My husband and I were lucky to be chosen to take part in the simulation cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas which sailed from Bayonne, NJ (Cape Liberty Cruise Port). This was the first big ship to sail from the northeast since the pandemic sidelined travel so it was a big deal! These are just a few of my observations from our 6 days at sea.
Pier Check In:
This was a breeze, mostly because the Royal Caribbean App makes things much easier. Our passports and vaccine cards were checked a few times and we were asked to verify the information we provided for our health screening. We were then given blue plastic bands to wear that let everyone know we were vaccinated (not sure if each cruise will have different colors). It took less than half an hour to go through the check points and security and before we knew it we were greeted onboard by the ships officers and cruise director with applause! You could feel the excitement in the air and everyone really appreciated being onboard again.
The new and improved Royal Caribbean App really made this most dreadful part of starting your cruise super easy! Through the App you watch a short video on how to put on your lifejacket, then you can listen to the warning signal and it’s marked “completed” in the APP, then all you have to do is report to your assigned muster station and have the crew member scan your boarding pass then DONE!
New Health Protocols:
Since this was a simulation sailing there were a lot of new protocols to try for both ship staff and guests. Masks were not required in any outdoor setting but necessary indoors while walking around and being seated in either a lounge or restaurant, once seated you can remove your mask. Hand sanitizers and/or sinks are everywhere and you must either sanitize or wash your hands before entering any venue or restaurant. Physical distancing was encouraged as well. Your color-coded band identifies you as either vaccinated or unvaccinated and the crew will ask to check your band because if you are not fully vaccinated you cannot enter some areas such as the casino, lounges and some shows. There are signs with either “E” for everyone or “V” for vaccinated only.
What has changed:
Our experience on this cruise was a different one and the strictest as far as enforcing the new protocols so some of these changes may ease up as things start rolling again, I’m just going to state what I found to be major changes on this particular cruise.
- Pool capacity is strictly limited, the pool we liked had a limit of 9 people, the hot tub 6, there are staff members controlling this.
- Windjammer Buffet – open only at this time for breakfast and lunch. You cannot serve yourself anything, even drinks and condiments. After speaking with the staff, they are hoping to eventually add dinner service back in the future.
- The mini bar in our cabin was empty and more of a cooler than a fridge, not sure if this will be stocked for future sailings.
- Elevators are limited to 6 passengers unless you are traveling with a larger group.
- The Royal Caribbean App is everything! My advice is to download and get used to using it before you sail. The App is also a valuable tool to book shows, spa, dining, etc. There are no longer paper menus so you must scan “QR” codes. Paper menus were available however discouraged.
- We had “My Time” dining which is the flexible option, they are requiring reservations at this time which can be done in the App.
- Debarkation process had us wait in our cabin until our tag number was called, it was a little slow so I’m not sure how smooth that will be with more passengers on board. When we did get off the ship everything was really easy and we were on the road in no time.
There was a ton of great entertainment everywhere and we really enjoyed all the shows and music, you could tell that all the performers were happy to be back again. Our visit to Perfect Day @ Coco Cay was amazing, a must see especially for families. Protocols were enforced on the island as well but masks were not required. The food and the service were fantastic, even better then I remembered from prior Royal Caribbean sailings!
It does take a little bit to get used to cruising’s new normal but we felt like we were home again! Overall, it was a great time and we are looking forward to our next cruise!
Travel Specialist at Bethany Travel