|"The Oasis of the Seas" – From Cruise 2010|
This year my wife and I decided that we would spend our annual vacation on the recently launched gargantuin cruise ship from Royal Caribbean christened the Oasis of the Seas. We went on a cruise with Carnival last year and had a great time. We figured if we are going to do it again, we'd have to top it. After experiencing a 7-day Eastern Caribbean last year on Carnival we opted for the Western Caribbean on the Oasis built for Royal. The ports of call were Labadee in Haiti in addition to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico. While Labadee was an unknown quantity, I hadn't heard good things about Mexico.
Labadee is on a peninsula on the northern coast of Haiti leased by Royal Caribbean. For excursions my wife and I opted for the Dragon's Breath zip line and a jet ski tour of the sea around Labadee. There zip line was a 500 ft drop off a mountain a 2,400 ft cable (video below) across the waves breaking on the private beach. The jet ski tour was exhilerating as we sped across ocean waves and checked out the ship, the local village, and meet some merchants selling their wares from a canoe. After overpaying for a cool item we learned about the relationship about between the village, the United Nations, and Royal Caribbean. Back on land there is a Royal Caribbean administered local market with menacing and pushy locals selling locally produced souvenirs. Besides the market we really enjoyed Labadee ultimately deciding it was our favorite port of the whole cruise.
Our next stop was another cruise-related stop on Mexico's eastern flank on the Yucatán peninsula. As we got off the ship we were presented with a landscape that could have been bombed with napalm in the sixties. Besides yet another crap market we visited was the Chacchoben Mayan ruins about 50 miles inland. On the way there we passed through a Mexican military checkpoint that interrupted ecological scenery not unlike the Everglades along the straight road we have ever been on. The tour was led by an entertaining local graduate student who studied English. He claimed to be friends with some local archeologists and shared some facts about the ruins he learned from them. On the way back to port he picked up some cheap tequilia for everyone while we again checked out the landscape from the window of the bus.
That evening we departed on short 10 mph hop to Cozumel, Mexico. The following morning we arrived and the symptoms of a cold I had picked up before the cruise peaked. We got up early met up with a tour that took us on a submarine ride to check out protected coral reefs about 3 miles from the ship. Our underwater odyssey took about an hour and dove to depths of up to 120 ft below the surface. Afterwards we went in search of souvenirs for our friends and four hours later we lugged about fifteen bottles of tequilia and mezcal (with the worm) in addition to some t-shirts and assorted trinkets.
The last couple days were spent on the ship crusing back to Ft. Lauderdale at 20 mph along the northern coast of Cuba and through the Straights of Florida. We took the time to explore the ship and reflect on the other two sea days of the trip. We started with massages in the ship spa with helped us relax and get into the vacation spirit. We checked out an amazing diving show into an eighteen foot deep pool surrounded by an amphitheater, the Aqua Theatre, on the stern of the 1,100 ft long ship. We laughed at comedians were entertained by signers. These events were concluded on Friday with an ice skating show in a rink deep inside of the leviathan. Between shows we blew money in the casino playing poker and blackjack and floating in the pool and hot tubs. We were never board but were constantly reminded that were sharing a ship with 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew. It was certainly flashy but our fellow passengers were a little older than we'd have liked being either middle age or baby boomers. The Carnival cruise we went on in 2009 was loaded with more of our peers making the social events in the evening more fun.
All things considered we enjoyed the Carnival experience more than the Royal Caribbean. That's not to say we didn't have fun, rather different fun that we liked better than the fun Royal Caribbean provided. The food was great and the entertainment was superbly stimulating. We thought the stateroom was better with a balcony fourteen stories above the sea and a HD television where we can make reservations and review our account. The technology was better but felt more like Las Vegas than a ship at sea. We hope to go to Europe next year but our next cruise will be on Carnival to a some more exciting and original ports. I mean, it's a "Fun Ship", right?