I have cruised with Royal Caribbean before a couple of years ago - to the South Pacific for 7 nights - and really enjoyed it. That cruise was on the Explorer of the Seas, a ship I really liked. This time was a 10 night cruise to New Zealand on the very large Ovation of the Seas. I believe it's currently the largest ship in the Southern hemisphere. We were very lucky that the crossing to and from NZ from Australia was very smooth indeed and we had perfect weather the whole cruise - with the exception of Dunedin which was shrouded in a haze from the Australian bushfires.
The ship was full, with close to 5000 passengers and 1600 crew. The ship is very big but didn't feel particularly crowded except in certain areas like the pool deck. I found the decor onboard a bit confusing. There seemed to be no particular consistent style or elegance to it, and many different styles onboard, which didn't seem to work. The Windjammer cafe was not particularly attractive or very light, and it seemed to me to be smaller than on Explorer, but I may be wrong. We ate in the Grande dining room at dinner, which was attractive however.. I did not find it as attractive a ship as Explorer of the Seas.
There is lots to do onboard. Each night the "Cruise Compass" is delivered to your stateroom, with details of what is on offer each day. It would be hard to be bored. I particularly enjoyed learning the "Thriller" dance, for the ship's guest talent show on the last day, and joining the ship's guest choir for the talent show.. My Mother enjoyed listening to the onboard pianist. This ship also has roller skating and bumper cars. You could even learn to trapeze too! No ice-rink however, which was something I loved about Explorer of the Seas both going ice-skating myself and seeing the ice-shows..
One of the best places on the ship was the Two70 entertainment area at the back of the ship on deck 5. It had a full wall of windows so had a fantastic view out to sea,and there was a lot of good shows laid on there including the very good Pixels show )for which bookings were required in advance). The main Theatre was comfortable and large, and the shows onboard were mostly very good, especially the headline shows. The shows are a real feature of Royal Caribbean. I did not think the shows were quite as good as the shows on my previous cruise, on Explorer of the Seas, however.
The food onboard was very mixed. Windjammer food was pretty average, the food was often lukewarm and the quality went downhill towards the end of the cruise. The main dining room food at dinner was considerably better with a large selection of choices. The pizza in the boardwalk cafe was good.
The service on board was absolutely amazing. Staff were so friendly and helpful and could not do enough for you. Despite the ship being full, every staff member went out of their way to make the cruise memorable.
The Solarium is lovely, and the two other main pools were enjoyed by many.
I thought the shops on board were not very interesting at all. It would also have been useful to have had a shop on board where one could buy things like suncream, moisturiser, other toiletries, if needed. The onboard sales, of jewellery,, handbags, watches and so on were very good.
Shore excursions booked with Royal Caribbean are very expensive. Particularly so was the steam train in Picton. Not really worth the money. I thought there would be more wine tasting included in the price. I enjoyed the Dunedin Wildlife cruise, and a tour of Wellington including Mount Victoria and the botanical gardens. We booked a vintage car ride in Napier with the local operator and really it's probably best to book with tour operators direct to avoid unnecessarily high costs booking with the ship.
Wifi on board was patchy and slow, and expensive. Drinks packages also outrageously overpriced so we didn't buy one.
Overall a very fun cruise.10 nights is a very good cruise length. I don't particularly favour the Ovation of the Seas ship though and would probably chose to cruise on Explorer or Vayager another time, if cruising with Royal Caribbean from Australia but a lot of people liked the Ovation ship New Zealand is a lovely destination to cruise to. It would be great if Royal would cruise from Melbourne though (like Princess and Celebrity for example), as having to fly to Sydney is another expense.
We had a junior suite with a large balcony which was wide in terms of depth, not width, which I had not fully realised when booking. It also had a bulkhead running from top to bottom on the right hand side which obscured some of the view. This suite was not worth the extra money. A junior suite would have been fine. .
I must have misread the deck plan when booking, because our suite was directly under the deck with the pools on it which I certainly had not meant to book. We could hear a lot of feet running up and down upstairs. Next time I will be more careful to ensure there is at least a deck between our suite and the pool deck.
The suite was very comfortable and roomy however, and the beds were excellent. Unlike the junior suite I had on the Explorer of the Seas, our suite did not have the very useful walk in robe, although cupboard space was adequate. The bathroom was not well situated however being extremely close to one of our twin beds. But the bathroom had both bath and shower and was roomy.