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Oasis is NOT Just Las Vegas at Sea

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I have seen Oasis of the Seas now, just as I have seen the newest ships from Carnival, Celebrity, NCL, Silversea, Crystal, Princess and Holland America. I have heard the good and the bad, and I intend to address the negative comments directly here. Some are true, some are hogwash.

The Oasis media cruise I was on was a simple two-night preview, which meant a day to get onboard, have a quick look, eat dinner, a quick show and go to bed; one full day to see the entire ship, have dinner, see a show and go to bed, and then the next morning merely getting off and nothing more.

The only things you can judge on such a short media blitz are the decor and a bit of the food. You can barely get a feel for crowd flow and the entertainment quality. And you get almost no feel at all for how well the ship will perform when landing in ports of call with a nearly full contingent of guests.

I do know how the ship rides in the water, and I have to say this is the most stable ship I have ever been on. I don’t recall ever even feeling her move – when they started the engines or when we were at full speed.

To sum up, my Oasis of the Seas experience was overwhelmingly positive, and I  absolutely guarantee you I would not say this if I didn’t mean it. I do not sell cruises and Royal Caribbean is not even a current sponsor of Cruisemates (they have been in the past).  But my initial impression of Oasis has been echoed by the vast majority of experienced cruisers who were on the same preview cruise I was on. The consensus (for the most part) is that Royal Caribbean has hit a homerun and raised the bar on cruising forever. Oasis is a marvel of a cruise ship, a wonder, a must-see.

But, what are the detractors saying? Here are some of the down-side comments we have heard:

1. One comment I heard several times involved “nickel and diming,” which in the cruise biz implies a number of tactics by the cruise line to get passengers to pay extra money here and there. One highly noted example is the “Oasis cupcakes.” I have now heard this so much I have lost all interest in cupcakesforever! Yes, Oasis has a darling “Little Cupcake Shoppe” in the middle of the Royal Promenade. They charge $2.50 per cupcake.

When my companion (well-known ship critic Anne Campbell) and I entered the little “shoppe” I saw her drooling over the flavors on offer; chocolate peanut butter or keylime pie with coconut. But she was also ranting about the service charge. I said “so what? If you want one, get one, is the $2.50 really going to stop you?” In the end it did stop her, so I bought two and gave her one and she was in heaven with it. $2.50 for a trip to heaven? It’s worth it at least once per cruise.

But the point is clear – Royal Caribbean wouldn’t offer these special cupcakes unless they could make money on them. Yes, it is easy to argue “food on ships is supposed to be all-inclusive,” but that just isn’t true anymore. There are plenty of ships that charge far more for “Sacher Torte” style desserts at coffee houses onboard, I have seen cheesecakes for as much as $6.00 per slice on other ships.

It isn’t “nickel and diming” unless they are charging you for something you must have – and it used to be included in the price for free. Princess charges $3.00 to deliver a pizza to your stateroom. But it’s a $25 pizza by land standards and they deliver it freshly made, but people still “b***ch” because it’s a cruise ship and food, even room service, is supposed to be free. I say – “get over it, the price is almost nothing, and if you don’t agree don’t buy it.”

There is one major nickel & dime concern I heard about Oasis, however, and i hope it turns out not to be correct. I hear the bottled water, a stateroom staple for most people, is over $6.00 per bottle and must be obtained through the bar service (not your room steward). I suggest you insist your room steward keep your ice bucket full and drink tap water on ice. We have tested ship water and it is VERY high quality, much better than average city water. But we still prefer bottled water and $6.00 is usurious – even though it is a VERY large bottle.

More Ridiculous Downside Complaints

Another common Oasis slight was various forms of this, “It’s OK if you want a week in the Mall of America.” The implication being that you have no feeling of contact with the sea once onboard the ship, but that you are surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars trying to entice you to spend money. “Oasis is not the true cruise experience” according to these specific curmudgeons. I say hogwash.

First of all, Oasis is a cruise ship. There are plenty of ocean views throughout the ship, including from the aft stairs where you can see sea for miles past the stern. In truth, no ship has ever had more ocean view balcony cabins than Oasis. The ship is bifurcated in design with two large blocks of cabins on each side, with open public space in the middle. Midships the two habitats are separated by Central Park, aft they are separated by the Boardwalk. There are thousands of balcony cabins, most of them facing out to sea, and the rest face inside, open air public spaces.

If you want contact with the sea book the ocean-facing balcony cabins. They actually sell for less than the inward-facing ones. Or book an inward-facing balcony cabin overlooking the Boardwalk for a sea views over the stern and a great view of the Aqua Theater. You can see ocean for miles out there.

There are windows in the dining rooms with ocean views, as well as windows in many of the public rooms throughout. Most of all, the entire sports deck has thousands of deck chairs, pools, a waterpark, flowriders, food stands, bars, etc,… all with amazing ocean views. There is even a jogging track on deck 5 that completely circumnavigates the ship. It isn’t much of a promenade deck – but it is an open deck with plenty of sea air.

