Our family experience onboard Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas and tips to maximise your time onboard

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hi lovely readers of hellomrstan.com!

We're past the half mark into 2017 and I hope it has been kickass for all of you so far. I feel that the months flew me by in a blink and I'm here wondering where time has gone.

It's been a mix of ups and downs for me but what doesn't kill us make us stronger and we learn from all things good and bad.

One of the happier events that happened in the first quarter was that I can now say I've been happily and blissfully married for a decade! 10 years! I've always imagined doing a vow renewal to signify this milestone but when I see people celebrating Jubilee years and above, my 10 years do pale in comparison to what they have experienced. And since I'm not a celebrity who has tons of cash stored away, it's definitely one celebration that can be toned down a little.

What we did do to mark our 10 years wedding anniversary was to go onboard the Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas with the two kids in tow. We sailed with another cruise company 7 years ago on our anniversary and we had such a great time so it was an easy yes to do another cruise holiday this time again.


Us 7 years ago before the kids! All we had was the auto timer of the camera for this pic to be taken. We had to adjust our positions so many times before we actually managed to get this shot!

Anyway, before I go on, I got to put a disclaimer that this isn't a paid advertorial (though I wished it was) and the reviews here are solely my own. I can never say how grateful I am for Mrs Tan in giving me access to her page to share my thoughts here.

So here goes:

I was very nervous after confirming details of our trip because it never occurred to me that either one of my kids could be sea sick and it would be a bummer. After all, the cruise is a 5 night trip where we would be sailing from Singapore to Bangkok and if either Ryan or Riley gets sea sick, we would have to endure a sick child till we dock at Thailand and probably fly back instead of cruising back together with the ship.

I googled everything I could about the Ovation of the Seas and got to know that they had alot of activities onboard but there weren't any reviews from families who sailed on it and wrote about their experiences. And thus this post! 

Royal Caribbean made preparing for the trip very systematic from the get go.


There was a checklist and travel information that you could easily accessed once you created a My Cruises Account.  It did give me a better idea on the items that I had to pack and the visa requirements of Thailand.

Tip #1 - Read up on the pre-departure tips so you do not get caught unprepared

There's also a Royal Gifts section that you could prepay for services you might require during the period or even prepare for a surprise even! As much as the website offer the packages, I realise that it doesn't offer such packages for certain fleets and one of them was the Ovation of the Seas. 

I emailed the local office in Singapore but there was no one who replied it. After 5 days, I decided to call in from the local number listed and suspect I might have got their international call centres. The first operator wasn't any much help. She kept insisting that there was nothing they could do but still wished me a fantastic day.

The second time I called in was a few days later because I refuse to believe that 'they operate out of a system similar to us and that what I see was what they saw too'. I'm glad to have got connected to Juan Carlos Milian Recinos (Sales Executive, Call Centre) who immediately was more than happy to propose many suggestions that they could prepare (at a price of course).

I ended the call with me getting a romance package containing a bottle of champagne and 9 chocolate-covered strawberries and also an early birthday cake for Ryan. You know what they say about 'if at first you don't succeed'.

Tip #2 - Call the call centre again if you feel that the previously operator wasn't able to help much with your query

Back to the boarding process. You have to do an online check in prior to the sail date where they require information of the passengers, their passport details, picture, credit card information and if you want to link any passenger's expenses together etc. There was a cash option which we opted for the kids just so that there wouldn't be any wrongful amount charged if they were to lose their SailPass. Oh! I forgot to mention that the personnel on the cruise safekeeps your passport for easy facilitation of visa endorsements during every port of call. The SailPass is a one-stop card for opening the door to your cabin, identifies you and one that you use to pay for any transaction so you have to make sure it is with you at all times.

Day of boarding!


I'm glad I read the information otherwise I would have foolishly made our way to the Harbourfront Cruise Center (since there was where we boarded ours 7 years back!). Ovation of the Seas docks at the Marina Center. We found our way pretty easy with the directions on the road.


