Ovation of the Seas Cruise Review by Daniel90
- Sail Date: January 2019
- Destination: Australia & New Zealand
- Cabin Type: Obstructed Ocean View Balcony
The Ovation is absolutely enormous and yes, RCI will pretty much sell every cabin on board prior to the sale date so don't make any assumptions that you will score a 'free' upgrade or have the lions share of the boat to yourself. Whilst super cruising is new to Australia, it was clear from our time on the Ovation that port infrastructure in the region simply cannot handle the vast number of people that these boats bring. Sydney's OPT could not be in a more perfect location, mere minutes from both public transport and some of the best sights in the country. However the OPT itself is vastly undersized to handle a boat of this size and this was evident during both the embark and disembark processes. Expect to jump between levels around a mass of temporary hoardings (which I think are only there to hide the true length of the cues of people waiting inside) as you bounce from one station to another. Interestingly the staff at the OPT did not enforce the 'check-in' times listed on the Set Sail Pass and pretty much let anyone in from 11am on wards. After approx. 45mins of waiting in lines inside the terminal we were finally on board and allowed to peruse the public areas as the staterooms were prepared.
The Royal IQ App was something that we found to be very useful throughout the trip to book activities and schedule events from the cruise compass. It only started working once our set sail pass was scanned once on board the ship (vice in the terminal) but once registered we were able to book all activities that we listed as 'unavailable' online including iFly and North Star. You can also message others through the app for a $7.95 fee throughout the cruise. However, we found that iMessage/Facetime would work with anyone on the boat or ashore when you were connected to their wifi network (even if you hadn't purchased a wifi package) so give that some thought before spending money.
The activities on board were fun but were often let down by long waiting times or rude/inattentive Adventure Staff. Some of the staff were absolutely excellent whilst others would spend their time watching YouTube videos whilst long lines for activities formed. Some staff members would overtly comment on some passenger’s appearance or behaviours, which I was inclined to agree with in some instances, however it came off as very unprofessional and unfriendly. I'm not sure if the Adventure Staff had a supervisor or not but it certainly seemed like they could get away with anything.
Dining wasn't an issue at all, we transferred from Fixed Dining to My Time Dining after a 2 minute chat with one of the head waiters and enjoyed excellent service and food throughout the cruise. The specialty restaurants are very good however I would only recommend going to them as part of a dining package as they are simply too overpriced to go on an individual basis. RCI do some good deals on dining packages before the cruise so keep an eye out. We only purchased a Soda drink package prior to sailing however every other Aussie on board had purchased a full alcoholic beverage package and made it matter of pride to use this package as a status symbol to inform as many other passengers as possible of how they intended to profit from it. For us the maths simply didn't add up (as you had to buy the package for everyone in your stateroom not just those who wanted to drink) and we found it cheaper to purchase alcohol individually. However going by the amount of Aussies we saw getting escorted by police after being kicked off the boat for drunkenness (literally in every port we stopped at) I'm guessing some people maybe did manage to turn a profit on the package.
Entertainment aboard was varying. RCI have clearly pumped a lot of investment into their production shows and I have to say that they were excellent and exceeded our expectations by a long way. However some of the acts they brought in from outside really missed the mark. The comedians seemed 3rd tier and recycled a lot of material from YouTube or other comedians. I'm not sure whether RCI instructs them to keep it clean or whether the comedians know that Australian families will bring kids along to any show regardless of its nature or the time of day. But they just weren't that funny. One performer, a comedy magician, seemed like he was hired straight out of the yellow pages for a 4y.o.'s birthday party. But like I said, it wasn't all bad, production shows and musical talents were excellent.
As Aussies we are often a hard people to please and re-affirmed in this sailing that we are once again gold medallists when it comes to the art of whinging. Comments that I observed from fellow Aussies this cruise included; 'I don't understand why they won't let us steal pool towels'; 'My Iced Smoothie is too cold'; 'The kids will look after themselves, we were at the bar till 3am last night'; and my favourite 'The ship is rocking too much, can you ask if we can pull in somewhere for a few hours so I can sleep'. As a result, the staff did their best to appease people but there were no shortages of yelling and downright obnoxiousness.
The biggest downside for me on this ship were the public spaces. Whilst there was plenty of them they were simply too small and inadequately sized to host the number of passengers on board. You often had to show up 30 mins early to get a seat and they always felt cramped and clustered. It seems as if RCI really focussed on the bottom line when designing this shape as they’ve crammed as many balcony staterooms as possible (70% of total cabins) in the design and then filled the empty spaces with public venues. Having said that my favourite venue was the Radio City Music Hall which, in my opinion, is a great idea and design for many acts however was unfortunately underutilised during this cruise.
Disembarkation wasn’t too bad in our experience as we weren’t in a hurry however there was a long queue of Aussies complaining that they weren’t allowed off the ship at the crack of dawn as they were previously informed. Ultimately I blame this on Sydney’s OPT again as they are physically limited by how many passengers they can process every hour and despite hiring scores of people to literally yell at passengers to keep walking as they depart the building, congestion continues to occur and slows everyone down.
We'll probably steer clear of RCI and the other major lines when cruising out of Australia in future but if you've got a large family looking for a cheap holiday or are couple who can tolerate a lot of rowdy (unsupervised) kids then this might be a good option for you.
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