For more context, you can read these posts about our road trip to Florida.
The cruise section was written for this lovely UK cruise site:
Oasis of the Seas, November 2017
Next up was Saturday afternoon and our arrival at the Homewood Suites in Cape Canaveral. We booked this hotel a year ago, and ended up canceling due to what we thought were changed plans. But as of trip time, we didn’t have a reservation and had to pay probably a slightly higher rate because of it. A room was available late and for very little additional we selected the park and cruise rate that allowed us to leave our vehicle at the hotel and take shuttle to and from the port which is literally 5 min away tops. It saves the neighborhood of $15 a day vs parking at the port. This would change I guess depending on the difference between the standard rate and park and cruise rate, but for us the difference was minimal. (Note: in case you don’t stick around to the end, the shuttle back to the hotel was effortless and presented no problems. That was our only hesitancy with doing parking at the hotel.)
The hotel itself was nice and has a beautiful pool area. I found it amazing on this trip at the kinds of outdoor spaces that can be created when the weather is consistently warm. Anyway, I woke up Sunday for my early morning coffee and found the the Oasis of the Seas looking at me through the trees which was a truly wonderful feeling. I remember once in New York, we could see only a small slice of the Hudson River between buildings from our hotel but still happened to be paying attention as the Norwegian Jewel passed by on its way to the pier where we would board later that day. First glimpse of the ship you’ve been studying for months makes it all real.
Breakfast is included at the hotel and wasn’t too crowded as early as we ate, however considering practically the entire hotel is there to cruise, it probably does get a bit crazy a bit later in the morning. Three shuttle times were available 9:45, 10:30 and 11:30. We chose 9:45 as we always try to board as early as possible. The shuttle driver was prompt and very nice. The drive is incredibly short and you are literally dropped off at the door. Porters take your checked bags as you exit the shuttle. Then, in our case, we were through security, checked in and waiting with a boarding number of 1 in probably 10 minutes. Absolutely amazing efficiency. Keep in mind our boarding number was only number one in terms of those of us left after those with disabilities, Crown and Anchor priority, and of course the serious casino players. We’re Platinum on both Carnival and Norwegian but only Gold with Royal as this is only our third time sailing with them. Believe it or not, boarding began by 10:45 and we were on board before 11am. That is unheard of for us, as we tend to favor New York and Baltimore as our departure ports and consider it a victory if we board prior to noon. It’s likely more due to sailing from a fantastic and newer terminal in Florida than anything Royal Caribbean does differently, but suffice it to say that the combination of both will not disappoint when it comes to boarding.
Once on board I stopped to chat with the internet staff. Having purchased the soda package/WiFi combo a few months ago, I wasn’t sure if that include the streaming internet or just regular. My intention was to upgrade if necessary, but it turned out surf and steam is included when you buy the combo in advance. So that was good. Typically the difference in the two speeds is $5/day.
The rooms were ready at 1pm which is typical although what wasn’t was the fact that our luggage beat us to the room! In 30 some cruises, that has never happened. Typically it’s at least an hour or two after getting in the room that they are delivered and we are unpacking when its time for the muster drill and sailaway. This cruise, however, we were on board, had lunch, explored and unpacked by shortly after 2pm! That was a record that I can’t imagine ever being broken.
So that covers the critical item, getting on board and settled. It’s at this point cruisers’ ideas of a perfect cruise vary drastically. All I can offer is my perspective. Waiting until the end of the week to begin this doesn’t lead to a good day by day report, so let me just list some thoughts and observations.
Not sure of the category system with Royal Caribbean right off hand, but I believe it was considered a Super Oceanview with Balcony. Something like that anyway. The room was nice enough, but certainly nothing special. Decent storage, shelves, etc. Outlets were fine, and I believe there were three on the desk which is more than usual. I had heard Royal likes to confiscate power strips, though mine still got through. It might be such that surge protectors aren’t allowed on board, but regular ones are fine. The balcony was very nice size but the view was limited slightly by some supports for Deck 15. I would have almost considered it an obstructed view, but it might not be worth that description. Probably only a dozen cabins with these supports exist on Deck 14 under the bulge area below the Windjammer. I thought, on booking, that it had been a great location to still be available, perhaps thats why. We always try to stay one deck down from the pool deck for easy access during the days. On this ship that separates you greatly from Decks 4/5/6 and the Promenade, Dining Rooms and Boardwalk. Thankfully we only had to walk up to 14 from 5 a couple times, which isn’t as bad as it might sound. Twenty four elevators is more than adequate most times. But peak hours and especially the dreaded post muster drill rush really put a strain on them. Another good reason to choose Deck 14 aft is quick access to the Wipeout Cafe and the arcade’s coke machine.
