The 225,282-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas made waves as she entered US waters this week as the newest and certainly the biggest cruise ship in the world. Families are a large market for Royal Caribbean and naturally their new flagship has some amazing stuff for children.
Now, where to start?
Let’s begin with size. The gigantic 28,000-square-foot Adventure Ocean complex is built around a main artery called Kids Avenue, a central boulevard connecting kids with Adventure Ocean spaces and various customized play areas geared to specific activities. It also harbors the cruise line’s first nursery for infants and toddlers (six months or older) as well as state-of-the-art teen areas.
Oasis of the Seas is divided into seven neighborhoods — from leafy Central Park to the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness zone — and two of them are especially geared to families: the Youth Zone and the Boardwalk.
The Youth Zone: Adventure Ocean Highlights
A Royal Caribbean first, Royal Babies and Tots nursery is a colorful fully-staffed nursery where children can be left in the care of Royal Caribbean’s trained professionals. The ship also offers the line’s popular interactive playgroups for parents and babies/tots created by Fisher-Price and Crayola. The nursery is open daily during the daytime and evening, maintaining an optimum staff to child ratio.
For the 3 to 11 age range, Kids Avenue is the Youth Zone’s answer to the Royal Promenade. It’s the main boulevard for young cruisers to access the various Adventure Ocean areas, where three age groupings each enjoy their own space: Aquanauts, ages 3 to 5; Explorers, ages 6 to 8; and Voyagers, ages 9 to 11. All the fun is supervised by a team of college-educated counselors.
New common play areas aboard Oasis include the Kid’s Arcade for video games; the Workshop, where families can learn scrap booking skills or create personalized jewelry; Imagination Studio where children can explore the world of color and imagination through Adventure Art by Crayola; a fully-equipped Adventure Science Lab, where Einsteins-in-the-making can expand their knowledge; Play, an indoor playground where children can run around and play games like nurfball and dodge ball; and the 100-seat Adventure Ocean Theater. This is the first-ever children’s theater at sea – complete with a stage and curtains, audience seating and state-of-the-art production equipment – where children of all ages can learn about theatrical productions, take part in talent shows, or sign up for hip hop dance classes.
For older kids, the tween and teen-only spaces are located aft one deck above the Adventure Ocean areas and adjacent to the ship’s Sports Deck, where kids can test their skills on one of the ship’s pair of FlowRider surf simulators; the miniature golf-course, Oasis Dunes; or the Sports Court for volleyball and basketball games. Teens of course will love having their space far far away from the younger Adventure Ocean kids.
The two main areas for them are the Fuel disco and The Living Room, a hangout spot for milling around, making new friends and sipping on a non-alcoholic juice or soda from the “mocktail” bar. Teens can also learn to spin and mix music in Scratch DJ 101 classes or surf the Internet and keep in touch with friends via the bank of computer stations there. Fuel is a hip nightclub where teens can hang out with friends and show off their moves on the dance floor. A spacious outdoor deck adjacent to these venues gives teens even more opportunities to make new friends. There’s also a video arcade filled with the latest video games.
The nostalgic-y feeling Boardwalk has two main stars, the old time wooden carousel and the 600-seat AquaTheater for thrilling aquatic acrobatic, high-diving and synchronized swimming performances. A pair of rock-climbing walls measuring 43 feet high flanks the AquaTheater and provides multiple climbing routes. Each rock wall measures 43 feet tall and is open to passengers 6 and over. Even more thrilling for teens and adults is a go at the first zip line at sea stretching 82 feet in length and suspended nine decks above the bustling Boardwalk area.
Kids will also love Candy Beach, where they can buy M&Ms, jellybeans, Tootsie Rolls and other tasty treats. Kid-geared shops include the Star Pier for electronics and surf-inspired clothes for teens. The Pinwheels toy store targets younger kids and has a backdrop of plasma screens showing movie trailers and video games. Pets at Sea, a build-your-own stuffed toy shop, is also focused on the younger children. Another Boardwalk hit is the climbing and play space modeled after a 50’s-style gas station next to the popular Johnny Rockets diner-style restaurant. Other family-friendly noshing venues along the Boardwalk include an ice cream parlor, donut shop and casual seafood shack.
Other Great Stuff
In the Pool & Sports Zone, the H2O Zone aqua park has a great toddler pool as well as the first beach pool at sea, featuring a true-to-form sloped entry and colorful beach chairs and umbrellas.
In the dining department, families have the pick of 22 outlets throughout the ship, from burgers and shakes at the Johnny Rockets diner to individual cafes and restaurants specializing in cupcakes, pizza, sandwiches, ice-cream and more.
USA Today travel writer Gene Sloan has posted photos and info about Oasis’ family cabins at http://bit.ly/6lNV6x.