- Royal Caribbean invited me to sail on its new Wonder of the Seas for two nights in early December.
- The world’s largest cruise ship had unique amenities I had never seen on a ship before.
- I’ve historically disliked cruises but the Wonder of the Seas is now my favorite ship.
I sailed on Royal Caribbean International’s new world’s largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas.
And to my surprise, the behemoth vessel made me forget that I don’t like cruises.
I’ve been on several cruises across several brands for work.
And so far, sailing on this new floating city has been my favorite trip.
Amenities like its eight neighborhoods, three water slides, and expansive pool deck provided more entertainment than I could have consumed during my two nights at sea.
And moving forward, it’ll be one of the only cruise vessels I’ll recommend when people ask me for suggestions.
Royal Caribbean International invited me to sail on its newest mega Oasis Class cruise ship in early December during a non-revenue sailing for media and travel agents.
Before I dive into the positives, let’s start with the most glaring negative: my $1,400 balcony stateroom.
My spacious hotel room at sea had grand views of the ocean and the most storage I’ve ever seen in a stateroom.
But its bland decor, poorly designed sink basin that constantly splashed water onto the countertop …
… and lack of toiletries — specifically conditioner and a separate body wash and shampoo — were disappointing, especially on such a wildly hyped cruise ship.
Despite its hefty price tag, the stateroom didn’t feel luxurious enough to compel me to spend more time in my home at sea.
It provided the essentials and nothing more.
But maybe a stateroom as boring as this is justifiable aboard a ship like the Wonder of the Seas.
Why spend excess time in your stateroom when you have a massive vessel with eight neighborhoods to explore?
Ultimately, two nights aboard the ship wasn’t enough time to experience all it had to offer even with a packed itinerary.
Even though I didn’t get to drink at every bar, dine at every restaurant, and lounge in every hot tub, the floating resort was still the most fun I’ve ever had on a cruise ship.
So I’ll just review what I was able to see and do during my two short nights aboard the ship.
The Wonder of the Seas has eight neighborhoods all with their own amenities, services, design, and activities.
One is exclusive to guests staying in suites, which I can’t speak to.
But neighborhoods like Central Park and Boardwalk were the big standouts.
Both looked nothing like a typical cruise ship.
Instead, Central Park resembled an outdoor mall filled with plants, shops, restaurants, and live music …
… while the Boardwalk looked exactly like what you’d expect.
Central Park had an energetic but quiet hum, creating a peaceful open-aired neighborhood.
It was one of the most relaxing spaces aboard the ship.
All of the plants, surrounding staterooms, live music, and dining venues made Central Park feel like a peaceful cocoon separate from the hustle and bustle of other neighborhoods.
And the only reminder that I was at sea was the balcony staterooms that formed a wall around the neighborhood.
I didn’t eat at any of the restaurants. But just walking around and enjoying the space was enough for me to call this one of my favorite neighborhoods aboard the ship.
The Boardwalk also became my go-to neighborhood.
But unlike the getaway feeling of Central Park, this neighborhood was far from peaceful.
Instead, I was impressed by how much it resembled a real wood-planked boardwalk filled with colorful accents …
… a carousel …
… a Johnny Rockets, and a hot dog stand.
Here, you can find children playing arcade games, crawling through the suspended and netted playground, and traversing the two rock climbing walls.
All the while, their parents can catch a game at the sports bar.
It’s a wholesome and exciting neighborhood.
And the hot dog stand and candy store were a nostalgic touch that reminded me of weekends at the beach with my family.
I’ve never seen spaces like the Boardwalk and Central Park aboard a cruise ship before.
And I found this creativity refreshing for a cruise brand.
It made me forget I was on my least favorite form of travel. And they’re two of the main reasons I now consider the Wonder of the Seas my favorite cruise ship.
However, the other neighborhoods weren’t as distinct in design and activities.
This includes the Royal Promenade, home of the ship’s Starbucks, grab-and-go dining like the pizza shop, more shopping …
… and some standout bars and lounges.
Fans of classic English pubs can grab a pint at Cask and Clipper …
… while those looking for something more unique can go to the bar manned with robotic arms instead of bartenders.
There’s also a karaoke bar across from another watering hole with live music and space to dance.
And if you’re indecisive about which deck you want to spend more time on, you can always drink at the Rising Tide bar. It’s a platform that rises and lowers between the Royal Promenade and above Central Park.
These are all unique drinking venues for a cruise ship.
But the decor and intention of the Royal Promenade too closely resembled a typical cruise ship atrium for my taste.
And I’m still not sure why there’s an out-of-place giant metal cowboy hat …
… and a Ford Mustang parked in this neighborhood.
To me, this was a “flyover” space. I spent little of my leisure time here.
But I definitely can’t say the same for the Wonder of the Seas’ pool deck.
There were expansive rows of bright lounge chairs surrounding the multiple pools.
And the colorful water slides, decor pieces, and bright accents all made this the most exciting pool deck I’ve ever seen.
The multicolored structures and decor made it difficult to visually focus on just one slide or pool.
It was admittedly an overwhelming and confusing sight even after two nights at sea.
So it’s no wonder there were always guests here during the day.
Young children could spend time together at the water playground …
… while their older siblings can race each other down the dual water slides.
The interior of these slides becomes completely dark mid-ride, adding an exhilarating and claustrophobic touch to the quick journey down.
