days, we went to the dive show "Oasis of Dreams" which was incredible. We ate one time at Johnny Rockets, which cost us $30 for burgers and fries.
During the week, we also ate at Chops which was FABULOUS. That was $30 a person and was prepaid prior to the cruise. Amazing meal, amazing service but that was another $60& $90 with wine&.
Hubby went to the wine bar once and had a $12 glass of wine.... I basically drank Pina Coladas for $8 each (probably equivalent to DCL, maybe a buck or two more&)
What Im getting at with all of these figures is that at the end of the day, with all of the nickel and diming the price was likely equivalent or close to equivalent. $100 for the soda package for the family, $80 for the iPhones (equivalent to the wave phones), $150 to have the kids in the kids club until midnight each night, $60 for a meal at Chops with food that would be equivalent to DCL food $30 for Johnny Rockets - you see where Im going with this. The $1,000 difference suddenly disappears& and then the difference really would be the OBC we got from our travel agent ($400) and the Royal B of A card ($300.) If we booked using our Disney card, wed probably get a couple hundred, so were talking a couple hundred dollars difference between the two cruises after everything is said and done. And with Royal, I felt like they were always in our face trying to get us to buy things, go to special shopping events, merchandise sales it was never that way on DCL.
A couple other observations:
1. For excursions, we always met the tour operator OUTSIDE the ship, in the port. There was no Royal crew member to serve as a "liaison" between us and the tour operator. In St. Thomas, our excursion was pushed back an hour, so we were leaving an hour later and our return time was the samt. In St. Maarten, the "on board" time for the ship was a half hour BEFORE our excursion was scheduled to return. Again, it seemed as if Royal had no clue what the left hand and right hand was doing when it came to excursions. With our St. Maarten excursion, we had to tell the operator that the "all aboard" time was before the excursion was over. The operator basically hooked us up with a bus driver, then met us at the excursion place, and when it was over he walked us over to the bus and said goodbye to us there and went home because he lived nearer to that side, and he left the bus driver to take us back (again, in a hurry because we had an "all aboard" time moved up.) The excursion operator came on the bus and said before he left: "okay everyone, remember to go quickly right to the ship and don't stop anywhere, okay?" I just held my breath to see that we made it back with just a minute or so to spare.
2. The show times kept changing. The website said to make show reservations 60 days in advance, but 60 days in advance they weren't ready. The show reservations weren't ready until 45 days in advance. Then, once we planned everything out and made our reservation - Royal changed different show times on us twice. On one night on the ship, they had a dancing waters show scheduled at the back of the ship. We were there, ready to enjoy the show and nothing happened. No show, no announcement, no nothing. We asked an employee who was nearby and they were clueless as to what was going on. They waited and then at 8:30 p.m. the James Bond movie Skyfall started (again, PG-13) so we left.
2. At the back of the ship, there is a pair of giant LED jumbo-tron screens. Every night at 8:30 there was a movie... however the movie was always PG-13. That tells you right there who they expected for the audience.
The bottom line is that although this was a great, big, beautiful and fun ship there just wasnt much programming for families in the evening hours. We had the 6:00 p.m. dinner seating, so we were out at 8. The kids club was free from 8 10 & so, during that time we searched everywhere for live music. THERE WAS NO LIVE MUSIC ON THE SHIP, ANY NIGHT, FROM 8:30 10:00 PM EXCEPT IN THE DINING ROOM! We just left the dining room! They only had live music for the late seating, and no live music at any of the venues. There were also no family venues outside of the pools.
On two nights they had a family dance party at one of the adult clubs from 9 10 p.m. We went the first night of the family dance party and got there at 9:15. Nobody was there and they were packing up. When our group of 11 arrived, they cranked it back up again but the music was NOT kid friendly. My friend went to the DJ to complain and they switched it to the various popular songs (cupid shuffle, cha cha slide, Macarena, etc.)
We went to the Character breakfast on the last sea morning of the trip. There was only one seating at 7:45 a.m. In all of the publicity, they had pictures of Shrek, Alex the lion and other characters but guess who was missing during the Character Breakfast. I never once saw Shrek the entire trip. During this breakfast, the characters came out and did a dance and then the kids were to line up and see them and have their pictures made, etc. The characters did not circulate to the tables.
By the end of the cruise, we had concluded that Royals cruise had bursts of family friendly elements but was not family centric as what we were used to on DCL. It was almost the attitude of lets throw in a carousel, a balloon animal artist, some face painting, a kids club and call it a day. The main shows were not family friendly and the programming was most certainly NOT family friendly. Even the adult programming was lacking. One of my husbands favorite things to do on the DCL ships was the whisky tastings& there was nothing at all like this on the Royal ship. I remember pouring over the DCL Navigator and circling and highlighting all of the events for the day that interested us, thinking wow, how can we possibly fit all of this in! Not the case with the RCCL Compass.
The ship activities were clearly designed for active adults. The ship came alive at 10:00 p.m. with parties, adult parades and events and live music& yet the kids clubs started charging fees at 10 p.m. To be fair, the Disney ships did start winding down at 10 p.m. many kids do get up early and there are early activities on DCL. With Royal, the entire ship seems to be sleeping until 11:00 a.m. and most excursions dont start until noon or 1.
