Travel Story Ovation deserves a round of applause

North Star.
Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Royal Caribbean's ship is the fourth biggest in the world and the largest to have visited Fremantle.

Inside, the $1.3 billion Ovation of the Seas has that new-car smell. Its surfaces are shiny, its toys cutting edge.

The biggest cruise ship to sail Australian waters arrived in Fremantle on Tuesday — an 18-deck, 168,666 gross-tonne giant that seemed more apartment high-rise than ship. Hundreds of people greeted it — a few of us were invited to see inside.

And Ovation’s size leaves plenty of space to play, even with the 5000 passengers and 1500 crew aboard.

On the ship’s stern is Ripcord by iFly, a transparent tube where passengers can experience simulated skydiving.

An instructor was putting on a show, flying straight up and spinning like a spear before diving down, expertly pulling out at the last minute. 

He was more bird than man and while his cruising students may not achieve his prowess, boy they’ll have some fun.

Below the iFly is the Flowrider, a wave-pool simulator where the joys of surfing can be experienced without, ironically, actually getting into the ocean.

Ovation of the Seas’ bow is home to another major calling card — the North Star glass viewing platform. Attached to a large arm, the jewel-like capsule with disco lights beneath rises 90m above sea level, providing all-encompassing views of the ocean and ports of call. Peter McCormack, Australian head of sales for Royal Caribbean, says North Star has already seen several marriage proposals and the renewal of wedding vows.

Even without the North Star, the view over Fremantle from the top deck is spectacular. 

Boats are ant-like, shipping containers minute and the historic roofs of downtown Fremantle beautiful.

Below North Star is a resort- style oasis of deckchairs, swimming pool, Sky Bar and children’s water park with water slides and enough colour to make any child giddy with excitement.

The top deck is also home to an outdoor rock-climbing wall, the larger-than-life Mama and Baby panda installation, and a huge indoor activity space with bumper cars, rollerskating, full- size basketball courts, disco lights and a circus school.

Sure to be a hit with Australians is the Bionic Bar. Sitting beneath scores of spirit bottles, two robotic arms dance to the bar’s beat before taking an order via iPad. 

The robotic arm grabs a cup and places it ready, reaches up and takes a shot of Captain Morgan, adds some coke, gives it a stir, then adds lemon before pouring it all into a cup for delivery. Awesome.

Adding to the bars — including the refined surroundings of Vintages, where dozens of temperature- controlled wine bottles wait in self-dispensing machines — are 17 dining experiences.

Captivating the imagination is Wonderland, with its oversized plush chairs, ceramic flowers, and a menu that only reveals itself once painted with water.

Wonderland sits alongside big names such as Jamie’s by Jamie Oliver, as well as the signature buffet offering Windjammer, where serving stations extend as far as the eye can see.

Deep in the ship’s interior, it feels more like the biggest hotel you could ever imagine than a vessel. 

Two70 at the stern is a big space with a split personality. 

During the day, it offers 270-degree ocean views through floor- to-ceiling glass but at night it transforms into an immersive theatre with LCD screens extending over the windows, video screens and performers descending from the ceiling and ascending from beneath the floor.

There’s also something to be said for the art aboard Ovation of the Seas. Somewhat unexpectedly, much of it is beautiful, textural and demanding admiration. It cost Royal Caribbean $5.9 million and 20 per cent is Australian.

Ovation of the Seas is touted by Royal Caribbean Australia and New Zealand managing director Adam Armstrong as the biggest, newest and most modern cruise ship to visit Australia. Premier Colin Barnett called the ship a triumph of engineering, navigation, technology and entertainment on its arrival. He was not wrong.

At top, The North Star viewing capsule on Ovation of the Seas. Picture supplied.

FACT FILE

Ovation of the Seas will embark on a series of Tasmania, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises from Sydney until February.

A five-night Tasmania cruise calling at Hobart departs round trip from Sydney on January 23. The 12-night South Pacific and New Zealand cruise departing round trip from Sydney on January 28 visits Noumea, Mystery Island in Vanuatu and Bay of Islands, Tauranga and Auckland in New Zealand. 

Ovation of the Seas heads back to Asia for our winter when it leaves Sydney on February 20 on a 14-night Reefs and Jungles Cruise visiting Brisbane, Darwin and Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur) before arriving in Singapore. Royal Caribbean has been making a splash with reduced prices and on-board offers — for the latest fares, go to royalcaribbean.com.au or contact your travel agent.

Angie Tomlinson explores Ovation of the Seas during the giant ship's visit to Fremantle. Duration: 02m 01s Seven West Travel Club

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