Greeting everyone! I just finished up a 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise with my family on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, the second largest cruise ship in the world! 😮 🌎I thought I would provide a detailed review of our on-board experience, as well as, helpful tips for those considering taking a cruise in the future. 😀
Arrival: Our ship departed from Port Canaveral, near to Orlando, Florida. To reduce stress, we arrived a day early, which was smart considering my parents had flight delays, which affected their arrival time. While in Orlando, we stayed one night at La Quinta Inn & Suites Airport North Hotel, which offered a complimentary airport shuttle, and arranged our shuttle to the port as well.Cost: ~100 USD for a room with two double beds, booked on Orbitz, plus 30 USD per person for round-trip transport to Port Canaveral.
The next morning, after enjoying a complimentary breakfast, we made the 1-hour drive to Port Canaveral. The ship departed at 4:00 pm, and passengers had to check-in at least 2 hours beforehand. Our check-in process went very smoothly, and took less than one hour.
During that time, Royal Caribbean transferred our bags to our room, while we went through the security screening, and were issued our sea pass cards.The sea pass card is used for literally everything on the ship, from buying drinks, shopping in the boutiques, renting towels, getting into reserved shows, and especially for getting on and off the ship. It can also be used in the casino if you win any money. The card balance can be checked at any time at either the front desk or by using the television screen in your cabin. Since I found a last-minute deal on this cruise, we received a 100 USD of credit, which we quickly spent up…on adult beverages. 🍺🍷😉
Facilities: We were stunned to learn that the Oasis of the Seas is the second largest cruise ship in the world.It’s five times the size of the Titanic, and almost as tall as the Empire State Building. It has a capacity for over 6,500 passengers, and over 2,000 crew members and staff. The ship has 17 floors, 25 restaurants, 28 bars, seven distinct neighborhoods, over 12,000 plants, a casino, two rock climbing walls, a gym, spa, sports court, an ice rink, a gaming arcade, mini golf, two surf machines, a zip line, a library, a card room, a comedy club, multiple theaters, the deepest pool at sea, a carousel, 25 pools, including hot tubs, and plenty of on-board shops, including Tiffany’s, Rolex, and Michael Kors.I got lost all the time on this ship, and heavily relied on these displays to tell me where I was. I overhead someone say they lost their wife for almost 24 hours on this ship! Some people have walkie-talkies, which seems like it would come in handy. Our personal cabin was an interior stateroom for three people. It had a double bed, a couch, desk, bathroom, closet, mini fridge, and a twin-sized bed that folded down from the ceiling. The room was so quiet and dark, we could honestly sleep the day away in there, with no concept of what time or day it was! 😛We also had a personal attendant who came each day to clean our room, change our towels, make our beds, and came each night to deliver an itinerary for the following day. He also left us cute things, like towel animals. The staff come from over 75 countries, and our attendant was from Indonesia. ❤Overall, the cruise ship was like a moderate-sized village. The cruise director even hosted a talk show each morning to give passengers a run down of upcoming events and things to know.
What’s Included on a Cruise:
Food: Let’s be honest! Food is a major part of the overall cruise experience. On the Oasis of the Seas, over 10 of the 25 restaurants are included in the price, with hours of operation listed in our daily itinerary, and a $ asterisk next to it, if eating there was not included in the cruise. The non-included specialty dining services included a fine Italian restaurant, a Mexican taqueria, a Japanese hibachi and sushi bar, a steak house, Starbucks, and a chef’s table multi-course dining experience.
CAUTION: Be prepared for lots of food pictures! 😛
We chose to eat at the following restaurants during our cruise:
Solarium Bistro: another buffet-style restaurant, with a tranquil garden setting and beautiful sea views. (B,L,D)
Sabor Taqueria: this Mexican restaurant was not included in the package, but they did have a nice happy hour, with a margarita, appetizer, and unlimited chips and salsa for only 12 USD. (L,D)
Nothing like a little post-margarita merry-go-round. 😉
Park Café: a casual dining spot, which reminded me of Panera. They offered salads, soups and paninis. (L,D)
Johnny Rockets: a 1950s-style American diner, with flap jacks, burgers, fries, and malts. (B is included, L is extra $)
Wipe Out Café: a surf-themed buffet near the pool, which offered sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and pizza. (L,D)
Boardwalk Dog House: a casual, carnival-style eatery, with specialty hot dogs, like bratwurst with kraut, chicken sausage, and pork sausage with peppers. (L)
Cups and Scoops: a paid ice cream parlor, with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and elaborate sundaes.
