Packed with bells and whistles, Ovation of the Seas is the third ground-breaking ship to join Royal Caribbean's Quantum class. There are plenty of similarities with its two sister ships -- Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas -- including the thrilling RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator, the North Star capsule that transports passengers 90 metres (300 feet) above sea level for bird's-eye views, bumper cars, trapeze classes, world-class entertainment and -- in short -- nonstop fun.
Ovation's decor and design reflects the ship's original deployment in China, although the ship will cease sailing here and move to Alaska from 2019. A symbol of good luck and a national treasure of China, a 10-metre tall (32-feet tall) panda and cub were designed with Chinese passengers in mind (joining Felicia the Pink polar bear on Quantum and Gigi the giraffe on Anthem). There is dual-language signage throughout the ship, and the majority of staff in guest services can speak Mandarin, with a high proportion of Mandarin speakers in the shops, casino, restaurants and housekeeping departments as well.
Making its debut on Ovation is the colourful Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop (replacing Johnny Rockets), plus a new Asian food station in the Windjammer Marketplace buffet restaurant. There is also an enlarged casino, and shops in the Royal Esplanade have been stocked with more high-end designer goods and Asian cosmetic brands.
The ship spends the Australian summer based in Sydney from about December to April. During this brief spell, some of the food, drinks and activities are tailored to local tastes and everything is in English. All of the bars, specialty restaurants, cafes (or anywhere serving coffee), the three pools and FlowRider surfing simulator are much busier than during the Asian sailings, so prepare for queues. However, despite the large number of passengers onboard, staff go out of their way to get to know passengers and make their cruise holiday memorable. Friendly passengers who stand out (in a good way) are treated especially well.
The ship's entertainment scene is outstanding, with Broadway-style theatre shows and cabarets that combine human talent with technical wizardry. All-singing, all-dancing gadgets are not just confined to the stage. Ovation has myriad high-tech features including Royal IQ, a free interactive scheduling service that lets passengers make reservations for dining, entertainment and activities; it's available as an app for mobile devices or can be used via kiosks and tablets throughout the ship. Thanks to a huge investment in satellite Internet, connectivity is fast and efficient. It's good to see USB ports for in-cabin charging and the option for RFID WOWband wristbands, which can be used instead of key cards.
Another exceptional feature is the artwork: An A$5.8 million (US$4.5 million) collection of 11,000 pieces. Much more than just space fillers to adorn blank walls, the installations, paintings and sculptures wouldn't be out of place in the world's top galleries. Sky Wave, over the Royal Esplanade, is the first moving sculpture at sea, and the Flutter Wall, on the way to the Royal Theatre, is a three-metre (120-inch) screen filled with interactive butterflies. Elsewhere are smaller surprises: a retro petrol pump beneath a stairwell; panda and koala faces on human shoulders; and boxed pictures with tiny people inside. It's worth doing a top-to-bottom walking tour of the ship to discover the artwork alone.
With so much to see, do and discover, Ovation delights and excites in equal measure and is ideal for longer itineraries, which give passengers time to enjoy the many onboard attractions to the full.
Keep Reading: For more information, see below or click on the menu at the top right of this page.
Stateroom design, and the range of cabins, is another area where Ovation stands out. For starters, out of 2,090 cabins 1,570 have balconies -- which adds up to 75 percent, much higher than the cruise ship norm. The 373 inside cabins boast Royal Caribbean's "virtual balconies", a much-talked-about feature when debuted on the other Quantum-class vessels. Instead of staring at a wall, passengers have floor-to-ceiling, flat-screen HDTVs that provide real-time views of what you'd see if you had an authentic veranda: it's dark at night and, in the morning, you'll see the sunrise. There is even the sound of the waves, although this can be turned off. It is a game-changing feature for anyone who normally avoids interior cabins, and the result is surprisingly realistic.
Ovation's remaining 147 cabins are oceanview. The ship has 28 studio cabins for single travellers -- a number of which have balconies -- and 34 staterooms across the vessel are wheelchair accessible. Cabins are easy on the eye and decorated in attractive shades of blue and light brown, with contrasting dark and light wood tones.
Cabins across the categories are sizeable, again bucking the industry standard, and there are plenty of thoughtful and convenient touches that all add up to a comfortable stay. For example, there is ample storage with space beneath and above the bed to stow away suitcases, plenty of soft-close drawers and a full-length wardrobe. Small but nifty features include a handle on the back of the dressing table/desk chair, which makes it easy to pull in and out. Kettles in every cabin mean you don't have to wait for room service to get a morning cuppa (although coffee drinkers should bring their own as only tea is included in the in-room beverage brewing set up and there are no instant coffee sachets onboard). There are, however, plenty of electrical sockets, including a convenient one by the bed (which is especially good for charging phones without having to leave them on the other side of the cabin when you're in bed), and two USB ports, still something of a rarity on cruise ships. There are US and European sockets, so travellers from other countries will need to bring adaptors although one was thoughtfully provided on our Australian cruise (with US$25 billed to your account if you decide to take it with you).
The majority of cabins have king-sized beds with curved ends (a boon for anyone who has ended up with bruised shins after walking into the sharp corners of a bed), which can be divided into a twin-bed configuration. Many of the sofas can be pulled out to create a double bed large enough for an adult to sleep on comfortably. Plug-in hair dryers, small safes, telephones, refrigerated minibars (with childproof locks) come standard. As part of the line's environmental efficiency policy, there are digital thermostats and energy-saving lights. Cabin lights and power are activated when you insert the SeaPass into a slot by the door and, when you remove the card, the lights and power (but not the air-conditioning) shut down -- worth remembering if you are charging phones and other devices.
The flat-screen TVs provide a good range of channels, information on the ship and shore excursions, and a rolling morning program with updates from the cruise director and activities manager. The least impressive feature is that films are chargeable at US$11.99.
Bathrooms, too, are well designed, with storage space above and below the sink, and ample towel hooks and rails. The glass-enclosed shower units each have a curved door, with two soap racks, a grab rail and a foot rest (to help with washing or for shaving legs). In a change from the earlier Quantum class ships, toiletries no longer come in individual bottles; standard cabins come with two bars of soap and a fixed shampoo dispenser in the shower (no conditioner or body lotion, but you can ask your cabin attendant for free tubes). Those passengers staying in suites have additional benefits, including enhanced L'Occitane toiletries.
Interior: These are the cabins where passengers have the feeling (and very convincing it is too) of having a balcony. An 80-inch HD screen, fed by externally mounted cameras, creates a balcony view, complete with railings and the sound of the sea. It is a really novel addition to inside cabins, but passengers can switch off both the sound and the view. Interior cabins measure 15 square metres (166 square feet), and 18 of them are interconnected.
Oceanview: These cabins range from 17 to 28 square metres (182 to 302 square feet). The smallest are on the lower decks, and the largest are the eight corner cabins, called Superior Ocean View staterooms, on decks 8 to 11. There are also 36 front-facing Large Ocean View cabins, measuring 256 square feet (24 square metres), situated on decks 8 through 10. The Superior and Large Ocean View cabins that are located below the bridge provide superb "captain's eye" views, but come with a few curiosities. For example, you might have a large support pole at the foot of the bed and a large porthole on a slanted, front-facing wall.
Balcony: Balcony cabins come in two categories: Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (16 square metres/177 square foot with a 7.5 square-metre/82-square-foot balcony) and Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (18 square metres/198 square feet with balconies ranging from five to 11 square metres/55 to 119 square feet). In both categories, the balconies have two mesh chairs with separate footstools, and a small, round, low table large enough for a couple of drinks and bowl of snacks. The biggest balconies are located midship, the area that in-the-know cruisers call "the hump" -- the spot where the ship gets wider, creating angled and oversized balconies.
