The Ultimate Family Adventure - Part 2
(Top-deck miniature golf is a big hit with young and old alike onboard Oasis of the Seas.*)
From Shrek to Adventure Ocean,
Oasis of the Seas Delivers Fantastic Fun
Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part original series about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. To read the first article, a robust look at many of the children's options onboard, visit "Oasis of the Seas=Ultimate Family Adventure Pt.1"
Already read that article? Want Part 2? Then, by all means, continue reading for more of Lizz's perspective ...
... Beyond Adventure Ocean?
Outside of Adventure Ocean there are so many free activities to occupy your kids. Beyond the pool activities for younger kids I mentioned earlier in this story, diversions abound.
Teens and many adults absolutely won’t be able to stay away from the two FlowRider surf simulators.
One (shown at right*) is for stand-up surfing, a second for boogie-boarding.
If they wipe out, surfers will be forcibly propelled by the gushing water back into the cushioned rear wall.
Yes, those embarrassing wipe-out moments are viewed by bleachers full of spectators. For most riders, however, the thrill is clearly worth it.
FlowRiders are geared toward beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers. Kids must be 52” for boogie-boarding and 58” for surfing.
Want more thrills? Adrenaline-seekers can fly 82 feet across the top deck on the free Zipline, which stretches diagonally across the Boardwalk below.
You must be 52” to ride the zip line. Get there when it opens so there’s no line.
My husband Joe (shown in the photo at right*) loved this experience and zipped across the chasm several times.
And since Oasis of the Seas is a Royal Caribbean ship, you can certainly expect one signature feature onboard -- a rock climbing wall.
On this ship, two imposing 46-foot-high walls are positioned on either side of the ship.
Kids must be 6 years old to climb. My oldest child, Jack, eagerily scampered halfway up the side, before deciding the rest of the way was just a bit too far.
(At left, Jack is shown safely descending from the rock wall under the supervision of the line's rock wall staff.*)
The Studio B ice rink has open skating hours.
Reservations are not needed, all skate levels are welcome and skates are provided. You must wear long pants and socks.
Also be sure to catch one of the ice-skating performances, such as "Frozen in Time."
Among the other options are scavenger hunts, pool volleyball, movies under the stars, Oasis Dunes mini-golf course, shuffleboard, ping pong and a full-size basketball court (see photo below*).
Fee-based activities onboard include the arcade and 30-minute cupcake-decorating classes.
Costing $15 per child, the cupcake classes are taught by the ship’s pastry chef at the 1940s-style Cupcake Cupboard. Reservations are required.
Does talking about cupcakes make you salivate? No worries. There are so many dining options on Oasis of the Seas that you will never go hungry.
There are two primary dinner options in the main dining room.
First is the traditional dining with both early and late seatings.
We opted for the My Time Dining, allowing families to choose a dinner time for the duration of the cruise.
With kids, it’s much easier to be flexible and eat at a time that suits you, rather than being locked into a specific time not of your choosing.
However, because we didn't reserve the My Time Dining in advance, when we requested it onboard, we were issued a nightly time of 7:45 p.m.
My suggestion now is for families to do so in advance. On the first night we waited in line for about 40 minutes for dinner, but after that everything smoothed out.
We basically arrived anytime we wanted to after 7 p.m. and never had a problem being seated. The later you arrive, however, the longer the wait.
We sat in the same section of the main dining room (shown at right*) on Deck 5 but at a different table each night. Somehow we were always seated on or near the main, traffic artery.
It was a tight squeeze, and we always felt as though groups of people were brushing by us. Yet, while the main dining room atmosphere was hectic, service was prompt and the food was good.
The kid’s menu in the main dining room offered guacamole and chips, veggie crudité, a fruit platter, chicken noodle soup, tomato and grilled cheese sandwiches with crisp green apple chips, grilled chicken, minute steaks, burgers, turkey burgers, the grilled catch of the day, chicken fingers, spaghetti with tomato or meat sauce, mac-and-cheese, and cheese or pepperoni pizza.
Kids also may order such fun frozen drinks such as berry banana colada or passion papaya crush.
For parents wishing to feed their kids and then enjoy a leisurely meal alone, check out Royal Caribbean's My Family Time Dining. Kids receive expedited dinner service and are escorted by Adventure Ocean staff to the kids' facility, where parents then pick them up when finished eating.
On port days, our family ate the Windjammer buffet and never once waited for a table. The buffet is an easy option for families wanting to go casual and have total flexibility for feeding the kids.
There are several alternative restaurants -- carrying an extra fee -- onboard Oasis of the Seas, many in Central Park; they have both indoor and outdoor seating.
Spilling into the park's garden-like areas, the outdoor seating is reminiscent of sidewalk cafes in Paris or Provence.
These are great spots for people watching.
The always-popular Johnny Rockets and the casual dining venue, Seafood Shack (shown in the photo at right*), both on the Boardwalk, round out the ship's alternative dining options.
We stayed in Superior Balcony Cabin 9598.
The ship has 1,956 staterooms of this specific cabin category.
Many other cabin categories and suites on Oasis of the Seas also will accommodate a family of four.
We liked the mid-ship location of our cabin. We were basically equidistant from attractions on both ends of the ship, which was quite convenient.
Our cabin also had a queen-size bed and a pull-out sofa bed for the boys. The cabin size was ample during the day. But in the evening, when the pull-out bed was utilized, it was a tight squeeze (as shown in the photo below right*).
Still, we were quite comfortable overall. We enjoyed a private balcony, mini-refrigerator and a private bath with a shower. The hairdryer was also a welcome perk.
For kids, the in-cabin television system included the Cartoon Network, Boomerang and DreamWorks programming.
Could be improved?
