Stateroom design, and the range of cabins, is another area where Ovation stands out. For starters, out of 2,090 cabins 1,570 have balconies -- which adds up to 75 percent, much higher than the cruise ship norm. The 373 inside cabins boast Royal Caribbean's "virtual balconies", a much-talked-about feature when debuted on the other Quantum-class vessels. Instead of staring at a wall, passengers have floor-to-ceiling, flat-screen HDTVs that provide real-time views of what you'd see if you had an authentic veranda: it's dark at night and, in the morning, you'll see the sunrise. There is even the sound of the waves, although this can be turned off. It is a game-changing feature for anyone who normally avoids interior cabins, and the result is surprisingly realistic.
Ovation's remaining 147 cabins are oceanview. The ship has 28 studio cabins for single travellers -- a number of which have balconies -- and 34 staterooms across the vessel are wheelchair accessible. Cabins are easy on the eye and decorated in attractive shades of blue and light brown, with contrasting dark and light wood tones.
Cabins across the categories are sizeable, again bucking the industry standard, and there are plenty of thoughtful and convenient touches that all add up to a comfortable stay. For example, there is ample storage with space beneath and above the bed to stow away suitcases, plenty of soft-close drawers and a full-length wardrobe. Small but nifty features include a handle on the back of the dressing table/desk chair, which makes it easy to pull in and out. Kettles in every cabin mean you don't have to wait for room service to get a morning cuppa (although coffee drinkers should bring their own as only tea is included in the in-room beverage brewing set up and there are no instant coffee sachets onboard). There are, however, plenty of electrical sockets, including a convenient one by the bed (which is especially good for charging phones without having to leave them on the other side of the cabin when you're in bed), and two USB ports, still something of a rarity on cruise ships. There are US and European sockets, so travellers from other countries will need to bring adaptors although one was thoughtfully provided on our Australian cruise (with US$25 billed to your account if you decide to take it with you).
The majority of cabins have king-sized beds with curved ends (a boon for anyone who has ended up with bruised shins after walking into the sharp corners of a bed), which can be divided into a twin-bed configuration. Many of the sofas can be pulled out to create a double bed large enough for an adult to sleep on comfortably. Plug-in hair dryers, small safes, telephones, refrigerated minibars (with childproof locks) come standard. As part of the line's environmental efficiency policy, there are digital thermostats and energy-saving lights. Cabin lights and power are activated when you insert the SeaPass into a slot by the door and, when you remove the card, the lights and power (but not the air-conditioning) shut down -- worth remembering if you are charging phones and other devices.
The flat-screen TVs provide a good range of channels, information on the ship and shore excursions, and a rolling morning program with updates from the cruise director and activities manager. The least impressive feature is that films are chargeable at US$11.99.
Bathrooms, too, are well designed, with storage space above and below the sink, and ample towel hooks and rails. The glass-enclosed shower units each have a curved door, with two soap racks, a grab rail and a foot rest (to help with washing or for shaving legs). In a change from the earlier Quantum class ships, toiletries no longer come in individual bottles; standard cabins come with two bars of soap and a fixed shampoo dispenser in the shower (no conditioner or body lotion, but you can ask your cabin attendant for free tubes). Those passengers staying in suites have additional benefits, including enhanced L'Occitane toiletries.
Interior: These are the cabins where passengers have the feeling (and very convincing it is too) of having a balcony. An 80-inch HD screen, fed by externally mounted cameras, creates a balcony view, complete with railings and the sound of the sea. It is a really novel addition to inside cabins, but passengers can switch off both the sound and the view. Interior cabins measure 15 square metres (166 square feet), and 18 of them are interconnected.
Oceanview: These cabins range from 17 to 28 square metres (182 to 302 square feet). The smallest are on the lower decks, and the largest are the eight corner cabins, called Superior Ocean View staterooms, on decks 8 to 11. There are also 36 front-facing Large Ocean View cabins, measuring 256 square feet (24 square metres), situated on decks 8 through 10. The Superior and Large Ocean View cabins that are located below the bridge provide superb "captain's eye" views, but come with a few curiosities. For example, you might have a large support pole at the foot of the bed and a large porthole on a slanted, front-facing wall.
Balcony: Balcony cabins come in two categories: Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (16 square metres/177 square foot with a 7.5 square-metre/82-square-foot balcony) and Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (18 square metres/198 square feet with balconies ranging from five to 11 square metres/55 to 119 square feet). In both categories, the balconies have two mesh chairs with separate footstools, and a small, round, low table large enough for a couple of drinks and bowl of snacks. The biggest balconies are located midship, the area that in-the-know cruisers call "the hump" -- the spot where the ship gets wider, creating angled and oversized balconies.
Mini-suite: Junior Suites with Balconies are available as part of the Family Connected Suite (see below) or individually. These cabins measure a generous 25.5 square metres/276 square feet, with very spacious 15-square-metre/161-square-foot balconies. They also have a sitting area that includes a couch, chair and small table. Bathrooms feature combined bathtub and shower.
There are 46 Spa Junior Suites with Balconies, which are the least expensive cabins in the junior suite category, probably because they are slightly smaller at 25 square metres (267 square feet), with significantly smaller balconies at 7.5 square metres (81 square feet). The name of these suites is a slight misnomer as they have no connection with the spa, by way of exclusive access or other benefits. It refers to the bathrooms, which have separate bathtubs and rainfall showers.
Royal Suite Class offers three tiers of accommodations, based on the suite category: Sea, Sky and Star. Junior Suite passengers are entitled to Sea category benefits, which include evening dining at Coastal Kitchen restaurant.
