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This is our first cruise with Royal Caribbean, but our fourth cruise overall. RC is really excellent in their embarkation and disembarkation procedures, and was much more efficient than the Princess Cruises we have been on. We did not travel with children, but noticed a meeting place for youngsters, and pools reserved for children. I think there was an arcade (at extra cost) available too. The Ovation of the Seas ship was amazing! It was so huge that just about five thousand passengers can be on board and (except for the first day) still not feel crowded. And being so large a ship it was able to offer features that would be missing on smaller ships such as: a climbing wall; sports area that offered (one at a time) bumper cars, roller skating, table tennis, a huge main theater in the front of the ship, an area with a tremendous view that doubled as a theater via unbelievable technology, a shopping mall on deck four, four different main dining restaurants, several specialty restaurants, casino, many bars including one bar that had two robotic bartenders, and a stage in the Music Hall, an open air pool area large pool with huge outdoor movie screen and several smaller pools/hot tubs, and another covered pool area with large pool and a number of smaller pools/hot tubs, a glass enclosed solarium for adults only at the front of the ship, a ride called 'The North Star' that lifted fourteen people in a enclosed bubble 90 meters into the air, a 'wave rider' for boogie boarding, and an 'i-fly' that simulates sky diving. The ship itself was fabulous. The food in the main dining room was sometimes good, but often was a step down from the main dining rooms on the Princess line, with frequent times when the meat being served was dry and/or tough. Food in the buffet, the Windjammer Marketplace, was consistently good in the main and side dishes, but the deserts were not as sweet or tasty as we had hoped. (This latter may be a matter of preference between British vs American recipes.) And there was NO FREE ICE CREAM available (other than as dessert after dinner in the main dining rooms, or on the last few days of the cruise in the buffet) except for very small soft serve cones available by the pool. The vanilla and chocolate ice cream was bland and tasted off somehow, but the strawberry ice cream was consistently good. There is a 24 snack cafe, next to a pizza place, both on deck four, neither of which charged extra. Carbonated beverages are NOT included in the cost of the cruise but could be purchased for an outrageous price either separately or as a "drinks package". Same for alcoholic drinks. We didn't purchase any type of drink package. I would have liked iced tea available at all times, but it was only available at lunch and dinner in both the buffet and the main dining rooms. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants because of the unreasonably high cost ($42 or more for each meal.) I wonder if quality of the food in the main dining rooms was designed to get people to eat in the specialty restaurants. The service, from the cabin stewards to the waiters, in fact everyone, was excellent. Everyone was polite and professional, and most were genuinely warm. We felt very welcomed. The entertainment was really good most of the time, with a main show (offered three times) each evening in the Royal Theater every night, and a fabulous technical show in the 270 stage in the back three times during the cruise. The trivia games throughout the ship multiple times per day were a lot of fun, and were a great place to meet people. Wifi is offered on board the ship at a cost that too high. We waited till our shore excursions to get free Wifi, but that didn't work out well because my phone didn't connect properly to any of the free Wifi except for a museum in Dunedin. Our experience with the Shore Excursions were a mixed bag. The last three were great, the first ones were a disaster. In Dunedin, the 'Dunedin Highlights' was a total waste of money because not all of the advertised stops were visited, we were rushed through what we did visit because we were 'short on time'. And the bus driver said we were allowed to get off the bus in downtown Dunedin and take the shuttles back to the ship, but didn't tell us that it would cost $15 each if we did so. At the second shore excursion at Picton, we felt being rushed again because of being 'short of time' during our steam train ride. Utilizing 100 year old vintage railway carriages, we were taken us to a small town that was both boring and which had closed all its shops so there was nothing to do when we got to this unlovely place. And after herding us back on the train, we waited a full twenty minutes (for no apparent reason) till the train to start its return journey. The shore excursion I would heartily recommend would be the visit to Hobbiton, for fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. The only improvement I would wish for on this shore excursion would be that enough time be allowed for us to have lunch at the Green Dragon Inn. (A glass of very tasty apple cider, or other beverages, was included in the cost of the excursion.) But we were again told 'we are short of time' even on this excursion. Try to get a morning time slot for the excursion as the lighting for photographing the hobbit holes is better than it is in the late afternoon/evening. The Maori Cultural Highlights shore excursion was acceptable, though again we were told when we got on the bus that we were 'short on time' and so felt that we didn't get to see everything and therefore didn't get our money's worth. This excursion visits a Maori meeting house, participation in the elaborate Maori greeting ritual, and a performance by teens dressed in traditional costume. History buffs, and folks interested in new cultures would find this excursion interesting, if a bit underwhelming. The Jet Boat adventure in Auckland, was well timed and had no issues. Expect to get THOROUGHLY soaked with salt water when you ride this fast boat ride that is almost like a roller coaster when it spins and turns. If this sounds fun to you, you'll have a blast. Our last New Zealand shore excursion was visiting the oldest Kauri tree in New Zealand, along with a visit to a Mission House. Included in the cost of this excursion was lunch at a small, simple, resort, and tea with scones at the mission house. The Maori guide for the visit to the ancient Kauri tree was wonderful and passionate about all native New Zealand flora and fauna. The visit to the Mission house and adjacent stone chapel would be interesting to history buffs, because this is one location that the treaty was signed between the Maoris and Europeans in 1840. Timing of the lunch was an issue because it was offered too soon after breakfast (another ship's tour group got the noon lunch slot.) There are no tables at the mission house so it was a bit awkward trying to juggle scones (which were delicious and had accompanying clotted cream and jam) and tea. The people at the Mission house were genuinely warm. This was a peaceful place. After disembarking the ship when we arrived back in Sydney, we booked a shore excursion to the Blue Mountains. This excursion filled in some of the many hours we would have otherwise waited at the airport with nothing to do. It also allowed us to be among the first groups to get off the ship. Unfortunately on the day we visited, the Blue Mountains were enshrouded in a thick white mist, so we weren't able to see much, but no fault of Royal Caribbean. Our Cabin: we had a cabin on the 13th deck with a balcony. The 14th deck shielded us from wind and harsh sun, which was wonderful. And during the entire cruise (except for the initial approach to New Zealand and sailing the 'sounds') it was warm enough to really enjoy our balcony. I do wish that we had been on the left side of the ship so we could have seen more land as we sailed to the various ports, but the view was great on both sides of the ship when approaching our ports of call. Tendering was done at the last two ports, and was handled very, very efficiently. No complaints at all. (I expect that having shore excursions booked for those ports had a great deal in our being among the first groups that got to leave the ship.) One thing I would do differently would be to choose 'My Time' dining instead of the traditional set table with the same people. With 'My Time' dining, you can make your own reservations and would get a chance to meet different people each time you dined, instead of getting stuck at a table with a particularly snobby 'diamond level' couple who deliberately ignore you and talk only to the other frequent cruisers at the table. Would I chose Royal Caribbean again? I would need to compare the shore excursions with other cruise lines before being able to answer that question. For me, the most important aspect of a cruise are the shore excursion experiences, and most of the ones I experienced left a lot to be desired in timing, and feeling rushed. If I were a person more interested in the ship than in shore excursions, this would be my ship! It was fabulous.

Amazing Ship, So-so Food, Most Shore Excursions Need Improvements

Ovation of the Seas Cruise Review by UncleM350

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This is our first cruise with Royal Caribbean, but our fourth cruise overall.

RC is really excellent in their embarkation and disembarkation procedures, and was much more efficient than the Princess Cruises we have been on.

We did not travel with children, but noticed a meeting place for youngsters, and pools reserved for children. I think there was an arcade (at extra cost) available too.

The Ovation of the Seas ship was amazing! It was so huge that just about five thousand passengers can be on board and (except for the first day) still not feel crowded. And being so large a ship it was able to offer features that would be missing on smaller ships such as: a climbing wall; sports area that offered (one at a time) bumper cars, roller skating, table tennis, a huge main theater in the front of the ship, an area with a tremendous view that doubled as a theater via unbelievable technology, a shopping mall on deck four, four different main dining restaurants, several specialty restaurants, casino, many bars including one bar that had two robotic bartenders, and a stage in the Music Hall, an open air pool area large pool with huge outdoor movie screen and several smaller pools/hot tubs, and another covered pool area with large pool and a number of smaller pools/hot tubs, a glass enclosed solarium for adults only at the front of the ship, a ride called 'The North Star' that lifted fourteen people in a enclosed bubble 90 meters into the air, a 'wave rider' for boogie boarding, and an 'i-fly' that simulates sky diving. The ship itself was fabulous.

