It would take an entire seven-day cruise - and probably more - to experience all that Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas has to offer. This ship is tailor-made for a repeat visit.
That's the question before boarding Oasis of the Seas for a quick-hit cruise that's definitely too short. You can judge a cruise ship in two days; but not the experiences that make a cruise special.
Oasis of the Seas was less than two-thirds full on this special cruise for the media and travel agents, so it is impossible to determine what it would be like with more than 5,400 guests on a full cruise.
And must-see, much-publicized cruise ship firsts - such as the Aqua Theater water shows and the shipboard version of the Broadway musical "Hairspray" in the Opal Theater - were dark.
Despite those downers one thing is clear - this ship is surprisingly easy to navigate. Those who worry that the ship is "too big" can relax. It was easier to get around Oasis of the Seas than most 95,000-ton ships. Making it simple for the directionally-challenged are touch screens on each deck with your location, directions to get to your next destination and a "What's happening now" category.
First impression on seeing the ship at Terminal 18 ... is a resounding Wow! The width itself is impressive; the layers of oceanview balconies are eye-popping. This ship is big enough to have a zip code.
As you board Oasis of the Seas onto the Royal Promenade you quickly begin to understand that this ship is functional despite its' massive size, and it is truly an original. How can it be so bright on an enclosed Deck 5 of a ship 18 decks high? The openness and colorful array of shops, lounges and eateries ramp up the anticipation, and you'll want to drop your luggage at your stateroom as soon as possible and get to exploring.
On my return home I met a man whose wife won't cruise because the thought of no land in sight bothers her. This floating city - the result of Royal Caribbean's cozy "neighborhood" concept with seven distinct areas forming this oasis on the open seas - can almost make you forget you're on an ocean bound cruise ship.
Whether you're strolling along the open-air, floral paradise of Central Park; sipping your favorite wine as the Rising Tides bar levitates from the Royal Promenade to Central Park three decks up; or taking in a few yuks at Comedy Live along the Entertainment Place corridor of clubs and lounges - there isn't an ocean in sight.
Want a balcony cabin, but fear the ocean out your sliding door? Try a Central Park balcony that looks to the open sky but with a view and scent of 12,000 types and plants, scrubs and trees.
Or get a balcony overlooking The Boardwalk - another neighborhood first complete with a full-size carousel, the Seafood Shack restaurant, a donut shop, ice cream parlor, candy store and a near perfect view of the AquaTheater.
Two warnings about a Boardwalk balcony cabin:
2. Sheer curtains do not block the view for balconies across the way. Unless you're an exhibitionist, close the curtains. Some bodies can ruin an appetite.
In all, there are 31 categories of cabins and suites on this ship.
Speaking of appetites, you won't go hungry on Oasis of the Seas. The Windjammer Café is smaller than those on other Royal Caribbean ships because of the many culinary options.
Including the surprisingly intimate, three-level Opus main dining rooms there are 24 places to eat onboard Oasis of the Seas, most included in the price of the cruise. Others charge a fee - from the ultra-exclusive Chef's Table for $75 a pop; to the signature 150 Central Park restaurant at $35; to a $2.50 tasty baked treat at the Cupcake Cupboard on the Royal Promenade.
Dinner on the second night at the health-conscious Solarium Bistro was deceptively tasty, including a salmon dish and several desserts I'm assured won't show up on my waistline in the coming days.
Also new to the dining repertoire is Dine in Delights on the room service menu, offering options ranging from the Johnny Rockets hamburgers to Ghirardelli chocolate cookies at $3.95 an order. Standard room service items are free, except for midnight-5 a.m. ($3.95).
- Sitting on the Central Park benches dotted along the way - a great place to simply relax, hold a conversation or listen to the nearby band as the sea air mingles with the smell of flora.
- The two-tiered, adults-only Solarium at the front of the ship, complete with private Cabanas, pools, whirlpools, its' own bar and the bistro.
- Adventure Ocean has expanded programs for kids that include a science lab, theater and a G-rated video arcade. There's a Royal Babies & Tots nursery that accepts those as young as six-months old for a fee - diaper-changing included.
- Teens have three dedicated areas, including a "no-adults-allowed" hangout called The Living Room.
- Burn calories rock-climbing, surfing on FlowRiders, swimming, working out at the Vitality at Sea fitness center or making like a daredevil on a zipline 10 decks above the Boardwalk.
- Or catch the "Frozen In Time" ice show at Studio B at Entertainment Place, or live music at any number of clubs and lounges throughout the ship.
No matter how much you try it doesn't seem possible to experience all the food, clubs, shows and activities on this ship in a week. However, Royal Caribbean always makes it easy to book another cruise before you even leave the ship.
Speaking of bookings, cabins remain for Oasis of the Seas' inaugural sailing Dec. 5. The cheapest inside cabin goes for $1,299; balconies at $1,699.
But if you're patient bargains can be had. You can book Oasis of the Seas for a January 29, 2011 cruise for $849 inside, $1,199 balcony. That same cruise a year earlier - January 30, 2010 - will run you $1,899 and $2,249.