Towering 18 stories high, 348 meters long from bow to stern, carrying a maximum of 4,905 passengers and a crew of 1,500, the ship certainly deserves a standing ovation! Royal Caribbean’s German-built Ovation of the Seas is the third ship in the cruise line company’s Quantum class which is the second largest class of passenger ships behind Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class, the ships of which can carry more than 5,000 passengers.
At the invitation for the ship’s maiden call in the country, I headed off to Subic the other day. I was still a good 10 minutes away from the port, but I already saw from the distance the gigantic structure that resembled a big building complex. In fact, when I was looking at the picture taken of me at the port, with the ship standing tall behind me, it looked like I was in front of a very big hotel.
For this particular sailing, the ship came in from Hong Kong, with 4,500 passengers on board, and docked in Subic, just to test the port’s viability as a future destination. According to Capt. Nikolaos Antalis, associate vice president for marine and safety of Royal Caribbean Cruises, they will have to wait for feedback from the passengers’ onshore experience, among many other factors to be considered, if Subic or any other port in the country were to be included in the ship’s itinerary.
Naturally, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, which manages and operates Subic Bay, left no stone unturned in putting up a full-scale colorful, musical and warm welcome for the ship’s passengers and crew.
Aside from several groups that performed native dances and songs on the pier, and another group that dished out rhythmic percussions which made disembarking passengers dance to the beat, there were also several booths put up on the pier by the SBMA’s Tourism Office to guide incoming passengers to the area’s shopping, dining, and other entertainment options.
The Ovation of the Seas is Asia’s largest and most revolutionary and is the largest cruise ship to call at any port here in the country. It has a total of 2,091 staterooms (cabins), 75 percent of which are outside, meaning they have balconies that afford passengers a breathtaking panoramic view of the ocean. What’s noteworthy is that 37 percent of the ship’s crew are Filipinos, which means we can expect “kababayan” hospitality in the dining rooms and in the staterooms.
With the number of passengers the ship carries, you’ll wonder how and where they will move around in. Well, there are a total of 16 guest elevators to make it easy for everyone to go from one deck to the other, and a total of 23 food and beverage dining options. That should be enough to keep any customer occupied. They even have a “Bionic Bar” which uses robots, instead of bartenders, to mix any cocktail drink.
For the shopaholics, there is a big arcade on the Promenade with a dozen shops, including big name brands like Cartier, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Omega. Guaranteed, you’ll find many “luxurious” reasons to part with your dollars. And if you want to up the ante and take a chance at getting back what you spend shopping, there is the Casino Royale.
Those who just want a leisurely sailing, the ship has an outdoor movie screen for casual film treats and the Royal Theater for evening entertainment. There is also the avant-garde Two70, a very modern entertainment venue.
The children will enjoy the Seaplex, a large indoor activity space for roller skates and bumper cars. And I am pretty sure they will have fun at the Video Arcade and at Dreamworks Experience, where they will come face-to-face with some of their favorite cartoon characters. For some added excitement, there is the North Star, an observation capsule that rises 92 meters above the ocean.
Sports enthusiasts will be challenged by the Flowrider Surf Simulator, the Rock-Climbing Wall, the Zip Line, and the Ripcord which is a sky-diving simulator. There is also an ice skating rink and the tallest water slide at sea! Of course, for those opting for a tamer version of athletics, there is the sports court and the gym. I always prefer to spend my time on some relaxing bliss, so I know I will enjoy the spa.
Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas has many more facilities to marvel at, which is why every time you see Capt. Flemming Nielsen, he’s grinning from ear to ear, rightfully proud of everything the ship offers. Am now trying to keep my schedule in check, to see if I can join any of the ship’s upcoming cruises. There’s going to be a 12-night cruise from Tianjin to Singapore on October 7, with stops in Okinawa, Taipei, Hong Kong, Hue, Nha Trang, and Ho Chih Minh. But, what I find even more exciting is its 14-night sailing from Singapore to Sydney on October 19, with stops in Perth, Adelaide, and Hobart, Tasmania.
More information on this and the other Royal Caribbean ships and their sailings may be obtained from Wally Cervantes, senior vice president of Arpan Air, the local sales agent for Royal Caribbean at [email protected]For feedback, I’m at [email protected]
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