As I type this I am conscious that Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas will be heading for a revitalisation this winter where lots of new features will be added and the ship will be getting a refurbishment at the same time so this may well become old news in a few short months!
This was my fifth cruise and third time sailing with Royal Caribbean and my first time on a ship of this size and capacity. I was travelling with my three sisters and we had two interconnecting balcony cabins.
Day 1 – Arrived into Barcelona Airport and took an airport taxi to the port. There was a fixed fee of EUR 39 and all 4 of us with our luggage were able to get into the one taxi. We arrived at the ship at 11am and were able to get checked in and board straightaway. We made a bee line for the buffet restaurant and then went to check out the ship as our cabins were not ready at this stage. On your first day on board all the different services have tables set up showing you what they are offering onboard and there is a sort of hard sell approach to get you to sign up for the different drinks/dining or spa packages on offer. We had already pre purchased our drinks packages online before sailing but we did opt for the speciality restaurant package which allowed you to dine in 3 speciality restaurants during the 7-night sailing and we booked these straightaway on the first day. I would certainly recommend Izumi, the Teppanyaki Restaurant and as there are limited seats around the Teppanyaki table – you do need to book this as soon as you board the ship – more about this later!
Once all the hard work was done we made our way to the pool deck and to the sun loungers with non alcoholic cocktails in hand to start to soak up the atmosphere and gradually watch all the passengers boarding the ship. An announcement was made when the rooms were ready and we went down to have a look. As with any cruise line, cabins are not large unless you move up to the suite categories but there was ample storage and the space was well planned inside.
Before the ship sets sail everyone must take part in the safety briefing and this takes about 30 minutes but once complete and the ship is ready to go the Set Sail party starts with music on the pool deck. We opted for dinner in the main dining restaurant and then onto the theatre for the evening show of CATS the musical. As entertainment goes, we weren’t blown away by this show in fact we left at the interval and went in search of some evening snacks in Sorrento’s Pizza Bar.
Day 2 – The ship docked in Palma today and there was a shuttle bus at a cost of EUR10 per person to take you into the centre of the city. We took a walk up to the famous Cathedral and took a tour inside and then walked around some of the streets. We were just off the ship for a few hours and made our way back on board, the weather was beautiful so we headed to the pool deck for more cocktails and sun lounging. It was Formal night on the ship and the majority of people got into the spirit of it, as we had booked ‘my time’ dining and we hadn’t made a reservation for dinner we had to queue quite a while to get into the main dining restaurant as this is where most of the passengers choose to eat on the formal night rather than going to the buffet restaurant. After dinner we went to the Aqua show at the rear of the ship, we were provided with beach towels to keep our selves warm as it had got quite cool at night out at sea. The Aqua show was amazing, there was a series of stunt dives and synchronised swimming which was fabulous to watch and really kept you on the edge of your seat.
Day 3 – The ship docked into Marseilles and we opted to take a taxi in rather than the ships shuttle bus which between the four of us worked out cheaper. Once in the city centre we took the hop on hop off bus to get an overview of the area. We go off the bus at Notre Dame de la Garde, the beautifully ornate Church sat on top of a hill over looking the city. There are lots of nice restaurants in the centre over looking the marina which is full of yachts. This evening back on board we went for the first of our three speciality dining nights which was to Chops Grille, the onboard steak restaurant and it didn’t disappoint.
Day 4 – La Spezia, this is the closest port for Florence and Pisa. This was also the only port where we took one of the ships shore excursions. As we were all interested in different things, 1 sister took the free shuttle bus into La Spezia, 2 sisters took the shore excursion to Pisa and I took the excursion to Florence. The transfer from the ship to Florence was about 2 hours and the tour guide gave a running commentary along the route pointing out some interesting facts as we drove along the Tuscan countryside. In Florence we had about a 2 hour walking tour and then we had about another 2-3 hours where we could do our own thing. The walking guide recommended a fabulous restaurant – Finisterrae and had a delicious pizza. Florence is all about the architecture, the amazing Duomo, the statues, the quaint piazza’s and there are ice cream shops on every corner – check out the Venchi shop which sells hand made chocolates and ice creams and has an amazing running chocolate wall. This short taster of Florence certainly left me wanting more and I do hope to make a trip back there at some stage.
