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I was so excited last year when Vacation.com announced that their 2012 Annual Conference was going to be on board the beautiful OASIS OF THE SEAS. I had cruised a short 2 day Travel Agent Cruise to Nowhere on the ALLURE OF THE SEAS in 2010 and was so impressed with the Oasis Class ships that I knew that I wanted to spend a week on OASIS or ALLURE at some point.
Now this review is going to be a bit different than most of my cruise reviews in that the ship description is basically the same as the ALLURE of the SEAS and you can read all about that here: Review of ALLURE OF THE SEAS
Because my 2 days on Allure were really all about seeing the ship and experiencing what you could in 2 days, which was very limited, I was really looking forward to living on Oasis for a full week. Our itinerary was Eastern Caribbean: St Thomas, St Marten & Nassau. All ports of call that I have been to numerous times and really had no reason to get off this amazing ship. We did get off in St. Thomas for "work"- a tour of the recently renovation Frenchman's Reef Marriott Hotel, but quickly returned back to our "OASIS".
This time around we chose to have a Boardwalk Facing Balcony Cabin. I was very pleased to find that there was simply zero noise issues. The Boardwalk can be a noisy "neighborhood" on these ships, but once the Balcony door was closed, you didn't hear a darn thing and we love to sleep in- we had no issues in doing this. We were able to go out and look down on the Boardwalk, if we looked out to our left, we could see a piece of the Ocean and also the Aqua Theatre. It was a nice way to be "part of the action" without being right in the action if we wanted.
Now I did have plenty of conference sessions to attend, so from a business standpoint, the ship really did function well for conferences. Many of the night-time only venues were turned into meeting spaces for us during the day. For large functions we had the Theatre at times when it did not conflict with the rest of the cruise ship guests. Royal Caribbean is definitely prepared well to handle company cruises and conferences at sea!
Dining- we were able to enjoy both the main dining room several nights and also experience several of the Optional Dining venues. We had lunch at Giovanni's Table, which was Italian Family Style and it was delicious. Great food, fun Italian ambiance and great service. We ate lunch one day at the Solarium Bistro, which was a buffet type of lunch- very good, this was embarkation day so it was a little busy and hectic, but we were fine. A friend of ours dined here for dinner one night and was surprised to see the entire restaurant turned into a table service venue and she said the food was very good. We ate in Chops Grille twice. I am a steak lover and we had an invite from one of my travel colleagues and we already had our own reservations for another night. The meat is cooked to perfection and for those in our group who ordered non-beef items, simply to die for was the concensus. Quality food, fabulous service, a standard on Royal Caribbean ships that I have never been disappointed with. One night we did dine at Izumi, the Asian Sushi Cuisine restaurant. It was a fun experience, although we sat at the counter because we didn't have reservations and the tables were full. It was really ok, but I would have been happier at a table where an Octopus wasn't staring back at me! Some other novelties on board- the Cupcake Store has some very yummy cupcakes and the flavors change daily. There is a Starbuck's for those who just can't go without, but you can also get a free coffee at the Promenade Cafe. Johnny Rockets still has the best milkshakes at Sea. We did not dine at the Donut Shop, Vitality Spa Cafe, Ice Cream Parlor or Vintages/Tapas. Just not enough time on this cruise to try every place!
Entertainment on board is never ending. You can take pictures with the Dreamworks characters. The daily schedule will tell you when and where to meet your favorite characters. My only complaint was that the schedule to meet Puss N Boots never fit to my schedule. Sigh. But we did get to take a pretty cute picture with Shrek & Fiona. Fiona was very impressed with our matching Polka Dots !
We went to the Aqua Theatre two nights- one night the show was the diving acrobatic show and the other was the lights/fountains set to music. Very entertaining and great shows. Just spectacular to have this sort of entertainment at sea. We watched the Ice Skating show one night and it was very colorful and fun to watch. "Hairspray" is the Broadway Musical on board OASIS (Allure has "Chicago") and it was a top notch Broadway performance. I was thoroughly impressed and it made me want to come home and watch the movie, it was THAT good! We attended the Comedy Show, the Jazz Show and did a fair amount of dancing in the two venues: Blaze and Dazzles.
There are trivia contests, scavenger hunts, dance lessons, casino lessons, wine tasting, liquor tastings, karaoke, lots of venues to listen to music or take in a sporting event on the big screen at the sports bar. The possibilities are endless. The kids programs are state of the art and Royal Caribbean accommodates kids as young as 6 months. Lots of "watering holes" aboard the ship, one of my favorites would be the Rising Tides Bar that slowly moves from the Promenade Level to Central Park- which is a Vertical movement, it's basically an elevator bar that moves very slowly.
Lots of Guest Participation shows on board, which are always good for great laughs. Pool parties, Promenade Parties and Parades.
Want something more athletic- well you have a state of the art Fitness Facility that is huge, just like the ship and you also have extra-curricular activities. Rock climbing walls, Flow Rider surf simulators, Zip Lining (YES- on a ship), Ice Skating, BAsketball, Shuffle board, a full running/walking track that spans the full length of the ship with encouraging signs to keep you going.
Relax by the pool? Sure no problem. Chairs were never hard to find and bar service was never far away. All pool attendants were right there for you whenever you needed a drink. We prefer to hang out on the deck above the pool so that we can hear the music, but have a bit of quiet time and a location to stare out at the ocean...this to me is pure bliss on vacation.
It's a tough call for me, but it's a very close tie for 1st between Royal Caribbean's OASIS/ALLURE and Norwegian Cruise Line's EPIC class ships. We definitely are large cruise ship people, yet never felt like we were on such a large ship. It was very easy to navigate through and get around.
To see more pictures of the OASIS OF THE SEAS, please check out MY OASIS OF THE SEAS FLICKR ALBUM