Below are my notes about our April 5-12 Oasis of the Seas cruise. Not a full review, just some observations. And I’m using some voice to text transcription software so forgive any grammatical errors.
Background: this is our 11th cruise, third with children, aged 7 and 5.
This was our first cruise as Diamond members so also forgive me for saying “as a Diamond member…” as many times as I can possibly fit into this post. :)
T Minus 2 Thursday, April 4, 2014
Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Romulus, overnight and had a park and ride for $155. Late in bringing us to the airport the next day; always pick the one that is 1/2 hour earlier. Ate at Leonardo’s, supposedly the “best pizza in the metro area”. Not.
T minus 1
Probably the worst travel ever. Late getting to the airport due to the shuttle’s tardiness. Long lines. Did get through the TSA checkpoint faster by being a family due to the kids. Boarded plane…and was told delayed flight due to fog in Chicago. Left 2 hours late, missed connecting flight (despite staff telling us no planes were flying out of Chicago), and had to spend 12 full hours waiting at Midway airport due to being bumped from overbooked flights. Finally ticketed for a 4:30 flight, which didn’t arrive until 5:45. Got to Ft. Lauderdale after 10pm. So much for my extra day in paradise. Never again will I fly Southwest. Ever. Spent $100 in crappy food for the four of us while stuck at the airport, wiping out all savings made by not flying a proper airline. Decided I will be using Choice Air from now on. So glad we flew down a day early, otherwise we would have missed the cruise. (oh, and it gets better, wait until the flight home…)
Got to the hotel after 17 hours of travel that should have been 3.5. Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina, looks nice, room has a nice modern Oriental vibe to it. Very pricey though, a tad over $300. Wish I could have enjoyed it more, along with the pool area. Took care of some work tasks and went to sleep.
Had breakfast at the hotel. The buffet was $22 per person. Holy smokes. I’ll pack some granola bars next time.
I didn’t know Royal Caribbean offers transfers from local hotels to the ship. I’ll be taking advantage of that next time rather than taking a bus or a taxi – someone made the good point that the taxis are all at the port, not waiting at hotels, since there’s ten thousand people there needing transportation…
Embarkation was a piece of cake because of our new Diamond status. I thought it might be very crowded and confusing, but it was very organized. We left the hotel at about 10:30 AM and was shipboard by 11:30.
Due to some sort of issue with the camera at the place we started at, there were no photos on our SeaPass card, which was pointed out to us almost every time we used it.
First impression upon entering the ship: wow! This place is big!
Announcement that rooms were ready right before 1 PM so we went to check out our cabin, 7666. Our luggage arrived by 1:10 PM – fastest luggage delivery ever in our experience.
The cabin location was great – right in the middle of everything. The only issue is that it didn’t cross the Promenade area and I kept coming up on the wrong side of the ship. I had to go up or down one floor to get back to the cabin.
Roast beef sandwich lunch at Park Café, very tasty. Went up to the pool area so the kids could swim. I didn’t swim this time, I wish I had because the pool area was so packed on later days that I didn’t bother even getting my swimsuit on.
Met “Big D.”, our cabin steward. Nice guy. Tipped him a few bucks and asked to have to ice buckets filled at all times in the room. This provided me some very cold water, and I used it as a treat for the kids – if they did something nice I let them pick out an ice cube and suck on it. Helped with hydration in hindsight.
Cabin was nice but discovered after we sailed that when the sofa is pulled out into a bed you can’t get out to the balcony without crawling over the bed, which made enjoying evenings out there impossible without disturbing the kids. By the end of the cruise I decided we won’t be paying for a balcony anymore since we simply don’t spend enough time out there to warrant the additional cost. Also will look for Pullman beds or something else next time for the kids.
Went to the “secret” sail away area that Tylor mentioned, the Sun Deck on Deck 14, had to use the emergency button to open the door but managed to make our way out there. Very breezy.
Went down and was measured for a tuxedo for formal nights.
Went to the dining room and had our first dinner there. Edderick was the waiter, and Crispin the assistant waiter. I think they pulled pseudonyms from a Shakespearean play. Howard Wigan was bar service, and by the end of the cruise we knew each other very well. Noted that he will be going to Quantum when it sails.
Day 2: Nassau
Breakfast at the Windjammer. Not crowded at all, like I expected it to be. This proved to be the case throughout the cruise. Royal Caribbean has this experience down pat on this ship. My only issue was food was never really hot, and this was the case throughout the cruise for breakfast.
