Oasis of the Seas Review (July 21-28, 2023 from Cape Liberty, NJ)
My family recently cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas out of Cape Liberty, NJ. This was my first cruise with my husband since 2010, and the first time we sailed with our two girls (ages 10 and 6). I wanted to share our experience on our 7-night sailing to the Bahamas and give you my honest opinions. We traveled with another family who also had 2 girls (ages 7 and 11) and another adult that was cruising solo.
Embarkation Day. Though Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ has a parking garage, it was restricted to only handicapped parking on our embarkation day. Everyone else was directed to a secured parking lot across the way. It ended up being fine, it was just unexpected upon arrival. We dropped off our pre-tagged luggage curbside and went to park our car for the week.
Embarkation itself at Cape Liberty was quick and easy since we did the online check-in ahead of time. Our scheduled boarding time was 11:30am but they did let us go through the entire check-in and boarding process before this. As I looked back at the pictures I took – we dropped off our luggage at 10:40am. We had parked our car and had walked to the entrance of the terminal by 10:50am. We were through security by 11am. Officially “checked in” by 11:05am. Stopped for a picture during the boarding process and stepped foot on the ship at 11:15am. Super easy!
The first stop on board was to check-in at our muster stations. That was pretty quick and easy too. Line for registration for Adventure Ocean was a little longer than expected at that hour. Windjammer was insanely busy as we expected it to be. Our rooms were ready just before 1:30pm. When we entered the deck hall to our rooms, we saw some of our luggage in the hallway; it was not in front of our rooms, we had to walk up and down the hall to find it. Of the 12 pieces of luggage that the 9 of us had (don’t judge!), all but one arrived pretty quickly – mine was missing for about 2 hours and sent me into panic mode, but alas, it did arrive.
Staterooms. I don’t really have any complaints about our room – it was pretty typical of what you’d expect on a cruise ship. We all had oceanview rooms with large balconies (deck 12 midship) – and the balconies really were awesome! I would say if I could make one recommendation, it would be that they had 3-4 chairs on the balcony, especially since it was so large (there was a small table with 2 chairs). While we did get our rooms cleaned each morning, our cabin steward came back in the evening to turn down the sofa bed for the girls which was helpful. The sofa bed definitely took up a decent amount of space when it was open in the evening but we were hardly in the room at night except to sleep, so it wasn’t an issue. The beds were a little on the firmer side; we didn’t mind this but we heard others complain. They do have mattress toppers that can be provided complimentary if you don’t care for a firmer bed.
Dinner in the Main Dining Room (Early Time – Deck 4): We ate dinner in the Main Dining Room every night except for one night (we weren’t back from our Nassau excursion in time that one night). Each night, our waiter Chetan and his assistant Diana were very attentive, especially with the four kids. Some of the dinner food options were hit or miss for me personally — nothing was bad but there were a few dinners I didn’t enjoy as much as others, but that can easily happen anywhere. I made sure we had our 3 rooms linked to one another in ahead of time and got one table together for 9 of us, so thankfully that worked well. We had brunch in the MDR one morning as well — the food was excellent!
Food elsewhere around the ship.
- The kids loved the pizza from Sorrento’s on the Royal Promenade, especially at night before bed. The line got long later at night but it did move pretty quick.
- We liked the food in El Loco Fresh for lunch instead of going back up to Windjammer.
- We did breakfast one morning at Johnny Rockets (breakfast is no additional charge on Oasis class ships at Johnny Rockets). Truthfully, I was a little disappointed in the breakfast at Johnny Rockets since we had heard good things about it. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything spectacular.
- We did most breakfasts in Windjammer – we got there by 8am and didn’t have issues finding a table for us in the back area since they had more larger tables back there. We end up eating at Windjammer for lunch on embarkation day – we knew it would be busy but we had a couple picky kids (both are mine). If you don’t have picky eaters but want a meal that you’re not paying extra for, I highly recommend the Solarium Bistro instead (they do have burgers and hot dogs there – depending on the level of pickiness that you’re contending with). We didn’t eat at Solarium Bistro on our cruise but I did get to have lunch in there on my tour of Oasis back in June – there were less offerings than Windjammer since it’s smaller but the food was just as good and it was a lot less crowded.
- Pro Tip: Even though the Solarium as a whole is for ages 16+, kids CAN eat in the Solarium Bistro.
- Starbucks (not included) had the typical Starbucks food and drinks. You couldn’t order ahead from the app but you were able to use your app to pay if you had gift cards loaded and wanted to earn reward points.
- Bar service overall was a lot slower than we expected — even when they weren’t busy, the bartenders were pretty slow. We all loved the Bionic Bar though -- lots of fun.
- Playmakers (not included) had awesome bar food. The nachos and wings in particular were loved by our families. The kids loved the old school arcade games in the back room, as well as the shuffleboard and the pool table.
- I grabbed lunch one day at Park Cafe – it wasn’t really anything spectacular but it was a nice change and pretty quiet since it’s tucked away in Central Park.
