Ovation of the Seas Cruise Review by bwad
- Sail Date: October 2017
- Destination: Australia & New Zealand
We booked through a local travel agent which made things easier, but there are caveats first time cruisers need to be aware of (and they don't let you know up front)
Firstly, we discovered the cruise was split in half by the agent, this caused many issues we weren't aware of. When we logged into the RCI website to book shows and drinks/internet packages, it showed us travelling for the entire duration of the cruise. This was wrong and prevented us from booking internet/drinks packages in AUD, so we had to pay more once on board as everything is charge in USD. This cost us quite a bit more ultimately. Also shows advertised were booked out quickly as it took forever to get our login, or they weren't showing until after we departed the cruise. All very confusing and not a great start.
The other issue we had going via a travel agent was when we checked in at the hotel and the cruise terminal, there were issues that took quite some time to resolve. In Singapore they had 4 people listed as checking in! Obviously the other couple were checking in the day we departed in Fremantle, but their systems can't cope with this arrangement. The hotel was nice, but didn't honour our requests. We also couldn't get exit row seats for the flight thanks to using an agent. Being 197cm tall this was a worry, but it turned out the flight wasn't full and I could find some seats with more legroom.
Anyway back to the cruise ship. Once onboard, we were bombarded with people trying to sell us drinks packages. Of course you didn't have to be a genius to work out, even in USD, that this package would pay for itself after only 5 or 6 cocktails. It also included unlimited soft drink refills and a cup with a NFC chip in it you can refill at special dispenser stations (over 100 flavours!) or most bars/restaurants (in very limited flavours). Drinks package includes drinks to the value of $14, after that you pay the difference. Not many drinks were over that price.
I signed up for Voom, their excellent internet at sea service. It cost us $18US per day so not cheap but the speed is reasonable (5 Mbps down and about 3 Mbps up), ping times around 200ms which is fine for Skype, FaceTime or WiFi Calling, I made several calls with no noticeable delays which is great for satellite services. The ship also has a mobile base station so your mobile can "roam" if enabled to allow calls/texts although these are at very high rates, around $5/min calling. Stick to Skype, FaceTime or WiFi Calling if you purchase the Voom package it won't cost a cent. I didn't know how to sign up for their internet but you simply connect to "royal-wifi" (no password required) - a browser should open up but it may be in Chinese, simply select English from the top corner near the Earth icon and you can sign up without anyone's help. You should even be able to do this before you get onboard as we could pick up the WifI in the passenger terminal. Also its now a good time to download the Royal IQ from your App Store. This lets you check your statement, book restaurants and check out much more. You don't need to pay for internet to access this onboard, it will work as long as you connect to "royal-wifi". I found the app had some issues, we couldn't book restaurants on it (possibly because our cruise was split in half by the agent?) - but it does keep a track of all drinks and restaurants you get, so its good to see if you are getting value from your drinks / food packages. More tech savvy people may want to invest in a cheap wifi router to create your own wifi network onboard, this means you will only need 1 Voom package but will be able to share it amongst multiple devices (we had 8 between us, including iPads, apple watches etc) - you only get the 5Mbps speeds to share amongst the devices so it isn't abusing the connection, but you may find its frowned upon by crew. It means your devices have an extra layer of protection via WPA. If you don't want to go to this level, you can simply log off and on to devices as you need. Apple's iMessage works without having a Voom subscription which is excellent making it easy to keep in contact with other iPhone users onboard.
The ship itself is just majestic, we were in room 6142 on deck 6, a perfect location it was only a deck or two away from 24 hour food, drinks and entertainment. The room was very modern and clean, we had a balcony suite which although we didn't spend as much time as we thought out there, was just so relaxing to watch from the bed. I highly recommend an outside facing room. The bathroom is a little on the small size for someone as big as me, but we coped. The shower head has multiple settings and good water flow. Its detachable so you can wash all your bits with ease! The toilet was fine, although we found it blocked a couple of times (as did our friends staying next door) - looks like if you flush it multiple times it may stop flushing, not sure if this is a fault or a feature, but we learned to just flush once and wait if it needed flushing again. There is a shaver power outlet and plenty of light, a toilet brush (thank you!) and plenty of room to store/hang things considering it size.
