CRUISING ON OASIS, THE LARGEST SHIP IN THE WORLD
Anxiously looking forward to a winter cruise adventure, our voyage began at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As our plane landed I caught my first glimpse of OASIS OF THE SEAS and the enormity of its size took my breath away. No wonder San Franciscans have traveled across the country in droves since it’s maiden voyage in December 2009 and return home raving about the new addition to ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE LINES fleet of over 20 ships. Try to piccture a vessel 1,187 feet long, 215 feet wide and 213 feet high from the water line, with 16 passenger decks and 24 passenger elevators, that can hold 6,360 guests along with 2,394 crew from over 71 countries.
When meeting Hotel director Joan Mendonca, I could easily sense his pride when he recalled spending one year in preparation for the grand opening. During the inaugural year he welcomed the ship’s named Godmothers Daisy Fuentes, Dara Torres, Gloria Estefan, Jane Seymour, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Michelle Kwan, and Shawn Johnson. Although he admits trying to please a usually 90 per cent capacity guest load can be a very challenging job, he enjoys overseeing the efficiency of the ship in offering something for everyone, no matter what age. On my western Caribbean cruise he said the average age was in the 50s with about 500 children because this is summer vacation time for Southern Hemisphere countries. Usually this family-oriented ship attracts two thirds of its passengers in the 21 to 55 year old category with the other third from 55 to you-name-it senior citizens. There is a whole Boardwalk section devoted to youth activities with Dreamworks movies and live characters to be seen, an ice skating rink, old fashion carousel and every on-deck sport you could imagine, including two rock climbing walls, a ride-the-waves pool and a high flying zip line for the courageous youth on board.
For the older generation of us, we could just get our adequate exercise walking from one end of the ship to the other, which I swear could be as long as three football fields. My balcony stateroom overlooked the 8th floor area called Central Park, an open-air park with pathways lined with exotic plants. It is lined by 4 specialty restaurants with outdoor dining tables where one could see the blue sky overhead and 17 floors of balconies of the inner cabins on both sides. Where else can a person with an inner cabin come onto a balcony and look up to see blue sky?
What else does this gigantic ship have that impresses everyone as a travel destination all by itself? I liked the wide Royal Promenade which was a great meeting place for people watching with its 10 places for snacking or bar hopping, and of course typical cruise shops selling fancy high end jewelry to ogle besides the usual souvenir logo bargains. I thought the fancy drink glasses with twinkling lights on the bottoms were a fun novelty to bring home, minus the drink of course. Conveniently located here was also the excursion desk where the very amiable Brazilian Excursions Director Marcio led an efficient crew who offered about 50 different type trips for the cruisers to experience in Haiti, Jamaica and Cozumel, our three ports of this 7 day eastern Caribbean adventure. He admitted it was a taxing job sending the thousands of people to trips which fit their expectations but his crew worked hard to schedule tours offering from kissing dolphins to private beaches where one could indulge in water sports and lounging to seeing cultural and historic sights. The multi-storied Promenade area was also the exciting scene for dance parties, colorful parades and to the kiddies delight, dancing with Dreamworks characters.
RCCL Corporate Public Relations Administrator Lyan Sierra Caro and blonde and beautiful Hotel Assistant Manager Iwona Podobas were very efficient when helping us to get acquainted with all of the ship’s offerings. For ye handicapped columnist on my hip-hip-hurrah pre-hip-replacement surgery adventure voyage, she arranged for efficient wheelchair access from pier to ship embarkation and disembarking days as well as use on board. For anyone with disabilities making walking difficult, I would highly recommend requesting this service as the lines of 6,000 passengers were long and the pier-to-ship distance equally lengthy and the space crowded. Some wheelchairs are available at the Guest Services desk for the tenure on the ship also, if needed. Iwona introduced me to the quiet less-congested adults-only Solarium deck with its smaller pools and Jacuzzi tubs and it’s own Solarium Bistro for healthy food selections. A native of Poland, she said the ship’s crew speaks many languages as RCCL has cruisers from all over the world. I met many crew members from China and one told me she learned about the job from recruiters coming to her school. Just for example, for the upcoming Chinese New Year week the OASIS will be welcoming 700 travelers from Mainland China and Hong Kong. I remember hearing from Mel and Jeannie Lee, Richard and Lorene Quon, Vincent & Kim Yuen. George & Fran Pon, Art & Joyce Yun, Warren & Mae Yee, Willie & Cindy Zee, Ray & Wini Pun that recently they were joined by over 100 fellow San Francisco Bay Area Chinese Americans on their spectacular cruise week on the sister ship ALLURE , so it is safe to say these RCCL large ships are very popular for local Chinese California community too.
