Cruise Review: Oasis of the Seas Voyage to Haiti, Puerto Rico and Sint Maarten

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! 😮 🌎DSC_0983I 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. 😀DSC_0566

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.IMG_4761Cost: ~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.

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breakfast at La Quinta; hot sauce= life ❤

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.DSC_0955The 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. 🍺🍷😉

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Oasis of the Seas pub

DSC_0336DSC_0335DSC_0334Facilities: We were stunned to learn that the Oasis of the Seas is the second largest cruise ship in the world.DSC_0559It’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.DSC_1152DSC_0412DSC_0409DSC_0426DSC_0345DSC_1225DSC_0451DSC_0447DSC_0449DSC_0450DSC_0478DSC_0504DSC_0524DSC_0555DSC_0535I 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. DSC_0421Our 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! 😛DSC_0329DSC_0331DSC_0396DSC_0393We 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. ❤IMG_4725Overall, 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.IMG_4731

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:

Windjammer: a casual buffet-style restaurant with a daily rotating menu, and a variety of international cuisine, including European, American, and Asian fare. (B,L,D)DSC_0961DSC_0354DSC_0350DSC_0962DSC_0964DSC_0967DSC_0963DSC_0461DSC_0458DSC_0457DSC_0623DSC_0620DSC_0456DSC_0455DSC_0348

Solarium Bistro: another buffet-style restaurant, with a tranquil garden setting and beautiful sea views. (B,L,D)DSC_0463DSC_0465
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)DSC_0771DSC_1103DSC_1097DSC_1098
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Nothing like a little post-margarita merry-go-round. 😉DSC_1113DSC_1122
Park Café: a casual dining spot, which reminded me of Panera. They offered salads, soups and paninis. (L,D)DSC_0496DSC_0495
Johnny Rockets: a 1950s-style American diner, with flap jacks, burgers, fries, and malts. (B is included, L is extra $)DSC_0576IMG_4626DSC_0583DSC_0584
Wipe Out Café: a surf-themed buffet near the pool, which offered sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and pizza. (L,D)DSC_0560DSC_0770
Boardwalk Dog House: a casual, carnival-style eatery, with specialty hot dogs, like bratwurst with kraut, chicken sausage, and pork sausage with peppers. (L)DSC_0778DSC_1211DSC_1207
Cups and Scoops: a paid ice cream parlor, with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and elaborate sundaes. DSC_1214DSC_1220
Sorrento’s Pizza: a casual Italian restaurant, with slices of pizza, garlic bread, and a variety of salads. (L,D)DSC_0418DSC_1232DSC_1233
American Icon: a casual dining spot for breakfast or dinner, with the option of either buffet or a la carte dining. (B,L,D)DSC_0971DSC_0978DSC_0972DSC_0976DSC_0974DSC_0977
Silk Main Dining Room: the main on-board dinner option, where you receive a lovely fine-dining experience. (D)DSC_0443Each 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! 😉DSC_0804 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. DSC_0440DSC_0436We were assigned the 7:30 dining time, and this was the family we ate with each evening. DSC_1251Here’s a sampling of our most photogenic foods. 🙂DSC_0571DSC_1249DSC_0805DSC_0625DSC_0626DSC_1252DSC_1138DSC_0573DSC_0627DSC_0572DSC_1254DSC_0574DSC_0629DSC_0575DSC_0808DSC_1255They 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!DSC_0503Drinks: As for beverages, coffee, tea, water, milk, and juice are included. Alcoholic drinks and soda are not included.DSC_0607You can choose to buy these individually with your sea pass card, or as a package deal.DSC_0561Beers 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.DSC_1137Internet: 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.

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the vitality spa, where you could have services such as acupuncture, hot stone massage, and even a 24 carat gold facial

DSC_0446Each floor also has computer screens where you can check the daily itinerary, weather, and ship statistics.DSC_0397Personally, 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”.DSC_0358DSC_0386DSC_0391Day 2- a champagne art raffle and live auction, a family-themed parade, line dancing class, a dodgeball tournament, and mini golf.DSC_0498DSC_0356DSC_0491DSC_0486DSC_0489DSC_0501DSC_0547DSC_0532Day 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. ❤DSC_0610DSC_0616DSC_0587DSC_0589DSC_0592

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DSC_0659Day 4- an aquatic performance of divers and synchronized swimmers called, “Oasis of Dreams”, a battle of the sexes game show, and a performance by the famous singer and impressionist, Paul BolandDSC_0811DSC_0784DSC_0791DSC_0801DSC_0802DSC_0816

Day 5- outdoor movie screening of “Flatliners” after a long day at shore.

