In what is hopefully a post-recession era, the old adage, “More is better” is coming into major disrepute. But the Oasis of the Seas, touted as the world’s largest cruise ship, is the epitome of “More”—more passengers, more restaurants, more bars, more onboard attractions and certainly the largest ship anyone’s going to see until its sister ship, Allure of the Seas, arrives later this year. And don’t be quick to dismiss recommending this ship to your high-end clientele, because this Royal Caribbean ship offers a richness in service and in its diversity of attractions, as well as 130 generous-sized suites.
Driving toward the parking lot at Terminal 18 in Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades—a terminal built specifically for this ship—this beautiful behemoth totally dominates the skyline as it sits regally at the pier, dwarfing its cruise line neighbors.
With more than 3,000 passengers coming aboard on this inaugural day-and-a-half cruise to nowhere introducing Royal Caribbean’s newest addition to its fleet, it answered a lot of questions about how effectively and efficiently this new terminal would be handling more than an anticipated 10,000 passengers during the disembarkation and embarkation procedures each week. And judging from what we saw, they’ll do just fine.
First off, there’s an army of attendants directing passengers coming and going and the ticket lines inside the terminal apparently move quite efficiently, as well. The operative word here is apparently, because Royal Caribbean announced it wouldn’t start processing passengers on board until 1 p.m., so we deliberately timed our arrival for around 3 p.m. and still anticipated some chaos. Not so—the parking lot was almost full and the only passengers inside the cavernous terminal were a handful of other late arrivals. We went through the security and embarkation procedures very quickly and within a few minutes we were trudging up the gangplank. That’s one of the fixes Richard Fain promised at an Executive Q & A session the next morning—he likened the steep gangplank that snakes its way up to Deck 8 as a forced march and promised a quick adjustment.
Once on board, we hurried to our stateroom to get organized. It was a little bit disconcerting at first and agents should take note when booking for their clients. The stateroom was set up with two single beds, which wasn’t a problem—the problem was that with a table in the middle of the two beds, the inside bed was pushed up so close to the closet, the average-sized adult would literally have to stand on the bed to put the clothes away. It was an easy enough fix—we just pushed the beds together—but it shouldn’t have been set up like that in the first place.
The cabin itself is comfortable with plenty of storage area and the bath area is spacious with the cylindrical-style shower stalls that make showering a little less confining and claustrophobic. Bath amenities, however, are virtually nonexistent—a bar of soap and a shampoo fixture on the inside of the shower. But the really good part is the balcony overlooking Central Park, which is nestled in-between two walls of balconied staterooms—324 of them—soaring up as high as 12 floors above it. The environment is both futuristic—floor after floor of chrome and glass reaching into the sky and anchored on either end by two huge glass walls stretching from Deck 8 to Deck 16—and park-like as you gaze four floors down at the mosaic of colorful flowers and tile-like walkways and green trees—60 ft. wide and 353 ft. long—a true oasis in the midst of this huge ocean-going vacation resort.
Within the park itself there are five dining venues, including a Vintages Wine Bar that serves tapas, the Rising Tide—the world’s first moving bar at sea that takes guests from Central Park to the Royal Promenade deck and back—the Trellis Bar, featuring the Crystal Canopy, plus a specialty store with Coach handbags, a portrait studio and an art gallery. Here, too, are the specialty restaurants—Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s signature steak house with a $25 pp charge; 150 Central Park, the ship’s most exclusive restaurant at $35 per head; and Giovanni’s Table, an Italian trattoria at $15 per head. The Park Cafe serves up a great roast beef sandwich, as well as a make-your-own salad bar, soups and sandwiches.