Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas.
I hope this review is helpful to other travellers planning their cruise on this ship.
Embarkation in Singapore was a cluster fail, disorganized and inefficient. Even though we pre checked in, we ... Read More
Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas.
I hope this review is helpful to other travellers planning their cruise on this ship.
Embarkation in Singapore was a cluster fail, disorganized and inefficient. Even though we pre checked in, we still had several long lines to wait in and it took over an hour. Waiting area did not have good AC. You had to wait in sections based on your boarding time /color, some with sun coming through the glass and it was hot. Once in the waiting area there were no cafes or shops. On the ship it was very crowded getting to the elevators, most didn't seem to be operating. We gave up and carried our carry on bags up the stairs to our deck.
Lifeboat drill was great, in A/C and no need to wear your life jacket. The decor and art work is very nice.
The gym is also nice, one of the few bright spots on a ship with a very frustrating layout. The designer lost the plot somewhere.
The sports area with bumper cars, skating, and basketball is indoors and air conditioned, takes up a couple decks in height. Maybe a dozen or so people use the area, catering to the basketball crowd. They would have been better served with some golf bays and racquet courts and double the amount of table sports. The arrangement wasted a lot of space on the boat that is much needed to spread out the over crowding. The room to get wristbands for the flow rider was the same as the iFly. The desk is extremely slow and you could easily wait an hour behind people making iFly reservations just to get a wristband for the flow rider. Then you wait in a long slow line for the flow rider. Really now, they have these grandiose activities that are not suited for large numbers of people and take up large areas that should have been better utilized. The activities take so much time per person that most people will either not be able to enjoy them or spend hours for one go at it.
Food buffet areas are poorly laid out, and extremely crowded. This is a huge ship, and there are far too many people for how the food areas are designed. Total chaos in the Windjammer Marketplace - literally like a crowded marketplace. Though the food there is one of the better options for cafeteria style dining. Good selection and decent quality. The other alternate food areas have minimal selections. For breakfast go early to beat the masses.
If you get back to the ship between 3 and 5:30 only the panini bar 270 is open.
For dining, the four free main dining restaurants are supposed to take walkins and reservations. Don't believe it, you need a reservation or you could be waiting over an hour. Pro tip: book reservations weeks in advance. Anytime dining is only the buffets which are not always open. They don't tell you but those four complimentary restaurants basically have two sittings only, 6:30 and 8:30. We could only get into one of the four without waiting an hour. This almost forces you to go to the premium restaurants. Unfortunately we struggled to get reservations at both the ones you pay extra for, as well as the complimentary ones. They were all practically booked solid for the entire cruise. We had to scramble checking all the restaurants and if we found one with availability for a particular day, we had to take any time slot they might have left. Forget about trying to coordinate shows with your dinner time. Oh, and you don't know show schedules until the Cruise Compass comes the evening before. So if you decide to cancel a reservation to make the show tomorrow night, there is a $10 cancellation within 24 hours and a $10 no show fee.
We had a lot of trouble with the reservation system. Dinner reservations we did not make would keep showing up on our calendar, and ones we had made were cancelled.
The restaurants are hit and miss. One night the NY Sirloin was 1/3 gristle and fat, while another was a nice tenderloin. Even in Chops, one of 5 filets mingons our table ordered was half gristle and inedible. The other four were great. Silk was the worst and we never went back. The restaurants did a good job with variations in the menus. It was odd that when we did get into a restaurant, walkins were being turned away, yet the restaurant was half empty. My guess is they are severely under staffed and could only seat half the dining areas causing the reservation problems.
On port days the only complimentary lunch restaurant open is the Windjammer buffet.
There is a restaurant on board that only suite guests and Pinnacle members are allowed to use. We rarely saw anyone in there. I find this offensive on a ship of this type (it's not Crystal or Seaborn) that either doesn't have enough restaurant seats or staff to accommodate the over 4000 passengers on our sold out cruise.
Forget the formal wear, there are no formal nights. The Grand restaurant is the formal restaurant, and you can dress up for the premier restaurants. But there are no nights where the whole ship dresses up. Good luck finding this information out from their Web site or on board. We wouldn't have wasted the extra luggage space on formal wear had we known. Dress codes were not enforced, a few people wore shorts to the formal restaurants. But then again, no where is this information being distributed - people that aren't accustomed to cruising just do not know.
Unfortunately they did not keep children out of the Music Hall Bar area. They were allowed to play pool all evening so adults could not use the tables, which looked like they hadn't been brushed in ages, full of marks from the cues hitting the tables. And I have to mention the rude people who at lunch let one child run round and round their table laughing while the other one stood on her chair screaming. All the patrons were glaring at them, the parents were indifferent and the staff did nothing. Then there were the young children playing video games at high volume in the Schooner Bar disturbing the people trying to listen to the piano player.
Ho Chi Minh port was a wasted stop. You port in Phu My two hours from Saigon, depending on traffic. There is nothing at the cruise terminal at all, it's a container port. You can't just grab a cab as they aren't allowed in the port area. Though you can walk outside to get one. This makes it difficult to go anywhere unless you're on a ship tour. If you planned a private tour you had to books weeks in advance so the tour company can get a permit and your passport info ahead of time for clearance. You spend most of your tour time on a bus, in traffic. During summer Saigon is miserably hot and humid. If you're prone to heat stroke take note, it's bad.
