By Phil Reimer
The quality of the food and entertainment will determine whether travellers return for a second trip aboard Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship.
Let's start with the entertainment. It includes the Broadway show Hairspray, a jazz Club, a comedy Club and Dazzles nightclub, which features big bands playing music of the 1940s. Entertainment is free in all areas of the ship and is included in your cabin price.
Besides these venues, piano players and small groups of entertainers are positioned in various spots around the ship.
While it's not up to Disney World's standards, they also have a parade each day in the Royal Promenade.
For the Broadway show, you have the choice of reserving a ticket when you book your cruise. Don't worry if you're on board and hear a show you reserved is full, because the reservations are managed electronically and everyone entering is automatically checked in. If the show isn't full five minutes before the curtain goes up, walk-ups are allowed in. The theatre seats 2,000, so getting to see the show at least once in a seven-day cruise won't be problem. You just might not get to see it on the night you want.
The ice show Frozen in Time (yes, they have an ice rink) is complimentary, and quite good for the space these skaters have to work with. When the cast isn't performing, the rink is yours for free skating.
There's also a water show, staged on the stern of the ship each night, but during the day, the pool is free for swimming.
Now, on to the food aboard Oasis of the Seas.
The ship has several areas where food is free. They include the main dining rooms on three decks, with the top deck reserved for 'your time' dining, meaning you can show up any time without an advance reservation, although you may have to wait for a table. One floor of these dining rooms is open for breakfast and lunch.
There's also a smaller buffet area on the upper deck called the Windjammer. Eating here is also free.
What costs? If you want a cupcake, you pay, but a jelly-filled doughnut is free. For a great hamburger at Johnny Rockets, you'll have to pay, but you won't if you order one at the Windjammer buffet. Fish and chips on the Boardwalk will cost you, but the coffee bar and Sorrento's Pizzeria are free. Room service is also free, but you have to pay a $3.95 service charge after midnight.
Three of the restaurants that do charge are in Central Park and, if it's in your budget, are worth the cost. One of them is Giovanni's Table, which has a $10 cover charge at lunch and $15 at dinner.
Another is Chops, which is familiar to Royal passengers. It has a $25 cover charge for dinner. And then there's the ship's signature restaurant, 150 Central Park, which charges $35 for dinner. Located nearby is Vintages Wine Bar, which has a la carte pricing. Decor and service at these restaurants is what you would expect in a fine restaurant.
Your final option is a Chef's Table, which is a private dining experience hosted by the ship's chef.
So what are some of the problems with the ship? There are some now, and some that may pop up when the ship sails with a full complement of passengers.
If you're going to reserve one of the balcony units looking down into the Boardwalk and the Gardens, keep in mind you'll be looking straight into other cabins in front of you. The elevators seemed slow at times, and we were only travelling with 3,000 passengers -- half the ship's capacity. Amenities in the room were scarce, lineups were lengthy at times, but we'll see what happens once the ship sails on its first seven-day trip Dec. 5.
Finally, they have a jogging track on Deck 5. It's tight at times, but 2 1/4 circuits of the ship, and you've gone a mile. Carnival's newly launched Carnival Dream has dedicated the same space for a track, suggesting that cruise lines are aware of the exercise needs of their passengers.
My time on board was short, only four days, so if you're going to be on one of Oasis's regular seven-day cruises, I would love to hear your comments at portsandbows.com
Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an e-mailed newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at preimercanwest.com.
-- Canwest News Service