Photo by Nick Hobgood

Oasis of the Seas

220,000 gross tons
5400 passengers (double occupancy)
6264 total capacity 2700 staterooms
2161 crewmembers
22 knot cruising speed
16 passenger decks
Norwegian officers and international crew
Bahamas registry
Entered service: Nov 30, 2009

Best For People Who Want:
Bragging rights to a ticket upon the world's largest cruise ship. The feeling of a city-at-sea; Mass appeal to children of all ages; non-stop nightlife, extensive sports equipment, wide variety of onboard entertainment options

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer:
A small ship with lots of quiet spaces; single, open seating or intimate dining; a close-to-the-sea cruise experience.

Onboard Experience:
Oasis of the Seas, at 220,000-ton debuted November 30, 2009 as the biggest cruise ship in the world ever built by at least 30% - both in size and in passenger capacity. But lest you think Oasis is just an expanded version of any other cruise ship, a thought that does not appeal to some people, let me explain that Oasis is not just another cruise ship. It is a completely new design in ships unlike anything ever built before. Whereas previous Royal Caribbean mega-ships feature one area that the company now refers to as a neighborhood, the open indoor expanse called the Royal Promenade, Oasis of the Seas has seven such neighborhoods including; a larger Royal Promenade, Central Park, the Boardwalk, the Entertainment Zone, the Youth Center, the Sports Zone and the Spa and Fitness center.

The two new open air neighborhoods, Central Park and the Boardwalk, are what make the ship truly unique in design, aside from her overwhelming size, of course. Central Park is a wrought with trees and rambling vines really growing on the ship - surrounded by cozy shops and cafés. The Boardwalk is what it sounds like, a busy fun-zone with a real carousel, hot dog stands, kiosks and ice cream parlors. At the far aft end of the ship is an AquaTheater for swimming during the day and spectacular water-themed production shows at night.

The AquaTheater on our first passenger cruise was the subject of some controversy. The shows actually were not ready for prime time. Whatwas supposed to be about a 45 minute show was only 20-minutes, and it was onbvious to me that many parts were still just in the rehearsal stage. The theater itself is amazing, made specifically for water acrobatics including specialty diving and a built-in trampoline where performers can jump from a platform above and land in the water. The pool is the biggest ever built at sea. The line has said the depth of the pool is 17-feet, but that includes several underwater mechanics for special effects. The working depth for divers is only 13 feet. Considering the dive platforms on each side of the pool are at these heights: 9.9 feet, 32 feet and 58 feet for the highest dives, it is extremely critical that everything is perfect when peforming these shows.

One little item many people will notice and wonder about are the red/green traffic signals embedded in the rock climbing walls across from the theater. Those are actually there to tell the divers the pool is clear of underwater movable platforms and equipment, the green light meaning it is all clear to dive from the 58-foot platform.

Right now, there is just one AquaTheater show offered, but eventually there will be two, Oasis of Dreams is more highly choreographed and interpretational, while Splish-Splash is described as a comedy diving show. During times when the AquaTheater shows on not being performed, it has been said Royal Caribbean will allow passengers to swim in the pool. They will also occasionally show fountain shows featuring several computer controlled fountains with colored lighing effects that are programmed to dance to various songs.

The two uppermost decks comprise the sports zone with two flo-rider surfing machines, a complete kid's water park, a beach-entrance pool, a miniature golf course, ping pong and basketball, rock-climbing, two swimming pools and an adults-only serenity area with two hot tubs cantilevered over the sides of the ship. One of the most unique features is the zip-line with takes you an a 5-second ride over the boardwalk. This is a free activity, as are all sports activities on Oasis, but it requires signing a waiver and putting on all kinds of gear. In the end it took the staff about five to ten minutes to suit up each individual, and there were dozens of people in line. Not worth the wait for anyone who has ever ziplined before.

