Sunday, September 13, 2015

Oasis of the Seas Review

Hey dolls! For the third year in a row, I'm going to take a little detour away from home design and DIY projects and spend one post reviewing our recent cruise. As you know, we cruised on Carnival's biggest ship, the Breeze, in the fall of 2013 and again in 2014 - those reviews are available here and here. While we enjoyed those 8 day Eastern Caribbean cruises tremendously, we wanted a change of pace and scenery, so we decided to book a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on the ship that shattered the world record for biggest cruise ship: Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

By all accounts, we read that the ship transformed everything about cruising, was enormous & had a slew of nontraditional activities on board (ice skating, rock climbing, zip lining, surfing simulator, a carousel, vintage cars, a diving show and a Central Park, all on board). We were excited to see what it was all about, but didn't know about how we'd fare with all the crowds (6,200 cruisers on board and 2,000 crew) and excess (although generally I LOVE excess). Throughout this post I'll give our grades for various components of the cruise in bold. 

Tropical Storm Erika
We set sail on August 29th and were SO excited leading up to our sail date, that is until we started panicking about tropical storm Erika interfering. By all educated meteorological guesses, the storm would be direct in our ship's path at exactly the wrong time. Eek. Other cruise lines were issuing notices on their websites that they were rerouting cruises on similar itineraries at the same time as ours, and although we waited and waited, there was no news for Oasis. Because we tend to book private excursions rather than excursions through the cruise ship because of the huge price difference and lower crowds, the news of which island we'd be on which day was crucial to rearranging our island reservations.

When Royal Caribbean (RC) hadn't communicated with us via text, email, their home page or the private "your messages" portion of their website (seriously, why would you even have this feature if it weren't to be used in this type of situation?) I called the cruise line a mere 24 hours before we set sail. A sassy customer service rep told me our cruise would be sailing a reversed itinerary (which meant we had to reschedule all of our excursions, assuming the private companies would let us). I probably wasn't so sweet when I asked why we hadn't been told. Sassy pants didn't have a reason, but said repeatedly that RC was MAILING us a letter to let us know. REALLY? Snail mail? So the letter would arrive at our home, where we wouldn't be, when we're already 1/3 of the way through the cruise? wtf?

Without anything in writing I didn't feel comfortable canceling our excursions, so when we arrived in the port, now a mere 4 hours from our sail away, I asked RC folks in the port (Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades, Oasis's home). One told me, with great confidence, that the itinerary was reversed while someone I asked 10 minutes later told me with equal confidence that we would be sailing the original itinerary as planned. Great job RC. As we were BOARDING THE SHIP, I asked one of the greeters who told me we'd be reversed and a few steps past him we were handed materials about the cruise that described a normal itinerary.  What the hell, Royal Caribbean?! So when we set sail at 5pm on Saturday, we had no clue where we were going and just hoped it would be the same itinerary we'd booked, otherwise we'd lose hundreds of dollars in private excursion money because we'd have no wifi to re-book them. My control freak anxiety about not knowing what was going to happen, if we'd sail into a hurricane, if our cruise was going to some other random set of islands or would be cancelled or postponed really bled into the first two days or so of the cruise and it probably wasn't until the 3rd or so that I was able to really relax. For those who are curious, we found out at the end of day 2 of the cruise that we'd be sailing our normal itinerary. I'm still in shock at how horribly that situation was handled... I've never seen anything like it from a major corporation.
Royal Caribbean's Communication Grade: F

We braced ourselves and were emotionally prepared for a miserable experience boarding the second biggest (Oasis's almost twin sister Allure has now surpassed her in size by 2 inches) cruise ship at sea, but were surprised to have a very, very easy time getting on board. Royal Caribbean deserves a Nobel Prize for getting 6,200 people and their luggage checked in, through security, set up and on a boat in 6ish hours from start to finish so seamlessly. We arrived an hour before our scheduled time and they processed us immediately. We were blown away. From arriving at the port to getting on the boat for us was maybe 30 minutes? It was the quickest we've ever boarded a cruise ship. Major kudos RC.
Royal Caribbean's Embarkation Grade: A+

On the gangway, all smiles from a speedy check-in.

The ship was by far the best part of our cruise. Its so much more than just the second largest at sea. The amenities are unlike anything we've ever experienced and unless each of the other lines really step their game up, I don't foresee anyone being able to compete in the foreseeable future. To mitigate crowds, the ship's designers created several distinct communities around the boat to keep people in different areas. There's the Boardwalk at the back of the ship that looks exactly like a classic beach boardwalk, with restaurants, wood floors and a carousel. It also has the Aqua Theater (where the diving shows are performed and two enormous TVs play movies), shops, two rock climbing walls and a zip line above.

