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Tom & Mary’s Cruise Review (All-In-One)

Guest Bloggers, Tom & Mary Milano
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, January 30, 2010

I’d like to introduce you to our friends, Tom & Mary Milano.  When we returned from our first cruise in 1999, we called our travel agent 016to book another cruise.  (We started our travel agency in  2005, because we loved cruising so much!)  We were still pretty much cruise novices, so I enjoyed browsing the Internet to find more information about our ship, our itinerary, and cruising in general.  Among the many people I met online was Tom and Mary Milano.  Tom and Mary were contributing editors of a cruise website at that time, writing amazing reviews of every cruise they took, including fun stories of romance aboard a cruise ship. 

Roger and I credit Tom and Mary’s writings with saving us from divorce.  Well, sort of!  After our first cruise, we thought it would be fun to take some dance lessons, so we could really enjoy dancing on our next cruise.  Turns out, I dance divinely with the male dance instructor, and Roger can really cut a rug with his dance partner/instructor, but when they put us together, he was a hesitant lead, and I was a bossy overbearing partner.  We decided to quit dance lessons rather than divorce, and, about that same time, Tom and Mary posted another cruise review about their own frustrations with dance lessons.  In their review, they described their decision to revert to their World War 2 “slide and glide” dancesteps on the cruise dancefloor. 

I suspect Tom and Mary are actually very good dancers, but as Roger and I read that review together, we said, we can do that, and we hit the dance floor together every cruise.  Roger will tell you, there’s nothing I love more than for him to ask me to dance.  I know he really doesn’t love dancing, so he shows me how much he loves me every time he offers his hand, asking me to dance.  And, we probably lean and sway more than slide and glide, but we feel like we are dating again as we dance, and that’s one of the reasons we love Tom and Mary Milano!  Tom and Mary also send daily emails and Facebook messages of encouragement, devotion, and blessing, that start my day off right. 

When Tom and Mary recently sailed Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and returned saying they did not plan to write a review, I begged them to write their review as a guest blogger here, and they agreed.  So, over the next few days, I know you’re going to enjoy reading the delightfully unique review from Tom and Mary’s perspective. 

The Oasis of the Seas

TomMaryA Little Something About Us: From 2000-2006, we were contributing editors and had our own cruise review page on a major cruise review site. During that six year period, more than 200,000 cruise enthusiasts visited our site. As our regular readers know and you are about to know, Mary and I are romantics.  We live our lives one day at a time and we take a great deal of pleasure in doing nice things for each other. We started cruising in 1996 and I found that the ambience of the ship and the serenity we felt while being at sea was the perfect atmosphere to practice some serious marriage maintenance. We enjoy cruising because we can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love, than when cruising. That is why we look at each of our cruises as another ‘Honeymoon’, another chance to relive that time in our lives that was so special. We just returned from our 50th ‘Honeymoon’ and like every one of them, it was very special. We have seen a lot of sunsets and it may be hard to believe, but our life is getting better and more fruitful each and every day. We know it’s the thoughts we carry in our mind and the things we do that make us feel this way. Some people are turned off at the slightest mention of how one feels about life and relationships. If you are of that nature, you may not want to read this review.

Royal Caribbean Has The Most Beautiful Ships: Different industries have different awards. Motion pictures have the Oscar’s; Broadway has the Tony’s and the TV industry has the Emmy’s. If there was a best ship award, the Royal Caribbean design team would sweep the field. They are in a class by themselves. The designers of the public areas do a superb job of blending a combination of materials that have a beautiful visual affect. They do all the areas of a particular location with a thoroughness you don’t often see. As much thought is given the ceilings areas, as is given the walls and the floors. Then they further enhance these beautiful settings with a P1010001_0001variety of exquisite furnishings. Not only are their designs beautiful and innovative, they are extremely functional. On the new Oasis, as it is on the Eagle Class ships, it is very easy to get around the ship. The traffic patterns are so well laid out, that you get the feeling you’re on a ship half its size. There are many beautiful cruise ships, but in our humble opinion, they pale in comparison to the ships of the Royal Caribbean line. Regardless of how many cruises you may have made, if you haven’t cruised on an ‘Eagle Class’ ship and now, the new magnificent ‘Oasis of the Seas’, you will be dumbfounded by the brilliance of the design. The Royal Promenade, and now the new ‘Central Park’ and ‘Boardwalk’ neighborhoods as they are called, on the ‘Oasis of the Seas,’ are unlike anything you’ve seen on any other cruise ship. It is without a doubt the most innovative, unique design of public areas that the cruise industry has ever seen. It is hard to find the words to adequately describe it, but we’ll do the best we can. more »

Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center

My DH Roger and me

My DH Roger and me

Our Marine son suggested we spend one of our days on Oahu over the holidays visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center.  We purchased tickets for the day with his military discount, which included a luau in the evening, and a live presentation, “Ha Breath of Life”, plus the opportunity to return for another day’s visit at no additional charge within three days of our original visit.   What an amazing place!  We didn’t realize that the Polynesian Cultural Center was created to provide work study opportunities for the students of the nearby Brigham Young University Hawaii, while allowing them to share their island heritage with the visitors. 

Great demonstrations, dances, songs and more for each different island group, including Fiji, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Aotearoa (New Zealand).  Each of these have a separate island village inside the Polynesian Cultural Center.  As we watched, listened, and participated, we got a taste of the differences between each cultural.  One of the things we learned was the Hawaiian hula is a slow smooth beautiful dance that tells a story, but American movies combined that with the fast hip-shaking dance from Tahiti, because that made the dances fit the rock ‘n roll movies better. 

Our kids, Rachel, 17 and Eric, 28

Our kids, Rachel, 17 and Eric, 28

We soon realized that a short day beginning at 3 in the afternoon wasn’t going to satisfy us, so we wrapped up our day to head to our luau already planning to return the next day.  So, here’s our tips to make the most of your day at the Polynesian Cultural Center: 

  • Arrive a little before Noon.  The villages begin their shows and demonstrations at Noon, so the early you arrive, the more you can get done. 
  • Pick up your guide at the Information desk just beyond the Ticket booth.  That guide will give you times for each activity, so you can kind of plan your day. 
  • Don’t miss the “Rainbows of Paradise” Canoe Pageant.  Each island group performs from a canoe that passes by you in the lagoon.  Arrive about 15 minutes or so before the scheduled time to get the best seated view.  This was fun!  (One of the young men guiding a canoe was on his first day at work, and the exuberant island dancers intentionally rocked the canoe so hard with their dance, that he ended up soaking wet in the lagoon.  Apparently first day of work initiation.) 
  • Figure out where your luau is before it’s time to go to your luau.  We had tickets for a luau, and we’d passed a sign for a luau, so that’s where we headed, waited in line, just to be told at the door that there are six different luaus in the center and ours was at a different location.  And, consider upgrading to Ambassador ticket for a little more luxury all day, but especially for your dinner luau. 

Our entire family enjoyed the Polynesian Cultural Center, and we recommend that you and your family visit there as well!  Here’s some of our favorite photos from the day: 

Great Oahu Family Eats

Fun Family Dining in OahuWaikikiIntlMarketplace

We’re just back from our first trip to Hawaii.  Our son is a Marine stationed at Kaneohe Bay, so my husband, daughter, and I flew to Honolulu to spend Christmas with together as a family on Oahu.  Loved visiting Hawaii, but having our family together for the holidays in Oahu was priceless!  This trip was all about enjoying our family time, so we didn’t visit any of the fabulous restaurants or lounges that we’d normally check out in a new location.  But, I still have some fabulous meals that I can recommend in Oahu: 