The food in the main dining room was sometimes good, but often was a step down from the main dining rooms on the Princess line, with frequent times when the meat being served was dry and/or tough. Food in the buffet, the Windjammer Marketplace, was consistently good in the main and side dishes, but the deserts were not as sweet or tasty as we had hoped. (This latter may be a matter of preference between British vs American recipes.) And there was NO FREE ICE CREAM available (other than as dessert after dinner in the main dining rooms, or on the last few days of the cruise in the buffet) except for very small soft serve cones available by the pool. The vanilla and chocolate ice cream was bland and tasted off somehow, but the strawberry ice cream was consistently good. There is a 24 snack cafe, next to a pizza place, both on deck four, neither of which charged extra. Carbonated beverages are NOT included in the cost of the cruise but could be purchased for an outrageous price either separately or as a "drinks package". Same for alcoholic drinks. We didn't purchase any type of drink package. I would have liked iced tea available at all times, but it was only available at lunch and dinner in both the buffet and the main dining rooms. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants because of the unreasonably high cost ($42 or more for each meal.) I wonder if quality of the food in the main dining rooms was designed to get people to eat in the specialty restaurants.

The service, from the cabin stewards to the waiters, in fact everyone, was excellent. Everyone was polite and professional, and most were genuinely warm. We felt very welcomed.

The entertainment was really good most of the time, with a main show (offered three times) each evening in the Royal Theater every night, and a fabulous technical show in the 270 stage in the back three times during the cruise. The trivia games throughout the ship multiple times per day were a lot of fun, and were a great place to meet people.

Wifi is offered on board the ship at a cost that too high. We waited till our shore excursions to get free Wifi, but that didn't work out well because my phone didn't connect properly to any of the free Wifi except for a museum in Dunedin.

Our experience with the Shore Excursions were a mixed bag. The last three were great, the first ones were a disaster. In Dunedin, the 'Dunedin Highlights' was a total waste of money because not all of the advertised stops were visited, we were rushed through what we did visit because we were 'short on time'. And the bus driver said we were allowed to get off the bus in downtown Dunedin and take the shuttles back to the ship, but didn't tell us that it would cost $15 each if we did so. At the second shore excursion at Picton, we felt being rushed again because of being 'short of time' during our steam train ride. Utilizing 100 year old vintage railway carriages, we were taken us to a small town that was both boring and which had closed all its shops so there was nothing to do when we got to this unlovely place. And after herding us back on the train, we waited a full twenty minutes (for no apparent reason) till the train to start its return journey.

The shore excursion I would heartily recommend would be the visit to Hobbiton, for fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. The only improvement I would wish for on this shore excursion would be that enough time be allowed for us to have lunch at the Green Dragon Inn. (A glass of very tasty apple cider, or other beverages, was included in the cost of the excursion.) But we were again told 'we are short of time' even on this excursion. Try to get a morning time slot for the excursion as the lighting for photographing the hobbit holes is better than it is in the late afternoon/evening.

The Maori Cultural Highlights shore excursion was acceptable, though again we were told when we got on the bus that we were 'short on time' and so felt that we didn't get to see everything and therefore didn't get our money's worth. This excursion visits a Maori meeting house, participation in the elaborate Maori greeting ritual, and a performance by teens dressed in traditional costume. History buffs, and folks interested in new cultures would find this excursion interesting, if a bit underwhelming.

The Jet Boat adventure in Auckland, was well timed and had no issues. Expect to get THOROUGHLY soaked with salt water when you ride this fast boat ride that is almost like a roller coaster when it spins and turns. If this sounds fun to you, you'll have a blast.

Our last New Zealand shore excursion was visiting the oldest Kauri tree in New Zealand, along with a visit to a Mission House. Included in the cost of this excursion was lunch at a small, simple, resort, and tea with scones at the mission house. The Maori guide for the visit to the ancient Kauri tree was wonderful and passionate about all native New Zealand flora and fauna. The visit to the Mission house and adjacent stone chapel would be interesting to history buffs, because this is one location that the treaty was signed between the Maoris and Europeans in 1840. Timing of the lunch was an issue because it was offered too soon after breakfast (another ship's tour group got the noon lunch slot.) There are no tables at the mission house so it was a bit awkward trying to juggle scones (which were delicious and had accompanying clotted cream and jam) and tea. The people at the Mission house were genuinely warm. This was a peaceful place.

After disembarking the ship when we arrived back in Sydney, we booked a shore excursion to the Blue Mountains. This excursion filled in some of the many hours we would have otherwise waited at the airport with nothing to do. It also allowed us to be among the first groups to get off the ship. Unfortunately on the day we visited, the Blue Mountains were enshrouded in a thick white mist, so we weren't able to see much, but no fault of Royal Caribbean.

Our Cabin: we had a cabin on the 13th deck with a balcony. The 14th deck shielded us from wind and harsh sun, which was wonderful. And during the entire cruise (except for the initial approach to New Zealand and sailing the 'sounds') it was warm enough to really enjoy our balcony.

