First Time Cruiser’s Review of Oasis of the Seas

When R first broached the subject of going on a cruise, I freaked out more than a little. I tried to talk him out of it, and suggested we do an all inclusive resort instead. It’s the same thing, right, only not surrounded by endless water and people! I already felt claustrophobic and I wasn’t even onboard yet.

However, we had too good of a deal to pass up–so it was now or never. We settled on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the seas Western Caribbean tour–Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, and Czumel Mexico. Thus began two months of obsessive research. (I have to give a huge shout out to Matt at RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com because without his site, I never would have felt prepared or comfortable with cruising.)

Oasis of the Seas is a MASSIVE ship. It’s one of the biggest in the world, and more than a few veteran cruisers told us we had spoiled ourselves by not sailing on a smaller class first. It definitely took us a few days to orientate ourselves–thank goodness I had watched so many Youtube tours and already kind of knew what things looked like! She is separated into “neighborhoods”–each with it’s own personality. We could be found in the Royal Promenade and Central Park most often–though I suspect in our next cruise I’ll take more time in the Solarium, too.

Why those two locations? They hold our favorite watering holes–and unlike many cruisers, for us that didn’t mean pools. Have you met us? We have more freckles than the sky has stars. We had two great loves on Oasis:  Schooners and Vintages. If we weren’t in one, we were in the other–and on the rare occasion we separated, we usually met back up at those places.

Schooners holds Trivia every few hours. The topics are random, but we made most of them–and even placed second in the 3 day Progressive trivia! Go Team “Move Over Rose!” (Yes, that IS a Titanic reference on a cruise ship, thank you very much.) The bar has a nautical theme and is draped with ropes, ship decor and mermaid figureheads. Most any drink can be made there, but their official menu leans on old-fashioneds and Tom Collins. My recommendation:  the New-Fashioned, which is a raspberry version!

In the hours before dinner, you could usually find us at Vintages. This bar, placed in Central Park near Chops and Giovannis, feels more upscale than others. And yes, in it you’ll find classy wood cases of outrageously expensive wine (and even the world’s largest bottle of wine). But Royal Caribbean stocks great wine for every budget, and there was at least one of every style for us to drink that met our package requirements. The guys behind the bar were spectacular servers–Xavier, Benjamin, and especially Dali showed us every courtesy while we were there. Dali leads wine tastings on sea days–French, Californian, and Italian–we didn’t do the French and regret it! He’s a proficient teacher–it’s more than just a quick swill, move on sort of tasting. We learned about regions, how to pair with cheeses, how to work with a sommelier–for beginners like us, it was an invaluable experience.

While we are in Central Park, let me tell you about the meal that made me cry. No, I’m not kidding, it actually brought tears to my eyes. I haven’t had a meal do that to me in a long time. Royal Caribbean has become famous for its specialty restaurant of late–they’ve really been building them up more and more. Everyone knows Chops and Sabor–those two came highly recommended. But the fanciest one on Oasis is 150 Central Park. We purchased a First Night Done Right package, which gave us the opportunity to try one restaurant for only $15/per person–but RC had to choose our reservation. And we got 150!

Our meal started with bread and butter…with a twist. The butter was unsalted, and a white flower bowl was delivered. Inside was different salts from around the world–smoky, salty, and one even tasted like hard boiled eggs! You blended the salt with the butter before spreading it on your bread. It was a pretty cool gimmick. Just make sure you clear your knife of the egg one completely, because it will haunt you! BLECH.

The dinner comes with three courses–appetizer, entree, and dessert. I chose tuna tartare, scallops, and a bourbon chocolate tarte. R had squash soup, short ribs…and I think he had the tart too. I was pretty wrapped up in my own meal so I don’t remember his very well. My tartare was good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but good. There was a bit too much sauce, I think, and so it outshone the fish.

The scallops, though. That’s what made me cry. They were done in this smooth, creamy broth that I just wanted to swim in. I could eat that dish forever and still cry over it.

And then…AND THEN. The bourbon chocolate tart. I ate the tiniest bites to make it last as long as possible. I didn’t want it to be over. Every ingredient sang.

The service was wonderful too, and I’m kicking myself right now because I can’t remember the young man’s name. He was delightful and friendly, and started our cruise in such a magical way.

I’ve saved the best service for last. Nothing else on the ship compared to the main dining room in experience. Our waiters, Roman and Noelise introduced themselves as soon as we entered and from then on we were in love. They went out of their way to make us feel like both friends and royalty–a combination that is not easy to accomplish.

Eating in the main dining room was my favorite part of the cruise–and it’s a part of the week I won’t soon forget. The food was amazing of course–but it’s the people that made it truly unforgettable. We were seated at a huge table, and the first night we were there, it was just us and one other couple. They were our age, and we hit it off immediately. The next night, an older couple joined us and we all just fell madly in love with each other. Between the six of us and our two incredible waiters–I’d wager we had the best table of the week, hands down. We all scheduled our events around dinner, and even went to shows together afterwards! On the last night, we all stood in a circle and danced, maybe shed a few tears for the ending week, and gave lots of goodbye hugs.

On cruises, you probably won’t learn everyone’s name that you meet. In fact, you are way more likely to hear “where are you from” than what’s your name?” But it is the stories that you will treasure most as souvenirs. There are 6,000 people on the ship, and you will find some kind of bond with at least two people every day. It’s so easy to be nice–everyone is on vacation–so sit down and have a friendly glass of wine with your shipmate. No one is a stranger on a cruise. Who knows who you’ll meet. You may never see that person again…or you may make a lifelong friend.

And always be kind to your servers. You get to leave after a week. They do this every day without a break for months. It’s hard, exhausting work.