The checking in process was pretty fast. I attribute it to the time allocations that were given during the online check-in. There were alot of people but it didn't seem the wait was too long. We had our multi-plug taken away by security. Apparently, they would have to do further checks to it and we could only sign it out after security clears it onboard the ship.

Tip #3: Do not bring your multi-plug. It will delay your boarding time.


We're on Deck 11! It's such a huge ship!


We selected a 'not here not there' time. Sailing time was 8pm and we selected the mid afternoon slot and there weren't alot of people. Here are the kids running up to the entrance.


Late lunch at the Windjammers. This is the main dining room where you get your breakfast, lunch and dinner in buffet style. It was so crowded! Zw was a trooper in carrying the high chair around while we went round finding an available table.

Tip #4 - High chairs are limited in quantity so do grab one if your children need to sit on one. 

The Room

It is comfortably sized and the balcony could accommodate a small table and two lounge chairs. It also provides adequate privacy from the rooms next to you though you could hear conversations.


Gloomy skies from our balcony. 




Our room consisted of a queen size bed and a sofa that can be converted into a queen size bed.  Bagus, who was our hospitality host set it up. It has become the highlight every night for the kids to return to the room to find out what was awaiting them. 



Here's the first night of turndown service! They knew we were celebrating our wedding anniversary and he made this. It's such a fitting name for him. (Bagus in the Malay language means good) He was hospitable and always had the answers for questions we made have.


Here's us again 10 years later recreating the same pose but taken by Ryan. What a difference!



Bagus folded this together with the tv remote control on our second night!


Abby Cadabby was used as one of the props when Bagus folded this. Riley was thrilled and requested to take a picture with it.


Here is a picture of the kids together with Bagus. He couldn't have made us feel more welcomed. He was such a wonderful person. I hope our paths would cross again.


The rest of the trip was pretty much a blur because time flies when you're having fun. I didn't get to take many pictures each day from having to take care of the kids and being overwhelmed by the activities that we have planned so I've summarised the highlight of the trip below:


DINING

It is true that you would never get hungry onboard as there are so many food selection available! Many of the dining are included in the pricing but there are some that are payable. We took a dining package that enabled us to have dinner at 3 of the restaurants at US$85 per person. 

Children up to 5 years old get to dine free which Ryan was still within by a few days! 

There are 7 specialty dining (ie you have to pay separately for dining in them) restaurants available on this ship. 
- Jamie's Italian
- Wonderland
- Izumi
- Chops Grille
- Michael's Genuine Pub
- Hot Pot
- Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop

We made reservations for Jamie's (because why not), Wonderland (whimsical Alice in Wonderland theme) and Chops Grille (we always say yes to steaks).




I loved the decor of the restaurant and the kids were able to get involved by painting water over the menu to reveal the menu for the evening.

You get to choose all the items in there to share and I've to say, the food was delicious and pretty. Every dish was well plated and there were so much details placed into getting the food prepared. 

The portions weren't too heavy which left us enough space for desserts. There were a range of it and this was just one of them.

Overall, I would give it a 9/10 for the ambience, 9/10 for the food and 9/10 for the experience.




Lunch! It took place at the main dining room. The food here is complimentary and is pretty decent too. Ryan took a shot of us and alot of pictures of the sea so there wasn't any pictures of the food (Sorry!). But there were a kid's menu where the kids were able to select from and a good selection of food that we get to choose from.

Tip #5 - With an array of complimentary dining. do not stick to one. There are alot of options for you to choose from. Menu changes daily too so you would always be spoilt for choice.

On to the next day!

We had breakfast at the Windjammer where it's one of four places to get food from at early hours. (Main Dining Hall, Solarium Bistro and  Two70°). You could even request for in-room dining which is complimentary too though the choices are pretty much limited and you have to pay a minimal delivery charge for that.

Seatings at the Windjammer is on a first come first served basis and it gets packed really fast. It's the same place where we had our lunch on the first day onboard. The food selection is extensive too! From Asian cuisine to Western, you will be packed for choices to start your day.