Mini-suite: Junior Suites with Balconies are available as part of the Family Connected Suite (see below) or individually. These cabins measure a generous 25.5 square metres/276 square feet, with very spacious 15-square-metre/161-square-foot balconies. They also have a sitting area that includes a couch, chair and small table. Bathrooms feature combined bathtub and shower.
There are 46 Spa Junior Suites with Balconies, which are the least expensive cabins in the junior suite category, probably because they are slightly smaller at 25 square metres (267 square feet), with significantly smaller balconies at 7.5 square metres (81 square feet). The name of these suites is a slight misnomer as they have no connection with the spa, by way of exclusive access or other benefits. It refers to the bathrooms, which have separate bathtubs and rainfall showers.
Royal Suite Class offers three tiers of accommodations, based on the suite category: Sea, Sky and Star. Junior Suite passengers are entitled to Sea category benefits, which include evening dining at Coastal Kitchen restaurant.
Suite: Ovation has seven categories of suites (not including those designated as family suites). All have living rooms with sofas that convert into double beds. Perks include extras such as pre-dinner drinks in the Suite Lounge, access to the Coastal Kitchen restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, priority check-in, reserved seating in the main theatre for shows, bathrobes for onboard use, and priority departure in each port of call. Benefits vary depending on the category of suite, with top perks stretching to things like unlimited dining in specialty restaurants, deluxe beverage packages and complimentary laundry.
The smallest suites in this category are the Grand Suites, which measure 33 square metres (351 square feet). The balconies measure 10 square metres (109 square feet), providing room for two loungers and a small table with dining chairs. There are 12 Grand Suites, each featuring a master bedroom, living room with sofa bed, small writing desk, cabinet with minibar and coffee table. The bedroom and living areas are separated by a half wall and curtain, which can be pulled back. The marble bathrooms have a tub and two sinks, and can be accessed via doors from both the bedroom and living area. Bathrooms in all suites feature upgraded Gilchrist or L'Occitane products.
Identical -- apart from balcony size -- is the Superior Grand Suite. The balcony in these suites is an impressive 24 square metres (259 square feet).
Next up is the Owner's Suite category. These cabins measure 50 square metres (541 square feet) and feature a master bedroom with full-sized bath, water jets and two sinks. The living room offers a huge amount of storage space, with cupboards, drawers and various cubbyholes.
The Sky Loft Suite is the smallest two-deck cabin, measuring either 62.5 or 69 square metres (673 or 740 square feet). The master bedroom is on the upper level, along with a full bath with tub and dual sinks and a walk-in wardrobe. On the lower level is a living room, dining area, and bathroom with a full-size bath with shower. The balcony in these cabins measure 17 square metres (183 square feet).
There are three variations of the Grand Loft Suite, all varying by size and number of balconies. All are two decks high, with the master bedroom, a sitting desk area, full bath with shower, and a walk-in wardrobe on the upper level. The lower level features a living room with sofa, a dining area and full bath with shower. Grand Loft Suites on Deck 8 (74 square metres/795 square feet) each have one balcony (20 square metres/216 square feet), while those on Deck 10 are either 65 square metres (696 square feet), with three balconies totalling 33.5 square metres (361 square feet), or 78 square metres (840 square feet) with one 20-square-metre (216-square-foot) balcony.
The Owner's Loft Suite is an enormous 90.5 square metres (975 square feet) and is divided between two decks, with the king-bedded master bedroom on the upper floor. Also on this level is a writing desk area, a master bathroom with shower with dual showerheads, and an enlarged walk-in wardrobe. On the lower level is a large living room, separate dining area and split bath setup, one with toilet and sink and another with shower and sink. There is 46.5 metres (501 square feet) of balcony space spread over three balconies (one on the upper level), including one balcony with a large table for dining alfresco.
Dwarfing everything that comes before it is the sole Royal Loft Suite, which is situated at the back of Deck 8 and measures 152 square metres (1,640 square feet). The master bedroom is on the upper level, with a master bath with oval bathtub, dual sinks and a shower with dual showerheads; around the corner is a porthole looking out to sea. The oversized walk-in wardrobe is gigantic. On the lower level is a living room with a large dining space. There's also a separate living room and a second bedroom with a full bath. There are three balconies totalling 60 square metres (613 square feet). The largest of the three boasts a full-size hot tub and wet bar, and one of the smaller balconies features a smaller, two-person hot tub.
Family: With a flair for knowing what families need, Royal Caribbean has a variety of options, including suites that allow for family time as well as some privacy.
There are 28 Family Junior Suites with Balconies that measure 28 square metres (301 square feet), with 7.5-square-metre (81-square-foot) balconies. Slightly larger than the standard Junior Suite, these cabins can sleep up to five people (two adults and three children) at a squeeze. In addition to the bed, there's a sofa that converts to a double bed, so you'd either need to put three kids in one bed, or have two sharing the bed with a baby in a porta-cot. Each Family Junior Suite includes a full bathroom with a tub, as well as a separate half bath, both with standard toiletries.
Ovation's four Royal Family Suites with Balconies each comprise two bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Each master bedroom has a king bed, a private bathroom with tub, separate dressing area, and upgraded amenities. The second bedroom in each has two twin beds, two beds that drop down from the ceiling, and a second bathroom with shower. The living area has a sofa that converts to a double bed, a coffee table and chairs. There is a fancy marble entrance hall and a fancy entertainment centre. These 50 square metres (543-square-foot) suites each come with a 24-square-metre (259-square-foot) wraparound private balcony with seating area and private outdoor dining. The cabin sleeps up to eight, and a minimum of six is required for a booking.
The most innovative cabins are the Family Connected Junior Suite with Balcony, which actually is three cabins combined: a Junior Suite, a Studio cabin and an Ocean View with Balcony. The studio cabin is on the small side (9 square metres/101 square feet) but is ideal for children. The cabins share a hallway, making the whole area one big family suite, which is also well suited for a large group of friends. Each cabin has its own full bath, while the balconies are also interconnecting. These types of cabins can theoretically sleep up to 10 people. Each of the 16 Family Connected Junior Suite cabins is 53 square metres/575 square feet (combined) with a 20-square-metre/216-square-foot balcony (also combined). Each of the individual cabins can be booked separately or as a combination of two.
Studio: Ovation has 28 studio cabins designed for solo travellers, including 12 with balconies. Compact but providing everything you need in a scaled-down version, these cabins range from 9 square metres/101 square feet (as part of the Family Connected Suite) to 11 square metres/119 square feet for a Super Studio Ocean View with Balcony, the latter with 5-square-metre/55-square-foot balconies. Studio cabins are a great choice for passengers travelling alone and for those who don't want to share a cabin, as they avoid the dreaded "single supplement" that can almost double a cruise fare.
The mix of free options ranges from the expansive Windjammer Marketplace buffet restaurant to venues serving light bites and grab-and-go snacks, a classic hot-dog truck, a pizzeria and a 24-hour cafe. There are also four restaurants with different decor (but serving the same menu), which take the place of a main dining room.
Dining options on Ovation differ slightly from its sister ships due to its China home base. Johnny Rockets (a mainstay of the Royal Caribbean fleet) has been replaced by the colourful Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop, and the Windjammer Marketplace has the addition of a dedicated Asian food station.
Ovation of the Seas gives passengers the option to choose from two dining seating times -- early or late -- or a flexible option, which means you can eat at different times and with different table companions each evening. There is no main dining room (MDR). Instead, people are spread across these four main restaurants: The Grande, Chic, Silk, and American Icon Grill. These restaurants were originally designed to accommodate the now defunct Dynamic Dining program, hence the somewhat unusual MDR set-up on this ship.
