Recently my family and I returned from a Royal Caribbean cruise on the ship Ovation of the Seas. This was our first cruise and so I thought I would blog about the experience as certainly from a first timers perspective, there were some things we simply didn’t know…..So now I am a little more experienced, I thought I would share my thoughts and new found cruise wisdom with you. The ship had 4,800 holiday makers and 1,600 staff…it’s a big ship. It’s the fourth largest in the world.
First up here a few pics.
These were some really positive things:
1) The boarding process was surprisingly simply and without fuss…I am not sure whether this was due to the Royal Caribbean system or whether it was the Sydney International Cruise Terminal’s processes, but whoever was responsible it was excellent.
2) The cabins were of a high quality. The bathrooms equally so. Specifically, I thought the showers were great with glass doors instead of curtains, a nice shower rose and decent hot water. Here is a pic of the room.
3) The service by the staff. I don’t think we came across one staff member that was not helpful. They all seemed to be very keen to ensure a great cruise experience. I have to say that as we got talking to some of the staff, I did feel sad hearing of their stories of where they are on the ship working for 10 months away from home, and then they fly home for 2 months and then back on the ship. Seems tough on family environments.
4) The entertainment on the ship was like nothing I have ever experienced. Each evening a brochure was delivered to our room outlining the program and entertainment on offer the next day. Anything from trivia competitions to health mini seminars to full on theatre shows, comedy shows, silent discos or live music…and so much more. The variety was outstanding. And the shows that we saw:- the quality was outstanding. I really was amazed by all this and mentioned to Melanie that the machinery behind the scenes that was making all that happen must be huge.
5) The over 16’s pool area. They had an air-conditioned pool area for over 16’s. I have to say that the family pool areas were, I think overcrowded…but I will talk about that in my dislikes area…The over 16’s pool area was very nice and was where my family and I spent most of the days, reading, listening to music or in my case…watching Suits.
6) The atmosphere of the ship. Overall the atmosphere of the ship was very positive and conducive to a relaxing holiday…Sure there were a few negatives which I will deal with in the next section, but overall the experience was very positive and we would certainly do another cruise in the future.
Ok so here are some of the negatives of the cruise or things that we have learned and would do differently. (Even taking these into account, we all still loved the cruise and can’t wait to do another one.)
1) Things needing to be pre booked. Probably our biggest disappointment with the cruise was the fact that we simply didn’t know that most things that required a booking should have been booked way before the cruise ever started. Things like all the shore excursion tours, the SkyView, the Indoor Skydiving, the Surf Pool. On day one we went to book things only to find out they were all booked out.
2) The drinks package that we purchased was the basic soft drinks package. What we found out was that this gave us post mix coke and that was it….If I wanted a can of Diet Coke I had to buy that and if I wanted a bottle of water I had to buy that too. In the end I got sick of post mix diet coke and was paying for cans of Diet Coke. Not sure I would pay for this package again.
3) The lines at the bars. Even to get a post mix coke, the line up at any of the poor bars could be up to 20 minutes. Now sure this is a first world problem, but from a service perspective, this was an issue.
4) The lines for other services. I found the lines for things like Guest Services frustrating. One day I waited 50 minutes to get to see a Guest Services rep. There were 4800 holiday makers on the ship, and most of the time you didn’t notice the volume of people but at places like bars and Guest Services, I certainly noticed the crowds then.
5) The Lifts. Another area where we noticed the crowds was the lifts. The wait for the lifts was at times infuriating and we would often just take the stairs….probably good for the health.
6) If I was unable to get into the over 16’s area, I would have been fairly disappointed with the ‘laying by the pool’ holiday experience. The family pool areas were very crowded and exceptionally noisy. These pics didn’t really show the crowds….I didn’t get any good pics to illustrate the point.
7) The smoking area…. Alongside the family swimming pool area and on the second top deck (so not out in the air) was the smokers section. It seemed to be a weird place to locate the smokers: – near children and not out in the open.
8) Smell of smoke on our room balcony. Our room was on deck 6 and was at the very front of the ship…and then there was a staff area….Most of the time we were out on the balcony of our room, there was a very strong smell of smoke. At times it was to the point that we simply couldn’t stand to stay out there. I can only assume that the staff smoking area was further forward in the ship and so as the smoke blew down the boat, we and everyone else on our deck were getting the shared smoke.
9) The Towels. Each morning we would pick up 4 fresh towels from the pool area and they were logged out using are room keys. The agreement is that if you bring them back at the end of the day then they are free. But if you don’t, your account is charged $25 USD per towel. One day, I was the only one of the family left at the pool and I simply forget the towels…..there goes a $100 USD….and that is a butt.
Overall though, Ovation of the Seas was a great ship, Royal Caribbean was a good company to deal with. When I got home, I wanted to dispute a couple of charges on my account. I emailed them and had the issue resolved within 24 hours…now that’s impressive.
Anyway hope that helps.
Here are few of my other travel blogs you might be interested in.
Peter Pilt’s Review of His Family Holiday In Phuket.
Peter Pilt’s Trip to Israel and the West Bank with World Vision.
My Top Twenty Travel Tips From Twenty Years of Travelling Internationally
Statistics for my 12.5 Day Trip Around the Nation of Australia
One of my most dramatic travel stories.
Travel Story–A little bit of drama at the top of Pikes Peak
Really helpful, thank you Pete.
Nice information about Oceania Cruises.thank you so much provides a valuable information.
Hi Peter! Thanks for such an awesome and detailed review. Can you please share more information regarding the smoking area near the family pool? I’ve looked everywhere for a deck map that shows the smoking locations; but can’t seem to find one.
For some context, we are considering booking on the Ovation; but the whole idea of a smoking area by the family pool could potentially be a showstopper.
Its kind of hard to explain. If you were walking toward the back of the ship….it was on the right had side….near the middle pool. Look we had such a great cruise and the ship is so amazing….don’t let this stop you.