Holiday Cruise
2009 Holiday Cruise  
by Mike Bailey
Oasis of The Seas docked in St. Thomas
Well, Deanna and I continued our tradition to take a cruise right after Christmas. Celebrating our
47th wedding anniversary and New Years Eve onboard the brand new gigantic Royal Caribbean ship
called "Oasis of the Sea," was fantastic.

Check out all the pictures and movies for our
"2009 Holiday Cruise" over on Mike's Picture Library.
Map of our great voyage
At the very last minute, our itinerary
was changed to have us going to
Nassau first, then on to St. Thomas,
St. Maarten, with two sea days
returning back to Ft. Lauderdale.
Setting the stage…
In early 2008, Deanna and I started hearing and reading about a totally new concept for a cruise
ship that was being built by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line -- our favorite cruise line. After we saw
the first artist renderings of this new gigantic ship called the Oasis of The Seas that they were
developing, we just knew we had to be on her when she first set sail in December, 2009.  

We are Diamond RCCL Crown & Anchor members and as such, were allowed to book a cruise over a
year in advance (early August of 2008) for the 2009 New Years Eve cruise leaving out of Ft.
Lauderdale on December 26th.  Not only would we be onboard for New Years Eve, but would be able
to celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary on the December 28th as well.  

What can I say about our cruise except that it was fabulous, wonderful, thrilling, and that we
had an exciting time onboard a brand new, beautiful, and truly magnificent innovative type of
cruise ship?

However, I must also admit that it was a bit overwhelming at times because the ship is so large --
up to 6,000 passengers spread out over a 1,200 ft long, 18 decks high, almost 200 foot wide ship
weighing 220,000 tons! We could have added flat panels over the pool deck and converted our
beautiful, fun-filled cruise ship to a USS Nimitz-class aircraft carrier without any problems!   
I think you might be seeing by now that the Oasis is no ordinary cruise ship.

Believe me, a hand held GPS unit could have been handy if it were not for all the built in
touch-screen panels throughout the ship. These not only showed you where you were but with a few
entries from your input query on the touch screen keyboard, it would show you (draw a map) how to
get from where you were to where you wanted to go to -- like find your room.

One of the things that I saw onboard that really points out the gap between the younger
generation around us that are so techno savvy and those us us that were born before TV was even a
common name was the fact that I never saw anyone from "my generation? using these magical
informative devices. They were constantly used by the younger folks without hesitation as they
clicked, selected, entered stuff in seconds without batting an eye and then boom -- they went
racing off on their new adventure (finding their room, etc.).

Anyway, by the time the cruise was over we had just about decided that this was probably going
to be our one and only trip on the Oasis of The Seas. We are glad we did it -- do not get me wrong
-- but it is just so huge. It has it all as you have probably seen and heard about on the news and the
Internet. We like Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of The Seas ship -- it itself is huge but nothing like
this thing. The Freedom of The Seas is the one we took two years ago with all the kids
and grandkids.

Funny, in May of 2007, the Freedom of The Seas was the largest cruise ship in the world. Today,
you could almost hide it inside the Oasis of The Seas, now the largest in the world. I can not even
begin to imagine what must already be on some marine architect's drawing board some where right
now. Maybe the will have a cruise ship that you just fly out too, land there, and join in on the fun
that is already in progress.

My hands (after the three trigger-finger release surgeries on the palms of both hands I had just
prior to sailing) did well on the cruise (better than I thought they would have). I am forever
thankful that a good friend of mine in White Plains, NY (and former IBM co-worker of mine before
I retired), had recommended to me just a week before our cruise that I ought to buy a pair of
padded bicycle gloves (the kind with the fingers only half covered). She had bought a pair a few
years back from the outdoor store chain REI and said that they were great for protecting the
palms of the hands.

I immediately went out to our local REI store here and bought a pair. Thank you Marjory for the
tip -- they saved the day for me -- made handling the wheelchair a snap. Just think -- one tour
(pushing the wheelchair) around the outer rim of the
Pool Deck (Deck 15) was almost 2,400 feet
(half a mile) in distance.