Day 5 – Civitavecchia – This is the port for Rome which is quite a distance away, we didn’t opt for the ships shore excursion, instead we took the complementary bus from the ship to the bus station, at the bus station we took the bus to the train station EUR2pp and then the train into Rome which cost about EUR12 pp as we had taken the express train option. Once in Rome we started on foot over to the Colosseum. We joined the queue to gain entrance into the colosseum but after standing 30 minutes in the heat and not making any headway in the queue we decided that we would skip the Colosseum and make it an excuse to come back to Rome for another visit. We walked everywhere – I think we clocked nearly 20,000 steps and took in the main sights – albeit from the outside as there were long queues everywhere to get into them. Rome has character and lots of it! Narrow streets, fountains, ornate buildings, street cafes, churches – it has everything and one day from the ship is nowhere near enough time to see much of what the city has to offer. We made our way back to the train station and our ticket back to Civitavecchia was just EUR 4.90pp – so much cheaper than the ships excursion into Rome. We dined in Park Central this evening which is another of the speciality restaurants where the food is more casual and bistro style. This evening we enjoyed the ice-skating show where members of the cast performed routines to some well-known songs. The surprise sand artist was also amazing.
Day 6 – Naples – The ship docks right in Naples and you can walk off the ship and right into the city centre. I got off for a little while to do some shopping but I didn’t stay too long, Naples was nicer than I remembered it from a back-packing trip many years ago but it still is rough around the edges. It is a great stop if you want to explore the Amalfi Coast and there are lots of shore excursions which give you that opportunity. This evening we had booked Izumi the Teppanyaki Restaurant and shared our table with a French family. If you haven’t tried Teppanyaki before you really should, this is all about the experience and made for really good entertainment. The chef cooks your meal on a hot plate in front of you whilst your mesmerised at his knife skills and a few food tricks (not giving too much away) that he does. We all left having had a great laugh and some fabulous food. We went to the acrobatics show this evening which left us all on the edge of our seats watching the high-risk manoeuvres from the very talented artists.
Day 7 – At Sea, we had planned to spend the day out on the pool deck soaking up the sun but instead the rain decided to soak us instead. I used the last day to explore areas of the ship I hadn’t been to before.
Day 8 – Flight Home. We had an early flight back to Belfast so we were up and off the ship early, there were tons of taxis waiting and we were able to disembark really quickly.
Overall experience – Whilst I love Royal Caribbean, I have to say I would consider the size of the ship more closely in future – this sailing had over 5000 passengers and it did mean queuing to get into the buffet restaurant for breakfast which I hadn’t experienced on any of my previous sailings. In terms of food, Royal Caribbean didn’t disappoint – the standard was high. We had booked the non alcoholic drinks package which worked out about £170pp and I would say we probably drank every bit of it!
Mandy’s Top Cruise Tips
Book Early – cruise lines really reward the early bookers.
Take a small backpack onboard on your first day with some essentials like your swimming costume, sun cream and sun glasses as it could be a while before your luggage arrives to your room, that way you can start enjoying your cruise as soon as you step onboard.
Download the cruise app – this is a great way to plan your shows before you get onboard and is handy to keep up to date with all the activities happening onboard the ship.
If you plan to do anything on sea day – make sure to book it early.
If your sailing on Royal Caribbean – remember to bring an American plug adapter with you.
Keep an eye on what’s being charged to your room – we had a number of charges added to our account for mystery drinks purchases that we queried and were removed. You can access your account very easily through your television in your stateroom.