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12.17.2009
Oasis Docked at the New Labadee Pier

Oasis Gets its Sea-Legs
November 15 - December 15 was one of the busiest months in the world of cruising ever. We saw the debut of the biggest carnival Ship ever built, and then we had the nearly non-stop introduction of the new largest cruise ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas. After almost two weeks of pre-inaugural events including concerts and media cruises, we had the actual naming ceremony with no less than seven godmothers.

The first regular passenger cruise of Oasis, a four-night trip from Miami to visit the private beach enclave of Labadee on the island of Haiti had just 4600 passengers onboard (the ships regular capacity is 5200 berths, with a total possible capacity of 6264 when all the extra beds are rolled out).

I was onboard that cruise as a paying passenger and I reported on the experience daily in our CruiseMates message boards. We were happy to report that the embarkation went surprisingly well; we found ourselves arriving at the pier and getting onboard the ship in no more than 20 minutes. The new terminal in Fort Lauderdale works phenomenally well.

We found the same in Labadee where Oasis made its first stop there by docking at a brand new pier that was completed no more than a few days before we arrived. We walked directly off the ship with no delay at all, using the escalator onboard to get down to the gangway. We also walked right back onto the ship when we were done and were able to get an elevator to our floor without waiting.


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In other words, for the one aspect of Oasis where people were most concerned before she came out - crowd flow - they can now be very sure that Royal Caribbean has done an excellent job in alleviating any bottlenecks and streamlining processes that typically slow people down. Yes, she is a big ship, but she is not s ship of lines and crowds, as many predicted.

The first full 7-day cruise, sailing December 5th, reportedly had only 3200 passengers onboard. That was something of a disappointment for the company, I am sure, but it appears cruisers were reluctant to book this ship before the first reviews came out. Plus, she was priced very high for these first few cruises, as much as 130% over what the next most popular Royal Caribbean ship costs.

The current cruise, embarking Saturday, December 12, has 5000 passengers onboard. This is a good sign. It appears that people have read the early reviews and have correctly decided this is a ship worth seeing. Keep in mind that the few weeks just before Christmas are the slowest cruising weeks of the year. The holiday cruises are usually fairly full and dearly priced, especially New Years Eve, and then early January brings "Wave Season," the busiest cruising season of the year.


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I expect Oasis to be very busy once wave season starts. Yes, she I still dearly priced but she is worth it. Despite a few small glitches on our first cruises, the truth is that Oasis is a stunning ship that goes far beyond any other ship ever built in terms of onboard experience. Yes, she is worth seeing, and worth the extra money to see her now. She may become so popular that prices do not come down as quickly as people have been predicting. Especially as the minor glitches we encountered get fixed.

What exactly went wrong on our cruise? First of all it appears the company did not have a workable plan for the AquaTheater shows. What was promised was two different shows, the first, Oasis of Dreams, more on the dramatic side with highly athletic choreography and jaw-dropping high dives; and a second show focusing more on comedy called "Slip 'n Slide." Oasis of Dreams is only half ready, so guests are seeing an abbreviated show due to some technical difficulties that make certain parts of the show too dangerous for the cast members. Slip & Slide has been postponed until March, according to our reports, for the same technical reasons.


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That's about it, though. I had a small issue with the specialty restaurant 150 Central Park having run out of certain menu items and not having anything to replace them. That was the first time I ever walked away from any cruise specialty restaurant still hungry. The food was absolutely delicious, but the portions were miniscule. A promised 8-item tasting menu only had six items. Here are pictures of my 150 Central Park entrees in our CruiseMates message boards.

Aside from the AquaTheater, I have to say Hairspray is as good a production as I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The ice shows in the ice rink are equally impressive. Someone posted in our boards that they don't cruise to see shows, they cruise to travel. But I have to say that while I used to agree, I actually now believe for the first time in my 28-year cruise career, that it does make sense to cruise for the entertainment now. People go to Las Vegas or Broadway for the entertainment and pay as much as $100 per ticket. Why not take a cruise ship where you can see a few shows of the same quality and not pay an extra dime for them?

Yes, Oasis is an extremely active ship, a destination unto itself. It is the perfect ship for families with its fantastic youth facilities making it possible for mom and dad to have a vacation of their own while keeping the kids amused at the same time. It is a natural for family reunions where no one will ever be bored. It is also a great ship for couples as there are plenty of romantic and fun things to do.

Royal Caribbean definitely delivered the "Wow" on Oasis and they deserve all the accolades the ship has already received. No, Oasis is not for everyone, we already know that, but it is a great ship for certain kinds of people - those who enjoy plenty of music, food, fun, dancing, comedy, sports and sunshine.

This is not a ship you would take for a quiet vacation to paradise, this is a ship you take for experiences you will remember the rest of your life, like free jazz and comedy clubs, or zip-lining 2600-feet non-stop from the top of a mountain (at Labadee beach). She is a "must-see" ship that every cruise enthusiast will try at least once, I predict.

By the way, this may be my last Oasis article for awhile, but please try our CruiseMates message boards to get all of the latest updates about the ship.

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