I had never been on a cruise ship before and had never expected to go on one either, until Royal Caribbean gave myself and a handful of other bloggers the chance to experience a day on their current largest ship, Oasis of the Seas, when it came to the UK for the first time a few days ago.
I had never considered a cruise ship holiday in the past. Why? Because I thought they were aimed at either old people or rich people, that they’d be too expensive for us, that I’d feel claustrophobic in pokey cabins and that there wouldn’t be enough to keep the children entertained. I thought it would be stuffy and boring.
Our day started at Southampton Port, checking onto Oasis of the Seas and being led onto the ship and through to Giovanni’s Table for lunch. We walked through corridors and went up in the lift – 16 floors of cruise ship with glass sided lifts that let you see the magnitude of Oasis of the Seas. From the minute we got in the lift I was in awe of how big the ship was, I had never been anywhere near anything so vast.
Giovanni’s Table and some other restaurants were located in Central Park, a small scale replica of the Central Park, complete with bird noises, benches and seating areas. A lot of the cabins, ‘Staterooms’ as Royal Caribbean call them, look out onto Central Park and for me, those rooms would be ideal – there would definitely be more to look at than an ocean view!
Lunch couldn’t have been better, three courses, wine and the best Tiramisu I have ever tasted! The waiters were attentive, remembered what our water choice was (sparkling or still), and couldn’t do enough to help. My only slight issue was that the restaurants didn’t have toilets in them. I had to leave the restaurant and go all the way back to the stateroom corridor where there were two toilet cubicles – one male, one female, and neither door locked. Not the best start!
After lunch we had a walk through the ship to the Elemis Spa and got to see the gym as well as having a wonderful hand and arm massage. The gym was incredibly well stocked with equipment and had various exercise classes on offer – Yoga on the helipad sounded fantastic, even if just for the experience! The spa had a huge range of treatments on offer and a health drink bar too although green smoothies really aren’t my cup of tea!
In both the spa and gym we took the opportunity to chat to the staff, all of which spoke highly of Royal Caribbean, showed how enthusiastic they were about their jobs and had a clear love of the jobs they did. Life on a cruise ship cannot be easy, working 5.5 days a week for 9 months at a time but the staff enjoy what they do and more importantly they have an incredible standard of customer service and do all they can to please the guests on board. For me, the staff were a huge highlight of the day. I also loved that they had not only their names on their name badge but also the country they were from. It showed us in a short space of time what a multinational company Royal Caribbean is.
We then went to the top of the ship to zip line over a 9 floor drop. This is something I was incredibly nervous about but I loved it and was so glad I did it. We were put into harnesses with helmets and special shoes and told exactly what we had to do. One reassuring aspect was that as soon as it started raining the zip line was closed down – Royal Caribbean take safety incredibly seriously on board and zip lining in the rain wouldn’t be safe at all.
After the zip line we saw the extensive swimming pool complex which pools for different ages and abilities as well as hot tubs and a lot of seating areas and sun loungers. Although we were in the Southampton rain it was easy to see how lovely the pools would be in the caribbean sunshine where Oasis of the Seas usually sails.
We made our way to see one of the Staterooms and I was impressed with the size. I was expecting a room the size of a double bed with a lack of storage space but instead the room had a double bed, a sofa bed and plenty of storage space. There was also a balcony and ample shower room. Admittedly, this wasn’t the most basic of rooms but it was the perfect space for a family of four. The only downside to the staterooms for me was the corridor carpet. The swirly pattern looked dated and out of place in the opulent surrounding of Oasis of the Seas.
We then went and sat out of the way in one of the many Oasis of the Seas bars whilst the ship Muster Drill took place. This is like a fire drill that takes place before the ship leaves port and this again highlighted how important safety is to Royal Caribbean – making sure everyone knows where to go and how to act in an emergency was clearly a priority for them.
After the Muster Drill had finished we went and saw the children’s activities and childcare facilities. It was lovely to see children being looked after in rooms grouped by age and ability so that each age child had the right toys and activities for their age. Each of the rooms were well maintained and clean and all the staff were well trained, degree educated and with the right personalities to work with children – bright and bubbly! We were also lucky enough to have a science class and make a volcano as well as playing a ball game. The whole children’s facility was great to see and it was good to know that if you went on a cruise and needed childcare the option was there whether for an hour or the whole day – all included in the holiday cost too.
Our day was then finished off with a meal in Chops Grill restaurant that was easily the best steak I have ever eaten, the food throughout was incredible and definitely one of the highlights of the day for me.
We had a pre-dinner chat with the Royal Caribbean senior team who asked for our honest feedback on Oasis of the Seas and cruise holidays. This was a great part of the day for me as it was really nice to see the people behind the brand. Royal Caribbean definitely took the feedback on board and at the end they asked us whether we would now like to cruise.
Would I like to cruise? The staterooms were bigger and better equipped than I had expected, the ship had a huge amount of activities from the zip line, to shopping or even just afternoon tea in the buffet restaurant! The cost when you book a cruise can actually be everything you pay for the whole holiday – you can eat and drink without incurring any extra costs and many activities and childcare are also included in the price – I always thought that the cost of a cruise would spiral but in reality it can just be one set amount that you pay at booking.
Overall, I think I would love to go on a cruise and Royal Caribbean have definitely sold the idea to me! A few days ago I wouldn’t have even thought of cruising as a couple holidays and definitely not a family one. Now though I see it as an ideal family holiday, with so much to do, constant food and a different city or country every day or two.
Thanks to Royal Caribbean for inviting us on such an incredible day – there was so much excitement about Oasis of the Seas being in the UK and it was amazing to be a part of that.
Disclosure: I was invited onto the Oasis of the Seas for the purpose of this post however all opinions are my own.