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SacCaliCruiser

Ovation of the Seas 7-Day Alaska Cruise **LONG Review**

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We were first time cruisers and had been looking forward to our July 26, 2019, cruise for many months - and it did not disappoint. We had an amazing time. We loved the ship, the rooms, the staff and the activities. The scenery was stunning but note: we did NOT get close enough to see Dawes Glacier because there was too much ice, which was disappointing. Still the Endicott Arm is spectacular. We saw lots of whales from the ship and tons of bald eagles in Juneau. We heard a lot of experienced cruisers unhappy about the elevators, the crowds and "upselling" and the food. But overall we give the cruise an A grade and recommend it, especially for new cruisers and families with children ages 6-16.

 

Here is a breakdown:

 

The ship: Ovation is simply breathtaking, inside and out. It is huge! But we found the layout to be easy to navigate after getting used to it and our kids had no trouble finding their way around. The art is fascinating and fun, the decor is beautiful down to the smallest details such as the lighting and signage. Many many people were unhappy with the elevators, but we were relaxed about it and didn’t mind waiting or taking the stairs (however they were slow and packed at times which was difficult especially for those who had scooters, strollers or wheelchairs).

 

The rooms: We had adjoining balcony staterooms on Deck 10 toward the aft and loved them. Our attendant opened the balcony partition for us right away, adding another way to pass between the rooms and additional space. We are spoiled forever now because the staterooms are modern, spacious and have tons of storage (including plenty of hangers). The beds are quite firm but comfortable and the bedding is so cozy. Couple of notes: some room tours showed hot water kettles but ours did not have one and we were told there wasn’t one available but it appeared some of the suites have them. No biggie. Also the showers have a pump dispenser with a 2-in-1 body wash and shampoo but no conditioner or lotion so be sure to bring your own.

 

The crowds: We braced for huge crowds everywhere because of other reviews. Indeed, the times we found it to be overwhelming were directly after the muster drill when everybody was in the same place, trying to do the same thing (ride the elevators), in the Windjammer Marketplace at peak hours (around 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.), and occasionally on the Royal Esplanade when a lot of people were shopping at the many tables set up in the open space (see pic below). But otherwise it was fine. We always found a nice place to sit in public areas.

 

The staff: Nearly every single service person we encountered was friendly and professional, although a small few were a little over the top and seemed to be looking for an extra tip. We were beyond thrilled with our room attendant Habibie. He was a pure gem. Our room was beautiful and always fresh and clean. We did the "Find the Nations" scavenger hunt and were SO impressed with every single staff member - from the photographer to the salespeople. They all were patient and friendly as children besieged them to ask where they were from. I found this to be a real testament to the quality of all staff. We found Cruise Director Joff and his sidekick Angelle to be so entertaining and fun - don’t miss their morning show on the room TV, it’s so entertaining and informative. We were hooked and even missed the morning show once we got home (yes we are nerds). When we saw Joff in the elevator our children felt as though they’d met a celebrity and he was so friendly and down to earth. We didn’t have anybody being pushy to sell us stuff, as I’ve seen in other reviews.

 

The activities: The pools are great, our kids loved the indoor family pool and the weather was beautiful on our sailing so we used the outdoor pool quite a bit. The splash area is for very little kids so we didn’t use it. We tried to roller skate but learned too late that we didn’t have the required wristbands. Go to the iFly desk on Deck 15 to get wristbands early on the day that rollerskating is offered. The FlowRider was fun and we got on it with about a 30-minute wait. The FlowRider staff are terrific. You need advanced reservations for iFly - if you can’t get them ahead on Cruiseplanner, go to the iFly desk on Deck 15 as soon as you get on board to get a time slot because it did sell out. Some people said you also can book on the Royal IQ App as soon as you are onboard but we did it in person. iFly is fun - a little short and the staff were a little bit “too cool for school.” A suggestion: if your whole family is doing iFly at the same time, break up your group into two sessions or ask someone to take photos for you because the official camera was not working when we went and you’re going to want pics of your kids!

