To meet the huge demand for Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas in Australia, the line has extended the inaugural season of the new 4,180-passenger ship. To help you decide on the best itinerary, here's a roundup of all the local Ovation cruises that still have cabins available for sale. Also below are the highlights of each port that Ovation will visit in Australia and New Zealand.
Ovation of the Seas' First Australia/NZ Cruises
Ovation of the Seas' first Australian and New Zealand cruise is a positioning cruise from Asia, where the ship will be based from June.
30 November 2016: This 15-night voyage from Singapore to Sydney will bring the ship down under. Stopping at Fremantle, Adelaide and Hobart, the cruise is an exclusive Cruiseco charter. The Australian company is also selling shorter sectors from Singapore to Fremantle, Adelaide or Hobart, as well as domestic sectors, such as a nine-night Fremantle to Sydney and a two-night Hobart to Sydney. Cabins are still for sale on all sectors, however, the 15-night positioning cruise has sold well and only balcony cabins and one category of suites are still available.
15 December 2016: A 15-night round-trip New Zealand cruise from Sydney, will call at Hobart, Dunedin, Wellington, Picton, Tauranga and Auckland, with scenic cruising in Fiordland (Milford, Dusky, Doubtful Sounds) and six days at sea.
30 December 2016: This 10-night round-trip cruise from Sydney to New Zealand, spending New Year's Eve in the middle of the Tasman Sea, is sold out.
9 January 2017: Another New Zealand cruise, roundtrip from Sydney, visiting Bay of Islands, Tauranga, Auckland, Wellington, Picton, Dunedin and Fiordland (Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds).
23 January 2017 (cancelled): This repositioning cruise was supposed to take passengers to Singapore over 14 nights (and was also sold out) but has been postponed. This is because the ship is staying in Australia for the five extra cruises. Royal Caribbean is giving booked passengers the first chance to book one of the five new 2017 itineraries.
Five Added Sailings
23 January 2017: a five-night 'sampler' cruise from Sydney to Tasmania.
28 January 2017: a 12-night New Zealand and South Pacific itinerary from Sydney to Auckland, Tauranga, Bay of Islands, Noumea and Mystery Island (Vanuatu).
9 February 2017: an eight-night cruise from Sydney to Tasmania and South Australia, which includes an overnight stay in Adelaide.
17 February 2017: a three-night weekend 'cruise to nowhere' from Sydney, with no ports of call.
20 February 2017: the rescheduled repositioning cruise back to Singapore is a 14-night journey from Sydney via Brisbane, Darwin and Kuala Lumpur.
Royal Caribbean has also released eight new cruises for the 2017-2018 season, again with a big focus on New Zealand.
23 November 2017: a 14-night repositioning cruise from Singapore to Sydney via Fremantle, Adelaide and Hobart.
7 December 2017: A 10-night New Zealand cruise from Sydney with calls at Fiordland, Dunedin, Wellington, Napier and Picton.
17 December 2017: a 12-night Christmas cruise from Sydney to New Zealand
29 December 2017: a 12-night New Year's cruise from Sydney to New Zealand.
10 January 2018: a nine-night school holidays cruise from Sydney to New Zealand.
19 January 2018: an eight-night school holidays cruise from Sydney to the South Pacific with calls at Noumea and Mystery Island.
27 January 2018: an eight-night cruise from Sydney to Tasmania and South Australia with an overnight stop in Adelaide.
4 February 2018: a 14-night cruise from Sydney to New Zealand with calls at the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Picton, Dunedin and Fiordland.
Details of the 2018 repositioning cruise back to Asia have not yet been released, which leaves us wondering if another season extension is on the cards.
Check out what passengers can enjoy at Ovation's most popular ports of call.
Passengers can look forward to an overnight stay at Singapore's modern cruise terminal. Nearby attractions include many seafood and chilli crab restaurants in the Marine Drive area, or passengers can take the subway into the city to dine at Boat or Clarke Quay. Sentosa Island, connected by a cable car, is just over the water.
The port of Perth (Fremantle), Western Australia, is a cosmopolitan centre in its own right with historic buildings to explore at almost every turn. The city has dozens of good restaurants and classic pubs. With a little planning passengers can explore 'Freo', as the locals call it, or jump aboard a ferry to travel up the Swan River. There's plenty to see in Perth, such as the old mint and the old gaol, Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens.
