Ovation of the Seas is the newest quantum class ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. We were lucky enough to sail on the Pre-Inaugural three-night roundtrip from Southampton.
Prior to our sailing, we stayed at the Novotel Southampton. You can see our review about our stay here. Our check in time was 12:30 but after mooching around the nearby shops we arrived at the port for about 10am. We couldn’t contain the excitement any longer!
As we walked to the port our excitement was building as we approached Royal Caribbean posters and flags. We arrived at the city cruise terminal and was surprised at just how quiet is was. There must have only been a handful of passengers there at the time. A friendly staff member approached us with an iPad ready to do curb side check in.
Curb side check in is available if you have checked in online. It means that you don’t have to queue. With us being two hours early I though we would be told we have to wait but after showing our passports we got the green stamp and told to head straight on-board.
As we boarded every staff member joyfully greeted us and there was a general air of excitement. Walking onto the deck we were hit with the smell of new carpets and promptly handed a glass of champagne.
Boarding two hours early meant the ship was empty and it was an ideal opportunity grab photos and video. We asked a team member when the rooms would be ready to be told they were ready now. Excitedly we scurried away from the Royal Esplanade to only realise we didn’t know where we were actually going.
As we arrived at our cabin we found our key was waiting for us tucked into the room number.
We stayed in stateroom 9172 which was a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with a Balcony on the “Hump” of the ship.
Our first impressions were just how big the cabin was. The cabin had ample space and the décor was tasteful with blue highlights making it feel incredibly fresh, modern and homely.
The bed was comfortable and large, particularly in length where usually Ben’s feet hang out of the bottom.
There was ample storage in the room – so much so we left most of it unused. Even under the bed, you can store your cases to get them out the way.
The table is really handy as it pulls out into a dining table. There is plenty of plug sockets (US and European) as well as USB chargers.
The bathrooms are small but very well laid out meaning you have lots of usable space. The shower is roomy and with a glass door means there is no curtain sticking to you. The only toiletries provided where a bar of soap and mystery soap attached to the wall in the shower.
Other in-room amenities include a phone, kettle stocked with tea and coffee, laundry service and room service menu.
There is a fridge stocked with water and sodas for an extra charge. This has a lock on it so that children don’t raid the fridge when parents are not looking.
The television has a small amount of TV. Our ship featured four English channels and well as a channel in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. The TV also allows you to look at your on-board account, order room service, check the day’s activities as well as the usual map and ship views. You are able to buy movies on demand but at $11.99 these are pricey.
Being on the “hump” of the ship the balcony was huge. There was the standard two chairs and table with still enough space to move around. You could easily fit another chair in here.
The standard for cruise ships the room had a turn-down service in addition to daily housekeeping, with a towel animal greeting you every evening along with your daily ship guide.
With regard to the staterooms, we were impressed. As we saidthe rooms are incredibly spacious and I can see no trouble with a family occupying these staterooms comfortably. The décor gives these rooms the feeling of a nice hotel rather than the cruise ship. Our stateroom host was very friendly and attentive, nothing was ever too much.
When booking you can choose from two types of dining options;
Dynamic Dining Choice allows guests to pick and choose their restaurants and dining times each day and night. Guests can make reservations on prior to there sailing on the Royal Caribbean website.
Dynamic Dining Classic is the traditional main dining style with the same dining time each night and the same wait staff and dining companions throughout the cruise.
The ship boasts an impressive array dining options. Unlike traditional ships usually encompass one main dining room, Ovation of the Seas has four. Guests on Dynamic Dining Choice rotate between the four each night. This gives these guest the chance to experience each dining room. Guests on Dynamic Dining Choice, are able to make reservations for any of the dining rooms prior to sailing on onboard using the Royal IQ App.
Breakfast boasted a wide choice of continental meats, cheeses, pastries, fruits, Asian dishes, Full English/American, pancakes and waffles.
The Windjammer was excellently laid out and on no occasion did we have an issue getting a table. The different stations make it flow better and the presentation of the food made you want to just try everything.
I can honestly say this was the best buffet food we have ever had on a cruise. On the five occasions we ate in the Windjammer we had only two items that were not outstanding.
Throughout the day complementary teas, coffee, juices and water are available from the Windjammer. There are Coke Freestyle machines and a bar as well as a coffee bar serving ‘The Best Seattle’ specialty coffee.
An alternative to the Windjammer Marketplace is the Solarium Bistro. The bistro is located at the forward of the ship and serves a buffet lunch during the day. This little gem allows guests in the solarium to enjoy lunch without the long trek to the aft of the ship. On an evening the Solarium Bistro transforms into a specialty dining venue serving fresh and healthy cuisine.
For suite guests and pinnacle members Coastal Kitchen serves an array of California-Mediterranean dishes.
If it’s just a snack you fancy, there plenty of options around the ship.
Sorrento’s serves delicious pizza all day into the late evening which is freshly made though out the day. We had to stop ourselves visiting in here every time we passed because the pizza was so good.
Next to Sorrento’s is Café Promenade serving complimentary sandwiches, cakes, cookies and coffee.
SeaPlex Doghouse located in the SeaPlex serves a range of hot dogs from counter made to look like a cool hip food truck you would see at a festival. The hot dogs where huge and filling. I suggest going for the German Bratwurst was tasty!
Cafe @ Two70° is located at the aft of the ship and serves complimentary sandwiches and made to order salads. The café also has complimentary teas and coffee as well as ‘The Best Seattle’ specialty coffees for a charge.
The ship also has an array of specialty dining options for a charge – all offering unique experiences and a wide range of menus.
Chops Grille – A steakhouse and a Royal Caribbean favourite.
Izumi – Japanese restaurant serving sushi rolls, sashimi and appetisers. Pricing is à la carte.
Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver – Rustic Italian restaurant serving a selection of antipasti planks and plates, starters, mains and sides, kids’ menu and fresh plates of pasta made on‑site.
Wonderland – Extravagant and the most beautiful looking restaurant serving post-modern experimental cooking.
Michael’s Genuine Pub – As well as been a bar Michael’s Genuine Pub serves snacks and sharing platters. Pricing is à la carte.
Kung Fu Panda Noodle Bar – Unique to the Ovation of the Seas this counter service restaurant serves dim sum delights, savory noodle bowls and traditional Chinese desserts. Pricing is à la carte.
La Patisserie – serves specialty cakes and treats as well as Starbucks coffee.
Bars & Entertainment
For a tipple or two on-board you are spoilt for choice with a wide choice of venues that cater to all tastes. We purchased the unlimited drinks package and spent many an hour in the various bars on-board, all in the name of research of course!
Our favourite haunt was Schooner Bar which hosted quizzes during the day and live piano on an evening. The bar was so relaxed and welcoming you could sit and enjoy the music while having a chat or just people watching.
Michel’s Genuine Pub is a small and cosy venue. The bar has great atmosphere accompanies by live guitar music on evenings. You can try a wide range of craft beers and ales as well as whisky flights.
Boleros is a Latin bar and another personal favourite of ours. Sadly, we only discovered on our last evening. The bars décor is dark and inviting with large comfortable sofas and live Latin music throughout the night. Boleros serves a unique Paprika and Watermelon Margarita which was the stand out cocktail of the trip. Also a wide range of tequilas which we tried… for research!
Vintages is the quieter and more relax bar on-board. This was the only bar that we didn’t try. Its dark woody tones and large chairs made it look like a great place to sit and relax. The bar boasts a wide range of wines both at the bar and by self-service dispensers.
Bionic Bar is one of the ship’s highlights. Who does not want a cocktail made buy a robot? Using iPad, you order your cocktail from a list or design your own. This was an incredibly popular venue on-board but no more than a four to five-minute wait for a cocktail even at the busiest times.
Two70° at the aft of the ship is the most transformative venue on-board. By day the venue is a relaxing space where you can watch the world pass by though the large 270° windows with a cocktail or coffee. Just off to the side is the Library and Workshop. On an evening this whole venue transforms into a cabaret club for ‘Spector’s Cabaret’ with the windows transformed into 270° of digital screen. Along with the mechanical moving robot screens this show is one of the most visually exiting shows we have seen. It’s a true spectacle that is not to be missed.
In addition to the main bars are the various pool bars around the ship. These are open throughout the day and into the evening.
The Music Hall is an entertainment venue that is designed to look like an old theater or cinema converted to a rock venue. Its theme is immersive and created a fabulous atmosphere. The two-level venue also has areas for guests to play pool or just chat. During the day the venue hosted quizzes and movies, our sailing screened the latest Star Wars. On an evening it’s home to the house band Rock the Boat as well as visiting tribute acts.
Accessible from the Music Hall is Casino Royal
The Royal Theatre hosts the main show Dreams, a show filled with technically and visually outstanding elements. The venue itself is very large and one of the biggest we have seen at sea. We didn’t have any trouble getting a seat – even turning up minutes before a show.
Other shows included Tenors of Rock who were exceptional! Their voices were unbelievable and they received a well-deserved standing ovation. We also saw Gareth Oliver who is comedy ventriloquist. He started off quite slow but had some hilarious moments towards the end.
The North Star is another highlight of the Ovation of the Seas. I would recommend making a reservation as there are limited stand-by slots. You get a good amount of time in the gondola and everyone gets the opportunity to walk around taking in a 360 view. Our ride was at sea but I imagine that being in port would give you an even better view.
Like other Royal Caribbean ships, the Ovation of the Seas also has the Flowrider and Rock Climbing walls. While I would have loved to try them, it’s simply too wet and cold.
For the thrill seekers RipCord by iFLY is the skydiving simulator on-board. This was a personal highlight for us. The whole experience lasts around 40 minutes from start to finish with one-minute flying time. One minute does not sound a lot but when you are in the tunnel it seems like a lifetime and is more than enough. The instructors made the experience incredibly enjoyable and were encouraging. I would encourage everyone to try this, it’s not at all frightening and is a truly wonderful experience.
SeaPlex is a large multipurpose family venue. This has a great atmosphere, particularly when Bumper Cars or Roller Skating is on. There is also Table Tennis and Xbox. Bumper Cars and Roller Skating looked incredible fun but attract long queues so we had to give them both a miss. Be sure to also check out the pandas!
For those who like to take it slow, there are plenty of other daytime activities going on such as quizzes, game shows, murder mysteries and talks. There was so much to do it was hard fitting it all in!
There are three pool areas on-board. There are ample sunbeds and even on the busiest day, we had no trouble finding two sun beds away from everyone.
The outdoor pool area includes the H2O Zone for smaller children and is unique to the Ovation of the Seas. There is a good sized outdoor pool, two large hot tubs and a movie screen. On an evening the pool is covered to create an outdoor cinema.
The second area is the Family Solarium. This area is housed inside so that in cold weather, like our cruise, you can still enjoy the pool area. In warmer weather the roof opens. This was the most popular area on our cruise and was also furnished with another two large hot tubs.
Finally, the Adult Solarium is the adults only area on the ship. This area is simply stunning.
Stepping into here you are instantly transported to a five-star tropical resort with the sounds of cascading water and real palm trees. The solarium featured three pools that cascaded into each other along with four large hot tubs. All with breathtaking panoramic views of the front of the ship. It was incredible to be sat in a hot tub, enjoying a cocktail in a warm climate whilst it was dark, cold and raining outside.
Gym & Spa
There is an on-board gym and spa. The gym was enormous with a wide range of equipment and classes. We were too busy at the buffet (researching) to notice if it was being used or not 😉
Throughout our cruise the service was impeccable. We didn’t encounter one member of staff who wasn’t enthusiastic and helpful.
On this cruise we were wowed at every turn. This ship has something for everyone whether you want to slow down and relax or like high energy excitement. The ship is modern, dynamic, interesting and stunning.
David: Ripcord by iFly
Ben: The incredible staff