 

Shows: We loved the welcome and farewell shows (go to the early ones if you are bringing kids) and the game shows they put on (ie Finish That Song Lyric and Love and Marriage). We did not see the main productions, Beautiful Dream (we really wanted to see this but it was shown the evening we had been in port in Skagway and we were exhausted) or Live Love Legs (we were warned it isn’t kid friendly). Pixels is the only show you can reserve in advance and is shown every night. It is not the best show ever but is fun and short with impressive dancing and some cool technology. It’s worth checking out but try to sit on the first floor for the best views.

 

The food: We loved the Windjammer service and food - in fact we ate most of our meals there and always found the food to be hot (when it was supposed to be) and yummy. Breakfast was great; there were always international choices (I loved the Indian and Chinese food!) and comfort food (we liked the daily soups). There were many choices for kids including tons of fruit, pasta, mac and cheese, pizza and chicken tenders. We did not go in expecting great food based on reviews but were pleasantly surprised. The main dining room was hit or miss - we loved lobster night but had a less than stellar meal another night. The service was a little slow in the main dining rooms at dinner for My Time Dining. My daughter LOVED Sorrentos and visited it at least twice a day for a slice of pizza. We did not eat in the specialty restaurants. A note about the two formal nights: One night we all got dressed up and we had a giant, loud table of teenagers wearing shorts and t-shirts next to us (the parents and grandparents sat at a different table) and it kind of put a damper on the “formal” part of the night. Other tables had people in suits and dresses. So don’t look for this dress code to be enforced/followed. We had the refreshment package and found it worth it for the unlimited sodas, “mocktails,” bottled water (we had to ask for it at the bars), and particularly the specialty coffees at La Patisserie, Cafe 270 and the Windjammer. BTW You don’t have to have the souvenir cup - you can order soda anywhere but there are the soda freestyle machines in the Windjammer and at Sorrentos with a gazillion choices.

 

"Upselling": We just didn't experience this to be a problem. There were people walking around with alcoholic beverages on carts offering them for sale and tables to buy beverage packages but they never were pushy about it, and only on the very first day did a bartender offer to sell us the all-inclusive beverage package. Otherwise, the only place where "selling" was really going on was in the shops and at the Royal Esplanade tables. And even then we didn't feel very pressured to buy anything.

 

The Ports: Juneau and Skagway are very cute, crowded, commercial little port towns full of jewelry and gift shops. It’s worth getting off the Main Streets on excursions because the scenery is breathtaking. Our shore excursions were fun and well organized. Juneau’s Mt. Roberts Tramway is spectacular and we were surprised to find it not too crowded (we went straight there after the ship docked at noon). Prepare to shop at the giant gift shop at the top, take a walk on the easy short trails through beautiful rainforest, and leave some time in case there are lines to come back down. Highly recommend the Mendenhall River Float Trip in Juneau (our guide Julia was absolutely fantastic!) Bring rain coats or ponchos, they go rain or shine and we got drenched in a short downpour right at the beginning. The White Pass train in Skagway has amazing views and interesting history. The only slightly obnoxious thing about the train ride was when the tour guide/announcer walked through each train car at the end in a poorly veiled quest for tips. Victoria is fabulous. If you have time, walk from the ship to the adorable Fisherman’s Wharf (15-minute walk) and then take a water taxi to the Inner Harbour. We checked out the area on foot, including quick stops at the Empress Hotel and Parliament building. We skipped Butchart Gardens because we have pre-teens who weren’t interested, it is 40 minutes from town and we wanted to get back to the ship to enjoy it on the last day and to pack. But those who went said they are fabulous and worth every minute. Note: There were at least three ships in each port at a time-making for some crowds but we loved chatting with the other cruisers and everybody else was in awe of the size and beauty of the Ovation.

 

Voom Surf and Stream WiFi/Royal IQ: We expected the worst because of the many poor reviews but for us it was fine the entire time. We just used it for texting, google and some other websites, and some YouTube streaming, and never had any major issues. A note-we paid for the Royal IQ texting app but never used it. We have iPhones and turned on iMessage and texted the entire time from everywhere on the ship without a problem).