There's also Central Park, which feels a lot like its namesake and is very beautiful and generally quiet. There are shops and restaurants there too, but also plenty of real plants and rock radios that play cricket sounds. Precious. We took pictures there on formal night. A stings quarter plays there most nights. Such a special spot.

Then there's Promenade, which is a very long indoor area that has several more restaurants, tons of shops, a couple entertainment venues, places where musicians perform, a wall of TV's that show sports games (we got stuck there a few times), a beautiful vintage car, the Rising Tides Bar that rises and falls 5 stories with a fountain underneath, multiple spiral staircases and a stage/runway that unfolds from the ceiling on parade nights. It was insane. We appreciated that our walk to dinner included a stroll through the entire Promenade each night, which often included encounters with Dreamworks characters (I think RC must have felt like they needed to compete with Disney Cruiseline).
 Taking a break from trivia to catch the Madagascar penguins dancing to Footloose.

An ice sculpture on the Promenade to commemorate Oasis's 300th sailing on one of the formal nights.

 My fav photo from the trip, taken on a formal night on the Promenade.
 Ran into Shrek!

 70's disco party - so much fun!

Ship Communities Grade: A+

The things to do on the ship are endless. In addition to the traditional activities all cruise lines plan (bingo, trivia, jewelry shows and sales, children programs, etc.) and water activities (the ship has 5 pools by my count (we may have missed some - they were all very crowded though, so could probably stand a few more), countless hot tubs and a kids splash pad), there is rock climbing, zip lining, ice skating, basketball, a ping pong area, 2 surfing simulators, a carousel, and probably a ton of other things I'm forgetting. Nothing on the seas can match it.
Activities Grade: A+

 International Belly Flop Competition

 Quest game show with our fellow cruisers - hilarious.

 Clearly, we were AMAZING at the Flowrider

The shopping is also unbeatable, with a Kate Spade store, a Michael Kors store and a Coach store (all full sized and stocked with all the latest), just to name a couple of the options.  Oh, and there's a Starbucks on Promenade. This ship is crazy.
Shopping Grade: A

The ship's fitness center was small but never full, so I guess the right size. I ran on the jogging track each morning of the cruise and really liked it. At almost a half mile, it's the longest at sea - go figure. It has a running lane and a walking lane. My only complaint was that there were almost no water views because it's mostly hidden behind the lifeboats. I enjoyed the ocean views on my runs on the Carnival Breeze, but at the same time it's nice to run in shade, because you're usually burnt most of the time on a cruise anyway, so in that regard I preferred the Oasis track to the Breeze track.
Fitness Center and Running Track: B+
 Beautiful sunrise over Ft. Lauderdale on my run on the last day

The Food
After we got on board around noon, we rushed up to Solarium (the healthy bistro inside the adults only pool area) to eat lunch because we were HANGRY after 5am flights and a day without food in the airports and cabs. All of the reviews I'd read told us to avoid the Windjammer for lunch on Day 1 like the plague because of the crowds, which we did. Solarium's lunch was still very crowded, we had to fight for chairs and my Texan, all-American male, beef eating husband was not pleased with the healthy menu (as a vegetarian, I loved it, except their ranch dressing was awful and totally ruined my salad). In addition to being crowded, it was also hot, with no AC that I could detect in Solarium. Needless to say, we didn't eat lunch there for the rest of the cruise. We did have a healthy breakfast there one day that I loved but hubby didn't like.
Solarium's Restaurant Grade from Whitney: A-
Solarium's Restaurant Grade from Ross: D

We ate lunch many days in the Windjammer. We both really enjoyed the food but the venue was WAY too small. Carnival Breeze's version of Windjammer (The Lido Marketplace) is probably triple the size despite that cruise having roughly half as many people on board. People fought for seating, there was a wait to get in, and tables were often sticky because the tight turnaround time for the staff. One time, we sat at a dirty table with other people's plates after they got up for 10 minutes or more waiting for someone to clean it because that was our best shot at getting a table. It was crazy. Also, a little hot in there too. Food was wonderful though.  I appreciated the international options, multiple salad bars and double dessert bars at the back of restaurant. Hubby liked the sandwich station and cookies.
Windjammer's Grade: B- 

We ate in the Park Cafe once to try the roast beef sandwiches that everyone raves about in reviews. Hubby said they really were that good. They also had a salad bar where, like at Chipoltle or Subway, someone makes you a custom salad behind glass. Mine was divine - well done RC! I knew to avoid the ranch this time after it was so bad in Solarium and I'm pleased to report that every other dressing I tried throughout the week was great.
Park Cafe's Grade: A

My custom Park Cafe salad - delish!

