Cruise check: Royal Caribbean International – Oasis of the Seas

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ROUTE

Oasis is home ported at Fort Lauderdale and, for the first five months after launch, will sail the waters of the Eastern Caribbean, thereafter butterflying between the Eastern and Western Caribbean on seven night cruises departing every second Saturday. Ports of call include Fort Lauderdale; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; Phillipsburg, St Maarten; Nassua in the Bahamas, and back to Florida.

BACKGROUND

There’s been a lot of hype around the launch of the Oasis of the Seas, and deservedly so. With 16 decks, she is the world’s largest passenger ship – but it’s more than her awesome size that impresses. With Oasis, Royal Caribbean International has introduced its new neighbourhood concept, establishing a range of experiences to suit every guest’s interest. There’s Central Park, an onboard park (the first ever at sea), complete with over 1 000 trees, as well as boutiques and restaurants; a Pool and Sports Zone and, for wellness enthusiasts, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre. The Boardwalk is a nostalgic, Coney-Island style salute to seaside bliss, while the Royal Promenade is fashioned to resemble a bustling New York street scene. For junior cruisers, Youth Zone offers hours of amusement, while the Entertainment Place completes the offering, and presents a casino, theatres and even a comedy club. In spite of her truly awe-inspiring size, Oasis is 25% more energy-efficient than any other passenger vessel currently at sea.

EMBARKATION

Smooth and efficient. Despite the fact that the ship can host around 5 400 passengers in 2 700 staterooms and there are, therefore, a lot of passports to be checked at the ship’s Port Everglade’s home port, this takes place astonishingly quickly, with the friendly service that Americans appear to excel in. Of course, boarding the ship is an experience in itself, as there is so much to be discovered.

FOOD

Come hungry – you won’t remain that way for long! There are more than 25 food service concepts on board, so even the pickiest diner will find something to please the palate, from New York-style pizza to specialist confectionary (including the first ocean-borne cupcake boutique). Well worth a mention is The Windjammer, Royal Caribbean’s signature restaurant offering an extremely extensive buffet, and fine dining at 150 Central Park. My favourite? Health-conscious buffets at the Solarium – staring into the endless oceanic horizon from the lazy comfort of a daybed, after a satisfying bircher muesli, and you know you’ve found bliss. And of course, the fact that meals and beverages are included in the cost of your cruise makes for excellent value for money.

CABINS

Roomy and comfortable – the ship’s designers went to great effort to optimise space usage, and it shows – with arresting views. There are also a number of stunning Loft Suites – not to mention the truly outstanding accommodation offered in cabins like the Royal Suite, the Owner’s Suite, the AquaTheatre Suite and the Presidential Family Suite.

ENTERTAINMENT

While most people equate time at sea with time spent doing as little as possible, the Oasis certainly challenges this notion. Even if you ignore the daily planned activities and events like themed street parties and parades, there’s never a moment to be bored. Broadway shows, stand-up comedy, AquaTheatre spectaculars and daredevil ice shows will keep you clapping, but if you prefer to be the star of your own show, there are a number of nightclubs, bars and lounges where you can dance ‘til dawn. For the more active, there are basketball and volleyball courts, a jogging track, mini golf and fully equipped gym, while adrenaline junkies will want to try the FlowRider, rock-climbing wall and zip wire.

DISEMBARKATION

Again, a swift and efficient process. Oasis’ use of cutting-edge technology means that once you have your bar coded Sea Pass card at the ready, passenger processing can be completed in a matter of seconds – which means that all that’s left is to find your complimentary shuttle to the airport, and relive your memories.

VERDICT

Oasis has been called the world’s most revolutionary ship, and it’s easy to see why. Although I am new to cruising, I took to it completely, and was instantly enthralled by the sheer variety of what’s available. This is certainly a vacation like no other – it combines the very best of seaside holidays with the convenience of a resort and, of course, the novelty of exploring a new destination.

I was also very impressed with the comfort and flawless service of the ship, the staff is exceptionally helpful and friendly, and the variety of nationalities on board adds to the cosmopolitan feel of the adventure. A sojourn on board Oasis of the Seas would make for a truly inspiring incentive – or simply a holiday with a difference that will be relished by every member of the family.

CONTACT

Cruises International

Tel: +27 (0)11 327-0327, cruises.co.za

Lisa Witepski

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