Spread the love
It has been a few years since I was last aboard a cruise ship. Although I’ve had two cruise holidays booked in the past year, the universe had other plans for me. In the first instance, I caught Covid three days prior to my departure date. In the second instance, the cruise got cancelled and so did my plans. So when the opportunity arose to go cruising from Sydney to Hawaii, I thought why not?
Within three weeks from booking the last minute cruise aboard the Ovation of the Seas, we were sailing out of Sydney Heads bound for Hawaii. I had to pinch myself to actually believe that I was aboard a cruise ship after a long hiatus.
My cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas was an 18 day itinerary that departed Sydney for New Zealand and the ports of Bay of Islands and Auckland. It continued with five lengthy days at sea, with an extra day crossing the date line, to Tahiti and the ports of Pape’ete and Mo’orea. Followed by another five days sailing to Honolulu in Hawaii, and the final destination of the cruise.
The cruise did involve a lot of “at sea” days, which was something that I haven’t really experienced previously. I wasn’t sure how I would handle these days, but as it turned out I rather enjoyed them once I got into the routine of taking advantage of the many activities that were on offer aboard the ship.
Departing Sydney in the twilight was an incredible experience. We passed the Opera House and made our way out through the massive Sydney Harbour and out through the Heads to the open ocean. Sydney Harbour is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world to sail in or out of. If you ever get the opportunity it is fully worthwhile seeing.
The good thing about Royal Caribbean is that they have this great app so that you can find information about where the ship is, what’s on each day, booking restaurants and checking your account. Otherwise, there is a daily newsletter dropped off to your stateroom each evening that informs you of what’s happening each day.
I chose to use the app most of the time. However, you can only use it if you are connected to Wifi, so you need to be aware of this. I purchased a Wifi package for the 18 days that I was on the ship, that was extremely costly, i.e: $24 per day. It wasn’t all that reliable at times and I felt that the Wifi was very overpriced.
Organised activities aboard varied from trivia quizzes, arts and craft classes, seminars, water aerobics, table tennis, pickle ball, rock climbing wall, iFly Skydiving simulator, Flowrider wave pool, bumper cars, cooking classes, bingo games, movies, to yoga classes (at an extra cost).
I spent the first few days doing some yoga classes and walking around the deck that was 880 metres a lap. We soon got into pickle ball which was fun and we also formed a trivia team with three Americans that were aboard the ship. So the days really went quickly in between eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Eateries aboard the ship included: the large buffet restaurant open for all meals; the main formal dining room that served up 3 courses every night; a pizza place; the Solarium restaurant; a fish and chips shop; a cafe that served basic food; and then there are the specialty restaurants that attract an extra fee.
There are naturally an array of bars spread all over the ship. Including two pool bars, Solarium bar, Schooner Bar, Crown & Anchor Pub, Music Hall, Vintages and 270 Bar. There is also the Bionic Bar where you order your cocktail from a iPad and the robots make it to order right in front of your eyes.
There are two pools areas: an outdoor pool with two spa pools and a children’s pool; plus an indoor pool area in the Solarium. It was a challenge each day to secure yourself a sun lounge, particularly in the adults only Solarium pool area.
Entertainment on the ship was extremely good. The shows we attended in the theatre were of a good standard. The Spectre Cabaret performance was also excellent. There was a great Caribbean band and also a classical guitarist. The only downside was that I felt there could have been more live music performances.
Although we experienced some rough weather crossing the ditch from Sydney to New Zealand, that prevented us from stopping at the Bay of Islands, we managed to get off the ship in Auckland.
We were met at the ship terminal by a good friend who lives near Auckland. He chauffeured us around Auckland showing us the best sights. Our first stop was at Westhaven Marina, the largest yacht marina in the Southern Hemisphere and only a short walk from the city centre. Here we took in the spectacle of circa 2,000 yachts moored here. We partook in a frothy cappuccino at Buoy Cafe with great views over the harbour, before continuing on.
We continued on a scenic drive around Mission Bay to the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park. These gardens are set on 49 hectares of land with spectacular panoramic views overlooking Waitemata harbour and Rangitoto Island.
Afterwards we headed for Mission Bay Beach and a stroll along the esplanade to check out this golden sand beach. There were plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops here on the opposite side of the road. We finished with a refreshing beer at a brewery.
Our friend dropped us off in the city centre and we took a look around this very modern precinct with plenty of upmarket shops, shopping malls, funky street art, outdoor food trucks and eateries everywhere.
After a wonderful sunny day seeing the sights of the city of sails, we set sail again to cross the Pacific Ocean.
Following a long five days crossing the Pacific we eventually arrived in Pape’ete. It was a magical experience waking up to the sight of land and the mountainous landscape of the island of Tahiti, where the capital city is located.