Tip #6 - Wake up early to get a good seat for breakfast if you're dining at the Windjammers


This is us at the Two70°. This area is at the back of the ship and offers a full height window where you get to see 270 degrees (obviously) of view. The husband wanted a healthier option after his workout that morning at the gym so we met him there after we were done with ours.

The food here consists of salads, wraps, sandwiches, fruit cups and muffins. It tastes just as good as any deli.

This place transforms into an area of lights in the evening where there's a light and spectacular aerial show. Seats get taken up pretty fast so I recommend getting a seat, order a drink and relax while waiting for the show to start.


This is the second level of Two70° where it houses an activity room and a library (to name a few). Free and paid classes are available during your time onboard. (The cute smudge on the side belongs to Ryan's hand. He took this picture)



This is the bionic bar where you order drinks from the tablet on the counter and the robots would fix up your drinks. You can choose from the pre-selected menu or premix a drink of your own and it will be done. They also have a non-alcohol selection that the kids had a blast with.





ACTIVITIES FOR YOUTHS AND ADULTS

One of the unique things that the Ovation of the Seas has to offer is the array of activities that have lined up for guests onboard the ship. The popular and unique ones have to be:
- North Star: a jewel-shaped capsule that gently ascends over 300 feet above sea level. You'll get breathtaking 360° views of the sea and destinations

Tip #7 - A good time to experience this would be the evening when you're out at sea or the afternoon when the ship is docked at the port.



We managed to get a 9pm slot to get onboard North Star. 



We had drinks by the bar while waiting for our turn to go up the North Star. There are 2 movies shown every night by the way. We often end up giving it a miss because of the kids' bedtime etc. 


This picture will give you a better understanding on why my tip would include booking your activities early and booking your time at the North Star for either an evening slot or a night slot when its at the port. You can see nothing out at sea!!! Especially at night. 

It is a very cool experience though. To be able to get an unblocked 360 view of the night sky and the top view of the ship. Not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. Also, the capsule moves a little when there's strong winds so do not go for it if this is not something you're up for.

Note: There is a height restriction for the ride. Riley had to sit this out as she didn't meet the minimum height required.

- For night owls and party animals, do check out the Two70°!


Isn't this amazing? Seeing this in the day and in the night is totally different. There is no age restriction to coming here at night as long as the children are still up and about at that time of the night. 

We were there where they held their very first silent disco!


Not sure how the other silent discos are but this is how it works. You are given a headset and there are two channels for you to choose from. Tune in to the one that you like and start dancing away! The only way to tell what your friend is dancing to is by the light on their headphones.




RipCord by iFly: experience the thrill of flying in an air machine that lets you soar in a safe, controlled environment. It's free for passengers to have a go at it if you have been tempted to go for one in Singapore. 

They take safety very seriously here so  they would make sure every participants are dressed appropriately, meet the height and weight requirements, go through a briefing before they are able to do the activity.



I will confess I'm not a fan of thrills so I sat out on alot of the activities. The husband went for it without hesitation and had a kick out of doing the activity.


He wasn't the youngest nor was he the oldest. I could feel my heart stop when there was a 10 yr old boy who gamely did iFly. He was one of the best in the group. The instructor allowed him to do some somersaults and even did some stunts with him too. Very spectacular.

Tip #8 - Do go to the booking system when you're onboard the ship to book these activities. There are specific time slots for them and once they are booked out, you wouldn't be able to participate in them anymore.  Other activities that need to be booked but didn't manage to go for are the Flowrider and Rock Climbing. 

ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN

-Water play 

Water play and children go hand in hand like kaya and butter on toast. The area isn't as big as many of the water playgrounds that we have in Singapore but it was enough for my kids. We spent a good 2 hours playing in this area.



Tip #9 - Do water play during shore excursion days. You have (almost) the whole play area to yourself

Shore excursions can be really expensive and having two kids would definitely add up to our travelling expenses. We decided to skip the excursions that they offered (there were many activities that catered to the various age groups onboard though!) and spent the time lazing and exploring the ship.

The play area is usually full so this was one of the best times for my kids. The endless amount of energy they have is insane!



