Oasis of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog (Day 1): Boarding and Sail Away

Note: Cruzely was invited to sail on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas during her simulated voyage from Bayonne, New Jersey. Each day I will cover the experience, giving you an inside peek at what it’s like to sail a test cruise aboard one of the largest cruise ships in the world.

You can read each day here:

Oasis of the Seas ranks as one of the largest cruise ships on the planet. First debuting in 2009, it is the namesake of the entire Oasis-class of vessels, which includes sister ships like Symphony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

Boardwalk on Oasis of the Seas
Oasis of the Seas is sailing a test cruise. I’m onboard, detailing the experience.

At 225,000+ gross tons, Oasis set a mark for size more than a decade ago that has yet to be matched by anything outside her class. And now, that big ship is going to sail from the Big Apple. But first, she has to perform a CDC-required simulated voyage.

While other lines have generally opted for fully-vaccinated cruises with 95%+ of passengers having the shot, Royal Caribbean is taking a different approach.

The cruise line requires all passengers 12 years and older be vaccinated for most cruises, but it also welcomes children who aren’t yet eligible for the shot. Since this means the number of vaccinated passengers could fall below that 95% mark, the cruise line has started back with test cruises for ships to work through the protocols required by the CDC and gain approval to sail.

Oasis of the Seas will sail this fall from New York, or more accurately Bayonne, New Jersey (home of Cape Liberty). To get ready for that date, she is sailing on a six-day cruise (August 22-28) from Bayonne to CocoCay with a small complement of passengers. In total, there are about 600 guests onboard. That’s a far cry from the 5,600 that can normally sail at double occupancy.

But before Oasis of the Seas could even think of sailing with paying passengers, it had to face a more immediate challenge: Hurricane Henri.

Bad Weather Greets Day 1

Hurricane Henri radar
The New York City area was drenched by Henri.

The great thing about cruise ships is that they move. Bad weather and storms are a fact of life, but ships have rudders and propellers. Most of the time they can simply steer well clear, providing passengers smooth sailing and sunny skies.

But what if a ship is docked? In that case, sometimes you just have a soggy day. That’s exactly what has happened on Day 1 aboard Oasis of the Seas.

Docked in New Jersey, the weather all day has been bad due to Hurricane — and later Tropical Storm — Henri. The storm made landfall earlier today in Rhode Island. While the winds weren’t bad here at the port, it did make for a gray, overcast, rainy day.

Even so, you get some hints of why sailing from Cape Liberty might be one of the most interesting ports to depart, especially if you aren’t from this area. Off one side of the ship is the Statue of Liberty, and behind that is the Manhattan skyline. Throughout the day there were glimpses of One World Trade Center. Having sailed from ports ranging from Vancouver to Miami, seeing these landmarks is something that I just can’t quite get over.

On the other side at the end of the pier is the powerful Tear Drop Memorial, dedicated to the victims of the September 11th attacks.

Tear drop memorial
The Tear Drop Memorial sits next to the cruise ship and remembers those lost on September 11th.

I’ll admit that much of the area directly surrounding the port isn’t terribly scenic (it’s largely industrial). But when it comes to things to see from the ship while docked, I’ve been impressed so far.

New Check-In and Boarding

Of course, the main draw on this cruise is Oasis of the Seas. But before checking her out myself, I had to go through the updated check-in procedures at the terminal.

Things actually started well before I arrived, with check-in done primarily online ahead of time. While that saved time, it didn’t mean I could just go straight to the ship once I reached the terminal.

In fact, even before entering I had to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test result to an usher outside. Immediately after entering (literally about 20 steps), I was asked again for the test result and proof of vaccination.

From there it was through the standard security process and waiting in line for the agent. The agent once again asked for my vaccination card, took a photo of it, scanned my boarding pass, and then scanned my passport. I was then given a blue wristband to indicate my vaccinated status while around the ship. In total, it took about five minutes with the agent before being ready to board.

Vaccinated status wristband
The blue wristband shows my vaccination status on the ship.

One nice thing is that with just a few hundred people sailing, the terminal had plenty of space and the check-in process was quick.

After meeting with the agent, I headed toward the gangway. But first… you guessed it… I had to show my vaccination proof and scan my boarding pass one more time. For those keeping count, my vaccination proof was checked four different times before boarding.

If you think you’re going to get by without it, think again!