The only other good thing about that long distance was that on the Pool Deck, I passed by at least
three
bars and I might add, all of the specialty drinks and glasses of wine that I tested along the
way passed inspection with flying colors!
Every hour was an adventure…
Our trip down to Ft Lauderdale was basically hassle-free except for having to get up at 5 AM to be
at the airport 2 hours before our 8:30 flight. We have also just about decided to drive next time --
flying has become such a chore with the long waits, security, airlines charging for every little thing
(like I spent $75 for “baggage” -- total for roundtrip). What the heck -- that’s almost two tanks of
gas -- (takes me 1 ¼ tanks to drive to Ft Lauderdale from Atlanta in my Suburban). Next time, we
are going to take our time and drive down, spend the night -- maybe catch a cab or shuttle from
hotel out to the Port.

It only takes 10 minutes to go from the airport to the
cruise terminal there in Ft Lauderdale and
it seemed like it was just a few minutes before we were at the cruise terminal and checking in.
With our SetSail pass (a RCCL boarding form pre-filled out online and then printed out), check-in
is a quick and easy processes. It only took us 10 minutes from getting off the transfer bus to be
walking into the ship and slipping our cruise cards into the badge readers installed there at the top
of the gangway entrances.

When you do this and if the card is valid, you will hear a loud and very distinct “bonging” type
sound and your picture pops up on the screen on the other side where the security officer is
seated. Hopefully, your face and the picture on his screen match. If not, you will NOT get onboard
the ship -- period. When you first check in at the terminal, they take your picture when the cruise
card (your room key, charge card while onboard, etc.) is first issued to you. This procedure
prevents someone, say on a shore excursion, from stealing your card and gaining access to the ship.

Anyway, if you cruise, you know that the bonging sound is wonderful -- “Welcome aboard!” Five
minutes later, we were up on the pool deck and enjoying a fancy “Sail Away” drink.  Because we got
on the ship so fast (and early), we had to wait about an hour and a half before we could go to our
room. That was OK -- it gave us time to make sure the specialty drinks we had were really that good
so we tested a few more to make sure.

Our
room was great -- slightly smaller than what we were used to but it was efficient interior
room. Our first surprise was that our luggage had already been placed in our room. In the past,
our luggage didn’t show up until well after 8 PM.  

Normally, an interior room means you have no view of anything but this room on this ship was a
totally new version of interior -- it had a view. Our room was on Deck 10 and after opening a huge
floor to ceiling glass double wide sliding door, we could go out onto a balcony (with table and chairs)
overlooking
“Central Park” down on Deck 8.

Central Park on Deck 8, centered in the middle of the ship, was about 320 feet long and 65 feet
wide. It was beautiful -- open up all the way to the skies above and filled with stone walkways,
trees, flower beds, fountains, stores, an outside stand-up bar, restaurants, café dining outside, etc.
In this part of the ship overlooking Central Park, there were four decks with balcony rooms and
one deck (9) below us that had just windows overlooking Central Park.

I read some where onboard that Central Park has over 12,000
plants and 65 trees growing there. It
even has a full time gardening staff. We watched them every day watering plants, clipping dead
leaves off, etc., all to keep abreast of the maintenance needed for the flower beds and such to
keep them looking fresh and beautiful as we saw them for the first time.

A comparable area (almost the same size) on Deck 6 called Boardwalk was on the back end of the
ship. It too was open up to the skies and had six decks worth of rooms with a balcony. All these
rooms overlooked a great area that was set up like a boardwalk at a seaside area. It had a working
merry-go-round, hamburger places, games, shops, stands, etc. Boardwalk ended with a huge
amphitheatre type place called the
Aqua Theater where all sorts of great day and night time water
related shows, activities took place.  

High above this area on the upper most aft deck, going from one corner of the open space
diagonally to the other (long ways) was a
Zip-line you could ride on.  The line is about 82 feet long
and when you are on it, you are actually about 200 feet above the ocean (and maybe about 80 feet
above the Boardwalk area down below).  And no, Deanna nor I rode it -- wanted too but the landing
appeared to be too rough, especially for Deanna so we just stood by and watched all the younger
people scream and holler and having a great time doing it.

Also located on the back of the ship were two huge
rock-climbing walls, a basketball court, very
large 9-hole
Putt-Putt golf course and two Flow Riders. These were fantastic water sport devices
that allow you, if you can, surf on short boards or a single ski type board about the size of a
skateboard.

We spent many great moments back here on the stern of the ship watching all the kids and adults
trying to master these rides. The water pressure that shoots the water out and makes it rise up
and over a curved slope is quite powerful which becomes very apparent when a
rider falls and is
immediately washed up and over the top of the ride and dumped unceremoniously at the top.

We set sail from Ft. Lauderdale around 6 PM and headed for our first port -- Nassau, Bahamas --
which we were scheduled to arrive there at 8 AM the next day.  

