Monday, November 30, 2009

Amazing Oasis!

The Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's newest baby is stunning to say the least. I've been in the cruise industry for many years and use to work on some of the earlier Royal Caribbean ships like the Nordic Prince and the Song of America, neither of which are with the line anymore. These earlier ships, particularly the Nordic Prince shaped the very beginnings of the cruise industry, and never in my wildest imagination did I ever expect to see the day (in the future) where I would walk through a beautiful park with trees and plants and flowers, aboard a cruise ship. I never imagined back in the 80's, a ship that would come close to the magnitude of the Oasis of the Seas at 225,000 tons or literally five times larger than the Titanic. There's more to Oasis of the Seas, however; than simply her immense size, and I think what will truly stand out to the cruise consumer goes beyond her innovation, rather it will be the multitude of activities, distractions, luxuries, entertainment venues and dining options available onboard. She truly is an "oasis" at sea, a gleaming island of fun, romance, and indulgence waiting to be explored.

November 22nd, 2009 during the several travel agent and media mini-cruise outings prior to her actual revenue cruises starting in December, my wife and I spent two nights aboard the Oasis of the Seas in a balcony stateroom facing the Central Park area. As the Host of the most listened to cruise-related talkshow anywhere, I
was determined to capture some good interviews with key people at Royal Caribbean, get some good video footage and take some nice photos. I always strive to produce the best possible multi-media experience I can, and for the most part I felt comfortable with what I captured during the short two-night visit. I wish I had more time of course, because the ship is so big and there is so much to see. During this visit, we didn't have much time to relax and enjoy the ship, we were so busy scrambling from one interview to the next. Of course even though our visit was short, I think I was able to effectively absorb the general "feeling" onboard so that I can report to you here in this blog, my impressions of the ship. Now you have to remember, I love ships, I've studied ships, I'm passionate about the cruise industry, so my observations are a finely-tuned, expert analysis.

It's always a delight to visit a ship that is brand new right out of the shipyard, because everything is new, in fact we may have been the first to sleep in the stateroom we were in, which is somewhat exciting. Boarding the ship in the brand new cruise terminal, built especially for Oasis and the Allure of the Seas, was effortless and quick. The objective is to get new passengers onboard from the curb to registration, to the gangway and finally onboard the ship within about 15 minutes, and I think it will be possible with the numerous registration stations and the basic layout of the terminal. Once onboard, passengers will enter directly into the Royal Promenade, which is similar to walking into a huge resort, with two main elevator bays forward and aft. Our stateroom was on Deck 12 and we entered on Deck 5 so we took the elevator. Once we arrived on Deck 12 there was a nifty interactive computer monitor that had the deck plans. We punched-in our stateroom number and the computer showed us how to get to our stateroom. In fact these monitors were all over the ship and also had the daily program available on the touch-screen was almost like on the starship Enterprise where you ask the computer a question and it answers efficient and cool is that? Find where all the dining venues are, where the shows are and what time, this interactive system was state-of-the-art and really convenient. Our stateroom for this short two-night cruise was 12637 and we had a balcony looking out into Central Park. The stateroom was smallish, in Royal Caribbean fashion, but it was also very efficient and comfortable. I'm a big guy and I was very pleased with the shower compartment which was plenty of space for my mass. I also appreciate the optional hand-held shower head. The television was a flat-screen unit that pulled out from the wall somewhat, allowing you to watch TV from bed if you choose. There was a fridge and a small writing desk with a sofa. The closet and drawer space was decent and of course you can store luggage under the bed. Each stateroom is set up with Wifi and you can use your TV to explore the internet. I should also suggest that because of the size of Oasis of the Seas, there are a multitude of stateroom sizes to choose from all the way up to a massive luxury loft suite with all the luxuries of a five-star resort. So, no matter what your desire is with regard to accommodations, you'll find it aboard the Oasis.

