Oasis of the Seas Cruise Report

Old Nov 10th, 2012, 09:24 PM
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Oasis of the Seas Cruise Report

We just got back from a seven day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Megaship, Oasis of the Seas. The scale of the Oasis of the Seas will awe you. Ship motion was undetectable for most of the trip. If you have major problems with sea sickness, this is the class of ship for you. Pre-cruise check-in and post cruise checkout were a breeze. The suites are nicely laid out and the beds are comfy. (We were traveling with two other couples. We had an Owners Suite and they both had Grand Suites.) Our 7-day itinerary included three eastern Caribbean ports, Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. All were nice beach towns, where we booked our own activities in lieu of ship-sponsored excursions. Embarkation and debarkation went smoothly – especially considering the number of people getting on/off the ship.

The food quality on board was average to above average and, oddly enough, the soups in the main dining room were often outstanding. Two out of three of the extra cost specialty restaurants we tried were very good/excellent choices for dinner. For a long cruise, even with the extra charge, having additional dining choices would provide some welcome variety to the standard dining options. The casino was huge, fun, and had a non-smoking side! The entertainment choices across the board were excellent – I suspect some of the best at sea.

If only that were the full story. There are a number of significant problems facing passengers who board the Oasis. The most troublesome of these was the consistent lack of communication between staff, officers, administrators, guest services, and shipboard personnel who are trained to SELL rather than serve passengers. You should be prepared to be pushed/badgered and even bullied into buying additional services, drinks, spa treatments, wellness packages, bottled water, drinks of the day, etc. as part of many meals and activities. The constant attempt to upsell was both exhausting and obnoxious. Too bad it was part of so many of our staff member interactions.

Our suite, while beautiful, had a number of maintenance problems (a sewer gas smell in the bathroom that took 3 days to fix no ability to turn on the A/C and then no ability to turn it off, a broken shower fixture, water being turned off).

Due to all the issues that surfaced during our trip there were well over a half dozen times staff follow-up was required. Maintenance, the concierge desk, guest relations, and even one of the ship’s officers all volunteered to get back with us on one or more issues and then we never heard another word from them with just one exception.

We found out “My Time Dining” means making reservations before 4 pm or waiting in line. If you eat out a lot, don’t expect to be impressed by most meals unless you go to the upper tier, extra cost, specialty restaurants. Even then it was a bit of hit or miss for us. At the steakhouse “Chops”, our service plummeted once we decided to forgo their wine list and order from our pre-paid wine package. At the end of the meal we got the sales pitch for the ‘special’ wine aerator (an additional $40+). The service at many meals was also unbearably slow (2 hours plus for a table of 6). Expect to spend significantly more money if you want to eat dinner at a variety of locations – by our count, about 15 of the 20 dining/snack options are extra charge.

If you plan to read while you’re on the cruise, bring your own books, their “library” would be inadequate for a ship 1/5 the size of the Oasis. We also found we couldn’t trust the event times listed on our personal calendar on the TV. As error caused us to miss one of our shows. One of the biggest surprises was the concierge staff showed no interest in acting as a customer advocate. They seemed to relish the power to say “no” to even small requests or inquiries made by the three couples in our group (a dinner reservation on a particular night or help monitoring a request for a bridge tour). I’ve never experienced this type attitude on a Royal Caribbean ship - ever.

Given the competitiveness of the cruise market we’ve decided we’ll cruise with another line from this point forward. Right now, these megaships are a niche market that Royal Caribbean “owns” and they command a premium. It feels as if RC is resting on their laurels. At some point the inconsistency in execution we experienced will catch up with them. We were consistently left feeling nickeled and dimed, that no one was in charge, problems were ignored, commitments weren’t honored, restaurants were understaffed, and staff was inadequately trained. Our Owner’s Suite was very nice at first glance, but given all our maintenance problems, we can’t recommend it. The check-in/check-out process, casino, and entertainment were bright spots, but not enough to make up for the rest of the experience.
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Old Nov 10th, 2012, 11:33 PM
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I sailed on the "Oasis" last year. We were also in an "owners" but we did not have the same "sell" experience you had for whatever reason.

We've been sailing with RCCL for decades and I have to say the dining service on the Oasis was so bad that we only went to one meal in the main dining room. When you are told, in writing, to expect to wait an hour for food there is no way.