For a cruiser like me who was on board to relax, the very large two story Vitality Spa was a savior for my tired, aching muscles and inflamed joints when I enjoyed it’s most popular offering, the hot stone massage given by a very strong Filipina masseuse. Manager Chantal Nikiforou from South Africa said the Vitality spa services over 2000 passengers each week and the Fitness Center stays open and busy until 1am daily. Special medical specialists were also offering many classes on acupuncture, teeth whitening and new facial rejuvenation treatments. One special offering I thought new and popular was the Vitality Thermal Suite where one pays a fee to have access all during the cruise to its private sauna and steam rooms, special fog and rainforest showers and best of all, can relax on specially designed heated stone loungers. Nirvana, amen!
Food, alas is what attracts many people to cruising and with the Oasis’ 24 restaurants, I don’t think anyone would be disappointed or go hungry. The Opus Main dining room with its massive crystal chandelier lighting up its three stories can hold over 3000 diners at a seating and Moisio Mopera, our waiter proved to be very efficient, according to my fellow diners Dr. Clifford and Susan Chang and Dr Roger and Sylvia Eng. We all agreed one formal night lobster menu was the best accented with special pate, seafood crab salad, shrimp gratin appetizer and climaxed with desserts baked Alaska and vanilla soufflé. Besides the main dining room, the Windjammer buffet was a popular destination and even had a station for Asian foods, but the room was always very crowded. My favorite was the Izumi Japanese restaurant with its specialty of rock offerings where one cooks the entree on a hot rock at your table, a wide assortment of sushi and a dessert sampler of a trio of Mochi ice cream, green tea mousse and creme brûlée. OASIS has five specialty restaurants where patrons pay an extra fee to try different dining options, including Izumi.
Entertainment wise, this ship had the best I have ever seen on any cruise line. It’s Production of Hairspray was Broadway caliber, the Disney themed ice skating show was superb, the open air Aqua theater water show showed first class high diving and trampoline acrobatic skills, and the Come Fly With Me Show combined music and dance with high flying trapeze artists and aerialists and even a giant airplane on stage amidst moving staircases and quick changing scenery. Headliner Jeff Trahta was a very entertaining impressionist singer with fast paced impersonating of celebs from George Burns to Lady Gaga. Comedy Club Live comedians kept us laughing throughout in a small intimate room. For the younger set there was all kinds of music being played everywhere for dancing and of course, for the gamblers there was a busy casino and bingo game.
It would take me days to tell you the wide list of other activities RCCL offered its Oasis cruisers this week. Suffice to say if you wanted you could be running around every hour from one activity to another. Or at best, you could do as much or as little as you wanted because the Oasis ship, big as it is, gives you much to choose from. The snow birds from Canada and Midwest were just happy enjoying warm weather on the many decks on board.
Did it seem like a mob scene of 6000 people? Other than the port times when everyone rushes to go off on tours or on embarkation day when everyone is anxiously rushing to get on board, I’d say no. My only advice for future big ship cruising like on RCCLs beautiful Oasis or its look-alike Allure, is be prepared by doing your pre-cruise reserving of all your entertainment shows and specialty restaurants while still at home. Will save you a lot of standing in line possibility on the ship to get into the popular shows which take reservations ahead of time and are usually filled. The outdoor Aqua Theater was a joy to sit outside to enjoy the water shows and movies. My only wish was that they showed more up to date adult movies on board or on our large cabin TVs.
Yes I survived and enjoyed cruising RCCL’s OASIS, with its sister ship the ALLURE, the largest cruise ships in the world today. Although my handicapped joints suffered its long distances, I didn’t get lost too many times, had a great relaxing vacation never feeling one vibration or movement at sea. Oftentimes I forgot I was at sea, it was so calm. It is certainly an adventure in itself as a perfect destination for people who enjoy cruising activities so much they don’t care to leave the ship or see other parts of the world. Cruisers, from my vantage point, just seek pleasure being able to eat at any moment of the day and since I joined their crusade, my Chinese New Years post-cruise resolution is to go on non-cruise diet!!