You’ve no doubt heard some of the long and startling list of Oasis superlatives in the massive media build-up to its launch: capable of carrying over 6,000 passengers and 2,200 crew; 37 bars, 24 restaurants, 21 pools and whirlpools, an outdoor Central Park with 12,000 plants and trees – the list goes on.
Many cruise ships have been called floating resorts. Oasis takes it a step further: it’s a floating destination, with more dining, entertainment and recreational options than just about any beach resort on the planet. In fact, Royal Caribbean describes the ship as “an urban community at sea,” where guests can seek out ‘neighbourhoods’ that match their tastes and personalities.
Couples, singles and groups of friends are all more than welcome on Oasis, and there truly is something for everybody. But as Ken Muscat, Royal Caribbean International’s VP Sales points out: “This ship is definitely designed for families.” Muscat says it’s too early to tell – the first Oasis passenger cruise departs December 5 – but he expects that nuclear and multi-generational families will represent around 50% of Oasis passengers.
TakeOffeh.com joined thousands of travel agents on a late November 2-night ‘cruise to nowhere’ with the express purpose of checking out Oasis from the perspective of family travellers. Here’s what we found:
For the Kids: Because their happiness is essential to the happiness of the whole.
There’s no doubt about it: Oasis is a paradise for kids, from babies to teens. Even before you consider one of the most professional and elaborate organized children’s programs on sea or land, there are a host of other attractions guaranteed to rev up young spirits. There are basketball courts, Flow Rider surfing simulators, towering rock climbing walls, a mini-golf course and the H2O pool and water park complex.
The Boardwalk is one of the ship’s seven ‘neighbourhoods,’ described as ‘the first seaside spot at sea.’ It’s certain to be a child’s ship highlight. And it really does have that Coney Island atmosphere, with an authentic copy of an old-fashioned carousel, carnival games, a temporary tattoo parlour and a series of family-friendly restaurants and snack bars, including Johnny Rocket’s burgers, the Seafood Shack, the Boardwalk Donut Shop, an ice cream parlour and a candy store. The Aqua Theater on the Boardwalk features an 18-foot deep pool where the family-oriented diving show takes place, with divers plunging from dizzying heights above the deck.
This area is also home to the rock-climbing walls and the zip-line, which crosses over the main boardwalk. Some of the inside cabins feature balconies overlooking the Boardwalk, which Muscat describes as “a dream come true for the kids.”
Another kid-friendly neighbourhood is the Youth Zone, housed in a spacious 29,000 sq. ft. area. It is home to Kids Avenue, which links various themed sections including Royal Caribbean’s first nursery at sea for infants and toddlers, as well as separate spaces for 3-5, 6-8 and 9-11-year-olds. The facilities are superb, and Royal Caribbean has teamed up with major child brands like Fisher-Price and Crayola to create spaces like the Imagination Studio for arts and crafts, and the fully-equipped Adventure Science Lab. There’s also a good-sized video arcade for kids with itchy fingers.
Adventure Ocean Is the Oasis children’s program, and it’s highly impressive. One major feature is a 100-seat theatre where kids can present their own productions developed during the cruise, or watch a professional black light puppet show.
Adventure Ocean is headed up by Hamilton, Ontario’s own Jenny Beaudoin, who leads a team that includes eight Canadians, including seven from Southern Ontario. All of the staff hold degrees in education as well as extensive training in child care and first aid. “The quality of staff and care we provide would be very expensive on land,” Beaudoin says.
She describes the program as ‘edutainment,’ with separate science and art curricula. “I guarantee that any child will walk away learning something new, because we bring learning to life. And it doesn’t hurt a bit,” she laughs. In fact, Beaudoin says, some parents feel the Adventure Ocean kids program (there are other versions on several other Royal Caribbean ships) is a little too successful. “Kids like it so much they sometimes don’t want to leave to do things with their parents.”
Royal Caribbean took the distinct needs of moody, hormonal teens into account when designing Oasis. Teen facilities are one deck up from Kids Avenue, offering some separation from those annoying younger kids. Teens have great choices too, without the structure formal programming. The Living Room features a mock-tail bar, DJ classes and banks of computers for web surfing and Wii playing. Fuel is a disco and hangout space and there’s also The Deck, an outdoor meet-and-mingle spaced aimed at teens on the pool deck.
For the Parents: Because they need adult time too.
While the kids are off having fun, parents and grandparents can create their own version. They can shop, dine, spa, relax by a pool or settle into a hot tub cantilevered over the side of the ship 136’ above the water. They can take to the running track, stroll through Central Park, sample vintages at a wine bar, visit the well-equipped gym or borrow the latest thriller from the ship library. With nearly 2,000 balconies among the 2,700 staterooms, they can enjoy the ocean view or people-watch from the innovative inside balconies.
My Family Time Dining is a smart concept that offers an expedited 40-minute dining experience for cruisers 3-11. Parents can join in the meal or just spend time with the kids while they eat. Adventure Ocean staff will pick up the kids for the evening while parents can go on to enjoy a leisurely meal.
For pre-teens, there are supervised activities offered from 7-10 p.m. as well as on shore excursion days. This means parents can enjoy evening shows if they wish, and take a shore excursion without dragging along unwilling kids.
For the Family: Because holidays create lasting shared memories.
The family experience on Oasis begins with the accommodations. Among the 37 different stateroom categories are several designed expressly for families and family groups. Among them are family staterooms with ocean-view or Boardwalk-view balconies and spacious suites with equally large balconies.
There are all kinds of opportunities for shared family time on Oasis. At family restaurant Giovanni’s Table kids can try their hand and making their own pizza dough. There’s a weekly Lollapalooza Street Party with a Dr. Seuss theme. The Ice Show is another event sure to be popular with families.
Adventure Ocean also offers opportunities for together time, with things like family karaoke, family Wii and a ‘family nightclub.’ On the last day of the cruise parents are invited to Kids Avenue to enjoy being a ‘Kid for a Bit.’
“We ensure every single member of the family has a unique cruise experience,” says Adventure Ocean’s Beaudoin. “Kids have a completely different experience that is tailored just for them. I think this is the place to be for a family vacation that everyone will enjoy and remember.”
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to TakeOffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com
Photo Credits: ursispaltenstein.ch, 1.bp.blogspot.com, z.about.com, Bruce Parkinson, oasisoftheseas.com