Thought the rest of the ship was great; never had to wait for anything; nothing seemed crowded although the Windjammer did seem that way at times, especially if you showed up late.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 05:35 AM
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Thanks for the trip report. Great insight and a bit of affirmation.

As suspected, selling has became the norm. That's one reason I stopped crusing on NCL and Carnival years ago (and have added RCCL recently to the no sail list) and moved on to Princess and Celebrity. I can understand selling, but to a point. I can understand champagn and orange juice, but Grand Marnier and Kaluha for coffee add-on at breakfast time is pushing it a bit too far.

The Mega ships such as Oasis and Allure are beyond mega. You just have to get on board and see for yourself once and be done with it. It was a unique experience. (Notice that I did not call it good or bad, just unique.) Luckily, we were on board on a "preview cruise" and it was a sell job of a different kind.

RCCL has wisely build their next new ship a bit smaller, probably issues with fill rate and operational concerns that need to be resolved.

I am surprised to hear that there are mechanical issues already, as I consider the ship to be still relatively new.

With the advancement of the extra fee restaurants, the "normal" food has no way to go but down, maybe in their twisted way to "force" you to pay for better quality food. If you don't mind cafeteria or banquet style food, then by all means, it's all you can eat.

There is no excuse for poor service, especailly for repeat customers and suite level customers who paid a premium for the "service".

I don't believe RCCL is resting on their laurels. It's cost cutting and it is across the board on all the cruise lines. We have noticed general degradation of quality on a consistent basis each and every time we cruise for the past few years. On the other hand, the price had not gone up, and as a matter of fact, the price had came down and became more "affordable". If that is the trend, something got to give and unfortunately, it would be quality.

I see a lot of people choose a cruise based on price, without considering what was being offered. Some cruise lines (NCL/Carnival/RCCL etc) have "rewarded" people with last minute deals and discounts that people are now expecting deals all the time from them. We see less deep discounts from Princess and Celebrity. If it was left up to me, I would say sail with empty cabins and not discount them just to fill the ship. Discounting cheapens the value proposition.

Those who managed to cut cost without affecting quality will be the one who I will go with.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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Eschew one thing I did notice on the Equinox was a distinct lack of staff pushing products. It was refreshing.

The people I know who have cruised on the Oasis or the Allure rave about thses ships and the Oasis on cruise critic was voted the best of the large ships by a readers poll scoring 4.6. The Equinox was right behind her at 4.5. I would try this ship one day but only if the prices drop. Its too much for such a limited itinerary for me. We paid less for the Equinox for 4 more days and a much better port selection.

We sat in on a session on the Equinox with the navigator who lectured about how the ship determines a route, port calls, etc. He was asked about the Oasis class ships and said something interesting and that was in terms of safety issues. He said how big is too big. Just imagine a crisis on one of these ships with 6k passengers and more crew and multiply the panic factor if there was a situation that called for the ship to be abandoned ala the Concordia. Scary thought indeed.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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Eschew, you may be right, it may be cost cutting. Seems pretty clear that's what happened with the library. We also noticed the 8 page daily news briefs are gone. I asked the concierge about that - they were dumped three years ago. The other obvious cost cutting measure was the recorded music they play throughout the ship and at most of the venues - none of it is recorded by the original bands. None this is a big deal, it just serves to make your point.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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Haven't been on these ships, but enjoy your observations. Thanks for taking the time to make them.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 06:45 PM
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PModo, we have cruised regularly for the last while and all I can say is that every year, they took something out. Lower quality entertainment (more "game show" hosted by the staff versus live show), cheaper cut of meat, smaller size shrimps and scallops; smoked salmon on certain days rather than daily on the buffet, less frquency of extotic fruits and vegetables. Something that most people wouldn't have noticed initially or at all, but they are there in plain view if you know where to look. (I was in the expense control, improve net revenue, cost cutting business ... )

Princess is now offering a "pub lunch" as a feature in their wheelhouse. You can order fish and chips, steak and kidney pie etc for lunch and it is quite well attended and well recevied. Most would even order a dark ale or two to wash them down. The quality is quite good, service fast and food hot. The truth is probably cost cutting, as it is a whole lot cheaper to serve and produce than the lunch buffet. At least they are hiding it well, and to top it off, people are calling it an improvement. (That's my way of cost cutting! )

On our last Celebrity cruise, they have staff serving you food on the buffet line. The official reaons are better customer service and sanitation. The truth is probably portion control and waste management. The staff cost is fixed as they are already there.