To cap it off& the last night of the trip they had a comedy show from 9 10 in the main theater. It was 18 and up but we decided to put the kids in the kids club and go because we love comedy. Someone brought kids to the show and sat in the front row! The comedian started making fun of them for bringing the kids and said kids should be packed away in a smaller ship behind this ship. In a single joke, this comedian explained the philosophy that we felt all week long.
Will we cruise Royal again? Maybe, but it will be WITHOUT KIDS.
Will we take the kids on a Royal cruise again? No, or at least not until they are 16 (the adult areas are open to ages 16 and up.)
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to our cruise next year on the refurbished Magic!
Castaway cay, here we come!!!
Interesting review. Thanks for sharing.
thank you so much for your review. i appreciate the feedback, we had considered this cruise. however, the things you missed would all be missed by our family.
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Thanks for taking the effort to describe your experience. My only main issue is that seeing JM J Bullock would make the cruise worth it despite all the other issues!
Thanks for sharing!
You might get flamed, but not from me. We sailed RCCL twice. The first time was bad, the second time..I won't even go there. (We shouldn't have,:lmao:)
Happy for those who enjoy RCCL, but we'll stick with DCL.:thumbsup2
But kid friendly? Mmmmmm......
I met several people on this trip who had sailed Royal 15 - 20 times and they thought this cruise was a raging success and they were shocked when I told them that I didn't think it was kid friendly. They argued with me - but when I started rattling off the reasons (PG-13 movies, charge for kids after 10, no live music from 8 - 10 p.m.) they started to understand. I have poured over many Oasis/DCL comparative reviews and I just thought I'd throw this opinion in the mix.
If it were adults only, or kids were 16 and up AND you would be comfortable with them roaming the ship, I say thumbs up!
Great review. Hubby and I were torn between the Fantasy and the Oasis of the Seas. Decided on the Fantasy knowing we couldn't go wrong with another Disney cruise. Your comments just confirmed what we decided. Thanks!
I find it interesting that adult areas are open to ages 16 and older. I think on Disney you have to be 21 or older just to sail alone! This just makes me wonder about the underage drinking aboard royal Caribbean with teens in the night clubs.
Is there a cost to activities like the zipline or rock wall?
Thanks for sharing your review! :thumbsup2
The biggest feedback I heard about the zip line is that it was too short of an experience. Also, the way they make you put your hands on the handle, you can't exactly see very well.
Always wanted to try Oasis or Allure (and might some day) but if you are into service for the whole family I have always heard that DCL is where it is at. Nice review.
VERY interesting article. The only 2 ships we have ever sailed are the Oasis and the Fantasy, so your comparisons really rang a bell with me.
We sailed the Oasis in January 2011, just DH and me. We were invited as a reward from the company I work for....all expenses paid, including a $600 OBC. It was our first cruise ever, so we had nothing to compare it to. Overall, it was a good experience for us. We enjoyed some of the shows. We had the second seating for dinner. On the second night in the MDR, we got up and left the table at just after 11pm and they had yet to take dessert orders! The service in the MDR was incredibly slow. We never ate in the MDR after that experience, instead took to sampling the different specialty restaurants each night. For the most part, we enjoyed that. My birthday fell on the trip so some of my coworkers took DH and I to Chops to celebrate. We also ate at the seafood place on the boardwalk, the Solarium a couple of times. DH bought the soda package, but it was $45 per person so we only bought one. We thought that was a total rip off.
It was an enjoyable trip and honestly thought I could see taking our DD on a cruise aboard the Oasis....then we sailed the Fantasy....
Got home this past Saturday from our first DCL cruise. In my opinion, there is NO comparison! I felt like royalty on the Fantasy. Our server, O'Neil, and assistant server, "Ninja", were INCREDIBLE. I will remember them forever. I couldn't tell you the name of the server we had on the Oasis. Our room steward, Flori, was awesome too. When we saw her in the hallway for the first time on Sunday (the day after embarkation), she called us BY NAME. We hadn't even met her yet, but she knew our names! INCREDIBLE.
DD wasn't completely taken with the Oceaneer Club the first time she went. We took her back for the Volcano building in the lab and she was SOLD. She enjoyed it a lot after that.
I have to agree with OP about the pool decks though. The pools on the Fantasy leave a lot to be desired, however, we still enjoyed them a lot. Only one hot tub on the "family deck" also meant it was constantly crowded. We still enjoyed it. The pools and hot tubs on the Oasis were impeccably done. The adult pools/hot tubs in the Solarium (adults only section) were awesome too. We spent a LOT of time there on our trip.
At the end of the day, I remember our Oasis trip being fun but I don't remember a lot of specific details because they didn't create that WOW moment for me. I'll always compare future cruises to our journey on the Fantasy. I felt at home there. While it was nice to enjoy some down time alone with DH in the adults only area, the amount of family centered events and shows on the Fantasy meant that we couldn't do it all....so that just means that we'll get to do the things we didn't do on our next adventure!
Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts and compare the 2. They are 2 very, very unique experiences. For me, the scale tipped heavily in favor of DCL. :)
Thank you for the review.. I have always heard that only Disney cruise line is geared for families and for all ages of children...that being said, I would have had to stay in my cabin all the time, as I do not appreciate adult humor, shows, music, drinking etc...so, your review makes my thought process accurate:) We don't cruise again til 2014 and I can't wait:)
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