We decided to head along the waterfront through the parklands adjoining. Here we took in the view over the harbour and the beautiful clear aqua water. After about 30 minutes the day was heating up, so we strolled back into town for a coffee at a cafe near the waterfront.
The streets were alive with colour, a band of men playing and singing on their ukuleles, loads of black pearl jewellery shops and local markets in full swing. Whilst my husband decided to head back to the air conditioning on the ship, I spent some time doing some shopping and taking a look around.
Later on that afternoon we set off on a snorkelling boat cruise to a nearby sandy reef where we got to swim with large stingrays. Although this snorkelling trip was a little underwhelming we enjoyed getting into the clear aqua water.
That evening we set out to have sunset drinks at a nearby bar that was located over the water. It was a magical sight watching the sun dip into the ocean at this island paradise.
We left Pape’ete late that night and made the short crossing to the island of Mo’orea. It was an incredibly mystical sight with low cloud looming over the jagged volcanic peaks on the island. It had a spooky feel about it as we cruised into the bay.
We got up early, had breakfast and then got on a tender boat to cruise over to the jetty and small marina where there were boat charters, local markets and bus tours waiting for the influx of tourists. We chose a boat charter for the day over to a private beach that offered great snorkelling.
As we cruised the short distance to our own private beach club, we passed an abandoned resort with thatched roof bungalows over the water. This reinforced the fact that Covid-19 had a large impact on tourism in Tahiti.
Once we arrived at the beach there was a jetty and a sandy beach area. There was also a cafe here that served drinks and snacks and made delicious woodfired pizzas. A small boat took us out to a nearby reef where we swam with black tip reef sharks and large and very tame stingrays, amongst an array of other colourful reef fish.
The day was wonderful and Mo’orea really impressed me with its natural beauty. I could easily visit this island again.
We arrived into Honolulu at around 11am on the second last day of our cruise. We thought we would be going through US customs and then be able to disembark from the ship and go for a wander around Honolulu city. However, this wasn’t to be.
The lengthy process with 4,000 passengers plus crew and staff took over five hours. We were designated a group and ours was the last one, which meant by the time we queued up in long lines, it was too late to get off the ship.
There was no pre-warning of this. We were led to believe that we would get the afternoon in Honolulu to take a look around. I was thoroughly disappointed.
We had booked a flight the next morning for the Big Island, so we left the ship and headed straight to the airport without even seeing Honolulu. I guess because we had spent time here previously in 2007 we felt we had been here and done that. At the end of the day, we accepted that we weren’t going to see Honolulu, except from the air.
Depending on what your personal choice is, the amount of at sea days and lack of port visits, may be an issue for some people. Because we missed one of our ports this did add to the length of at sea days. We also had half a day cut from our visit to Mo’orea in Tahiti.
The advantage of cruising on a ship of this size is the stability of the boat. I get seasick and I never felt nauseous in the least. However there was a bit of rocking and creaking noises going on in our stateroom during a couple of rough sea days. So much so, that we were moved to an alternate stateroom.
The disadvantage of the large ship cruises is the amount of passengers and the waiting times for deboarding the ship, getting on tenders, getting a drink at the bar, and trying to book in for restaurants and some of the activities. It was also a challenge getting a sun lounge up on deck near the pool areas most days. We found that most activities were also very full. It was a matter of getting there early to secure a seat.
The other disappointing thing for me was the non existence of a bar that overlooked the ocean. On other cruises we’ve been on there was always a bar with great views. At the rear of the buffet restaurant would be the perfect location for this. Most bars, except for two small pool bars, were located on the interior of the ship.
I will also mention the cost of extras on board the ship. I already mentioned how expensive the Wifi was and it was extremely unreliable. But other things like a cup of coffee, a fresh orange juice, a bottle of water, gym classes, any of the spa treatments, alcoholic beverages (in particular wine), and shore excursions were over the top expensive. There were beverage packages available but this would have cost of $150 USD per day!
So even though you do get an all-inclusive holiday, our onboard account soon added up with all the extras that we were consuming (and we’re not big drinkers!) So what set out to be a cheap holiday soon got expensive.
The positives was the incredible service by crew and staff on board the ship. They really go out of their way to make you comfortable always with a big smile on their faces. The staterooms were spacious, well equipped and very comfortable. The food was always good and the variety astronomical. The entertainment was also incredible, apart from the lack of live music.
I think for a relaxing, all-inclusive holiday, nothing beats cruising. It is the perfect way to get away from it all and not have to lift a finger. The Ovation of the Seas was a wonderful cruising experience despite some of the disadvantages of being aboard a large ship.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.