Shelving/drawer space was limited -- especially for guests like us, a family of four with two kids in tow -- and the closet door slid in such a way that it was a bit difficult to access our hanging clothes.
Ports of Call
Our western Caribbean itinerary included port calls at Labadee, Haiti; Cozumel, Mexico; and Falmouth, Jamaica.
(The massive Oasis of the Seas dwarfs another cruise ship docked at the Cozumel pier.*)
At Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private island experience on Hispaniola, Oasis of the Seas docked at the pier, a quarter-mile from the beaches.
The main stretch of beach, lined with rope hammocks, is gorgeous, but extremely rocky. There are several other beaches nearby on Cozumel that are more appropriate for families.
Arawak Aqua Park at Columbus Beach, which charges $15 per child, has a floating trampoline and inflatable slides and seesaws.
Nellie’s Cove is a spectacular horseshoe cove with crystal-clear shallow water. Visitors pay what they want for cabanas and floating mats once there.
Passengers on Oasis of the Seas may pre-book a ride on the Dragon’s Tail Alpine roller coaster ($19 per person), 4,000-foot-long zip line ($89 per person) or kayaking ($32 for adults, $28 for children). Kids will also enjoy the free sprayground.
We simply spent a fantastic day at Nellie’s Cove collecting hermit crabs, sea urchins and starfish.
Later my husband and I swung in hammocks (see photo at left*) while the kids set their sea creatures free in the natural tidal pools on this rocky beach (see photo below).
Numerous shore excursions in all price ranges were offered at Cozumel.
Located 30 miles across the water from Cancun, this Mexican resort island is a popular stop for many cruise lines.
Guests might book a jungle hike, dune buggy ride, snorkeling or take a ferry to Playa del Carmen and embark on a tour of Tulum's Mayan ruins.
With two young kids, though, we opted for a more flexible, five-hour “Deluxe Beach Break at Playa Mia” Cost was $69 per adult, $59 per child.
The all-inclusive excursion covered lunch, alcoholic drinks, non-motorized watersports such as paddleboats and kayaks, as well as use of a water trampoline, tubes, rafts and a swimming pool.
(At left, our kids pose on a colorful catamaran on the Playa Mia beach.*)
One exciting shore development? The new port of Falmouth Jamaica, developed by Royal Caribbean in conjunction with the Port Authority of Jamaica, debuted in March 2011.
Many of the line's offered shore excursions at Falmouth were water-focused. Some were combination tours featuring Dunn’s River Falls, where participants create a hand-holding chain and scale the waterfall.
We decided, however, to put our kids in Adventure Ocean on the Falmouth port day. That way, my husband and I could enjoy adult-focused time ashore.
So instead of our usual beach break for the family, we booked the two-hour “Falmouth Heritage Walking Tour” which departed from the pier. Cost was $29 per person.
What's to see and do in downtown Falmouth on this tour and elsewhere in the port? Stay tuned! I'll be talking about Falmouth extensively in an upcoming SouthernCruising.com™ story.
Before You Go
Before you sail, good organization is imperative. When possible, it's a good idea for families to pre-book most activities, meal options and shows, particularly if you know what you want to do onboard.
While this impedes on your spontaneity, it's important to understand that breakfast with the DreamWorks movie characters, AquaTheater shows, Broadway-style revues and My Time Dining all book up fast. Reservations are required.
So, booking in advance assures you'll have the best chance of getting exactly what you want.
Royal Caribbean provides a helpful mini-calendar that you can pick up at the purser's desk so you can track all your scheduled activities.
It’s also a good idea for parents to study deck plans before you board. Your entire first day of embarkation will be spent exploring to get the lay of the land.
(One of the ship's many stateroom corridors is shown at right.*)
At first it’s confusing to navigate, but if you need help, just consult Royal Caribbean's computerized map monitors; they're located on walls throughout ship and are fantastic for helping you find your way.
By Day 2, we knew where to go. Or, if not, we just consulted the touchable display maps to find a location and the best route to get there.
Is the Oasis of the Seas for Me?
Sailing on a ship this size is a personal preference. It's not an intimate at-sea experience, although certainly you can find those types of places onboard.
For example, the ship has many nooks and crannies where guests may read quietly, people watch or spend a romantic dinner.
As for activities, there are more than you likely can handle.
I'd simply have loved another week onboard.
You absolutely won't be bored, that's for sure.
Our family (shown above*) returned home with a slew of good memories from our cruise's water play, both onboard Oasis of the Seas and at beaches in port destinations.
Sailing on Oasis of the Seas as a family becomes both a memory and a one-of-a-kind experience onto itself.
From my perspective, nothing else at sea compares in size, extensiveness of activities and uniqueness of amenities.
(At right, a character breakfast gave our family a chance to meet Puss in Boots.*)
Questions other families may have about sailing on Oasis of the Seas?
Here's "my take."
Does the massive ship meet expectations? Oh yes.
Does it deliver the promised thrills? Absolutely.
Is it too much for kids? No way.
Is it too crowded? Not enough to mention, from my perspective.
Will I spend my whole vacation walking?
No, it’s just a few extra steps to get where you need to go and that high-tech mapping system really helps.
But I can tell you this, if your family is anything like mine, Oasis of the Seas will blow you out of the water.
Important Editor's Note: This is the second article in a two-part original series about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. To get the full perspective, definitely go back and read the first article, a robust look at many of the Adventure Ocean children's options onboard, visit "Oasis of the Seas=Ultimate Family Adventure Pt.1".
About the Author: Lizz Dinnigan is a freelance writer and senior contributing editor-family cruising for SouthernCruising.com™. She is the former associate editor - cruise for Travel Agent magazine, a U.S. travel trade publication.
*All photographs are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of Lizz Dinnigan or Susan J. Young. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos.