It’s Not About the Destination, but the Journey
Oasis of the Seas
October 31 – November 7, 2015
Ft. Lauderdale – Nassau – St. Thomas – St. Maarten
This was our 18th cruise and 13th with Royal Caribbean. As I’m writing this, the media is full of reports on the Brazilian man who went overboard at 1:00 a.m. on Friday. I just have to first get this out of my system because of the crazy news reports I’ve seen.
“Oscar, Oscar, Oscar Man Overboard Portside”
Let me say that my wife and I were sound asleep and didn’t hear the ship-wide announcement, despite being just a five decks above where the incident took place. However we did attend the scheduled Captain’s Corner at 1:00 p.m. held in the Comedy Club on deck 4. Captain Trym Selvag made himself available to answer any and all questions about the cruise, the ship, the crew and running the largest cruise ship in the fleet. This was a long scheduled event, not something to address the tragic man overboard event earlier in the morning.
Captain Selvag started the Q&A by directly addressing the man overboard incident. This is not verbatim, but essentially what he told the audience.
At just before 1:00 a.m. Friday, a call came in from a neighboring cabin that there was a domestic altercation with a lot of noise. The ship dispatched a security detail to the cabin on deck 7 to deactivate the situation. The Captain told us that one of the parties answered the door and while they were talking, another passenger ran out to the balcony and jumped overboard. The Captain said he didn’t jump out far enough and landed on a lifeboat davit a deck below. By chance, a ship beverage steward saw him and grabbed the man’s bare forearm as he lay on the davit. Another crewman climbed up to also try and pull the man to safety. At this time the Captain said he was asleep and received a call about the potential man overboard situation and he immediately ordered the ship to slow. (The Oasis was presently doing 20 knots.) About 40 seconds later the passenger pulled away from the crewmen holding his arm and fell into the sea.
On the ship’s bridge, there is a “man overboard” button that the crew punched to electronically mark the ship’s position. The Oasis, in 40 seconds, had slowed to 12 knots and began a turn to port. On the Oasis, the ‘Oscar, Oscar, Oscar’ call was announced over the P.A system. Also a ‘Pon, Pon, Pon’ call, “person in the water,” was broadcast on a VHF radio channel. The captain said that there were no other ships near enough to help in the search. It was dark, raining heavily and there were six to seven foot seas. Just nasty conditions. The Oasis put two small craft in the water to search for the passenger. The U.S. Coast was called. They dispatched a C-130 out of Clearwater Florida and a helicopter out of Nassau to our position 17 miles east of the Turks and Caicos in the Bahamas chain. With Coast Guard aircraft overhead, the Coast Guard released the Oasis from the search at around 8:30 a.m. or over seven hours after beginning the recovery search.
Captain Selvag said, instead of arriving in Ft. Lauderdale at five a.m. on Saturday, we would arrive at seven. The Oasis amped-up its speed for the last day to near the ship’s top speed of 22 knots. My wife and I learned about the situation at breakfast and the captain made a brief announcement to the ship over the P.A. system at around 9:00 a.m. By breakfast, there was a video on YouTube taken by a passenger several decks above, of the man slipping from the grip of the crewmen trying to save him and he dropped into the sea.
Sadly, the incident was a suicide not an accident. Initial claims by the man’s partner that his spouse ‘slipped’ off the balcony, can’t be true. I’m 6’1” tall and the balcony railing is up to mid-chest on me. The couple’s cabin also had several broken lamps and a broken coffee table and was the scene of a struggle. They clearly had domestic issues. The Broward County Sherriff’s office conducted the investigation, interviewed witnesses and reviewed the video that was on the news as well as other videos. The man can be heard saying he wanted to jump, ‘let go of me,’ ‘this is all your fault.’ I can imagine the man’s partner was advised to have an attorney when he talked to police as who knew where the investigation might lead? The man’s attorney quickly smelled a buck and charged that his client’s partner was pushed overboard by the Oasis’ crew.
The latest entry in the saga has the surviving partner setting up his smartphone in his cabin to video the security team. At this point his partner is over the balcony and he’s freaking out calling everyone murderers and grabbing his phone to alert CNN and the media. Shouldn’t phoning in a man overboard call be somewhere on your ‘to do’ list? This is more than a tragic suicide. There is a smell of extortion, manslaughter, aggravated assault, spousal abuse and a few other potential crimes. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Paste these URLs of the videos into your browser and make your own judgment.Man Jumps Overboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mdQ8rgHepI Attorney for Man Overboard Releases Video of Incident http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls0CjjWCZKA
Now, to the cruise.
Getting to the Pier
Driving from a friend’s house in Orlando, we had a reservation at Park’N Go. The facility is a mile or two from the pier and also serves the airport. I highly recommend them. We arrived at 11:20 a.m. The staff moved our luggage from our car to their shuttle bus and dropped us off at the pier where baggage handlers took our luggage aboard. The check-in was done in five minutes, very efficient and by noon, we sitting down to lunch in the Windjammer. Park’N Go charged $71.37 for the week, which is cheaper than the on-pier parking deck. Be sure to make a reservation.
Departure – Port Everglades
This was our first cruise on an Oasis class ship. It takes several days just to absorb all the different neighborhoods that divide the ship into smaller areas with different character. The Promenade on deck 5 is a two person wide jogging track so the muster drill takes place in public areas throughout the ship. Ours was in the AquaTheater at the stern. No life jackets were in your cabin, they are now stored in lockers near your muster station. According to the video shown, you may not necessarily have a seat in a lifeboat in the case of an emergency. The video shows an escape slide that lands you in a large life raft. I just can’t see a forty to fifty foot, near vertical drop into a raft as being good for you on so many levels.
My wife and I are Diamond members and at 5:30 we headed to the Diamond Lounge, not far from our cabin on deck 11. The venue was full. It is not large enough to hold the crush of Diamond members that head there at cocktail hour. We headed to the Schooner Bar prior to heading to Giovanni’s for dinner.
Tonight was Halloween and all the young children aboard dressed in costume to go Trick or Treating around the ship. A load of grown-ups went full-Halloween as well.
We had reservations for the AquaTheater show, however the show was cancelled and rescheduled for us on another day. Apparently there was a technical problem.
Bonus, the ESPN Caribbean channel broadcast the World Series game while ESPN 2 Caribbean carried the Notre Dame versus Temple slugfest. After that, the sports channels returned to soccer, rugby and tennis matches.
Sunday – Nassau
If you had an inside cabin and never went out on deck, you would have no sensation of departing Ft. Lauderdale, sailing and docking in Nassau. The huge Oasis is a very smooth ride.
We tried to have breakfast at Johnny Rockets but couldn’t get near the place. Headed up to the Windjammer on deck 16. The Oasis staff was in the elevator lobbies telling everyone the place was full and go to the American Icon Grill dining room on deck 3. This became our preferred breakfast venue as you could order off the menu or do the buffet similar to the Windjammer. It is also where My Time dining is held.
At 1:00 p.m., Joanne and I played a round of General Trivia in the Schooner Bar. We won, beating a bar full of teams and learned that at 3:00 there would be the first round of Progressive Trivia. The moderator would accumulate your scores for four sessions during the week. Game on.
Nassau was a brief port call and the Oasis departed after lunch for a sea day to St. Thomas. Having learned our lesson on Saturday, we snagged some chairs in the Diamond Lounge at about 4:30. The bar service didn’t begin until 5:00 but by then the two story lounge was largely occupied. We had a My Time dinner reservation in the American Icon Grill dining room at 6:00. At 7:30, the Captain’s reception was held in the Royal Promenade. The Perry Philips Jazz Quartet provided the musical entertainment and they are just fantastic. Don’t miss them.
The AquaTheater has two large LCD screens and they broadcast the Sunday Night NFL game. They also carried the Monday night football game as well. We headed to Studio B and caught the ice show ‘Frozen in Time.’ Don’t miss it.
Monday – Sea Day
At 10:45 a.m. the Oasis officers and crew hosted a reception for Crown and Anchor members in the AquaTheater. Adult breakfast beverages were served, ahem, and Captain Selvag welcomed everyone back and thanked them for their brand loyalty and introduced the audience to his team.
After dinner, ventriloquist, Ronn Lucas was the Headliner in the Opal Theater. You don’t go to his show because his lips don’t move; you go because he’s funny as hell. He filled the Opal Theater for two shows both Monday and Tuesday nights. See him.
Tuesday – St. Thomas
The Oasis of the Seas docked at the Crown Bay facility on the East side of Water Island at 10:00 a.m. This was a US Navy submarine base during WWII. We just walked to the end of the pier and browsed the shops. Most of the familiar shop names found in downtown Charlotte Amalie and the Havensight Mall can also be found here.
