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El Abuelo

Just back from Ovation / Alaska

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TL/DR - we enjoyed the ship, itinerary, crew and fellow passengers. No major complaints, mostly nit-picking.  It was a good trip. 

 

Ship

Our fourth ship (Allure, Freedom, Harmony) This ship felt a bit narrow and cramped, though I think we’re spoiled after being on Allure and Harmony.  The promenade feels like it has more space dedicated to stores and less to walk or enjoy. The outside pool area and running track also felt crowded. While at sea the weather was 50’s & 60's and rainy, so we spent little time outside, which just made the inside seem all the more enclosed.

 

It does have two adult attractions – Northstar and Ripcord. Northstar was nice – about 8 or 9 minutes up with a pleasant view and an attendant making wisecracks. When we were at Dawes Glacier they charged for the ride. Northstar was not working for the first 2 ½ days of the cruise. Ripcord was like a popular ride at a theme park – an hour waiting in-line for a minute long ride. I was disappointed, because it needs a bit of skill, which means more than one trip, and there’s not enough availability. It was fully booked as the cruise began. It’s similar to FlowRider in that a passenger mastering the basics will be allowed more time, while someone wiping out early is just moved out.  

 

There was a large multipurpose indoor court / area where there were bumper cars, skating, and ball games, with volleyball and a dodge ball contest. This area was always in use and quite popular.

 

We felt the ship moved / rocked more than Oasis class. Others probably complained, as the captain made an announcement regarding currents and ship stabilizers toward the end of the cruise. We overheard someone say “top heavy”. Certainly the sea did not appear  choppy enough to cause the excessive and never ending movement, but it was substantially more than we have experienced on other trips.

 

The gym was well equipped (for our needs). No vitality cafe, which we missed.

 

Royal Theater was large and the seats comfortable. We saw two headliner shows that we really enjoyed, more so than any other cruise so far.  There were also two live bands, one was the worst we’ve heard on any cruise. I guess it averages out. Two70 is a nice area with great views, we caught part of the show, which was entertaining. That food option is fine, (assembly salads and sandwiches) but could be so much more with some better training and logistics. Both the theater and the food are nice options not available on the Oasis class. 

 

No smell of smoking anywhere, and this was the first time we've been able to walk through a casino. Not sure where the smoking area was,  we only saw smokers twice, both times a couple of jerks secretly smoking in public areas. 

 

I think we would have found this ship more enjoyable if we hadn’t cruised first on Allure and Harmony. Still, More nits than real complaints. 

 

Itinerary

We didn’t care for a sea / land combination, so the Seattle round trip appealed to us. We were nonetheless left with a feeling of too many sea days (4) and not enough port visits (3). The ports we did visit were very good, with a nice variety of both RCI and locally based excursions, plenty of time to visit. We saw lots of marine life, including two Orca pods that were kind enough to spend over an hour with us and put on quite a display. It’s still a good option for people looking for a simple Alaska visit and not interested in ship / land combinations.

 

Crew

Crew was just as good as ever - hard working, trying to please.

 

Fellow passengers

Different from Caribbean cruises. Not as much drinking, partying or at the pool. Also not as many families with young children. Not as much yelling. On formal nights there seemed to be fewer passengers with formal dress. Overall, dress was not as relaxed as we’ve seen with Caribbean itineraries.  

We were in a grand suite (second time), breakfast and dinner in CK, lunch in WJ. No complaints about the food. Lots of variety. Some people just don't know basic hygiene and etiquette   in a buffet, but this was definitely less of an issue than we've seen in the Caribbean cruises. CK staff was top notch, Nadia in the lounge was perfect. The lounge was fine, with a nice view. Sometimes crowded and often noisy but always a place to sit and never unpleasant. There were 5 Pinnacles, we met them and had some pleasant conversations. Surprising, it turns out they are real people and just like everyone else. (based on comments here I expected horns, tails and pitchforks)

 

Seattle port terminal is a zoo, makes us appreciate Port Everglades all the more. Both priority check-in and departure is quite limited – almost non-existent. We queued for 40 minutes to check in,  with many RCI people around but none  particularly helpful. For disembarkation we used Seattle Port Valet, which was very helpful. There was an immigration / customs check, but they didn’t really do much except smile and glance at the passports. The terminal is very small and a full ship overwhelms it. In and out early is best, and better to allow plenty of time for the crowds. I went down for coffee at 6 and saw lots of passengers queued for early self-departure.