Amply decked out with recliners, the pool areas bustle with activity. There is a complete water park featuring a huge octopus figure encompassing water slides, sprays and wading pools. There are two FlowRiders and a beach-style pool with a raked entrance. The real action takes place on the sports deck, where fitness fans work up a sweat playing basketball or rock-climbing. Meanwhile, the adults only Solarium features peace and quiet in a cerebral greenhouse setting for enjoying the sunshine in almost any kind of weather.

Not far away from the Sports Zone you will find the youth areas - planned that way so the youngsters can enjoy the sports facilities without having to wander far from their dedicated facilities.

During the day, the serenity area at the forward end of the ship offers health-conscious cuisine with no serving over 500 calories at the Solarium Bistro. At night, the same space becomes a health-conscious full-service restaurant charging $20 per person. It is fully possible to eat vegetarian or even vegan on Oasis of the Seas.
Video: Flowrider; Oasis has two of these.
The Oasis Royal Promenade is longer, taller and wider than the Freedom and Voyager-class ships. Here you'll find the boutiques found on the Freedom class vessels, including the Mondo Coffee Bar ($2.50 per cappuccino but plenty of free regular coffee plus delicious free pastry and sandwiches); Sorrentos for free pizza and pastries anytime; a champagne bar, and various gift shops. Missing from previous ships are the Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand and A Close Shave, male tonsorial parlor charging an outrageous $72 for a shave. The English-style Globe and Atlas Pub for beer lovers is still there, it features a live acoustic guitarist playing favorites, and the On Air Club which is mostly a karaoke club and live music lounge is right next door. Up above the Royal Promenade is another level for strolling with additional shops and nooks. Here you will find the traditional Royal Caribbean Schooner Bar, but for the first time it feels more like an afterthought rather than an important room. The main feature of the Royal Promenade, however, is the Rising Tide Bar, a lounge that is also an elevator between the Royal Promenade and Central Park, two decks above it. It boards every 15 minutes and takes about five minutes to complete the ride to the other level.

The Boardwalk is located aft one deck higher than the Royal Promenade. Here you find the following small snack food and novelty kiosks; and Ice Cream Parlor, a free Donut Shop, , Pinwheels and Candy Beach, two food venues each carrying a surcharge: Johnny Rockets and the Seafood Shack, and then a free, small and barely noticeable free hot dog stand with corn dogs and chicken nuggets. They also had pre-packaged snacks with chips and guacamole and veggies with ranch dressing dip.

Also on the Boardwalk it the free carousal, a lovely, authentic merry-go-round from the early 1900s with a classic menagerie of wooden animals to ride from frogs to zebras, ostriches, lions and bears. Towards the aft end of the Boardwalk is the ultra-impressive AquaTheater - the venue for the water-based shows featuring water acrobatics including extreme high dives, a trampoline and even synchronized swimming. This venue has the potential to be one of the most impressive shows on the ship, but was not quite ready for the first cruise we sailed upon.
Central Park features the Parkside Art Gallery, the Vintage Wine Bar, restaurants such as Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. There are cozy walkways around the skylights for the Royal Promenade below with live trees and grass. Tiers of staterooms with verandahs line both sides of the Boardwalk and Central Park.

This is an active ship, but even those who can't do all of what Oasis offers will enjoy watching those who can. The 40-foot-high rock-climbing walls are immense. There is an ice-skating rink for recreational skating as well as for Ice Capades-type shows and a mini-golf course. There's a three-story dining room and one of the biggest casinos at sea.

There are literally miles of public corridors, but the hallways are occasionally jiggered so you don't get a sense of the full distance, plus excellent signage precludes anyone from getting too grievously lost. In fact, each stairwell has an excellent interactive computer screen that will tell you exactly how to find anything you want. You simply tell it where you want to go (it already knows where you are) and it instantly displays a map on how to get there. However, after a simple let's go see the ship! comment leads you out the door, by the time you return to your cabin you will feel like Marco Polo. The gift shops offer Oasis of the Seas logo items outside to designer merchandise by Versace, Bulgari, and Lladro inside.