 

The Key: As this was our first cruise, we had no loyalty perks whatsoever and this made The Key ABSOLUTELY worth it. We breezed on to the ship at embarkation, had a private lunch in the MDR with a nice menu; had some private time slots at the FlowRider, bumper cars and rock wall (I’ll post a pic of the times); had priority disembarkation at the ports (even though we weren’t using tenders at any port); and had priority disembarkation on the last day; and it included the WiFi. I would recommend The Key to anyone who is new or relatively new to RCCL and has no perks. For those with higher status, it probably is not worth the extra expense.

 

Some small suggestions: The first day's morning show and Cruise Compass (and the cruise details ahead of time) should make it very clear that it is not a guarantee to see the Dawes Glacier. The teen club activities were a little bit on the late side for us. Beautiful Dream should be shown on a sea day because Skagway is a long day. The Captain should repeat his announcement about the Glaciers because several people did not hear it early in the morning. It was slightly annoying for a few staff to ask us for good reviews on the after-cruise survey. And a “Find The U.S. States” scavenger hunt would be fun. But these are nitpicking because we honestly had the time of our lives!

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7 minutes ago, SacCaliCruiser said:

The rooms: Couple of notes: some room tours showed hot water kettles but ours did not have one and we were told there wasn’t one available but it appeared some of the suites have them.

 

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Typically the kettles are only in JS cabins and up.

 

Nice of them to get out on the Flowrider in what I assume were less than ideal conditions.

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We are doing this cruise next year and are looking at airfare.  What time were you able to disembark the ship?

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37 minutes ago, SacCaliCruiser said:

 

The Key: As this was our first cruise, we had no loyalty perks whatsoever and this made The Key ABSOLUTELY worth it. We breezed on to the ship at embarkation, had a private lunch in the MDR with a nice menu; had some private time slots at the FlowRider, bumper cars and rock wall (I’ll post a pic of the times); had priority disembarkation at the ports (even though we weren’t using tenders at any port); and had priority disembarkation on the last day; and it included the WiFi. I would recommend The Key to anyone who is new or relatively new to RCCL and has no perks. For those with higher status, it probably is not worth the extra expense.

 

 

Thanks for your review, did the Key benefits include any private time slots for Northstar or iFly?  Thanks again.

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14 minutes ago, JeffT237 said:

 

Thanks for your review, did the Key benefits include any private time slots for Northstar or iFly?  Thanks again.

(Corrected), yes they did have private time slots for these but both of these still required reservations. When we arrived on board for the private lunch there was a person there helping Key users make reservations. I think the "key" to getting on these is to board as early as you can and book them ASAP. I will add a photo to this thread with The Key dedicated private time slots on various activities.

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Edited by SacCaliCruiser

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Two corrections: you go to the Box Office, Guest Services or the iFly Desk (although I'm not sure what time it opens) on Embarkation Day to book reservations for iFly and Northstar.

 

And yes there are dedicated Key Times for iFly and Northstar but you still need reservations for these and they do fill up early on Embarkation Day.

Edited by SacCaliCruiser

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1 minute ago, SacCaliCruiser said:

Two corrections: you go to the Box Office, Guest Services or the iFly Desk (although I'm not sure what time it opens) on Embarkation Day to book reservations for iFly and Northstar.

 

And yes there are dedicated Key Times for iFly and Northstar but you still need reservations for these and they do fill up early on Embarkation Day.

Thanks, we sail next May and are looking forward to Alaska and the Ovation.  Great review!

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Clarification about the drink cups: If you have the soda or refreshment package, you DO need the special cups to use the freestyle machines that are in Windjammer, Sorrentos and the SeaPlex. But if you don't have the cup with you, you can still order a soda as part of your package and get it in a regular cup at any bar or restaurant.

