I have returned from the Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean Jiu Jitsu cruise known as Grappler’s Escape (you’ll see me in the group photo on their home page.) This is a one week cruise filled with multiple hours of jiu jitsu instruction by top level competition grapplers and hundreds of practitioners learning and having fun together. If you like BJJ, this is something you have to experience at least once in your life.
Sign I took a picture of on the running track
The fourth Grappler’s Escape took place on the Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean cruise ship. We sailed to Haiti, Jamacia, and Mexico. The cruise ship / destination varies from year to year. The Oasis of the Seas is an amazing ship. It held roughly 6K people and was 16+ decks tall. We had a gym, running track, multiple pools, a living garden, ferris wheel, casino, comedy shows, and song / dance performances. The food was also amazing. Everything you can think of that’s horrible for your diet as well as meats / salads / rice and potatoes were present on the menu.
I took part in 13 of the roughly 26 hours of scheduled mat training (they had additional hours set up for women only and children only.) The 13 hours were broken up into 3 days of training – 5 hours the first day split up into a morning and evening session, 3 hours of training a few days into the trip, and 5 hours straight of training on the final at sea day. I was able to learn from 3 top level World champions – Braulio Estima, Lucas Lepri, and Gezary Matuda, along with additional black belts on board who were running sessions as well.
I took my wife with me on this cruise who does not participate in grappling. There were other grapplers who brought their significant others as well as children on board so this is a common practice. Both my wife and I agreed that this was an incredible experience and one of the best if not the best vacations ever.
Day one of boarding the boat
We went through a series of metal detectors, passport checks, and boarding pass check ins to get our sea passes (which serve as the room key and credit card while on the boat.) We checked into our room where Kathryn, the person you’ll contact if you’re interested in booking a Grappler’s Escape, had left us a few bottles of water and a bottle of wine as a thank you for booking. Our room had a balcony overlooking the ocean with two chairs and a table.
Everyone on board had to proceed to their emergency muster station to learn about all the safety options on board before we proceeded to the dojo to meet our fellow participants for a meet and greet. After that we headed to the main dining hall to have dinner and chat with the group more. We had opted for the unlimited drinking package (an additional purchase but well worth it if you plan on drinking anything besides tap water, coffee, and a few juices) which allowed us to order adult beverages with our meal. The main dining hall has a menu with rotating appetizers, main courses, and desserts. Almost every night I had some sort of steak dinner.
Day two – training on the boat
Breakfast unless otherwise noted was in a quick dining shop near the room. They offered egg burritos, egg muffins, coffee, oatmeal, and a few other breakfast like items.
Day two had a morning and evening training session. While I was at my morning training session my wife went to a guacamole making class (a small fee class) that gave her free drinks and free lunch at one of the restaurants that required reservations and cost extra for dining.
I went through drills learning adjustments to arm bars and possibly an adjustment to the triangle as well (the triangle lesson may have been another day) during the morning class, as well as a quick drill with one person on the mat while three others rotating in and out for every pass or submission. After that we had about a 30 minute free roll.
During the break my wife and I attended an art auction. I made a pre-bid on one piece of art and ended up winning, which led to me being on the list of art enthusiasts for future parties with the art team.
The evening grappling session consisted of learning some tricks for the spider guard and turning them into sweeping opportunities.
In the evening we went to a grappler’s only cocktail party at one of the bars for appetizers and drinks before proceeding to formal night in the dining room.
Day Three – Labadee, Haiti
There was a judo seminar in the morning I was interested in attending but ended up sleeping in. We had breakfast at the Windjammer cafe, the giant buffet restaurant that a good portion of the guests dine at while on the ship. We took photos on the top deck before heading off to shore.
Shore consisted of laying on a beach chair under a tree while sipping vodka sodas. There were options to parasail, jet ski, or zip line for an additional fee. We wandered over to the bbq lunch for burgers, hot dogs, bbq style pastas and salads, chicken, ribs, and some other goodness.