For dinner, we had reservations in the Solarium Bistro forward in the ship. It’s like dining in a glass house with views forward, left, right, the sky above and it was a wonderful venue to watch the night time departure from St. Thomas. The ambiance, service and food were excellent. Give it a try.
Wednesday – St. Maarten
The Oasis had the port to itself. A bit more casual shopping ashore for us where you loved to hear a steel band playing Christmas tunes on the shop CD player. You could buy the album at the counter. Loved it.
Walking back to the ship, we observed a huge barge parked on the port (left) side of the Oasis. It stayed there for several hours pumping fuel aboard. It took two tugs to haul the empty barge away. It was quite large.
Thursday - Sea Day
The ‘fix’ is in at the Progressive Trivia tournament. Today was the third round and Joanne and I were in third place, just a couple of points from the leading team of six players. Today, each question would have five clues. Answer correctly with the first clue and receive five points. On the second clue, receive four, etc. Here’s the clue that showed us the leading team had been on the cruise and played the game before.
Clue No. 1: ‘He was born in California in 1956.’
I’m sure you all got, ‘Mel Gibson’ from that. We didn’t. Only the lead team ran up immediately with the correct answer.
This was the cruise’s second formal night and the dinner in the main dining rooms featured both lobster and prime rib. Don’t be shy, your waiter will arrange a surf and turf for you.
At 7:30 in the Opal Theater, we sat down to watch the show, “Come Fly With Me.” The theater was packed, the show began wonderfully and after about twenty minutes . . . everything stopped. The stage went dark, the music and singing stopped and all the cast members walked off stage as if on cue. One guy was left dangling in mid-air by cables and he was slowly lowered to the stage, detached himself and walked off. A five by twelve foot pit in mid stage was left open. None of us knew what was up. After about five minutes with the theater in the dark, a recorded announcement said there was a technical difficulty and the show would resume shortly. This announcement repeated every five minutes for a half hour. Very few people left, as the show was that good. After a half-hour, the Cruise Director, Drew Devine, came on stage and said that they were experiencing a massive Windows 7 meltdown and the show was cancelled.
I heard a fellow passenger remark that this was the FOURTH show they missed due to computer problems. Apparently the first night AquaTheater performance, a 3-D movie in the Opal Theater, a performance of Cats, and our show, all had computer crashes. The music, singing, lighting, staging, etc. is all computer controlled. When we returned to Ft. Lauderdale, I hope a ship IT person was dispatched to Best Buy for a new server to run the entertainment system. My personal opinion; is stay away from Windows 8 and 10 as well, and recompile the software for a Mac OS.
Friday – Sea Day
See above, for the man overboard incident that began at 1:00 a.m.
Twelve hours later at 1:00 p.m., we attended the ‘Captain’s Corner’ held in the Comedy Club on deck 4. Captain Selvag admitted to not having much sleep. The club was packed. In addition to discussing the man overboard in detail, he answered any and all questions for an hour. I asked him about refueling in St. Maarten. He says the Oasis refuels there every other Wednesday. (In the alternate week, the Oasis sails Western Caribbean ports.) Fuel is the ship’s biggest expense at $100,000 per day, with food, second at $80,000 a day. He works ten weeks on the ship and then gets ten weeks off which is the normal arrangement for captains on all Royal Caribbean ships.
The captain was asked if the Oasis would fit through the new Panama Canal when it was completed. He reported that the Canal was wide enough for the ship, however there was a bridge at one end that was too low to fit under. He said the funnels of the Oasis are designed to retract twenty feet. That is so the ship can squeeze under the Verazano-Narrows Bridge in New York Harbor.
At 2:30, we sat down in the Opal Theater to see the performance of Cats. We had never seen it before and my understanding was that it was the fourth longest running show ever on Broadway. I am sorry, but this show bites the big one. It sucks. The cast of 25 or so, may be talented dancers and singers, but the show has no plot and you can’t understand most of the lyrics due to the audio system and the stage is kept very dark so you can’t even appreciate the costumes and makeup. Everyone I saw sit down with their children, left with them in the middle of Act I. I couldn’t relate or get interested in any character in the cast. I was praying that the computer crash that killed an earlier performance would happen again soon. As Act I ended, I leaned over and asked Joanne if she minded if I didn’t return from intermission and she could collect me after the show, drunk out of my mind in the Schooner Bar trying to forget sitting through Act I. She said, “I’m joining you.” I would estimate that about one-half of the 700-seat theater, didn’t return for Act II, based on the crowds at the elevators and staircases leading away from the Opal Theater. Cats is one of the greatest scams in history. At two-and-a-half hours, it is very long for a cruise ship show and, in my opinion; you will regret the loss of those hours for the rest of your life.
