Prior to sailing I reserved all our shows. I tried to book as many afternoon shows on sea days knowing that with a baby and my mom we wouldnít be able to stay up late. I was really glad we booked in advance and selected afternoon shows. We were exhausted most evenings. I also reserved a hillside cabana in Labadee, the Dunns River Falls & Dolphin Cove excursion in Jamaica and the Discover Mexico & Chakanaab Park excursion in Cozumel. The only specialty restaurant we pre-reserved was Giovannis Table. I also ordered the Royal Caribbean tote bag and two water bottle holders from Gifts and Gear. The tote bag was worth it. It had a pocket for a large bottle of water, zippers for a sea pass card and pockets for sunglasses and sun screen and a center pocket large enough for a towel and water shoes. I used this every day. The water bottle holders we didnít use because they were too small to hold anything larger than a 16oz bottle of water. Things I was glad I packed: An over the door shoe organizer for all my stuff. It really kept my room organized. A pen and highlighter to mark on the cruise compass (thereís so much to do you really need to highlight the things you are interested in or it gets lost) and Binoculars to look at the islands from the ship. I also brought my own water shoes for Dunns River Falls. Things I wish I had brought: More sunscreen! I went through a ton of it just because we had to reapply every time we got out of the water.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port at 10:30am. We wanted to board the ship as early as possible because there were a number of things we needed to take care of. Check in was simple, from the time we left our bags with the porters to having our sea pass cards it was probably 20 minutes. We waited 15 minutes in a common area and then they began boarding a little after 11:00am. We had reserved a scooter from Special Needs at Sea and knew it would be waiting in the stateroom. However, my mother would have had great difficulty navigating the ship at ports or getting on or off the ship so we brought along her foldable wheelchair for back up. We were certainly glad we brought it! The ship is absolutely massive. The wheelchair allowed us to disembark easily at Cozumel and Jamaica and fit the chair on the tour buses. In Labadee we just took the scooter off the ship with us. More on ports later.
The first thing we did upon embarkation was to go to the Shore Excursion desk on deck 5. We had reserved a hillside cabana in Labadee but because I wasnít sure how much of a climb the ďhillsideĒ was I wanted to check if there were any over the water cabanas available. They were all sold out on line. Once at the shore excursion desk I asked if there were any over the water cabanas available. There was one left! They refunded me my other cabana and I booked the other one. While I was checking at the excursion desk my BIL went to deck 14 to ask about the on board iPhones. We really wanted one to keep tabs on each other. Iím so glad we went right away because by 2pm they were sold out. The iPhones were awesome. They were only $40 for the week (a total of $80 because you need two). They worked pretty good but sometimes lost the signal. They used a VIOP system so it depended on the wifi on the ship. The best part was we could locate each other using the locate function. We couldnít find my mom one afternoon and she didnít hear it ring so we were able to see that she was on deck 6, aft on the Boardwalk. Awesome! We could also text. The charge if you lose or break the phone is $500 per phone, but we were careful. Next thing we did was check on the Royal Babies and Tots program. The sign up for date and time you want is first come first serve. If there are a lot of babies on board then you will have a very limited number of hours. When we arrived we were able to reserve a total of 20 hours for the week. We reserved babysitting for all the shows and most of the dinners. Iím really glad that I brought a copy of all the show times that I had booked for the week because we were able to reserve our babysitting right then. The next day, if hours are available you can request more hours. We went back on day 2 and found that there were plenty of hours left so we also reserved babysitting for our Jamaica and Cozumel excursions. We didnít think the baby would enjoy the heat or bus rides and he couldnít go snorkeling so we decided to allow him to stay on board. The Royal Babies program is excellent. The workers are wonderful and kind. It was never overcrowded and the children always looked happy and content.