I do wish that we had been on the left side of the ship so we could have seen more land as we sailed to the various ports, but the view was great on both sides of the ship when approaching our ports of call. Tendering was done at the last two ports, and was handled very, very efficiently. No complaints at all. (I expect that having shore excursions booked for those ports had a great deal in our being among the first groups that got to leave the ship.)

One thing I would do differently would be to choose 'My Time' dining instead of the traditional set table with the same people. With 'My Time' dining, you can make your own reservations and would get a chance to meet different people each time you dined, instead of getting stuck at a table with a particularly snobby 'diamond level' couple who deliberately ignore you and talk only to the other frequent cruisers at the table.

Would I chose Royal Caribbean again? I would need to compare the shore excursions with other cruise lines before being able to answer that question. For me, the most important aspect of a cruise are the shore excursion experiences, and most of the ones I experienced left a lot to be desired in timing, and feeling rushed. If I were a person more interested in the ship than in shore excursions, this would be my ship! It was fabulous.
UncleM350’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Ocean View Balcony
Cabin 2D 13656
Cabin had an unobstructed balcony on the 13th deck. Plenty of room, decent sized balcony that was shaded overhead by the extension of the 14th deck which shielded our balcony from wind and harsh sun. Loved it.
Deck 13 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Jet Boat Tour
    This was the only excursion where the timing was perfect. The jet boat not only goes fast, but it makes turns and partial spins and in doing so THOROUGHLY SOAKS everyone on the boat (no matter where you sit) with salt water. ANYTHING in your pockets will get wet, and you are well warned of that before you get on the boat, and are given the opportunity to leave all of your stuff with the attendants at the jet boat booth. Great fun for roller coaster buffs, and people who like to get wet.
    View All 4 Jet Boat Tour Reviews
  • Dunedin
    Part of the Dunedin Highlights excursion, this was a stop so we could have a look at the building. I'm sure it had a lot of interesting facts about it, but I don't recall hearing much from our driver.
    View All 304 Dunedin Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Dunedin Cruise Port Review
  • Marlborough Train Tour
    Steam Engine Train Ride to a small boring town in 100 year old carriages. When we got to the unlovely town, all the shops were closed even though we arrived before 5pm. And on the return trip, we were rushed back on the train, but waited a full 20 minutes before it pulled out from the station. This is one of the tours that led me to question if the cruise line didn't want us spending our money on land. More money for them if we spent it on the ship??? The only highlight of the tour was when a train staff member brought out his guitar and we all had a sing-along.
    View All 13,028 Marlborough Train Tour Reviews
  • Blue Mountains
    The day we went the Blue Mountains were enshrouded in a thick white mist which meant that we could hardly see anything, but that wasn't the fault of Royal Caribbean. When the white mist is absent, the view is spectacular, like the Grand Canyon, but covered in pre-historic vegetation. There are three different viewing rides that were included in this debark excursion, all of which would have normally have been excellent had it been a clear weather. And they have a nice gift shop (useful since New Zealand has hardly any gift shops.)
    View All 27 Blue Mountains Reviews
  • Maori Cultural Highlights
    This was acceptable visit to a Maori Meeting House, and a Maori School. The few Maori at the meeting house were attentive, and those that spoke to us were passionate about Maori traditions and history. At the Maori school the teens, dressed in traditional Maori costume, presented a number of dances. At both places, our group experienced the elaborate greeting ritual once used to determine if visitors were friendly or hostile. This would be a good excursion for folks interested in the Maori, but because it is low key, might be a bit underwhelming. This was another tour in which we were told, as be boarded the bus, that we were short on time, which led me to believe that at the Meeting house we were supposed to hear and see more that what we actually experienced. We did have light refreshments given to us at no extra cost, and there was an opportunity to purchase inexpensive mementos.
    View All 13,028 Maori Cultural Highlights Reviews
  • Hobbiton Movie Set
    This is a must-see for all Lord of the Ring/Hobbit fans, and is the reason we chose this cruise. 2,000 visitors a day are let through Hobbiton in small groups led by a Hobbiton (not a cruise ship) guide. The enthusiastic guide was entertaining when we could hear him, which was most of the time. It was a thrill being able to see all the hobbit holes, especially Bag End, and Sam Gamgee's hole. No interiors exist, but the exteriors are just what they looked like in the movies. One learns the most interesting of the movie making details. And at the end of the tour each guest can order a free beverage at the Green Dragon Inn. I do wish that the opportunity to have lunch there had been an option, but it was not. The gift shop has some things for sale, but not at many things as I expected. (If they had sold mini hobbit holes, they would have made a mint. Alas, there were none.) This was the best shore excursion of the entire cruise.
    View All 43 Hobbiton Movie Set Reviews