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.

Tom’s Cruise Persona: During the period we were writing cruise reviews, our readers were familiar with the Wimpy character, (Tom’s cruise persona I refer to in our reviews), but for our new readers a quick explanation. Tom was one of those Italian kids in Brooklyn, who did things his way, the macho way. Dropping that macho image wasn’t easy, but leave it to his Mary, with her loving ways and endless patience, she made macho man see the benefits of doing those lovely little wimpy things that macho don’t do. In his latter years Tom began to realize when he did those lovely little wimpy things that women liked and Mary loved to have him do, his lovely Mary gave him a lot more reason to smile. Although Tom was macho, he wasn’t dumb. When Tom is at sea on another ‘Honeymoon,’ he takes on the Wimpy persona to its highest degree. He views cruising as the “Super Bowl Of Marriage Maintenance,” and uses these occasions to do all sorts of lovely little wimpy things for his Mary.

 Wimpy’s credo is, “A marriage may be made in heaven, but the maintenance is done on earth.”

Reviews of the Oasis: There are a gazillion reviews of the ‘Oasis of the Seas,’ and there will be gazillions more in the ensuing months. P1010012_0016Most of these reviews are well written and tell of every possible detail about the ship; the embarkation process, the disembarkation process, the tonnage, type propulsion system, passenger count, number of crew, description of the cabins, detailed accounts of the dining rooms, alternative restaurants, entertainment, how many tons of food consumed…  just about anything you could possibly want to know…  I am going to do something a little different.  Instead of repeating what you have already read in the many reviews on the Internet, I am going to tell you the standout things that impressed us, and something you seldom read about; how cruising has added a new dimension to our lives, and how it can so the same for you.  First, some of the things that got our attention.

Things That Impressed Us: Embarkation and Disembarkation: We arrived at the port at 1:00 and after parking my car I met Mary and we walked into the terminal and walked directly to the counter without anyone in front of us. Disembarkation wasn’t much different; we left the ship and was in our car and driving home by 8:35. This wasn’t by accident. When we cruised the ‘Freedom’ we had the same experience. 

Our Cabin:  We chose a Central Park Balcony.  There is a 21/2 X 3ft. flat screen interactive TV, with internet keyboard, and the TV swivels which allows viewing in bed. A great improvement over the usual cruise cabin TV’s. The daily planner is also on screen, with the daily menus of all the restaurants, and your own personalized schedule. It is also possible to book excursions and order room service from the TV.  They offer an extensive movie catalog of old and new releases. The best room service menu by far and we never waited more than 20-25 minutes for our order.. They even serve bacon and eggs,  and other items I haven’t seen on room service menu of any of the ships we’ve sailed.  The shower is a big improvement. No more getting caught up in the shower curtain.  A plastic circular shower door; a foot bar. Great for women when shaving their legs! The balcony table is larger than usual and gave us more room for the breakfast items. Loved the bathroom nightlight….When you turned the bathroom light off, it dimmed the light, but did not shut  off completely. No more blinding light in the middle of the night. I liked the phone. Just dial zero and an operator mentions the various venues with a single number to dial. BTW. The My Time dining room was run by four young ladies who do an outstanding job of handling the seating. The menu and the food was excellent.    

Neighborhoods: Our favorite was Central Park. The neighborhoods do a great job of keeping the guests spread out throughout the ship. 018It was the home of a number of restaurants and high end stores. This was our favorite place aboard the ship. It had a tranquil setting and when we were walking along the tiled path between the extensive plantings, for a moment you forget your on a cruise ship. It was nice being able to sit and relax on a park bench, with a slight breeze blowing through the park.

Our favorite restaurant was the Park Café. We had breakfast there most mornings and a number of lunches. In the salad area, you pick the things you want in your salad and what kind of dressing and the server behind the counter puts all the ingredients in a metal bowl and vigorously tosses  it for a minute or so and you have a delicious salad.           We had dinner at Chops and we were disappointed. We had dinner at Chops on the ‘Freedom’ and it was one the best Rack of Lamb dinner we’ve had in years. That wasn’t the case at Chop’s. It wasn’t very good and neither was the service.