Sailing was not the foremost topic of conversation onboard our cruise to nowhere, but to imply Oasis is not a “cruise vacation” is absurd. Oasis will sail to ports of call where guests will get off and enjoy shore excursions. Will its high number of guests overwhelm its ports of call? For the most part the ship will visit places that often host as many as 15,000 cruise visitors each day anyway. What difference does it make if 5000 visitors come from one ship, or from two different ships? In any case, I have never heard any port complain that there were too many ships in port. They live for the money these tourists spend.

Finally, the last derogatory statement we heard is “it’s fine, if all you want is Las Vegas at Seas.” Oasis is nothing like Las Vegas, except that is has a casino and shows, but the similarity stops there. First of all, the casino is not the highlight of the ship as it is in Vegas. It is the biggest I have ever seen at sea, but I will bet fewer than 5% of the ship’s population was ever in it at any given time. It is closed when the ship is in port. These ships are NOT just about getting gamblers onboard with nothing else to do but play.

Secondly, the shows are free! In Las Vegas or Broadway you would easily pay $90 per person for a ticket to the AquaTheater show or Hairspray. The Ice Show is certainly of Olympic or “Ice Capades” quality – once again, all included in the cruise fare. That would NEVER happen in Vegas. The same with the comedy club “Stand Up” and the jazz music club onboard. No cover charges, no drink minimums. The same with Dazzles for big band dancing and Blaze, the “disco.”

Here is another difference – there are many restaurants in Vegas named for Michelin-star chefs, but the last one I tried there, “Mix” by Alain Ducasse, I paid almost $200 for two, with no alcohol included, and I gurantee you the “name” chef was not anywhere within 1000 miles of our meal. On Oasis you can have a meal served by KeriAnn Van Raesfeld, just named the best young chef in the world at the “Culinary World Conference 2009” in Dubai, the first American and first female to win this award. She not only designed the cuisine for the venue 150 Central Park on Oasis, she will even be there supervising the preparation of the food, much like Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen. The surcharge is $35 per person for an 8-course tasting menu including all courses. An outstanding bargain for the experience of a lifetime.

Of the 24 eateries onboard – half carry no service charge. You can get fast food like pizza, burgers, fish & chips, etc. You can also eat vegetarian and even vegan onboard. As far as sports activities – there is rock climbing, zip lining, a waterpark, flow-rider surf simulators, mini-golf, ice skating, swimming, basketball, ping pong, a fully equiped gymnasium, hot tubs… all provided at no extra charge to the guest.

Bottom line, you can eat, be entertained, partake in many sports activities and see great ports of call, all included in the price of the cruise. You can’t say that about Las Vegas, and you can’t say Oasis does not provide a typical “cruise experience.” This is a cruise ship that also happens to have far more than any other cruise ship in history.

Personally, so far I love the ship, primarily because I feel so entertained every moment. There is no boredom factor. The biggest challenge is managing all of the activities you want to try. And they even created a supurb reservation system to deal with that.

Now, I still have to see this ship as a regular passenger, which I will next week starting on Monday, December 1st. I have even heard a rumor the dock won’t be ready for Labadee and they will have to tender all guests to the private island. if that is true, that is this ship’s worst nightmare and I will be there to see it. Expect a full report.

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Comment from Guest
Time November 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Wonderful review, and fantastic job debunking all that negativity. It’s nice to see an open minded critic for once.

Comment from N. Gorsha
Time December 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I was happy to review comments. We are booked on the Oasis in Feb (the last boardwalk view cabin adjacent to the Rock Climbing Wall…I was hoping the cabin would have great views-just a little worried about the “climbing” next door. Plan to take your advice about the Central Park restaurant (hadn’t originally intended to). Any ideas for shore excursion critiques….so many options I cannot decide. Thanks. NG

Comment from Linda Woods
Time January 21, 2010 at 12:32 am

Hi – landed on this site looking for single parent w/kid cruises on Royal Caribbean. I loved the reviews though, and especially the Oasis, looks great for me and my teen son. But, do you know of any single parent pricing? Thanks!

Comment from Lenore
Time April 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

This ship is the best. There is so much to do. You don’t need reservations for anything, just go to all the shows 20 minutes before starting and you will get in. Don’t miss the Quest show and love and marraige. I had a balcony facing Central Park, it was amazing. Also, don’t miss the 70’s night, i had the best time at that event. This is also so many complimentary restaurants you don’t need to spend any money on food. The port were beautiful, you do not need to buy the excursions from the ship. Just leave the ship and take a taxi whereever you want to go. When you go to St. Martenn take a $6 per person taxi ride to Orient beach. rent a jet ski and have a blast. There is also a nude beach at the end. In St. Thomas, you can take a boat ride to St. John and go snorkeling, this was best to get through the ship. It is $27 per person for the cab, the equipment to snorkel and the ride back. The pools are crowded so I just went to sit on the top of the ship to sunbath. Get the late seating for dinner so you can enjoy the day. Go, relax and enjoy. This is the best vacation ever. And, don’t forget to have FUN

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