We soon met our dinner companions -- three other couples -- at our first evening meal and was
pleased that we all seemed to get along good together right off the bat. All three couples were
seasoned cruisers and one couple were Diamond Plus RCCL Crown & Anchor members -- meaning they
had completed more than 24 cruises with RCCL.  Deanna and I were just lowly Diamond members --
having only completed 10+ cruises with them.

After a short visit to the Casino and donating money to their 401K Plan, we went back to our room
and finished unpacking and hit the sheets early. It had been a long day and we were both worn out.

After sleeping in (didn’t wake up until about 8:00 AM) and then taking our time on our first
breakfast up in the Windjammer Café on Deck 16, we went ashore (with the wheelchair) in Nassau.
It was OK ashore (been there, done that many times) so there was nothing really exciting about
being there except that it is beautiful and exotic in a relaxing sort of way --especially if you visit
Senior Frogs Bar and Restaurant right there on the edge of the wharf area by the ships docks. It
was closed when we went by (sigh….) because it was Sunday and on this day, they did not open up
until around noon (sigh…).

Bay Street (the main drag just one block inland from the dock area), was
barricaded off -- chain
link fence and bleachers down both sides -- in preparation for some festival the week after we left.
The fence made for an awkward walking around shopping experience -- you could not cross over the
street except in about three places. I felt sorry for the merchants on the far side -- I saw maybe
five people over there along the entire length of Bay Street. Plus, just walking along feeling caged
in was not a welcoming feeling.  Anyway, we lasted maybe one hour and were back on the ship
before 11:30.

We ate lunch up in the Windjammer Café and afterwards while Deanna took her afternoon nap, I
wandered all around the ship taking pictures. After a while, I ended up on Deck 16 forwards and
watched us release our lines to the pier and getting underway to leave port. For some reason, we
left early on this cruise -- 1 PM. In the past, we have always stayed in Nassau until at least 5 PM
before getting underway.  

Anyway, our efforts to get underway and turn around in the ship channel were an awesome sight to
see and hear. I was standing near the point of the ship where the ship’s horns were placed high up
on a mast overhead.  

When our ship blew its two huge
horns to signal our intentions of moving, I thought I was going to
be blown overboard -- the sounds were so loud. Then, nearby us was Carnival’s huge cruise ship
Liberty and she was blowing her horns to signal that she also was ready to leave port. The two ships
started what sounded like a tit for tat horn blowing contest. The horns on the Oasis of The Seas
were twice as loud -- believe me -- we won hands down.

We were tied up in the
narrow ship channel that runs between downtown Nassau and Paradise
Island (where the huge, mega
Atlantis Resort is located about a mile away). By the time Paradise
Island narrows down to near where we were, it was just a tiny strip of land that was barely 150
feet wide -- just enough for a tiny beach front on the ocean side, a house, and pleasure boat docks
on the channel side.

Since our ship is so large, we had to tie up on the outer most piers that were connected to the dock
area there in downtown. With us being almost 200 feet wide, there was probably only 150 feet of
navigable water left in the channel between us and the houses/docks down on Paradise Island.

We started backing up slowly and then the stern (back) of the ship started turning in towards town.  
As we now started our actual turn around in the middle of the channel -- using only the ships
moveable propeller pods, and side thrusters (no tugs are used), we started turning as if we had a
pole right through the center of the ship and we were spinning around it very slowly.

Because of this turning on a dime, so to speak, by the time the bow of the ship was
pointed straight
ahead at the houses on Paradise Island, it was probably only 50 feet from the side of the channel
to the bow of our ship. It looked almost like you could be down on the helicopter landing pad on
Deck 5 and with a running jump, land over on one of the tiny boat docks on Paradise Island. Talk
about precision ship navigation -- NO room for error here!

After we completed our turnaround, we slipped silently out of the harbor past the
huge channel-
dredging machine and lone lighthouse at the entrance and soon we were sailing along on the wide,
beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean.

After Deanna got up from her nap and after we had a
glass of wine out on our balcony, we explored
more of the ship and then got ready for dinner. After dinner, we killed time exploring shops on the
Promenade Deck and then went to our first entertainment venue -- an aquatic show on the stern of
the ship (talk about it later).  After that we spent a few moments exploring some of the penny slot
machines in the Royal Casino before we headed back to our room for some much needed sleep.

Our next day aboard the ship was a sea day -- just cruising along on the beautiful Caribbean Sea.
We celebrated out 47th wedding anniversary this day and that night at the dinner table, our dinner
companions surprised us with an anniversary cake. It was a wonderful gesture and we enjoyed and
appreciated it so much. Thanks Dave, Doris, Pete, Adel, Jim, and Peggy -- you all are the greatest!

All RCCL had done (they had been notified via our travel agent as part of our booking procedure)
was to leave a note in our cabin telling us “Happy Anniversary” and gave us a $50 dollar off coupon
if we bought $500 dollars worth of stuff from one of their jewelry stores aboard ship. The gesture
was so overwhelming -- we almost cried …!

On this day we had also discovered the relaxing qualities of the
Solarium section of the ship.
Situated on the bow end of the ship, it occupied the entire width of the ship on Decks 15 & 16. It
had a tall glass wall all across the front and then wrapping way around on both sides like it was a
gigantic curved windshield. The roof was also all glass (open in places to allow air to circulate).
The entire area was for adults only.

They even had cloth curved tents around some huge circular type chairs next to the glass on the
very front edge of the Solarium. These were like
mini-cabanas and the white cloth covers could be
turned around the chairs so that you could block the sun, etc. Needless to say, these were very
popular.

The rest of the seating and lounging was great -- padded lounge chairs and seats, and had a
hot tub
(situated beneath two of the most realistic looking fake palm trees I had ever seen), a small normal
pool, and bar on Deck 16 and a buffet style eating place on Deck 15. One half of the lounging area
on Deck 16 where the bar was located was set way back and under a solid roof cover, which
provided plenty of shade from the hot sun.

We hid out
here every sea day (three on this cruse) for at least three hours in this shaded area,
front row of chairs. From here, we could see out over the spa and pool areas, other lounge chairs on
both decks and of course, could see straight out to the ocean and far horizons on all sides as we
cruised right along. Deanna relaxed and
read her books and I diligently tested various adult
beverages to make sure their quality was up to standards!  I mean, since I was literally sitting just
3 feet away from the
Solarium Bar, I felt it was my sworn duty to make sure all was on the up
and up.  

Our next port was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We went ashore here without
the wheelchair because all we ever do here is take a cab from the pier over to the cable car that
goes up to Paradise Point.

We tied up at the new cruise
terminal at Crown Bay -- about 3 miles (via a cab) across the bay
from Paradise Point and Havensight, the section of Charlotte Amalie where the older cruise
terminal is located -- and is still used.

Over there while we were in port, were three other huge cruise ships -- Carnival’s
Liberty, the
Norwegian Pearl, and another RCCL ship, the
Independence of The Seas (sister ship to the
Freedom of the Seas we like so much).

Our cab trip over to Paradise Point was the usual rip-off pain in the butt cab ride. You have to
first go into the center of town in a less than desirable condition cab, be dropped off at the local
flea market of course, and then find and take another cab to continue on to the Havensight area.

The signs at the Crown Bay Cruise Terminal all say that you can go straight to Havensight (for just
a dollar more than the $4 to center of town). But none of the cabs will do it -- they all dump you
out at the flea market and you have to pay another 4 bucks to complete the trip to the cable
car location.

Once there, we rode the
cable car up to the top of Paradise Point and celebrated our good fortune
of having been there TWICE in 2009 (first time back last January) by downing several of
Paradise Point’s signature drink called the “Bailey Bushwacker.”

They are so good -- and dangerous if too many consumed -- knock you on your butt! We had lunch
there so the food helped absorb a lot of the
six different types of booze that goes into these
wonderful drinks. We tried again to see if we could get a discount because our names were Bailey
but alas, they would not go for it.

Anyway, we spent a wonderful hour and a half enjoying one of the most beautiful sights in all of the
Caribbean from our vantage point 700 feet high above the port and bay area below. The day was
warm with clear blue skies -- absolutely wonderful. We could see all the cruise ships down below us
tied up at Havensight and then
way across the bay, we could see the Oasis of the Seas tied up at
Crown Bay. Even at this distance (2.5 miles straight as the crow flies), you could tell that it was a
huge cruise ship.

After lunch, we headed back down the mountain to return to the ship. After we got off the cable
car at the bottom platform (which is still a 2-story walk up from the street level below), there was
a cab driver standing there at a back access gate to the landing
platform who offered us a ride
back to the ship for just 5 bucks. His cab was parked on a road just a short flight of stairs up
behind us and we (and two other couples) gladly took his offer.