Early and late seating passengers dine at the more upmarket-looking restaurants, Chic and The Grande, on Deck 3. People on the flexible My Time Dining option enjoy dinner at the American Icon and Silk restaurants on Deck 4. Menus are the same in each venue and change daily. These four venues seat 450 people each, which is not enough to accommodate more than 4,000 passengers. However, while there was always a (small) queue for My Time Dining during our cruise, the wait was seldom longer than a few minutes. We did not pre-book a dining time and simply joined the queue for those with no reservations. Hint: there is a 'passengers with no booking' queue at both American Icon and Silk.
Expect classic dishes such as lobster bisque or escargots in herb butter to start, followed by grilled fish or chicken for mains, and chocolate lava cake, gelato or baked Alaska for dessert. At lunch, it's sandwiches, salads, burgers and other hot items with a US connection. Vegetarian options are always available, and food allergies and preferences can be catered to. Food service in the main dining rooms was impressively timely; drinks less so. Some passengers circumvented this by bringing a glass of wine from one of the bars through to dinner.
The Grande (Deck 3): Originally designed for formal dining but now used for everyday dining, The Grande is indeed grand. Ornate gold, cream and black decor provides a sumptuous backdrop to this beautiful restaurant, and the table settings are very elegant. In common with the other restaurants, there are plenty of tables for two (though you will be pretty close to your neighbours) along with tables for four and circular tables seating up to eight. With prior notice, large groups can be accommodated with tables for two pushed together to form one long table. The restaurant is open for a la carte breakfast from 8 am to 9.30 am (with earlier opening on port days) and dinner from 5.15 pm to 9.30 pm.
Chic (Deck 3): Situated directly opposite The Grande, Chic has a variety of seating, from tables for two to large banquettes, and is open for three meals a day. The contemporary space is heavy on gold and stark white decor. Breakfast features a buffet of fresh fruit, pastries and cold cuts, along with eggs, sausages, bacon and other hot dishes. It's ideal for those who get overwhelmed by massive spreads in the morning (or would prefer to avoid scrambling for a table at the busy Windjammer Marketplace). Chic is open for breakfast from 8 am to 9.30 am (with earlier opening on port days); lunch from 11.30 am to 1 pm on sea days; and dinner from 5.15 pm to 9.30 pm.
Silk (Deck 4): No longer an Asian restaurant, Silk still has rich, ornate Chinese decor in shades of red and gold, which seems incongruous given the modern American menu. Silk is open for dinner only from 5.15 pm to 9 pm.
American Icon Grill (Deck 4): Opposite Silk, this eatery has lots of American art on the walls and room dividers that gives the restaurant a more intimate feel. Window tables are lovely and worth waiting a few extra minutes for. American Icon is open for dinner only from 5.15 pm to 9 pm.
Cafe Promenade (Deck 4): Situated in the Royal Esplanade -- and a great spot for people watching with "outdoor" tables on the main promenade -- the Cafe Promenade offers a range of snacks throughout the day, including sandwiches, pastries and fabulous cookies. Whenever you feel peckish, head to this venue as it's open 24/7.
Sorrento's (Deck 4): Be transported to Italy in the pizzeria that is next door to Cafe Promenade. (As well as entering from the Royal Esplanade, passengers can walk from one to the other through an internal doorway.) Each day, Sorrento's features four different pizzas (such as pepperoni or chicken), which are listed on a board. Walls are decorated with old record covers and photos, making it a fun place to linger awhile. It is open from 11.30 am (sometimes 11 am) right through to 3 am.
The Cafe @ Two70 (Deck 5): For passengers in search of a quick breakfast or lighter bites, soups, bistro-style salad dishes made to order, wraps, sandwiches and freshly warmed paninis later in the day, this is the place to be. There is also an extensive complimentary drinks bar that includes tea, coffee, juice and flavoured water such as strawberry or mango. You get the food from the various stations and then find a table outside, or take your food into the Two70 venue to enjoy it as you look out through the panoramic windows at the back of the ship. (There is no seating inside the cafe itself.) Breakfast is served from 8 am to 10.30 am (with earlier opening on port days) and includes continental items such as muffins, bagels and fruit, as well as breakfast burritos. The cafe then reopens for lunch with a choice of items such as hot sandwiches, made-to-order salads and wraps and afternoon snacks from 11.30 am to 5 pm.
Windjammer Marketplace (Deck 14): The main buffet restaurant comprises a number of themed stations, rather than one large central buffet. It's a huge space, and the size and choice of food can seem bewildering the first time you visit, particularly on busy embarkation day and at the peak breakfast period, when you can circle the room trying to find a table. Once you start to get the hang of the layout, it becomes easier. On arrival at Windjammer, passengers are ushered through a hand-washing area, with a crew member on hand to ensure nobody skips it. Every station is geared to a particular type of food or cuisine, such as fresh fruit, salads, cooked items, Mediterranean cuisine and so forth. A new section is the Asian area, designed to appeal to Ovation's Chinese passengers. However, all tastes are catered for and we defy anyone not to find something they like. The bakery section is particularly tempting, with its fresh-baked loaves and cookies. The breakfast buffet includes all the usual favourites such as sausages, scrambled eggs and hash browns. In addition to cereals, fruit, yoghurt, cold cuts and freshly baked ham sliced off the bone, passengers can also enjoy made-to-order omelettes, eggs Benedict and other dishes. Lunch always includes a selection of delicious sandwiches (such as mozzarella and tomato or smoked chicken) or passengers can make their own. There are countless salad items and all manner of hot dishes. Cakes come out in the afternoon and, for dinner, the stations are once again groaning with hot and cold dishes from around the globe with a different themed section each evening. The seating areas closest to the stations are invariably the busiest, and you are more likely to get a table (and a quieter dining environment) if you head out to the tables towards the aft of the ship. Dining outside peak times -- such as 11.45am for lunch -- makes it much easier to find a seat. The Windjammer Marketplace is open for breakfast from 7 am to 11 am (with earlier opening on port days), lunch from 11.30 am to 3 pm, and dinner from 5.45 pm to 9 pm.
Solarium Bistro (Deck 14): In total contrast to the busy Windjammer, this is a much smaller restaurant at the front of the ship, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (when some dishes carry a fee). It was interesting to see how it went from being relatively empty to being "discovered" by other passengers as the cruise went on. Breakfast and lunch buffet options include healthy choices, with plenty of fresh fruit, yoghurt and a tasty Bircher muesli, along with the usual hot dishes, plus eggs cooked to order. Lunch is along similar lines, with a choice of two soups, plenty of salads and hot items. In the evening, when reservations are required, there is a salad and dessert bar with served main courses, such as grilled salmon with couscous, steak and chips, and lemon-roasted chicken. Two items carry an extra charge: Lobster tail (US$20/A$26.80) and lamb chops (US$10/A$13). The Solarium Bistro is open from 7.30am to 10 am for breakfast, noon to 1.30pm (or sometimes later) for lunch, and 5.30 pm to 9 pm for dinner.
Coastal Kitchen (Deck 14): Serving Mediterranean and Californian cuisine, this fusion restaurant is free, but available exclusively to suite passengers only. For breakfast and lunch, only passengers in Grand Suites and higher can dine there. At dinner, it's open to passengers staying in Junior Suites and higher. The a la carte menu is generally healthy, and cuisine -- from grilled salmon to tasty flatbreads -- is well prepared. Passengers can also exit directly from Coastal Kitchen to the buffet using a private side door. Some diners will find this convenient; others may resent the disruption of their dining experience by those ducking in and out to fill their plates. Ask for a table away from this door if you would prefer not to be disturbed. Coastal Kitchen is open for breakfast from 8 am to 10 am (with earlier opening on port days), lunch from noon to 1.30pm., and dinner from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.
