Before boarding Oasis of the Seas – the 5,400-passenger Royal Caribbean ship that gave new meaning to the term “mega-ship” when it launched in 2008 (only sister ship Allure of the Seas is bigger) – I expected it to feel like a combination of a Las Vegas hotel and an amusement park.
And with a boardwalk, a central park and a bar/elevator onboard, my suspicions were quickly proven correct. I was surprised, however, that the behemoth of a ship still managed to have its own personality. It didn’t feel crowded and I didn’t feel claustrophobic, even though Oasis can hold enough people to fill the town I grew up in. Overall, I think the size of the ship actually made me feel more comfortable than I have felt on some smaller cruise ships.
The point of my trip was to check out the fortnight’s worth of beauty treatments Oasis received during its ‘revitalisation’ dry dock in Rotterdam. So here’s what’s new onboard one of the world’s biggest cruise ships:
Opus Dining Room: What had once been a single dining room laid out over three decks and serving the same menu is morphing into three completely different restaurants, American Icon Grill, Silk and The Grande. The three-deck space is still joined by a three-story atrium, but the line has worked hard to achieve separation — adding sheer curtains to Silk and landscape-paneled dividers to American Icon Grill, for example.
The thing that’s still missing, though, is the food. Royal says they’ll roll out their new Dynamic Dining concept — nearly 20 restaurants and no main dining room, allowing passengers to ‘tailor’ their eating experience to their own preferences — on Oasis overnight on March 14, 2015. I was told that technical limitations prevent it from coming on line sooner. Until then, passengers will continue to have a traditional main dining room experience in the newly decorated spaces, but clearly Royal doesn’t want Oasis to steal soon-to-launch Quantum of the Seas’ thunder. Quantum is where the new dining concept is debuting, so it looks like we’ll have to wait until October 31, before we can experience Dynamic Dining in full.
Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar. This new-to-Oasis restaurant, which was first introduced on Navigator of the Seas is part of a calculated move by Royal Caribbean. The line’s VP of food and beverage, Brian Abel told me, “We’re trying to fuse restaurants and bars into one concept to draw a younger demographic.”
Sabor’s placement on the ship — it’s on the Boardwalk — makes it much better suited for a Caribbean sailing than a transit from Rotterdam to Southampton on a chilly, damp evening. But the margaritas were solid and the guacamole, made fresh at the table, was some of the best I’ve ever had.
Chops Grille. Chops isn’t new to Oasis, but this old favorite of steakhouse enthusiasts has had its steak menu upgraded and updated. Royal has upped the ante with 36-day dry-aged steaks. They charge an extra fee for the dry-aged New York Strip and dry-aged Porterhouse of around $20 (and the roasted 1 1/4 pound lobster is $20), so it’s not going to break the bank if you want to treat yourself.
Other new dining venues. While I was onboard, work was still being completed on both Izumi — which will offer a full teppanyaki and sushi menu starting November 8, 2014 — and Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, an avant garde restaurant linked in with the Dynamic Dining rollout.
Internet. Oasis had its internet service upgraded as part of Royal’s partnership with O3b, which purports to offer passengers internet speeds comparable to those available on shore. The Royal iQ app is part of the new technology package, as well, and will allow passengers to book reservations for restaurants, shore excursions and spa appointments directly from their phone or tablet.
Suites. The Oasis refurb also saw 10 new suites added to the ship overlooking the AquaTheater and Boardwalk ‘neighbourhood.’ What’s more, suite passengers will be able to enjoy a couple of exclusive new spaces on Deck 17 — the Suite Lounge, the Sun Deck and the Coastal Kitchen suite-only restaurant.
The high-ceilinged, glass-enclosed lounge is decorated in neutral cream, beige and gray, which adds to the sense of light and space in the room. I spent a few hours in the Suite Lounge for both an afternoon drink and for the continental breakfast buffet. It’s a very relaxing spot with great views and a nicely stocked bar, but the food at breakfast wasn’t as nice as what I found in the Windjammer buffet. The drawback at Windjammer is that it’s chaotic, crowded and hard to find a table.
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