The ride back to the cruise terminal was great -- a new, clean, comfortable cab and the driver was
so nice and chatted all the way back. When we got out of the cab, I asked him how we could find
him the next time we came to St. Thomas. He said, “That’s easy … just ask for the man with
12 fingers.”

When he said that, he held out both of his hands and wiggled all of his fingers -- SIX on each hand!
I’m not talking about some tiny, weird 6th finger appendage -- I’m talking about a fully formed,
with all the joints, finger! He said, his father and grandfather all had 12 fingers, but so far, none
of his sons had them.

From the cab drop off point back to where our ship was tied up was a long way in the new port
terminal area. This distance just happens to be lined with dozens of shopping stalls and stores all
lined up along the way so I got D to sit there in the first shopping area and I went on back to the
ship, got her wheelchair, and came back to get her.  

We meandered back to the ship looking at a few of the shopping stall -- trying to find a favorite
item of ours to buy in the Caribbean --
Tortuga Rum Cake -- oooh so good :-) Alas, we didn't find
any here at the terminal shopping area but we did see some of the celebrity guests that lay out on
the rocks near the piers and watch all the people walking about. There were these
two who were
just sitting there, their hands propped on the rocks, that I swear they looked like they were talking
about us, like, "Say Harold, take at look at these two tired looking tourist!"

Needless to say, by the time we got back, Deanna was worn out. In addition to her initially walking
all the way from the ship to out where we caught the first cab, there are so many steps involved
getting up to Paradise Point. After you reach the top of the cable car ride, you have to walk back
down two very steep flights of steps from the cable car platform to the café, bar, and viewing area.
When you leave, you have to then climb back up another 2-story set of steep steps to get back on
the cable car.  

We both took a nap this day after getting back onboard which was followed by another delightful
afternoon out on our balcony with cheeses, cookies, and some great wines. We enjoyed this ritual
each day and with our view of Central Park, we always had something to look at. People-watching is
still one of the most rewarding activities that you can do for free and so totally enjoy it.

We set sail around 6 PM for our third port of call the next day at Philipsburg, St. Maarten. We
took the wheelchair ashore with us here. We caught a
water taxi near where were tied up at the
new pier just built to allow the Oasis of The Seas tie up in St. Maarten and ferried over to the
downtown area. In the past, I have always pushed Deanna in her wheelchair all the way (about a
mile) into town and caught the water taxi for the return trip but with the heat and all the
construction going on at the terminal area, we decided to take the water taxi both ways this time.

St. Maarten is the Dutch side of this two nation island. The other side is French. We went over to
that side once many years ago and decided we love the Dutch side the best. In fact, after Paradise
Point, I think Philipsburg is our second most favorite place in all of the Caribbean. It is clean,
friendly, beautiful, and tantalizingly exotic in the great Caribbean sense of a tropical
getaway place.  

It was so hot here in Philipsburg today -- over 90 degrees and no real breeze to speak of. We
walked along the beautiful paved promenade area along the beach front. The
beach was crowed with
all the hundreds of chairs and umbrellas set up on the beach by dozens of individual vendors and
hotels. Most were running a special this day -- two chairs, one, umbrella, and five beers for just
$15 for the day -- what a deal!  

After cruising along the promenade for a long way  and because it was getting so awfully hot, we
turned inland and went over one block to Front street, and then headed back towards where we had
come ashore on the water taxi.  

Front Street is the main tourist street -- most of the shops are located here and it is really
fascinating to stroll down the
narrow semi-shaded street and shop, and/or just watch all the
hustle/bustle going on. Since 95% of the shops have their air-conditioners running full blast, they
must love it when it is hot because I am certain that a lot of people pop into their shops just to cool
off a bit before moving on. And who knows, once inside, they just might buy something.

We stopped in at the
Holland House Beach Hotel that faces Front Street on one side and opens up
to shaded courtyard on the promenade on the beach side. This is one of our favorite places and we
had a refreshing drink at their open air lobby bar. This
shaded area is a beautiful, comfortable,
and friendly retreat that looks out over the bay right there alongside the promenade.

Later, after some more shopping and then cooling off for a while in the local Casino, we headed back
to the ship and again, as with the previous two ports, we were back onboard ship about noon or a
little after.  

Since Deanna takes her 1-2 hour nap every day around 1 PM, it all worked out well by coming back
onboard early. As I mentioned before, after her nap, we always sit out on our balcony for a while
and munch on some cheeses and cookies while enjoying a glass or two of wine and today was just
another one of those special “events.”

