Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is a truly magnificent ship.
She boasts 16 passenger decks, can hold 6,360 guests and is the world’s biggest cruise ship.
Her sister ship, Allure of the Seas, is slightly longer by mere centimetres but Oasis holds the title of biggest.
Onboard she has theatres, an ice skating rink, two surf simulators, a zip wire, numerous restaurants, bars, lounges, pools and places to hang out. She even has trees.
Just look at her – huge, beautiful, inviting.
My family and I spent a week cruising onboard this Oasis class ship – a vessel very much designed with families in mind.
I’ve travelled on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas before now. But this is something else again.
The ship boasts amazing facilities, extensive kids clubs and has the Dreamworks family of movie characters onboard.
But is it a floating entertainment palace? Is it going to put many people off all that noise and all those kids and the crowds?
These are all questions we asked ourselves, so I know other families will be asking them too.
We’re not really into big crowds. We kind of like our own space. Don’t get me wrong, we like to go to shows and attractions etc. But we also like to retreat to our own little corner too. Can you even do that on a cruise ship of this size?
My children are notoriously difficult to please on holiday. They want to be doing doing doing all the time. They want to see things and experience things and for their holiday to be ‘cool’ and they want to be able to do stuff with us, their parents.
And at 11 and 9 they want a degree of independence.
That is a difficult holiday to find!
But find it we did.
As an ambassador for Royal Caribbean it would be easy for me to wax lyrical about cruising and the company and the fleet of ships and the destinations.
However, as a mother I know exactly what it’s like when you’re looking to spend your money on something for the whole family. And let’s face it, your main 2-week family holiday is expensive. Especially if you have school-aged children and have to take your holidays during the most expensive times.
So I’m going to take you on a tour of the Oasis of the Seas to see what you think.
As a tour guide, rather than a brand ambassador. And with lots and lots of photos. I love photos and because that’s what I’d want to read if I were in your shoes.
Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
A ship this vast needs to be easy to navigate your way around or you would spend most of your time in elevators and walking along corridors, and so Oasis is split into distinctive ‘areas’.
We travelled on this ship for 7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean in July/August and barely touched the sides of what is on offer to do.
And we did a LOT of stuff.
Trust me when I tell you, there is no way you will ever be bored on this ship. Your kids will never whine: “what can we dooooooooo?”!
My absolute favourite part of the ship; there are actual trees and vines and shrubs growing here.
Although it’s at the heart of the ship (on deck 8), clever engineering means you are actually sat outside, so you can sit in a cafe, eating cookies (all inclusive) while a gentle breeze teases at your hair.
It has three restaurants (which you need to pay an extra cover charge to eat in) Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and the prestigious 150 Central Park where you can also enjoy wine tasting. I’ve eaten in both Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table and they are well worth the extra. It also has a wine bar and a floating bar (it literally drops through the floor to the deck below!)
As a family, we ate a Giovanni’s Table and enjoyed the most wonderful family meal with super friendly (and Italian) staff, the rustle of leaves over our heads and the twinkle of lights snaking down the walkway.
We really could have been in Italy.
If you’re not sure about any of the restaurants you can just pop in and ask a member of staff to see the menu, how much the cover charge is and what sort of food they serve.
We found them supremely helpful – especially when asking about the suitability for children.
This is essentially a seaside pier. Again, it’s an outside space, with a handcrafted carousel (yes, I know, on a ship!), candy floss, an ice cream parlour, face painting and supervised deck games for the children to play. I particularly loved the display of how a carousel horse is crafted and things like the Zoltar fortune teller machine (anyone who ever saw the movie Big will know exactly what I mean!)
Restaurants include the Seafood Shack and the Johnny Rockets diner (both of which again incur a cover charge).
And at the end of the Boardwalk is the impressive Aquatheatre (more on that later) which sits right at the back of the ship, and the two climbing walls which rise up both sides of the Boardwalk right underneath the staterooms above them.
This area is indoors and is very busy and bustling and full of life.
As it’s name implies, it’s a long promenade and is home to the ship’s shopping as well as coffee bars, cafes, a pub, a pizzeria, bars and the Cupcake Cupboard (where they not only make tempting cakes, you can also sign up for cupcake decorating classes there too – at an extra charge).
It’s a very busy area and it really comes to life during the evening where professional photographs are taken, spray-on tattoos can be bought and the milling around reminds me of a posh nightclub district! There’s even a vintage car to have your photo taken with.
At certain times during the day there is also a Dreamworks Parade, when the movie characters make their way down the promenade in a colourful dance show. Don’t expect any adults to make way for your kids during the spectacle; they love it just as much as the little ones do!
I have very sporty kids who gravitate towards areas like this as if there were invisible magnets drawing them there!
The sports deck on Oasis is magnificent. I say that with no hesitation whatsoever.
You can surf on one of two FlowRiders – the Royal Caribbean surf simulators which sit at the back of the ship.
You can zip wire eight stories above the Boardwalk. It’s a relatively short crossing at 82 feet, but it’s a loooooong way down!
You can play miniature golf, table tennis (in two purpose built ‘rooms’), basketball, football, or go for a light run on the jogging deck.
There aren’t ‘just’ five pools onboard; they all have a theme, a purpose.