But the third waterslide, which ends in a large toilet bowl-like structure, wasn’t nearly as exciting.
Instead, like other travelers, I got stuck and had to scoot myself toward the “drain” of the bowl.
But at least I was able to simmer off some of this embarrassment at one of the several hot tubs.
These water slides made me feel like a young child running around the water park with my friends.
It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in years. And like the Boardwalk neighborhood, I was hit with pleasant nostalgia.
During the day, this deck saw plenty of foot traffic as children splashed around and adults lounged with their mai tais and margaritas.
It was only ever quiet at night. And even then, the pool deck remained vibrant with plenty of multicolor accent lights.
It was an unnecessary touch given how empty the pool deck becomes after the sun sets.
But I still appreciated how exciting and photogenic it made the space look.
This pool deck was impressive but the family-friendly fun didn’t stop there.
The deck above this had even more activities, albeit a bit drier.
Here, the activities looked more similar to Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, which I sailed on in early October.
Similar to the Prima, the Wonder of the Seas had an underwater-themed mini golf course …
But unlike Norwegian’s new vessel, the world’s largest cruise ship also had a large children’s playground, sports court, surf simulator, and zipline that flies over the Central Park neighborhood.
I’ve never been on a cruise ship with this many outdoor activities for families — it’s enough to keep any family entertained for an afternoon.
And it was a stark contrast to the adults-only Solarium section of the vessel.
A Solarium with swimming pools and hot tubs isn’t a novel concept aboard a cruise ship.
But here, the dome-covered lounge was flooded with natural light that graced the large lounge chairs, animal topiaries, and multi-level pool.
It was unnecessarily spacious, which I recognize is not a common critique of cruise ship spaces.
But a cruise ship of this size definitely needs common spaces that can accommodate hundreds to thousands of people at once.
After all, the Wonder of the Seas can sail up to 7,084 guests and 2,204 crew.
So to feed this many mouths, the vessel has over 20 dining venues.
But it should be noted that over half of them are specialty restaurants that come at an additional cost.
The Wonder of the Seas has options like a teppanyaki restaurant, a taco and burrito buffet, and an 18-person restaurant.
But the Royal Caribbean team scheduled me for Hooked Seafood and the Mason Jar. The latter is a new-to-brand Southern restaurant with a live band.
Hooked Seafood was satisfactory with dishes like lobster and fish with a side of butter.
But the Mason Jar was unfortunately disappointing.
The cocktails — including one topped with a mini peanut butter and jelly sandwich — had a unique twist on classics.
But my main entree, fried chicken, was dry and flavorless. It was difficult to finish, and not just because the portions were massive.
However, I’m surprised to say the Wonder of the Seas had the best cruise ship buffet I’ve ever eaten at.
There were all-you-can-eat options like octopus and salmon tartare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen these on a cruise buffet before.
It made a simple complimentary buffet feel otherwise luxurious.
And I never thought I would say that about a dining venue like this.
I’m just as shocked to say that I genuinely enjoyed the entertainment aboard the Wonder of the Seas.
The majority of cruise ship shows I’ve seen have been song-and-dance performances, which I often find boring and unoriginal.
Before the Wonder of the Seas, I thought the Norwegian Prima — shown below — had the most well-executed and engaging onboard entertainment.
But now I’m not convinced.
Royal Caribbean didn’t have traditional shows.
Instead, its entertainment included an ice skating show and “inTENse,” an outdoor swim, dive, and dance performance.
There was also a superhero show with drones that fly around the theater but I didn’t have time for its showings.
The ice skating rink aboard the Wonder of the Seas doesn’t compare to the size of a typical hockey rink, of course.
But there was still plenty of room for the figure skaters to put on a wholesome show on ice.
Some scenes — like the one filled with emoji mask props — were tacky. But seeing talented figure skaters instead of people singing and dancing in unison was refreshing and fun.
However, I have no critiques for “inTENse.”
The exhilarating performance — paired with equally fiery music — was filled with divers, synchronized swimmers, and even a tightrope walker.
And its venue was just as unique.
The show’s home, the Aqua Theater at the end of the Boardwalk, was the first outdoor show venue I had ever seen on a cruise ship.
The dry stage rose and sank into the pool. And it’s one of the only times I didn’t want to leave a cruise show early.
Similar to the pool deck, it was a visually overwhelming show. There was so much happening, I didn’t know where to look.
It felt like watching an action movie. And I never thought I’d say that before sailing on the Wonder of the Seas.
The tide has turned: Maybe I do enjoy cruises now.
I hate feeling trapped with nothing to do aboard a floating resort. This has always been my biggest qualm with cruises.
But it’s nearly impossible to be bored aboard a vessel as large as the Wonder of the Seas, especially on a two-night cruise.
From the enormous pool deck to the unique neighborhoods that looked nothing like a ship, the onboard entertainment and amenities felt endless.
Its obvious Royal Caribbean really leaned into its family-friendly branding with this project.
But small touches like a surprise piano player who performs in random elevators at night created a fun environment for both children and adults.
I was so busy exploring I had no time to hide in my stateroom.
And despite this, I still didn’t have time to step foot into most of the bars or see all of the onboard entertainment.
Truthfully, cruises still aren’t my first pick for vacations, even if it’s on the Wonder of the Seas.
But if any of my friends or family invited me to sail with them on this floating resort, I would definitely say yes.
And it’ll be difficult for any future cruise to beat out Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas.