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I average 2-3 cruises a year on RCCL for the past 18 years. It seems that as the ships get bigger, the quality gets worse. I loved the two-week itinerary from Sydney around both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It's an amazing itinerary with great ports of call, so I can't fault that even a little. We had a balcony cabin. It was roomy with plenty of storage space and a nicely sized balcony. Our cabin steward was excellent. First, a tiny thing: The Cruise critic meet and greet was set for the first morning at 8 a.m. Really crappy time to have a meet and greet when many of the passengers flew 20+ hours and (in my case) 17 time zones to get there. Especially as launch time the night before wasn't until 9pm. I'm afraid to say I slept right through the meet and greet and I hate that! The ship itself is impressively huge. I'll give it that. But with very few exceptions, the artwork was very mundane. I usually love the stairwell art but other than maybe two or three pieces, they were similarly boring. Additionally, having artwork up and down those endless hallways keeps me entertained on most ships, but this one didn't have anything other than the same metal piece repeated a gazillion times up and down the hallways...put me to sleep by the time I got to my cabin! There were two interactive screens that were pretty cool...one that had butterflies on it that moved when you touched them and one set of screens that changed as you walked past. Someone working on the set of screens said that they stay broken most of the time because people pound on them and kick them. Unlike most boats that have fabulous views from most of the bars and venues, there is little of that on this boat. I get that this is due to the huge percentage of outside rooms and balcony rooms. I just miss being able to see outside. It reminded me of being inside a casino where you don't know if it's day or night. And that gives me a great segue into the staff: The bar staff at Vintages was comatose most nights. A group of us would meet there almost every evening to play cards or a game. We all had drink packages...but we had to practically beg for service. NOT ONCE did a waiter approach the table. Every single night we had to go up to the bar and ask to be served. There were three or four waiters standing around looking bored, but even after they'd serve us the drink we ordered at the bar, they'd ignore us the rest of the night. It wasn't ever crowded...never more than 20 people in there, but they just didn't care. The casino staff was even worse. The guy on the roulette table was rude and looked like he would rather eat his own hair than crack a smile or be nice to anyone. He didn't even bother to wave his hand over the wheel for last bets, he just mumbled something and then snapped at anyone who hadnt heard him. He kept looking around like he was embarrassed to even be there. The table dealers weren't much better...not a personality to be found among any of them. The food is getting worse on every cruise. I eat exclusively in the dining room at night. We were second seating and I'd say the dining room was only 30-50% full any particular night. The menu was almost identical every night. They'd have a different meat dish, pasta dish and fish dish each night and everything else was essentially the same. The steaks were small and tough, the chicken was identical regardless of what they called it, the desserts were boring. This is a tiny thing, but they don't even bother to change the flavor of the creme brulee each night...used to be one night was mango, one was Bailey's, etc...now it's vanilla creme brulee every night. And they had Mahi Mahi on the menu four or five different times, yet when we tried to order it we were told they didn't actually have it on board. Here's a suggestion: TAKE IT OFF THE MENU. Dining room staff was decent, but not great. It felt like maybe they were depressed at not having very many people to wait on. It was just a weird vibe all around. Another reviewer mentioned that no dress code standards were applied in the dining room. One formal night we watched a woman in a lovely dress arrive with a gentleman wearing raggy cutoff shorts, a sleeveless tee shirt and flip flops. I thought that was pretty bad until I saw another woman arrive on the other formal night wearing (I am NOT kidding): a bikini, flip flops and a very short, very sheer bathing suit cover-up. I am not a snob, but holy cow people, why why WHY? Windjammer: gets worse and worse all the time. It's not even worth the time it takes to type more about it than to say that it's standard cafeteria fare at best. Thank goodness for the pizza place. Entertainment: Pixels was the only show you could get reservations for. So we made reservations. I'm not sure why, because we got there (15 minutes before showtime) and they were letting anyone in, with or without a reservation. It was already standing room only, so we ended up standing in the back of the room. The Two-Seventy Lounge is obviously where RCCL put all their money, but it's a crappy venue for anything bigger than a few hundred people. There are huge lamps sporadically spaced through the room and huge pillars that block the view. The accoustics aren't great either. I've seen some excellent shows on board, but Pixels wasn't one of them. It was technically really cool...would love to know how much they paid for those huge articulated screens. But the show didn't make a lot of sense, there was no central theme to it, just a hodgepodge of music and an inexplicable video of an African rap group that made absolutely no sense and added nothing to the show. The tribute bands were good, but again, the venue was way too small and not conducive to good musical listening. What is with the "virtual symphony?" Seriously? I paid to be entertained...I can watch a symphony any day of the week on my own television with a better view and better sound quality. That was really cheesy. Would have loved more cultural talks about, for example, the history of Australia and NZ, or about the Aborigines of Aus or the Maori of NZ. There was one lady who talked about three Kiwi women, and it was okay, but I wanted more in depth inforrmation. The comedian was pretty funny...I saw the late night adult show. Was pretty shocked at the number of (unattended) children in the audience. Speaking of unattended children: People, why do you turn your children loose on a boat with 7000 strangers as if nothing bad could possibly happen to them? 7000 strangers who have access to private rooms and the ocean? What could possibly go wrong? Do people just completely lose their minds when they cross the gangway getting onto the ship? I have just one more complaint, and then I'll shut up: Dear Royal Caribbean: please stop wasting precious floor space for designer stores such as Cartier....during the entire cruise, I never saw anyone in there. What a supreme waste of real estate. People who shop at Cartier don't cruise on Royal Caribbean...they cruise on Seven Seas or one of the other upscale lines. How about opening a shop that carries sundries, convenience items and snacks? My roommate bought one of the three Snickers bars available in the liquor store on board and it had expired two years ago. I never book shore excursions through RCCL, so I didn't rate that. I will say, however, that at Bay of Islands, the docking area for the tenders was a half hour walk to anywhere. They had buses to take us from the dock to the town but those buses were used as school buses in the afternoon. So many people had to walk back to the tenders. And once we got there, there was a mammoth line of about an hour and a half to wait for the tenders. Somebody dropped the ball on that whole operation. It's a small town and with that many people descending on it, they need to plan better. I hate to be so negative...I had a great time on this cruise. But that was no thanks to Royal Caribbean. I hate to start back at zero status on another cruise line, but I think I just might. RCCL doesn't really give you anything worthwhile for high status anyway, so I probably won't miss my "status."