- We didn’t plan any speciality dining ahead of time for dinner, so I can’t speak from personal experience with the other specialty dining options. One adult did upgrade their dinner in the Main Dining Room one night to a Chops Filet and she said it was worth the upcharge fee (I believe it was $18).
Entertainment. Aqua80 was just as amazing as everyone said it would be. DO NOT MISS THIS!!! You should be able to make advanced reservations on the 1st of the month PRIOR to your sailing. So we cruised July 21-28 – we were able to book our shows on June 1st. The ice skating show was well done. We didn’t see Cats since we had no interest. We saw Illusionist Jason Bishop in the Royal Theatre – super cool show – definitely catch that one! I heard mixed reviews about the comedian so we didn’t see them.
Our biggest complaint about the family-friendly entertainment honestly was that we missed a lot of it earlier in the night because of our 5pm dinner. I don’t think this will be as much of an issue if you’re a smaller family as we saw many people leaving before us each night, but with 9 of us (and oftentimes we had some people getting 2 apps and/or entrees at dinner), it was a longer (albeit relaxing) dinner for us in the Main Dining Room. We never made it to karaoke as it was usually 18+ by the time we got down there after dinner. Other than that, we didn’t really do many extra activities like trivia or games since our kids spent a lot of time on the pool deck between swimming and the activities.
Activities. The kids (and adults) loved the Ultimate Abyss slide and zip line (both included). A few did the rock climbing too and loved it. They also said the FlowRider was amazing – and quite a workout.
I do want to make note if you’re traveling with younger children that there are some height and/or weight restrictions for some onboard activities.
- Water Slides: For two of the slides, you need to be 48” and then for the other slide, you need to be 52”
- Zip Line: Must be at least 75lbs (but no more than 275lbs) and a minimum height of 52”
- FlowRider: Must be at least 52” for boogie boarding; at least 58” for stand up surfing
- Rock Climbing Wall: Must be at least 6 years old
- Escape Room: Must be at least 12 years old
We didn’t go to the arcade but heard half the games didn’t work so I’m glad we didn’t purchase credits ahead of time. Some of us wanted to ice skate – we missed the reservations onboard though so never made it there. It looked like they only had open skate on the last two days at sea, so we weren’t really thinking about it until it was too late and they were all booked up.
Drinks. We did not get any of the beverage packages – we saw the deluxe beverage package go down to $70.99 per person, per day about a week and a half before our cruise, which would have still come to around $1,000 for my husband and I for the week. We didn’t end up drinking $1,000 worth of drinks so it ended up being good that we didn’t buy it (though we probably would have drank more if we’d had the package) that was the cheapest price we ever saw – it was up to $102 on embarkation day onboard! The alcoholic drinks on their drink menus at the bar were in the $14 price range, which came to closer to $17 once the gratuity was added. Something you may want to keep in mind if you’re considering the drink package.
Photos Onboard. We purchased the photo package for up to 100 photos on sale a couple weeks before the cruise (it was $219 on sale which I believe was close to 50% off if my memory serves me correctly). I highly recommend doing this if you know you want to take lots of pictures! We ended up with 86 photos in total to download digitally, many came out great, but the picture taking process some nights was a bit lengthy due to longer lines – I suggest getting there before they open at 4:30pm most nights if you have a 5pm dinner to avoid the longer lines if you can.
Around the Ship. The boardwalk area got super hot during the day since it’s all open air (mind you, it was July in the Caribbean). Central Park was hot too but didn’t feel quite as hot as the boardwalk did to us. Things like the carousel and ultimate abyss closed during the couple of rain showers we experienced. But we really lucked out overall with the weather. The Royal Promenade got busy at night, but that’s to be expected. The Music Hall was fun when the house band was playing. I just thought it was warm in there, even before we started dancing.
1st Stop – Port Canaveral. We decided the week before our cruise to stay onboard in Port Canaveral instead of going to Cocoa Beach since we weren’t going to have a whole day there (we were scheduled to get into port around 1pm). That was a blessing since there was a medical emergency the night before so our ship had to turn around for about 2 hours to meet up with the Coast Guard for a helicopter to take someone off the ship. A lot of people ended up with their excursions canceled even though we only got into port about an hour later than anticipated; the skies opened up when we got there, so it definitely wasn’t a beach day.
2nd Stop – Nassau. We did the Dolphin Encounter at Blue Lagoon Island for our Nassau day – we were blessed with sunshine this day so it was awesome! We read a lot of very mixed reviews about this ahead of time which made me skeptical, but we honestly loved it! The dolphin encounter itself was a little short but so amazing! The beach time at the lagoon was great too. Tons of chairs and umbrellas. Food wasn’t included but I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. The boat ride over was only about 20 minutes (though it sounds like we had one of the faster boats — some people said theirs took closer to 40 minutes). We actually wish we had a little more beach time than we had. Based on where we ended up in line when we got off the ship in Nassau, we were given a dolphin encounter time of 3:30pm, so it was right smack in the middle of our time at Blue Lagoon Island (we arrived around 1:30pm and had to be heading back to the ship by 6:30pm). I almost wish we gotten off the boat a little later (or right when the gangway opened) to get either an earlier or later time so we didn’t feel like we lost beach time going back and forth to the side where the dolphins were. But I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Blue Lagoon Island to anyone, as long as they realize they are committing to being on the island for the entire duration of the excursion.
