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Cruise Ship Information

MS Oasis of the Seas is an Oasis-class cruise ship, delivered to her owner, Royal Caribbean International, in October 2009. The first of her class, she was joined by her sister ship MS Allure of the Seas in December 2010.[12] Both vessels cruise the Caribbean from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[13] She set a new record of carrying over 6,000 passengers.[14]

The ship surpassed the Freedom-class cruise ships (also owned by Royal Caribbean) to become the largest cruise ship in the world at that time.[15] She has, however, since been surpassed by Allure of the Seas, which is 50 millimetres (2.0 in) longer, although this difference may have been caused by different temperatures when the measurements were made.

Atmosphere on board

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, the 5,400-passenger ship that gave new meaning to the term "mega-ship" when it launched in 2008, underwent a fairly substantial overhaul in late 2014.

The purpose of Oasis' two-week dry dock was to bring the world's largest cruise ship up to date with the latest dining and technology innovations being rolled out on Royal Caribbean's newest ships. The biggest of these innovations is the line's Dynamic Dining concept, which will see the classic cruise ship main dining room abandoned in favor of a bevy of restaurants -- both free and for-fee. However, the date for implementing Dynamic Dining has not yet been decided.

The restaurants that are already open include: Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar: A Mexican restaurant, which was first introduced on Oasis Of The Seas, is alfresco on The Boardwalk -- making it well suited for a Caribbean sailing; and Coastal Kitchen, which is only available to suite passengers.

The big change involves carving out space in the Opus Dining Room -- a single dining room laid out over three decks and serving the same menu -- with the launch of 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

Other changes/debuts include: The for-fee Izumi, the teppanyaki and sushi joint, is in the process of being moved and expanded; and Wonderland, an avant garde restaurant which debuted on Quantum of the Seas.

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 a smartphone or tablet.

Suites. The Oasis refurbishment also saw 10 new suites added to the ship overlooking the AquaTheater and Boardwalk "neighborhood." 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.

Although it's been more than five years since Oasis launched, the ship has aged well, and its original industry-changing design touches -- such as the first-ever Boardwalk and Central Park at sea, which uniquely occupy space that's carved out of the middle of the ship -- are still legendary.

Also amidships, Entertainment Place, a hub for night owls, offers ice skating and disco, comedy and jazz, and a three-tiered theater that features "Cats," the multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway show. Particularly dazzling is the ship's AquaTheater, with its "deepest pool at sea," which serves as a platform for performers such as divers and synchronized swimmers.

The Royal Promenade could get ridiculously congested during parades, and you could wait a while for an elevator. But there were plenty of places to get away from fellow passengers -- such as the wrap-around promenade on Deck 5, and the aforementioned Central Park, which was quiet most of the time. There also are a couple of open-to-all balconies overlooking the AquaTheater (one's on Deck 11, starboard); there's another off-beat spot, all the way forward and above the solarium, which most people miss.

Sure, the ship is large, but it doesn't feel as massive as you'd expect it to and that's a credit to its design. The neighborhood concept really does work -- Central Park with its thousands of living plants is wonderful and there are reasons to be there day (Park Cafe for freshly made salads, sandwiches and breakfast fare; fun tours of art and foliage; and lots of comfortable chairs in which to read) and night (noshing at the outdoor tables at Vintages, the wine bar, and at Giovanni's, the ship's Italian restaurant). After dinner, the Entertainment Zone is a magnet. On sunny days, congregating on the pool deck is a typical activity -- and while it can be crowded, you can always find a lounge chair.

Past Passenger Programs

What's nifty about this ship is there is no one recurrent theme. Feel like an Asian atmosphere? Head for the Imperial Lounge. In the mood for Gothic? Try Jester's nightclub. Feel the urge for a clubby, elegant salon? With or without the cigar smokers, the Connoisseur's Cigar Club is a peaceful hideaway. Most of the major indoor venues are located off or along the Royal Promenade, which tends to really come alive at night. There you'll find shops (the usual cruise-style boutiques that sell logo items, duty-free liquor, perfume and cruisewear) and bars like the Duck & Dog British style pub (though many of its draught beer choices are puzzlingly non-Brit), the Gravity Sports Bar (which seemed empty most of the time) and the somewhat-elegant-but-mostly-bland Champagne Bar. However, the highlight is the 24-hour Cafe at the Promenade, which is a great place to snack and people watch.