As to the constant selling, Larry, that's why we have been staying away from NCL, Carnival, and more recently, RCCL. It is refreshing NOT to have people pushing things on you. And we really hates PA annoucements (Bucket of beer for X$! Really? Attention K-mart shoppers ... ). Yes, there is the odd table set up to sell the pop, wine, spa packages etc. They are generally non intrusive, and you can avoid them.

The service staff will tell you about the cooking show, or the wine seminar (for a fee) those are more subtle sell, and the wine seminar is generally very good value for what they charge.

We are not heavy drinkers and we didn't see service level dropped off if we didn't order wine or drinks.

Many times we sat at the lounge and watch people sing Karaoke or listen to a band playing. The service staff would stop by and asked if we wanted a drink and we said no thank you. They would politely leave a napkin on the table face down and said let them know if we change our mine. The face down napkin is their system to tell themsleves that a staff was there and the customer didn't want anything.

The daily news brief is history for a while now. Some ships (depending on itenary) still do it, but they kept them on the purser desk and you can just pick it up instead of putting them in your cabin. It is usualy a handful of pages (4 or less)

The new Princess renovation will see the library size shrinked. I love their libraries. They are decent sized and nicely appointed, with decent books and game selections. On the Pacific Princess, they even have an electric fireplace!

Not that we care, they also stop giving out free playing cards. They sell them at the gift shop now. It wasn't too long ago that you asked and they will give you a new deck for free.

Never have considered the safety factor or how big is too big. All I knew is when it is bigger, it can travel to less ports, thus less itenary choices, and boring itenary. It is also less agile and probably get into trouble easier (as it needed much deeper water).

Evacuating 6000 psx plus 2500 crew would be a challenge. The Oasis and Allure is more than twice the size of the largest aircraft carrier (200,000 vs 90,000). I wonder what would happen if there was a fire on board, lost power and dead in the water like Carnival Splendor or Costa Allegra did.

Come to think of it, we'll try to cruise more on the smaller ships before they all disappear and gave way to the megaships!
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 09:05 PM
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Eschew, many thanks for the detailed follow-up. Others can only benefit. We cruised with Celebrity in the Galapagos and loved it, but that particular ship/itinerary is an all inclusive. In a couple weeks we set sail on the Celebrity Silhouette from the Med thru to a transatlantic crossing to Florida (repositioning cruise). We're very anxious to compare the experience.

Prior to this cruise, Azamara, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean (largely based on a spectacular experience on Jewel of the Seas), and Regent Seven Seas were on our list. If extended shore stops are your thing, Azamara is without peer. They are smaller ships and ideal for cruising in areas that support more intimate travel - in our case a cruise of Norway.

This whole cost cutting thing seems to be in vogue in virtually all corporate circles and nearly out of control. Drive up the near term profit at the expense of long term profit and revenue. I sure hope it ends soon...
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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PModo, we cruised the Galapagos exactly one year ago and was on the Galapagos Explorer II, which was an old "Renaissance class" ship, not to be confused with the Renaissance R-class ships such as the Azamara Journey (R6) & Quest (R7), or the Pacific Princess (R3) & Ocean Princess(R4).

Before we booked the Galapagos Explorer II, we were contemplating the Celebrity Xpedition as well and at the end of the day, we picked one over the other. We had a great time. It appears that you enjoyed the Xpedition throughly. Did you file a trip report?

I liked the intimacy of the smaller ships, and I am fond of the old Renaissance R-class ships. They are nicely appointed and well designed. Those ships are geting advance in years (build between 1998-2001) and it is just a matter of time before they all retire and no new one (of that size anyway) are being built.

We don't mind Azamara (been only on once) but didn't like Oceania. Can't put a finger on it as to why. Since peace in the family is important so DW usually makes "final" decision. I just have to learn to offer only small ships and not megaships as choices.

We are trying to get our adult children to cruise with us so megaships (unfortuanetly) would be the way to go as the small ships would be "too relaxing" and not enough activities for them. We have one coming with us in less than 2 weeks and hopefully, the other one next August.

We like port intense cruises over the repositioning cruise (great value though) and Azamara would be a good fit for us but won't be in the plan for a bit (see note about re adult children ). We did a Baltic cruise earlier this year and we are looking at some smaller local cruise companeis travelling through the Norway's famous Fjords and maybe Iceland. Any other great destiantions that you would like to suggest?