This was long, I know. And I have SO MUCH MORE I want to talk about. Don’t be surprised if you see more about my cruise in the coming weeks. I have so many people asking about it, so I wanted to get some thoughts down right away. Royal Caribbean did not sponsor this–we just really loved our time on Oasis of the Seas. So much that we’ve already booked Harmony of the Seas for next year! It’s going to be a long wait!

If you have questions about my cruise experience or have something you want me to discuss in upcoming posts, leave a comment!

Happy cruising!

Taking a Break

I am going to take a little bit of a break. I have a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks, and this is what my brain looks like right now:

 

I had a horrible day yesterday, and my anxiety brain was telling me to shut the whole blog down, just stop and not come back. I don’t want to do that, but that’s usually a good indicator that I need to step away for a little while, bring myself back, and find my focus again. I have a lot of reading to do in the mean time, so I’ll come back with some great reviews and a full schedule–probably at the beginning of November.

Make sure to follow me on all the rest of my social media, because I’ll still be posting as usual there.

Twitter:  Hmills96

Instagram:  ilayreading

Facebook:  ilayreading

Snapchat:  hmills96

Vacation

 

Hey ya’ll, the hubby and I are heading home to visit family, so I’ll be on hiatus for awhile. I should start posting again around March 21.

Until then…it’s going to be a week or so of this:

Shattered Blue

Being on vacation is doing really really good things to my reading count. As it is, I am writing this post a week in advance. I’ve written FOUR blogs today (which for you guys in the future is actually Tuesday Sept 8), and I don’t go back to work for another week! I am going to be sooooooo far ahead holy crap.

This would be a really great time to read something super long like Crime & Punishment…but this is vacation after all. Who wants to read Russian lit on vacation? NOT ME.

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Instead, I’ll stick to things like Shattered Blue. This was a cute little YA fantasy that took absolutely no time to read at all. We are talking an hour and a half, tops.

Noa recently lost her sister in an accident, and now has to face her boarding school without her. It’s awkward, and she hates how everyone looks at her. There’s a new boy, though, who takes a fascination with her, and they bond over poetry. There’s something so different about Callum–and after a very weird incident with a tree, he tells her he is Fae. Not the cute, dusty, winged kind either…his world is a scary one, in the middle of a civil war, and his family is right in the center of it.

I have a feeling this will be a popular one among YA fans. It rings the same bells as Twilight, which, while I didn’t read that whole series, I’ve read enough to know this follows the same kind of mystical patterns. Callum reminds me a lot of Edward–that seems great on the surface, but maybe the relationship isn’t all that healthy–kind of thing going on. And then there’s his brother Judah, who is very much the tough guy, very troubled, but doesn’t turn out exactly what you expect at first. Definite love triangle here, obviously.

I really liked the concept of the story–it had some Fae themes that I’ve seen before:  the Fae needing to consume light from humans in order to survive, different species of Fae fighting against each other. However, I feel like maybe this story just isn’t quite there yet. I can’t tell you exactly what is missing–I’m not sure myself what it is. Maybe the whole Isla storyline–I didn’t really understand why her ghost kept coming back, it seemed unnecessary and awkward–either do something more with it, or let her stay dead, or maybe just remove her altogether. I also didn’t see why the mother needed to “steal” Noa’s poetry to make it Isla’s, again, that whole part of the book was just strange. This is one of those books that I read where I just think it needs a bit more work before the final release. It has potential, it just hasn’t been realized yet.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 15.

 

BUY HERE:

The Wonders

Circuses never held the fascination for me that they do for so many people. I’m not sure why–maybe because I was always “the weird one” or maybe because I’m more observant than most–I was always able to see beyond the sparkle and flash. Sure, I loved seeing the exotic animals, but they were in such tiny cages. And the elephants absolutely filled the tents.

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Because of this, I now love reading about the “backstage” of circuses, and seeing what really happens–even if fictionalized. The Night Circus is one of those really wonderful stores, and Paddy O’Reilly’s The Wonders is a similar, though modernized version.

Fans of Erin Morgenstern are going to love this book. O’Reilly spins a tale of 3 “Wonders”–modern day sideshow freaks, who in today’s society become celebrities. One is a medical phenomenon, one a medical miracle, and the third is a supreme body modification artist.

At first, I thought the story a little far-fetched. I’d never go pay that much money to go see The Wonders myself. But, then..I’m also not the average rube. In our reality-TV addicted society–this story is probably exactly what would happen.

I will say that the treatment of disabled advocacy groups in this book left a bad taste in my mouth. I understand the point that was being made–but I do think the author wobbles on a very fine tightrope where this subject is concerned.

Overall, this was a very good vacation read. It was entertaining, and something I could pick up and put down easily, without forgetting what was going on. The book was just released this week, so be sure to look for it if you are a fan of circuses, or something just a little bit different.

 

Disclaimer:  This ARC was provided to me via NetGalley.

Food Philosophy

Anyone who follows me on Instagram or Twitter knows I love to eat.

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Good food, in my book, beats everything. So many memories come out of a good meal. There’s always good conversation–whether you are eating with family, or sitting alone at a pub, talking to a bartender, or fellow beer nerds.

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Everyone’s got to eat, and everyone has a strong opinion about their food. And when the conversation veers away from what is on the plate, topics range anywhere from life to books to politics and back again.

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I will almost never pass on the opportunity for a great meal. And that means I am never going to be a skinny woman. But hey, if good food and better conversation means I am not what society thinks is “beautiful,” than screw them.

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Pass the beer and cheese please.

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Thanks for being patient with me this week! I’m back from vacation, and I have a BUNCH of stuff to post in the next week or so. It was hard being away from the blog, I kept journaling posts to write! 🙂

Stay tuned!