Entertainment: The Opal Theater is magnificent. Three tiers with great site lines. Like most everything on the Oasis, it is the best we have seen on any of the ships we have sailed. The entertainment on board was over-the-top excellent. There are so many shows you really have to manage your time well to see everyone of them 7 days. You can make reservations for the shows in advance. The Aqua Theatre water acrobatic spectacular,  reminded us of one of  Ester Williams movies. Great show.  We saw the Broadway musical Hairspray;  the best stage show we’ve seen on any of our cruises. The aerial production Come Fly with Me (similar to a Cirque du Soleil show); was another stunner. Just before the end a back screen was lifted and an airplane with a wingspan of thirty feet slowly rolled on stage, two propellers slowly spinning, with a dozens of the cast dancing on the wings. Something  Ziegfeld would have thought of.  Frozen in Time (a stunning ice show based on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen), was another treat. Much better that any ice show you’ve seen on Television. There is a small room called the Comedy Clubabout 40 seats. Two excellent comedians, performed there nightly. There are many venues to enjoy in addition to the shows, a Karoke club. Boleros night club, Dazzles was our spot for dancing. They had a great combo that played our kind of music, you know, those great romantic ballads of yesterday. If anyone claims that they were bored on this ship, then it was their own fault; there are more things to do than there is time to do it.  Ken Rush was the most energized Cruise director we have ever seen. A scene we will not soon forget was the 70’s dance party held on the Promenade deck. He lead a 70’s dance party of 3,000 guests dancing to the upbeat YMCA song,  Hot, Hot, Hot and other upbeat songs that had 3,000 people dancing at fever pitch. It looked like the New Years Eve party in Times Square. I doubt if you will be able to see anything similar because it would be close to impossible to recreate it.

Getting Around the Ship: You would think a ship this huge would be hard to maneuver, but that was not the case. There are 2 banks of elevators, aft and forward with 8 elevators in each bank. Outside each bank, is a simple-to-read board for each floor telling you what is P1010007_1_0011where, and there is a computerized interactive board that you can use to locate your room or tell you what is happening around the ship. Then you can ask it to map it for you. A deck screen will appear and mark where you are, then a red line traces your path to where you want to go. I would also like to mention the excellent use of interactive dining TV screens as well. These screens show the availability of each dining venue around the ship, as well as how busy each venue is. This is an excellent way to choose where you eat, and really helps with crowd control.

The Heart And Soul Of a Cruise Ship: The ship and the itinerary we sail are not what make our cruises special. What makes our cruises special is our interacting with the crew members who come in direct contact with the passengers. The captain and the ship’s officers are no doubt the back bone of this majestic vessel but it’s the crew members who are in direct contact with the passengers that are the heart and soul of a cruise ship. They are the ones responsible for creating an atmosphere that makes cruising so special. We believe the major reason people have become passionate about cruising, and why the cruise industry continues to grow,  is because of them. When we speak of the highlights of our cruise, we are mostly referring to the many memorable moments we spent interacting with members of the crew. When Mary & I cruise we make it a point to compliment the servers every opportunity we have. We all need to hear a compliment or a word of encouragement from time to time, but no one needs it more than these servers who work long hours and are away from home for long periods of time. It has been said that a compliment or a word of encouragement is much needed oxygen for the soul. The next time you cruise let them know you appreciate what they do.

                The Moment That Wimpy Was Given Life: 60 % of the many e-mails we received while writing reviews was questions about Wimpy, and mostly from women. They wanted to know how the idea of Wimpy came about. What made you think about assuming the Wimpy persona when you cruised? And on and on and on. I am going to try and explain that special moment when Wimpy was given life.

I recall Leo Buscaglia writing about a letter he received. “I received a letter from women who wrote, ‘I don’t think my husband has really looked at me for the last fifteen years. We’re seldom apart, yet I think I could come into a room stark naked on a white horse, with my hair on fire and he’d go right on watching TV or reading the paper. It’s not that he doesn’t love me, it’s just that I’ve become the invisible women.’” I read the above letter the time the Macho phase of my life was coming to an end. I didn’t like the feelings I was feeling and I asked myself, long before I heard the expression on Dr. Phil’s show. I asked myself the question, “How is the Mr. Macho attitude working for you?” I had to answer, “not very good!” I was beginning to sense my life was about to change. I was emotionally ready for a message of some sort, but I was wary, like the time my father was going to tell me about the birds and bees. I knew something important was about to happen, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Then shortly after reading the above letter, I came upon the following story about Sarah, you are about to read, and it was the clincher. It spoke to me in a very special way at a very special time in my life and drove the final nail in Macho man’s coffin.  Could it be possible after all these years of being macho man, I was about to ‘get it’?

