Ovation of the Seas is a marvel and near faultless. The staff are amazing, and always have a smile. The itinerary for 9 days was well balanced between at-sea days and port days. Our 2 kids (Miss 5 and Miss 8) loved the kids club and the ... Read More
Ovation of the Seas is a marvel and near faultless. The staff are amazing, and always have a smile. The itinerary for 9 days was well balanced between at-sea days and port days. Our 2 kids (Miss 5 and Miss 8) loved the kids club and the pool facilities.
We live in Sydney and decided to use the relatively new Light Rail to get into the city. This was great as where you get off at Circular Quay is only a few hundred metres walk from the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Our embarkation was later than advised due to the delayed arrival of the ship from the previous cruise (engine trouble on the 2nd to last day). We dropped our bags off at the cruise terminal at about 11am and went to Squire's Landing (bottom of the far end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal) for a few beers and some lunch. After taking a few selfies at the front of the ship, we started the boarding process - within about 35 minutes, we were checked in, through customs, and onboard in our cabin with our bags having already been delivered!!! It was definitely advantageous to have "Expedited Arrival" status as the queues were really long as a result of the delayed arrival.
FOOD AND DINING
We had the deluxe beverage package which was great - coffees each day, bottles of water for the shore excursions, and cocktails / beers / wine all the rest of the time. The package generally covers all single serve beverages apart from some of the more expensive wines by the glass (which are served in the speciality restaurants and Vintages bar).
For dinner, we mainly ate in one of the 4 Main Dining Rooms (American Icon) with My Time dining. We did an early reservation (5.15pm) after we boarded and ended up getting the same table each night. Our wait staff (Andreas and Bresila) were fantastic and were very accommodating of our somewhat fussy Miss 5. It is great how there are 4 or 5 appetisers and mains which are different each night.
We had a couple of nights in speciality restaurants - once in Chops (the steak was delicious!) and once in Wonderland (a great dining experience which even Miss 5 and Miss 8 enjoyed!).
The iFLY and North Star are musts! For iFLY, I've been sky diving once before but still really enjoyed this experience – as did Miss 5 and Miss 8!!! We did the North Star on one of the at sea days so didn't really get to see much beside a whole lot of ocean... but seeing the ship itself from high above was certainly a unique experience. Highly recommend booking both iFLY and North Star before you board as they can get booked out for the whole cruise.
We also went to a couple of the bumper car sessions in the SeaPlex. A real novelty doing something like this while on a cruise ship at sea, and a highlight for both Miss 5 and Miss 8. Unfortunately, it was incredibly popular meaning some long queues (waiting in line up to an hour for a 5 minute ride).
We saw a couple of the shows in the Royal Theatre as well as the PIXELS show in the Two70 venue - all really high quality with some talented performers.
SERVICE AND STAFF
Very impressive. No matter where you went, the staff would always offer a cheerful greeting and an offer of assistance. Our cabin attendant Sebby was ever attentive, promptly making our beds in the morning while we were out at breakfast and then turning down our room when we were at dinner. High praise for our American Icon waitstaff – Andreas promptly taking our food orders when we arrived and delivering each course promptly, and then Bresila taking our drinks orders and bringing new glasses of wine when we finished what we had.
Ovation of the Seas is coming up to 4 years old, but isn't showing any signs of age. The staff do a brilliant job of keeping everything spotless, included constantly mopping water around the pools on the main deck. When we hit some rough seas between New Zealand and Australia on the return leg, the ‘sick’ bags were promptly put out at each of the stairwells for those in need.
CABIN / STATEROOM
Given we were a family of 4, it was pretty cosy with the couch being turned into a bed for Miss 5 and Miss 8. However, there was plenty of storage (multiple drawers as well as hanging space), and room under the bed to keep the bags. If you do run out of storage space, remember you can keep some clothes in your bag and just slide the bag out from under the bed when you need it. The bathroom was cosy but serviceable - toilet, sink, and shower. Water pressure in the shower wasn't great - but the shower head does have different settings which helped.
We were not in a rush to get off and were lucky enough to have once of the last assigned times (9.30am). This meant we were able to have a last breakfast in the Windjammer, and then have a bit of leisure time before our time was called. The luggage collection was a bit chaotic, and there was a bit of a queue to get through customs... but it really didn't take more than about 30 minutes to end up outside the terminal with our bags on our way home.
Do the full online check-in prior to your cruise (including uploading your photo). We did this and had "Expedited Arrival" on our SetSail passes. This meant we were able to skip the normal queue and get onboard really quickly.
--- SHORE EXCURSIONS ---
Breathtaking! Arriving into Milford Sound as the sun was rising was spectacular. The ship did a double spin at the end of Milford Sound meaning everyone had a good look no matter where they would have been on the ship.
We did the Otagos Wild Wonders. The bus trip wasn't great - almost an hour and 40kms driving from Port Chalmers all the way around to the opposite side of the harbour (about 1km as the crow flies). However, arriving at Natures Wonders we were warmly welcomed by Perry and his team. Riding on the Argo 8 wheel drive vehicles was huge fun, with a driving trek down to the ocean front of the Otago Peninsula. It was the end of the breeding season for the New Zealand Fur Seals, and we got to see a few dozen (at least) pups lazing around. The tour also included getting to see a penguin chick in a special nesting box.
Unfortunately due to earthquake damage to the cruise ship pier, Ovation docked at a commercial wharf which meant it wasn’t possible to walk directly onshore and away from the dock. However, we had booked ourselves on the Wellington Panorama shore excursion which means we boarded the bus right off the ship (a complimentary shuttle service was available for anyone who wanted to go ashore on their own). The tour was excellent, with our driving providing some great history of Wellington including many humorous anecdotes. Stops included the Wellington Botanical Gardens (so many different colours of roses!), Mt Victoria (a great way to see Wellington from on high), and then the Wellington foreshore (the Gallipoli exhibition in the Te Papa museum is brilliant).
While the ship was again at a commercial wharf, a complimentary shuttle was also provided. Our shore excursion this time was the "Marlborough Train Tour". After a short bus ride to the Picton train station, we boarded Passchendaele, a WW1 memorial steam locomotive for a ride to Blenheim - this took about 30 minutes. Getting off at the Blenheim station, we had a chance to check out the locomotive and have a chat to the engineers. There was a great souvenir shop nearby where we picked up a couple of things, and then walked about 20 minutes to have lunch at Dodson Street Beer Garden (http://www.dodsonstreet.co.nz/). Just as much as the Marlborough region is known for its wines, there are also some great local breweries - and we got to try a number of the local brews at Dodson Street. Definitely worth going to if you like your beers! The afternoon saw us ride the train from Blenheim back to Picton, and then the bus back to the wharf to board Ovation. The queues for the bus in Picton were pretty long, so would suggest not hanging around in Picton for too long. Read Less