When Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2009, it was the first cruise ship in the world to feature a lush, open-air garden. Named after New York City's Central Park, it's one of seven (or eight, if sailing on the Wonder of the Seas) distinct neighborhoods onboard Oasis Class ships, and despite the concept being over a decade old, it is still one of the most beloved spaces on any cruise ship.
The other neighborhoods are Entertainment Place, the Royal Promenade, Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, Boardwalk, Youth Zone, and the Pool and Sports Zone. Aside from the spa, they all tend to have a more energetic atmosphere, which makes Central Park's peaceful nature stand out.
An upscale public area situated in midship on deck 8, Central Park offers restaurants, high-end shopping, and tons of plants, over 20,700 to be exact (talk about a Royal Caribbean delivering a WOW factor!). It even has more plants than the Great Pavilion Exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Show!
It's a place that makes you wonder if you're actually on a cruise ship.
However, you’ll never truly forget that you’re on one of the largest cruise ships in the world, as the laughter and music from the pool deck can be heard throughout the day, albeit at a lower volume than the top deck. All three waterslides jet over the edge, and you can look up to see the rushing of water with guests passing through.
Here's why Central Park is my favorite neighborhood onboard the Symphony of the Seas.
A floating garden at sea
As soon as you walk into Central Park, you are greeted with vine-wrapped metal columns. As you continue along the pathways, you'll hear recordings of birds, crickets, and other animals while you pass tropical foliage, seasonal flowers, shrubs, and a variety of different trees, including young Indian Laurel Figs, Shady Ladies, and Buddhist Pines, all of which are housed in steel decks.
Signage helps to clearly identify the difference species of trees and plants, as well as their scientific botanical names, origins, and other fun facts that might come in handy during trivia one day.
While onboard the Symphony of the Seas, I learned that the Star Jasmine, an evergreen vine originally from China, climbs 40 feet up tree trucks, and Purple Showers are often referred to as “Mexican Petunias” due to the shape of their 5-petal flowers.
Another fun fact is that the Dwarf Umbrella Tree, which is originally from Eastern Asia, can be used as a herbal treatment to provide relief for arthritis because the extracts serve as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.
When you reach the middle of the park, you’ll find "green walls" covered in flowering vines and ferns that are five decks, or twenty-five feet, high, as well as beautiful fern-covered trellises (a great photo-op!).
During the day, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see one of the three horticulturalists maintaining the garden’s plants. On the second day of my seven-day itinerary, I saw two tending to the Croton shrub outside of the Cartier store around 10:30 in the morning.
What you won’t see, however, is the intricate system of irrigation, fertilization, lighting, and drainage that's required to help sustain such a unique venture. There's even a landscape specialist onboard!
If you’re looking to find a place of sanctuary on your cruise, look no further than Central Park.
You won't find many rowdy children hanging out here during the day, as it lacks family-friendly activities, like the pool deck's Splashaway Bay or the Boardwalk's carousel.
Many guests find it to be an ideal place to escape from the crowds and settle down in the plush seating underneath the protruding glass-arched domes with a good book. 4 benched nooks, rocking chairs, and numerous tables are also available. Guests can also play a game or two of chess to test their strategic skills.
I've also seen passengers playing with a deck of cards!
You're never far away from a cup of coffee or tea to sip on, as the Park Café provides both during their breakfast and lunch services.
As this was my first work cruise, I found that working in Central Park was a great way to balance getting my assignments done and making sure that I was still getting some of the traditional cruise experience. I didn’t find it as distracting as the Royal Promenade, Boardwalk, or pool deck.
Plus, I was always guaranteed a seat, usually completely to myself. While it would have been nice to type away with some ocean views, I certainly didn't want to spend time scouring for a seat everyday.
Top-tier dining and bar options, especially at night
You can find many of the specialty dining restaurants onboard in Central Park, including Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian, and 150 Central Park, which provide guests with a more intimate dining experience compared to the Main Dining Room.
Plus, if the weather permits, you can choose to dine al fresco, which I highly recommend during dinner, as the evening is when Central Park’s true beauty comes out. In the center of the park, the neighborhood is lit up by the pink and blue hues of the Royal Promenade that escape through the raised glass domes, while the sides are lit by street lamps. You can enjoy listening to the relaxing live classical music on the guitar and piano.
At night, faux candles are places on tables that foster a more upscale, and perhaps romantic, environment, which is complimented by the increased ability to hear animal sounds due to minimal noise from the pool deck. Something on my bucket list is an adults-only date night in one of the speciality restaurants!
Central Park also houses Park Café, one of my favorite complimentary dining options. I love the made-to-order salads and, of course, their infamous roast beef sandwich. I also think they have some of the better quick-service dessert options onboard, like this delicious blueberry streusel cake.
It’s a great place to grab breakfast, too. I find that it’s much quieter than other breakfast options, like the Windjammer or even Main Dining Room, which sometimes had a 20+ minute wait on my sailing. I also like how they have fewer options than some of the other larger breakfast venues; I have fewer decisions to make before having my morning cup of coffee!
Additionally, there are three distinct bars in Central Park: Trellis Bar, Vintages, and the Rising Tide Bar. Even if you are eating dinner elsewhere, they’re still great places to grab a pre-dinner drink and soak in the nighttime ambiance of the neighborhood.
While kids and teens may find Central Park's relaxed atmosphere to be a bit boring compared to the thrills available elsewhere on the ship, it's a great place for adults to escape and "connect" with nature. If you're onboard during a port day, you almost feel as though you are in your own personal oasis!
Regardless of whether you want to spend extended time in the neighborhood or just walk through on your way from the aft of the ship, Central Park should be be on anyone's list of "things to do" while sailing on an Oasis Class ship.