First review: Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas


Built specifically for Asia, the new Ovation of the Seas sports a giant panda sculpture, a Kung Fu Panda Noodle Bar and a bumper array of high-tech entertainment. John Honeywell gets a preview.

Iconic burger joint Johnny Rockets has become The Kung Fu Panda Noodle Bar. Her godmother is Fan Bingbing, China’s biggest movie star. Welcome to Ovation of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s third Quantum-class ship, and the first it has built specially for Asian cruisers.

Like its older sisters, Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, Ovation has some innovative features that are the first of their kind at sea – an observation capsule that can be raised more than 90 metres above the waves, a bumper car rink that can also be used for roller-blading and trapeze lessons, and a sky-diving simulator.

These innovations have been pulling in the crowds since Quantum launched in October 2014 and Anthem in March 2015. But Ovation is different. She is the first to be built for the Asian market rather than being adapted. Her christening in Tianjin on June 24 will be a celebration of how the cruise industry is conquering the world’s most populous nation.

The ship has bi-lingual signage throughout, in English and Mandarin – everywhere from the restaurants, theatres and bars, to the elevators and the safety notices on the back of cabin doors.

From the outside, the most obvious China connection is the charming tableau high on Deck 15, at the entrance to the SeaPlex sports centre. Where Quantum features a pink polar bear and Anthem has a giant giraffe in a swimming costume and rubber ring, Ovation plays host to a six-and-a-half ton mother panda reaching down to her three-metre tall baby.

The statue, created by British-based artist Jo Smith, was chosen as a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture, and is intended to bestow peace and prosperity on the ship’s Chinese guests.

Ovation’s crew have been invited to come up with suitable names for the pair.

A unique collaboration with China’s Forbidden City Imperial Palace Museum, the ship will offer displays of historical relics and host invited experts to hold talks about the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

Throughout the ship, the US$4.5 million art collection was assembled to represent Ovation’s destinations and guests, and was inspired by the words of Confucius: “Wherever you go, you go with all your heart.”

Finally, the food – top of most people’s lists when it comes to cruising.

There have been surprisingly few adaptations for the Asian market. Johnny Rockets burger has been replaced by the Dreamworks-themed Kung Fu Panda Noodle Bar, and the Solarium Café features hotpot specialities.

Silk – whose larger tables each have a lazy Susan in the middle – will no doubt be the most popular of Ovation’s four main dining venues (all complimentary) and the Windjammer buffet serves specialities ranging from congee for breakfast, to curries and sweet-and-sour dishes at lunch and dinner.

To read the full review, buy your very own copy of Cruise&Travel Asia.