A little bit of history before I start this review. My DH and I call the Pacific NW our home port but over a year ago we moved into our travel trailer and have been traveling full time. Last year my DM booked my DB and I, spouses and all of our children, and her two great grandchildren on this cruise so that we would all be together for her 70th Birthday. Well adult grand kids have their own lives and one has another baby on the way so we ended up with a party of 9...well for most of the cruise. My DH, DM, DD(22) and I have all cruised before. My DM is a big Grand Circle fan and cruises rivers at least once a year. My DB, his wife and three children, 8, 10 and 11, have never cruised and were very nervous about all kinds of sickness and issues that could arise. We came back into town a month before and I was really excited that I did not have to fly anywhere for this cruise.
I was extremely excited to sail the Ovation as well as give RCCL a try. Having only sailed Carnival. I will say I was a little puzzled on all of the reservations that we needed but I spent months reviewing what we might want to participate in as a group and booking dinners, shows, IFly and Northstar. For the most part it was pretty easy but I knew that we were going to not purchase the dinning package, we had ATD, and that everyone one would take part in the same excursions. My husband and I decided our gift was to make door decor for everyone as well as canvas favor bags with shirts, water/wine canteens and items that we love to bring on our cruises such as magnets, highlighters, gum, ginger and advil etc. DH and I are pretty easy going and love to make friends with the staff and always tip our cabin steward extra as we appreciate all they do in taking care of us. There isn't a lot that frustrates us but DH does have some disabilities and occasionally walks with a cane.
The morning of the cruise DM, DH, DD and I packed up the car and drove from Olympia to Seattle Cruise Park. I checked my DB's flight from San Diego and they are delayed 45 mins. Ok still possible to make the ship so I put a text alert on my phone so I could see when they took off. This is where the drama begins. DH and I told DB that flying in the day of a cruise is crazy and why don't they change their flight to the night before, we would pick them up and drive two cars to the port. He decided to keep the day of flights. 😬 We arrived around 11am and were at the port about 10 mins later. Not a lot of traffic and the drop off was really easy. Seattle Cruise Park staff were very helpful and we would definitely use them again. We dropped our luggage near the van with a porter and proceeded into the terminal. I then received the first text alert. DB and his family are now delayed 7 hours!!! I show DH the message and tell him I need to talk with my mother to break it to her. Well she gets the call before I can soften the blow. Of course we need to still visit the tablet staff for check in and DM is now crying and pretty upset. DB is telling her it is all Alaska Airlines fault because the plane broke down and that they are going to make it work out. Ok we all know this is not AA fault. He bought day of tickets and no insurance. Really not sure how he is going to fix this but I needed to get the 4 of us on the boat and give my DM something else to think about for a little bit.
Check in was super easy and there were 5-7 people ahead of us while walking on. From parking to the ship was about an hour and 15-20 mins was the call from DB so really easy and no crowds. We knew we could not check out our cabins until 1 so we headed to the Windjammer, found a table and got lunch. This was the first time I actually felt the ship. It kind of took me by surprise because it felt more of a sway of front to back but really subtle. Plus we were still in port. DH gets seasick, uses patches, ginger and wrist bands, but I have never been seasick. There is always a first. Another poster stated that he felt the Ovation swayed more than other ships he had been on. I have to agree. We have sailed the Pacific Coast and this almost felt more of a top front to back motion.
I have to say all of us were in awe of this ship and could not wait to see our cabins and meet our cabin stewards. At 1pm sharp the cabin hallways were opened. We were very happy with the layout of our cabin and our cabin steward, Wawan. DM and DD had Eloy. We would enjoy getting to know them and they were always there to assist with anything we needed. I strongly suggest getting a balcony cabin for an Alaska Cruise. DH loves them but I usually want to run up top for the sights and never use them as much as he does. This balcony came in handy many times to spot wild life or when we visited the glacier. Oh and when the Coast Guard came. 🤕
We participated in the drill and by the time it was over DM had the new plans with DB. AA felt that they missed the cruise because of their mechanical difficulties so they were flying them to Seattle, putting them up in a Hotel at Seatac, and on Sat. am flying them to Juneau, putting them up at another Hotel in Juneau, and they would join us on Sunday, DM birthday. She was thrilled!!! I told DH that my DB was extremely lucky. The catch was that they could only cruise until Victoria because of the Jones Act. I still need to look up the full layman term of the "Jones Act".😂 DM was happy that her son, his wife and three grand kids would be joining us so who was I to complain. Ok maybe I did a little to DH but hey what are spouses for?
I should say to those of you that are looking for Ocean Adventure information on the Ovation, I really had a goal of getting some information for you but by the time the kids got on board they were not really interested in going to OA. DN (8) tried the first night (Juneau for them) but she just didn't feel it. I am sorry and hope someone on a future cruise will post a review with OA in mind.