SeaPlex Dog House (Deck 15): A novel hotdog van at sea, it adds a fun, fairground feel to the SeaPlex complex, particularly when the bumper cars are running. It serves a selection of hot dogs, including the classic frankfurter and a chicken hot dog made with apples. It's open from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours a day and can be ordered by phone, through the interactive TV, or for breakfast, by filling out a form and placing it outside the cabin door by 3 am. Only continental breakfast is free. Most everything else carries a US$7.95 (A$10.37) surcharge per order.
Ovation's for-a-fee restaurants offer a very different culinary experience, including a more intimate atmosphere, really personal service, top-notch food.
Reservations for these restaurants can be made ahead of the cruise, onboard at guest services, at the restaurants or via the Royal IQ. However, it is definitely worth booking ahead in order to avoid disappointment, particularly for speciality restaurants such as Wonderland. If you are travelling on a shorter itinerary, do not even think of booking onboard if you have your heart set on dining at a particular restaurant. On our 14-night cruise there were still grumbles from passengers who found the restaurants fully booked, or only offering slots for early or late dining times. Don't leave your dining choice to chance.
Ovation also offers pre-bookable dining packages, available for three to five dinners, which save up to 40 percent off the cost of booking speciality restaurants separately. However, these packages may not be available on every sailing as we discovered on our cruise. Note: A US$10 (A$13) cancellation fee will be charged for reservations cancelled within 24 hours of the reservation date and for those who do a no-show; the fee jumps to US$25 (A$32.60) for the Chef's Table.
Michael's Genuine Pub (Deck 4); a la carte pricing: This British-style pub is created in partnership with Miami celebrity chef Michael Schwartz. If you're feeling hungry there are all sorts of nibbles, snack items and more substantial pub fare, such as a jar of pickled vegetables or devilled eggs for US$3 (A$3.91) each, or chips with onion dip, pork scratchings or chicken wings for US$5 (A$6.52). For bigger appetites choose from bangers and mash, fish and chips, or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, all priced at US$12.50 ($16.30), and followed by sweets including sticky toffee pudding and peanut butter pie-in-a-jar for US$4 (A$5.22). Opening hours are 11 am to 1 am.
La Patisserie (Deck 4); a la carte pricing: The macarons in the window of La Patisserie are as pretty as a picture, and draw you in from the Royal Esplanade. Choose from delicate flavours, such as green tea or rose lychee, for US$1.75 (A$2.28) each, or indulge in a handcrafted cupcake for US$2.25 (A$2.93). Espresso-style coffees are also available for a fee. La Patisserie is open from 6 am to 11 pm.
Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver (Deck 5); US$39 (A$51) for lunch or dinner: Representing the British chef's first restaurant at sea (also featured on the other Quantum vessels), the restaurant is on the upper level of the Royal Esplanade. The lively eatery, popular with families, features a pleasingly rustic Italian decor and the menu include his trademark "planks" -- boards filled with meats, cheeses or vegetarian bites that are designed to be shared as starter. Lunch and dinner menus are the same, which is reflected in the pricing, with dishes such as crab and avocado bruschetta, baked mushrooms and garlic bread to start, followed by garlicky prawn linguine, Jamie's Italian burger, spaghetti puttanesca, and lasagne (baked with squash) to follow. Desserts are large and often served together on a plank. The waiters are cheerful and attentive, with lots of recommendations for food and wine. Jamie's house wine is the cheapest on the ship and very nice. You can also get limoncello, grappa and an affogato for that Italian touch. Jamie's Italian is open for lunch from noon to 1.30 pm (sea days only), and for dinner from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.
Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine (Deck 5); US$49 (A$64): The most innovative speciality restaurant on the ship is a real flight of culinary fantasy. The decor is mismatched and whimsical, inspired by Alice in Wonderland and her trip down the rabbit hole. There is a throne-style chair at every table and others are decorated with faces and optical illusions, so you know from the minute you walk in that this is going to be something totally different. It is also the only venue on the ship where you'll find real candles on the tables. The quirkiness continues when the waiter, clad in an opulent crushed velvet coat, offers you a picture frame containing a blank sheet of paper. Next comes a paintbrush and pot of water and, once you get painting, the menu is revealed. The menu is based on four elements -- sun, fire, sea and earth -- with dishes such as baby vegetables in the garden or chilled sweet pea soup for sun; "vanishing" noodles or duck-liver fritter for fire; liquid lobster or halibut cooked in clear paper for sea; and pork belly or slow-roasted chicken for earth. (All the items come with fancy sides as well.) While you can order from the menu, it's actually much more fun to let the waiter simply bring items to the table (which they offer to do at the outset), so you have no idea what is coming next, or exactly where you are in terms of the number of courses still to arrive. It's worth noting that you won't miss out if you are a vegetarian, and the veggie dishes were equally creative. Desserts are also a delight, with a sensational take on the cruise favourite -- baked Alaska (with chocolate on the inside) and lime lollipops.
Exquisitely prepared and presented, each small dish resembles a work of art. We loved the food at Wonderland and the surprise birthday dessert presented by the maitre d' was a lovely touch but our overall dining experience was disappointing. We were expecting a creative and lively dinner but our serious and somewhat dour waiter could not have been less fun. With its theatrical setting and seemingly never-ending courses, this is a terrific venue to celebrate a special occasion (provided you have better luck than we did with your allocated server); the whole experience is very leisurely and can easily last over two hours. To get the most from Wonderland, you definitely need to go with an open mind and enter into the spirit of it. Wonderland is open for dinner from 5.30 pm to 9 pm. Bookings are highly recommended for this signature restaurant; ideally using the online cruise planner before leaving home.
Izumi Japanese Cuisine (Deck 5); a la carte pricing: This pan-Asian eatery is centred around a large sushi bar. It is only separated from the upper level of the Royal Esplanade by shiny red screens, so this is not a place to come for a quiet meal. Izumi offers a pan-Asian menu, though the bulk of the items are Japanese. Starters include shrimp and vegetable tempura for US$10 (A$13), and tofu sesame salad for US$7 (A$9.13). The bulk of the menu is sushi and sashimi, the latter sold in two or five pieces for US$4 (A$5.21) and US$10 ((A$13) respectively, with signature rolls including Champagne lobster in yuzu wrap for US$14 (A$18.25); salmon sashimi and avocado on a crab asparagus roll for US$12 (A$15.60); and a surf-and-turf steak tataki and shrimp tempura roll, also $12. Izumi is open for lunch from noon to 1.30pm; dinner from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.
Chops Grille (Deck 5); US$42 (A$55): As the name implies, this restaurant is meat heavy and ideal for carnivores who like their steak. It is also the place to find that other perennially popular cruise-ship favourite, lobster, which costs an additional US$21 (A$27). The menu includes filet mignon, lamb chops and New York strips, along with other premium items such as seafood towers, which cost an additional US$19 (A$24) or US$39 (A$50), depending on the size. There are a few fish dishes, such as crusted tuna, spicy jumbo shrimp and snapper, but little for vegetarians aside from soup and a salad and sides. Sides include mash, grilled asparagus, baked potato, roast mushrooms and creamed spinach. Our filet mignon was deliciously juicy and perfectly cooked. Chops Grille has an old-style, warm atmosphere with dark furnishings and low lighting, and excellent service. It was our favourite restaurant onboard. This restaurant is only open for dinner from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.
Chef's Table (Deck 5); US$95 (A$123): Located at the end of Chops Grille and offered every night of the cruise, the Chef's Table serves a six-course menu, with each dish paired with an appropriate wine. A typical menu might include a crispy crab cone with avocado, wasabi and caviar, followed by cauliflower soup with pancetta and mascarpone cheese, artichoke salad with fennel, tagliatelle with truffle butter, New York strip loin with polenta and portobello mushrooms, and olive oil cake with ricotta and lemon liqueur. A meal to be savoured, diners can expect to be at the table (which accommodates 12 to 16) for three hours. Note: If there aren't enough reservations to fill the table, the dinner could be cancelled.
Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop (Deck 14); a la carte pricing: This new eatery next to the main pool area takes the place of Johnny Rockets and is decorated with Chinese lanterns and cute panda pictures. It might have been introduced with the Asian market in mind, but local cruisers shunned it on our sailing despite the simple pricing structure with dishes such as four pieces of dim sum (including pork, shrimp or vegetable) costing US$5 (A$6.50), bowls of noodles (pork and shrimp, vegetarian and various types of beef) for US$6 ($7.82), and dessert (sesame balls, custard tart, white fungus soup, and guiling gao (a Chinese herbal jelly) for US$2.50 (A$3.27). Delivery is available during opening hours but incurs a US$7.95 (A$10.36) room service fee in addition to the cost of the food. The noodle shop is open from 11.30 am to 10 pm.
Cruise casual is the way to go during the day, with shorts, cropped trousers, jeans, T-shirts, vest tops, swimsuits, cover-ups and sundresses for women; for men, think swimwear, shorts, jeans, polo shirts and T-shirts. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops/thongs are acceptable for lunch, but swimsuits, robes, bare feet, vest tops, baseball caps and pool wear are not allowed in the main restaurants or speciality restaurants.
At dinner, the dress code is smart casual for women, which Royal Caribbean sets out as skirt or trousers (no holes, rips or tears) with a blouse. While jeans are perfectly acceptable, many women do opt for dresses and a smarter look. For men, the code is trousers (no holes, rips or tears) with a collared shirt. For passengers who prefer to dress up in the evening, feel free to wear a cocktail dress or trouser suit for ladies and dress shirts, ties and jackets for men.
The two-deck Royal Theatre, located forward on Decks 4 and 5, seats 1,300 passengers and is a multi-purpose stage venue used for Broadway-style productions, 3D movies, comedy and other shows. Ovation debuted two new shows for Royal Caribbean. The Beautiful Dream is a feel-good song-and-dance show about a bereaved father who is visited by his late wife in a dream, which helps him come to terms with his loss and rediscover his zest for life. It features some fantastic special effects, including a fire-breathing dragon and steam train. Alternating with The Beautiful Dream is Live, Love, Legs, an all-singing, all-dancing Vegas-style spectacular with aerial acrobatics and slick choreography. Pixels is the third show, which combines special effects and pop music and is held in the multi-purpose venue Two70. It's worth making reservations for these exceptional productions, especially on shorter itineraries, or you could miss out.
The theatre hosts two shows nightly -- usually at 7 pm and 9 pm -- to fit in with passengers' preferred dining times. Acts on our cruise ranged from a magician to comedians and a talented musical theatre star. There is no need to book for these shows as the venue operates on a free seating basis. Generally, the later show attracts a smaller audience, so opt for this performance if you're in a big group and want to sit together.
Royal Caribbean's Quantum ships really shook up recreation on the ocean waves with a number of first-at-sea innovations, the largest of which is SeaPlex. The largest sports complex at sea is a huge, versatile area that offers a non-stop program of fun and games for all ages. The heart of SeaPlex is the arena; depending of the time of day, it undergoes a metamorphosis from a basketball court into a roller-skating rink and, most novel of all, a bumper-car circuit. For passengers who want to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, there is also a circus school with trapeze classes held over an air-filled mat. Children need to be six years or older to take part in this activity.
"SeaPods" which are small rooms for getting together with friends and family, are located around the arena on the second deck of SeaPlex. Gamers can play Xbox or participate in more traditional games such as air hockey (although, unlike the other activities, this attracts a $US1(A$1.30) per game charge). This area is also a good spot to watch the roller-skating sessions, which run for around half an hour at a time, with consecutive slots overlapping by 15 minutes. You need a pair of socks to participate and skaters of all ages must wear wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet. Don't forget to sign the waiver form and collect your wristband at the desk near the entrance to the rink prior to lining up at the equipment counter. Arrive five minutes or so before the skating is due to start to get a wristband for the first half-hour session. Children under six must be accompanied on the rink by a parent at all times (thankfully, these grown-ups are not required to wear skates). Children under 13 must be supervised by an adult who can either join them for a skate or watch from the sidelines.
Dodgem cars are available every day or two so youngsters and the young-at-heart can bump their way around the SeaPlex. Children must be at least 5 years old and 1.06 metres (42 inches) tall to ride; those aged under nine must be accompanied by an adult. While the queue for this activity can feel slow moving at times, it is worth the wait. Smart cruisers who lined up around 20 minutes before the bumper car session was due to begin had virtually no wait when the ride opened; others who arrived later waited up to an hour. It is worth noting that those passengers staying in a suite can show their SeaPass card and ride the bumper cars without queuing. Unfortunately, this policy wasn't made known to non-suite passengers in the long, long line who became understandably upset about those 'pushing in' and riding multiple times. Is this fair? We're not sure but we did feel sorry for those who were challenged. Nearby, the Challenger's Arcade, linked to SeaPlex, is packed with (for-a-fee) video games. If you buy your child a capped $US20 (A$26) or equivalent pass for the arcade, be warned that additional games will automatically be charged to your child's card
Throughout the day, a wide variety of activities -- creative, mental and physical -- are held across the ship in areas such as the Music Hall and Two70. (The latter venue takes its name from the sweeping 270-degree views offered during the day.) The Workshop, located off the second deck of Two70, hosts craft sessions, such as jewellery making and scrapbooking; and Sudoku is available at any time from the library, also next to Two70 on Deck 6. Passengers can challenge their grey matter with Puzzle Break where teams try to "escape" from a room by solving clues. Puzzle Break can only be booked onboard via the Royal IQ app or guest services. In addition to pool games, there is also Zumba, bingo and trivia quizzes. Don't miss the contemporary dance classes such as hip-hop run by the onboard dancers. Even if you have two left feet, they're a lot of fun. Check the daily program for times and venues.
Regular events are also held for solo passengers with the aim of fostering new friendships, such as a daily singles and solo travellers lunch, which takes place in Two70.
When the sun goes down, there's as much to do as there is during daylight hours. The biggest problem is deciding what to do, where to go and how to fit everything in during the cruise. From smooth Latin sounds to classic rock, passengers can dance and tap their feet to tunes from around the world, or grab their own share of the limelight in a karaoke session. Aside from a Calypso steel drum band or classical pianist in the nautical inspired Schooner Bar, our only disappointment was the lack of live music available during the cocktail hour.
Casino Royale (Deck 3): Located midship, the large casino boasts 30 gaming tables and, catering to the Asian market, a larger number of slot machines than the casinos on the sibling Quantum ships. There are around 130 slot machines, open from 9 am to late; additional machines have been located along the back wall of the Music Hall that occupies the same deck. The gaming tables typically open at noon on sea days and 8 pm on port days. There is a VIP area in one corner. Anyone can go in, but the suggested minimum bet is US$200 (A$260). When in Asia, the casino is the only inside area of the ship where smoking is allowed in a designated area. That said, the smell of smoke is noticeable in the non-smoking section. In Australia, the whole casino is non-smoking. Note: For real high rollers, a VVIP gaming area called the Golden Room opens in part of the Diamond Lounge, on Deck 4, when the ship homeports in China. Here the suggested minimum bet is US$300 (A$391), with the sky being the limit.
Music Hall (Decks 3 and 4): Divided between two decks and connected by a staircase, this popular venue rocks at night. It holds around 600 people in total, but it's usually standing room only by the time the nightly rock n' roll cover band or Beatles tribute act strikes the first chord. Get there early if you want to grab a seat. Passengers can also get up on stage at karaoke and rockaoke (where a rock band accompanies you while you sing) sessions held in the Music Hall.