Despite the massive size of the ship, the one thing you will notice is that Royal Caribbean spared no expense in designing the ship. It is a strikingly beautiful ship, not just in size but also in detail. The design of the ship is the best work of art on the ship. There are cantilevered hot tubs, arching balcony balustrades, crisscross beams, tons of glass and beautiful plants, woodwork finishings and tasteful finishings everywhere. The atriums boast tall modern sculptures rising several decks. Glass elevators in the vertical atriums at each end of the promenade make for breathtaking views of the interior of the ship. The size alone here is not the attraction of the ship, it is that they managed to finish every single detail in an eye-pleasing manner that is most impressive.

Public Rooms:
The breathtaking Royal Promenade, longer than a football field and wider than three lanes of traffic, and another deck taller than the Freedom-class ships has natural light streaming in through skylights in the roof. There are not as many inside staterooms to the Promenade as they are on Voyager and Freedom-class vessels. Those windows were almost always shuttered anyway, so people on the outside could not see what was happening on the inside. The mall is always dazzlingly illuminated, unless the lighting effects are turned on for the Mardi Gras-style parades complete with stilt walkers, streamers and confetti.

Video: Promenade Parade
The enormous Casino , through which passengers must pass on deck four to get the Ice Rink called Studio B and the Opal Theater main show lounge, is gilded to within an inch of its life, with nearly hundreds of slots and tables for blackjack, craps, roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker. There are banks of gaming tables, twice as large as most cruise ship casinos. There is no live poker, but there video Texas Hold'em games. Aft of the casino you'll find the Ice Rink for passenger skating during the day and special Ice Capades style Ice shows at night featuring some of the best skaters in the world.

Video: Royal Caribbean Ice Show 

Further along (aft) you find Entertainment Central, a first for Royal Caribbean.Comedy Live is the first dedicated comedy night club at sea. There are three family oriented shows each night and an adults only show close to midnight every night. You also find Jazz on 4, which features a house jazz band doing several sets nightly. You must make reservations for the comedy, jazz and ice shows - we'll tell you how later in the article. Across from these two show rooms is Blaze referred to as one of the hottest nightclubs at sea. We have to say it is a welcome departure from the supercilious dungeon-like atmosphere of the Voyager and Freedom-class vessels for the nightclub in the same spot. This area was actually something of a dead-zone on those ships, but Oasis has brought it to life nicely.

The gorgeous Opal Theater, a state-of-the-art 1,350-seat show lounge, is where guests will see the Las Vegas-style Production shows on the ship. While it is not any larger than on any other Royal Caribbean ships, it is the most beautiful theater they have ever made. This is the lounge where they will show Hairspray (the fully licensed Broadway version as well as the original piece Come Fly with me. They also feature special entertainers who come in and work the ship for short periods of time.

There are several other entertainment venues sprinkled throughout the ship: Along the Royal Promenade you have the Brit-like Globe and Atlas Pub. Next Door is On Air which we mentioned features karaoke as well as family disco dancing. Across the promenade is Boleros which features Salsa music with a live band all night long. This became the favorite hangout for the Latino crowd onboard.

On the upper tier of the Royal Promenade is Dazzles; a ballroom with a live orchestra and a commanding view overlooking Central Park which is stunning at night. In truth, from the artist's renderings we expected this room to be bigger and we could have sworn that at one time they said it would also be a supper club, but in any case, it is now a rather intimate dance club that gets very crowded.

In fact, one thing you have to notice about Oasis is the manner in which every room seems to take on just the right number of passengers, no place was so crowded no one could get in, and no place was so quiet no one wanted to go there.

The best spots for being alone with a book and a fantastic sea view is the Viking Crown Lounge high atop deck 17. Nearby is the Loft Lounge and the Pinnacle Chapel. There are cabins on this deck around the observation lounge, a first for Royal Caribbean, and even on the level one deck higher, deck 18! Personally, I'm too faint hearted to sleep comfortably up there.

Mouthwatering descriptions on the menus notwithstanding, you probably won't hear people raving about the food in the main restaurant. Try one of the five alternative dining spots for a better meal. It is well worth the $4 to $35 per person service charge..