Smaller ships can port closer, big ships get screwed. It would have been better to port at Vang Tao at the mouth of the Saigon river and spend the day there.
One thing a bit unnerving were the local gill net boats coming right alongside and setting their nets. In this day and age you would think for security reasons there would be a buffer zone or some Harbor security. I'm sure most people clearly understand why.
The sundry shop is tiny, 2/3 of it is cigarettes and alcohol. Bring what you need, because it's very slim pickings if you need toiletries, etc. The staterooms have bar soap and shampoo. No conditioner is provided or other amenities. If you drink bottled water Evian is the only choice.
It's impossible to find a quiet space to read. Every area is an open design. The Two70 and library area has a cafe and bar. So there are always people eating, drinking and talking. Only a few games and no puzzles in the library. A lot of books though. Part of the time they are prepping equipment, doing sound checks and practicing for shows so the shades may be down so you no longer have ocean or port views. Very poor layout as it's one of the few places that had the potential to be a quiet zone to watch the water, relax and read. Don't watch the practices if you plan on seeing the shows. Spoils it. No, wait, you will want to watch the practices because there's a slim chance you can get a reservation. My wife is a dancer and really wanted to see the shows but finding out when they will be on is difficult. There is no cruise schedule and we found many times shows and events were listed on the Chinese version of the "Cruise Compass" and not the English one. More on that later.
Most ships have a nice indoor observation deck to enjoy the cruise, read a book and have drinks - usually in the bow area on an upper deck. Instead there is an air conditioned pool area. Great for mid day sunning in a bathing suit. But they badly need a proper observation room. It just spoils the cruising experience.
The classical musicians are in an open area bar with crowds walking by so you can't even enjoy a glass of wine and listen to them play with all the noise.
For drinks, our group ordered different mixed drinks and signature cocktails at all the bars, and only the robot at the Bionic bar could make a proper drink. It was appalling watching the wrong ingredients being muddled or added and even wrong spirits. I swear one drink had a shot of bitters instead of a dash. Best bet is beer or wine, or the hard drinks straight up or with only one or two additions. After day four we gave up, sticking with beer, wine or the robot. They do have a nice selection of wines and most are at least four years old which was a pleasant surprise. But you have to watch as they will pour the wrong wine.
As far as general information about the ship itself and tours, it's best to bring your own info from the Internet or RC website. This is by far the worst ship I have ever been on as far as a lack of general ship or port information. There is no ship map or card distributed. You have to use the posted directories, large wall mounted Ipads or their ship model display by the elevators to find out where everything is. You do not receive a port map or any daily port information you may be used to getting on other cruises. The TV information videos do not do a good job explaining things and are difficult to follow. The banter and constant interruptions of the main speaker by the cruise director is part of the issue. For example on the port info channel they said a particular port would have a shuttle into the local town, but when speaking to someone at the excursion desk we were told there wasn't one. The channel also said they could arrange private tours, then was told they could not provide that service. But later a different person was able to book a private tour. The TV which doubles as your information center kept locking up and needed rebooting - turning on and off doesn't reset, there is a reboot procedure.
On that subject the WiFi service is glitchy and slow, and frequently goes out, which unfortunately is to be expected. Even though you'll spend a few hundred dollars for it. The RC app to make reservations and manage your trip info is poorly designed and still has issues. We made a reservation for one of the shows, and had to reschedule a dinner reservation to make the time. The day of the show, the reservation was on our calendar on the app and TV. When we went to the show we were turned away and told we had no reservation. Checking the app, our reservation had disappeared. We reported what happened, but there is speculation on board that certain passengers pay for favors - or reservations. And that since this ship is geared for Asia and is being heavily promoted when in Port, they are catering to a specific ethnic group granting special privileges. We're certain someone had changed our reservation for another night without our authorization. The same thing happened to others. And you cannot get into a show without a reservation. The venue is, surprise, far too small for the number of people on this ship even with multiple showings.
The ship appears nice and it's new, but it is not a relaxing ship. Unless you like always being in large crowds and constantly bombarded by noise. More like a Carnival Cruise. The public areas are far too small for the amount of people on this ship. This was the ship's first full cruise, the previous ones were bringing it over and not full - keep that in mind while reading earlier reviews of the ship. Ours was a 12 day cruise and a couple people in our group were considering disembarking in Hong Kong, only 5 days in.
Being a veteran of many cruises and cruise lines for over 30 years, every ship and route has pros and cons. You expect things don't always go smoothly, and I'm not picky, giving people the benefit of the doubt. With only a couple exceptions the crew and staff were great. But overall this was my worst cruise experience by far, I would never cruise on this ship again even if it was free. There was a lot of misinformation and confusion on port terminal locations, port services and transportation, and shore excursions. Guest services always had a long wait. This ship was obviously not ready for passengers and in my opinion severely understaffed with way too many passengers for the design.
RC, what were you thinking? Read Less