Day 6- a theater production called, “Come Fly with Me,” after another long day at shore.DSC_1145DSC_1148

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.

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Elvis fanatics on the cruise decorated their doors to show their support

DSC_1242DSC_1240DSC_1247My mom may now be one of them. 😛26238826_10215047478370225_4903986535628835567_nDSC_1086DSC_1089DSC_1093DSC_0779DSC_1165DSC_1258On the last day, we also got to meet the cast to ask them questions about their shows, and meet the captain to learn statistics about the ship.

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The cast is very busy with their shows each day, and they also help out with staging and costume changes for the other shows as well. The cast of “Cats” must apply their own makeup, which takes around 1.5 hours to apply and only 5 minutes to take off! According to their contract, they must also workout for at least 5 days per week.
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Our captain was from Norway, and he said the scariest thing that happened on this ship was that someone fell off. Luckily, another cruise ship saw them flailing in the open sea and saved them! Wow!

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.
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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! 😛DSC_1153DSC_0424

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. DSC_0670DSC_0667DSC_0680DSC_0688DSC_0691DSC_0713DSC_0723DSC_0687DSC_0679DSC_0731DSC_0735DSC_0738DSC_0737DSC_0745DSC_0752DSC_0758They 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.  DSC_0681DSC_0756As 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. DSC_0727During 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. DSC_0729We 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. Untitled collage IMG_4707

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.DSC_0853DSC_0825DSC_0880DSC_0883DSC_0886DSC_0888DSC_0889DSC_0937DSC_0890DSC_0940DSC_0901During our 6-hour stop in San Juan, we visited both forts, shopped for souvenirs, and tried some local Puerto Rican grub.DSC_0824DSC_0899DSC_0903DSC_0907DSC_0908DSC_0843DSC_0863DSC_0860DSC_0856DSC_0869DSC_0910DSC_0858DSC_0842DSC_0913DSC_0915DSC_0922DSC_0924DSC_0870DSC_0927DSC_0849DSC_0875DSC_0876DSC_0833DSC_0929DSC_0930DSC_0934DSC_0933DSC_0935The 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.DSC_0945DSC_0946DSC_0947DSC_0948
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.

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street art in Puerto Rico depicting their acknowledgement and resistance to the oppression

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.DSC_0984The site has beautiful beaches, a pristine landscape, the longest zip line over open ocean, and a fun water park for its guests.DSC_0986DSC_0995DSC_1002DSC_1003DSC_1073DSC_1006DSC_1008DSC_1016DSC_1005HCCI5661DSC_1019DSC_1024DSC_1025DSC_1032DSC_1021DSC_1034DSC_1047DSC_1071DSC_1079DSC_1081DSC_1048DSC_0991DSC_1050DSC_0987DSC_1053They 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. DSC_1056DSC_1058DSC_1062DSC_1064DSC_1067DSC_1070To generate income for locals, they also had a handicraft market, selling paintings, trinkets, and other colorful souvenirs.DSC_1077DSC_1076
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. DSC_0765They 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. DSC_1227We 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.DSC_1134
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! 😀

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4 thoughts on “Cruise Review: Oasis of the Seas Voyage to Haiti, Puerto Rico and Sint Maarten

  1. Hi Megan,
    What a wonderful jammed packed exciting fun filled post. Looks like you guys had great experiences in every waking moment. I’m sure your parents are going to have some great memories with you to look back on…til the next adventure 😁Can’t wait to see them. Look forward to your next post in a couple weeks from Cuba. Safe Travels! Love, Kim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kim! Thanks so much for the well wishes! The cruise was the perfect vacation for us to relax and bond as a family. Couldn’t ask for anything more! As always, I really appreciate your continued support of the blog. Sending lots of love to all the Heyens! -Megan XO

      Like

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