The ship's elegant main restaurant, the Opus Dining Room is three decks tall. It features a stunning crystal chandelier and a grand, three-deck staircase. The bottom deck (3) is reserved for people who prefer old-style pre-assigned dining with the same table and waiters every night. Decks 4 and 5 offer anytime dining where guests can arrive for dinner whenever they please (during the hours it is open, generally from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm). For pre-assigned dining, first seating is at 6:15 pm and second seating is at 8:45.

The vast Windjammer Lido deck restaurant is for casual buffet-style meals. It is surprisingly uncrowded most of the time, due to the large number of alternative options for coffee and pastry one can find all over the ship. Breakfast is probably the busiest meal, but the buffet is also open at dinnertime for those people who just want to pick up a fast, casual dinner. Nearby you will find the Izumi Japanese Restaurant, open only for dinner and with a la carte pricing. Also on the Sports Deck is the Wipe Out Cafe with freshly cooked hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, etc., all free.

Central Park is the home of the finest dining venues on the ship. Giovanni's Table, the alternative Italian restaurant, is a lovely intimately-lit venue with family-style servings for lunch ($10 per person) and dinner ($15 per person). Chop's is a Royal Caribbean staple fine dining place for grilled steaks and chops and large lavish desserts. Well worth the $25 service fee.

150 Central Park is the finest dining on the ship, headed up by executive chef KeriAnn Van Raesfeld who was named best young chef in the world in the world culinary congress in Dubai on 2008. The restaurants typically serves an 8-course tasting menu for $35, not including wine. Two different wine-pairing packages are available offering a drink along with each course. One is $55 and the other is $75 per person. The food is exquisitely delicious, but on our meal the portions were disappointingly small and several items promised to us on our menu were not served (the explanation being that the ship had run out of certain ingredients). This is not an acceptable excuse, and we expect Royal Caribbean will not let this happen on future cruises.

One of the best surprises, food-wise, on Oasis is the no-charge Park Cafe. One can go to this small deli-style cafe at any time and place an order for a freshly made sandwich. They hand you a number and allow you to select any seat. Of course, being daytime in Central Park there are many al fresco tables available. Your order will be made; meat sliced and cheese grilled on the spot, and brought to your table - no charge. You can even grab a bag of Lay's potato chips to go with it.

Inside the Royal Promenade you find Sorrento's Pizza with ready-made slices, or even better, you can order a pie made to your specs on the spot, no charge! They have the ingredients right there for you to see; anchovies, mushrooms, onions, olives, pepperoni, etc. I heard these pies were delectable, but since most people can't wait, the slices of different styles were more popular.

Cafe Promenade has fingers sandwiches, pastry and hot tea or coffee; all free. Mondo Coffee Bar has pretty much the same offerings, also free, but more seating.

The Cupcake Cupboard may be one of the most controversial subjects on the ship. The cupcakes are delectable, heavy on the frosting and with toppings like coconut, chopped peanuts, chocolate chips, etc., but the price is $2.50 per cupcake! Never have I heard so many complain about the cost of a cupcake. But they are delicious. I suppose if you went to Safeway the price would be closer to 99 cents, but I can't really say because I have not had a cupcake since --- well, last tThursdayon Oasis, but before that the last time was when I was nine years old.

On the Boardwalk you will find Johnny Rockets (service charge $4.95 per person) and the Seafood Shack (8.95 per person). At Johnny Rockets you get all the food you want for $4.95 including an ice cream sundae. But if you want a shake it costs an additional $5.00. Does that really make sense? No, but that is the way it is. I cannot personally recommend the seafood shack. I had the fried selection of shrimp, calamari and whitefish. Only the whitefish was any good, the other two were mealy and I could even tell which was which. You also get an appetizer and dessert. The appetizer was a nice crab-based salad with pita chips. The desserts looked good but I skipped it.

I already mentioned the donut shop. The Ice Cream Parlor has replaced Ben 'n Jerry's. The Parlor features a number of delicious sounding sundaes like banana splits. I almost succumbed to a nutty something or other. The prices are about $5.50 for a special sundae. You can get a simple ice cream cone for $2.25. There is also free soft-serve ice cream available in three places on the ship, but not nearly as easy to find as on the Freedom-class. The only in the Royal Promenade is gone.

