For Spring Break we cruised on the world's biggest ship, Royal Caribbean's "Oasis of the Seas." It was big and beautiful and their neighborhood concept was genius -- fun to explore and believe it or not, it never felt crowded!!
By contrast, Disney's embarkation takes place from a beautiful building--clean, modern and decorated in classy Disney style (I truly mean "classy Disney," not "cheesy Disney." Big difference). Visits from Mickey and Minnie start the Disney experience off with a thrill for our little kids (and let's be honest, our big kids love them too). But your wait to embark takes a long time. Several hours.
On the Oasis, the embarkation building feels like a big warehouse. But you check-in and walk up the stairs and get on the ship. No crowds. Wonderful!
Each public deck had a different "neighborhood." Each neighborhood also had no-fee "deli's" to eat at if you didn't want to eat in the dining room or at the buffet.
The "Central Park" neighborhood felt upscale with lush vegetation and had our favorite restaurant for fresh made-to-order salads and sandwiches. Great breakfasts too.
"The Boardwalk" neighborhood was about fun with a Carousel, free donut shop, the Rock-climbing wall, shuffleboard and an outdoor theater for water shows. Also Johnny Rockets and a Fish restaurant. Our favorite no-fee snack bar was here too -- carrots and celery with dip or chips and salsa -- among other things. The candy bar was also on this deck and the younger kids spent WAY too much of their money buying candy (ok, fine...so did I). It just feels free to the kids when they "pay" for candy by just handing over their room card and charging to their account. (They were each given a limit to spend on their cards. Only problem was the very sneaky arcade that didn't allow you to set a limit. AND to add to the arcade temptation, you win tickets for stupid prizes just like at Boondocks, Fat Cats or wherever. Ugh!!)
"The Promenade" was similar to other RC ships with shops, a piano bar, Karaoke room and a deli with really good coffee cake! Also had a no-fee pizza shop which was surprisingly good.
One night we rented out the surf rider pool and all the kids (and Dads) in our group got turns surfing for an hour or two. So FUN!!! Nick was too small though, which was heartbreaking for him. Someday he'll be 30 and saying, "Remember when you promised the next time we went on a cruise you'd rent out the surf rider again?! Well, you owe me a cruise!" (Flash-WAY-back to us moving to Utah when I was 7 and as we were driving away from California, me saying, "But we never went to Universal Studios!" And my dad promising the next time we went to California we'd go. We didn't. Considered as a joke sending him a bill after I finally went when I was 30 and we were living there!)
The kids also had fun on the zip line. Not sure if anyone spent much time in the pools. That was the only spot that felt crowded. There was a big adults-only area but it didn't get much breeze and was a little muggy. (Favorite adults-only area was on Princess Cruise Lines. You have to pay extra, but sooo worth it!) But there was a great restaurant in that area with a yummy, healthy lunch buffet. Dinner required reservations, but lunch was no-fee and open seating.
The ship was teeming with kids. And the kids-clubs looked pretty fun with good activities. But because our kids had friends with them on the ship, they never spent time in the kids' clubs. They also had Wiis and x-boxes in the kids clubs to use for free and it killed me that the kids paid money for the arcade instead! (But I remember being in their shoes at their age, so I can hardly blame them, but let's be honest, wii games are WAY funner than atari games were 30 years ago!)
Our teens were a little put-off by the teen clubs. Lots of dirty-dancing at the dances made them quite uncomfortable. So they didn't hang out there much and found other things to do.
We made three stops -- Haiti, Jamaica and Cozumel. Wouldn't it be great if I had pictures? I forgot to take my camera!! Courtney has photos, though. Got to figure out how to get a copy of them!