What I liked during our time at the water play area was that they took safety seriously. The lifeguards were strict about their height restriction. They were diligent in ensuring the children who wanted to play on the tunnel slides or the swirl pool met the minimum height and were very firm when parents told them to make an exception. And also, they made sure that kids wore life jackets before they entered the swirl pool.


-Scrapbooking
It is free to join on the first day which saw a rush of people queuing up for it. The class included a free starter kit and access to many scrapbooking essential tools.

Do take note that you would have to pay for the same kit when you join the class that is scheduled during the next sail day.

Tip #10 - Sign yourself up for the scrapbooking class on the first day to get the free basic scrapbooking kit. 



It was such a joy to see Riley enjoy this activity. She was so engrossed in designing her card.

-Dreamworks Character Meet and Greet

There are many character meet and greet scheduled during our time onboard. We didn't make it for alot of them since we usually aren't able to meet the timings. The kids either took a long time to eat or we were eating at a place that was a distance from where the meet and greet was taking place.

Tip #12 - Have the onboard schedule with you or memorise them and plan your day around them if you really want  a photo op with the characters.

- Dreamworks Character Breakfast

This is the next best alternative to getting pictures taken with the characters (not all of them though). Note that there's an extra charge for this meal and there is limited seating for this.

Tip #13 - Book your table on the day of boarding 



This is the menu that they serve during the breakfast.

We managed to get photo ops with the characters here. There were many characters that we didn't manage to get (Princess Fiona, Shrek are the ones at the top of my head)

Pictures of Dreamworks character





Remember the initial preparation I made before going onboard? It wasn't conveyed to the restaurant  (even after payment was made) BUT they were able to pull off a bunny from the magic hat and got Ryan a cake.

Alex the Lion came by to take a picture with Ryan. Ryan with the lion. What a rhyme. Haha!

-Adventure Ocean

This was the highlight of Ryan's trip. They had so many activities lined up throughout the day that we didn't get to see much of him.

There are three sessions that lasted for three hours a day and each session has different activities for them. So basically, the first session started from 9am to 12pm, there's a 2 hour lunch break. The second session started from 2pm to 5pm, one hour dinner break and the last session was 6pm to 9pm.

Tip #14 - There are documents and indemnity forms that need to be signed so do it on the first day of boarding. It will enable you to drop the children off the next day with so much ease. 


This paper guitar was done on one of the nights when the theme revolved around music.

There was a pirate activity, an activity where the theme was learning about bugs and a slumber party (he got to color his own pillow case).

Ryan made so many friends there and loved the staff who ran the different workshops. Thank you Share Bear and Skully Jack . It's such a shame that we weren't able to take pictures with them. The staff rotates among the different age groups so we weren't able to catch them again.



Another one of the staff.

Ryan joined the 3 - 5 year old class. He REALLY wanted to go for the 6 - 9 year old class as they had science experiments but because of his age at the time of boarding, ht was't able to.

Riley was only able to go for the infant care. There weren't any activities planned for this class and you had to pay for this. We paid around US$5/hr (if memory serves me well) so that the husband and I could spend 2 hours together. That was the time when he went for his iFly experience.


Tip #15 - They issue a bag of toys for children below 3 years old to play with while they're onboard the cruise. They have a great selection of toys for you to choose from. There was a cooking set, percussion set (we chose this and regretted it) etc. It kept Riley occupied at times when we were in the room chilling. Limited sets of each are available 

- Dreamworks Dance PARTY

Riley had a blast with this. They played games and also had some of the Dreamworks characters come out to dance with them.

They didn't allocate time for pictures with the characters though.







My one takeaway from the cruise is that the staff provides exemplary service! There were always smiles and greetings. Not to mention the details that they put in to every food and service during our time onboard.


Dessert on the last night of cruise.

Thank you Royal Caribbean for making my children's first cruise such a memorable one!

We will definitely be back on Ovation of the Seas when there's a port of departure from Singapore again.

And thank you readers for reading through till the end. Share with me your experience or any tips I may have left out.

We're all about sharing tips and love.

Till my next post!

Have a great week ahead lovely people!

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