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 first dispatch follows.
Couples are on the dance floor, doing the rumba to a lively Latin beat that spills out of the nightclub Boleros.
Multicolored lights and disco-style music set the pace for models strutting along an elevated runway.
The gold kiosk is jammed with people, the clerks hurrying from one customer to another.
Groups of friends order cocktails at outdoor café tables, talking animatedly to each other and paying no attention to the crowds walking around them.
Welcome to the Royal Promenade.
The scene is reminiscent of Lincoln Avenue in Miami Beach, minus the haughty attitudes one can encounter there. This is the pre-dinner hour, just after the 5,400-passenger ship pulled out of Falmouth, Jamaica, to continue its seven-day Western Caribbean cruise that left Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
The ship is full, and from the noise level, it seems everyone is on the Royal Promenade. They’re not, of course.
Traversing the ship from lower to higher decks, I found passengers in the card room, the Internet cafes, the hot tubs, the library. A steady stream of passengers was entering and leaving the spa.
I wondered if the Boardwalk would be just as crowded as the Royal Promenade. It wasn’t. I could hear myself think again.
There’s another location on Oasis that’s downright meditative — Central Park. It’s an expansive place of greenery smack in the middle of the ship. Trees, shrubs, flowers and dozens of plant species create a natural space, open to the sky on Deck 8.
Shops and restaurants line the perimeter, but this is a quiet setting for those looking to step away from the general hoopla.
By and large, the passengers appear to be very pleased that they chose to sail on Oasis. Since boarding the ship late Tuesday, I’ve spoken to perhaps a half-dozen couples or families. They are, without exception, happy people who say they love the ship.
Some of them are multigenerational families, celebrating milestone birthdays. Some cruise every year and decided to see what the biggest ship in the world has to offer. About half of them booked through an agent.
I had identified myself as a reporter for Travel Weekly. Deb from Austin, Texas, said she booked Oasis through Royal Caribbean’s website. But when she travels for business she always uses an agent.
"My agent is my best friend when I’m stuck in wherever and I need help," she said. "For vacations I figure I can do it myself."
Then she asked: "What’s going to happen to travel agents?"
"They’re evolving," I replied.