Ross ate in the Wipe Out Cafe (the Burger's/fries place by the Flowriders) and Sorrento's (the pizza place on the Promenade) a couple times. Both were free venues. Most other restaurants on board besides those, Windjammer, the 3 main dining rooms, Solarium (during breakfast and lunch) and Park Cafe had an extra charge. He wasn't impressed by Wipe Out's burgers but we did both like their fries and as an Italian, hubby has high pizza standards, so wasn't blown away by Sorrento's but definitely didn't hate it either (he went back several nights to get pizza after dinner - cruises make fatties out of all of us). It's worth noting that unlike the burger place on Carnival Breeze, Wipeout doesn't have a veggie burger. I also never found the amazing guac that others raved about finding there, but maybe I went at the wrong times.
Ross's Wipe Out Grade: C
Ross's Sorrento's Grade: C 

In keeping with our usual modus operandi (and breaking with the format that RC tries so hard to encourage on Oasis), we ate dinner in our main dining room (MDR) assignment, American Icon, every night. I've read that RC doesn't have near enough seating capacity in the 3 main dining rooms for all of the guests (like a modern day, over-eating American's Titanic-esque nightmare), so they encourage you to eat dinner elsewhere by putting countless free and paid restaurants around the boat (including sushi, hibachi, tapas, sushi, a steakhouse, italian, really anything you could want). That's not our style, so we did our thing.

 Mushroom and rice arancini - divine.

 Strawberry meringue with kiwi - so, so good.

Photographing an embarrassing low point - I swear we only ordered the two rum cakes. Our waiter just brought us the others to try... promise.

Arugula and pear salad - so good!

Happy hubby with his insane amount of beef.

Three desserts for two people is still better than four, right?

I lost 13 pounds to prepare for the cruise, so I was finally off my diet and ready to live it up. Our first night was rough. Servers were horrible, rude and despite having a 6:30 reservation (that RC all but forced us to make a month in advance - the ship is so huge that you have to make reservations FOR EVERYTHING - I don't know how people less organized than me deal) we didn't get our entrees until 7:45 and almost missed our 8pm show reservation. When we politely told our waiter, he gave us some sassy response that I can't remember about dinner being more important than a show. It was also the first time in 9 cruises that my order was ever screwed up. Because we were in such a hurry, I didn't bother correcting him and tried to eat it. Service on cruises is usually better than anything I ever experience on land - seriously, the best staff ever, especially on Carnival. Royal Caribbean really struggled in the service arena. Carnival is kicking RC's butt in that regard. On night two we politely asked for new servers, got Albert and Katherine from the Phillipines, and loved them. They were great, hilarious and each night asked as soon as we sat down if we had any show reservations so they wouldn't make us late (we didn't tell them about our first night experience, they were just thoughtful enough to do that). The food was great.  I'd say RC's vegetarian entrees are slightly better than Carnival's, while Carnival's desserts were definitely better.  Hubby got steak most nights and was impressed.  I also noticed an obsession with cold, fruit based soups. While Carnival maybe had 2-3 of them all week, RC had one on the menu everynight. Hubby tried them a few times and loved them. MDR salads were also great, especially the arugula pear salad with cabernet dressing - amazing! Assuming the first night was an outlier, we'll score the main dining room based on our experience nights 2-7.
Main Dining Room Grade: A-

Unlike most cruise ships, Oasis pretty much only sails two routes: an Eastern Caribbean route and a Western Caribbean route.  Because of its size, Oasis is very limited by which ports it can fit into (each one it visits had to make huge improvements to accommodate its large size). Most years, we pick our cruise by its itinerary. Since we've already been to the majority of the islands in the Caribbean that have cruise ports, we try to find cruises that can take us to new islands, which we're usually able to find.  With Oasis, we picked it because of the ship. We'd already been to 2 out of 3 of its Western route islands and 3 out of 3 of its Eastern route islands (all very recently, by the way). We generally prefer Southern and Eastern Caribbean islands, although Cozumel is our favorite spot of all.
Overall Itinerary Grade: B-

Our sailing stopped in the following islands:

