Cruise ship review: Oasis of the Seas reaches Ft. Lauderdale and she is a smash hit!

By Marcia R. Levin

Reprinted from her Tripitini Blog


Words almost fail. I’ve been covering the cruise industry for many years, but I can tell you right now that experiencing the beauty, sophisticated design, and of course sheer size of Royal Caribbean’s newest, largest and definitely most impressive cruise ship will forever be one of my bigger “wow” travel moments.

Yesterday I got off a two-day introductory cruise on the Oasis of the Seas, blown away not just by bells and whistles not long ago undreamed of, but also impressed by the ease with which passengers maneuver around this mega-to-the-max vessel. And yet, I have to agree with Royal’s CEO Richard Fain, who told us, “Bigger does not mean less personalized.”

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas

Fain added that Oasis is “one-third familiar, one-third evolutionary and one-third revolutionary,” and the numbers on this game-changer tell a good part of the story: 16 passenger decks and capacity for 5,400 guests in 2,700 double-occupancy staterooms that start at 170 square feet; 2,191 crew members; four pools and 17 whirlpools; 25 dining spots (nine of which are specialty restaurants involving an extra fee and one, the Solarium Bistro, with menu items with calorie counts of 500 or less); 37 bars and lounges. Other superlatives include an expansive, two-level spa/fitness center; a kids’ facility that’s the largest in Royal’s fleet; a family-friendly open-air promenade with a full-size merry-go-round; and another open-air promenade that’s elaborately landscaped, parklike, and lined with restaurants and bars.

Décor is low key meshed with cutting edge, and signage is among the best at sea today. It includes interactive maps and charts for restaurant reservations, as well as well lighted corridors and elevators (with button pads to the left and the right of the doors). Entertainment choices are varied; choose from a casino with smoking and non-smoking sections, jazz and comedy clubs, a huge indoor theater, and an outdoor aqua theater for water shows. For more active pursuits, you’ve got a zip line, a pair of FlowRider surfing simulators, two huge rock climbing walls, an ice-skating rink, and a sprawling sports deck with copious space for mini golf, basketball, and volleyball.

And despite the scale, and the hugeness of certain spaces such as the promenades, I found in roaming the ship that much of it somehow manages to feel unexpectedly cozy. I had no trouble finding my cabin, the media room, a cocktail party venue, the dining room, and casino (yes, my evening’s entertainment), all without so much as a wrong turn, thanks in part to well designed signage and no you-can’t-get-there-from-here elevators or stairwells. I found the design superb and while I don’t know I’ll ever get used to a balcony overlooking the vast interior spaces like the Boardwalk (in my case) and Central Park instead of open ocean, I do appreciate the open feel it imparts. Besides, unlike with the Voyager-class ships where this concept debuted, there is blue sky above (and, if you crane your neck, blue sea at the end).

So, yes, Oasis definitely raises the bar significantly on cruise ship design and amenities, with the sheer multiplicity of dining and entertainment choices, plus innovations such as duplex suites; dedicated comedy and jazz clubs; the zip line; elaborate kids’ areas on different decks depending on age, even the first seagoing cupcake shop. And thanks to the current economic contraction, it could well turn out to represent the industry’s high-water-mark for quite some time.

Oasis will start Caribbean itineraries in early December, with seven-night fares starting at $1,199; it will be joined in late 2010 by a similar sister vessel, Allure of the Seas.

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