I normally just read reviews, but after this cruise I thought I could counter some of the previous negative reviews with a positive one. This is a bit lengthly as a warning but I hope to help others get a better underling of the Asian ... Read More
I normally just read reviews, but after this cruise I thought I could counter some of the previous negative reviews with a positive one. This is a bit lengthly as a warning but I hope to help others get a better underling of the Asian market.
After reading previous reviews on here about Ovation of the Seas, my wife and I came onboard with a lower expectation. We were pleasantly surprised. The biggest disclaimer of those thinking about Ovation of the Seas. If you are going to the Asian theater, you need to be prepared for the cultural differences you will likely see. Royal Caribbean does announce the cruises as a cultural tour, so you will have an idea when selecting your cruise. We had an amazing cruise and Ovation of the Seas is now our favorite ship. Can't wait to go on her again when she goes to the North American market.
Was a breeze. Make sure you have done all of your pre-cruise paperwork filled out on RCL's cruise planner, and you'll have no problems. Also, showing up early will definitely help! Once onboard they directed passengers to the MDR, but we went directly to Windjammer. Since we arrived to the ship at 1000, we were one of the first onboard (boarded around 1115) so we didn't have to wait. If you get onboard after 1130-1200, strongly do not recommend the windjammer, as it fills up quickly and you'll be waiting a long time. Promenade cafe and Solarium are some great second options to avoid the initial rush to eat.
This was our 5th cruise. We have previously been onboard several of the Oasis and Freedom class ships. The ship is huge, with many activities and experiences onboard that will be mentioned later. What we liked about the ship is the modern touches, from the ease of embarkation, to the decor throughout the ship, the ease of going through the photo galley (it's simply all upload to monitors where you can select your photos and pick either prints or digital, and pick up at a later time), we found the modern touches to be quite pleasing.
We had a Junior Suite 9632, starboard side, and the beginning of "the hump". Great cabin and if you are looking for a JS, strongly recommend this cabin, as the layout is quite different from other JS. We had a single cabin passenger stateroom next to our cabin, which made our cabin and have "elbow" layout, vice just the straight walk-in view as is typical for JS. Very modern looking, right down to the telephone, and we had a HUGE balcony that included 2 chairs that you can lay down on. Had dimming lights that you could control from one knob, including right next to your bed, very convenient. Also had the best bathroom we've ever had on RCL as of now.
Here, we came onboard with a low expectation due to so many negative reviews on Cruise Critic. Within 30 minutes onboard, I was talking directly with the Sous Chef and maître d' of the Ship about the most recent Cruise Critic Reviews. They assured me they have been reading these and have taken action on some of the complaints, in particular the lack of western food options. It is true! The Windjammer had several "Western style options" throughout the cruise, including for breakfast scrambled eggs, omelets, hash browns, bacon and sausage. For lunch, standard options included hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and even spaghetti or Alfredo. Yes, there were several Asian options at the windjammer and MDR, but this was an Asian cruise! 75% of the passengers were Asian, so I was happy to experience some of the Asian cuisine, but pleased to have a few Western options to cater to me as well. Yes, the MDR had the same menu at all four restaurants (American Icon Grill and Silk are on deck 4, Grande and Chic are on Deck 3), but I thought it was fine. Towards the end of the cruise I did shift to more classic dishes, but I was happy to at least have the options for an Asian cruise! In the MDR, they do try to seat the international passengers in the same section. This was also RCL's way of addressing the critics. Smart move for sure! Once again, please realize this is a Cultural cruise, so you will need some order of patience, but it can get quite loud in the "local sections" which is why I definitely understand some of the separation that takes place. In addition, the Chinese liked to be served quickly, so the separation gives the international guests the chance to enjoy their meal without feeling rushed by the staff or other passengers. You do have the option to sit wherever you want, as a point I loved the MDR staff that served me, so we picked the same restaurant at Grande for a majority of the time. Did not eat at the speciality restaurants because we had family onboard with a budget, but we did have dinner one night at Coastal Kitchen and the food was outstanding! The staff were even kind enough to my request and brought my favorite dessert to the MDR each night because I couldn't go there for dinner (parents were not suite members).
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES
Several previous negative reviews mentioned the lack of entertainment or activities, this is NOT TRUE! I also keep my compass' so if you would like to see them just message me, I'd be more than happy to show you an average day. There is plenty to do onboard, you just have to take the time to look at your compass or ask the staff. We spent most of our time at the Solarium (better layout than even Oasis or Allure) , the IFly and North Star are a must do, and we were really impressed with the Seaplex. There were more older people riding the bumper cars than the teens, very fun! Another note: Many previous reviews said bars were lacking or closed, but every bar that was onboard was open and available, with little to no waiting. HUGE PLUS: The best part of the cruise was going to the Solarium. You can easily find deck chairs all day long! There is no need to worry or rush about finding a chair while on an Asian cruise. 8am, or 1pm, it's easy getting chairs and enjoying all the pools anywhere onboard. Must see shows are Pixels, and Live, Love, Legs (wish they had this how on all the ships).
When I went to Guest Services, they were very helpful and friendly, stressed for sure, but mainly due to the cultural types of people onboard. Once again, patience by everyone is required here, but the staff went out of there way to help me. MDR service was good, get in line onetime per your sea pass card and you won't have any problems. In fact, the staff is there to greet you if you are one of the first ones in line. Within 20 minutes of the first seating, the line was always cleared out, so you never have to wait for long, once again showing up on time is key here.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS
This was the one disappointment on the cruise, and hence the 4 stars. Our ports were Danang and Nha Trang Vietnam.
For the Danang port, we did RCL's Past and Present Danag shore excursion. Overall, it was a decent excursion: You start by getting on an air conditioned bus with a guide, then they take you a museum that talks about the ancient kingdom in this particular area, some really need artifacts are there to check out. But you only have about 10 minutes to look around. Then they take you on a Vietnamese Tuk Tuk for a ride around the city, which was alot of fun. After that you get to stroll through a local market. However, you have zero time to do any shopping, because you're then moving to go back on the bus where you drive to marble mountain to see a ton of marble statues and stop at their marble store to pick up souvenirs) You then drive to a local resort for lunch. The buffet was VERY good and included wifi (lunch is about 30-40 min). We then drove to see a huge Buddha and Chinese Pagoda. Here again, you only have about 15 minutes. I literally had to leave my older family behind in order to run around like a madman grabbing photos as fast as I could in order to see everything and get back on the bus. After this sweat fest to say the least we cooled off on the bus as we drove back to the ship, with a quick (less than 5 minutes) stop at a local market. This was a good way to see Danang, but the whole tour was way too rushed and stressful to really enjoy. We definitely needed a few more hours overall to enjoy some of the sights, particularly the Buddha and Pagoda which was AMAZING.
After that experience, we were quite exhausted, so the next day at Nha Trang we decided to stay onboard. RCL has to tender at Nha Trang, and the passengers booked with RCL for shore excursions had first priority off the ship. Most passengers didn't get off the ship until 10-11am, and all aboard was at 4pm, so there wasn't much time there. But people did like the port more than Danang, so there was a tradeoff. However, we had a great time being onboard, most of the facilities were still open so I took advantage of that, plus my all-inclusive drink package. All in all a very nice relaxing day.
I know this review is long, but I wanted to counter some of the negative reviews. The ship is great, the staff is helpful and friendly (Challenged by the theater/area of the passengers), and easy to relax and be busy with activities. Ovation of the Seas is now our favorite ship in the RCL fleet, and if you want an outstanding coffee, just see Viraj from Mauritius in the Windjammer coffee bar, he can whip up a mean cappuccino! Read Less