If the Xpedition is the only Celebritry cruise you have been on, the Silhouette would be quite different. Would love to hear back from you on your persepctive.

Take care and maybe we'll run into each other on a boat in some far off places.
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Old Nov 13th, 2012, 06:42 AM
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I never got around to writing a cruise review for the Celebrity Xpedition. We really liked it, though. Here are some of our pics, in case you're interested: http://www.photockie.com/Travel/South-America

Our great ports are pretty standard so far and probably all places you have been with an exception or two: Florence, Rome, Venice (during carnival), London, Edinburgh, Galapagos (take side trip to Machu Picchu, via Hyram Bingham train, as well), Norwegian fjords, Toronto, Alaskan Inside Passage, Ketchikan Alaska (only for a side trip to see bears at Anan Creek), Antarctica (for me at least), Grand Cayman (for snorkeling at sting ray city), Portland Maine, Boston, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. For us, all the Caribbean ports are about the same and are fun if you're into the beach thing. We super highly recommend a safari to Botswana as well, but that's obviously not a cruise destination...

We haven't been anywhere in the Asian-Pacific region region, Baltic (except for the fjords if you call that Baltic) and only a few places in the Med. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.
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Old Nov 14th, 2012, 02:53 PM
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#PModo: Great pictures! Sure bring back lots of fond memories. I really liked your pictures of Machu Picchu, epsecially the shots of the locals.

Links to some pictures we took, in case you are interested.
Galapagos: http://travel.webshots.com/album/582034887dLHsDS
Peru/Ecuador: http://travel.webshots.com/album/582177142tXDpsg

You have quite an extensive list. I have Churchill Manitoba for Polar Bear viewing on my bucket list but at clsoe to $2,000 for a 1 day excursion, it's quite expensive and DW took it off the list.

I have Anartica and an African photo safari on my bucket list as well. I see you have travellesd to Anartica. Is it everything you imagine it to be?

We did the Baltic earlier this year that covered Copenhagen, Berlin, Tallium, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo and St Petersburg. We probably would like to return and revisit St. Petersberg again, add on Moscow,a nd maybe on a river cruise through Eastern Europe.

Have not been to Paris yet but is on our list. Amazon Jungle, Angle's Fall (made famous by the animated movie "UP"), Victoria Fall, New Zealand (plus tour the location where Lord of the Rings were filmed), Havana, Easter Island are all on the list.

Been through to the Asisn Pacific but it was so long ago that things must have changed that a return would be warranted. I have not been to some of the Asian travel hot spots such as Thailand, Bali etc and they are not high on my list. Been to Japan once but it didn't excite me. If it jsut happened to be someplace along the way, then so be it.

We did the Holyland cruise 2 years ago and it was well worth the time and expense. Isreal, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Italy, all on one trip. Always wanted to see Petra (Jordon) but that will have to wait for another time.

A friend of mine did the entire length of the Great Wall of China. I wouldn't do it. It took him quite a few years (a few weeks at a time) to complete it. He would stop after his 3 weeks were up and return to the same spot next year and continue on.

I bought a book called 100 places to see before you die and I think we have knocked off maybe 17 out of 100. Mind you, a lot of the places listed on the book were not all that intresting (at least to us).

Was nice chatting with you and Happy Travel!
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 09:57 AM
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Celebrity not "selling" things? Guess it depends on one's definition of "selling."
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 11:19 PM
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Eschew, regarding seeing the Antarctic, I would highly recommend it. We had spotty results when we sailed with Lindblad back in 2009, though. Based on their follow-up to my postings and numerous emails back and forth, it certainly seemed they took the criticisms seriously. The review can be found at http://www.fodors.com/community/crui...d-nov-2009.cfm
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Old Nov 19th, 2012, 12:50 PM
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Thanks ... I read your original post and it wasn't quite what you had expected. I am gklad tah they have fired the chef and solve some issues. I wonder if anyone else would run an Anartica tour.
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Old Nov 30th, 2012, 01:27 PM
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There are a couple other tour operators at least as I recall. I think one of them was Quark. Pretty sure they're Russian. Way back when I was checking into it, they were considerably cheaper, but you got what you paid for. Sorry I can't be of more help.
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