There is the H2O Zone for children (below), with squirting water cannons, huge multicoloured sculptures looming overhead to hide behind, a covered ‘Jacuzzi’, a whirlpool and lots of place to play.
An adults-only pool, the Solarium, that’s very tranquil and private and very much feels like a private spa.
A beach pool (below), with deck chairs and a sloping ‘beach line’ to mimic being by the sea.
The main pool, is for every day use and the sports pool, which while we were there seemed to have volleyball on the go much of the time. And consequently it’s rather noisy around here!
The pools aren’t huge so during busy times it can feel quite crowded. We found the chairs around the H2O Zone really busy, but then obviously parents need to be close to their kids while they’re in the pool. Luckily there is another tier of chairs just one deck up, overlooking the H2O Zone, so that’s where the husband and I decamped for much of the holiday. And from where we sat we could actually see what was going on in the pool reflected in the windows of the ship, so bonus!
It’s huge. You walk into the reception area and you think wow, this is really big with it’s juice bar and nail bar and shop.
Then you are told to go down the stairs at the back and it opens out into this massive other area that’s even bigger.
I couldn’t believe how big it was and my therapist (I had the most wonderful facial) who was from New Zealand said they had a very steady stream of people for the whole cruise – and not just the women. Botox is very big business onboard too!
Mia had her very first manicure with a very friendly lady from Jamaica who massaged and creamed and buffed until Mia felt a million dollars.
There are two main theatres – the double decked Opal Theatre in which the free stage shows are held. It also doubles us as a 3D cinema.
And there is Studio B, where the ice shows are staged – and you can also go for ice skating sessions yourself.
The shows are superb. They are all free but you would be happy to pay for them, they are so good. We saw Hairspray (which is a shortened version of the Broadway hit), Frozen in Time (a spectacular ice show with stunning costumes), Come Fly With Me (an acrobatic, fast moving show with music, people walking up walls – very creative) and Oasis of Dreams which was a high diving acrobatic show in the outside Aqua Theatre).
And at the back of the ship is the Aquatheatre, a water-based entertainment area, where you sit in deck chairs to watch the show in the open air. The pool is something like 17 foot deep and shows feature divers and acrobats and it’s very visual and dynamic.
Oh and by the way, no I didn’t take that top photo of the man’s bottom diving into the pool below. I’ll go to great lengths for a good photo but not THAT high! I just wanted to show what we got a taste of so borrowed a picture from Royal Caribbean!
There are various smaller venues where comedy shows, music acts etc are staged.
Or the kids clubs. A word that strikes fear into my children’s hearts; they really don’t like kids clubs. Don’t like that they don’t know anyone there. Don’t like that they are usually quite boring. Don’t like that the leaders either ignore them or tell them off all the time.
I can honestly say they loved it at the Oasis of the Seas Ocean Adventure Club. Suitable for children aged 3 and 17, they are SO well thought out, the facilities are amazing and, despite the vast array of nationalities, they made friends quite easily.
For my age kids there were PlayStations, air hockey, karaoke, sports tournaments, talent shows, pool parties, scavenger hunts, discos.
And for younger ones there painting, musical activities, pirate night, soft play.
Alongside the regular age-appropriate rooms, there is also a Science Lab, a cinema and an Imagination Studio for arts and crafts.
And all of it is inclusive (except if you want to leave your children at the club late at night and then a charge does apply).
Superb and very very well thought out programme.
Besides the speciality restaurants where you have to pay a cover charge, there are places you can eat where you don’t need to pay extra. Or complimentary dining.
If you don’t want to dress up and like to eat quite informally, the Windjammer is a self service buffet with a HUGE selection for even the fussiest of eaters.
It does however get very busy, but there are staff helping with seating so you’re never waiting for too long.
It’s a great place to eat lunch or breakfast.
If you like formal dining, or something a bit special, the Opus dining room is a gorgeous three-tiered spectacle of a dining room with a huge chandelier at the heart of the space. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My kids loved seeing where the waiting staff were from (their name badges show their nationality) and we found those from India, the Philippines and Jamaica particularly friendly and attentive.
There are lots of other places to eat if you want something quick and easy – such as Sorrento’s for pizza, Solarium Bistro for healthy options or Park Cafe for make your own salads.
Or, if you’re feeling really decadent, order in room service and sit on your balcony watching the sea slip by!
Oh, and donuts. Freshly made donuts on the Boardwalk . . .
On top of ALL of this there is a casino, a gym, loads of very different bars, a library, nightclub, teenager zone, conference rooms – even a chapel if you fancy tying the knot onboard.
To help you find your way around all of this, they’ve installed very clever touch-screen maps outside every lift – just type in where you want to go and the screen maps it out for it. Absolutely brilliant.
So did we find that much desired corner to ourselves? Did we find it crowded, overbearing, busy?
Well yes, we travelled on the ship at peak holiday time so it was busy. But there was always always somewhere to find peace.
This is the deck the husband and I favoured most days at sea – there’s barely anyone there! And we had THE most stunning views over the ocean.
Would I fork out my own money on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Is that what you’re asking?
Yes I would. As a family we don’t mind paying a lot for a holiday as long as we get what we pay for. We want quality, to be treated well – very well – and we want to go home with amazing memories.
And that’s exactly what we got.