Two70 (Decks 5 and 6): This standout venue is located right at the back of the ship and features jaw-dropping technology that provides an ever-changing backdrop to the shows. At night, the panoramic floor-to-ceiling glass windows (which reach the height of Deck 7) are transformed into Vistarama, more than 30 metres (100 feet) by six metres (20 feet) tall that is used for ultra-HD projected images. Adding to the spectacle are six robotic screens, suspended above the performance area, that can move independently or together to create even more digital imagery. Everything comes into play when dancers, musicians and acrobats take to the multi-level stage (often below and above it) for Pixels. Two70 holds about 400 people; for the best view of all the high-tech wizardry, arrive around 30 minutes before showtime and choose one of the raised seats on the side of the stage. Shows start at 6.30 pm and 8 pm and reservations are required. Groups who want to sit together should definitely arrive half an hour before the show starts.
Don't miss the Silent Disco which takes place here once or twice each cruise. Get there early to score a pair of glowing headphones with a switch so you can swap between two different music channels: old-time favourites like The Monkees and a live mix from the ship's DJ. Don't worry if you have two left feet; no one knows if you aren't in time with the music. Even if you don't feel like dancing, this unique disco is fun to watch.
By day, the pool bars are popular spots for drinks and sundowners; come evening, passengers head to the bars that are situated in and around the midship Royal Esplanade. They all boast a different atmosphere, and passengers are likely to find a favourite and stick to it. One of the ship's largest bars, The Music Hall, was closed each evening from 4.30 pm to 8 pm and used as an overflow area for Diamond Lounge passengers on our cruise. We hope this does not continue as it placed additional pressure on other venues. Inside bars were packed in the early evening on sea days, making it virtually impossible to find a seat.
Casino Royale Bar (Deck 3): Celebrate your winnings or drown your sorrows at the bar situated in the casino.
Boleros (Deck 4): With its plush red and gold seating and low lighting, this bar has a Latin theme. There's live music on the stage each evening, and passengers who want to strut their stuff with a salsa or samba can take to the small dance floor.
Michael's Genuine Pub (Deck 4): Brits will certainly feel at home in this pub. With its dark wood booths, it's the place to catch up with friends and watch sports on the TV. It serves a selection of craft beers (add US$7 (A$9) to take home a souvenir glass), Newcastle Ale on tap, wines, spirits and cocktails. Food is also served for an extra fee.
Schooner Bar (Deck 5): This atmospheric, nautical-themed bar -- complete with a ship's wheel that provides an obligatory photo opportunity -- is an atmospheric spot. It also doubles as a piano bar, and passengers can sit around the grand piano and make requests. It's the closest bar to Chops Grille, making it a good spot for a pre- or post-dinner drink.
Bionic Bar (Deck 5): The most talked-about bar on the ship and unofficially dubbed the "robot bar", this is where drinks are shaken and served by the pair of Makr Shakr robotic bartenders. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails are ordered via a tablet, and two screens on each side of the bar show who has ordered the drink, the ingredients going into it and the stage of its preparation. The screens also throw up fun stats about the most popular cocktails ordered by different age groups. After the robots have mixed your drink in a plastic cup, they push it down a chute towards you. Then you need to move away from the tables holding the tablets to let the next people order. But there are stools behind the walkway in front of the bar, and futuristic silver seats nearby, where you can continue to watch the robotic action and the synchronised refuelling "dance" they do every now and again. That said, on our cruise the bar tenders were a tad temperamental, with one out of action for the entire cruise (although it would still dance occasionally if it was in the mood). You're probably only going to get one or two drinks here rather than make it your regular haunt, but it's a novelty and a one-of-a-kind, must-do experience. Note: Only passengers aged 21 or more can order from the Bionic Bar.
Vintages Wine Bar (Deck 5): This stylish venue tends to be quieter than some of the other bars, probably because it just serves wine. Passengers can sip a wide range from vineyards around the world, with the choice of ordering from the bar staff or getting a glass from the self-serve wine dispensers activated by the SeaPass cards. The bar is well-located for an aperitif before a meal at nearby Jamie's Italian, and also occupies a nice spot overlooking the spectacular Red Thread art installation by Chinese artist Bieli Liu. It was our favourite bar on the ship with unfailingly pleasant, personal and efficient service provided by a team of friendly bartenders, despite the fact they were often run off their feet.
Two70 (Decks 5 and 6): There is a bar near the windows at Two70 with a couple of creative cocktails not found at other bars. For a twist on your usual Champagne or Kir Royale, try the Balancing Act with creme de cassis foam.
Sky Bar (Deck 14): This bar serves the main outdoor pool. It gets busy on sunny days, but staff pushing trolleys filled with refreshing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages also patrol the indoor and outdoor pool deck, making it easy to quench your thirst.
Pool Bar (Deck 14): The ship's quietest bar is found in the covered pool area.
Sunshine Bar (Deck 14): Located in the adults-only, daylight-filled Solarium section at the front of the ship, this pleasant bar is relatively peaceful. Freshly squeezed orange juice is available here (for a fee), which is handy for the adjacent bistro at breakfast time.
North Star Bar (Deck 15): This is the most popular outdoor bar as it is next to the entrance to the North Star and provides great views of the pod, as well as a panoramic view over the pool deck.
You don't need to go far to find Ovation's three pools; they are all located on Deck 14, yet each one has a very different vibe. The main pool, midship next to the Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop, is the busiest (and noisiest), especially on sunny sea days. The pool is five feet deep, has two whirlpools and is overlooked by a giant film screen, variously used for movies and trivia questions. Live or recorded music is played during the day, and it is always a popular place to be during sailaways. Next to this pool is the colourful, family-friendly H2O Zone, with slides and a donut-shaped pool with a gentle, continuous current. There is a small splash pool for children who wear nappies. Note: Children who are not toilet trained are not allowed in the main pools, whirlpools or H2O pools, aside from the splash pool -- even if they are in swim nappies.
Immediately next to the main pool, moving towards the front of the ship, is the indoor pool which is slightly deeper at 1.6 metres (5 feet 3 inches) and has a retractable roof for warm days and is available for families to use. Although it is right next door to the main pool, it is self-contained and therefore a quieter option for people who want to laze and read in between the occasional dip. It also has two whirlpools.
Beyond the pool is the Sea Trek shop, which sells sunscreen and other items.
Forward is the Solarium pool, which is a lovely, peaceful, adult-only area. A trio of shallow tiered pools, geared for relaxing off rather than swimming, run down to the front of the vessel, and the lower pool has five stone loungers (more comfortable than they sound) set in the shallow water. The area is enclosed by panoramic windows and a glass roof, and has palm trees, lush green flowerbeds and a stunning, flower-like red sculpture on the ceiling near the bar, giving it the feel of a tropical garden. The sound of water trickling down between the pools adds to the relaxed air. Seating is a mix of traditional loungers and rattan chairs with comfy cushions, some big enough for two people.
The absolute high spot, in more ways than one, is the RipCord by iFly skydiving tower -- Royal Caribbean's first-at-sea innovation that debuted on sister ships Quantum and Anthem of the Seas. You no longer need to jump from a plane at 12,000 feet to experience what it's like to skydive; just head to the top deck.
