Royal Caribbean’s new Ovation of the Seas will be redesigned for Chinese passengers by the time it moves to its home in Shanghai, but less is known about the changes to be made for its season based in Sydney. We asked Adam Armstrong, managing director, RCL Cruises Australia and New Zealand, what passengers can expect on the ship’s local cruises.
Q: Ovation of the Seas will be cruising from the UK to Europe, then homeporting in China before coming to Sydney for a summer season. Will passengers see many differences between these regions?
A: Royal Caribbean aims to offer a signature international style and experience no matter which ship or where you cruise with us, but we do make small tweaks to better suit each market. Ovation of the Seas has been designed specifically for the Asia Pacific market, so some facilities and services will be adapted for Chinese cruisers. For instance, Mandarin will be spoken by some of the crew onboard and signage will be dual language: English and Mandarin.
Artwork and entertainment will also be multi-lingual. For example, Ovation of the Seas will feature ‘Spectra’s Cabaret’ in Two70, a dancing spectacular that’s well known and loved from Anthem of the Seas.
In addition, our food and beverage team work hard to ensure that local flavours and traditions are infused into the options onboard. For example, with our ships sailing out of England all staterooms feature tea kettles. On Ovation of the Seas we will have noodles and hot pot venues, as well as a ‘Chinese Classics’ menu in each of our five main dining room restaurants.
Q: What tweaks will be made onboard Ovation of the Seas while it is sailing from Europe to China?
A: Ovation of the Seas will launch with all of her experiences that were specifically created for the Asia Pacific region. Slight changes in the onboard activities will be made to suit the international guest mix onboard but the essence of the ship will remain.
Q: Will Australians’ experience of Ovation be closer to that of the British or the Chinese passengers?
A: The experience during Australian sailings will be very similar to Europe and the UK, with very small, thoughtful additions to make our Australian guests feel more at home, such as the availability of Australian staples like Vegemite and more Australian beers to choose from.
An interesting fact is we provide kettles in staterooms during our UK and Australian sailings, as many Australian and British guests have consistently requested for this in their feedback to us.
Q: Will there be changes made to the casino to cater for the Chinese market and will Australians inherit these changes?
A: The size of the Royale Casino will be slightly increased for the China market, and this will remain the same from China to Australia. Of course, we always adhere to the rules of the countries and territories we sail in. When in the Australian region, we abide by local rules which apply to a variety of areas such as smoking, duty free shopping and gambling.
Q: Will the Australian daily shipboard activities, featured in the Cruise Compass newsletter, differ from the UK or China?
A: The daily Cruise Compass regularly changes to keep things fun and exciting for our guests, and yes, the cruise director creates programs that best suit each market – from performances, special guests, learning classes and other activities. It’s their job to ensure that the program of activities delivers the enjoyment that the group onboard demands.
Q: Does the belly flop competition transcend cultures and language barriers?
A: We believe that laughter is a universal language. It’s not on every cruise but yes, there are some fun activities onboard, like the belly flop competition, that transcend age, gender and nationality.
Q: Will there be different products or changes to the shopping experience when Ovation is in China? Will Aussies share the same shopping as the Chinese?
A: We carefully select brands and products onboard that suit our ships worldwide, so products and shopping will be similar throughout the world. We tend to find that the Chinese market demands more shopping options than other markets, so we have the ability to quickly and easily change out bar, lounge and shop fittings to suit.
Q: What is the tipping policy onboard Ovation of the Seas when in the UK, China and Australia?
A: Royal Caribbean gives recommended guidelines for gratuities, which is the same amount everywhere in the world, and encourages tipping to recognise the exceptional work that Royal Caribbean’s staff and crew does to deliver unforgettable holidays every day. However, tipping is always at the discretion of guests. In Australia, daily gratuities are an optional extra that we automatically add on to the cruise fare for the convenience of our guests, but gratuities are not compulsory and can be removed.
Q: Will the drink packages remain the same when Ovation is in the UK, China and Australia?
A: Our drink packages are standard worldwide – and of course there is always the option to pay per drink should you prefer not to go down that road.
Q: Will drinks including beer, wine and alcohol change for the Europe, China and Australian cruises or does RCI incorporate a local flavour?
A: Much of our offering is consistent worldwide, but we also try to bring in local favourites where we can by ordering more of a certain type of beer or beverage, or offering some beverage specials in local cruises.
Q: Which Aussie beers, wines and spirits are sold on Ovation of the Seas?
A: We offer a selection of Australian beers and wines onboard but these will be chosen according to local suppliers and will change throughout the season, depending on availability and what our guests tell us they prefer.
Q: What power outlets are installed in the cabins on Ovation of the Seas?
A: US and Europe power sockets
Q: Which currency is used on Ovation of the Seas?
A: We operate a cashless system, using SeaPass cards for ease, however for consistency, we price any onboard items that aren’t already included in your cruise fare in US dollars.
Q: When in China, what is the main language used onboard?
A: English continues to be the main language spoken amongst our international crew, however some of the crew on Chinese voyages will also speak Mandarin.
Q: Are the menus in the ship’s restaurants altered for the different palates or each region?
A: The food in our specialty dining remains the same throughout the world, for example Jamie’s Italian is a consistent menu and product throughout the world. In our complimentary dining options and buffet however, you will find local favourites anywhere you sail in the world on Royal Caribbean. For instance, Australians like healthier food options such as salads and authentic Asian dishes. For Chinese sailings, there will be a Chinese Classics menu in each of our five main dining room restaurants.
Q: Will Australians get any different restaurants to the Chinese market?
A: No, the specialty dining offering remains consistent.
Q: Finally, how would you sum up the Aussie cruising experience on Ovation of the Seas? What can Australians look forward to?
A: The first new-build ship destined for Australia, Ovation of the Seas, truly is a game-changer. Royal Caribbean is renowned for being the most imaginative and innovative cruise line in the world. We put experiences on ships that that people previously only dreamed about on land. Aussies will see first-hand the very latest and best in cruise ships.