  • Puka Dog:  Our Marine son, Eric, told us before we ever came that we’d have to try a Puka Dog when we visited, saying it was a great hot dog.  I’ve got to tell you … hot dogs are never on my list of special meals.  About the only time I eat hot dogs is when we’re watching baseball.  I agree with Eric … don’t miss dining on a Puka Dog.  We were even hoping to go back a second time during our visit, but we never made it.  The Puka Dog stand can be found at the rear to the International Market Place Waikiki.  Lots of options, but don’t worry – the staff will help you create the CheeseburgerInParadiseperfect Pooka Dog for you.  Your first choice is do you want a polish sausage or a veggie dog.  We all picked the polish sausage, but each of our Pooka Dogs were unique after that.  The next choice is the heat in the Garlic Lemon Secret Sauce, which ranged from Mild to Hot Hot.  Eric and I opted for Mild, Rachel chose a mid-range spicy, while Roger chose the Hot Hot Habanero sauce.  Each of us chose a different relish.  I opted for the pineapple relish – when in Hawaii, pineapple seemed like the right thing to choose.  There was one more choice after that, but the Puka Dog staffer paused only a moment before making a perfect recommendation for each of us.  We watched as our personal Puka Dogs were prepared.  They start with a small loaf of bread, which is pierced on a vertical hot metal spike, creating a toasty warm “puka” hole.  The seasonings, relishes, and sauces are piped into the “puka” hole, and the dog is added at the last, with one last drop of the sauce on the top pof the dog.  We loved the Puka Dog so much, we wondered if there was anyway to open a Puka Dog stand back home. 
  • Cheeseburger in Paradise Waikiki:  Roger and I tend to avoid chain restaurants like this as we travel, and hamburgers are not among my favorite foods, but Eric recommended this restaurant as well.  We’d just completed a hike to the top of Diamondhead and back down, and we were hungry, and those hamburgers hit the spot.  We each ordered a different hamburger, but shared one basket of fries.  I ordered the Cheeseburger Island Style, which was a big burger grilled in teriyaki sauce with a grilled pineapple on top.  I normally do not eat a whole hamburger, but I ate it all.  This open air restaurant with a view of Waikiki beach across the street was the perfect place to refuel and recharge for a little beach time after our Diamondhead adventure!  You’ll find it between DSCN0803the Sheratan Moana Surfrider and the Outrigger Waikiki, and it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
  • Big Wave Shrimp Bus:  This was the last of Eric’s recommendations and another big hit with the family.  There’s lots of buses parked along the road in North Shore serving fresh hot shrimp, but you’ll find the Big Wave Shrimp bus at the beginning of Haleiwa on the North Shore, next to One Love Surf Shop and Haleiwa Fishing Supply.  We again had choices of how we’d like our shrimp served.  This time Eric and I both chose the Garlic Shrimp, while Rachel and Roger opted for the Spicy Shrimp.  Roger loved the Spicy Shrimp, but it was a little too spicy for Rachel, and she was soon dipping her fork in my Garlic Shrimp, which was marvelous.  We ate at picnic tables under the canopy of a beautiful tree near this colorful bus, and this was the perfect end to our North Shore beach day.  We wrapped up the meal with one of Matsumoto’s famous shaved ice from the nearby Matsumoto General Store.  If you get “Da Works”, you’ll have a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with a heaping globe of shaved ice, flavored with up to three different flavors, with a sweet snow cap!  I thought this was way too sweet, but everyone else loved it, so it’s still one of my top family recommendations. 

If you have any other Oahu family recommendations, please leave your comments below.  It will help many others!  And, you can see more of our Hawaii pics at this link.  Enjoy!

First Time Cruisers?

You gotta laugh … DSCN0274

When we took our first cruise years ago now, we weren’t Internet savvy and hardly any of our friends had ever taken a cruise.  Everything we knew about cruising was written in the cruise brochure or the cruise documents.  So, we boarded the ship for our cruise ignorantly bliss, and now we know, first time cruisers are so easy to spot:  more »

Oasis of the Seas Scavenger Hunt

And, the answers are … Oasis1

The Cruise Planners agents did a scavenger hunt during our two-day cruise aboard the Oasis of the Seas.  We found answers as we traveled around the ship, and here are the questions with the correct answers, which I thought you might enjoy:  more »