Labadee, Haiti
This port is owned by Royal Caribbean and completely fenced in, so you're not really getting an authentic experience, which is probably fine for a lot of people. We had never been to Haiti before. All excursions must be purchased through RC. Haitians work in Labadee, so interacting with them is nice and probably the only real window into Haitian culture.  The beaches are beautiful, but kind of crowded with 6,000 people unloading on them all at once.  The beaches to the left side of the dock (under the zip line - the world's longest zip line over sea - I'm starting to think RC has a Napoleonic complex) are less crowded but more turbulent than the beaches to the right.  We tried both and preferred the ones to the left, but we're good swimmers so no worries there. For us, a free beach day in Haiti was perfect. Like in Coco Cay, the cruise line provides a buffet on the island, which was good. It included great salads (I LOVED the Greek one), hubby had burgers and hot dogs, a huge beautiful fruit display and amazing desserts. Only complaint was that they didn't have water - just tea and fruit punch (not ideal if you don't drink caffeine and don't want a high calorie sugary drink).

 Crowded but calm beach to the right of the pier

 Yummy lunch

Haitians will HOUND you to buy things, braid your hair, tip them to move your chairs (we tipped a guy $5 and he brought one of our chairs halfway to where we wanted it and watched me drag the other). I know a lot of islanders throughout the Caribbean do this, but the Haitians were by far the most intense. They've also suffered more tragedy and devastation than any other island we've been to, so it makes sense. We bought most of our souvenirs in Labadee through the Haitians in their open air flea market RC let them set up on site because we wanted to leave as much money there as possible in light of the 2010 earthquake. We would have preferred a more authentic experience, but for what it is, it was beautiful.
Labadee's Grade: A-

Falmouth, Jamaica
Our next stop was Falmouth, Jamaica. We'd been to Ocho Rios, Jamaica before, but nearby Falmouth was new to us. In doing our research, we realized that most people docking in Falmouth head to Montego Bay (about 30 mins away) or Ocho Rios (about 45 away). Falmouth mostly just seemed like a port town that had recently sprung up around the new Oasis-sized port. In Ocho Rios in 2008 we did Jamaica's top attraction - we climbed the Dunns River Waterfalls (many of you will remember the infamous story of our time here and what I thought was going to happen when we got to the top). We didn't have much ability to plan due to RC's HORRIBLE communication about where we'd be going leading up to the cruise, but on the spot when we got to Falmouth we took a shuttle for $20 pp to Montego Bay. We started at Doctor's Cave Beach, which I read a lot about being crowded, which it was. Aside from that, it was beautiful and the nice bars and restaurants on the beach had really great music playing (think early-mid 2000's hip hop mixes - right up our alley). The water was crystal clear and there were beautiful shells all over the beach. We walked around downtown Montego Bay, which was crazy but good shopping. We got matching Jamaica shirts, Ross's idea, which I loved. We were offered marijuana for purchase no less than 50 times, as predicted in Jamaica. They almost had me when a woman offered to sell me brownies, but when my common sense kicked in and I realized what kind of brownies she meant, I politely declined (but only after telling her that her sales pitch was better than her competitors' because it involved chocolate). 

We ended up in Margaritaville - not usually our type of thing (we're not exactly Parrot heads) but we had the best time there. It was right on the water and we ate on the top floor, which had a steep slide a few steps from our table that went right into the ocean. It was one of the scariest slides I'd down in awhile and it ended about 10 feet above the water so you free fall at the end - so crazy.  Staff was hilarious, food was decent, music was great, views were insane, and atmosphere was everything. The best part was the Wipe-out style inflatable obstacle course in the ocean. After being spit out of the slide we swam out to it and had a blast trying to make our way through it. I'm pleased to report that we both somehow made it to the top of the course. We had a great time in Mo Bay.
 Docking in Falmouth

Usain Bolt's high school in Falmouth - his people were very, very proud of him and for good reason! 

 Oasis and I

So much fun at Montego Bay's Margaritaville 

 Doc's beach - gorgeous.

Jamaica's Grade: A

Cozumel, Mexico
As many people have heard us say before, Cozumel is our favorite island in the Caribbean. The water is such a beautiful shade of turquoise, the sand is white, the hospitality and culture are amazing and we have our Cozumel day plans down pat.  We've been to Cozumel on several cruises, including our honeymoon cruise, and each time we've rented a scooter for the day from the same scooter dealer and then taken off around the island. In Cozumel, there are so many great things to do and such great shopping by the cruise port that very few people leave that area. At most, people will venture to Chankanab, which is not very far away.  Ross and I scoot around the island in the same series of stops each time and find that we have most of them to ourselves - it's amazing. First, we head to our favorite place on Planet Earth - Playa de Corona - a beach bar/restaurant that's mostly without walls, has sand floors, lots of hammocks, the best Mexican food you''ll ever eat in your life, amazing snorkeling right beside your table, diet coke and coke in glass bottles with Spanish writing and the coolest owner and waiter ever (Rogillo and Angel). If Heaven is a replica of Earth, only better, I know exactly where Ross and I would meet each other on the other side: heaven's version of Playa de Corona. So we stopped there and it was as amazing as ever. We were the only people there aside from Rogillo and Angel.

 Playa de Corona

 Playa de Corona

 Playa de Corona

 Las Brisas

After a couple hours, we scooted to the back side of the island, where we usually stop to swim in some of the prettiest, emptiest beaches you'll ever see with gorgeous rock formations everywhere. Unfortunately this time there was red seaweed EVERYWHERE, including in each incoming wave (which creeps me out) so we didn't spend much time there. Instead of turquoise, the water looked brown - it was sad. We had to change our plans to find a clean beach and ultimately we ended up at Las Brisas, which was beautiful but not as vast or pretty as the back side's beaches usually are. Still great though. After our time there, we cruised back to the area around the port where we did a little, okay, a lot of shopping. Sun burnt, exhausted and happy, we returned our scooter, bought a Christmas ornament for us and some alcohol for friends at the pier and got back on the boat.
Cozumel's grade: A+


Other Cruisers: Aside from RC's communication (or blatant lack thereof), the other worst part of our cruise was our fellow cruisers. I've never given much thought to who I'm sharing the boat with, but how rude almost all of our fellow cruisers were couldn't be ignored. We were told my crew that because Oasis made such a splash when it was unveiled with the record breaking, it's an international attraction in itself, attracting cruisers from the world around, many of whom have no intentions of even checking out the islands. They just want to spend a week on the Oasis. That was pretty evident, because we'd say 10% or less of our fellow cruisers were American. I have no problem with non-Americans - my sister lives abroad and I've always been attracted to people from other cultures, but Ross and I both felt very strongly that the countries that our cruisemates were from must not have the manners that Americans have. We were constantly cut in line, stuck in tight spaces with people yelling in other languages, shoved aside and plowed through in crowds throughout the cruise. There was no please or thank you from most folks you interacted with (and no smiles, waves or friendly sounding words that seemed to equate to those things in other languages)... just a ship filled with 75% assholes. When waiting in a long line with a man from Kentucky (any time we encountered another American triggered a mutual excitement to share our experiences regarding the other cruisers... not to mention excitement to just speak English with someone) and the same petitie foreign woman tried to cut most of the line 3 or 4 times, the man told me how frustrated he was with everyone on board and how he'd never cruise the Oasis again. He told horror stories from his week that were worse than just the general rude culture that we'd experienced. We both laughed as the woman kept getting brought to the back of the line by Oasis staff. It was a disaster. Also, because of all the other cultures, there was a LOT of skin showing at the pools, hot tubs and islands. Countless old, very young, plus sized, boney, hairy, male and female cruisers wore thong bathing suits all over the boat. Some of the bare butts I saw I don't think I'll ever be able to forget, including one male one in its 70's and one female one belonging to a woman at least 100 pounds heavier than me. And to be honest, I don't care if you've got a body like Beyonce, I STILL DON'T CARE TO SEE YOUR NUMBER TWO ZONE. Considering several of the restaurants are colocated with pools, this trend got old fast. I get that societal norms are different everywhere and that that's what makes us all special, and maybe I'm just an old grump for saying this, but if you're rude, loud, obnoxious and I can see your butthole, I'd rather not spend my vacation with you. 
Co-cruisers grade: F

Service: As I said earlier, RC is definitely losing to Carnival in this arena. See the story above about our waiter the first night in the restaurant, for example. To add to that, our cabin steward didn't introduce himself until we ran into him in the hallway on NIGHT FOUR (on Carnival they're usually smiling, giving you a mini bio and asking about your preferences before your bags are even on board). To make matters way worse for this real animal and towel animal lover, we only got THREE towel animals on our seven night cruise. What the heck RC?! Also, there was no welcome.  No one came on the intercom to say welcome aboard, etc.  The cruise just kind of started. We didn't even know who the cruise director was until day 3 or 4, at which point we discovered he was super douchy (his CD staff was really fun though) and we're fine not knowing him. Staff throughout the ship generally seemed annoyed to interact or have to help us, with a handful of exceptions where crew members reminded us of the amazing folks we were used to seeing on Carnival. They seemed to all hate their jobs as much as they hated the cruisers, and with jerk cruisers like I described above, I guess I can't really blame them.
Service Grade: D