3rd Stop – Perfect Day at CocoCay. We were docked the same day as Independence of the Seas. We spent the entire day at Thrill Waterpark. My family did all the slides, several of them more than once. The line for Daredevils’ Peak first thing in the morning took closer to 2 hour – it was actually shorter in the afternoon which surprised us since everyone told us to get there first thing in the morning. I am wondering if the fact that there were 2 ships there that day had something to do with it, so I’d actually suggest waiting on that slide if I were you. I spent most of my day with my 6 year old in the wave pool – and she had a ball!. The food at the Snack Shack was good but typical waterpark food (burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, I think a couple salads were on the menu too). Definitely try the chocolate brownie – it was AMAZING! The wave pool and areas around the waterpark never felt too crowded but there definitely weren’t many lounge chairs nearby. I’d suggest the Thrill Waterpark Cabana with Full Day Admission if you have a group of at least 6 going (I believe the cabana included admission for 6 people when I looked after they were already sold out). The cabanas for the water park are on either side of the wave pool and would have been nice to have to avoid going back and forth to the lockers. I am disappointed that I didn’t have more time to explore the whole island but #momlife. I saw several people in our Facebook group say they were stung by jellyfish on the beaches so I’m glad we didn’t spend the money to get a cabana on one of the beaches as I’d been wanting to. But then I know people who were at CocoCay a couple weeks before us that didn’t hear of any jellyfish issues during their day there, so I think this can be extremely hit or miss. Obviously this can happen anywhere, so just be aware of this.
Crowds weren’t terrible for it being a full sailing. There were definitely times that it felt more crowded than others, but it never felt like wall to wall people (until debarkation). The hardest thing was finding somewhere to sit for pizza later at night. But it was never impossible. The pools did get a bit crowded, but we got our chairs early so we never really had issues there either.
We had super smooth seas, with the exception of the night of the medical emergency as the ship was going full speed to try to make up for the lost time. Even then, it wasn’t rocking like it normally would if we had hit rough waters – it was a very gentle sway. But no complaints about the waters from anyone in my group whatsoever in regards to it making anyone feel sick.
We all bought the Wow bands. Hindsight, the kids probably could have done without them. The buckle on them came loose a bit too easily in my opinion which was a concern I had since I didn’t want to lose them. We still needed our SeaPass cards for getting off/on the ship as well as for checking the kids into and out of the kids club. But I did like having the bands for charging, especially at the bars.
Speaking of the kids club, our kids only went to Adventure Ocean on night 1. On Oasis class ships, and they have kids 6-12 together in one space rather than breaking them into smaller age groups. Our 6 and 7 year olds loved it and wanted to go back again – the 10 and 11 year old hated it and didn’t want to go again. They said it was too crazy. We told them they would need to try it again because night 1 might have been busier than normal, but they never went back since we had so much going on, so I can’t give much more insight than that. I didn’t hear anyone else complain about the club onboard.
Debarkation was a bit of a disaster if I’m being completely honest. They said they had some technical difficulties that resulted in delays. We should have been getting off at 9am but weren’t actually off until closer to 10:15am. Our bags weren’t in the right place when we got down to baggage but thankfully since we were in the last group to get off, we spotted our luggage across the way. We saw several people in the Facebook group saying they’ve sailed with Royal Caribbean many times and it’s never been that bad before, so perhaps it was a fluke situation that day. I would not let the debarkation experience deter us from cruising with Royal Caribbean or out of Cape Liberty again. Overall, we had a really great cruise experience.
If you’ve had a cruise vacation on your mind – especially if you’re thinking of sailing out of Cape Liberty if you live within a reasonable distance to drive there – I definitely suggest booking your cruise ASAP to lock in your price (and don’t worry – if the price goes down, we can adjust that for you so you’re getting the best price available!!) Oasis of the Seas will be in Europe in summer 2024, but her sister ship, Symphony of the Seas, will be taking her place. Symphony is another absolutely amazing ship that I definitely would recommend, especially for families. Right now, we can only book into April 2025 so if summer 2025 is on your radar, let me know and I can put you on my wait list to follow up as soon as summer 2025 is open!
Have you cruised on Oasis of the Seas before? I’d love to hear your thoughts!!
Aly Hirst: Gilbertsville, PA!
Lead Travel Advisor
Hi, I’m Aly Hirst, Travel Advisor with Living with the Magic Vacations! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Disney-obsessed gal. Even though I didn’t take many Disney vacations growing up, I can remember requesting the old vacation planning videos that Disney use to send in the mail; I would watch them over and over again to learn every nook and cranny of the Walt Disney World Resort as well as the Disneyland Resort and Disney Cruise Lines.