In October 2015, I participated in the “TBEX at Sea” conference. It was held on the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship which impressively weighs in at over 225 thousand tons, and is over one thousand feet in length! She had her maiden voyage in December 2009 and still continues to provide a fantastic experience for the whole family.
The Oasis of the Sea is part of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. The ship employs over 2,200 staff members on board to better serve the needs of their guests. Most trips on this vessel last about a week. These excursions depart from Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, or Orlando Florida and visit several ports in the Caribbean before bringing travelers back to the starting point.
Many don’t realize that this cruise ship works like a floating village. Here, passengers can enjoy sixteen decks offering entertainment in the form of swimming pools, a basketball court, climbing walls and an ice-skating rink.
After receiving a refreshing makeover in 2014, the ship looks better than ever. Cleanliness is also a high priority on this ship, with everything being quite spotless, despite the vessel’s large size.
A large percentage of the people traveling on this ship are family groups from North America. However, middle age couples and groups travel here as well. The Oasis of the Sea can also hold around 5,400 passengers at any given time.
The sixteen decks on this ship feature plenty of activities to keep both kids and adults occupied on the high seas. Travelers should know that the popular attractions, such as the Flow Rider waterslides and the Windjammer Marketplace buffet, often see crowds at peak times. Therefore, cruise passengers will need to adjust their expectations accordingly and either avoid busy hours or plan to wait in line.
While the zip-line, ice skating rink, and rock climbing wall work as perfect pastimes for older kids, the younger crowd can easily participate in more kid-friendly activities. These include balloon making, face painting, and carousel rides. Folks over the age of sixteen might also like to chill out in one of the ten whirlpools onboard.
Playing the slots at the casino is yet another option for those over the age of twenty-one. Of course, the onboard shows can appeal to people of all ages. This ship also featured an excellent production of Andrew Loyd Weber’s Cats. However, it is crucial to reserve show tickets in advance if you don’t want to miss seeing these highlights on your voyage.
There are a variety of restaurants from sushi to Italian to American Bistro – something for everyone’s palate. Other activities include a water park, a 3D movie theater and a Dreamworks experience that children find delightful!
At night, the high-diving AquaTheater displays some spectacular shows. For those looking for something more on the relaxing side, the boasts spas, galleries, whirlpools and even an adults-only Solarium pool.
Royal Caribbean go out of their way to accommodate special needs, certified as the First Autism Friendly Cruise Line in February 2014 by Autism on the SeasTM, a tremendous honor. Also, the whole ship is wheelchair accessible. If you communicate with staff members in advance, they will go out of their way to help.
We saw a few options for cabins, and we arranged beforehand to get an inside cabin, ideally suited to families that deal with autism. Because it is situated in an inside corridor, it almost makes a labyrinth that is confusing for a child to navigate. Therefor, it is more difficult for them to get lost if they get away from you.
We stayed on deck 10 in cabin 440. The key to the door is a very handy swipe-card which conveniently fits in a pocket.
As you open the door, you can see beautiful wooden furnishings and beautiful carpeting in a wave design of turquoise, blue, green and brown. By the entrance, we saw a shelving unit, perfect spot put brochures, sunscreen, the cabin keycard and other important odds and ends. The shelving unit segues into a desk with a chair complemented by a lighted mirror so it can double as a vanity table.
The cabin is compact but not crowded with a big, opening sofa and a king-sized bed that can split according to preference. Also, the headboards are gray and tan adding to the overall décor of the cabin. Our flat-screen TV monitor by the desk could swivel making it visible from the beds and sofa, or it could recess flat back into the wall. Both nightstands boast built-in night lights.
The closet is spacious and can fit the luggage with plenty of hanging space and hangers provided. There are extra shelves as well as a small safe above eye level which can fit an iPad or tablet. There is a full-length mirror placed conveniently by the bathroom.
The room boasted an adequate supply of power sockets. A huge perk of this cruise liner is the super fast internet powered by VOOM which provides wifi using O3bMaritime technology. Furthermore, the occupants can freely adjust the temperature of the cabin with the convenient a/c control panel.
With linoleum flooring in tan, the bathroom is functional and practical. It featured wooden shelving and a narrow counter with a small sink. As we are Platinum members of Royal Caribbean, we received an amenity kit with conditioner, shampoo, shower gel, soap, and lotion.
The shower features a high plexiglass enclosure and a handheld showerhead as well as a short retractable line to hang up wet bathing suits. We discovered that the area boasted good drainage, perfect as cruise-line cabins can easily flood. Toilet paper, tissues and towels are provided and you can ask housekeeping for more as needed.
Autism Travel Tips
As mentioned, parents should call the cruiseline ahead of time to request any accomodations their family may need.
The cruiseline is autism friendly and will strive to help with embarkation, disembarkation, dining and onboard activities.
Those attending the production of Cats should be aware the performers move around quite a bit on and off stage. Some kids may find this a bit scary.
Kids wishing to try ziplining or rock climbing should ask to try it at the end of the day. At that time, the crowds lessen for more customized attention.