Cruising is fast becoming a favourite way to travel for Australians and it seems the harbor is never without a ship docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas is an imposing sight when she’s docked on the Harbour, which is not surprising considering she sails with 5000 passengers. A few of our readers have been on the ship and given it the thumbs up for accessibility so I was keen to see it for myself.
Last week I hopped on board to check out the facilities on the ship and today I’m sharing all the details. Keep in mind, I was only on the ship for 2 hours so I didn’t see every nook and cranny but hopefully the photos and information below will help you picture yourself on the ship and assist you in deciding if cruising is for you.
Our Have Wheelchair Will Travel (HWWT) community is always keen to get details about the cabins available on the different ships. Although the Royal Caribbean website has great detail about the cabins, it’s always lovely to be able to see an example of the accommodation so let me take you on a virtual tour to start off. Press play (the arrow) on the video below to take a walk on board with me –
ACCESSIBLE BALCONY CABIN
As part of our tour we looked at several cabins on the ship and the accessible cabins were certainly the most impressive. Walking into the accessible balcony cabin I was amazed at the light, airy and roomy feel to the cabin.
The spacious accessible balcony cabins have fantastic circulation space and room to store luggage and equipment.
The rooms are tastefully decorated and there’s room under the bed for a hoist. I measured approximately 32 cm clearance under the bed.
Furniture in the cabin is kept to a minimum which ensures the room is free of clutter but there is limited space for hanging up clothes.
If I were ever to cruise I think I’d definitely want a balcony cabin. The ability to enjoy the view and cruising away from the crowds would enhance the experience for me. And the accessible balcony cabins have been designed with this in mind.
A seamless threshold makes entry and exit to the balcony easy.
The balcony is accessed via a ramp.
Within the cabin the amenities are all located at a wheelchair users height with a handle installed in the wardrobe which lowers the clothing rack. A safe is also installed within the wardrobe.
The bathroom in the accessible cabin is spacious and well equipped to make cruising comfortable for all abilities.
Grab rails surround the shower and toilet. The shower is equipped with a flip-down shower seat and height adjustable hand-held shower but it’s located opposite the shower seat. It is within reach but I thought it was an odd placement.
The bathroom sink has room beneath it for a wheelchair user to have easy access and it’s equipped with lever taps.
Right next door to the accessible cabin above is another accessible cabin which has it’s facilities in an opposite orientation. If you have a preference for the positioning of grab rails this is worth considering when booking a cabin.
The facilities within the cabin are exactly the same but I thought I’d show you the varying orientations.
Once again the hand-held shower is opposite the shower seat.
I thought I’d share a couple of photos of the non-accessible cabin to show you exactly how much bigger the accessible rooms are on Ovation of the Seas.
And the bathroom is the non-accessible cabin is also quite copact.
While it’s lovely to have comfortable accessible accommodation it’s also important to have plenty of recreational facilities which can be accessed. Ovation of the Seas delivers well in this department and especially when it comes to the pool. I can’t think of anything more annoying than the sun shining, being surrounded by ocean and not being able to access a cool dip in the ship’s swimming pools.
Many of the pools and spas throughout the ship are fitted with hoisted seat access.
There’s also a shallow lagoon style pool area in the main swimming pool.
Ramp access leads to the H20 Zone Kids’ waterpark. While children must be toilet trained to access the pools on the ship, we were advised children can wear a swim nappy (diaper) in the water park area.
For the kids, or kids at heart, there’s an multi-purpose indoor space which is used for basketball, dodgem cars and trapeze school.
The dodgems would be a hit with BJ for sure.
The dodgems come out for 2 hour sessions and we were advised guests would have a wait time of around 25 minutes for a turn (obviously this varies according to the time of year).
Rock climbing is available on deck.
Judging by the size of the casino on board it’s a popular past time. I guess people are probably keen to win enough money to book their next cruise.
SHOWS & PARTIES
I picked up the showtimes & party guide for the cruise disembarking the day I toured and the list had a good variety including movies, tribute bands, comedians, game shows and a silent disco. I’ve never heard of that before and I have to say it left me curious. Having been the person who had already asked a million questions about access I felt I should remain silent on the silent disco!
Wheelchair and companion seating is available on the two levels of the theatre.
Touring around the ship the overall view was that accessibility is good. On most entry and exit points there are automatic opening doors, accessible seating is available in the theatres, there’s good circulation space in the restaurants and ramp access where needed. I was impressed by the number of hoist access pool seats which offer guests with mobility restrictions choice for where they swim.
In the time I was on the ship I didn’t find accessible stand-alone unisex bathroom facilities in the common areas. There is push button entry to the bathrooms but the accessible bathrooms are contained in either the women’s or men’s facilities.
The entry to the lower area of the adults-only Solarium pool complex, where the hoisted pool seat is located, is via a heavy door which would require assistance.
The various dining options means guests are spread out and this should avoid major congestion.
It was wet when I toured the ship so the stair lifts were covered but there is one to get to the Flowrider viewing area and another to get to the iFLY.
While guests cruise to their destination on Ovation of the Seas, it would appear a popular past time is dining in the many restaurants. The range of dining options ensures there’s a cuisine to suit every taste and guests with special dietary requirements are happily accommodated. I know some of our HWWT community have told us of the willingness of staff to accommodate their need to have food pureed as well.
Although cruises are known for their buffets there are a plenty of specialty dining venues from Jaimie’s Italian Restaurant, to Asian cuisine to cafes with fresh fruit salads and sandwiches.