For the size and complexity of the ship, it’s really not difficult to learn your way around. It’s still a ship after all. Forward/aft, starboard/port, and decks. We had a handle on it fairly quickly. In a nutshell: Central Park extends between the forward and aft elevators on 8, Promenade extends between the elevators on 5, Boardwalk is aft from the aft elevators on 6, night clubs, ice skating and casino are on 3. Main Dining Rooms are aft on 3,4 and 5, pools, sports and Solarium are on 15 and Windjammer is 16. Most of the rest is cabins, so once you find yours and your relationship to the stairs/elevators you’re good to go.
Our first meal on boarding day was at Park Cafe. Having read review after review endorsing the roast beef sandwiches there, we had to try for ourselves. They did not disappoint! They are small, but not as much as anticipated, so getting two each right off the bat might have been a little overkill. They come with either regular or spicy mustard or horseradish. Absolutely worth visiting and good for boarding day lunch as it’s not super crowded. They have a good selection of other sandwiches as well as pre-made and made to order salads. Bags of chips are available, which we thought unusual for a ship. If you can grab a table outside, the atmosphere is wonderful. Inside it’s rather diner like. Central Park itself is beautiful and unlike anything else you are likely to see at sea. Unfortunately we rarely had occasion to visit unless going to Park Cafe. It’s worth seeing at night too, even if you have to go out of your way do pass through. If you’re inclined to pay extra for food you’ll probably visit more often as many of the specialty dining venues are located in Central Park. That’s not something that appeals to us though.
The pool deck is a little confusing at first since there are 4 pools. The beach and main pools are probably the most utilized. There is also an awesome kids area and a sports pool where they have games, exercise and such. We spent the bulk of our time in the vicinity of the beach pool. I loved the abundance of nice shaded areas on Oasis. My son and I are not sun worshipers by any means and do our best to stay out of it unless actually in the pool. Prime areas on other ships are in the direct sun and space in the shade is mostly tables, smokers or afterthoughts. One thing that took a little getting used to was the presence of lifeguards. All the time! If the pool is open, there is a guy standing there watching. You get used to it but it’s weird at first. Even the less than 4ft deep adults only Solarium pool has one. A nice difference from New York cruises is that all the deck chairs aren’t gone at 8am on sea days. I’ve been up very early all week and practically no one shows up at the pools until after 7 and even they are few. As with most everything else on the Oasis, it never seems crowded. You may not always get the exact area you want, but you can find a place to set up shop for a few hours. The Solarium is beautiful but unfortunately only for those 16yrs+. We walked through a couple of times but didn’t press our luck by settling in. It seemed to be warmer in there to me and for that reason I might steer clear of it anyway, but we’ll have to see about that in the future.
This is more or less the hub of activity, so in that respect its the place to be. The downside though, is that its basically a shopping mall, and one where you can’t afford anything at that. But that aside, its the home of the Promenade Cafe and Sorrento’s which are places you’d likely want if not need.
I used the soda machines at Sorrento’s several times a day. The pizza there is ok if you absolutely need a pizza fix. I would place it above Norwegian’s and below Carnival’s. My favorite part of Sorrento’s is the antipasti corner. Olives, salami, cheese, peppers, bread and other little things. There was never a line during my visits even when the pizza line was well out the door.
Promenade Cafe, astoundingly, seemed to be the only place, on a ship with nearly 6000 passengers, to get coffee in the vicinity of 6am. I still say I had to have been missing something but perhaps not. Seemed a little wacky to me. I was up between 5:30 and 6 most mornings for sunrise and it was always quite busy. Sure, you’ve got Starbucks, I’m not sure what time it opens, but in case you haven’t gathered by now, I’m not paying for something I can get for free. There is also room service which begins at 6am I believe. Thats only practical if you’re whole cabin is up at that time though.