It is a complimentary activity in Australia, but you need to make reservations online or early in the cruise to avoid disappointment as there are limited sessions each day -- typically 8 am to 10 am and 4 pm to 9 pm with 12 "skydivers" on each one. Children have to be three and over to take part, and for adults there is a weight restriction of 104 kg for passengers under six feet and 113 kg for those over six feet. All participants have to sign a waiver form. (It saves time to do this on the interactive TV screen in the cabin, where a multiple form covers all onboard activities that require a waiver signature.) After checking in at the reception area on Deck 15, participants watch an instructional video and meet the instructor, who runs through the experience and what to expect. Next, everyone is kitted out with a jumpsuit, helmet, goggles and earplugs. (You need to wear socks or lace-up shoes such as trainers.) All of this takes around 30 minutes. Then you'll head up to Deck 16 for your "flight" inside the simulator. A curious crowd always gathers outside during the sessions, and friends and relatives can take photos. (A ship's photographer is always on hand as well.) The instructor helps you inside and is with you all the time to guide and help you during the "skydive". The experience lasts exactly one minute, which doesn't sound long but is sufficient for a totally exhilarating sensation.
The other big outdoor attraction is the FlowRider surf simulator, also on Deck 16. Again, this is a complimentary activity that requires pre-registration and a waiver form. If you have already signed the waiver online, you still need to visit the iFly counter on Deck 15 to obtain a blue wristband. This band stays on throughout the cruise and entitles you to ride the FlowRider whenever sessions are on. This activity carries a height restriction of 1.3 metres for boogie boarding and 1.47 metres for stand-up surfing. There are various opening times for the FlowRider, which vary depending on whether the ship is at sea or docked, so check the daily planner. Instructors provide safety demonstrations and instruction is also available, priced at US$69 (A$89) per hour for a group lesson with a minimum of four and a maximum of eight participants. It costs US$552 (A$719) per hour for a private session or you can rent the FlowRider for exclusive use for US$345 (A$449) per hour.
Next to the giant panda installation is the rock-climbing wall, which also requires a waiver signature. Even if you have already signed the waiver, you still need to obtain a wristband from the iFly counter next to the rock wall. Climbing (and waiting for your turn) is more comfortable when the wall is in shade. Check the daily program for opening times, which are typically two hours every morning and afternoon.
If all this sounds too exhausting, Ovation's other outdoor highlight is the North Star. The panoramic glass capsule on Deck 15, usually open from 8 am to 5.30 pm, is attached to a giant mechanical arm that gently raises it to 90 metres (300 feet) above sea level, providing a stunning 360-degree view over the surrounding seascape or ports of call. At the height of the ascent the capsule can be rotated to the left and right before being lowered back to deck level, however this option is only available on China sailings when the ride is chargeable. The ride, which carries 15 people at a time, needs to be pre-booked but you can also wait in the stand-by queue in the hope that someone doesn't show up. No bookings are required on port days, which means it is possible to ride twice: once while the ship is at sea (with a prior booking) and once while in port provided you are prepared to line up. The North Star can be privately booked for special occasions, for a fee. There is a height restriction for children of 1.06 metres, and kids less than 1.21 metres must be accompanied by a supervising companion of at least 14 years of age. The maximum rider weight is 136 kg. The small platform to the immediate right after exiting the North Star is a great spot for taking selfies and photos of the capsule's exterior.
Away from the lounging areas around the pools, the standalone sun deck is situated on Deck 15. It is a shared space with the wraparound promenade and running track (the latter is very close to the end of the loungers) and on the same deck as the North Star, so it can be quite a busy thoroughfare. Nevertheless, it's a quieter space for those who want to escape the bustle of the main pools, and there are plenty of loungers. Suite passengers benefit from their own private sunbathing area on Deck 16.
The main services are located on Decks 4 and 5. Guest services is situated midship on Deck 4, directly opposite Boleros, and is open 24 hours. Members of staff are on hand to help with reservations, such as North Star, iFly and dining, and to deal with any problems. The guest services team on our sailing were some of the friendliest and most efficient we have encountered on any ship. Passengers can also make their own reservations by using the Royal IQ tablets located nearby; there is always someone to help navigate through the system if required. Dining reservations can be made at the desks outside the Silk and American Icon Grill restaurant on Deck 4, and the Chic and The Grande restaurants directly below on Deck 3.
The mall-like retail area is the Royal Esplanade, spread over two levels on Deck 4 and 5. There are plenty of high-end boutiques selling famous-name luxury watches, Swarovski crystal jewellery, designer clothes and sunglasses. To cater for the Asian market, the beauty and cosmetic store now carries an enlarged range of products, including a number of Asian brands. Port Merchants is the ship's duty-free drink and cigarette store, and reasonably priced souvenirs such as mugs, soft toys and models of the ship, along with Royal Caribbean logowear, can be found in the kiosk in the centre of the lower level of the Royal Esplanade.
A small library containing mostly novels can be found on Deck 6, leading from the upper level of Two70. The shelves are always open and passengers can borrow books as they please. One section of the library houses the small Internet cafe, which has three computers and a printer available for passenger use. There is no dedicated card and games room. A one-day "Surf" package, suitable for checking emails, surfing the web and sharing photos on social media, is priced at US$64.95 (A$84.68) for a five-day voyage. A 24-hour "Surf + Stream" package that can also be used to stream TV shows, films and music costs US$89.95 (A$117) for five days. Internet charges for 24 hours continuous use start at US$19.99 (A$26) per day for "Surf" and cost US$27.99 (A$36.50) per day for "Surf + Stream". Special Internet deals are also available, so check the daily program for details. Connection and Internet speed were both excellent throughout our cruise.
The Focus Photo Gallery is located on Deck 5 and, as you would expect from such a technologically savvy ship, it's completely digital. Instead of hunting through vast racks of printed photographs, passengers go to a computer station and scan their SeaPass or wristband. Face-recognition software then shows any photos that have been taken and these can be selected and saved in an album for a later date, or purchased there and then. Photos are available as digital copies, prints or both. The gallery has a private studio and also sells cameras and other photographic equipment.
Also located next to each other on Deck 5 are the shore excursion desk and a desk to book future cruises.
Ovation has a conference centre, comprising four rooms that can be converted into one large meeting space, at the back of the ship on Deck 13.
There are no self-service public laundry rooms.
Royal Caribbean firmly believes that adults shouldn't be the only ones to have all the fun at sea, and Ovation carries on this tradition with a fantastic range of facilities for the tiniest of cruisers through to hard-to-please teens. The heart of the action centres around Adventure Ocean. This bright, appealing kids' club caters to those aged six months to 11 years, and has six rooms incorporating a nursery and separate areas for different ages. There is a raft of family-friendly accommodation and family dining options. In partnership with DreamWorks, Ovation provides the opportunity for kids to meet their favourite characters, with parades and themed meals featuring Shrek, King Julian, the penguins of Madagascar and others. Young movie fans can also watch the likes of Princess Fiona on the big screen in 3D or back in their stateroom.
Adventure Ocean, split via a spiral staircase between Decks 11 and 12 at the front of the ship, is divided into four groups by age: Royal Babies (6 to 18 months), Royal Tots (18 to 36 months), Aquanauts (3 to 5 years), Explorers (6 to 8) and Voyagers (9 to 11). Note: On cruises where there are fewer numbers of children, the Explorers and Voyagers' sessions can be combined.
The area is open daily from 9 am to noon; 2 pm to 5 pm and 7 pm to 10 pm. It opens half an hour before the first shore excursion leaves on port days, so children (Aquanauts upwards) can be left with members of the Adventure Ocean team while parents go ashore. Kids will take part in the daily activities and be supervised during a set-menu lunch in the Windjammer Restaurant. There is no charge for this service.
All parents need to register for the kids' club at the beginning of the cruise, and children are given a coloured wristband, indicating the family's muster station. If there is an emergency while children are in Adventure Ocean, members of the youth program will be responsible for taking them to the muster station. Parents have to sign their children aged eight and under in and out every time they visit Adventure Ocean. Voyagers are allowed to sign themselves in and out of the program with parental permission; except on port days when all children aged under 12 must be signed out by an adult.
