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We decided that we wanted a winter get away and after considering several options we settled on a Caribbean cruise. We had done several cruises in the past and decided this time to try one of the really big ships that we'd heard a lot about. As we reviewed ships and itineraries, we eventually decided on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. With 5,000+ passengers, it definitely met our criteria of 'big' and we had been happy with previous RC cruises we had been on. The ship is a destination in itself! We were happy to have several days at sea and enjoy the amenities of the ship.
Overview: 7 day cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale with stops in Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Martin.
We left 24° weather in New Jersey and were soon enjoying 79° temperatures on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. We wanted to be in Ft. Lauderdale a day early to avoid any possible airline delays which might cause us to 'miss the boat'. The Comfort Suites that we stayed at was just two blocks from a tourist trolley route that went right to the beach. Spending the afternoon at a beach was a great way to start our vacation!
It was a short night and early morning with the ship getting to Nassau before sunrise. Since the ship was departing @ 2:00PM, we got an early start on our planned tour of the Atlantis Resort on nearby Paradise Island. We chose to take a self quided Discover Atlantis/Aquaventure tour which included The Digs, various lagoons, and aquariums. After walking around for several hours we felt the $45 admission charge was well worth it.
We opted to explore on our own, rather than go on one of the ships tours. We met another 'early bird couple', Roxanne & Jeffery, whom we shared a taxi ride with and toured the Atlantis Resort with. We enjoyed being tourists again and our old Peace Corp experiences with local transportation made this excursion seem like a breeze. We didn't even have to haggle ove rthe axi fare. Taxi ride was $4 per person.
After getting back from the Atlantis Resort, we took in a few sights near the dock, had cold beers, made a jewelery purchase and just enjoyed the ambiance of being on vacation. We had lunch back on board and waited for our departure. We had the rest of the afternoon to explore the ship and just relax!
We were looking forward to having a full day at sea. We took advantage of one of the speciality restaurants and were very satisfied. [See Giovanni's table pictures below]. This cruise we made much better use of the fitness center. We were staying on deck #6 and the fitness center was literally around the corner. The jogging path was one deck down. Although the elevators were fun to ride, climbing ten flights of stairs to the pool deck was an excellent way to burn off excess calories.
There were plenty of physical activities to participate in on the ship. We both by-passed the rock wall climbing, but both us of tried out the zipline and Michael also tried his hand [or feet] at surf riding. We also got our share of workouts in the fitness center and jogging/walking track. Had to do something to eat with less guilt!
Central Park is a magnificent place. This is the first time that live plants, on this scale, have been maintained on a cruise ship. As Tom Brownlee, the ship's botanist, explained the challenges he faced with getting the park up and running, it was even more amazing. If you've ever had trouble bring flowers back thru agricultural inspection from a foreign trip, image the hassle of bring back an entire park! The 12,000+ plants require daily attention. This is a living experiment, with new information and research being learned on the fly.
This next little section contains some random shots from around the ship. There was more than enough to explore and do on days at sea and in the evenings.
Having been to St. Thomas several time before, we did our research at home and found a quite beach to go snorkeling. Following some advice on Trip Advisor, we chose Secret Harbor. This place is about the same distance as some of the more popular tourist spots, but definitely not as crowded. Getting taxis to and from was not problem, although I did have to ask several times about getting there since it was not one of the taxi's preferred stops, being a little out of the way. Our persistence paid off as we rounded the bend to get a view of the harbor. We and everyone else in he taxi let out oohs and ahhs over the view. The snorkeling was good [we've been spoiled for life after snorkeling in Hawaii] and they had the requisite beach bar/cafe with ice cold Presidente beer. In all, a very enjoyable and relaxing day.
Due to the size of our ship, we docked on the west side of Charlotte Amalie in Crown Bay rather than the older and more usual dock at Havensport. This meant we got to drive thru Charlotte Amalie on our way to/from Secret Harbor. The open air tourist taxis offered plenty of scenery viewing and fresh sea air.
We had a total of three days at sea. Oh, the trials and tribulations of cruising. Where to have breakfast? Which ship pool to go to first? When to take a nap? You get the idea.
The Rising Tide Bar travelled between deck #5 and deck #7, serving drink along the way. It was fun and just one of those things you feel like you have to try.
As with St. Thomas, we had been to St. Martin before. If fact, we had spent a full week there on a time share exchange back in 2010. We felt we know our way around the island and where we wanted to spend our day ashore.
Orient Beach is our favorite beach on St. Martin. So on this visit, there wasn't much a decision to be made. As in the past we thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful crescent shaped beach.
Like many cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas, offers speciality dining. Your meals are included as part of the cruise price, but if you want to, you can pay a little extra for a more elaborate dining experience. We had never tried speciality dining on previous cruises. These restaurants rival some of the best that we've eaten at on land. For this cruise, we decided to have a leisurely lunch on our first day at sea, at Giovanni's Table. As the name implies this is an Italian restauant. We were very pleased with both the food and the service.
In the sets of pictures below, you can see that the staff took extra care with the presentation of the meal as well.
Our second splurge was for Valentine's Day. We had the bulk of our packing done, so we could leisurely enjoy our dinner. We had a terrific dining experience at the 150 Central Park restaurant. The 150 Central Park restaurant has a set menu that changes mid week.
We had booked our return flight for mid afternoon, so we had ample time for one last leisurely breakfast in the main dining room and a walk around the ship for some last minute pictures. It was a slightly cool, crisp morning. We enjoyed not being in a rush and were sorry to have to leave. However, we could see that crew was already preparing for the next batch of passengers to come aboard.
Alas, our cruise had come to an end. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have already talked about taking another cruise on the Oasis of the Seas. The shock of the real world quickly set in as we had long lines at the airport [due to a snow storm that we missed], downloaded a week's worth of emails, and caught up with what had been going on in the world while we were away. 'Unplugging' for a few days was definitely refreshing.
We have a few videos to document and better share the fun that we had on our recent Oasis of the Seas cruise. Hopefully sharing a few laughs and surprises with you.
They may load slowly, but they are worth the wait!!