Travel Weekly's Donna Tunney is on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, boarding the ship after its first visit to Falmouth, Jamaica. Her third and final dispatch follows. Click to read Donna's first and second dispatches.
The ship is plowing east across the Caribbean Sea from a final port call in Cozumel, Mexico, toward its homeport of Fort Lauderdale, where we conclude our seven-day cruise on March 26.
There are long faces all around.
Vacations always seem to go quickly, and the passengers aboard Oasis — many of them now settling their accounts at guest services — chat with each other and joke about how they’d like to stow away for another week’s cruise.
I was thinking that myself.
After just 72 hours as a guest on this grand ship, I’m hardly an expert on the Oasis, but I can make a few observations and relay some comments that might be of interest to travel agents and potential passengers.
Getting from here to there: Navigating your way around the world’s biggest cruise ship can be a challenge, particularly for passengers whose previous cruise experiences took them aboard smaller ships — say, those with just a few thousand people versus the 5,000-plus who are on Oasis.
As one veteran cruiser put it: "It used to be that the fun stuff was always in the front of the ship and the food was in the back. But that’s not how it is on this ship."
That’s for sure. On Oasis, there’s food and fun at every turn, and some folks can get turned around.
"This place is like a city," said a 40-something passenger from Ohio who is cruising for the first time.
"I don’t know anything about this fore and aft stuff. I just want to figure out how to get to my cabin, the bar and the dining room," he quipped.
He’s not alone. Judging by the passengers who I’ve seen using the interactive Way Finders touch screen on Oasis, my friend from Ohio hit the nail on the head.
With 16 decks, 24 passenger elevators, 2,706 staterooms and seven so-called "neighborhoods" onboard, it’s not too hard to become confused about which way to go.
The Way Finders screen
s are located on every deck, near the elevators. A deck map shows the staterooms in color-coded quadrants.
All images of the decks have a "you are here" indicator, and from any of the screens a passenger can enter a stateroom number to view a map showing the quickest way there.
In addition to providing directions, the touch screens have a “what to do right now” option that shows the daily activity calendar. Under "dining options," passengers can select any of the complimentary or specialty restaurants, view the menu and learn if there’s a wait for seating. I found this especially helpful.
Sustenance: Food, its quality and quantity, has traditionally been a big part of the cruising experience. It is here, too.
There’s a wide range of choices on Oasis. For comfort food breakfasts and lunches, the buffets at Windjammer Marketplace appear to be a top choice. It can get crowded and noisy.
Other locations for menu dining at breakfast and lunch include Park Café, which passengers have raved about, and Solarium Bistro. For those in a hurry, sandwiches and pizzas for lunch are available at several locations across the ship.
I sat with a family group from Michigan in the Opus dining room one night, at my assigned 8:30 p.m. seating. I enjoyed their company more than my dinner. Maybe it’s me, but pickles in beef stroganoff?
Another night I decided to try a specialty restaurant, and shelled out $15 to dine at Giovanni’s, which serves family-style Italian.
I was disappointed here, too. The food was OK, but the service felt rushed. My server very strongly suggested an appetizer and entrée, and I felt almost guilty wanting to actually read the menu and decide for myself. I ended up going with her suggestions and regretted it.
I’ll admit I’m a picky eater, and I saw no indication that others were disappointed in their dining choices on Oasis.
Service: Every passenger I’ve asked about service says it’s been excellent. One lady told me: "Even if you bark a complaint at someone here, they say, 'Oh, yes, thank you, ma’am.' They are so nice, it’s ridiculous."
I agree. The crew in its entirety has been gracious, patient and obliging. Cabin stewards, bartenders, deck sweepers — the whole kit and caboodle — go about their business with a smile. It’s very refreshing.
The Oasis experience has made a lot of people happy this week, and my guess is that any travel agent who booked a person or a family will hear about it. And hopefully that agent has found another repeat customer.
This sailing won over my pal from Ohio. I asked him as the cruise was winding down whether he’d cruise again or go back to resort vacations on land.
"Oh," he said, "I’m coming back."