Australia's original foodie city and on the doorstep of three great wine regions, Adelaide is a gourmand's delight. The Central Market in the heart of town is a good place to start a culinary journey. Wander along North Terrace where all the main buildings such as the art gallery, museum and the railway station with impressive concourse, stand cheek by jowl. Hop aboard a trip either to the Barossa Valley to taste excellent wines (especially the Shiraz) and taste great treats at Maggie Beers' Farm Shop. You can also go a bit further afield to the Fleurieu Peninsula to taste the great red wine of the McLaren region.
The southernmost capital, Hobart wears its history on its sleeve. The city has wonderful sandstone buildings and old wharfside warehouses turned into funky boutiques and hotels. An infinitely walkable city, take an amble or ghost tour around Battery Pointl, the oldest part of town, or hop on a ferry to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) to see amazing architecture and a changing collection of controversial art.
Fiordland (scenic cruising)
This is truly one of the highlights of cruising in New Zealand, if not the world. The best way to see the three sounds, Milford, Doubtful and Dusky (which are larger than fiords), is in total comfort from the ship's top deck. Over a day's scenic cruising, Ovation of the Seas will sail in and out of the glacier-craved waterways hemmed in by steep rock walls.
Dunedin, Gaelic for Edinburgh, is not only a truly Scottish city complete with statue of Robbie Burns near the cathedral, but gateway to the lovely Central Otago region where excellent wines are also produced. The ornate Flemish-style railway station is the most photographed sight in the country, while the city has New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle, and Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street. The Octagon with its many cafes and bars is the place to congregate and watch the world pass by.
Known as the windy city for good reason, New Zealand's capital, Wellington, is dominated by a stunning harbor and row upon row of charming painted timber houses clinging to steep hills surrounding it. Te Papa Museum, showcasing Maori culture, and a ride on the red Wellington Cable Car to the Botanic Gardens, are must-dos. Movie fans should head to Weta Workshop, 8 km out of the city, to see giant orcs and little hobbits and other amazing creatures created for "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." Other props and designs from films such as "Robin Hood," "Hercules" and "Thunderbirds" are also on show. Further afield is the wine-growing region of Wairarapa and the seal colony at Cape Palliser.
The little town of Picton is located at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound -- the perfect branching-off point for tours of the famous sauvignon blanc wine producers of the Marlborough Region. There are dozens of wineries to explore including well-known Cloudy Bay. Active types will love bushwalking along the Queen Charlotte Track and visiting Captain Cook's landing site at Ship's Cover or kayaking on the sound. An excellent Maori cultural centre also makes an interesting half-day tour.
As well as being the place from which to explore the Rotorua geothermal region an hour or so away, Tauranga, located on the Bay of Plenty, has many charms. Passengers sticking close to the ship can easily walk into the lovely town of Mount Maunganui, which has both an ocean beach and quiet lagoon. There are good hikes on the mountain itself and bubbling hot saltwater pools to relax in.
New Zealand's largest city (population 1.4 million) -- known as the City of Sails for the 13,500 yachts and private boats that dot the harbor -- is a stunning location for cruise passengers. Great vistas can be had from any of the city's 50 volcanic hills and the 328-metre Sky Tower that dominates the landscape. Ovation of the Seas is too long for the cruise terminal and will be anchored in Waitemata Habour with passengers tendered a short distance into shore. With plenty of ferries crisscrossing the harbour, one of the most popular day rips is a ride to Waiheke Island to sample the wares of more than 20 wineries.
Bay of Islands
Passengers will also be anchored offshore during the ship's visit to the beautiful Bay of Islands, so named for the 150 islands and rock formations in the waterway. Passengers will be transferred to Waitangi reception wharf near the town of Paihia. This region is in Maori history. Not only did the first Polynesian inhabitants arrive here in the 10th century, but it is also the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. This is also the place for wildlife cruises, kayak and fishing tours. Passengers can hop aboard a ferry in Paihia for a trip to the charming town of Russell known for its elegant buildings and plethora of good cafes and restaurants.
--By Caroline Gladstone, Cruise Critic contributor