Way back in July 2015 we ran an article about the largest and newest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet – the Ovation of the Seas. I recall thinking that if I were ever lucky enough to board one of these mega-ships (well any ship actually), I would want it to be this ship. Call it self-actualisation or wishful thinking, as fate would have it we were lucky enough to get exactly that opportunity when the Ovation of the Seas made its maiden voyage to Australia from Singapore in December 2016.
Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas is not just a Quantum Class mega liner, it's also the largest cruise ship to ever call Australia home (accommodating almost 5,000 passengers). It’s also the most technologically advanced ship at sea.
We boarded the ship in Fremantle (the ship's first port of call in Australia) after having spent a few days visiting with friends in the Swan Valley – about half an hour outside Perth and one of WA’s most prominent wine districts. This was to be a journey of new experiences as we’d never been to WA before and it wasn’t long before we regretted not allowing a week in WA to fit in a few more landmarks (and a few more wineries!)
Fremantle (or ‘Freo’ as the locals call it) blends the old with the new, creating an enriching cultural experience for visitors. Maritime, convict and colonial history can be explored in one of the best-preserved examples of a 19th-century port streetscape on Earth, while buzzing markets, lively bars and
casual street cafés gave us a glimpse of a buzzing nightlife and foodie scene. It’s only a 30-minute drive from Perth city, and you can also get there by ferry by taking a leisurely cruise down the Swan River. Freo – we’ll be back – but first to the ship!
Our first look at this magnificent feat of marine engineering came at check-in time, and this was the first of 3 Australian ports that the ship overshadowed the buildings surrounding the docks. Once settled and unpacked (amazingly we fitted 4 people’s luggage into the ample in-cabin storage and still had room to spare), we set out to explore this floating city.
It soon became apparent that cruising was not just a one-off experience but a way of life for many of the ship's passengers, who wore their cruise-stats like a badge of honour. We were definitely cruising “newbies”, and our fellow passengers took some joy in pointing this out. “Have you cruised before?” they enquired. Our denial seemed an invitation to rattle off their own cruise statistics… how many ships, which cruise lines, ports of call… yadda yadda. Note to other cruise-virgins – just say “Of course not – we have been on many, many cruises and we are particularly looking forward to this one.” Then run!
While many cruise as a couple, we took this voyage with two very active teenagers. Cruising as a family can sometimes be tricky as you do live in very close confines (unless you can splash out for 2 cabins or a suite!) Not so with our two – it wasn’t long before we forgot they were also onboard, and rules had to be set about when we would spend family time together (which basically ended up being breakfast and the occasional dinner!)
As a family holiday, this would have to go down as being amongst the best experience we have had. There really was something for everyone of us on board, but for teenagers, the Ovation of the Seas was truly a floating paradise.
Of course, every ship is different when it comes to onboard activities and entertainment, but as a family, we found common ground on virtually everything, and it was tough to narrow it down to our TOP 5 on board family experiences – but here goes…
1. The North Star – an aerial observatory offering breathtaking 360-degree views more than 90 metres above the sea. In a jewel-like capsule, a robotic arm elevated us high into the sky, taking in the sights from a bird’s eye view. We did this while docked in Fremantle – but to give you an idea of the height – while docked in Sydney Harbour, the North Star reached higher than the pylons on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
2. iFLY at Sea – the thrill and excitement of skydiving on board a cruise ship – who would have thought that it wasn’t as easy as the instructors made it look!
3. The Food – with 18 restaurants on board, the cuisine was varied enough for any palette. These dining destinations ranged from fun to formal settings, including partnerships with world renowned chefs, such as the much-loved “Jamie’s Italian” from Jamie Oliver at sea. Our favourite was ‘Wonderland’ which truly was an experience (think Heston Blumenthal meets the Mad Hatter!)
4. SeaPlex is the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea and kept the kids endlessly entertained with bumper cars, a basketball/futsal court, roller skating, circus school and more! This also included the FlowRider®, the onboard surf simulator which is where our two spent most of their time.
5. The Live Entertainment – Our favourite show was “Pixels” which showcased million-dollar robotic screen technology incorporating live performers – really a must-see.
If you’ve never cruised before and want to experience the very latest onboard technology – well the very latest of everything really – then the Ovation of the Seas is a great ship to start your own maiden voyage. And as for those serial-cruisers – well they seemed pretty impressed too!
For more information about booking your own berth on Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas contact iTravel (The Junction or Warners Bay).