Welcome to the third ship in the Quantum Class, the Ovation of the Seas and what a fantastic ship she is packed with the latest technologically enhancements on 16 decks!
People often say to me, cruising is not for them or I will be bored on a ship…well with the Ovation of the Seas those myths are quashed! The ship is literally jam packed with things to do for all ages and the interactive menu around the ship will help you plan your day and find out what’s on around the ship.
There is fantastic entertainment in the evening in the Music Hall with live bands you can sing and dance along to. The Royal Theatre offers state of the art shows in 3D. For a venue that totally transforms at night, head for Two70 with its Roboscreens and aerial acrobatics! Whilst you are enjoying all these facilities, the kids will be having the time of their lives in the kids clubs!
Now a subject we all like to talk about is….Food! Ovation of the Seas offers Dynamic Dining. This means that you have the ability and flexibility to enjoy your meals on board when you want in different venues. There is no set table at 7.30pm every evening in the main restaurant with the same table of 6 – you can work your way around a range of restaurants (charges apply for some restaurants). The range of tempting new venues include three celebrity chefs; Jamie Oliver, Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander. There is Chops Grille the hallmark with fantastic steaks! Chef’s table is a private experience for up to 14 people to enjoy a 5 course menu. Izumi Japanese includes made to order sushi with intense flavours and the best ingredients. Jamie’s Italian by chef Jamie Oliver offers a menu of Italian favourites. Sorrento’s is an authentic New York pizzeria experience fresh from the oven! Café Promenade has speciality coffees, snacks and cookies throughout the day. Silk, weave your way through a vibrant tapestry of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cooking . American Icon Grill has a choice of America’s favourite comfort foods. We ate in the Grand Restaurant and were served a delicious three course meal, the steak for the main course – wow, you will have never tasted anything like it!
For a tipple after dinner there are a plethora of bars to choose from including Schooners Bar with timeless cocktails and piano music. The legendary Bionic Bar, the first robotic bar in the world – truly WOW! Vintages offers a world of wine to satisfy palates of all levels. Michael’s Genuine Pub is like your local at sea, my favourite haunt on board with live music in the evening and craft beer. Our first drink on board was in Michael’s, I think that’s why I liked it so much.
If shopping is your thing, you will find the shops located on the Royal Esplanade (located across from Michael’s), a collection of celebrated brands comes together in the Royal Esplanade, featuring Cartier, TAG Heuer, Michael Kors, Kiehl’s and more iconic brands. There are also beauty shops, jewellery shops and souvenir shops.
When you first get on board you will have had your picture taken by the ships photographer and often around the ship in the evening and in the ports of call, head to the Photo Gallery to view these. Gone are the days of searching walls and walls of pre-printed pictures, you simply scan your card on the screen and it brings up your photos, which you can download to your phone or tablet device!
Heading for the top deck and the facilities continue, with the majority of firsts for Royal Caribbean that you won’t find anywhere else. The fantastic North Star is a capsule that goes 300 feet above sea level, you get breath-taking views of the ship and the ports of call. If you’re looking for thrills, why not try RipCord by IFLY – yes this is your opportunity to go skydiving at sea as you fly in a wind tunnel! For those who like to get wet, there are pools, waterparks and the FlowRider, which is a surf simulator at sea. SeaPlex is the cutting edge indoor sports zone, with basketball, roller skating, floating DJ Booth and bumper cars – that’s another first at sea. There’s also a teen disco for the kids to hang out, a rock climbing wall and keep your hunger at bay with fresh hot dogs baked throughout the day! After all that adventure, the Vitality at Sea Fitness Centre will keep you in shape with equipment to use yourself or organised fitness classes.
If you don’t want to head outside, soak up the sun or enjoy the shade in the Solarium, truly a tranquil adults only retreat with its retractable roof. There’s an outdoor movie screen which shows movies under the stars or the latest sports games. You’ll also find the Windjammer marketplace on deck 14, open around the clock 24 hours a day you can eat around the world from all continents, I was surprised how many seating places there were here, always plenty of room and plenty of food choice – there was a carvery and egg-fried rice for breakfast (as well as the usual hot selection, cold and bakery items!) There is also the Coastal Kitchen which is exclusively for guests who are in suites, this is a fusion of California cool and the Med-inspired taste.
The staterooms are well appointed and there is so much choice! Starting from virtual balcony staterooms (this is an inside stateroom with a giant screen showing outside live to look like a balcony) to ocean-view, to balcony and to suites. I had a balcony stateroom on board, there was a large double bed, a large bathroom, plenty of storage and wardrobe space and a sitting area to relax and escape during the day. Each balcony had a desk and vanity mirror, hairdryer, safe and fridge – great for keeping bottles of water cool for your excursions! And of course I had a fantastic spacious balcony which was great to enjoy in the day and also at night time.
A truly fantastic ship for everyone – there are facilities for all the family and so many technological advancements. I never thought I would see a robotic bartender make me a drink, or see people flying at sea or even upload pictures on the fastest wifi at sea…. WOW…I definitely can’t wait to get back on board!
I have just returned from a fantastic short break with Hurtigruten on board Kong Harald.
Carrying only 620 passengers when full, the Kong Harald has recently undergone a refurbishment programme, she was the first in the fleet to undergo the programme whilst it will be rolled out fleet wide.
Hurtigruten are all about coastal voyaging, it’s the perfect choice for travellers who want to see the sights, taste the local cuisine and get involved with Norwegian traditions.
On top deck, the sun deck has plenty of space to sit out and sightsee, there’s also a bar towards the rear of the ship. The large panorama and observation lounge is located at the front of the ship, a great place to hang out in the evening and enjoy some great tradition Norwegian folk dancing and entertainment. The café is located on deck 7 which has an array of food and drink on sale daily from 8am-10pm. Deck 5 contains a promenade that runs around the ship, again great for enjoying the fabulous scenery.
The majority of facilities can be found on deck 4. The main restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a buffet option. Fish tends to be the dish of the day, with most caught on the day and served on the plate right away. There’s another restaurant that offers a set menu, this included mussels for starters, cod for main and a waffle for desert. You can also find the shop, library and reception on this deck. There are vegetarian options available, speak to the waiter on board and they are happy to accommodate.
The accommodation is well appointed and has everything you could need. I had an Artic Superior cabin which had been refurbished, complete with underfloor heating in the bathroom!
Cruising through the Norwegian Fjords is one of the most popular trips that people want to do, and Hurtigruten know exactly how to do it. I got on the ship in Bergen and cruised through narrow fjords that were snow topped and through Norway’s longest Fjord to Skjolden. We spent several hours cruising through the tiny fjords and it was great to admire the scenery and the houses dotted all over the coast.
Once we arrived in Skjolden, we were given complimentary bottled water and snacks and taken to our excursion to the Urnes Stave Church, which was built in the 12th century and is a remarkable sight. The church is preserved today and holds a handful of services in the summer and there’s also the opportunity to get married there!
What made this trip so special was seeing the Northern Lights. On the first evening on board, the captain made an announcement that the Northern Lights would be visible, everyone congregated on deck and we witnessed this natural phenomenon, something that I will never forget. Hurtigruten offer a promise to see the Northern Lights and they certainly delivered.
If you have been on an ocean cruise before, this is very different. It’s all about engaging with the locals, enjoying their way of life and cuisine. It’s also about coastal voyaging, you are never out at sea for days on end, you often visit many ports of call in one day as the locals use it as a ferry service. A fantastic experience, I will certainly be back for more!