 

Good binoculars and a rain jacket are a must for this cruise.

Edited by El Abuelo

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Thanks for your review - and tips.

 

We’re sailing on Radiance next year for a B2B in Alaska, and so I’m curious if you did ship-sponsored excursions while in port, or if you did independent tours....

 

(P.S. Love your screen name!)

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18 minutes ago, KansCocoa said:

Thanks for your review - and tips.

 

We’re sailing on Radiance next year for a B2B in Alaska, and so I’m curious if you did ship-sponsored excursions while in port, or if you did independent tours....

 

(P.S. Love your screen name!)

Gracias.

We did one RCI excursion (Skagway White Pass Rail) one independent (whale watching), one port on our own (Victoria). The rail didn't have an option to buy directly from them, and I read it was a very popular and highly rated excursion (righty so). I checked cruise planner and got it on sale (a real sale). Whale watching (Juneau) we wanted a smaller boat and were  very happy with our choice.  Victoria island, we went to the Royal BC Museum on our own, then lunched in the BC Parliament Legislator's dining room.  We were very pleased with all the choices, and other passengers seemed pleased as well with their choices. Compared with our Caribbean experiences, the variety and quality of excursions on this itinerary was quite nice.

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El Abuelo - Just spotted your post with the Ovation Dailies.  Thanks.  We go in 26 days.  Thanks again.

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1 hour ago, El Abuelo said:

TL/DR - we enjoyed the ship, itinerary, crew and fellow passengers. No major complaints, mostly nit-picking.  It was a good trip. 

 

Ship

Our fourth ship (Allure, Freedom, Harmony) This ship felt a bit narrow and cramped, though I think we’re spoiled after being on Allure and Harmony.  The promenade feels like it has more space dedicated to stores and less to walk or enjoy. The outside pool area and running track also felt crowded. While at sea the weather was 50’s & 60's and rainy, so we spent little time outside, which just made the inside seem all the more enclosed.

 

It does have two adult attractions – Northstar and Ripcord. Northstar was nice – about 8 or 9 minutes up with a pleasant view and an attendant making wisecracks. When we were at Dawes Glacier they charged for the ride. Northstar was not working for the first 2 ½ days of the cruise. Ripcord was like a popular ride at a theme park – an hour waiting in-line for a minute long ride. I was disappointed, because it needs a bit of skill, which means more than one trip, and there’s not enough availability. It was fully booked as the cruise began. It’s similar to FlowRider in that a passenger mastering the basics will be allowed more time, while someone wiping out early is just moved out.  

 

There was a large multipurpose indoor court / area where there were bumper cars, skating, and ball games, with volleyball and a dodge ball contest. This area was always in use and quite popular.

 

We felt the ship moved / rocked more than Oasis class. Others probably complained, as the captain made an announcement regarding currents and ship stabilizers toward the end of the cruise. We overheard someone say “top heavy”. Certainly the sea did not appear  choppy enough to cause the excessive and never ending movement, but it was substantially more than we have experienced on other trips.

 

The gym was well equipped (for our needs). No vitality cafe, which we missed.

 

Royal Theater was large and the seats comfortable. We saw two headliner shows that we really enjoyed, more so than any other cruise so far.  There were also two live bands, one was the worst we’ve heard on any cruise. I guess it averages out. Two70 is a nice area with great views, we caught part of the show, which was entertaining. That food option is fine, (assembly salads and sandwiches) but could be so much more with some better training and logistics. Both the theater and the food are nice options not available on the Oasis class. 

 

No smell of smoking anywhere, and this was the first time we've been able to walk through a casino. Not sure where the smoking area was,  we only saw smokers twice, both times a couple of jerks secretly smoking in public areas. 

 

I think we would have found this ship more enjoyable if we hadn’t cruised first on Allure and Harmony. Still, More nits than real complaints. 

 

Itinerary

We didn’t care for a sea / land combination, so the Seattle round trip appealed to us. We were nonetheless left with a feeling of too many sea days (4) and not enough port visits (3). The ports we did visit were very good, with a nice variety of both RCI and locally based excursions, plenty of time to visit. We saw lots of marine life, including two Orca pods that were kind enough to spend over an hour with us and put on quite a display. It’s still a good option for people looking for a simple Alaska visit and not interested in ship / land combinations.

 

Crew

Crew was just as good as ever - hard working, trying to please.