Off the main promenade, in various directions, are the Imperial Lounge (the ship's secondary theater with entertainment ranging from line-dancing classes to cooking workshops) and the Connoisseur Club (a very elegant, cozy cigar bar). Connected to the Promenade, via various stairways, are additional entertainment arenas, including Casino Royale, the Schooner Bar, the Aquarium Bar (with its huge fish tanks), the Lyric Theatre and the Jester's nightclub. Tucked away on Deck 2 -- easy to miss -- are the ship's intimate cinema and conference facilities. Each of the performance venues -- Lyric Theatre and Imperial Lounge, for instance -- has its own bar as does Studio B, the phenomenal ice-skating rink/show lounge on deck three.

Overlooking the Royal Promenade is the Library, with an adequate collection of books and comfy leather chairs, and an area for future cruise bookings. The ship has an Internet cafe and cabins are wired for Internet usage. The cost for Internet access, via Wi-Fi or at a work station, is 55 cents a minute, or you can buy packages of 60, 90 or 150 minutes for $28, $38 or $55, respectively.

The Photo Gallery on Deck 3 is the place to giggle over silly photos of your shipmates and buy your own for outlandish prices ($19.95 for 8x10's, often a smaller photo of you surrounded by generic ship images).

Blue Moon Jazz Club, the name on this ship for the traditionally styled Viking Crown Lounge, has the usual fabulous vistas. On the same deck you'll find Seven Hearts Card Room, 19th Hole Golf Bar and Cloud Nine. Independence Of The Seas has a nondenominational chapel called the Skylight Wedding Chapel.

Fitness And Spa

Even on sea days, everyone has plenty of room around the two pools -- an admirable feat. One interesting feature about the hot tubs is some are double-sized, which again makes room for more folks. Tiered decks surround an outdoor theater, where everything from "men's sexiest legs" contests to live dance band performances take place. There are two bars by the main pool. The Solarium pool and whirlpools are situated in a quieter, more laid-back setting; the area is adults-only.

All of the major (outdoor) athletic activities -- the nine-hole miniature golf course, rollerblading rink, full-size basketball/volleyball court, golf simulator and rock-climbing wall -- are tucked into a "sports center" that lies aft. The pocket-sized ice skating rink is tucked well below, into the bowels of the ship. Note that some of the more specialized activities -- rock climbing, rollerblading and ice skating -- are offered only at specified times so check your daily compass for available hours. The ship's jogging/power walking track winds around the main pool area.

One nice touch: Royal Caribbean does not layer on a lot of extra fees for equipment "rental" -- there is no charge for using everything from ice skates (you can choose between hockey and figure models) to rollerblades.

The 15,000-square-foot spa -- the usual Steiner, Ltd., production -- spans two levels. One houses the quite ample fitness facility (no overcrowding here) and a workout room where classes are offered. Upstairs in the spa and salon facility, a wide range of treatment programs are offered, such as facials, massages, manicures and hair-styling.

A couple of caveats: The prices for treatments have risen to breathtaking levels, with a basic 50-minute massage now costing $119 or more. (The industry average is $99.) A manicure starts from $29, a pedicure from $45. The spa did offer "discounts" on port-of-call days (and as the cruise wound down), but that just brought the prices down to industry-normal levels. In addition, treatment employees will engage, way too aggressively, in the much-loathed "Steiner Product Pitch" at the end of your appointment. The products are also over-priced. Just say no.

Food & Dining

From the meals in the dining room to the buffet choices in the Windjammer Cafe to the options available at the 24-hour Cafe Promenade, the food is consistent and well prepared, especially considering the capacity of the ship. And options are pretty plentiful.

Three main dining rooms offer Royal Caribbean's flexible My Time Dining program during dinner. Passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for flexible dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those choosing My Time Dining must pre-pay gratuities -- Royal Caribbean does not automatically add gratuities to your final bill if you've elected set-seating.) Cuisine is generally well prepared, if not innovative; Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line. Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin). Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two.

The Windjammer, Independence Of The Seas' buffet restaurant, is open for breakfast and lunch, and it features mediocre, steam-table cuisine. Kudos must be given, however, to the egg station at breakfast (where you can request a variety of prepared-to-order dishes) and the carving station at lunch. Baked goods are consistently excellent. Vegetarians will do much better in the main dining room at lunch.