Before heading back to the boat we went to the locals shops to buy some souvenirs.
I played hookie from training and went into the hot tub and pool instead. I ran into some grapplers who were doing the same thing.
Dinner was also at the Jammer, followed by a diving show where high divers would jump off 30 foot diving boards into an 18 deep pool. There was a story to go along with the show, as well as strong men, trampolines, ropes, music and dance.
Day Four – Jamaica
I slept in again because hey, I was on vacation. We had breakfast at a quick serve restaurant where we had bacon, eggs, waffles, and some other goodness. We took photos on top of the boat before proceeding to Jamaica. We wandered outside of the shopping zone to see real Jamaica before proceeding back to the tourist section to purchase souvenirs and local cuisine before heading back to the boat.
I went to evening training to learn some cool armbar moves from a veteran grappler, CJ then learned some standing passes from Lucas.
I believe we tried to have dinner at the Jammer that night but got there too late so we had pizza for dinner instead.
Day Five – At Sea
I played hookie from Jiu Jitsu again and wandered around the boat. We had a couple’s massage in the spa in the evening and I ran around the running track / did 11 minute abs on my balcony overlooking the ocean.
One piece of this tale I’ve left out is the coffee bar. There was a coffee bar that offered adult coffees that I would frequent when I wasn’t training / when I was playing hookie. I believe we went swimming again this day as well, and wandered about the boat checking out all there is to see and do. There was a bar that traveled between 3 floors of the boat. That was a pretty awesome site.
Day Six – Cozumel
We had a group beach party this day, which was set up with a local BJJ company taking us to a private beach for swimming, eating, drinking and enjoying the sun.
The art group invited us to a private showing with free wine and champagne before dinner.
We ate at the other main dining hall this night to get to a table before our assigned dining time to ensure we made it to our broadway musical show.
After the show we spent about an hour in the casino playing roulette and the Deal or No Deal slot machine.
Day Seven – At Sea
I got up early to take CJ’s armbar class again before final drilling with Braulio and Lucas. We covered a variety of topics that had been touched upon throughout the week. Being that I had played hookie multiple times much of it was new.
We then took the group photos that appear on Grappler’s Escape’s homepage.
Many headed to the main dining hall for one last group dinner. There was a final group cocktail party, and my wife and I headed off to watch a comedy show.
Daily Items I Probably Left Out
We spent a good amount of time napping, because hey, why not. There’s nothing more awesome than wandering around a boat, eating, then taking a nap. I realize it’s not the healthiest, but it’s a vacation. I did get 13 hours of BJJ training in as well as a run and some ab work. My wife got exercise in at the gym. We took the stairs between floors and wandered from one side of the ship to the other.
Sightseeing, eating, walking, drinking, and taking part in the random activities that pop up throughout the voyage are all parts of cruising. We got photos with characters from Madagascar, watched a flash mob 70’s dance party, took part in the “taking off” party, and wandered about the living forest on the eighth floor of the ship.
I also got all my poweraides and vitamin waters from the juice bar. That was awesome as I love my poweraide.
- If you plan on drinking on the boat, buy the drink pass. It makes things easier.
- The drink pass includes things like juice smoothies and any coke product (including poweraide and vitamin water)
- Make sure you have anti sea sickness medicine. I believe its called Bonine.
- Bring more cash then you think you need for the shore excursions. I ended up spending $200 on the shuttle, two margaritas, fajitas, and luchador masks in Cozumel and wish I would have had more. I owe one of the other grappler’s a drink still (if you read this message me.)
- Don’t pay for the interwebs while you’re on the boat. You don’t need the internet while you’re on vacation. Just enjoy the journey.
I highly, highly suggest going on the cruise. I’ll be on the Grappler’s Escape 6 for sure, can’t make 5 due to scheduling conflicts. If you book please let Kathryn know that Jason from Portland referred you over. Happy grappling and happy sailing.