Starting with Royal Babies and Royal Tots, there are 45-minute interactive playgroup sessions featuring music, toys and learning activities developed by early childhood experts at Fisher-Price. Parents or caregivers must accompany children to these sessions. Outside the session times, parents can use the area to play with their kids. For parents that want some time out, babysitting services are offered in the nursery at an hourly fee of $6 in the daytime and $8 during the evening. Parents should book ahead as there is 4:1 baby-to-staff ratio, with numbers limited to a maximum of 12 babies at any one time. In addition to a soft play area, there is a separate area where little ones can take a daytime nap or sleep in the evening.
A babysitting service is also offered for children aged over 12 months, in a group setting or individually in your stateroom. It costs US$19 (A$24) per hour for up to three children in the same family. Babysitters and nursery staff will change nappies, with the parents' consent. The line also offers a service where parents can pre-order ready-to-go nappy bags and organic baby food that will be delivered to the cabin on embarkation day and throughout the cruise.
Aquanauts, who have to be potty-trained, have fun with activities such as the Bubbling Potions science session, exploring the world of dinosaurs and dressing up as pirates. Pagers are available so members of the youth team can contact parents if needed.
Explorers and Voyagers can expect hands-on science workshops, themed play such as space and gladiators, and evening sessions such as dancing through the ages followed by ice cream. The late-night party zone runs from 10 pm to 2 am or until the last child leaves, with a fee of US$7 (A$9) per child per hour.
In addition to indoor play and games, activities for Explorers and Voyagers include more outdoor activities, such as scavenger hunts around the ships and sports in the SeaPlex complex, along with evening activities such as film nights.
For children aged three to 11, Ovation offers dinner with the youth staff in Adventure Ocean. This service is free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Alternatively, "My Family Time" dining is available for the same age group during the first seating time in the main dining room. Here, children eat their meal within 40 minutes of seating before being collected by Adventure Ocean staff for an evening of activities, allowing parents the chance for a relaxed meal together. The program, also free, starts the second evening of the cruise.
Recognising that teens don't want to be seen gathering in the same area as the children's club, kids aged 12 to 17 have two separate areas at the back of the ship on Decks 14 and 15. In the Living Room, on Deck 14, the emphasis is on hanging out with friends rather than an organised program of activities. Teenagers can come and go as they please, and members of the youth team are always present but take a back seat, acting as supervisors rather than playing an active role but always being available if teens need them. Teens can also have dinner with members of the youth team in the Windjammer restaurant.
Open from 10 am to late, the Living Room is furnished with comfortable chairs and beanbags, and has a widescreen TV and games such as foosball and Xbox. There are daily optional activities, such as a paper aeroplane challenge, scavenger hunt, arcade games challenge and karaoke, plus activities such as basketball, and teen-only roller skating and bumper-car sessions in the SeaPlex. Fuel, on Deck 15, is the teen-only nightclub, with themed dance parties such as a Prom Night. Note: The ship operates a 1 am curfew for all teenagers under the age of 18 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian.
With its age-appropriate children's clubs and huge SeaPlex sports and entertainment complex, Ovation is a magnet for families, so expect to see plenty of kids during school holidays. It also attracts pleasure-seeking, fun-loving singles, couples and groups of friends across the age spectrum. With the ship sailing from China and Australia (and Alaska from 2019), the onboard demographic sees a shift from the US and UK passengers that make up the majority of cruisers on Royal Caribbean's other ships. Chinese travellers fill the ship in China, while Australians and New Zealanders dominate Down Under.
The Vitality Spa & Salon, on Deck 15, has 19 treatment rooms, a thermal suite, manicure and pedicure area, and a hair salon. Open daily from 8 am to 10 pm, the spa menu features Elemis, La Therapie and Ionithermie product, with treatments for men and women including massages for couples. (There are two couples' treatment rooms.) Prices for body treatments start at US$111 (A$144) for a 50-minute Swedish massage and go up to US$240 (A$312) for a seaweed massage. Men's treatments include a 55-minute grooming treatment with shave for US$88 (A$114).
All facial and massage treatments carry a two-tier "standard" or "value" price, with the latter applicable on port days between 8 am and noon and 10 percent cheaper than other times. Discounts and other packages are often offered on port days when most passengers are ashore and the spa is less busy. However, for passengers who are keen to have a particular treatment, it is always worth pre-booking to avoid disappointment.
In common with other cruise-line spas, passengers should brace themselves for the inevitable sales pitch at the end of the treatment with a recommendation to buy products.
In the hair salon, prices start from US$60 (A$78) for a trim-and-style-dry and US$98 (A$127) for a full colour. Manicures start from US$52 (A$67.80) and acrylic nails services are also available. Men's salon services range from US$15 (A$20) for a beard trim to US$26 (A$33.90) for a haircut.
"Medi-spa" services include tooth whitening (US$153/A$200) and Botox and dermal filler treatments, with prices quoted on the amount of work required.
Ovation has a very small thermal suite with six heated stone recliners, a sauna, steam room and rain shower. To avoid overcrowding, only 30-day passes are available daily, priced at US$30 each (or US$20 if booked with a spa treatment). Weekly passes are also available for US$99 each (US$179 per couple).
An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to all spa and salon services. Cancelling or rescheduling treatments should be done 24 hours in advance to avoid a charge of 50 percent of the treatment cost.
Cruisers wanting to work off the inevitable calorie overload will be hard-pressed to find excuses as Ovation features the vast Vitality Fitness Centre. It occupies the front of the ship, high up on Deck 16 above the spa, and is open from early in the morning until the wee hours. There are more than 100 pieces of equipment, including the latest Technogym treadmills, cross trainers, stationary bikes and fixed-weight machines. There are also free weights, Swiss balls, kettle bells and all the exercise trappings you'd expect to find in a top-flight private gym on dry land (except those don't come with panoramic ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows forward, port and starboard). There are dedicated areas for group spinning classes, yoga and Pilates (all US$12/A$15.64 per session), as well as TRX suspension training, which costs US$21 (A$27.38) per session. Other for-fee options include personal training, body analysis and boot camp classes. There are also plenty of free sessions, including early morning stretching, "fab abs" and total body conditioning. The gym is also used for complimentary seminars and fitness talks, though these are usually aimed at selling an additional service. The gym is open from 6 am to 1 am.
The outdoor jogging and walking track, located on Deck 15, is a great facility for outdoor runners who want to maintain their mileage at sea. There is a marked start line and distance markers on the track, plus signage that shows how far you need to go to clock up eight distances, from a quarter of a mile (0.73 laps) to 10 kilometres or 6.3 miles (18.24 laps).
Gratuities can be prepaid, or a daily gratuity of US$14.50 per person, per day or US$17.50 for those staying in suites is automatically billed to passenger's SeaPass accounts on a daily basis. Cruises booked on the Australian/NZ Royal Caribbean site have gratuities automatically included in the cruise fare. An 18 percent gratuity is added to drinks purchased at the bar (unless passengers have a beverage package, in which case this additional amount is already included in the purchase price). An 18 percent gratuity is added to all spa bills. Passengers can also pay additional tips direct to individual crew members for exceptional service and, if required, envelopes are available from the guest relations desk. The onboard currency is the US dollar when sailing in all countries.
Keep Reading: For more information about dining, activities and cabins, please click on the menu at the top right of this page.
Country of Registration: Bahamas
Regular Capacity: 4152
Maximum Capacity: 4905
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: International
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
OverviewMarvel at the newest and third ship in the Quantum Class, Ovation of the Seas. Featuring the same groundbreaking venues as its sister ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, this ship is continuing to take cruisers to new heights. Making its debut in 2016, Ovation will offer guests a variety of activities, entertainment and dining options.
Dining InformationDinner Gratuity Policies
Suites (GS & Above) $17.50 per guest per day
Standard (JS & Below) $14.50 per guest per day