Having gotten all our chores done we regrouped and went to the specialty restaurant Giovanniís Table. I had read on previous trip reports that the Windjammer buffet was to be avoided on embarkation day as it is a crowded nightmare. We wanted to avoid having our first impression of the ship stressful so while everyone else was fighting for a table we were sitting in a quiet, half empty restaurant having a wonderful and relaxing lunch at noon. It was worth every penny and I would highly recommend this. Once we were finished with lunch our rooms were ready so we headed to our staterooms. My sister was in the room next door and we had no problem opening up our balcony dividers. Previous reports a year ago had mentioned that they couldnít be opened. This is not accurate as we opened ours and loved our large balcony. The standard balcony rooms were spacious and fine. The handicapped accessible room was a slight bit wider (maybe by two feet) to accommodate a wheelchair. The shower had a seat the closet had an upper lower rack for clothes. The closed seemed a little small at first but itís designed well and we were able to fit a lot in it. At this point Iíll break up the report by subject:
The shows: This is a big reason that the ship is worth every penny we spent. There is so much diverse and amazing talent on this ship. The singers were top notch! We arrived at every show 30 minutes early and relaxed. When you have a reservation they check your seapass card at the door and let you in. If you did not reserve your show you go to a different line and have to wait. About 10 minutes before the show starts they let in the standbyís. If you want a good seat pre-reserve the shows. We loved Hairspray. The ice show was awesome; your kids will really like it. The costumes were beautiful, the skating amazing and the ďsand artistĒ was incredible. The Come Fly With Me show left us speechless. The acrobats both in the air and on the stage were without question the best Iíve ever seen on a ship. If that werenít enough the Oasis of Dreams and Comedy Dive Shows were fantastic. You couldnít help but have your heart almost stop every time the divers flipped, twisted and dove off the high dive. We missed our reservation for Oasis of Dreams on Day 1 because we were so tired by 9pm. But we were able to catch the show one evening even though we didnít have reservations. We went to deck 11 aft. If you take the elevator up and go aft down the stateroom corridor to the very end there is a door that opens out to a small outdoor deck. No one knows about this deck because most of these decks are for the private loft suites. But deck 11 isnít, itís a public deck. So we had an empty balcony to watch the show. It was great. The comedy show was okay but I really prefer clean comedy. Half of the jokes were fine but the other half were so disgusting I didnít like it. I think it takes more talent to make people laugh at a clean joke than a dirty one.
The ship: In a word, amazing. There were so many places to go and see that on disembarkation day my sister and I ran around to see all the things we missed. What makes Oasis unique is all the areas to explore. The plants in Central Park were beautiful, the boardwalk was a fun, family friendly place to hang out or watch a movie under the stars. I liked having a balcony stateroom on Deck 6. We were located midship toward the back. Most mornings I would walk to the Donut Shop on the Boardwalk and get a coffee. The ship and shows made the cost of the cabins worth it. If I had had my teenagers with me the flow riders would have added to the value. The Solarium was amazing and we would have spent more time there if we didnít have a baby. The loungers in the Solarium that face the ocean go quickly. Youíll need to get one early if you want one. The area is restful with a waterfall, padded loungers, two whirl pools and a larger pool in the middle. We reserved the cupcake decorating class and had a lot of fun with it. You get to eat your work at the end of the class. Bingo was not worth the money. If you are going to play wait for the last day when the payout is larger. We went to a game and the pay out on game one was only $100 and the winner had to split it with a second winner. This ďwinĒ didnít even cover the cost of the $55 bingo machine that she used. Bring cash for the Casino, if you charge to your seapass card the ship charges you a small percentage for the privilege of taking out cash to lose in the casino.