Suite: Ovation has seven categories of suites (not including those designated as family suites). All have living rooms with sofas that convert into double beds. Perks include extras such as pre-dinner drinks in the Suite Lounge, access to the Coastal Kitchen restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, priority check-in, reserved seating in the main theatre for shows, bathrobes for onboard use, and priority departure in each port of call. Benefits vary depending on the category of suite, with top perks stretching to things like unlimited dining in specialty restaurants, deluxe beverage packages and complimentary laundry.
The smallest suites in this category are the Grand Suites, which measure 33 square metres (351 square feet). The balconies measure 10 square metres (109 square feet), providing room for two loungers and a small table with dining chairs. There are 12 Grand Suites, each featuring a master bedroom, living room with sofa bed, small writing desk, cabinet with minibar and coffee table. The bedroom and living areas are separated by a half wall and curtain, which can be pulled back. The marble bathrooms have a tub and two sinks, and can be accessed via doors from both the bedroom and living area. Bathrooms in all suites feature upgraded Gilchrist or L'Occitane products.
Identical -- apart from balcony size -- is the Superior Grand Suite. The balcony in these suites is an impressive 24 square metres (259 square feet).
Next up is the Owner's Suite category. These cabins measure 50 square metres (541 square feet) and feature a master bedroom with full-sized bath, water jets and two sinks. The living room offers a huge amount of storage space, with cupboards, drawers and various cubbyholes.
The Sky Loft Suite is the smallest two-deck cabin, measuring either 62.5 or 69 square metres (673 or 740 square feet). The master bedroom is on the upper level, along with a full bath with tub and dual sinks and a walk-in wardrobe. On the lower level is a living room, dining area, and bathroom with a full-size bath with shower. The balcony in these cabins measure 17 square metres (183 square feet).
There are three variations of the Grand Loft Suite, all varying by size and number of balconies. All are two decks high, with the master bedroom, a sitting desk area, full bath with shower, and a walk-in wardrobe on the upper level. The lower level features a living room with sofa, a dining area and full bath with shower. Grand Loft Suites on Deck 8 (74 square metres/795 square feet) each have one balcony (20 square metres/216 square feet), while those on Deck 10 are either 65 square metres (696 square feet), with three balconies totalling 33.5 square metres (361 square feet), or 78 square metres (840 square feet) with one 20-square-metre (216-square-foot) balcony.
The Owner's Loft Suite is an enormous 90.5 square metres (975 square feet) and is divided between two decks, with the king-bedded master bedroom on the upper floor. Also on this level is a writing desk area, a master bathroom with shower with dual showerheads, and an enlarged walk-in wardrobe. On the lower level is a large living room, separate dining area and split bath setup, one with toilet and sink and another with shower and sink. There is 46.5 metres (501 square feet) of balcony space spread over three balconies (one on the upper level), including one balcony with a large table for dining alfresco.
Dwarfing everything that comes before it is the sole Royal Loft Suite, which is situated at the back of Deck 8 and measures 152 square metres (1,640 square feet). The master bedroom is on the upper level, with a master bath with oval bathtub, dual sinks and a shower with dual showerheads; around the corner is a porthole looking out to sea. The oversized walk-in wardrobe is gigantic. On the lower level is a living room with a large dining space. There's also a separate living room and a second bedroom with a full bath. There are three balconies totalling 60 square metres (613 square feet). The largest of the three boasts a full-size hot tub and wet bar, and one of the smaller balconies features a smaller, two-person hot tub.
Family: With a flair for knowing what families need, Royal Caribbean has a variety of options, including suites that allow for family time as well as some privacy.
There are 28 Family Junior Suites with Balconies that measure 28 square metres (301 square feet), with 7.5-square-metre (81-square-foot) balconies. Slightly larger than the standard Junior Suite, these cabins can sleep up to five people (two adults and three children) at a squeeze. In addition to the bed, there's a sofa that converts to a double bed, so you'd either need to put three kids in one bed, or have two sharing the bed with a baby in a porta-cot. Each Family Junior Suite includes a full bathroom with a tub, as well as a separate half bath, both with standard toiletries.
Ovation's four Royal Family Suites with Balconies each comprise two bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Each master bedroom has a king bed, a private bathroom with tub, separate dressing area, and upgraded amenities. The second bedroom in each has two twin beds, two beds that drop down from the ceiling, and a second bathroom with shower. The living area has a sofa that converts to a double bed, a coffee table and chairs. There is a fancy marble entrance hall and a fancy entertainment centre. These 50 square metres (543-square-foot) suites each come with a 24-square-metre (259-square-foot) wraparound private balcony with seating area and private outdoor dining. The cabin sleeps up to eight, and a minimum of six is required for a booking.
The most innovative cabins are the Family Connected Junior Suite with Balcony, which actually is three cabins combined: a Junior Suite, a Studio cabin and an Ocean View with Balcony. The studio cabin is on the small side (9 square metres/101 square feet) but is ideal for children. The cabins share a hallway, making the whole area one big family suite, which is also well suited for a large group of friends. Each cabin has its own full bath, while the balconies are also interconnecting. These types of cabins can theoretically sleep up to 10 people. Each of the 16 Family Connected Junior Suite cabins is 53 square metres/575 square feet (combined) with a 20-square-metre/216-square-foot balcony (also combined). Each of the individual cabins can be booked separately or as a combination of two.
Studio: Ovation has 28 studio cabins designed for solo travellers, including 12 with balconies. Compact but providing everything you need in a scaled-down version, these cabins range from 9 square metres/101 square feet (as part of the Family Connected Suite) to 11 square metres/119 square feet for a Super Studio Ocean View with Balcony, the latter with 5-square-metre/55-square-foot balconies. Studio cabins are a great choice for passengers travelling alone and for those who don't want to share a cabin, as they avoid the dreaded "single supplement" that can almost double a cruise fare.