The story about Sarah is told by Rev. Chalfant. He tells of a couple who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. Rev. Chalfant asked what the secret to their successful marriage was. As the elderly have a tendency to do, the old gentleman answered with this story. His wife, Sarah, was the only girl he ever dated. He grew up in an orphanage and worked hard for everything he had. He never had time to date until Sarah swept him of his feet. Before he knew it she had managed to get him to ask her to marry him. After they had said their vows on their wedding day, Sarah’s father took the new groom aside and handed him a small gift. He said “Within this gift is all you need to know to have a happy marriage. The nervous young man fumbled with the paper and ribbon until he got the package unwrapped. Within the box lay a large gold watch. With great care he picked it up. Upon close examination he saw etched across the face of the watch a prudent reminder he would see whenever he checked the time of day…. words if heeded held the secret to a successful marriage. They were, “Say something nice to Sarah.”

 Reading about the “lady on the white horse, with her hair on fire,” and the gold watch with “Say something nice to Sarah” on its face, made a deep  impression on me, and I vowed I would never let a day go by without saying something nice to Mary. I believe this was the moment Wimpy was given life. While on Mary’s annual birthday cruise I surprised Mary with my gold wedding band, newly engraved with the letters SSNTM. Yes, those letters are the abbreviation for, “Say something nice to Mary.” The first thing I do in the morning after I shower and shave, is to look at my wedding band and I’m reminded what I need to do. Tom, taking a lesson out of Wimpy’s playbook, learned that you can never say enough nice things to your sweetheart.

How Cruising Has Added a New Dimension To Our Life: We had another great cruise. When were at sea aboard one of these magnificent floating resorts they call cruise ships, we find we can devote all our time and attention to each other. We don’t have to be T  M Capt jacket-Freedom (6)concerned about countless things that beg our attention when we’re home. They have the ideal atmosphere for creating some very special memories. That is why we made the following statement in our reviews, “Mary & I can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love then when cruising. As we have mentioned a number of times, cruising has added a new dimension to our life. Sometime ago, toward the end of my macho man years I read that relationships are like a garden… they need a lot of loving tender care and every so often they need a jolt of fertilizer… to reach the peak of bloom. The seeds of the present Wimpy persona came from taking that statement to heart and he learned that a kind word, a smile, a listening ear, an honest compliment, even the smallest act of caring or affection, means the world to Mary and that is something he never wants to forget. If you have never cruised, we suggest you try it. Like a garden, it might be just the jolt of fertilizer that your relationship needs.

The Mainstay Of  Wimpy’s Marriage Maintenance: Mary has said the most memorable and best part of our cruises are the things Wimpy, does to surprise her. Wimpy views every cruise as an opportunity to practice some major marriage maintenance. He prepares for each cruise like a coach prepares for the big game. He thinks about all sorts of things he could do to surprise Mary, and after much soul searching, he carefully formulates his game plan. He knows defense wins the big games in football, but it’s a strong, well- thought out offense that’s needed for a super week of marriage maintenance.

Well-written romantic cards are a mainstay in wimpy’s arsenal for his marriage maintenance. You know the ones when you read them, you can swear the author had you mind when she/he wrote it. When I look for romantic cards for  Mary, I spend a great deal of time reading card after card, until I find the ones that express my deepest thoughts, in words that I wish I had said. Mentally, I take ownership of the words as if I wrote them. Wimpy remembered a quote by the famous American philosopher Henry David Thoreau who said, “Whatever you allow to enter your mind the first hours you are awake, will set the tone of you r entire day.” Starting our day in a romantic way has set the tone for all our cruises. In the morning when Mary is freshening up, wimpy placed one of the cards on her pillow or on the balcony breakfast table. He also used post-its to write romantic notes that Mary found in the most unexpected places. He also brought with him a dozen red business size cards, in bright red envelopes, that had eloquent romantic notes printed on them. Wimpy termed them his evening cards. He would wait for just the right moment to surprise Mary. Sometimes at dinner, sometimes while waiting to see a show, and occasionally in between dances at Dazzles. Just when Mary thought Wimpy did everything he was going to do, he really got her attention. He had seen a advertisement on the Internet, for a box of 365 one sentence love notes, one for every day of the year. http://wwwRomanceHer.com  Wimpy didn’t know what he was going to do with them, but he sent for them and added them to his arsenal of maintenance tools. There was a mirror on the wall as we entered our cabin. AS woman are prone to do, every time Mary left the cabin she would look in the mirror to see if her hair and her makeup was OK. One day when Mary was in the shower, wimpy using restickable glue, glued a slew of the red one sentence love notes all over the 3’X 4’ mirror. Mary came out of the shower and was in the cabin for two hours and never noticed them… that is until we left for lunch. When she was leaving the cabin, she looked in the mirror to check herself, and jumped back in surprise, and burst out laughing. Her first words were, “My God, what have you done!”… As she was reading them, I told her I had taken ownership of every one of those thoughts. She smiled at Wimpy with her heart and came over and gave him a hug and a kiss. Later that week  she told me she had read every one those notes of endearment.