Our next two days were sea days as we started back on our long trip to Ft. Lauderdale.  

New Years Eve, on our first sea day coming home, was quite a celebration onboard ship. All the main
festivities were held on Deck 5 -- the
Royal Promenade area.  

This part of the ship is about 400 feet long, 70 feet wide and at least 2 stories high -- like walking
around in a huge mall. It is directly below Central Park -- 2 decks above. You can see it up through
the ceiling via two huge glass covered apertures (large, oblong structures that rise up inside
Central Park).  

There are many shops on the Promenade -- restaurants, bars,
Pizza place, coffee house, cup cake
store, fine dining, camera place, jewelry stores, etc. When you are walking along there, it is very
hard to realize or visualize that you are actually just strolling along on one of the many decks on a
very large cruise ship.  

On the second level of the Promenade (the aft end) was the Ship's Photo Gallery on one side and
across from it on the other side was the fabulous Schooner Bar. Deanna and I enjoyed this place --
sitting out alongside the railing and watching all the folks
down below walking around on the
Promenade Deck was fascinating.

Anyway, the photo gallery was absolutely amazing. This gallery was not like it was on of all the
other cruises we've been on where you had to stand before 7-foot high panels with thousands of
pictures lined up in rows that you had to meticulously search through to find your pictures.

This gallery had revolving circular devices that were about 7 feet tall and had narrow vertical
slots on multiple levels that contained hundreds of actual photo albums/binders. To find your
pictures, all you had to do was look on your cruise card for your "Photo Number" (ours was 11-99),
find the photo rack that matched your number (11) and then retrieve your numbered binder (99).

Bing, bang, boom -- all YOUR photos that had been taken that day by the ship's photography crew
-- like when you get off the ship in port and you poise by the sign welcoming you to bla-bla -- were
there in the folder. So were any other photos taken by the ship's photographers of you like at your
dining table, or somewhere else onboard ship.

This was great -- saved lots of time -- believe me -- from looking through thousands of photos the
old way. However, one thing for sure became abundantly crystal clear to both Deanna when we first
saw all this.

All this stuff we see on TV shows (usually police dramas like N.C.I.S, or CSI Miami, etc.) wherein
they show all this high-tech stuff like facial recognition tools is for real -- 100% scary real.

Just imagine, taking thousands of pictures of people per day and then via a facial recognition
program, comparing the faces in the photos to the database of faces already captured. The
database --remember what I said earlier about your picture being taken when first checking in
and used every time you leave or enter the ship?

I could see this maybe if they did it once and took weeks to match up pictures. But to do it in
almost real-time fashion -- take pictures in morning of thousands of people leaving ship and then
that night, having them sorted all out into thousands of photo album for you to look at is
mind boggling.

Also, instead of looking through pictures in your binder after you retrieved it, you could have just
walked up to a photo kiosk, inserted your cruise card and boom -- same thing -- all your pictures
available to you digitally.

One of the neatest things located in the Promenade is The Rising Tide Bar that moves up and down
between the Promenade Deck where we were and Central Park up on Deck 8. The bar movement is a
very slow and takes about 10-15 minutes to go between the two decks. When the bar is fully raised
up, the area where it rests when lowered, is an
active water feature -- dancing waters highlighted
by multi-colored spot lights.

They had 10,000
balloons tied up to the ceiling in quick release nets and when the magic hour finally
arrived that night, they let them all go. There must have been at least 3,500 people in the
Promenade area --
wall-to-wall -- you could hardly move by midnight.  

We sat on the side line (café chairs set out in front of Sorrento’s Pizza Place) of all the traffic
walking by (until it was so crowded, no one could move). While walking by us was still possible,
Howie Mandel (celebrity host of “Deal or No Deal” TV show) walked by us and I spoke with him a
few seconds and “bumped fists” with him when he left us. He had his wife and one daughter (that I
saw) with him as well as his parents.

I was amazed that he was walking around so close to so many people since he is so obsessive about
germs, touching people, etc. I saw
Howie again the next day down in Central Park. I was there in the
park while Deanna was taking a nap and I was perched at the local bar there in the park enjoying a
cool one when he walked by and said hello. We talked briefly about how great the cruise was, having
fun, etc. All was just low key, friendly small talk -- trying not to draw attention to him. I’m sure he
was thankful that for the most part, folks onboard were respecting his privacy and letting him just
relax like they were trying to do.

Anyway,
Jane Seymour was also there near us (she is one of the “Godmothers” of the Oasis of The
Seas) on New Years Eve. She was standing with the Cruise Director on the Rising Tide Bar that was
stopped about half way up and helped the crowd count down the final 20 seconds on the count-down
clock they had installed in the middle of the Promenade Deck.

It was wildly thunderous at midnight when the crowd welcomed in the New Year. All the balloons
that were now down on the floor and those held by people were being popped by the hundreds,
people were yelling and screaming and lots of folks were blowing horns and rattling noise makers
that had been given out earlier in the dinning areas after the evening meal.

It was wonderful. The
lighting (all colors) on the walls and ceiling in the Promenade area was
constantly
changing -- all computer controlled -- and with that and the live band up on their own
platform between the countdown clock and the Schooner bar belting out music, it was a wild and
joyous occasion -- we loved it!  

We literally could not move. We had stood up for the final 20-second countdown and yelled and
celebrated like all those around us. Deanna finally sat back down in her wheelchair after a while
and it took us over 30 minutes to finally make our way out of the area and get to an elevator to
head up to our room. Normally, it would have only taken 20 seconds to go from where we were to
the elevators nearby.

We saw several great shows onboard this cruise -- including a fantastic stage production (ship’s
company personnel) of “Hairspray.” The show was fantastic with all of the neat stage sets (props)
and the acting, singing parts were outstanding -- truly professional “Broadway” caliber of
performances by all of the actors.  

In Studio B -- a large ice skating arena on Deck 4 -- we saw a great ice skating show one night
called “Frozen in Time” that played off the themes of several Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales
like the “Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Suit.”  The dancers/skaters were from many
different countries and their performances were truly mesmerizing -- especially with all the
colorful costumes that they wore.

Then there was a great performance by the Sir Elton John impersonator, Jonathan Kane who gave a
fantastic show featuring all of Elton’s major hits. This guy (only one authorized by Elton to
impersonate him) looks like him, acts like him, dresses like him, and of course plays the piano and
sings just like him. If you were to just walk in cold to one of his shows you would never guess that it
was not the real Sir Elton John performing on stage.

In addition to the “Hairspray” and “Jonathan Kane” shows that were presented in the huge
1380-seat Opel Theater at the bow of the ship on Deck 4 & Deck 5 for the balcony seats, was a
fantastic aerial acrobatic show called “Come Fly With Me.” The players were all attached via wires,
cables, etc., and literally were able to fly all around and over the stage as well as out over
the audience.  

We also attended a great water show called “Oasis of Dreams” in the 600-seat Aqua Theater on
Deck 6 on the stern of the ship. All of the acting and actions occurred in and over the
large pool
there that also can serve as a stage. It can do this because the stage has holes in it and it can rise
and lower itself (all or different sections of it) within the pool and allow for all sorts of activities
from full synchronizing swimming and 18-meter high diving acts, to say something like allowing
someone to appear to be wading across a shallow pond.  

All in all, the entertainment was wonderful and of course, the food as well. I gained NINE POUNDS
-- God, I ate SO MUCH on this cruise. We ate breakfast every morning up in the Windjammer Café
on Deck 16. The food selections were fantastic as always and the
views out of the windows were of
course fantastic because we were so high up.

I always park Deanna at a
window seat and then go fix a plate for her. She never knows what
combination I will come up with. So far, all my choices have been successful. With so many choices
to choose from, it was both a challenge and pleasure to try to put together something different
each day.

As I had mentioned earlier, our evening dinners were great not only because of the great dinner
companions we had been paired with but also because of the fantastic menu selections we were
presented with each night. Deanna has always been the most “adventurous” one when it comes to
trying out new things to eat and I have to admit, cruising has made me more “agreeable” to trying
out new foods.

I had also briefly mentioned us going to the Royal Casino onboard and giving freely to their 401K
plans. We enjoyed our times (every night for at least one hour) in the Casino immensely and except
for one small incident, had a great time playing the “slots.”  

One night, we were prevented from playing certain of our favorite slot machines because some rich
woman had them (10 in a row) locked out so only she could play them -- whenever she got around to
getting her always loud mouth, crass, drunk self to the Casino. We know this because we saw her in
action several times.  

When we complained about this (locking out 10 machines in a row so she could run back and forth to
play all of them at once, we were told), two junior management people told us “That is how they
made their money … from the rich players like her and that it didn’t matter if we liked it or not!”  

I went into immediate steamed mode. But what got me really livid was when I was told all this crap
again by a third casino manager who then followed these insults up with holding his hand up and
waving his fingers back & forth -- gesturing to us that we were dismissed and to go away -- while
saying, “You can just go find some other machine to play on.”

I immediately turned around, pushed Deanna away (she was almost in tears) and parked her at a new
set of machines while I headed straight to Guest Services.

Minutes later I was there making a formal complaint to the officer on duty and as I spoke, she was
keying it all in. I finished my account of the events (by now, everyone at Guess Services, both crew
and passengers, were all quiet and listening to me … you know how low key & quiet I get when I am
mad/upset) by telling her that neither my wife nor I had paid thousands of dollars to come on a
Royal Caribbean cruise to be so totally insulted by low-level, no-class Casino workers.

She said she was sorry we had experienced such an ordeal and that she was immediately forwarding
my complaint to RCCL’s home office in Miami. She read back to me what she had written, especially
about the hand gesturing part, and asked me was her account accurate? I said yes, she hit the Send
Button, and I thanked her for her genuine concern and headed back to the Casino.  

Minutes later I was back with Deanna and she said she was done with the Casino and just wanted to
go back to the room.  As soon as I opened the door, I saw the red message light on our phone
blinking.  The message was from the top Casino Manager onboard ship saying that he had just been
notified by the Miami home office that three of his employees had rudely insulted two guests in his
Casino and he pleaded with me to please come down and see him in the Casino.

Ten minutes -- from complaining, note to Miami management, them back to the Casino Manager, and
he back to me -- my complaint must have “caught” someone’s eye really bad.  

I went down to the Casino and we had a long talk. He profusely apologized up one side and down the
other and assured me that the three individuals in question -- he already knew who they were --
would be thoroughly disciplined for their totally unprofessional and uncalled for actions with and
against Deanna and I.

I ended my conversation with the manager by telling him that since he really did not know us that
he had no idea how much money we also had been, repeat HAD been, willing to spend in his Casino.
His sudden realization of this fact and his facial expression of, “We really messed up” was
satisfaction enough for me. I thanked him for his apology and left.  

Once again, I want to say that the RCCL staff onboard were absolutely great in the way they
treated me and handled my complaint. We were told that the casino itself is third-party run
operation and its staff, etc. are actually employees of that company and not RCCL herself. Oh, they
all have the RCCL name badge on but that's just for show. In all of our cruises before, the casino
staff was always first class -- never, ever had any problems. Maybe this was a whole new crew, not
yet used to how casinos onboard a ship differ (in the way guest are treated) from casinos located
on land some where.

Anyway, excluding the annoying kiss-off incident, we had a great time in the Casino and basically
came out even with all our wins and losses. What really matters, in the Casino, was us thoroughly
enjoying playing the penny slots and just having fun -- win or loose.

Another wonderful treat that the Oasis of The Seas gave to all who sought them out, were objects
called "Small Wonders." There were 42 of them spread out over the entire ship. All involved looking
into or down into tall brass objects about 3 feet high.

Some of the objects were like a fat looking
telescope sitting down on its large lens piece. The top
eye piece acted like a large magnifying glass. Others were like some sort of a whimsical looking
microscope about 3 feet high with two exaggerated eyes pieces that were curved over for you to
look into.

A few of the objects were like a tiny, brass port holes in a wall, like one I found in a narrow passage
way between two elevator lobbies.  I only found this one because I saw a man holding up his son so
that he could see through its eye piece (the port hole device itself).

No matter how configured, you were rewarded for looking through the viewing eye pieces with
absolutely beautiful scenes -- like gem
crystal formations or stacks of star fish, etc. Each viewing
object had a
name plate close by that described what you were looking at. What was great was that
the signs also said that there were 42 of them onboard the Oasis and that you had to explore the
ship all over to find them.  

Alas,  I only found about 25 of them.  Some were so inconspicuous as to where they were placed and
others stood out like a sore thumb. Bottom line -- they were a fun and beautiful thing to seek out
and enjoy the rewards of a found object.  I guess what this really means is that we might HAVE to
take just one more cruise on the Oasis so that I can find the other 17 Small Wonder objects that I
missed on this cruise :-)

Well, I guess that about wraps up our fabulous 7-night Western Caribbean New Years Eve Holiday
Cruise on the largest and most amazing cruise ship ever built -- the magnificent Oasis of The Seas.

Bottom line -- it was a great cruise but we are glad to be back home. Now we can relax in our
favorite chairs and dream and plan out our next great adventure.
The End ...
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