There are many delights on offer but from what I saw it is possible to eat healthy when cruising with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables on offer.
Our Royal Caribbean guide said she loves having the light meals available at Café 270 and breakfast at the Solarium because it’s less crowded than the main buffet breakfast.
Technology is in play throughout the ship but the most unique is the robotic cocktail bar. Tom Cruise isn’t behind the bar mixing your cocktails, instead you can mix and order your drinks via an iPad. The dancing robots do the mixing and serving for you.
It is recommended you book in advance if you wish to dine at Jaimie’s Italian or Wonderland below. Bookings are also recommended for groups and if you are celebrating a special occasion and want a specific restaurant on a set date.
Wonderland sounds like a wonderfully quirky restaurant with a Heston Blumenthal-style of theatre to its food and delivery. I won’t spoil any of the surprises.
With 5000 passengers on a cruise ship it’s good to see hygiene being taken seriously with anti-bacterial stations located all over the ship. The most impressive was in the buffet restaurant where all guests arriving for lunch were guided to a hand washing area.
NAVIGATING THE SHIP
With so many restaurants, levels and cabins on Ovation of the Seas it’s important to be able to find your way around the ship easily. The Cruise Compass is located on all levels to help guests find their way.
The interactive information board lists activities, restaurants and the daily schedule so all the information guests need is just a tap away.
Pre-plan and save. Once on board the ship all charges are in US dollars. There are savings to be made by pre-paying for items prior to boarding as you will be charged in Australian Dollars and there are sometimes specials available. You can prepay for beverage packages and other activities ahead of time and save. Take a look at the details on the Cruise Planner.
Although it’s lovely to be spontaneous when on holiday, some pre-booking will ensure you don’t miss out on some of the most popular restaurants and shows. It’s wise to pre-book the show Pixels and if you are wanting to dine in Jaimie’s Italian Restaurant or Wonderland.
Guests are encouraged to fill out a Guest Special Needs form to give the staff a better idea of your needs. You can click through to the form here.
You can read more about the general features of the ship here.
If you’d like to read about one of our HWWT reader’s experiences on Ovation of the Seas click here.
Large floor to ceiling windows allow guests to truly enjoy the view.
Paula Groves says
Great report yet again Julie!! I can’t get over the size of the cabins!!! And I didn’t know they had a kids splash park – always a hit with my little man. As for the silent disco – I can help on that one! It’s basically a disco but everyone wears headphones. So if you walk past there is no music but everyone wearing the head phones is listening to the same tunes and dancing along. It’s great for kids parties – and can look hilarious when there is no noise but everyone is doing the YMCA moves lol.
Hi Paula, I’m glad you liked the review of Ovation of the Seas and THANKS, I’m so happy to learn about silent discos. That was bugging me!. Sounds like fun.
Thanks for the info, really timely as we will be on board within the next few weeks, was there any information on access to the tenders as this has always been a problem for people in wheelchairs
Hi Sharron, I gather the tender situation is a grey area. More likely to have easy access on New Zealand cruises than South Pacific. It depends on the sea conditions, the type of wheelchair etc. I would definitely speak to the cruise line before the cruise and once on board. Good luck. I’d love to hear how you go. Julie PS. At the end of the blog there is a link to one of our reader’s experiences and she had good luck with the tenders in New Zealand.
Great report! I want to go on Ovation! The silent disco looks amazing for sensory issues. Everyone wears headphones so you get to listen to the music in your comfort zone. Looks odd from the outside but my son might really enjoy this style of entertainment. Thank you!!
Sandra Wollburg says
Thank you for showing what the ship looks like as i am considering going on a cruise but i would need to take my commode chair and manual wheelchair and hospital air grade mattress, i wonder if they would allow my extra equipment?
Hi Sandra, My understanding is one of the reasons cruises are so popular with our readers who are wheelchair users or have a mobility restriction, is because they can take their equipment. I would check with the cruise line directly but I don’t forsee it being a problem. Julie
I have traveled on Royal for the last several years and find that Accessability is taken seriously. Other cruise lines are so-so.
Fantastic to hear Barry. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks so much for all of this timely info Julie.
I am booked on this ship in November and I knew that it would be good for me (I only ever use RCCL for that reason), but it far exceeds anything I could find. The balcony rooms are huge and the doorway to the deck was impressive.
I applaud you for sharing info on ANYTHING accessible.
Your info always helps me feel alot more prepared and thus takes most of the pressure off.
Thanks so much Jen. It’s always so rewarding to hear the information we provide is helpful.
I am also booked on this cruise for November as well. I sail out on 28th November to New Zealand. Is this the same one you will be on?
John Smith says
I enjoyed your report but….. (and there’s always a but) you didn’t mention, and I can’t see, hand rails just above the waterline, all around the pools.
I am able to climb into a pool, hanging on to the stair rail but, I need a handrail, in the pool to keep my balance.
Are there any?
Miriam Blye says
Thank you so much for all the info and clear photos of the room,bathroom and access to balcony my husband is in a wheelchair and we’re on this ship the 1st week of March super excited after covid we took our last one in 2019 so really looking forward to it The ship look amazing and the room is very spacious which is absolutely great for my husband as he is wheelchair bound thank you so much again for all the info
Thanks so much for letting me know the review was helpful for you. I really hope you and your husband have a wonderful cruise.