A dismal December day greeted the Ovation of the Seas as she made her maiden voyage into Wellington Harbour. Having been required to bypass Dunedin the day prior due to bad weather, the Capital became her first port of call in New Zealand.
As I boarded a group of passengers were leaving the ship, three umbrellas turning inside out as they attempted to battle the wind. Welcome to Wellington.
The Ovation of the Seas is the 4th biggest cruise ship in the world, a $1.3 billion baby that represents the future of cruise ship designs. This is the first time a brand new ship has been based in Australia or New Zealand and it is the largest and most advanced one to ever sail these waters.
And she felt new. The ship has been deliberately designed with small and intimate spaces so passengers do not feel as if they are among over 4000 other people, and immediately eye-catching were items of the 11,000 piece, $6.1 million artwork collection.
As I walked the Royal Esplanade it felt as though we were in a fancy mall featuring the likes of Kate Spade, Swarovski and Michael Kors as well as bars, cafes and restaurants, with the occasional airport style announcement about New Zealand Government biosecurity regulations reminding me this was not in fact the case.
A few highlights
The rock climbing wall was the pinnacle of the cruise ship activities on the Serenade of the Seas (one of Royal Caribbean’s Radiance class cruise ships). However on the Quantum class Ovation of the Seas that is just the start, the ship also featuring Bumper cars, a full indoor sports court, FlowRider surf machine, iFly Skydiving experience and The North Star, a jewel-like capsule which hovers over 90m above sea level with 360 degree views – the highest point on any cruise ship in the world.
For those desiring something less extreme and quite unique, I would recommend the Bionic Bar, which has two robotic bar tenders which dance and mix you up a cocktail ordered through an iPad.
Ovation of the Seas provides a vast variety of eating establishments not currently available to those living on land in New Zealand. Among the 18 restaurants are the main modern dining rooms American Icon Grill, Chic, Grande and Silk which cater to a range of tastes and cuisines. There are also alternatives such as Jamie’s Italian, and Chops Grille, a specialty steakhouse which have a per person cover charge for all you can eat.
Rest and Relaxation
If activities aren’t your thing and you just want to chill out and watch the world sail by, the main deck is the liveliest part of a ship (unless you’re in the cooler parts of New Zealand) as it features the outdoor pool and screens to watch movies outdoors at night and sports during the day.
There’s also a climate controlled indoor pool for all ages with an opening roof should it get too hot, and a child-free solarium which is much more tranquil and sits at the front of the ship where you can see the port you’re sailing into.
Nightlife, theatres and shows
Something that really impressed me was the Royal Theatre, the main theatre which sits at the front of the ship. I was blown away by it’s sheer size, lighting and technology.
The Music Hall hosts quizzes and movies during the day and a house band and visiting acts at night, while Two70 is a lounge and conventional theatre at the back of the ship with windows allowing 270 degree views. It also contains a cafe serving delicious salads, sandwiches and pastries.
The windows in Two70 become screens at night to project footage in a cirque du soleil meets broadway style show which is free to reserve seats at and plays multiple times during a cruise. Two70 then becomes a nightclub at night.
Who would go on the Ovation of the Seas?
I for one would jump at the chance to travel on Ovation of the Seas and with over 65 nationalities represented among the almost 5000 passengers in her first cruise around New Zealand, it obviously appeals to many. It just has so much that sets it apart from the two Royal Caribbean ships I have been on in the past which puts it several classes above them.
One of my biggest issues with previous cruise ships was the slow, expensive and effectively useless internet. The Ovation of the Seas has its own satellite enabling the fastest internet on any cruise ship in the world.
When the 348m long, 18 deck ship sailed into Picton, Ovation of the Seas more than doubled the population of the town – The Interislander ferry which sails between wellington and Picton approached while I was on deck and it looked tiny in comparison.
Ovation of the Seas is a technologically advanced, dynamic and brilliant ship which truly has something for everyone whether you’re a thrill seeker of simply after a bit of rest and relaxation.
Drinks, shops and the casino must be paid for, otherwise the experience is all-inclusive.