We sailed away and everyone was happy! Until dinner. We had ATD but I had made reservations for 9 of us. Well my DS's, not on this cruise, GF and her good friend had actually booked this cruise before they started dating. She joined us for dinner that night so we ended up with 6. This is where is was very different from Carnival. We arrived at The Grande and it was no problem that only 6 of us came to dinner but I noticed a lot of people who were waiting in the no reservation line. The food was ok. Our party tried many different dishes and desserts, and for the most part everyone said the food was not great but not bad. When we were ready to leave a gentleman, I think the maitre d, asked me if the rest of our party would be joining us for the rest of the cruise? I explained that my DB did not make the cruise (Juneau boarding) and that I knew the next night there would only be 4 of us. He was fine with this but stressed that I had to talk with everyone and plan our dinners. I understood and felt it was no big deal. The next night DD, DH and I were all sick so we didn't go back but I did let them know we would not be making it. When DB and his family boarded on Sunday we did return to The Grande for our reservations. It was DM's birthday and the staff did a great job in singing to her and celebrating her birthday with us...until again as we were eating dessert the same man came to me and stated that he really needed to know all of our dinner times and would we be keeping them the same? We had just connected with DB and his family a few hours before so I told him that I would come back down later and discuss it with him. He actually told me that I needed to come up to the check in podium and confirm the next night at that time. I was now getting bugged. I spent a lot of time with these reservations but it was DM's birthday and we had plans. I confirmed the next evening with him and said I would get back to him with the rest of the weeks confirmations. Later on that evening the adults decided we would not return as it was not truly ATD and the food was not that great either night. We were always cordial and a party of nine would be a little bit of a wait but we were hearing from other larger parties that they were doing the same to them. Not sure what was going on but this put a bad taste as our family really enjoys a good dinner together but not all of our party can pay for an up charge on a specialty restaurant. I also didn't appreciate the push while I am on vacation. Sometimes we drink or eat too many snacks and we aren't ready for dinner at a certain time.
We are not big foodies so we stuck to the Windjamer, as we felt it was comparable to The Grande. We did have dinner the last formal night at the Solarium Bistro, the only place we could get in. DH and I had reservations and we went to talk to the staff and see if all 9 of us would be able to get in. "No problem! Come back in 20 mins!" It got great reviews by everyone in our party. The staff was great and very attentive to all of us. We had skirt steak, the lobster, shrimp skewers, spaghetti and salmon. All of it was really good. They also had the best chocolate mouse we have had. I kept looking for good chocolate on this ship and was having trouble finding something really rich and dark. This hit it. I really wish we had gone to the Solarium Bistro earlier on.
I am not going to review Juneau or Skagway as there are good reviews out there and we just walked around each port and took the train ride. Endicott Arms and Dawes Glacier were a hit as none of us had seen a glacier before. We had great weather and the captain turned us around 2 or 3 times. This is when our balcony came in handy because there were a lot of passengers up top. I know some have said its small compared to some of the other glaciers but it was still a first for us and we enjoyed it.
I love Victoria. I spent 4 days there last December for my 50th so I could not wait to get back. DB and his family had to disembark, probably the easiest one they will ever have since they were the only ones disembarking. We have been to the gardens and other tours so we decided to show everyone the town and have lunch at Bard and Banker. DB checked into his hotel and they joined us. They still had to figure out which ferry to get back to Seattle for their afternoon flight the next day. We were surprised that the Celebrity, I think Solstice, didn't arrive until 4:30pm. They were at port Friday am so that is a pretty short port stop.
I will say that we had good weather almost the whole cruise. If it rained it was usually the early morning or later in the afternoon. We did have afternoon/evening swells/rolling on the first sea day. No white caps but it made all of us sick. I ran to guest services to get the meclizine pills for DD and DH and let them know that it looked like we would be out of it around 3 am. They both fell asleep. Believe it or not I actually woke up at 3:10 am and it was subsiding. We never felt sick again but did feel that the ship swayed a bit most of the time. Note to self...even if someone gifts you a cruise don't get a cabin in the front. Not sure it would have made a difference in this cruise but DH and I usually get deck 6 or 7 aft. Because of the illness from the night before we missed our Meet and Mingle. Very sad about that as we have participated before and were looking forward to it.
IFly, Northstar, bumper cars, all of the pools were all a hit. The kids all did IFly, I got 3 spots at the last min., and they loved it. Everyone wished Northstar lasted longer but they enjoyed it. DH and I loved the Solarium and the pools. I almost need a vacation to just sit in there a whole cruise. This ship was perfect for the taste of Alaska as there is soooooo much glass. You can see almost anywhere.
Coming out of Endicott Arms there was a medical emergency. The captain came on to announce that we would be stopping for a visit from the Coast Guard helicopter to pick up a very ill passenger. He explained that it may take a few tries for them to be able to pick them up. We said a little prayer while they were making their attempts and wished her well. It was very interesting watching them work as we were on our balcony near the front so we could see each attempt pretty close until they went around the bridge. I have read about cruise ships having to evacuate passengers but we have never actually seen what it takes. Kudos to the Coast Guard and the captain.
We saw Pixels, and A Beautiful Dream as a group and they were both great. The cast from Pixels were done after our show so it was especially exciting. They teared some of us up as they were all emotional that it was their last show together. A Beautiful Dream was amazing on another level. The kids didn't like it as much but still felt it was good. A few of us also saw the comedy show and liked it a lot. We only heard the band in the Music Hall and were not fans. Not sure what their names were but usually we would enter the casino through the side of the Music Hall and they were playing.
The ship was amazing but there a some things that might sway a future cruise on her. The sway factor was real to us. It did feel tight and crowded at times. Mostly in the Promenade and the Windjammer. The staff was hit or miss. We met some that seemed like they were just "there" and doing a job. Others were over the top and we enjoyed their energy. The food was a turn off. DH and I know that this can be hit or miss and it just didn't work for us. The whole reservation thing was a hassle. I go on vacation because I spend most of my waking hours planning. I don't want to do it on a vacation. This is just us, it obviously works for others. Overall not sure if we will try RCCL again, I received a casino offer already, but we may if the itinerary is something we want to try. For now we are going to head back out on the road.