Sorrento’s Pizza: a casual Italian restaurant, with slices of pizza, garlic bread, and a variety of salads. (L,D)
American Icon: a casual dining spot for breakfast or dinner, with the option of either buffet or a la carte dining. (B,L,D)
Silk Main Dining Room: the main on-board dinner option, where you receive a lovely fine-dining experience. (D)Each meal, you choose a starter, entree, and dessert from their daily rotating menu.
Side note: you can choose as many starters, entrees, or desserts as you’d like! 😉 You also have an assigned table, assigned waiter, and a set dining time for each day. You can check the menu beforehand as well, and decide if you’d like to dine there, or choose another restaurant. We were assigned the 7:30 dining time, and this was the family we ate with each evening. Here’s a sampling of our most photogenic foods. 🙂They also had multiple poolside soft serve ice cream machines, and a few paid restaurants which we didn’t get to try. By the end, we just felt like mindless zombies in an eternal food coma, walking from one meal to the next! Hah!Drinks: As for beverages, coffee, tea, water, milk, and juice are included. Alcoholic drinks and soda are not included.You can choose to buy these individually with your sea pass card, or as a package deal.Beers and wine are 7-8 USD, mixed drinks are 9-15 USD, and soda is 2-4 dollars. Drink packages cost 25-60 USD per day, depending if you want just soda or alcohol too, but everyone in your group must purchase a package. This stops large groups from buying one package and sharing all the drinks. You can also bring up to two bottles of wine on-board with you from off shore, but no liquor.Internet: The WiFi can be purchased for 20 USD for 24 hours or for 15 USD/day for a 6-day package. This was for surfing the web, but higher speed internet for streaming videos can be purchased at an additional price as well. Personally, we bought internet for one day, but it was actually enjoyable to disconnect from the web. As well, it was easy to find free WiFi in both Sint Maarten and San Juan.
Activities: Each day we were given a detailed itinerary of available activities. Almost all were free, aside from spa services, exercise classes, or other experiences, like tapas tastings, liquor flights, and gambling tournaments.
Each floor also has computer screens where you can check the daily itinerary, weather, and ship statistics.Personally, we chose to take part in only free activities. Here was a day-by-day breakdown of all the things we enjoyed:
Day 1- a complimentary alcohol tasting, and the Broadway performance, “Cats”.Day 2- a champagne art raffle and live auction, a family-themed parade, line dancing class, a dodgeball tournament, and mini golf.Day 3- a belly flop competition, ice skating, zip lining, an ice show called, “Frozen in Time”, and a love and marriage game show. Our cruise director looked like he came straight off the love boat with his heart patterned suit. ❤
Day 5- outdoor movie screening of “Flatliners” after a long day at shore.
Day 7- an Elvis show, a comedy dive show, rock climbing, and a late-night comedian. Moms favorite joke from the comedian. “What’s the difference between popcorn and pea soup? Anyone can pop corn.” Hah! 😛
Side note: the Elvis show was an added bonus. It is part of an annual birthday cruise for Elvis.
Since I was so impressed with the entertainment, I put together a small video montage for you to enjoy! 😀
Cruising tip: many of the shows require a reservation, which is best to book on the first day of the cruise at the guest services desk. You can also monitor your reservations using the television in your room.
Side note on live music: Each day they offered a plethora of live music, from afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. They had a nice variety of classical, Latin, Jazz, Pop and clubbing beats. Honestly though, after a days worth of sun and activities, we were lucky if we made it to midnight each evening. Hah! 😛
Ports of Call: During our cruise, we stopped at three different ports: Phillipsburg in Sint Maarten, San Juan in Puerto Rico, and Labadee in Haiti. Personally, we chose to opt-out of any paid shore excursions, and instead chose to do our own thing at the three different ports of call.