One of the concerns with a ship the size of the Oasis was the cattle-call to dinner...would there be crowds and long lines? Our first night we ate in the main dining room and yes we encountered the masses crowding up to the entrance to the dining room. There seemed to be a bit of confusion among not only the passengers, but also the staff. I grabbed my wife's hand and we made our way through the crowds because all these people were supposedly lining up for assigned seating, while we were given the "my-time-dining" option. This basically meant that we didn't need a reservation, and didn't need to wait in the line as we were told. I made contact with a waiter who asked to see our card, and he said he would find a table for us. That waiter disappeared so we finally ended up just sitting down at a table with four others. It took about ten minutes for the masses to dissipate, and when they finally did, there was a sigh of relief from the wait staff and those at our table. I think this crowding was an anomaly because this was one of the first cruises, and I certainly didn't hold it against Royal Caribbean. My wife and I were both very hungry after a long day and an early morning of travel. My wife had a salad and the shrimp, while I ordered the chicken. The food was hot and presented very well. I later learned that the Oasis had brand new dishes and plates unique to the rest of the fleet. These new dishes had a deeper bowl-shape, allowing for a more decorative, taller display of the food, which I thought was a classy touch. The food not only looked tasty, but it WAS tasty. The waiter did a nice job, our water was filled, bread was replenished and our orders were taken in an orderly fashion. I was very impressed with the decor of the main dining room, and the efficient use of space. On the Freedom-class ships for example, I felt that the main dining room felt like an auditorium, because it was so big. On the Oasis the dining room is larger than the Freedom-class, and yet felt more intimate. There was still a grand middle area with a huge chandelier, but this area was not as large as on the Freedom-class ships because the area was filled-in with islands of dining spaces, and in my opinion a more efficient use of the space. Since we are onboard the Oasis for such a short period of time, I suddenly experienced a little ADD and told my wife we were skipping dessert so we can have more time to explore the ship.

I need to say something more about the dining on the Oasis of the Seas. There are numerous places to dine aboard the Oasis besides the main dining room. I think the sooner passengers begin to discover the many other dining venues around the ship, the pressure and crowding at the entrance to the main dining room will disappear. I think the statistic is 70% of the passengers will stick to eating in the main dining room whereas 30% will utilize the many other dinin
g options. I think the times have changed slightly when it comes to current trends in dining, and more people today like options, particularly trendy options. Oasis certainly offers trendy options with wonderful, trendy, chic restaurants like Chops Grill, or Giovanni's Table, the Park Cafe, Sorrentos, Cafe Promenade, and the amazing 150 Central Park with the young Chef Kerian Von Raesfeld. There are many other dining venues like the Windjammer high on top of the ship, the Seafood Shack and Johnny Rockets in the Boardwalk area...there's even an exclusive dining venue called the Chef's Table for only 14 lucky guests. You might even want to try the Solarium Bistro. One thing is certain, passengers will not go hungry, and they will enjoy their dining experience in style, no matter where they choose to eat.

While we were onboard for only two nights, unfortunately the big broadway-style production of Hairspray, was not ready to perform yet as the cast was still rehearsing. We didn't get to see the Aqua Theater shows either because the performers were still rehearsing. I can say, however, that Royal Caribbean has spared no expense in providing first-class, top-notch entertainment aboard the Oasis of the Seas. Again, this ship is so large, this allows for numerous options for entertainment whether you prefer big broadway-style production shows, or an intimate comedy act, there's more entertainment offered on this ship, enough to make your head spin. One of the most innovative spaces ever constructed aboard a cruise ship is the Aqua Theater and Boardwalk area. This area will indeed make most people say "wow". As a former cruise ship entertainer myself, I was blown away by the potential of the Aqua Theater and the state-of-the-art equipment and resources for producing an amazing show with acrobats, swimmers, high divers, and musicians. This area reminded me of a combination of an amusement park high-diving show and a Universal Studios-style show in the open-air. Then the Boardwalk area is an incredibly charming place where the smells and sounds will bring everyone back to their childhood days. For those who are planning to cruise aboard the Oasis of the Seas or the Allure of the Seas, you are in for a treat, and you'll experience a slice of heaven at sea.

Be sure to visit Cruising Authority at to see videos and photos of the Oasis of the Seas, and if you want to plan a cruise aboard the Oasis or any Royal Caribbean ship, I want to suggest a discount cruise broker that can not only get you the best possible rates but provide great service too. Visit or dial 1-877-SHIPS-95 to plan your next cruise with Royal Caribbean. I want to also add that there are many who are determined to book their own cruise directly through the cruise line, and while they may get the satisfaction that they talked directly with the cruise line, they might not always get the best pricing. The cruise lines often offer special promotions to travel agents, cruise agents and cruise brokers that are better than if you went directly to the cruise line, and when you plan your cruise with a discount cruise broker it doesn't cost you more to use their services. You owe it to yourself to utilize the knowledge and expertise of a cruise discount broker.

Was I impressed with the Oasis of the Seas? As a cruise industry expert, and someone who has been following the development and construction of this ship for about six years, I can tell you that yes I was amazed and very excited about seeing the Oasis of the Seas in-person. The ship exceeded my expectations, and I am convinced this ship is the most innovative and exciting ship the cruise industry has ever seen. The Oasis of the Seas is about 1.4 BILLION dollars worth of hardware, but it's the talents, skills, and abilities of the crew and staff that truly make the ship come alive. What's truly amazing about this massive and technological floating wonder is that another one of equal size and splendor, called the Allure of the Seas, is nearing completion in the shipyard....that's a total of 450,000 tons and 12,000 people a week that will be able to experience and enjoy this magical Royal Caribbean vacation.

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