We have to say that we were just remarkably surprised at the level of service for a ship this size. It is obvious that Royal Caribbean has decided to up the ante on service when it comes to Oasis, and we universally found that everyone we talked to was very eager to help us. If they did not know the answer every single crewmember has a walkie-talkie and they can call up anyone they need. Not once did we receive a that is not my department style of reply. It was always, let me see what I can find out for you.

One of the biggest glitches came from the reservation system - which worked fine, except that people who had made reservations online in advance of the cruise found that show times had been changed once they arrived. There was supposed to be a system to remind you of what reservations you already had, but unfortunately the interactive television service was not working very well. You are supposed to be able to make reservations for shows, restaurants and shore excursions on your television. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time it resulted in an error message saying We are unable to process your request at this time. This was the ship's first cruise, and we do anticipate that this will be sorted out soon, but it should have been done already and all I can think if is that the ship was not ready for the volume of requests it was going to receive on this system.

Room service is surprisingly efficient, usually telling us delivery would be a lot later than it actually was. Be prepared to tip on delivery even though there is nothing to sign. There is a small service charge of $3.95 for delivery between 12:00 midnight and 5:30 pm.

One of the spottiest functions of the ship so far is Internet access. There are 10 workstations on for public use, five on deck 7 and five more on deck 9, and there are four or five additional computers in the card room on deck 14 aft. But in reality, every TV set in every cabin is an Internet workstation, so all is not lost. The problem with the TV-workstations is the keyboard which comes with them. They are not efficient, and typing on them is extremely difficult. The mouse is very slow and you are never exactly sure if you have clicked something because there is no audio cue. Furthermore, if you type too quickly the characters will not appear and you could find yourself waiting for up to a minute only to see you accidentally hit the caps-lock key and have to start over.

About the best thing you can do on the in-cabin workstation is set up a wireless Internet account (no, you do not have to go to the Internet cafés to do this). But for a wireless account you need a laptop. The ship says it has some for rent but that the supply is limited. Bring your own laptop, you will be far happier. The connection is surprisingly good - when the satellite is working properly. We heard rumors that it went down frequently before the ship began regular service, but we do not know that for a fact. We are also hearing that it has improved somewhat since regular service began although we had one day when it was down for over 12 hours.

Royal Caribbean suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite); $3.50 for the waiter; $2.50 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 Head Waiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion. If you want these charges added to your accounts you must tell Royal Caribbean at least two days before the cruise ends. Otherwise, be prepared to count out the cash and hand it to the people who serviced you personally.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Additional gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

The main entertainment is in the AquaTheater, the On Air Club Ice Rink and the Opal Theater. Smaller venues throughout the ship offer dancing and music throughout the night. Without a doubt, entertainment is one of the main attractions for Oasis. It is the first cruise ship to ever fully license the rights to show a Broadway show in its entirety; Hairspray. This classic musical about a Baltimore teen who wants to integrate a local dance show similar to the Dick Clark show of the 1960s has a cast of 24 singers and dancers and is performedy. The cast is extremely talented, and you would easily pay as much as $90 ticket to see this show on Broadway. The show is a little long by cruise ship standards and it bogs down a bit expertly in the middle, but you get the full show as written - and that is quality entertainment, especially for a cruise ship.

The next venue is the AquaTheater which offers a water-acrobatics show in the style of La Reve at the Wynn is Las Vegas or Eau by Cirque d' Soliel. The cast has extremely fit divers and acrobats, but the stage itself is the most impressive part of the show. There are three different diving platform on each side, one of 10 feet, 32 feet and 58 feet. The pool is just 13 feet deep but has all kinds of apparatus that allows it to change from a full pool to a hard stage (without that apparatus the pool would be 17 feet deep). There is also a hard floor that recedes to reveal a trampoline for more dramatic acrobatic action. So, part of the show is acrobatic, part of it is extreme diving and part of it is synchronized swimming. In truth, the show we saw on our cruise, the first passenger cruise, was only about 1/2 ready and we did not see many things that will be included later. I am sure the show has promise and will be one of the prime attractions when it is ready, but that could take a month or two.

