Ovation of the Seas

I (ed. Stephanie from Dunedin) have to be honest, cruising has never really been on my bucket list. Fortunately an opportunity materialised for a 3 night cruise leaving Singapore with a stop in Kuala Lumpur. I thought it can’t be that bad could it!? All I can say is WOW, I have been blown away.

After meeting my travelling buddies at Auckland airport we boarded the flight to Singapore with Singapore Airlines. Fortunately we were able to have a wee peek at the Business and Premium Economy seats on the way through to our economy class seats ... sigh!

After getting myself settled we were given our meals I thought they were pleasant enough to fill our tummies. I did quite like the ice cream that came around for dessert (yummy!!!) Service was great, the staff were so friendly and always there to help us.

We arrived into Singapore around 7pm. I was wide awake with anticipation during the flight ... I was pretty tired. I checked in at Fairmont hotel, opened the door to my room, sat on the bed and that was me for the night.

The Fairmont hotel is very central with the famous Raffles hotel directly opposite and one of the Hop On Hop Off' city sightseeing stops right outside. Two blocks down the road there is the large Sunset Mall. The Fairmont is also connected to a smaller mall and a metro station. I did get lost a few times coming out of the wrong exit.

We had a day free to explore Singapore before we jumped on the cruise so our Singapore Airlines representative took us to 'Gardens by the Bay'.

The amount of work that has gone into these gardens is just amazing. There are so many different areas of 'Gardens by the Bay', you could easily spend a day here exploring all the different gardens and displays. The 'Flower Dome House' contains almost 30,000 plants of over 150 species from the cool-dry Mediterranean and subtropical regions of the world. You can then move on to the 'Cloud Forest' and take the breathtaking views surrounded by over 60,000 plants and floral gems from the tropical montane regions. I was amazed when I came face to face with the 35 metre man made waterfall. Unfortunately just as we were about to walk on the 'Supertree Grove Skyway' a forecasted lightning storm was about to hit Singapore so we chose to stay on dry land. It would have been amazing to see panoramic views of the garden and the surrounding Marina Bay areas.

The rest of the afternoon was free to explore so of course I took this opportunity to go check out Singapore’s shopping. I went to Vivo, the largest shopping mall in Singapore. Located on the Harbourfront of Bukit Merah. It is shaped like an Octopus. This shopping mall had everything that anyone would need, catering for everyone!!

My tummy started grumbling so made my way to the food court which is on the bottom floor of Vivo, it is incredible I had to go around it three times to make my decision.

Next day I woke feeling so excited as today was the day we were boarding the Royal Caribbean 'Ovation of Seas' cruise ship. This is the day I have been waiting for. Our transfer picked us up at 1pm and took us to the cruise port where we had the option of taking our bags with us or leave them at the luggage area. We were advised that if we didn't take them with us, we wouldn't see them again until later in the day delivered to our room. Checking in was very easy, it flowed pretty quickly. Once customs and immigration were completed we were given a colour tag and had to wait in that coloured area to be called through to get on the cruise.

Once on the cruise I had a list of activities I wanted to tick off. I did get interrupted with the practice emergency drill at 6pm. As it was the school holidays in Singapore the cruise had a lot of school children and families, 5000 passengers with 1000 being children. What I loved about this cruise ship was although there was a lot of people on the cruise you wouldn’t have thought that. On deck 14 it had all the children activities eg. 'Windstar' (buffet restaurant), pool, 'North Star', 'Ripcord' and 'Flow rider'. So apart from going to deck 14 it was very peaceful.

We stayed in a twin balcony room, I felt there was plenty of space in the room taking into consideration I had only just me my room mate two days prior. Some prospective cruisers worry about possible sea sickness. For the duration of the cruise I never really felt any significant movement so those sealegs stayed in the suitcase. The rooms were fitted with hairdryers, towels, extra pillows and mini bar.

With 5 restaurants included in the fare to choose from and 9 others which are specialty restaurants there was a huge variety of dining options. I recommend at least going to one of the specialty restaurants as it is just magical. I was talking to a couple travelling with 4 other couples. They had been sailing from Miami and they just rotated around the 5 restaurants the whole time and absolutely loved it!! We went to 'Wonderland' (dessert examples above) and I thought it was amazing ... 10 course dinner with a taster of everything you could imagine. Families tend to congregate in the 'Windjammer' buffet. I had breakfast here and thought it was very good, catered for everyones needs with cold and hot options. Overall I thought the food definitely meet my expectations and wished I had a couple more nights to enjoy more of the specialty restaurants. A piece of advice is to make sure you pre-book your favourite dining options as just turning up doesn’t work all the time.

The next day we arrived into Port Klang which services Kuala Lumpur at 10am, I was excited as my cousin had given me a list to what to do and where to go. I ended up going on one of the shore excursions which Royal Caribbean offered. It was arranged perfectly. After meeting at the 'Music Hall' I was directed onto a bus and off we went. It only took 15 minutes from disembarking the boat and getting through customs and immigration. It took an hour and a half to get into Kuala Lumpur. The driver was hilarious, I was his “Kiwi Chick”, I felt very safe! We visited Batu Caves, never carry food at the Batu Caves, tray and you will see why! It was great exploring Kuala Lumpur, well worth the money.

Back on the cruise I go, the next day we had a whole day at sea so I was able to experience everything the cruise had to offer. I struggled!

In the morning we were given a tour behind the scenes of the ship in the galley. We were able to meet two of head chefs who explained the amount of work that goes behind getting meals on plates.

The rest of the day was for us to go explore, I ended up in the adult area relaxing. That night we were given a VIP ride on the 'North Star', this would have to be the highlight of the cruise, amazing views of the ship!! We later went on the bumper cars which is in the 'Seaplex' area of the ship, this is where all the activities for the children are. Some nights they will have ice skating.

Later in the evening we were all given leaflets explaining what happens when exiting the ship and when to do it. Each deck level had a different time to depart to make it run smoothly and again it was a quick disembarkation ... it took all of 10 minutes. I would advise not to get the taxis at the entrance of the cruise terminal. If you walk only 2 minutes you will see another taxi stand with much more reasonable fares.

We didn’t fly out until later in the evening so I thought I would take the opportunity and hopped on the 'Hop On Hop Off' sightseeing bus. What a great way to get around Singapore, they have their own bus lane so no need to wait for the traffic. There were 4 routes that you could get on and they all take approximately 2 hours. You are able to get off at any stop and hop back on, so of course I stopped off at Orchard Road to do a spot of shopping.

Tips for fellow cruise travellers ...

1.       Make sure you book as many of the attractions prior to or as soon as you get on board. Royal Caribbean have an app which you can connect to on their wifi where you can pre-book restaurants, attractions and also see when shows are on.

2.       Highly recommend booking shore excursions as we were 1 hour late getting back on the cruise. As we were on a shore excursion booked through Royal Caribbean the ship waited!

3.       Definitely get a room with a balcony, it’s an unbelievable experience sitting on your balcony as you cruise into port.

4.       Experience the North Star at night, the photos you will get will be stunning.