The biggest free show afloat?

//The biggest free show afloat?

caroasis.jpgOK, so we’ve been among the first to experience Oasis of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world. We have sailed from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas and back in the sort of grey and rainy weather we could have expected in the English Channel.
We have gasped at the breathless AquaShow, with its high divers and synchronised swimmers acting out an incomprehensibly dramatic pantomime through the medium of dance. We have wondered why a bar which rises and descends between the shopping mall of the Royal Promenade and the leafy Central Park should be in any way fascinating, or why there should a be a sports car on board (above).
But these are just a tiny fraction of the activities and attractions designed to provide round-the-clock entertainment for the 6,000-plus passengers the ship will carry each week. Not to mention the seemingly endless choice of food available from more than 20 venues around the ship.
Most of them are included in the fare, and while it would be possible to run up a sizeable bill for extras in the form of expensive spa treatments (£200 for a gold leaf facial, for example), premium restaurants, and excursions (though not too many of those could be squeezed into a seven-night cruise with only three ports of call) it’s equally feasible to spend a week on board without adding to the bill except for the cost of drinks.
And I can’t, unfortunately, comment on those because on my three-day cruise among members of the media and travel trade from around the world, the drinks were absolutely free. Bars were even offering free cigarettes, as an Irish colleague discovered when he decided he couldn’t face the 10-minute trek back to his cabin to break open the duty free bought at the airport on the way to Florida.
So let’s examine how much some of those activities would cost if they were indulged in during a weekend at home or a holiday at any typical resort.
A night at the theatre, for example. On Wednesday I was among the audience of almost 1,400 giving a standing ovation to the performers who had given the premier performance of Hairspray The Musical at sea. Not a cut-down 45-minute selection of highlights which might have been expected for an after-dinner show on a cruise ship, but the full 90-minute Broadway show.
If I had wanted to see Phil Jupitus and Belinda Carlisle in the West End version of the same show at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, I would have had to shell out £64.50 per ticket for a seat in the stalls. Not to mention the train fare and taxis.
The previous night I watched note-perfect tribute band Abbacadabra on the same stage. Mamma Mia it wasn’t, but tickets for a similar tribute show at Wembley Arena (hard seats, hard floor) next month are going for £42.25 each.
After an evening in the theatre, I wandered into the intimate comedy club for a spell of rib-tickling fun. A night out at a Jongleurs club back home could have set me back as much as £50, and I would have had to pay more if I had chosen – as I did – to leave there and spend some time in the jazz club next door.
In the afternoon I sat entranced as world champion ice skaters in colourful costumes performed Frozen In Time, based on the fairy stories of Hans Christian Andersen. If I want to see Cinderella on Ice at the Royal Albert Hall in February, a rinkside seat would cost me £49.50. When the rink in the ship’s Studio B venue is not being used for shows, it’s available for passengers – and there’s free skate hire. Cost of a family ticket for the riink at the Tower of London this Christmas? £30.
If I had been feeling energetic earlier in the day I could have embarrassed myself by taking a tumble on one of the ship’s two FlowRider surf simulators. There’s nowhere in the mainland UK where I could have a go on one of these million-dollar aquatic torture chambers, although a few are planned. When it opens in May, the Bodyflight Flowhouse in Bedford will be charging £49 for a half-hour session.
There’s a gentler way of taking to the water, in one of the four pools on deck 15. One is a beach pool – without sand, but with a gentle sloping entry to the water. One is the children’s H2O zone with a psychedelic squirting octopus among the attractions, and there’s more than a dozen whirlpool baths around the ship, including two giant ones cantilevered almost at funnel-height above the ocean, and complete with flat-screen TV sets in case the bubbles (or the conversation) get boring. Cost of a family session at the Coral Reef pool in Bracknell – £18.95.
Towelled off and changed, I could have worked up a sweat on one of Oasis’s two five-deck high climbing walls. or taken my breath away on the zipwire ride, suspended eight decks above the Boardwalk. A training session at a similar facility in the UK would cost about £25.
There was neither time nor, to be honest, the inclination, for the ship’s extensive gym where, apart from extra-cost activities such as Pilates classes or spinning, the vast variety of cross-trainers, treadmills, and other pieces of equipment rigged with ropes and weights is free to use. Had I been a member of the Reebok gym when I worked at Canary Wharf, I would have had to charge £96.89 a month to my credit card for the privilege.
My cruise experience is more likely to involve gaining weight in the restaurant rather than shedding it on the jogging track (12 circuits would have taken me 12 miles if I’d had the energy).
And while there’s any number of extra-cost restaurants on board – from the cupcake shop to the steakhouse – it’s possible to spend a week on board eating extremely well in the Windjammer marketplace, the cafes in Central Park and the Royal Promenade, and in the huge 3,000-capacity, three-storey Opus dining room, without spending any more money except on a glass of lager or a bottle of wine.
Top of the range of premier restaurants is 150 Central Park, with menus masterminded by award-winning chef Keriann Von Raesfeld (no, me neither, but apparently the 23-year-old is big in America, where she was named Young Cook of the Year in 2008). Unlike other celebrity chefs who have lent their names to cruise ship restaurants, she is on board full-time.
When asked how the restaurant got its name, Royal Caribbean president Adam Goldstein joked that it was because meals there were worth $150 a head, rather than the $35 charged. At least I think he was joking.
All this and we haven’t even touched on the karaoke bar, the classy-looking Dazzles night club or the dungeon-like Daze. The endless children’s facilities, or the peaceful adults-only Solarium, an oasis of calm on Oasis.
But it all goes to show what great value a cruise can be – even on the newest, biggest and blingiest ship afloat.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:35+00:00 29 November 2009|Cruise Ships|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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