 

Fellow passengers

Different from Caribbean cruises. Not as much drinking, partying or at the pool. Also not as many families with young children. Not as much yelling. On formal nights there seemed to be fewer passengers with formal dress. Overall, dress was not as relaxed as we’ve seen with Caribbean itineraries.  

We were in a grand suite (second time), breakfast and dinner in CK, lunch in WJ. No complaints about the food. Lots of variety. Some people just don't know basic hygiene and etiquette   in a buffet, but this was definitely less of an issue than we've seen in the Caribbean cruises. CK staff was top notch, Nadia in the lounge was perfect. The lounge was fine, with a nice view. Sometimes crowded and often noisy but always a place to sit and never unpleasant. There were 5 Pinnacles, we met them and had some pleasant conversations. Surprising, it turns out they are real people and just like everyone else. (based on comments here I expected horns, tails and pitchforks)

 

Seattle port terminal is a zoo, makes us appreciate Port Everglades all the more. Both priority check-in and departure is quite limited – almost non-existent. We queued for 40 minutes to check in,  with many RCI people around but none  particularly helpful. For disembarkation we used Seattle Port Valet, which was very helpful. There was an immigration / customs check, but they didn’t really do much except smile and glance at the passports. The terminal is very small and a full ship overwhelms it. In and out early is best, and better to allow plenty of time for the crowds. I went down for coffee at 6 and saw lots of passengers queued for early self-departure.

 

Good binoculars and a rain jacket are a must for this cruise.

What time did you arrive at the port for check in?  Did they board by C&A loyaly tiers?

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Thanks for the report - we'll be doing this cruise on Aug. 2 and looking forward to it - will be first trip to Alaska for us.

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59 minutes ago, vrock said:

What time did you arrive at the port for check in?  Did they board by C&A loyaly tiers?

We took an Uber, arrived 12:30 - ish at a common dropoff area for 2 cruises (RCI Ovation and Celebrity Millennium) , walked with luggage to a shuttle that took us to the boarding area. Two long lines outside the terminal for all passengers. Once inside they looked at the set sail pass and ID but stayed in line for a second look at id and set sail pass. That took about 40-45 minutes, no separate lines for C&A or suite. Once we made it to check-in area there was a separate area to check in suites, but it was confusing and they weren't doing a good job of routing passengers to the proper queue, so we got there by accident. The terminal space is a big constraint, and so is the flow management. 

 

They many have offered some type of priority boarding earlier. As we waited in the first queue a few passengers were expedited. 

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I believe the itineraries which start in Vancouver give you more Alaska ports, Don't have to stop in Victoria.  I liked Victoria,but it is not Alaska. We enjoyed Anthem, have the feeling Quantum class ships are the best cold weather ships.

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Did you use Uber after disembarking too?  If so, how was the Uber staging area?  Some posts in the  Port of Call boards have said that the lines for taxis were very long (over an hour wait) and that there were many, many people in the ride-share area and that crowd control was erratic. How was your experience?

 

Thanks,  Pat

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1 hour ago, vistapat said:

Did you use Uber after disembarking too?  If so, how was the Uber staging area?  Some posts in the  Port of Call boards have said that the lines for taxis were very long (over an hour wait) and that there were many, many people in the ride-share area and that crowd control was erratic. How was your experience?

 

Thanks,  Pat

I read the same  and didn’t want to take a chance or wait in line that long, so we hired a limo. I called for pickup when we left the terminal, it still took 15 minutes for the car to get to us at 9am. There was a line for taxis but I couldn’t estimate the wait. The rideshare / limo pickup area was shoulder to shoulder, and when we got in our car at 9:15 or so, many more people were walking into the pickup area than driving out. Like a Grand Central station Friday at rush hour, Not having to deal with our luggage was a major advantage. Seattle luggage valet is a real benefit. 

 

Crowd control was definitely erratic. Every time we stopped inside the terminal, just to get our bearings, someone walked up and told us to move. Signage was inadequate. Once outside, it was a mass of people. 

 

 

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I find you take on iFly interesting.  On Anthem there were as many young kids and older adults as middle age and young adults (if that makes any sense).  Guess I am trying to say there did not seem to be one major age range and I did not notice that there was any age range that had more or less trouble.  The instructors were very good and if someone was having a difficult time they would take over and make sure the person had a fun experience.  We will be on Ovation for Alaska in Sept. of 2020 so we will see if there is any difference.  Did you go up in North Star at the glacier.  We are hoping if they charge it will be kinda like Chef's Table where Star Class gets a price break.  It was fun to read your review, we are worried about Seattle as we have been through there on a Celebrity Alaska cruise and it was crowded back in 2012.  Glad we have time to read about the best transportation options available.

