Stoked: Don Burgess tries his hand at surfing on one of the Flow-Riders aboard the Oasis of the Seas. <em>*Photo by Travis Burgess</em>
Stoked: Don Burgess tries his hand at surfing on one of the Flow-Riders aboard the Oasis of the Seas. *Photo by Travis Burgess

FRIDAY, APR. 27: The Oasis of the Seas exceeded my expectations, which were high to start with.

Travelling with nine members of my family — aged from six to 68 — the Royal Caribbean International (RCI) ship had something for everyone. Being in such a diverse group also allowed me to see how good the youth programmes were, how disabled-friendly and how gluten-free friendly the ship was.

We left out of Fort Lauderdale on the March 31 sailing which went to Labadee, Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico. My wife and I also cruised the following week out of the same port on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas which also could be used as a yardstick to compare with.

Embarkation

Oasis had one of the smoothest embarkation procedures I’ve experienced.

Both the Oasis and its sister ship, the Allure of the Seas, use a specially-built cruise terminal which can handle the 5,400 passengers that normally board every week.

My wife and I were checked in and onboard in less than 15 minutes. My brother and his family were on the ship before 11:30pm and were enjoying the H20 Kids Zone of the pool shortly thereafter.

My mother had to use a wheelchair and it was no problem getting on board as RCI staff assisted her onto the Oasis. The disembarkation procedure was just as smooth and we were allowed to hang out near the Starbucks, enjoying coffee, until it was our time to leave the ship.

RCI gets top marks for making this as pain-free as possible.

Cabins

All of the cabins our group had were fairly standard new cruise ship rooms with flat screen TVs, a small couch and vanity.

What made Oasis stand out was the inside balconies that four of us had (the Oasis is not traditional in that parts of the middle of the ship are not covered).

My wife and I had an inside balcony overlooking the Boardwalk. From the comfort of our 10325 stateroom, we were able to watch the aqua shows, concerts or movies at the stern of the ship.

As an added bonus we could also watch people using the 82 foot zip line above us or one of the two rock walls, as well as see all the happenings on the Boardwalk area of the ship.

My brother and his family and my sister and her son had inside balconies over the Central Park area — a 21,000 square foot garden lined with restaurants and shops, including a Coach store. The nighttime ambiance of the lights in the garden provided a soothing background while on the balcony.

While my wife and I were originally booked for an inside balcony, the rest of my family had an ‘inside guarantee’ and were bumped up because better rooms were available.

Royal Caribbean gets credit for taking boring inside cabins and giving them a makeover so they become highly desirable.

My mom was given a handicapped-accessible room at the bow of the ship. This was much larger than a regular cabin and included a huge window to look out the front.

Activities

There is much to do aboard Oasis. While my wife and I have been on 13 cruises, my nephews had never cruised before and the rest of my family’s previous experience was a Carnival cruise ship.

One of my nephews plays hockey and he enjoyed the ice skating rink immensely. This was one of the activities that was popular enough to be crowded and have a line of people waiting to do it.

My sister-in-law and I had a try at the rock-climbing wall (okay, I had a try while she was quite successful). I went on the ship’s zip line five times as there were hardly any queues for this. I didn’t find it scary and it certainly wasn’t as daunting as the one in Labadee.

I used the Flow-Riders to go boogie boarding but also paid for a surfing lesson. I did manage to stay up for five or six seconds before wiping out. The lesson cost $60 and it is given in groups of eight.

If you don’t want to pay for a lesson, the best time to use the Flow-Riders (the Oasis has two) is in the morning when the ship is in port while most of the rest of the passengers concerns are eating and seeing what’s in port. One morning there were only five people using it when I went. If you go during one of the afternoon sessions, there could be more than two dozen people waiting for a turn on the board.

If you are looking for something more sedate, the Oasis has plenty of trivia contests in the Schooner Bar. They varied too from traditional general knowledge contests, to listening to music clips and guessing the artist and the song name.

They also had jewellery making classes available on several different days for $10 for those who have a creative bent.

Next week: Dining and entertainment on the Oasis of the Seas