Edited by SacCaliCruiser

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On 8/5/2019 at 12:05 PM, Nkelly14 said:

We are doing this cruise next year and are looking at airfare.  What time were you able to disembark the ship?

 

We stayed on the ship until 9:50 a.m. and were the last ones on our floor. You can disembark as early as 8:30 a.m. for sure and perhaps earlier if you are doing self disembarkation (ie walking off with your own luggage). The ship docks in Seattle at 4:30 a.m.

 

The taxi lines were insanely long at about 10 a.m. because the Celebrity Solstice also was in port that morning. We walked to the app ride lot (about a 10-minute walk) and waited about 20 minutes for an Uber. 

Edited by SacCaliCruiser

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On 8/5/2019 at 11:58 AM, Biker19 said:

Typically the kettles are only in JS cabins and up.

 

Nice of them to get out on the Flowrider in what I assume were less than ideal conditions.

We were pretty chilly waiting in line!

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Great post and review, and pics! Thank you for sharing. One of my coworkers was on this 7/26 sailing and he had a blast! We sail in a few weeks on 8/30, can't wait!!! So excited!!!

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9 hours ago, seapad said:

Do you happen to have the daily cruise planner that you can share? 

I do have it- I am just a bit technologically challenged. I will try to upload a PDF or at least pics of it. 

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We were on the Ovation in June and we too had perfect weather. We have been on many cruises but this was our first west coast venture. We flew into Seattle two days early and loved the city. This was our first cruise on this class of ship and we really enjoyed it. We thought the Windjammer was the best of any of our cruises. One last note. Be sure to fill out the Port Valet form if you are flying. They will take your luggage to the airport for you and if your bags are overweight they won't charge you an extra charge!

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OK I'm giving this a try. Here are (I hope) the daily planners - except Day 5 seems to have disappeared for some reason - and a couple examples of the Kids Planner, Teen Planner, and the show and theme night/dance party schedule. Fingers crossed you can see them. Please let me know if it doesn't work and I'll try something else.

Ovation Daily Planners 7.26.2019.pdf

Edited by SacCaliCruiser

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Thank you, SacCaliCuiser! It works. Just missing Day 5. Appreciate the extra info in the kids program. 

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On 8/8/2019 at 9:13 AM, SacCaliCruiser said:

OK I'm giving this a try. Here are (I hope) the daily planners - except Day 5 seems to have disappeared for some reason - and a couple examples of the Kids Planner, Teen Planner, and the show and theme night/dance party schedule. Fingers crossed you can see them. Please let me know if it doesn't work and I'll try something else.

Ovation Daily Planners 7.26.2019.pdf 13.8 MB · 15 downloads

Thank you for these! We leave in 3 weeks and this will be some good reading before we head out!

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Thank you for posting the daily schedules! They are a little cut off on the edges, so if you have a chance, could you tell me what time the evening North Star rides were on Day 3 (Juneau)? We hope to do it when we return from our excursion while the ship is still in port. 

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We were on this same cruise and loved every minute of it. Probably going to do it again next summer. I think the Key is worth it on this ship just for the ease of making reservations on North Star, I Fly and bumper cars.

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20 hours ago, cft8 said:

Thank you for posting the daily schedules! They are a little cut off on the edges, so if you have a chance, could you tell me what time the evening North Star rides were on Day 3 (Juneau)? We hope to do it when we return from our excursion while the ship is still in port. 

Yes it is 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and of course it will stay light that entire time. I’m sorry for cutting off the edges, I didn’t have a scanner available to me. Happy to answer any other questions about times. The Flowrider (just above the Northstar) is 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Edited by SacCaliCruiser

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Hello SacCaliCruiser, do you recall which night is the lobster night? Trying to get organized for the specialty dining. Thanks!

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6 minutes ago, seapad said:

Hello SacCaliCruiser, do you recall which night is the lobster night? Trying to get organized for the specialty dining. Thanks!

I believe it was night 6 - the second formal night - in the MDR. 

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So much great information on here, thank you!!

Edited by johnt83

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