In early June, I was lucky enough to sail on a three-night cruise marking the inaugural departure of Ovation of the Seas from Singapore. Here are my reflections on Royal Caribbean’s latest offering to the New Zealand cruise market which we will see in a few months’ time*.
The New Zealand and Australian cruise markets are the fastest-growing in the world and this new billion-dollar super-ship brings a modern, exciting and invigorating air to cruising. Whether young or old, families or couples, groups, foodies, academics or gamers, there is something for everyone on boardOvation of the Seas.
Ovation of the Seas is a mostly Balcony and Interior Stateroom ship. The Interior Staterooms feature “Virtual Balconies”, a floor-to-ceiling LCD screen that looks like a window. The Balcony Staterooms and Suites are plush, spacious and modern. A rounded glass shower door was a welcome relief to the shower curtains of the past. In short, the Staterooms are amazing, offering maximum comfort, plenty of storage space and very comfortable beds and pillows.
And speaking of comfort and ease, remember the cards you had to wear around your neck or keep safe in your back pocket? These are now a thing of the past! On Ovation of the Seas, you instead wear a watch-like band that gets you into your stateroom via a door scanner. You can also charge your purchases to it and – handy for families – they are fitted with a GPS so you can track your children wherever they are on the ship.
When it comes to what do on board Ovation of the Seas, I’m sure you’ll be spoilt for choice. The ship is crammed with high-tech entertainment and activities. For active types, there’s a state-of-the-art gym, which I actually visited at 7am one morning for an invigorating stretch class.
For the kids there are Kids Clubs, a video arcade, a huge water fun-park area in the main pool including a swirl pool, water buckets and slides, and then there’s SeaPlex, a massive hall that contains a basketball court, which transforms into a skating rink, which turns into a dodgemcar zone! It’s surrounded by X-Box rooms and a hot dog stand so you won’t see the children for the entire cruise - and perhaps a few adults too!
Other innovations on board include the North Star, a gigantic arm that features a viewing pod on its end and which reaches up 90 metres above the ship and sometimes over the side for the daring. RipCord by iFLY is a skydiving simulator where you don a snazzy pair of blue overalls and groovy goggles and fly on a tunnel of wind. The FlowRider is a surfing and boogie-boarding simulator complete with rushing water, pumping music and a fan zone. There’s no end to the fun for the entire family on the ship.
For relaxing, my favourite spot on the ship is the adult’s only Solarium. Located at the bow of the ship, this multilevel glass-roofed area has a cascading swimming pool, multiple whirlpools and more sun loungers than you can shake a stick at. It’s peaceful, sunny and spacious and the attentive waitstaff in the Solarium Bar are always on hand to top up your beverage, be it a healthy smoothie or a piña colada – nothing was ever a problem. The Solarium also has its own restaurant.
I was amazed at all the areas on the ship where you could tuck yourself away and relax in peace. The unique design of Ovation of the Seas means you never feel like you’re amongst 5,000 people. From removing the traditional 1,500-seat main dining room and replacing it with four smaller restaurants, to having two nightly entertainment venues instead of the one theatre, the ship has been designed to disperse people. These features ensure that you never feel crowded or unable to find some “me-time”.
Then there’s the food. There are 18 dining venues on offer, not to mention the bars – one even being two robotic barmen! For your dining pleasure, there are four complimentary restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then there’s a Kung Fu Panda Noodle House for casual Asian food during the day. And the Solarium Restaurant for adults only. And Wonderland, an amazing molecular gastronomy experiential restaurant. And Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant at sea, Jamie’s Italian. Even the Windjammer Buffet has had a major makeover including fitting a permanent wash station where diners must wash and dry their hands before entering the Buffet dining area. Extremely high levels of hygiene and safety standards are observed on Ovation of the Seas.
Another interesting feature is at the stern of the ship. Here you’ll find Café @Two70, a multi-level, conservatory-style room featuring panoramic floor-to-ceiling glass windows across the back of decks five, six and seven. It houses a marketplace-style café, the ship’s library, modern furniture and art plus a very well stocked bar. There are so many places to find peace and quiet during the day here. By evening, find a seat and be amazed by the state-of-the-art Vistarama LCD screens where any type of backdrop can be created to suit any show that is being performed. From the inside of a circus tent, to being amongst a green bamboo jungle, the use of technology to maximise space and your experience is astounding.
The highlight of Ovation of the Seas for me – apart from the food and technological advances on board – was its collection of modern art. I’m no connoisseur of art by any means – I’ve seen the Mona Lisa and I know a Van Gogh when I see one – but this was something else, something special. The artwork is all over the ship and I would often find myself walking down the stairs and having to stop as something caught my eye. I’d walk past the Schooner Bar and almost trip over as I’d seen something new in the Explorer piece that hangs on the wall there.
I discovered the Flutter Wall, which has to be seen to be believed: it’s a massive black LCD screen with rows and rows of stationary multi-coloured butterflies. It looks pretty but then you discover if you touch the butterflies they start flying all over the screen then return to where they came from after about 20 seconds. Around every corner of the ship I found more modern art to amaze and amuse me. I know that after experiencing Ovation of the Seas for myself, any type of traveller will enjoy this amazing ship. New Zealand has seen nothing like her before, so get on board when she graces our shores and give her the standing ovation she deserves. I know I did.
Cruise ships have some amazing features in them. What features were on your cruise? Let us know in the comments below.
*Ovation of the Seas begins her inaugural cruise season in New Zealand this December.