Guest Services is here as well as the photo and shore excursion areas. Two Dreamworks parades are held here through the week. I only saw the first. It was entertaining, but not so much to make an effort to see the second.
The Boardwalk is a cute little area and home to the Aqua Theatre and Johnny Rockets among other things. While the show at the Aqua Theatre wasn’t all that impressive, the venue is very nice and in my opinion should be utilized more often. Our sailing was over American Thanksgiving when several football games are televised. A lot of people gathered there that afternoon enjoying the action on the big screens. The weather was beautiful, seats are plentiful and a bar is nearby. What more could you want? I believe movies were shown there at least a few evenings. Also in the Boardwalk is one of the best places on the ship for breakfast, Johnny Rockets. The menu isn’t extensive, but all the basics are covered and the quality and service are excellent. We ate there twice and sat outside on the Boardwalk, which provides a really nice atmosphere. If Windjammer chaos isn’t your thing, Johnny Rockets is a great no fee alternative.
This venue gets a bad rap online, but we were actually impressed by the selection and quality of the food available. Crowds might be an issue at peak hours, but it was always fine during our visits. My only problem with the Windjammer is its hours. They open too late and close mid day between lunch and dinner. There are two relatively separate sides to the restaurant and I can’t imagine there would ever be a reason for one of them not to be open. Other food venues are available around the ship, and during peak hours that’s wonderful. Not everyone follows the schedules of the masses though. This is likely just my Norwegian bias surfacing though, as I am used to the Garden Cafe being available for a snack whenever you want something.
Coke Freestyle Machines
If you are a heavy soda drinker like me, you’ll love this addition. I have purchased the soda package for years and am accustomed to stopping at bars all day every day for Pepsi or Coke. That isn’t a problem as long as they aren’t too crowded, but recently with all the freebies being pushed by Norwegian the crowds have increased. There are only 7 of the machines on the Oasis. Two in each side of the Windjammer, two on the Promenade at Sorrento’s, and one in the arcade on 15. Keep in mind the limited availability of the Windjammer, so only 3 of the 7 are available 24hrs and maybe half of the drink selections were available at any machine. Ice was also sporadically available. And even considering all of that, these things were great for me and Royal definitely gets points for providing them.
The food and service at the Main Dining Rooms were fantastic. We did early seating dinner and experienced no issues all week. There is nothing really all that different from other lines though. Well, it differs from Norwegian in that you have the same servers every night, which is always nice. The food was outstanding and portions were a little bigger than usual in my opinion too.
Surprisingly I score Royal Caribbean fairly low on entertainment. Cats was by far my favorite of the shows. The family comedy show on the last night would be second. The skating show would be next. Followed distantly by the Aqua Theatre show and Come Fly with Me. They were ok and certainly not bad by any means. Its just that by listening to Royal Caribbean fans brag about their product, I had come to expect more.
One thing you might find of interest is that the advance reservation system means little to nothing in reality. Two or three times we went to shows at different times/dates than we were supposed to have. They simply scanned our cards and let us in. Very weird. They didn’t even scan cards for the ice show and Cats at all.
Mentioning the comedy thing brings up another Royal complaint. The presence of a permanent Comedy Club on Deck 4 could have been fantastic. However it is only for those 18+! Why not offer early family shows and late adult shows like Carnival and NCL? They did have a family show at the main theatre the last night, which was great.
Plenty of good options for things to do can be found in Cozumel. Our main objective this visit was to get a cab to Chankanaab Park for a sea lion show and encounter. The price wasn’t bad and it seemed a bit more interesting than the routine (and more expensive) dolphin encounter. Royal Caribbean offers a shore excursion to do the dolphin encounter at the same place that includes a buffet lunch with open bar. We chose to skip excursion and venture out on our own because a buffet lunch is the last thing you need on a cruise and the sea lions were way more appealing to us. A cab for 3 was $12ea way and the encounter was $59ea. All in all a very reasonable investment in my opinion, provided you don’t buy the photos! Much like the cruise lines, they really gouge you on photos. I believe he said a single digital photo was $35 or you could get all of them (a bunch) for $300 something. Insane I thought. As my son preaches, just enjoy and appreciate the moment rather than determining to get the perfect photo. So thats what we did.