The Windjammer is also open for dinner and is an option for those nights when flexibility is preferred. The buffet features the same items as are on the main dining room menu. Another complimentary option is Jade Sushi and Asian-Fusion, with self-explanatory cuisine.

Specialty eateries include Johnny Rockets, the 1950's-style burger joint; passengers can indulge in burgers, hot dogs, chili fries, apple pie and onion rings. Royal Caribbean has instituted a $4.95 per-person cover charge for both in-restaurant and take-out dining (and beverages are additionally charged).

On the Royal Promenade, the Cafe Promenade features light fare at all times (pastries in the morning, sandwiches at night); try the pizza, it's excellent.

Portofino is Independence Of The Seas' specialty restaurant. The Italian-themed restaurant, which charges a $20 per-person cover (specialty beverages, beer, wine and soda are sold separately), offers a leisurely multi-course meal. The menu did not change at all on our trip, but that didn't seem to matter to a number of folks who were back for repeat dinners. Note, however, that you need to make reservations as early as possible in your cruise or you may get locked out.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, Continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); orders made between midnight and 5 a.m. incur a $3.95 fee.

Entertainment

Where do you even begin? It can be very hard to relax on Independence Of The Seas -- even on sea days -- because of the head-spinning array of activities that run from dawn to dusk and beyond! The ship's entertainment staff offers an intriguing blend of options, and everyone, from the most traditional passenger to the completely contemporary traveler, will find something to do.

Highlights? During the day, you'll find plenty of traditional cruise activities, such as bingo, dance lessons (line-dancing), rock-climbing wall competitions, horse racing, art auctions, seminars (on everything from healthy eating to gemstones), Mr. Sexy Legs contests, bridge pairing, art and craft workshops and films in the tiny cinema. Poolside, throughout the day, a live band plays a blend of Caribbean and American songs. Royal Caribbean does not offer much in the way of onboard enrichment.

Throughout the day and night, there's often some type of performance along the Promenade, either a parade or jugglers and comics who wander through the giant mall-like space and perform with the crowd.

At night, there are two kinds of entertainment -- the traditional-style cruise productions -- singing and dancing shows in The Lyric, such as "Velvet Rope"-- and goofy passenger-inspired episodes like "Love and Marriage" (a tired idea, perhaps, but still, on our cruise it was screamingly funny). Bar venues, of course, offer a variety of musical performances that are aimed to please just about everybody at any time -- classical guitar, country/western, jazz.

Beyond the usual, where this ship excels is the unique. Studio B (the ice rink) hosts "Cool Art -- Hot Ice," which is phenomenal and worth the effort to get a ticket. (There is no charge but the venue is small so tickets are limited. They make announcements about when you can pick them up.)

Fellow Passengers

Passengers range in age from 35 - 55-plus with a large number of families onboard. Independence Of The Seas is a great option for couples and families -- particularly multi-generational groups. Speaking of groups, this a terrific cruise choice for them, whether it's a business group (there's a fully equipped conference center along with meeting space) or an extended family because there's lots to do for all age groups.

We offer the recommendation with one caveat: The sprawling ship and its plethora of options may be bewildering to folks who prefer more traditional styles of cruises.

Speaking of a mix of people, one of the more interesting facets of passenger demographics on this ship is international diversity (the daily Compass is printed in six languages). Independence Of The Seas, which is based in San Juan, also attracts a strong contingent from Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands beyond, which can make for a more varied blend.

Tipping

Tips on the Adventure are automatically charged to your shipboard account (Sea Pass Account) unless you make alternative arrangements with the Guest Services desk. Tipping guidance is as follows:

The total amount is $12.00 per stateroom guest, and $15.00 per suite guest. Your gratuity is for housekeeping services, your stateroom attendant, and dining services.

For beverage purchases, fifteen percent of the bill is automatically added to the onboard account. Room Service staff may be tipped at your discretion. Tipping your maître d' of your dining room is at your discretion. You should tip if you received special attention or services from the maître d'.

Our recommendation

The “Independence Of The Seas" is a huge cruise ship with great offers on board. Be it the skating rink, miniature golf or a climbing wall 50 m above sea level: Almost anything is possible on board. The food is good and plentiful. The audience is international and the main language on board is English. Overall, you can expect a professionally organized cruise experience of good quality.