12 minutes and 24 seconds. That was the time it took for me to get from Southampton’s City Cruise Terminal to the gangway of Ovation of the Seas. The terminal felt completely different, relaxed, and efficient. Several staff members in their identifiable aqua blue uniforms were casually standing in the terminal foyer, with tablets ready to check passports and stamp SetSail passes. It was then straight through security, up the escalator and onto the ship! The smell of new carpet and fresh paint was a nice reminder that this ship is brand new, only having been delivered to Royal Caribbean two days prior.
Once onboard, I made my way up to Deck 11, where my balcony stateroom (#11158) was waiting. The SeaPass card was tucked away in a little envelope, attached to the outside of the door. The stateroom was impressive. Clean, modern, and spacious, it was everything you could wish for. The bed was one of the most comfortable beds that I have ever slept in! The balcony was a good size, with two chairs, foot stools and a small table. The amount of storage space was simply incredible. Although the bedside tables were very narrow, there were plenty of draw space, two separate wardrobes and shelving above the bed. The stateroom had three US plug sockets, one European and two USB ports – very handy as I had forgotten to pack my adaptor plugs! The bathroom was a good size, with a large curved glass shower door.
It was easy to think that I was back onboard Anthem of the Seas again, as the actual layout and decor of the ship is near-identical. The only thing that gave it away were all the Mandarin signs. Ovation of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s first purpose-built cruise ship for Chinese guests. 30 percent of crew will be Chinese speaking when she arrives in Tianjin in June, and nearly every sign onboard is in both English and Mandarin. After having Quantum of the Seas sailing in China for the past year, Royal Caribbean analysed what worked well, what was popular, and what needed improving. As a result, Ovation of the Seas has an expanded collection of shops onboard, including Korean Beauty, Swarovski, Michael Kors, Omega, Cartier, and Kate Spade. The Diamond Lounge will become a private VIP Casino, which explained why there were so many CCTV cameras in the relatively small room. On the pool deck, Johnny Rockets has been replaced with the Kung Fu Panda Noodle Bar. Vintages has been opened up, making it more inviting.
One thing that struck me straight away was the impressive $4.5 million dollar art collection onboard, in fact there are around 11,000 pieces of art onboard! Everywhere you looked there seemed to be a quirky piece of artwork on a wall or ceiling. The beautiful “SkyWave” near the entrance to the Royal Esplanade is the first ever kinetic moving art sculpture on a ship, and gently curves back and forth, like a rolling wave on the ceiling. It was mesmerising to watch, and almost felt like it was alive. “The Red Thread” is another iconic piece of art onboard located in The Via, which is surrounded by Jamie’s Italian and Vintages.
The Solarium at the front of the ship was incredible. Filled with several plants and surrounded by glass windows and a glass roof, it was like being in a giant greenhouse. The only difference was this had deckchairs, a bar and relaxing cascading pools! Sadly, I had no time to relax on this hectic 1-night event, but if I was onboard for 7-nights, I’d certainly want to spend a considerable amount of time in the Solarium.
The multipurpose SeaPlex is another major venue on Ovation of the Seas. Identical to her sisters, SeaPlex is always a hive of activity, whether its the bumper cars, roller-skating, or circus school session, there’s plenty of fun things to do throughout the day.
Ovation of the Seas is the first Royal Caribbean ship to debut the new Royal Suite Class programme. For guests staying in premium accommodation, such as the multi-level Royal Loft Suites at the aft of the ship, Your British Butler Institute trained “Royal Genie” will not just be a butler, but more of a personal assistant. Before the cruise, suite guests will be asked several personality questions, such as “who would you like as your dream dinner companion?” This will help the Royal Genie tailor their suggestions to match the guests personal preferences. Your Royal Genie will secure entertainment, activity and dining reservations, as well as organise any shore excursions you wish to go on. Suite guests get complimentary VOOM Wi-Fi as well as drinks! Talking about suites, I toured a Royal Loft Suite and an Owners Loft Suite and they were both spectacular! They made my lovely balcony stateroom look like a Travelodge!
From touring the most luxurious types of accommodation, I then toured an inside stateroom. It was quite spacious compared to other ships and all inside staterooms feature a virtual balcony, which is basically a giant TV screen broadcasting live footage from the outside of the ship. The illusion is very convincing, and a much welcomed alternative to the grainy webcam on the weather channel like other ships. Obviously its not like having the real thing, but in comparison to just having a normal inside stateroom, I certainly would not hesitate in booking a virtual balcony. The view of the car park wasn’t the best, but imagine a view of the Sydney Opera House!
North Star was an incredible experience once again, even more so trying it out in Southampton this time! The view from the top was absolutely spectacular and it gave a unique perspective of not just the ship, but also Southampton itself. The ride time was around 8 minutes, but at sea the arm extends over the side of the ship!
Splashaway Bay is a new area that replaces the H20 Zone on Ovation of the Seas. Featuring two small slides and fountains, its bound to keep children entertained on a day at sea.
Bionic Bar. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen on a ship, but also one of the places I disliked the most. Like Anthem of the Seas, it was always crowded and the waiting time just for one drink was ridiculous.
Wonderland is a magical food experience. Serving unusual food combinations artistically presented, it’s the only place I know where you need a paintbrush to read the menu!
In addition to everything already mentioned, Ovation of the Seas, also features the popular Two70, Jamie’s Italian, Michael’s Genuine Pub, and Royal Caribbean favourites such as, Chops Grille, Izumi, Schooner Bar, Boleros and Cafe Promenade.
The actual open deck space is very limited, with just a few rows of sunbeds. Ovation of the Seas has two pools, with one being enclosed for inclement weather and there is also a Rock Climbing Wall, Flowrider surf simulator and Ripcord by iFly.
I had a great time on Ovation of the Seas. 1-night really was not long enough! There was so much I didn’t have time to see or do. That’s twice now that I’ve missed out on trying the bumper cars! (oh well, there’s always Quantum Four and Five to look forward to!) Ovation of the Seas is the perfect ship for multi-generational families and there’s something for all ages onboard.
DISCLAIMER: Royal Caribbean International provided me with a complimentary balcony stateroom, all drinks, meal at a speciality restaurant, and complimentary Wi-Fi usage. However, all opinions expressed in this review are my own. To find out more about Ovation of the Seas and Royal Caribbean International, visit royalcaribbean.co.uk