After studying this port a little in the 2 or 3 weeks the cruise line gave us prior to the cruise, we decided not to do much since most of the attractions were either in the Ocho Rios or Montego Bay area. Its not our practice to stray that far from the ship. We did get off and walk around the little touristy area they created for cruisers though. It was nice enough. No one was pushy or aggressive from what we could see. Nice time walking around the shops there although I don’t believe we bought anything. The Margaritaville had a nice pool area for some reason, so that could potentially be a nice atmosphere later in the day. As is our usual, we were much too early for anything to be going on.
I was very much prepared not to like this place, but wow, was I wrong. I imagine you could fit a several Great Stirrup Cay’s in this area. Labadee is really quite beautiful and provides abundant beach areas, walking paths, water activities, zip line and even a roller coaster. Colton and I did the roller coaster which was $25ea I believe and well worth it. A typical coaster, it was only 3-4min long but provided incredible views of all of Labadee and the ship from the top of the mountain. It was here my son reminded me again that it wasn’t actually “a shame I couldn’t have my phone for photos” considering how much we enjoyed it. I tried to talk him into the zip line but he wasn’t interested. As with the other ports, our activities were mainly AM and our afternoons were spent back on deck reading, swimming and eating.
I have mixed feelings on the track. For serious runners/walkers its great and actually much better than any other ship I’ve sailed. I say that because it’s uncrowded. If you just want to get your miles in for the day, its perfect. However, if you are used to areas like Deck 7 of the Norwegian Jewel class where you can loop the ship while feeling at one with the sea, well, its not like that. You can’t see much of the ocean except for the aft area and a handful of other small places. Otherwise you are behind low hanging life boats. Compared to the track on the Norwegian Breakaway though, where you try to wind through very crowded public areas, its very nice. So, as with most things it just depends on your perspective.
Other options are available if you are still in vacation mode at the end or have a late day flight, but the self-assist walk-off gets you on your way the quickest. We were up at 5:30am and I noticed at that time that a line was already forming in the Promenade to disembark. By the time we finished packing, had breakfast (Windjammer is pretty much your only option this day) and got back down to Promenade to leave it was just before 7 and we literally walked right off the ship. However, as you aware, you’re not done yet at this point. Unfortunately it was almost another hour until we were through Customs and exiting the building. Literally that was the only significant queue the entire week. So thats not a bad trade off I guess. All in all the time involved with debarkation vs. New York wasn’t all that much different. Its just in New York, you’re stuck on the ship for the line and in Port Canaveral your line is in the terminal. Not a big deal. We were back to the hotel for the car, packed the cooler with ice from the hotel and were on the road by 8:05am.
Overall the cruise was fantastic, as are most in my opinion. Not every thing was as we are accustomed, but its good to experience new things. Royal Caribbean excels in many areas. They must do something right when you can sail on a ship with 5000 or 6000 passengers and hardly ever notice a crowd. That aspect alone was wonderful. The food was great all around and Royal quite possibly beats the other lines in that area, at least it did on this ship. Entertainment was good, just not great. Cats is, as described, a very polarizing show. People tend to either love it or hate it. I really enjoyed it while the rest of my family gave up before intermission.
The Oasis of the Seas class are absolutely incredible ships and offer areas unlike you’ll find anywhere else at sea. So Royal Caribbean gets a win there as well. One thing we did learn this sailing, though, is while having all those things available was very nice, its not a perfect fit for everyone. I don’t think our cruise could have been any better to be honest. But, would I be just as happy on the Norwegian Gem, absolutely. My cruise needs are minimal and can easily be provided on a smaller ship. That said, the Oasis ships are certainly something that any serious cruiser simply must see.
Sailing from Port Canaveral vs. New York City is not even a comparison in terms of efficiency. Among the busiest cruise ports in the world, they have the system perfected. Sailing from New York is still best for us due to the proximity to home. And of course, sailaway past Manhattan, Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Narrows Bridge are indescribable. But thats for another review I guess.
So those are my thoughts after a week onboard Oasis of the Seas. I’m sure I missed plenty that I will think of as soon as this goes up. If there is something else you would like to know about specifically, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for reading along.