Handicap accessibility: Surprisingly, the handicap accessibility was not good. Of course the cabin and public rooms were fine. However, the biggest flaw is in the corridors leading to your stateroom. They were too narrow and had raised humps at doorways along the corridor that were very difficult to get over. When we needed to use my momís standard size collapsible wheelchair it was absolutely impossible to get the wheelchair past the stateroom attendant carts that were parked along the corridor. Half the time a stateroom attendant was in the hall and would move their cart. The other half of the time my mom had to physically get out of her chair, fold it, push it past the cart then reopen it and get back in. I honestly do not know what someone would do who is 100% wheelchair bound. Her scooter was barely able to get past and most of the time it scraped along the wall as she tried to scoot past. The other issue was the metal, raised humps at doorways that separated the different sections of the hallway. These were so high in some sections that I almost sent my mom flying trying to go over them as they caused the small wheels in front to stop abruptly. This was a problem with all standard wheelchairs and transport wheelchairs, the scooter did not seem to have difficulity . I spoke to an elderly woman who was pushing her husband in a transport wheelchair. By the look on her face she had almost sent him flying too. We had to turn the wheelchair around at these points and go over them backward with the large wheels first. The inability to get a wheelchair past the hall carts is a huge issue for which I donít think there is a solution. Royal Caribbean cannot ask their stateroom attendants to leave them in front of peopleís stateroom doors. If you are 100% wheelchair dependent I wouldnít recommend the Oasis. They may have great shows and a great ship but if you cannot independently get back to your room I guess it doesnít help much.
The food: The food was good. I probably gained 5 pounds so it must have been good. We almost never ate in the Windjammer. There are so many other options. Instead breakfast was either at Johnny Rockets (finally a hot pancake), room service or the Solarium Bistro. The donuts at the donut shop were dry but fine if you are dunking it in coffee. We loved lunch at Park Cafť in Central Park. They had a ďmake your own saladĒ, fantastic roast beef sandwiches on a roll and yummy soup. We also had lunch at Johnny Rockets twice. There is a small fee ($5 per person) for lunch but breakfast was free. The dining room in the evenings was nice. No complaints. Overall the food was good. I donít rate a cruise on the quality of the food so maybe Iím not the best person to ask.
SPA: The spa was nothing to write home about. It was on deck 6 and 7. No view, no destination resort style facilities. If you want a great spa go on the Norwegian Jewel, Carnival Splendor or Holland America Zuiderdam. Iíve been on these ships and really enjoyed the spa area. They charge extra but Iíve always thought it was worth it for the ambiance and low crowds. We never used the Spa on Oasis, so we saved some money here. They do offer a spa access package for $30 a day and you can use the tiled loungers and steam rooms. But without a whirl pool or view itís hardly worth it. The cantilevered whirl pools on were beautiful and huge. The spas in the solarium were nice and hot. During certain times on sea days they were packed but we went at off times and enjoyed them.
Ports: Labadee was amazing. We exited the ship by 9:00am and headed straight toward the Barefoot Beach Club. We were able to take my momís electric scooter off the ship and were glad we did as the pier was long and there was a lot of walking. Once we arrived at the Barefoot Beach Club we were greeted by some wonderful staff who gave us a tour of the private beach. We had privileges to use the facilities and beach at either Nelliesí Beach where our cabana was located or the Barefoot Beach Club. We chose to swim at Nellieís beach because it was just as beautiful and not crowded. We arrived early enough to have our pick of the water cabanas and I think we got the best. Nellies beach is shaped like a horse shoe. If you are facing the water at the bottom of the horseshoe we chose the top cabana on the right over the water. It was quiet and had an amazing view of the bay. To our right was a private exit down to the sandy beach. To our left was a little deck and a ladder into the deeper water (about 5 feet upon entrance). The over the water cabanas at Nellies Beach are available to everyone. They are $200 for the day ($175 for the hillside) and you can take up to 6 people. The prices includes a personal Cabana attendant who will bring drinks, refill the water, get your floating mats and tell you when lunch is served. The price included two mats but our attendant was happy to bring a 3rd at no extra charge. Included in the cabana is an Iced cooler filled with large bottles of Evian water and four or five beach towels (so we didnít need to take ours off the ship). Drink as much Evian as you like, theyíll keep refilling it. The cabana is three sides and a roof. It has a large wrap around thickly padded couch, a ceiling fan and two nicely padded lounge chairs. The view was amazing and it was nice to get in and out of the water without getting all sandy. In addition, you have your buffet lunch with the Cabana Beach Club guests and which includes an upgraded buffet. The buffet was fine, and included shrimp and steak. They ran out of shrimp and steak within an hour so be sure to line up for the food when they open. My nephew took his nap on the couch and my mom appreciated the shade and ceiling fan. I loved the water and floating on the mat while gazing at the ship in the background. It was the best beach day ever. If we had little kids that wanted to swim or play in the sand we would have stayed in the first cabana on the right. It was over the water but two steps away from the entrance to the shallow part of the beach and the kids could have played. Our Cabana went right into deeper water. We visited the artisan market. It wasnít as aggressive as some reported. Please visit the market and support the local vendors. However, if you have an electric scooter do not attempt to take it up the steep hill to the top hill vendors. My mom did and her scooter battery died on her way back to the cabana. The staff were very kind and put the scooter on a truck and delivered it as well as us to the entrance to the pier.