CATS the Musical: The artists were obviously very talented, costuming was great, but there was no plot. I have to agree with all of the Oasis reviews I read before cruising - it was so boring. When a medical siren went off about 1/3 of the way through (we had a ton of these by the way, and ended up stopping in Grand Cayman on a sea day to get someone to a hospital) everyone took it as an opportunity to leave.
CATS Grade: C

Emergency stop outside Grand Cayman - we couldn't go all the way in due to the ship's size & three other ships in port I assume

Lines, Crowds and Elevator Waits: While they did a lot to mitigate the crowds, they still existed. Seriously, props to RC for making 6,200 people feel like 5,000, but it was still super crowded and there were lines for everything. We took the stairs a lot, but with the height of the ship we were sore most of the cruise from all the stair climbing.
Crowds Grade: D

Closet Door in Cabin: I know this sounds super random, but who puts a sliding door that doesn't latch shut in a cabin of a ship that moves? While we were sleeping it would often slam open or closed, waking us up. Whose idea was this?? Closets were spacious though for cabin size (silver lining).
Closet Grade: D

Loyalty Program: on Carnival, as a repeat cruiser you get invited to a party with unlimited free drinks, get a pin and get free drink tickets for the cruise. On RC, there's no party, but you supposedly get discounts automatically applied on various things you buy on board. I think that could be really cool, but none of our supposed promos that we were supposed to receive were applied. Instead of waiting at Guest Services for 2 hours with all the rude people, we just let it be, so no loyalty program for us. Frustrating.
Loyalty Program Grade: C-

Where's the ocean?: As many reviews indicated, it's hard to see the sea on Oasis, which was a big bummer for us. Unlike most ships, Oasis is designed around its core instead of ocean views. While the design is so revolutionary and cool, often times it felt like we were living on a floating mall, park or boardwalk and not in the middle of the Caribbean. There were no water views in Promenade or Central Park and only views at the end of the Boardwalk. Many restaurants had no views and a large portion of the pool deck didn't. Deck 15, some areas of our MDR and a fraction of the running track were the only areas we every really saw the ocean. I think they were so busy thinking of everything else that they forgot the ocean, which was a bummer. At least the tradeoff was great.
No ocean: D

Specialty Shows: Better than the traditional shows and better than anything we'd ever seen at sea. We were lucky enough to catch two of the diving shows (Oasis of Dreams and the comedy dive show) and we were blown away by both. It started raining during one and we didn't even get up even though we were in the outdoor Aqua Theater - it was that good. Collegiate divers, acrobats and synchronized swimmers perform amazing stunts to music in a rising and sinking pool and from 10-60 ft platforms ON THE BACK OF A MOVING SHIP. Mind blowing. The performers were so talented. The ice skating show was almost as good - amazing.
Specialty Shows: A+

Solarium: This was the adults only area at the front of the ship under a glass dome and we spent most of our time there. It had one circular cold pool with fountains, two hot tubs, cute modern chairs, calming music, fake palm trees and running water. At night: great music, almost empty, serene. It didn't have AC but it had a great breeze. I was worried about not being able to get a tan, but I did. You could find spots between the glass ceiling openings where plenty of unrestricted sun came through. Plenty of seats - never too crowded. 
Solarium Grade: A

On Board Music: Amazing. There was live music/DJs in 6-8 places each night. From Jazz, to big band, to strings, to club music to oldies, there was something for everyone every night. Amazing. RC is definitely winning in this arena. 
Music Grade: A

Food Quality: We were really pleased. Aside from the ranch dressing, I don't remember disliking anything. Well done RC! Presentation was always great too.
Food Quality Grade: A

All in all, we had a great week and would obviously rewind to do it again in a heartbeat. With that being said, I'm not sure Oasis (or its twin Allure) will be our next cruise ship, but at the same time we feel like we'll be let down on any other boat now because we've sailed on the nicest ship. In one sense, the bar has been raised in terms of ship amenities and shows, but in another sense, we'd love to have good service again and return to more exotic islands. I see us on a Carnival ship next, happy with our great service, ocean views and nightly towel animals but missing Solarium, the Promenade and being able to rock climb or ice skate at sea. :)

Thanks for reading dolls - sorry it was so long!
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