The Ovation of the Seas will arrive in Sydney in December, and anticipation amongst Aussie cruisers is growing! To add to the hype, two of our team - Sarah V and Meghan - travelled all the way to Beijing in June to get aboard this megaship and see for themselves what's in store. Stopping in Busan and Nagasaki, their five-day cruise was a great intro to the next generation of Royal Caribbean innovation.
What follows is Sarah's review of the Ovation. Have you booked a cruise on this amazing vessel yet, set to be the biggest ever stationed out of Australia? This might help you make up your mind!
Stepping onboard a ship is always exciting, doubly so if it's one you've never sailed on before. Imagine stepping onto a ship just weeks from its launch, freshly christened! My first thought was that the ship looked amazing - so big and beautiful with quirky features and amazing artwork popping up everywhere.
The ship has a family feel to it, with lots of group activities for people to do together. It is not too crowded despite the thousands of passengers, and thanks to its size there are some great places to get away from the bustle.
The suite life
We had booked a Spa Junior Suite, so it's no wonder we were quite impressed with our accommodations! Our cabin number was 10238, and it was a bright and airy suite with lots of space and storage, balcony and modern decor. The "spa" designation did not mean that the suite had any special connection to the spa, but that it featured an amazing bathroom with a rainfall shower head and a separate bath tub - luxury!
One thing I loved in particular was the fact that we had a kettle in our room. I could make a cup of tea before breakfast or before bed without having to leave the room which was a lovely touch.
The food was amazing! We ended up eating a lot in the buffet for convenience. It was a very popular option and always busy but because there were so many different food stations and options it doesn't take long to get your food - and we never had any issue finding a seat either.
As suite guests, we dined in the wonderful Coastal Kitchen when we were not in the buffet or elsewhere. My favourite meals were when we ate in the specialty restaurants, however! They were not super expensive and so good. We tried Izumi, a Japanese restaurant where we shared several small plates and tried a range of things on the menu. Later, we also ate at Jamie's Italian, an Italian restaurant with a menu designed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The waitress told us that they make the pasta fresh every day, so we decided again to try a couple of different ones from the menu and they were so good!
Here's a quick overview of what's available food-wise:
Included dining options:
Cafe Two70, Solarium Bistro, Windjammer (buffet), Coastal kitchen (for suite guests only), American Icon Grill/The Grande/Chic/Silk (main restaurants), Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's Pizza, Seaplex Doghouse, and room service.
Jamie's Italian - US$20pp lunch, US$30pp dinner
Wonderland - US$49pp
Izumi - Pay per dish e.g. US$10 for a sushi roll
Kung Foo Noodle Shop - pay per dish e.g. US$5pp for a bowl of noodles
Johnny Rockets ( Kung Foo Noodle Shop becomes Johnny Rockets in AU and NZ) - US$6.95pp
Chops Grille - US$39pp
Chef's Table- US$95pp
Michael's Genuine Pub - Pay per Dish e.g. US$5 for a plate of chicken wings
Keeping busy onboard
The onboard activities were awesome! As I said before, there are lots of group activities which families and friends can take part in together. Kids in particular (and kids at heart) will love the SeaPlex which offers a range of different things during different hours of the day and night - everything from bumper cars, basketball and roller skating to table tennis and air hockey. Elsewhere on the ship you will find the surf simulator, skydiving simulator, scenic "flights" in the North Star, pools, gym, trivia, dance classes... the list goes on.
My favourite activity was definitely the skydiving simulator, Ripcord by iFly. I have never been skydiving before , so the experience gave me a taste for what to expect when I decide to try it back home.
On a quieter note, I loved finding all the different places to sit and relax around the ship. Our balcony and the solarium were certainly at the top of the list. The solarium has these amazing day beds which were so nice to escape to for a moment with my book.
The shows were also really good in the evenings. My favourite was Pixels in Two70. It was amazing! So much going on with entertainers, awesome costumes, screens and the stages popping up and then retracting. The set up in here is truly state of the art - most impressive.
Embarkation, disembarkation and other details
Getting onboard at Tianjin International Cruise Terminal was quite easy - we arrived at lunchtime, passed through security with no issues and were on the ship. Getting off was a little more challenging, with some queues and a lot of waiting due to a late arrival in port. Not being able to understand the Mandarin announcements and missing the English ones also made anything which involved queuing a little tricky for us! However, the confusion at disembarkation did nothing to reduce our enjoyment of the cruise overall.
Getting off the ship at port calls was also a little tricky - in Korea, customs officials had to meet every one of the passengers departing the ship so it took quite a while to disembark! With a different crowd, systems and some practice, these issues should be remedied by the time the ship comes Down Under.
In an effort at crowd control, the line charges fees for some facilities such as the North Star on sailings from China, however this will not be in place on Australia sailings.
VROOM internet was available on the Ovation, and it was amazing! The cost was around US$9 per person, per day for high-speed WiFi which worked very well. Even at sea we had full reception and were able to communicate with family and friends.
If you are keen to see for yourself what it's like to sail on this amazing megaship, take a look at our Ovation of the Seas sale! You can also browse more Royal Caribbean cruises, P&O cruises, Princess cruises and Carnival Cruise deals among many more options on Cruise Sale Finder. If you'd like to learn more about the experience of cruising in China, you can read Meghan's post about regional cruising. You can also check out some ship highlights in video form below!