Our cabin had a king size bed, it felt a little shorter than a regular king and occasionally felt uncomfortable hanging off the edge (bear in mind I'm nearly 2 metres long), I also wish they had fitted sheets because I found in the morning the sheets had ridden up and I was laying on the mattress.
There was a US 110v power socket on the right size of the bed under the lamp, I purchased a travel adapter that converted this to two x AU sockets to get around the fact they frown on power boards/strips. My partner uses CPAP so that left one socket for my phone and other USB devices. The bedroom desk has a EU 220V socket, and a couple more US 110V sockets. They suggest you use the 220V power by supplying a EU to AU adapter, which you must pay $25 for if you remove it from the ship. We advised my partner uses a CPAP machine prior to boarding and they supplied an adapter, an extension lead and distilled water, nice touch! There are also a couple of USB ports on the desk but found these to be low powered and a bit loose so you had to make sure not to bump the plug otherwise it wouldn't supply power.
There is a flat screen TV which plays safety information when you first enter your room. It's done quite well and is entertaining to watch while you learn at the same time. It has plenty of channels which we didn't really watch, it also has a channel that shows you the ships position and speed, and live feeds from all over the ship.
In the cabin there is PLENTY of room to hang and store your stuff, very well thought out, even the bedside tables have shelves to store heaps of stuff. Never felt cramped or like we had to live out of our suitcase.
The dining was excellent. Service was far above what I expected. So many staff all smiling and only happy to help. I don't think I came across anyone that wasn't happy to help with our requests. Our cabin attendant was amazing and we left him an extra tip when we left. His towel animals always got us excited to return to our cabin each night.
Food at Windjammer was great, so much choice. After eating here every day though tends to get old which is why they have more than a dozen other places to eat. Some free some you pay for. Jamies Italian was great, Wonderland was amazing, you just have to try it! They really look after any food restrictions you might have (mine was no seafood - they were great about that!)
The entertainment was great, we had plenty of things to do, I got a bit seasick the day of my ship tour which I was REALLY looking forward to, but I just couldn't finish it. That's the only downside of booking in advance, if you don't you miss out, if you do, you may not be able to do it on the day. I might have been able to try to get a refund but I didn't bother, I got to the bridge and that was my highlight!
The shows were fantastic, Pixels was great, those moving screens are incredible and must cost a fortune. The lighting and dancers were great too. So well choreographed. The other show I absolutely loved was called Live Love Legs. This was a show we were going to miss, but it got brought forward to the night before we departed. Just brilliant! So much work gone into this show and it showed.
The artwork spread across the ship is just fantastic, it makes you want to walk down 15 flights of stairs instead of taking a lift just to see all the amazing art. I just can't describe the actual beauty when onboard, everywhere you look there was something different and exciting to look at or interact with.
We spent some time in the Seaplex, geared towards kids/teenagers, went up in the North Star, and sat in some pools / spas. There is just so much to do, in 7 days we couldn't get around to all of it.
We had a few issues with billing, we got a letter on our bed night after night saying our card couldn't be charged, even though they had already taken it off our credit card. This involved several visits to Customer Service but they were quick to fix the issue.
I also don't recommend the NFC wrist bands, they cost $5 and we were told we could use them anywhere on the ship, but they didn't always work or were accepted, the band just fit my arm, and I wear a watch, it wasn't very comfortable in the tropics either as it became sweaty quickly. You almost always had to remove it to give it to a bar person. Just use your sea pass in a lanyard (bring your own they charge $9 on board!)
It amazed me seeing such a technologically advanced ship still couldn't do everything with NFC, some places had to write down our names/room numbers and get us to sign. The bionic bar wasn't working properly, only one arm was functional, and then we got charged accidentally. Lucky we checked, they had someone there crediting peoples accounts just for that reason. and the app could use some improvement, it was buggy, even using the onboard iPads to try to book restaurants wouldn't work.
I came home sick, having caught a cold onboard, and was seasick on the last day or two due to the rough waters coming down the west coast of Australia. There was a warning issued at one stage about gastro, but everyone was obsessed with cleaning hands at the plethora of dispensing machines and sinks it didn't effect us.
In summary, I absolutely loved my first cruise, I really miss the ship and the people, the atmosphere (being Christmas may have helped) - but I would most certainly go on this ship again. Was an unforgettable experience!
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