When the Oasis of the Seas first set sail in 2009, my estimation was that the cruise industry had officially gone mad. Specifically Royal Caribbean, who for the better part of a decade pushed the envelope further than any other brand, with each new class of ships being bigger and bolder than the last. At the time of her launch, Royal Caribbean had amassed 9 of the 12 largest cruise ships in the world, and yet the Oasis was so big and so bold this lifelong fan of cruising was left with a suitcase full of questions.
|The largest cruise ship in the world.|
Can a ship actually be too big? Would cruising with a mind-numbing 6300 passengers really be enjoyable? How does the Oasis of the Seas impact the planet? Does sailing on the biggest cruise ship in the world justify the higher rates that come with it?
After nearly four years of curiosity, it was time to find some answers.
|Yes...that's a zip line. On a cruise ship...|
Bigger Is Better
I get it. This is America. Home of the Hummer and the 128 ounce Super Big Gulp. We like things big here in the States and cruise ships are certainly no exception. But at roughly double the size of the average ship in operation, I couldn't help but wonder if the Oasis of the Seas would actually be too big. After a week aboard the world's largest cruise ship, I'm able to say that concern was totally baseless but only because of one thing...
|Dark skies ahead! Not to worry, you don't feel a thing on the Oasis.|
Yes, I understand that planning the details of a cruise sort of goes against the purpose of a relaxing vacation from the schedule packed real world. "Winging it" will work on pretty much every other cruise ship on the water, but on the Oasis of the Seas you do so at your own risk. The specialty restaurants fill up fast, and the popular shows like Hairspray and Oasis of Dreams allow people with reservations in first, and those without get to pick from the leftover seats 10 minutes before showtime. Good luck.
|The performers jumping from 57 feet. That's 25 feet higher than the Olympics!|
The trade off to pre-planning dinner and entertainment activities is that you get to experience things on Oasis of the Seas which can't be found on any other cruise ship. A small price to pay to avoid the worst words in travel: "I wish we had done that."
Heads In Beds
A capacity of 6300 passengers and 2200 crew is pretty much my definition of mind blowing. Not to mention that the 2700 staterooms on Oasis of the Seas is equal to that of the Wynn resort in Las Vegas. The key difference between the two, however, is fairly obvious... You're confined to the ship. There is no taking a stroll down The Strip for a change of scenery. Would this essentially turn the Oasis of the Seas into a giant tin can of sardines? Somewhat surprisingly, no.
The reason goes back to size and brilliant design. The Oasis of the Seas carries twice the number of guests of most of her counterparts, but she's also twice the size and designed with a multitude of spaces to help spread out the passengers. Where most ships confine their public areas to one or two decks, the Oasis uses four, not to mention smaller areas found throughout the entire ship. The Entertainment Zone, Promenade, Boardwalk, and Central Park might seem like unique features for selling reservations, but really their design has but one important purpose: thinning out the herd.
|The most beautiful area on the ship...|
The net effect was the Oasis felt no more crowded than other cruise ships we've sailed. In fact, in some areas like Central Park and the Boardwalk you would have no idea there were 6300 people on board. Of course, the pool deck was packed to capacity on sea days, but that too is pretty much par for the course. The key is to treat the Oasis like the floating city that she is. If you don't like traffic, just stay out of downtown at rush hour.
|The viewfinders around the ship had a mystery image. |
And a bronze couple making out
Save The Waves
Perhaps the most incredible paradox of the Oasis of the Seas is that she is not only the biggest cruise ship in the world, but the greenest as well. I sat down with the ship's Hotel and Environmental Directors to gain a better understanding of how this seemingly impossible feat is achieved. Not surprisingly, like everything else with the Oasis, the commitment of both Royal Caribbean and the crew to operate in the most environmentally friendly way possible is a big one.
|An empty pool deck. The benefit to staying onboard on port day.|
For starters, the Oasis of the Seas was built with the most advanced - and expensive - Green technology on the water. There are solar panels used to light the Royal Promenade, an osmosis system that supplies every ounce of water used on the ship from the sea, and literally every single piece of waste - be it food, solid, or human - is either recycled or processed and removed from the ship while in port.
|Taking a ride on the Flowrider!|
The larger commitment to Mother Earth, however, comes from the crew and the daily operation of the ship. The "Save the Waves" program onboard the Oasis and all Royal Caribbean ships implores the crew to do everything possible to preserve the most important element of the company's business... the oceans. A great example was the clockwork synchronization to our departure times. If the "all aboard" was 4:30, we were moving at 4:32. Meanwhile, a competitor's ship with the same departure time hung around for an additional half hour or more in every port.
|Putt-Putt at sea! I'm in heaven...|
I joked that I'd hate to be the guy to make this Captain late for dinner, and the Hotel Director put things into a much clearer perspective...
"Every minute we idle is hundreds of gallons of fuel wasted. So 4:30 means 4:30."
|MJ doing yoga on the helipad.|
Supply And Demand
Despite taking several cruises since her debut, we waited to sail on the Oasis of the Seas because of one thing: Price. When the Oasis first came online the fares were naturally significantly higher than similar itineraries on other cruise lines. So I resolved to wait for the new ship smell to wear off and for the premium prices to go along with it. Four years later, I was still waiting.
|I was a frequent customer here....|
The job of filling a 6300 passenger cruise ship to capacity week in and week out is already hard enough, but to do so at premium rates four years after launch simply defies logic. I assumed there had to be something about Oasis of the Seas beyond the "largest cruise ship in the world" novelty that made this phenomenon possible. It took nearly a week aboard, and countless conversations with crew and fellow passengers, but eventually I got it...
There is just nothing else on the water like the Oasis of the Seas. Yes, she is big, but what it really comes down to is the endless array of unique things to do onboard and service. For example, I went zip-lining, boogie boarding, ice skating, hit double 0 on roulette, had dinner by a James Beard Award winning chef, and saw a Tony Award winning show... On a cruise ship... In the middle of the ocean... All in a single day. My guess is Vegas and Dubai are the only other places in the world where that could be done.
|...but I went ice skating to burn off the calories.|
Finally, one thing that has always set cruising apart from resorts on land is the personal nature of service. At most hotels, relationships aren't developed between guests and housekeepers, cocktail servers, or just about any other staff member at the property, but on a cruise ship it's the norm. I was worried that the huge volume of passengers would cause the personal service onboard the Oasis to fall below that of other cruise ships, however if anything it was actually higher. Bartenders all across the ship remembered both my name and drink, a pool attendant called me "Manchester United" all week after I wore a jersey on the first day, and every member of the crew we encountered didn't just greet with a warm "hello," but when possible went a step further by asking about our day. Small things really, but even on the biggest cruise ship on the planet, they make all the difference in the world.
|Dazzles. Where MJ made me dance during the Michael Jackson Tribute Party.|
Ohhh...Sometimes, I get a good feeling.
The first line of the theme song for Royal Caribbean pretty much sums it up perfectly. A voyage on the Oasis of the Seas is nothing more than a collection of good feelings. A feeling of amazement that something so enormous can float on water. A feeling of wonder at the unique things guests can do...on a ship. A feeling of admiration that the largest cruise ship in the world is also the greenest. A feeling of home, thanks to a crew that treats you like family. And finally, a feeling of satisfaction, that in the end it was worth every penny.
If you go...
- Too many tips.
- Too little space.
- Stay tuned for more.
Enjoy Your Stay