Our British correspondent, John Honeywell aka Captain Greybeard was onboard Ovation of the Seas when she sailed out of Germany. He reviews the ships for Cruise Passenger.
An observation capsule that can be raised more than 90 metres above the waves, a bumper car rink, a circus school, surf and sky-diving simulators, 18 dining venues… Welcome to Ovation of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s third Quantum-class ship and the largest and most-technologically advanced ship to be homeported in Australia.
Like its older sisters, Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, Ovation is packed with innovative features that are the first of their kind at sea. Innovations that have been pulling in the crowds since Quantum launched in 2014 and Anthem in 2015.
But Ovation is a bit different. She has been built for the Asian and Australian market and was christened in Tianjin, China in June, after a 53-night “Global Odyssey” from Southampton. Her godmother is Fan Bingbing, China’s biggest movie star.
While China got first dibs on the new megaship, which will homeport in Tianjin until November, Australian cruisers won’t have to wait long. Ovation will be homeported in Sydney from December for the 2016/17 wave season and will sail itineraries around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Throughout the ship, a $6 million art collection has been assembled to represent Ovation’s destinations and guests, inspired by the words of Confucius: “Wherever you go, you go with all your heart.”
One highlight piece greets passengers as they step inside for the first time from the deck 5 promenade into the Royal Esplanade. Sky Wave is claimed to be the first kinetic sculpture at sea. The installation pivots and oscillates to mirror the flow of wind and water. In prime position at the centre of the ship’s Rotunda, flanked by Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant, Vintages wine bar and the Cartier shop, is a stunning piece called Red Thread. The work of Chinese artist Bieli Liu, it represents a legend about invisible threads holding children to their soul mates.
High on deck 15, at the entrance to the SeaPlex sports centre, a six-and-a-half ton mother panda reaches down to her three-metre tall baby. The statue, by British-based artist Jo Smith, is both a symbol of good luck and a nod to the World Wildlife Fund, with whom Royal Caribbean recently struck a US$5 million, five-year partnership aimed at ensuring the long-term health of the oceans.
Figures by Zheng Lu balance outside the spectacular entertainment venue, Two70, at the stern of the ship. The acrobatic pose of the sculpture echoes the feats performed nightly inside Two70, a multi-function venue that cost US$13.5 million to build and equip.
During the day the double-height space serves as a bar and cafe, with a library and studio on the upper level. There’s seating for 500 and passengers can relax with a drink and a snack while gazing at the ship’s wake through enormous 270-degree windows.
At night, the windows become a vast screen for projected footage of breath-taking scenes from around the world, or virtual concerts. Overhead is one of the most complex robotics projects anywhere in the world – six high-definition LED screens mounted on robotic arms suspended from a moving gantry. The venue is home to Spectra’s Cabaret, which blends music and acrobatics.
Finally, the food – top of most people’s lists when it comes to cruising. Aside from the Johnny Rockets burger bar being replaced by the Dreamworks-themed Kung Fu Panda Noodle Bar, there have been surprisingly few adaptations for the Asian market. There 18 dining options including four main venues (all complimentary) and specialty restaurants, such as Jamie’s Italian and Michael’s Genuine Pub, as well as Royal Caribbean favourites such as Chops Grille and Izumi Japanese.