The third major show everyone should see is in the ice rink theater called Studio B. The show is called Frozen in Time, and is based on the works of Hans Christian Andersen. I am not a big fan of ice skating, but I still enjoyed this show a great deal. It is more than just skating, it has impressive costuming and beautiful music and lighting effects. It went off without a hitch, just like Hairspray, and is a must-see event on the ship.

The balance of entertainment was described in the public rooms - Comedy Live has comedians lightly, Jazz on 4 has live jazz music nightly. Boleros has live Salsa music nightly, Dazzles has a live big band for dancing, there is a piano bar and the English Globe and Atlas pub features a guitarist/singer doing requests. Various surprise events happen throughout the day and night - don't miss the parades in the Royal Promenade.

Hats off to Oasis for not skimping on balcony cabins. The ship has With 37 categories to choose from, many with views unique to Oasis of the Seas. These include the Royal Promenade cabins with picture windows, balcony cabins facing inwards (not to the sea) over the Boardwalk and Central Park, and of course several balcony cabins facing the sea.

Most impressive, and expensive, are the Loft Suites with two decks of floor space, a living room downstairs with a staircase leading upwards to the bedroom above. The best thing about these suites is two decks of floor-to-ceiling, double-height windows; solid glass for spectacular sea views no matter where you are. You don't have to worry about who is seeing you when out to sea, but be sure to close those curtains at night!

There's lots of storage, especially nice for a ship that is essentially a destination unto itself. Standard amenities include flat panel color TV with CNN and movies; a safe; individual temperature controls for the air conditioning and hair dryers. There are tubs only in the highest category staterooms' bathrooms; most have just showers (though unexpectedly large ones.

The most noticeable thing is that the fitness area no longer dominate the top forward deck areas. On Oasis the bulk of the Vitality at Sea Spa is on deck five. The is still a boxing ring with staff boxing instructors. The ship's well-equipped gym still draws serious fitness buffs with its full range of state-of-the-art machines. The two-level Steiner Spa, with its winding staircase, looks more like the lobby of a boutique hotel, albeit with a Greek motif. It houses a small attractive thalassotherapy-like pool in an airy glass-enclosed but private semi-circular room.

There is a jogging track that completely circumnavigates the ship on deck 5. At the stern are a number of deck chairs if you are looking for a really private hideaway. You can reach the jogging track from the fitness center, or through the glass doors in the Royal Promenade.

Children's Facilities:
Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.

Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance that friends and family can attend.

RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for pre-schoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.

Lastly, RCI unveiled a Youth Loyalty Program this summer. Children and teens can now also enjoy Crown & Anchor Society repeat passenger benefits. Rewards for youngsters on their second or more RCI cruise include Crayola Twistable crayons or a Royal Caribbean bag. All repeating youth receive a Youth Ultimate Value Booklet with coloring pages, games and discounts for onboard amenities such as Ben & Jerry's, Airbrush Tattoo, and arcade games. Parents can enroll their children (if they have already cruised with RCI) via the line's web site:

Oasis is the first Royal Caribbean ship to offer a nursery for infants and toddlers 6 months to 3 years. So far, no charge for these services has been announced and this is a great amenity for young couples who want to enjoy their vacation without baby onboard once in awhile. The minimum age for bringing a child onboard is six months.

There are two formal nights per 7-night cruise. In truth, the definition of formal has changed over the last few years and even seeing a tux is pretty rare these days. While just a few years ago the introduction of Freedom of the Seas spurred many gentlemen to dress in tuxedoes, we actually saw blue jeans in the dining room on this cruise, and no one seemed to be objecting. Suffice it to say that even on formal nights you can get away with slacks, a collared shirt and a jacket, you do not need to bring the ties or especially the cummerbund if you do not want to. Women still tend to dress more elegantly and almost anything is acceptable for the ladies.