Jamaica: We loved the Dunnís River Falls. Despite what the brochures or ship excursion people may say it is not for the very young or very old. You need to have good knees and the ability to crawl up the side of a rock formation with slippery conditions. If falling on a slippery rock will break a hip or throw out your back donít do this climb. My sister has a bulging disc in her back and although she can walk, if she were to fall she would experience severe back spasms, so she didnít hike. My mom was able to sit in a shady area by the water and wait for us. Next stop was the Dolphinís Cove. It was nice. If we had small kids on this trip I think it would have been perfect but we werenít interested in swimming with or kissing a dolphin. It was a pretty area and included a small buffet lunch. We would have liked to return to the ship earlier but because the stop was scheduled for almost three hours we had to wait. If I could do it all over again, we would have skipped Dolphinís Cove and just done the express Dunnís River Falls excursion. The area is paved but the hills can be steep. Dolphins Cove is a very, very steep walk down a paved area to the beach. My BIL did most of the work with the wheelchair because it was difficult to navigate.
Cozumel: We booked the Discover Mexico museum and Chakanaab park. We were really impressed with both. We had a tour guide that did a wonderful job of escorting us through the art museum and explaining key pieces and how they relate to Mexican history and culture. The miniatures were very well done and the guide explained all the key temples along with the history of Mexico and the cultural heritage. We were very impressed with this museum it was completely paved and easy to navigate in a wheelchair. After, we went to the Chakanaab Park. This was a wonderful beach area with a pool, restaurant, bars, snorkeling and swimming. It was absolutely beautiful. The park has beach wheelchairs for use. They were surprisingly easy to push so we used this for my mom and left her wheelchair at the front of the park. After arrival we had lunch at the only restaurant at the park. It had a wonderful view and was very beautiful. Unfortunately, the food was very expensive and the quality was poor. As a matter of fact I began to feel a little nauseous about 2 hours after eating there. Snorkeling was $15 for the equipment and worth every penny. We had such a fun time snorkeling and seeing all the colorful fish, sponges and sea fans. It was great snorkeling for a beginner and we loved it. Unlike the excursion in Jamaica, this tour was organized around the participants going at their own pace and taking Taxiís to their destination. We stayed together as a group for the museum, but when we were done with Chakanaab Park, our guide hailed a taxi and we were on our way back to the boat. We didnít have to wait for a large group of people. The best part was, the excursion included the Taxi fare so we only had to tip the driver.
Disembarkation was a breeze. You collect your luggage then go through customs. If you have a ton a bags youíll want to save a little bit of cash for the porters who will greet you once you get in the terminal. It was so helpful to have someone get the suitcases.
Overall, it was a wonderful week with a lot to do and fun activities to get involved in. I would book Oasis or Allure again, but would probably be just as content on a Freedom class ship if the price is right.