As you can tell, we had a lot of fun. One of the secrets of enjoying life to its fullest, is we try to live our life, one day at a time. When we Formal Night 002 (3)cruise, it seems we are able to do that to an even higher degree, by living one moment at a time. Wimpy does whatever he can to make those moments, moments that my Mary will never forget. Many of those moments are some of the fondest memories we have and we will carry them in our hearts forever.

 The Feeling We Have When We Cruise: It is very difficult to put into words the feelings Mary & I have when we’re on a cruise. Although we have a wonderful, loving relationship, there is a certain something that happens when we cruise that makes it even better. I think it’s partly because we can give each other our undivided attention without having the normal interruptions that beget our attention when we’re home. Each morning we have a romantic breakfast on our balcony. Then during the day, we do a number of things that interest both of us. When evening approaches, we look forward to having a romantic dinner in a beautiful dining room, followed by a little ‘hold me tight’ dancing in one of the many beautiful lounges. Then we proceed to the theater to see a wonderful show. On our way back to our cabin, if we hear some strains of  one of those romantic ballads of those bygone years we might stop by that lounge and trio the light fantastic once more. We both believe it’s true, as it was said, “Dancing is love set to music.” When I finished writing this paragraph, I asked Mary to read it and give me her thoughts. She read it and said, “It reminds me of the time we were dating.” Leave it to my Mary. She said in a few words what that special feeling is, the feeling we both have when we cruise. We feel like we’re on an extended date… a date that doesn’t end when the clock strikes twelve… but continues each and every day… for the length of the cruise.   

God Has Blessed Us In a Mighty Way: He has blessed us with 44 wonderful years and we thank him for that. But what really is unique about our marriage is we were both previously married 20+ years. He gave us a second chance to get it right; we took full advantage of T  M Freedom (4)the opportunity. Cruising has not only added a new dimension to our lives and but we believe it has added to our longevity. In 1996 when we were in our seventies, and booked our first cruise, never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined, that we when we were in our eighties, we would be on our 50th cruise. Remember that often repeated phrase, “Life begins at 40.” Well, that may be true for some people but we believe life begins at any age you want it to begin. Our thoughts are what brought us where we are today and we know our thoughts, and God’s grace will take us where we’ll be tomorrow. 

Wimpy’s Closing Thoughts: What better way to rediscover each other, than you and your spouse spending seven romantic days on one of these magnificent, floating resorts. Being on a cruise is a wonderful way for a couple to rekindle the fire of their love. Seven full days of being with your loved one, in the most romantic, intimate setting imaginable.’ Just imagine, no shopping, no cooking, no dog to walk, no cat to let out, no phone to  answer, no commitments, just you and your loved one alone. A chance to be alone, totally alone with your spouse. You probably can’t remember the last time that happened. Well it can happen, but you have to make it happen. It’ a wonderful way to re-visit those early years. It could very well, add a new dimension to your life.

The Following Poem Eloquently Expresses Our Feelings:

We’re Having The Time of Our Lives!

The battle is almost won,
Our faith is strong and our conscience clear,
And we’ve only just begun
To know the peace He has promised us,
The joy of a job well done,
and we count our blessings along the way,
And thank him for every one.

We’re having the time of our life now,
For we never thought we’d be
Given a second chance such as
The Lord has given us,
To see with clearer eyes than we
Have ever seen before,
To Know that when we knock,
His hand will open the door.

How like a dream our old life seems,
So far within the past,
We’ve traded foolish fancies for
The things we know will last.
And we’re strong within His strength,
And precious in His sight,
Accepting all He sends, because
His ways are always right.

We’re having the time of our life now,
Because we’ve learned to share
Everything we do with God,
Each minute we are here,
For He alone can read our hearts,
And know what is within,
And He makes all things wonderful,
…Because He is our friend.

May your next cruise be your best,

Our warm regards,

Tom & Mary Milano

 During the period we haven’t been writing reviews we created a page on the Internet that you might enjoy.  It’s entitled, “Tom & Mary’s Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment” http://www.tomandmaryspage.com

And we send Mon-Fri- Tom & Mary’s “A Thought To Start Your Day” to more than 600+ people in seven countries. Following Henry David  Thoreau’s sage advice, “ Whatever you allow to enter your mind the first hours you are awake, will set the tone of your entire day,” we started sending our loved ones and friends an inspiring, uplifting thought to start their day. These are not quotes, their excerpts of the great writings of yesterday and today about the importance of a positive word and attitude.  If you would like us to put you on our mailing list, send your e-mail address [email protected].

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