Same with the elevators. Busy, but never so crowded that you had to wait for several to come by to find a spot, like on other ships. Really impressed with people and space management on the ship, other than the pool area I never felt crowded.
Nassau: What a dump. Really disappointed with this island, we are only here from 7 AM until 2 PM so a trip to Atlantis was out of the question due to cost versus number of hours on-site. Wound up just walking around while the kids stayed in Adventure Ocean. Other bulletin boards expressed a concern about crime in Nassau, while we were walking around I didn’t notice any place I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable being in.
Wife and I went to Effy Jewelers to pay my “Cruise tax”. Each cruise I buy her a piece of jewelry. This time Tesh persuaded me into three pieces; I’m glad he got the promotion to work here but I’ll miss him at St. Maarten stop.
Walked the half mile or so to Junkanoo Beach; we intended to go to the fish fry but it was simply too far away. Had a drink at a blue and yellow rum shack run by Marshall; finally started feeling like I was on vacation.
I think this was the night we saw a performance at the Aqua Theater. It was fantastic! I highly recommend it – this coming from a person that doesn’t particularly like theater from having worked in it backstage years ago.
As Diamond members I went to the club for a drink that evening. They’ve made a change where you no longer get coupons, the discounts are supposedly added to your card so you can drink at any venue on ship. There is a list of “acceptable” drinks that you can choose from, and if you pick a premium drink you are to get a discount on it. The problem here is that it is completely arbitrary on the bar staff’s part. I ordered a nine dollar beer at the Globe and Atlas a few times (Sam Adams Double Bock, very good!); One time I got it free, one time they told me I had a full price for it since it wasn’t on “the list”, and the third time the bartender didn’t even give me a receipt so I could tip him. At the Rising Tide bar when I ordered something that wasn’t on “the list” I was told I couldn’t have it and he shoved “the list” into my hands. Awkward at best and frustrating as well.
First formal night at dinner. Tuxedo didn’t show up, had to go to customer service to cancel it. Made dressing for dinner difficult as I planned on wearing a tuxedo a couple of nights.
Ship sails as smooth as silk, the only time I felt any motion was at the front of the ship when I dropped off the kids to Adventure Ocean.
My wife brought a magnetic clip which we put on the wall to hold the day’s Compass. Brilliant idea.
Day 3: Sea
They tell me we had a head waiter. He stopped by once today for 15 seconds. The only time we saw him on this cruise.
On past cruises the MDR had Indian-based vegetarian offerings at dinner time. Not so on this cruise. Kind of disappointing, but made up by some excellent curries and such in the Windjammer at lunchtime. Unfortunately didn’t discover this until Day 6.
Day 4: St. Thomas
Okay, done with the staff pushing the staged souvenir photos. Three of them at this stop alone before I was able to get off the pier. With digital cameras no a days who buys all these photos?
Took a ferry excursion to St. Johns since we’ve been to St. Thomas so many times in the past. Captain announced all sorts of lurid details about famous people that lived on the island, kind of got annoying when it went into pedophilia. Trip over took about an hour and a half.
Dropped off on St. John’s and was told to be back by 4:30pm.
Had lunch at Driftwood David’s, first time I ever had the opportunity to spend $71 for burgers… dang this place expensive.
Went to Caneel Bay for about an hour; $20 taxi ride each way. Dang this place expensive… Nice beach, but dang…
Went back to the pier and had a mango flavored beer from some shop. It was actually pretty nice.
Got back on the ferry and when it was about 20 feet out two people came running out yelling “stop”; they were passengers about to be left behind. Apparently they didn’t do a headcount before leaving. This event actually made me quite paranoid about “time” on this cruise especially after our flight down.
Less windy on the way back to the cruise port so we made it back in about 40 minutes.
Don’t bother to book any excursions to St. John’s, the trip takes too long and you don’t get to spend enough time on the island.
Day 5: St. Maarten
Booked RandomWind.com sailing for at the day. Fantastic! Highlight of the cruise. WIsh I would have brought a better sunscreen, or perhaps tinfoil… got quite burned.
Hate the music in the Windjammer. I grew up with these ’80s tunes, I don’t need to hear them here in paradise, I’d rather hear some Caribbean music. Heck, my son now is reciting the lyrics to old REO Speedwagon tunes…
Day 6: Sea
Pool area ridiculously crowded. Glad to see staff clearing stuff out after 30 minutes but people there were gaming the system by leaving items in two places and having children and spouses move things around to make them look active. Actually had one lady jump out of the pool to move her things into a seat I was planning on sitting in when I was getting my sons shirt and shoes off.
Finally ate lunch at the Windjammer. Sorry I didn’t do it before, some of the Indian and Asian foods were fantastic.
Survived the 9:30am $10 T Shirt sale. Now I know what war is like.
Finally gave in and tried to use the Internet offerings on my Mac. Mail.app didn’t work onboard it appeared most ports except for 80 were blocked so basically everything was web only, not sure what was up there. And slow – Took about 20 minutes to print my airline boarding passes. Fortunately as Diamond members we get a free hour so I didn’t have to pay for the time online.
Cruise compass noted 50% off cocktails from 3 to 5 PM. However the bar staff was not aware of this in the Globe and Atlas, the English Pub and my favorite hangout onboard. After pointing it out to them in the Compass the bar staff then insisted it was 2-for-1 not 50percent off, and that a rum and coke is not a cocktail. What?!? At that point I went to guest services to dispute it and wasted 20 minutes there. You think the point of sale system would take care of this… getting tired of arbitrary decisions made by bar staff.
Last formal night. Lobster was “meh”. Won’t be ordering it anymore. Did have escargot a couple of times this cruise. Generally speaking the MDRs food was “good” to “excellent”, except for the Tandoori Chicken salad on the last night. Not good at all.
Day 7: Sea
Tried to book transfers back to the airport from the ship. $76 per person. Absolutely nuts. No way when a taxi is $20!
Captain Patrick announced this was his last sailing, and didn’t mention he’s moving to Quantum, or if he did, I couldn’t hear it. So is Carolina Cubillas, the Diamond Concierge, and Howard Wigan from the dining room bar staff. Seems that the A+ people are all going to Quantum, and were very excited about it.
Where the hell did all these kids come from? Didn’t notice them at all until the last day when they were playing hide and seek by running up and down the stairs, annoying pretty much everyone on the ship.
Went on a backstage tour in the afternoon (Diamond class only!), and then saw Come Fly WIth Me that evening. Another great show! This ship has the best entertainment that I’ve experienced on any cruise, ever. Enjoyed that they used a manikin that looked like Adam Goldstein as the taxi driver for this show.
Went to the casino. Left with my last penny. Literally.
Last day and Disembarcation:
My son and the waiter really bonded, so we went to the dining room for the last breakfast. He saw Eddrick and ran up to him and gave him a big hug and told him he would miss him, etc. Very moving. I think my kid now wants to be a waiter on a cruise ship…
Long lines at disembarkation, but they kept moving. Diamond members supposedly have express departure, but was told I couldn’t and had to wait until my number was called. Will likely just self-disembark next time. $11 per person for a van ride to the airport, so we were there by 10:40 AM. Horrendously long TSA lines at the airport, took well over an hour to get through. Kept getting pulled aside for random searches.
Another Southwest disaster. Pull out onto the runway and was next plane to take off, and told by the captain there is a mechanical issue and that we were pulling back to the airport. Waited there for 20 minutes then told they had to replace a sensor on the landing gear, should only take a few minutes and then will be in the air. We had a two hour layover in Atlanta so I thought we’d make it on time… my mistake. After an hour they pull all of us off the plane and told us to go back into the airport. Finally herded onto another plane only to sit for half hour, flown to ATL and told to run to the gate we were supposed to be at because “ATC directed us to hold the plane for you” – only to find the plane flew away an hour before. Another hour of confusion, then AirTran rounded up another plane (that wouldn’t be there for 2 hours) to get us to Detroit. Boarded the final plane just to find out that it was a different plane than what the tickets seats were for (no row B since it was 3×2 configuration) so people wound up just sitting wherever they wanted. Got back to Detroit around 11 PM and went on a quest for luggage…
And for one last final indignity, the damn parking dinged us for an extra day of parking since we got back after midnight.
Never again, Southwest. Never again….
While we loved the ship, we discovered that the reason we cruise is to visit the Caribbean islands, not to stay shipboard. With only three stops, one being a pointless stop in Nassau, we really didn’t get to “experience” the Caribbean in the way we are accustomed to. It kind of felt like we were staying in a big American resort, or mall, or something. We didn’t feel like we actually “went” anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasant cruise (in my book a “bad” cruise is one that sinks. beyond that they’re good). And the ship did “wow” us, but the ship is not the only reason we cruise we discovered.
We’ll be cruising again, already talking to my buddy about one next spring (Jewel out of San Juan), but probably not on Oasis class ships anymore (unless I can score a back-to-back, that might make it more interesting).
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.