RCCL is going downhill

Ovation of the Seas Cruise Review by GiniB

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
I average 2-3 cruises a year on RCCL for the past 18 years. It seems that as the ships get bigger, the quality gets worse.

I loved the two-week itinerary from Sydney around both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It's an amazing itinerary with great ports of call, so I can't fault that even a little.

We had a balcony cabin. It was roomy with plenty of storage space and a nicely sized balcony. Our cabin steward was excellent.

First, a tiny thing: The Cruise critic meet and greet was set for the first morning at 8 a.m. Really crappy time to have a meet and greet when many of the passengers flew 20+ hours and (in my case) 17 time zones to get there. Especially as launch time the night before wasn't until 9pm. I'm afraid to say I slept right through the meet and greet and I hate that!

The ship itself is impressively huge. I'll give it that. But with very few exceptions, the artwork was very mundane. I usually love the stairwell art but other than maybe two or three pieces, they were similarly boring. Additionally, having artwork up and down those endless hallways keeps me entertained on most ships, but this one didn't have anything other than the same metal piece repeated a gazillion times up and down the hallways...put me to sleep by the time I got to my cabin! There were two interactive screens that were pretty cool...one that had butterflies on it that moved when you touched them and one set of screens that changed as you walked past. Someone working on the set of screens said that they stay broken most of the time because people pound on them and kick them.

Unlike most boats that have fabulous views from most of the bars and venues, there is little of that on this boat. I get that this is due to the huge percentage of outside rooms and balcony rooms. I just miss being able to see outside. It reminded me of being inside a casino where you don't know if it's day or night.

And that gives me a great segue into the staff: The bar staff at Vintages was comatose most nights. A group of us would meet there almost every evening to play cards or a game. We all had drink packages...but we had to practically beg for service. NOT ONCE did a waiter approach the table. Every single night we had to go up to the bar and ask to be served. There were three or four waiters standing around looking bored, but even after they'd serve us the drink we ordered at the bar, they'd ignore us the rest of the night. It wasn't ever crowded...never more than 20 people in there, but they just didn't care.

The casino staff was even worse. The guy on the roulette table was rude and looked like he would rather eat his own hair than crack a smile or be nice to anyone. He didn't even bother to wave his hand over the wheel for last bets, he just mumbled something and then snapped at anyone who hadnt heard him. He kept looking around like he was embarrassed to even be there. The table dealers weren't much better...not a personality to be found among any of them.

The food is getting worse on every cruise. I eat exclusively in the dining room at night. We were second seating and I'd say the dining room was only 30-50% full any particular night. The menu was almost identical every night. They'd have a different meat dish, pasta dish and fish dish each night and everything else was essentially the same. The steaks were small and tough, the chicken was identical regardless of what they called it, the desserts were boring. This is a tiny thing, but they don't even bother to change the flavor of the creme brulee each night...used to be one night was mango, one was Bailey's, etc...now it's vanilla creme brulee every night. And they had Mahi Mahi on the menu four or five different times, yet when we tried to order it we were told they didn't actually have it on board. Here's a suggestion: TAKE IT OFF THE MENU.

Dining room staff was decent, but not great. It felt like maybe they were depressed at not having very many people to wait on. It was just a weird vibe all around.

Another reviewer mentioned that no dress code standards were applied in the dining room. One formal night we watched a woman in a lovely dress arrive with a gentleman wearing raggy cutoff shorts, a sleeveless tee shirt and flip flops. I thought that was pretty bad until I saw another woman arrive on the other formal night wearing (I am NOT kidding): a bikini, flip flops and a very short, very sheer bathing suit cover-up.

I am not a snob, but holy cow people, why why WHY?

Windjammer: gets worse and worse all the time. It's not even worth the time it takes to type more about it than to say that it's standard cafeteria fare at best. Thank goodness for the pizza place.

Entertainment: Pixels was the only show you could get reservations for. So we made reservations. I'm not sure why, because we got there (15 minutes before showtime) and they were letting anyone in, with or without a reservation. It was already standing room only, so we ended up standing in the back of the room. The Two-Seventy Lounge is obviously where RCCL put all their money, but it's a crappy venue for anything bigger than a few hundred people. There are huge lamps sporadically spaced through the room and huge pillars that block the view. The accoustics aren't great either. I've seen some excellent shows on board, but Pixels wasn't one of them. It was technically really cool...would love to know how much they paid for those huge articulated screens. But the show didn't make a lot of sense, there was no central theme to it, just a hodgepodge of music and an inexplicable video of an African rap group that made absolutely no sense and added nothing to the show.

The tribute bands were good, but again, the venue was way too small and not conducive to good musical listening.

What is with the "virtual symphony?" Seriously? I paid to be entertained...I can watch a symphony any day of the week on my own television with a better view and better sound quality. That was really cheesy.

Would have loved more cultural talks about, for example, the history of Australia and NZ, or about the Aborigines of Aus or the Maori of NZ. There was one lady who talked about three Kiwi women, and it was okay, but I wanted more in depth inforrmation.

The comedian was pretty funny...I saw the late night adult show. Was pretty shocked at the number of (unattended) children in the audience.

Speaking of unattended children: People, why do you turn your children loose on a boat with 7000 strangers as if nothing bad could possibly happen to them? 7000 strangers who have access to private rooms and the ocean? What could possibly go wrong? Do people just completely lose their minds when they cross the gangway getting onto the ship?

I have just one more complaint, and then I'll shut up: Dear Royal Caribbean: please stop wasting precious floor space for designer stores such as Cartier....during the entire cruise, I never saw anyone in there. What a supreme waste of real estate. People who shop at Cartier don't cruise on Royal Caribbean...they cruise on Seven Seas or one of the other upscale lines. How about opening a shop that carries sundries, convenience items and snacks? My roommate bought one of the three Snickers bars available in the liquor store on board and it had expired two years ago.

I never book shore excursions through RCCL, so I didn't rate that. I will say, however, that at Bay of Islands, the docking area for the tenders was a half hour walk to anywhere. They had buses to take us from the dock to the town but those buses were used as school buses in the afternoon. So many people had to walk back to the tenders. And once we got there, there was a mammoth line of about an hour and a half to wait for the tenders. Somebody dropped the ball on that whole operation. It's a small town and with that many people descending on it, they need to plan better.

I hate to be so negative...I had a great time on this cruise. But that was no thanks to Royal Caribbean. I hate to start back at zero status on another cruise line, but I think I just might. RCCL doesn't really give you anything worthwhile for high status anyway, so I probably won't miss my "status."
GiniB’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Ocean View Balcony
Cabin 6D
The cabin itself was the best thing about the boat. It was spacious, clean and had plenty of storage. Can't remember my cabin number though. I was on Deck 6
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