I sailed the Dubai-Singapore leg of the inaugural (sorta) repositioning that brought Ovation from Southampton to Tianjin. So my experience was with a shiny new ship that was a real pleasure to behold at every corner.
Royal Caribbean has put together a very appealing vessel, but still it often felt like, well, like I was on more of a budget cruise. Food is abundant, with plenty of options, but a lot of those options are pretty low-quality. I suspect they cut corners behind the scenes as well, as I often had need of guest services to resolve problems, and the lines at guest services were always (ALWAYS) intolerably long. For example, the internet wasn't working for half of my cruise. I had prepaid for an unlimited package, so not having it for several days should warrant some sort of credit. Whenever I had a chance to ask someone about that (which, again, involved waiting in a really long line), the answer was something along the lines of "uhhh, we're working on it, you'll probably receive some sort of credit". That was a typical response to any issue I had. And I never did receive any credit.
But internet outages were as bad as my issues got. It was easy to overlook them when there were so many fun activities to partake in on the ship. Between all of the music and theater venues, the place was really alive with entertainment. At night you could just wander around and choose from plenty of great places to sit down and hear some quality musical performances. I usually headed for the Music Hall. Or Two70. Or Michael's Genuine Pub. Or, really, it was always just a pleasure to hang out in the Royal Esplanade, which was always bustling with energy.
I should perhaps point out that I traveled solo. This was my first solo cruise experience, and it exceeded my expectations. (See below for my review of the Super Studio Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony.) It is as easy to join in some fun with newly-made friends as it is to find your own enjoyment of a less-social nature. Also, it was probably a little easier to get tables without a reservation.
Which brings me to the restaurant situation. They are going for something like Norwegian's "Freestyle Cruising" concept, where you're not committed to a dining time and there isn't even a main dining room. But in practice, it doesn't really work like that. First of all, even though there isn't technically a "main dining room", there really kind of is. It's just split into four rooms and four menus. And my experience with them was mostly mediocre. I'm not generally too picky there, so if you are, you probably will find the food quality lacking. And even though you're supposed to be able to eat whenever you want, you still have to make reservations, or you will likely be turned away. (Although, as I said, less likely if you're solo.)
I also tried Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop, Chop's Grille, and Jamie's Italian. The first two were maybe not enough of an improvement to justify the extra price. But Jamie's definitely was. I went there three times, had different meals each time, and was always deeply satisfied.
I also got a cupcake for $2.95 at Patisserie, and it was no better than a week-old supermarket bakery reject.
But Ovation of the Seas has many complimentary food options. The pizza place in the Royal Esplanade had really sub-par pizza, but it was open late so I still wandered down for an occasional slice. But next to it was Cafe Promenade, which was open non-stop and had some really nice little sandwiches and pastries. There's a complimentary hot dog stand in the SeaPlex area, which claims on its menu to have "German mustard" but has no such thing. Still okay to have around, though. And I went to Cafe Two70 a few times, and had some nice salads. Oh, and that was a great place for breakfast.
Speaking of SeaPlex and Two70, I just loved those multi-purpose spaces. Especially the latter, which was a lovely, comfortable lounge to relax in by day, and which transformed (I mean REALLY transformed) into a striking, elaborate performance venue for Spectra's Cabaret in the evening. That was a really spectacular show that I'll never forget. And SeaPlex is really impressive the way they constantly convert it from a skating rink to a bumper car ride to a multi-purpose court for ball games.
I had read that they leveraged technology to make for zippy embarkation, but I didn't find it to be any faster than normal. Disembarkation was fine, although the crew was very noisy in the halls when picking up our luggage overnight.
I got one of those wristbands that is supposed to do the same thing as the seapass card, but that was more trouble than it was worth because it sometimes didn't work, and it was annoying to have to take it off and hand it to people such as the waiters at the restaurants.
I'll just close this review with a list of things I have fond memories of, in no particular order: Spectra's Cabaret, hanging out in Two70 when the performers from Spectra's Cabaret were rehearsing (or really any other time I was in there), the puzzle room, the pop choir activities with the cruise director staff, all the Music Hall bands (but especially the Queen and Beatles tribute acts), Jamie's Italian, my Super Studio Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony, the Mystical Muscat excursion in Oman, the hundreds of pieces of eye-catching modern art, Royal Egg Muffins for breakfast at Cafe Two70, lounging in the Solarium, pretend-skydiving at iFly (did that twice, loved it), the North Star, the meet-and-greet I attended in one of the incredible Royal Loft Suites, the sight of this enormous ship looming above the docks in Dubai, Muscat, Kochi, Penang, and Singapore.
I was very pleased with my little one-person cabin. There was just enough space for me and my stuff. Because I was always in there alone, it was never cramped. If I'd had guests over, it would be noticeable that there isn't any place to sit except for the balcony, and two people maneuvering around each other would have been extremely awkward. But for just me, the size was fine.
This stateroom had an obstructed view, which was not advertised. That was downright dirty of RCCL, in my opinion. I didn't end up spending that much time on my balcony, partly because of that but also because this itinerary was through a very, very hot part of the world.
The bathroom was normal size, by the standards of a typical two-person stateroom. I liked the shower.
Storage was really plentiful. If I'd had twice as much stuff I would have fared just fine.
I liked having the cubby-hole next to my bed with a power outlet. And the USB ports by the tiny little desk were very handy.
The location, apart from what it did for the view from my balcony, was just great. A few easy steps and I was at the Royal Promenade. A few more in the other direction and I was at my beloved Two70. The elevator bay was very close, but not so close that I heard the binging. (I may have noticed it a couple of times when it was otherwise very quiet.)
This stateroom is 119 square feet (not including the balcony); going forward when I'm shopping for solo staterooms, I will consider that ideal.