Ovation of the Seas Cruise Review by DerekB
- Sail Date: February 2019
- Destination: Australia & New Zealand
- Cabin Type: Ocean View with Large Balcony
Check-In and Boarding: We arrived at the port in Sydney by train taking the short walk from Circular Quay station, arriving at the pier at 1030am. Almost immediately we were able drop our luggage and enter the building for check-in. We were the first in line for emerald and above Crown and Anchor members. We had already submitted our photos online and the entire check-in process took less than 2 minutes. We were then directed to a seated waiting area while final preperations were being made on the ship. We sat here for no more than 5-10 minutes before passing through immigration/customs and security. From our arrival at the port till we were on board the ship was approximately 20 minutes. I am not sure the process could go any faster if we had tried. Once on board our rooms were available at 1pm with one room key being outside the door to the room and the other being in the room. I was surprised that there was no mention of WoW bands anywhere - but after some inquiry we were able to get them from guest services. I was told there would be a $5 charge, however that never appeared on our account.
Ship: I have been on many ships, but Ovation stood out to me as being quite stunning. The decor is amazing and the entire ship looks as if it was brand new. Although she is 2 years old, I could have been convinced I was on the maiden sailing as everything is in absolutely perfect condition. Coming from Voyager class and the successors, the layout was quite new to me and it took nearly all 12 nights to get a good grasp of where everything is. I was somewhat surprised by the amount of movement we felt. We were in 3 meter seas for the crossing from Australia to New Zealand and it was felt at all times. We experienced 6+ meter seas on the return and I felt the ship weathered this quite well. The motion was very evident, but not enough to send things flying. I never felt crowded, except sometimes the Windjammer was to capacity - however this was the result of other passengers not leaving when finished and even begged by the crew.
Cabin: We stayed in blacony cabin 10258 with family in 3 adjacent cabins. We were able to open the divider between all 4 balconies resulting in one massive balcony with amazing views. The cabin is the most spacious balcony I have stayed in and did not feel cramped at all. Even the bathroom was larger than anything I have seen on a ship before - with the ability to turn around and bend over without any problems. Removing the coffee table has greatly increased the available floor space at little expense over what I have seen on other Royal ships.
Dining: Throughout the cruise we mostly at breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer buffet and dinner in the main dining room. We did not try any of the pay facilities, although at one point we had a rather pushy staff member offer us a 30% discount off of Chops (we still declined). Beyond this one staff member all other sales attempts were passive (just standing there holding a menu). The Windjammer was on par with most other Royal ships I have been on with perhaps a slight increase in options. There was a station daily that was dedicated to Indian style food. There was also a dedicated gluten free station along with deserts. The main dining room was notably empty on most nights, with no more than 1/3 of the seats being filled. As a result service was very fast and there was a high level of personal attention given. Other than some standard options the menu rotated nightly, however there did not seem to be any theme to the menus as I have seen on previous cruises. The food was decent, not a 5 star meal, but average as cruises go. My only real complaint is that steaks seemed to come cooked one way - well done. Although I was always asked how I liked my steak, I progressed from Medium to Rare with no change. Cafe 270 is available during the day and had a selection of sandwiches and made-to-order salads, although the salad topping selections were quite limited. The Dog House is available midday and is handy for a quick snack when you are not wanting a meal. Sorrento's and Cafe Prominade as essentially merged into one, with Sorrento's offering a selection of premade cold dishes as well as pizza. Gluten free pizza is available and made fresh to order. Cafe Prominade has available a selection of premade sandwiches and deserts. Although I did not try it, there is a a la carte restaurant on deck 14 called "Poolside Dining." This was originally a noodle bar, but now offers an unusual selection of items ranging from Chinese dishes to Fish and Chips. I cannot find any reference to this establishment anywhere online. Only true negative I have to mention about dining is the washing station in the Windjammer. I often felt this place was where I was going to get sick if anywhere on the boat. It was often littered with discarded paper towels and cups. The whole area felt like a breeding ground for germs. Along with that a staff member was stationed there to demand in a childish "washy washy or no yummy yummy" way that you use the facility and not the sanitizer gel used elsewhere. I would intentionally sit far from the entrance of the Windjammer to avoid hearing her squawk this speech over and over.
Entertainment: I rarely attend shows on cruises, opting for other activities, although on this ship I went to many shows in the theater. A vast majority of the shows were comedian based and frankly not that good (as well as rather repititive). The only musical act I saw in the main theater was Diamonds - which was a 3 female member group which sang music from Motown. Their singing was decent, however their stange presence was down right terrible - very robotic and fake. I did not get to see the theatrical production. On a positive note on a few nights an INXS cover band played in 270 and they were top notch - very good and very entertaining.
Activities: There was loads of things to do on this ship and I did as many as possible. Rip Cord must be reserved in advance and lasts 1 minute, but is worth it. Due to illness one member of my family had to get a second reservation and this was done without any problems. You could make reservations for the North Star, however we were able to walk on day 1 without any wait. The Sea Plex has various activities from X Box to Bumper Cars. My entire family with a wide range in ages enjoyed the bumper cars. My family spent a fair amount of time in the casino, with all of us coming out ahead on slots. It was a real plus having a non-smoking casino. Only negative about the casino is it feels very sterile and not really inviting. I think this is due to the type of machines available, but we won so I can't complain too much. Other activities were frequent and on par with other cruises, such as numerous trivia contest around the ship.I will add in the Bionic Bar here as it seemed more of an activity than a place to actually get drinks. Yes, we stopped by and had the bar make drinks on a few occasions, but it is rather slow. There was rarely a line and it seems that this novelty is not really living up to its hype. Only real positive thing is I could customize a drink in virtually unlimited ways and I did take my time to make a few things that perhaps nobody else has tried before - something that would annoy even the most patient bartender.
Service: By far the service on Ovation is the best I have ever had a sea. I had the deluxe drink package and after a few days I could sit down and a drink would appear without me even needing to order it. Everyone on the ship seemed interested in making an effort to get to know the passengers. Somehow the staff at the main dining room seemed to know my name without ever being told - perhaps they looked it up and memorized my face before hand? Top notch overall - it can't get any better than this.
Ports and Excursion: Generally I dislike reviewing these since it is very subjective. Overall the excursions and ports were enjoyable. Tendering operations were speedy without much need for a wait on either end. The day spent cruising in the sounds was simply amazing. They are stunningly beautiful and I am glad I got to see them.
Children: We were not traveling with children and there were not many on the ship. There were numerous things that would appeal to children and perhaps not seeing them often and no problems with children running amock is a sign that the ones who were on board were entertained.
Disembarking: Fastest experience I have ever had on a cruise. We had a 830am time slot, but we elected to eat in the Windjammer - which was open till 9am. We walked off the ship at about 845am without any wait, directly claimed out bags and cleared customs within 10 minutes. I have never seen such a speedy organized disembarkation, although I think some of this is not so much Royal, but the Australia authorities fast processing of everyone.
Overall Ovation is a stunning ship that appears to be something almost out of the future. Absolutely I would recommend this ship and will not think twice about booking her or one of her sisters again.
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