Friday evening, the seas were picking up, moving the Oasis around in a gentle manner. However you could watch the pool water sloshing back and forth in the AquaTheater. As a result, tonight’s water shows were cancelled for the safety of the performers.
Really Cool Things About the Oasis of the Seas
There is so much to see and do, you never have to leave the ship. After a week aboard, there are areas of the Oasis we never got to see. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters. We need to book another cruise on her to see more.
There are a lot of different dining venues, some at no extra cost, some at an additional cost, to try during your cruise. Do so.
The different neighborhoods aboard make this huge ship seem smaller and not crowded.
There is great entertainment aboard, with the exception of the show, Cats.
Each morning Captain Selvag would star in a short video of some aspect of the ship’s operation. One morning he showed all the radar, GPS and charting systems they use on the bridge for navigation. Another morning, he demonstrated pulling away from a pier using the ship’s Azipod engines and bow thrusters. I found it a neat little show to look for.
In Central Park, recordings of birds and crickets are piped in to make the place more authentic. We spotted real birds hitching a ride there when we were far off in the Atlantic.
The ship is home to a population of bats. Sitting in the Diamond lounge after sunset one evening the bats could be observed swooping all over the Boardwalk area presumably catching bugs for dinner.
The Ship has THREE dedicated shops exclusively selling ladies handbags. They are Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Coach. (What, only three?)
Things that the Oasis of the Seas Can Improve
The Ship has THREE dedicated shops exclusively selling ladies handbags. They are Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Coach. (Does overkill mean anything to Royal Caribbean?)
Before even getting aboard, The Royal Caribbean web site could use a load of work to make it more user friendly. We tried for hours to book our cruise there and finally gave up and called the RCI reservations desk. Given that you are traveling with 6,000 fellow cruisers, you need and want to plan and make reservations for AquaTheater shows, Ice Shows, Headliners, Comedy clubs and any of the specialty restaurants as well as your main dining room preference. The web site does not make this as easy as it should be and you really need to plan your vacation aboard.
Elevators – The elevators have no ventilation. You get fresh air when the doors open on a different deck. We’re sailing the tropics, it’s hot and A/C would be welcome. The elevators are the largest I’ve seen on a ship. Packed with passengers, exiting the muster drill, an idiot in the elevator lobby, holding a button down to summon the next car faster, just keeps the door open on the packed elevator in front of him. That doesn’t help anybody. Throughout the cruise, to get on an elevator, we, and many others, took a car down when we wanted to go up, and vice versa. New elevator software would help.
The Windjammer Café doesn’t seem large enough for the passenger capacity and it’s inefficient to have to walk around the entire venue to see what’s for lunch at the various stations. The tables there are pretty close together. Also, the ‘salad bar’ was pretty limited to about four vegetables at the most. Smaller class RCI ships had much better salad bars as I recall. This one is an easy fix.
You can purchase ‘high speed’ internet access in various packages for your cruise. We received two free days as a perk for being Diamond members. The speed is glacially S L O W. I think the signal is split with 6,000 passenger devices. I wouldn’t pay for it.
Just Slightly Creepy
Several days into our cruise, we had posed for photographs in several venues. We couldn’t find anything in the FOCUS photo posting area and asked how do we find them. Your cruise card has a photo number and the ship uses your photo taken at the check-in desk to match photos taken of you during the week to that image, and they are placed in a numbered bin for you to review and purchase. All of George Clooney’s photos ended up in my bin for the week.
Things You Have to Just Accept as They Are
There is no Viking Crown lounge to head to, have a beverage, relax, listen to live music and enjoy a comfortable crow’s nest view of the ship and the ocean you’re sailing on. I miss that.
When the Oasis is in port, the ship gets a little warm. Passenger and crew gangways are open along with others for loading supplies. A large amount of the air conditioning being generated, ends up a cool breeze out on the pier.
If you go cruising to enjoy the ocean vistas and smells, make sure you book a balcony or ocean view cabin. The specialty restaurants look inward to Central Park or Boardwalk and don’t have windows looking seaside.
Saturday – Back to Ft. Lauderdale
We glided into port just a bit after sunrise around 7 a.m. The media and Broward County Sheriff’s officials greeted the ship . . . Film at eleven.
We’re sold on the Oasis class. If you haven’t tried it, please do so, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Need a handbag? Climb aboard.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom