Ovation Of The Seas
Ovation Of The Seas visited The Netherlands with Rotterdam being one of her first ports of call at the 15th of april 2016. She will mostly sail in Asia, so this picture with the ship behind an Asian statue, does her right. The statue is part of the outside terraces of the World Museum, directly opposite of the cruiseterminal at Rotterdam.
Royal Caribbean International is a company that has always been trying to put out innovations, with gimmicks never seen earlier aboard passengerships. In their Voyager-class, they introduced a true five-deck high shoppingstreet with inside cabins looking out on this promenade, and in 2009, they reached the unthinkable. The largest cruiseship ever build, Oasis Of The Seas, was as large as the one-time thought dreamboat of Knut Kloster, the never realized America World City. Larger then 220.000 tons and with a living Central Park in between the two towering blocks of cabins the ship is a true modern-day marvel. Costing around one billion dollars and with now a thirth ship of the class introduced and two more in the planning stages, it really shows where the cruise-industry has come since december 1966, when the Norwegian Caribbean Lines cruise-ship Sunward departed Miami for the first time.
Ships can still become bigger, that is a certainty now, and probably, RCI will introduce them. But it was the question what the company was going to introduce after the Oasis-class of ships, surely it had to be something spectacular again. On february 11th, 2011, the company introduced the world to 'Project Sunshine', their new class of ships. They ordered their first ship in the new class from the well-known Meyer Werft in Papenburg, northern Germany and this was to be the largest ship ever built in that country. She wasn't going to be as large as Oasis Of The Seas, but at least she would become the lead ship of the second largest class of passengerships ever. But her size was not her main focus, the new class was about moving the interiour spaces to another level.
The first ship in the class was delivered in november of 2014 and her name was Quantum Of The Seas. Now, the 'Project Sunshine' was also more-over known as the Quantum-class, as usual named after the first ship that entered service. In april of 2015, the second ship Anthem Of The Seas followed and just before, at the 5th of march of 2015, the thirth ship was laid down and she was to become Ovation Of The Seas.
Construction and general statistics
Before the first block was lowered into position, Royal Caribbean's CEO Adam Goldstein placed a lucky coin underneath the ships keel, because at that moment it is the only possibility to do so. Ovation Of The Seas and her sisters have a lenght of 347,10 meters, are 41,4 meters wide and have a draught of 8,8 meters. There are 18 decks, of which 16 are accessible for the passengers. As a maximum, some 4905 passengers can be on board, measured on a two-per-cabin basis the number given is 4180. Besides the Oasis-class again, there have never been cruiseships with a higher capacity before. All ships of the class were built at the Meyer Werft and were of course the largest ship built there, as the first two Oasis-class ships came from the STX Europe Yards at Turku, Finland. The tonnagemeasurement of Ovation Of The Seas is 168.666 and she floated out of her building dock at the 18th of february 2016. Because of the height of the buildingshed, she had to be finished outside of the hall, with the most striking additions being the funnel and the North Star, which is the most regognizable feature aboard the ships of the Quantum-class.
Below, the North Star capsule is seen in mid-air.
The ship can sail at a normal speed of 22 knots and is driven by two ABB Azipod thrusters that are powered by four Wärtsilä-designed diesel engines. Also, the ship has four 3,500kW bowthrusters to help manouvering.
At the 11th of march in 2016, Ovation Of The Seas left the wharf at Papenburg and started manouvring down the 40 kilometer Ems river, that has a width of only 45 meters so the 348 meter long ship had just short of four meters to spare. It can maybe be said that, given those kind of numbers, the Quantum-class of ships will be the largest ships that will ever be built at the Papenburg yard. Although it was a tight squeeze, the ship entered the Dutch Eemshaven after some tests at the Northsea one day later.
Design and entertainment
The most striking feature of the ships of the Quantum-class is of course the earlier named North Star. This observation capsule can take groups of 14 passengers to a height of some 91 meters above sealevel, lifted by a 41-meter long arm. The capsule has a 360 degree view and gives riders the possibility to look at the ship in an birds-eye viewangle that was never before possible. Rides are complimentary, except for sunset and sunset trips. There also is the possibility to arrage a private ride, but also this is not complimentary.
Of course the ship also has the Wave Loch Flowrider surf-simulator as well as a 30-feet high rock-climbing wall, features that no RCI ship can do without anymore. But next to those, Ovation Of The Seas and her sisters also have the RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulator, which is a vertical windtunnel. Because of the popularity of those, reservations have to be made prior to the cruise, but at no extra cost.
But what the Quantum-class ships are mostly known for, is introducing the most modern high-tech standards to the cruise-industry. The ships of the class introduced for example the worlds first bionic bar, where two robotic arms prepare your drinks instead of the normal fleshy bartender. The arms, called Makr Shakr, are quick, creating two perfect cocktails every minute. Because it is not really easy to spit out your life's overthinkings at them like you normally do at the bartender, you can "comminicate" and order via your tablet. Actually, it is not really a bar at all, as it is part of a walkway within the Royal Esplanade. Also gimmick-ish, all passengers who sail the ship do have the option of using a free delivered wristband, nicknamed a WOWband, that gives the opportunity for easy check in (you'll board the ship within 10 minutes), it also opens your cabindoor and you can make on-board purchases with just using the band. It is the follow-up to the normal SeaPass boardingcard and now the Quantum-class of ships are the first ships where it has been taken into operation.
Several inside cabins have a screen that displays the sea as if it was an outside one, known as 'virtual balcony cabins'. They offer floor to ceiling LED-screens, recieving a live videostreaming from the ships outside video camera's. In these cabins, you will not pay balcony price, but still can have the feeling you have booked an outside-facing cabin. The 2090 cabins are the largest ever aboard ships of the company, some 9% larger then those aboard the ships of the Oasis-class, and also there are many more categories to choose from, including studio staterooms, loft staterooms and single rooms. Some 34 cabins are also made accessible for wheelchairs. Those cabins have wider doors, turning spaces, beds with open bedframes as well as wider bathrooms with grab bars, roll-in showers, higher toilets and a fold-down shower bench. There are also several loft-suites, that are actually two-deck high with the bedroom overlooking the livingarea's. Those cabins and suites do have two-deck high windows, offering a lot of light within the space.
One of the entertainmentvenues aboard, Two70, has the most innovative sound, lighting and special effects systems ever seen aboard a cruiseliner, making it possible to host shows that could never have played before. The ship has its own multidimentional cabaret-show named Spectra's Cabaret that uses the six Roboscreens as well as the Vistarama. Explained; the LED Roboscreens come down from the ceiling during the show, they are computurized and controlled via a mapping-system. They show real-time views, graphics and animations including virtual dancers and sometimes they dance to the music and interact with the crowd. The Vistarama is the ultra-HD video background covering the windows at night, fed by 18 projectors around the space. It makes it possible to totally surround the crowd and put them right in the middle of the show. During the day, Two70 is a stern-overlooking relaxation/observation lounge that has floor to ceiling windows that are able to shade themselves when the sun is too hot. There is also a full-service bar and an icebar to take care of your inner needs. Another new feature is the Music Hall, a true Rock & Roll style musicvenue spread over two decks where rockconcerts are performed, next to DJ sets and special theme nights. The space has its own bar, several pool tables and a large dancefloor. During daytime, the Music Hall is used for dance-classes and comedy-acting workshops. A 'normal' large theater, the Royal Theater seating 1299 people, serves as an alternative entertainmentvenue next to the Two70. It is spread over three decks and offers two broadway-style shows every night. During daytime, the theater serves as a movietheater, showing 3D-movies from DreamWorks due to the partnership between Royal Caribbean and Disney named the DreamWorks Experience. Then there is the extensive Casino Royal, one of few places aboard where smoking is allowed, and more entertainment options in one of the many lounges and bars. Dining is also freestyle, without fixed times and tables or even restaurants. Royal Caribbean is one of the last companies that normally only offered traditional dining, but at the Quantum-class of ships this has been done away with totally. There are five main restaurant with different opening times, next to 13 other options to dine, one of which is Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant.
For inside sports, the SeaPlex complex is a combination of bumpercars, rollerskating, a full-size basketballcourt, floating DJ booth and a circus school. It is again the first time aboard a cruiseliner that such a vast space was introduced for inside sport and games and the 30 bumpercars, well, they never went to see before at all.
Royal Promenade, the interiour shopping and entertainment street aboard the earlier ships of the company, has been replaced by Royal Esplanade. This two-deck high inner walkway offers shops, bars and entertainment but is not as vast as the Royal Promenade was and also not totally straight but it has several small bends.
Another change from earlier ships within the fleet is that there is no Viking Crown lounge, that has always been a Royal Caribbean trademark from the very first ships at the end of the 1960's onwards. Then there also is no Ice Rink, no Zip Line, no Boxing Ring, Golf Simulator or waterslides. Ovation Of The Seas and her sisters are truly a totally different class from what we have seen before in the Royal Caribbean fleet or in the industry, but I guess that no ship can have all things that the line introduced over the past decade or so. Well, mistake, actually they can but then the ship they need to do that with has to be twice the size of the Oasis-class...
Within the design, also an 11.000-piece art-collection with a value of 4,5 million USD is incorporated. One of the largest are the 10-meter high pandamother and her 3-meter baby at deck 15. Panda's are a symbol of good luck and a national treasure in China and as the ship was especially built for service from Chinese shores they were added. I have my doubts about such a gesture, shown below. In the Royal Esplanade, the SkyWave is the first moving sculpture at sea, created by New York-based Hypersonic and Boston-based Plebian Design. The sculpture represents wind and water, as well as the ships movements. Of course, also Chinese art is visible, included artists are Zheng Lu, Huainan Li and Bieli Liu. Also all names of the public spaces are named as well in English as in Chinese.
I have to admit, Pandabear looks kinda weird. Next to that it just looks weird, I also do not get the point in adding it. Because the ship was supposed to sail in China, it seemed to be needed to add a pandabear to the ship. I do not think an original Chinese company would ever consider to do so. And I (as a Dutchman) wouldn't also really need a giant pair of tulips next to the swimmingpool. Just give me a good ship and I will come, tulips or no tulips.
With such an array of new gimmicks aboard, I do not even have to mention that the ship of course also offers an extensive outdoor area with swimmingpools and an adult only retreat area. Also, aboard is an abundance of childrens activities with cool all-age spaces and innovations, an arcade gamingarea, many shops like Bvlgari, jewelry, watches, toys and gifts and so forth and of course a wide array of speciality restaurants. Then there is the Michael's Pub, a card room, library annex internetcafé, the Schooner Bar and a large Spa and beautycenter.
At the 8th of april 2016, Ovation Of The Seas was handed over to Royal Caribbean International in a ceremony at Bremerhaven, Germany. The ship is the 24th cruiseship in the RCI-fleet and the first that has been specially built for the Chinese market. From Bremerhaven, the ship started to set sail for Southampton where she arrived at the 10th of april and introduced herself to the Brits. From Southampton, the ship sailed several introductioncruises in Europe, the first three-day cruise departing the 14th of april to Rotterdam, the second five-day cruise departing at the 17th to France and Belgium and the thirth seven-day cruise departing the 22nd to France and the Iberian peninsula. At the 29th of april the ship then arrives back at Southampton, departing again the 3rd of may for her 53-day positioning voyage towards her Chinese homeport Tianjin where she will arrive at the 24th of june. From there, she will pick up a scedule of 4- to 6-day cruises to Korea and Japan. From october she will sail several cruises from Hong Kong and then in december she will be heading further south, sailing a scedule of cruises from Sydney, Australia. Especially for Australians, it will be a very interesting season, as more and more modern ships will invade their waters, after so many complaints that cruiselines were only sending their oldest ships to their shores. The reason she was moving to Australia was also because the Chinese market seemed to be less promising then it was thougt to be. Mostly, because every company wanted to have a piece of the cake by sending their largest newest ships over there in a rush, making the cake eaten up much faster then anticipated.
My own mixed view...
Ovation Of The Seas and her sisters are in my opinion ships that can easily sail a seven-day cruise without ports of call and after those seven days, passengers will still not have been able to 'see it all'. These ships truly reflect the way cruising is going to become in the next decades, although for me at a personal level it seems like a little too much of everything and a little too less contact with the sea to give a passenger the idea he is cruising at all. Although this is clearly what the passenger of today wants, I really have to get used to writing these kind of shipreports when I have to mention that this ship doesn't have a boxing and ice-skating ring as if that is the standard. That said, we are truly entering a new era of passengertravels over sea that is just an evolution of the ever changing cruise industry and there is no reason to only complain about it as a little traditional shipenthousiast. The world is changing rapidly and ships are too, maybe even faster. Ovation Of The Seas and her sisters may become the new standard or maybe they will not, we still have to see. But in an age where our world is dictated by a rapidly evolving electronic, inpersonal revolution, a ship like this is of course the logical step forwards, giving the modern-day passengers again something to WOW over. Yeah, I am truly getting old...