1. Phillipsburg, Sint Maarten- this Dutch Caribbean island has clear, turquoise waters and a laid-back beach vibe. They were hit hard by Hurricane Irma only four months ago, and we could see that many of the buildings were still far from being repaired. As well, the locals here rely heavily on tourism, so we had lots of people trying to sell us clothes, jewelry, massages, and hair braiding, but they seemed to be very polite with us each time that we declined. During our 7-hour stop in Sint Maarten, we chose to rent beach chairs and lounge in the sun all afternoon. We liked this restaurant called Antoine, which had a full bar, restaurant, free WiFi, and a friendly staff. We enjoyed a leisurely day picking sea shells, tanning, and swimming in the sea. The sand was super smooth and the ocean was a temperate 70 degrees. The air temp was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but breezy, which made for a relaxing day at the beach.
Cost: 20 USD for two umbrella beach chairs, and 5-6 USD for drinks
2. San Juan, Puerto Rico- this American Caribbean island was first colonized by the Spanish back in the 16th century, and has an incredibly charming old town district full of colonial architecture, as well as, two historic battle forts gazing over the sea.During our 6-hour stop in San Juan, we visited both forts, shopped for souvenirs, and tried some local Puerto Rican grub.The main dish here is called mofongo, and consists of mashed plantains, filled with either roast chicken, pork, or seafood. It’s served with rice and salad, not too spicy, and has a nice balance of savory meat and sweet plantains.
Side note: San Juan was also hit pretty hard by the hurricane, and it’s obvious that the relief efforts here have been less than adequate. Their relationship to the U.S. is very complicated, and it seems that Puerto Rico is always getting the short end of the stick.
Cost: 7 USD per person for entry to both forts, 12-14 USD for mofongo
3. Labadee, Haiti- this tropical paradise is actually owned and operated by Royal Caribbean.The site has beautiful beaches, a pristine landscape, the longest zip line over open ocean, and a fun water park for its guests.They also served a complimentary buffet-style lunch, and this was the only port of call where we could use our sea pass cards to purchase alcoholic drinks. To generate income for locals, they also had a handicraft market, selling paintings, trinkets, and other colorful souvenirs.
Side note: For each port of call, getting off and on the ship was quite easy. We simply presented our sea pass card and ran our baggage through a scanner. They also rent out towels for the day, so you don’t need to bring your own. All of our ports of call were within walking distance to the ship as well. Lastly, I always found the staff to be incredibly welcoming when we got back on board. Our cruise director was an exceptional hoot, since we never knew what kind of crazy outfit he’d be wearing next. Pure entertainment right there!
Overall Cruise Experience: Now, I can only speak for our personal experience, but we found the cruise to be incredibly entertaining and well-balanced. The quality of entertainment far exceeded our expectations, and offered a lot of variety. We never wondered what to do next, but instead, wondered if we could fit everything we wanted to do into one day.
As for the food, we found the quality to be exceptional, and incredibly diverse. Highlights included fine cuts of tender meat, fresh seafood, and well-seasoned Indian curries. Of course, the greasy burgers, fries, and unlimited soft serve didn’t hurt either! 😉
We also found the staff to be incredibly focused on proper sanitation. We were prompted to disinfect our hands by the staff before entering any dining area, and we could find Purell dispensers literally around every corner. We also found the three ports of call to offer a nice variety. Sint Maarten was more geared at a beach experience, San Juan was more of a city walk and sightseeing tour, and Labadee was great for kids, and also adrenaline junkies.
As far as value-for-money, I found the cost of the cruise to be quite affordable. The extras for drinks, internet, fancy duty free items, and overpriced excursions are where the prices can really add up. Just be smart when making those purchases.
Cost: around 500 USD per person, booked through Expedia.
Anyway, my apologies if anything on this post is out of order, since although the cruise is done, my travels are far from finished. Up next I’ll be heading to Cuba for over one week. My access to internet will be extremely limited during that time, so I wanted to share my cruise experience with you before I left. Anyway, feel free to ask any specific cruise questions you have and also expect a full report on Cuba when I return. Until then! 😀