First Impressions of Oasis of the Seas

Now I have sailed a number of different Royal Caribbean ships, but until now, had yet to sail aboard the largest Oasis-class vessels.

Oasis of the Seas promenade
The promenade on Oasis of the Seas is bigger than those on other ships. Note the skylight that rises into Central Park.

Despite having been on some large ships, the size of Oasis of the Seas makes it completely different from any other ship — including others in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. I can’t say it enough. The Oasis-class just isn’t the same as any other cruise I’ve been on.

I was simply blown away by the size. The Royal Promenade is almost cavernous. While other ships in the fleet have a similar promenade setup, the size and space provided on Oasis is like nothing else.

That space provides the opportunity to do a lot of things you just don’t see on other cruise ships. Take the Boardwalk for example, Two twisting slides (The Ultimate Abyss) tower above the area, spinning down from Deck 16 to Deck 6. Either side is lined with restaurants and shops, with cabins towering above. And there is a full-sized carousel in the middle.

Then there is Central Park. The green space features two winding paths through lush greenery, with restaurants and shops on either side. It honestly makes you forget you are on a ship.

Central Park on Oasis of the Seas
Central Park provides some greenery and a calm place to hang out.

It all combines to give Oasis of the Seas a very different feeling than any other cruise I’ve sailed. Talking to other passengers, they felt the same. In my mind, other ships may be large, but they still feel like cruise ships. This one feels almost like an actual city at sea, and I’ve only explored part of it so far.

Day 1 Activities and Eats

So what have I done on Oasis so far? Since it’s been raining, outdoor activities haven’t been an option. Instead, I’ve spent most of my time just exploring and getting a feel for the layout. On most cruises I feel like I’ve seen most things in a couple of hours and have an idea about everything on the ship. In this case, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface.

Soon after boarding I went through the new muster drill, which is a definite improvement. The old drill meant everything on the ship shut down and passengers had to go to the muster station, packed together like sardines.

Now the process is completed through the Royal Caribbean app. You watch a video on how to put on a life jacket and then another that details the emergency horn. Once completed, you head down to visit your muster station and check in with a staff member who scans your card. It’s a much better process that you can complete on your own time.

Because I boarded around 1 p.m., I had a late lunch at El Loco Fresh after I found my cabin and unpacked. (I always unpack first thing. It’s no fun to come back to the cabin late on the first evening and realize you still have to get out everything from your suitcase to get ready for bed.)

Lunch showed that things will be a bit different, at least for now. Walking up, one staff member directed me to a handwashing station before I ordered. Then after I got my food, another staff member served each individual item at the condiment bar. Something to drink? Another staff member poured a glass of water instead of being able to use the self-serve machine. Passengers helping themselves is no longer a thing.

Oasis of the Seas departed at 7:00 p.m., and the biggest highlight of the day came just after sailing away from port. Instead of heading out directly to sea, we instead turned and sailed past the Statue of Liberty for an amazing photo opp. The clouds had lifted some and despite it still spitting rain, seemingly everyone on the ship headed up to grab photos. As someone that doesn’t sail regularly from the area, it was a once-in-a-lifetime view.

Statue of Liberty from a cruise ship
Our route went by the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan, providing an up-close view that a picture doesn’t do justice.

After a spin that also gave amazing views of Manhattan, Oasis then headed out to sea.

With that, I headed to dinner, which was in Coastal Kitchen. This spot is normally reserved for suite guests, however, several of us were arranged to dine. Put simply, the food was incredible. I went simple — Caesar salad and filet mignon. Both were perfect, including a steak that practically melted in your mouth.

Tomorrow is our first day at sea as we head from New York down to CocoCay. I plan to use the day to get more familiar with everything onboard, as there is still plenty that I didn’t get a chance to see today.

Random Thoughts and Observations

  • It’s rare that there’s more than a passing shower on a cruise, but with today’s steady rain, the ship had umbrellas near outside doors for passengers to use in Central Park and the Boardwalk. It was a nice touch.
  • One thing I already love are the “Small Wonder” viewing stations. Around the public areas are little binocular or spyglass stands. Look inside and there are small images to view. Kids should absolutely love these things.
  • Central Park is already a favorite place of mine. I spent just about 10 minutes walking through during the rain, but it’s really well done and feels like nowhere else I’ve been on a cruise ship.

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