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5 hours ago, lovescats5 said:

I find your take on iFly interesting.  On Anthem there were as many young kids and older adults as middle age and young adults (if that makes any sense).  Guess I am trying to say there did not seem to be one major age range and I did not notice that there was any age range that had more or less trouble.  The instructors were very good and if someone was having a difficult time they would take over and make sure the person had a fun experience.  .

We'd agree..I did iFly on Ovation in Sydney back in December. The group in front of us, our group, and the group after us all had a balanced representation of kids, millennials, middle-age, and 50+ on each "team". No single age group stood out in terms of the number. We had 14 people on all the teams on Ovation that day.

 

The part of the OP review that stood out to me was the comment about the ship's size being "cramped and narrow". That's not at all the case in our view.

 

Make no mistake...she is big. Our group of 6 never found it cramped nor narrow, in fact...we were able to enjoy nearly everything on board over a 10-day cruise including Flowrider, iFly, and NorthStar. It's just a different ship configuration/layout. But cramped...nope. We can only imagine how spectacular NorthStar would be viewing icebergs (we've done Alaska on Radiance in the past too).

 

We've been on Oasis twice, Allure & Harmony once, so we're very familiar with that group. Ovation is not that much smaller - 5000 passengers - but what gives it a smaller appearance in comparison is the more narrow promenade and of course not having the Central Park or Boardwalk areas. But still...she is large, and the largest ship they've ever seen in Sydney (by a substantial margin). For those sailing her in Alaska - enjoy!

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6 hours ago, Cruisegirl6 said:

Did you see any whales and or wildlife?

Yup. We saw a whale when we were in Northstar. We had a whale watching excursion  in Juneau and saw lots of Orcas and some whales, and  bald eagles along the drive.When docked at Victoria island we saw quite a few sea otters and turtles.

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Did they check passports when you disembarked in Victoria? Personally, I have one, and I'll be bringing it. But, there's a person in our group who does not. I don't know her well, so I don't know the details on why, and really they're not important. I'm just trying to help her figure out if she can join our excursion in Victoria. I remember going through an immigration kiosk last time we called there, and showing my passport, but it was 3 years ago, so I could be misremembering. 

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25 minutes ago, cft8 said:

Did they check passports when you disembarked in Victoria? 

No passport checks on closed loop cruises from Seattle. 

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2 hours ago, cruisenbuckeyes said:

El Abuelo,  do you remember the earliest flight time to be able to use Port Valet?  

11:00 am. 

 

Friday morning traffic was heavy and the port congested, so my guess is most people leaving at that hour did the early self-disembarkation. We left the Bolero lounge around 8:45 and made it to  SeaTac around 10:15-10:30, our flight was 12:20

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38 minutes ago, Biker19 said:

No passport checks on closed loop cruises from Seattle. 

Right. A Canadian immigration type form was left in our cabin the night before with a request to fill and drop off at guest services.

 

edit - it’s a Canadian customs form. 

Edited by El Abuelo

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5 minutes ago, El Abuelo said:

Right. A Canadian immigration type form was left in our cabin the night before with a request to fill and drop off at guest services.

Thanks! I probably showed my passport in hopes of getting a stamp (which they evidently did not give me, because I don't have one 😊). 

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Nice positive review. 👍

 

We are doing this cruise in a couple of weeks. It will be our first Alaska cruise and first on a Quantum class ship.

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If you did not like the itinerary why did you chose this cruise.  We looked at one way cruises and you do not have to do a sea/land cruise.  We booked the Seattle round trip for Sept. 2020 and know we will not get to the towns we did in 2012 but are good with Ovation and all she has to offer.  Looking forward to seeing how it compares to Anthem, I know they are the same class, but they are different ships. 

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Going on Aug. 2. I have  been to Alaska a few times but never on a cruise.Been on Quantum and Anthem-several times. Looking forward to this Ovation cruise. Did you attend the enrichment lectures and if you did, did you find them valuable?

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Was the ship on time docking in Juneau? We have a 12:30 whale watching excursion with Alaska Shore excursions. They have told us that we should be ok but after reading a post from May where they were late arriving, I am now stressing.

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26 minutes ago, microtaz said:

Was the ship on time docking in Juneau? We have a 12:30 whale watching excursion with Alaska Shore excursions. They have told us that we should be ok but after reading a post from May where they were late arriving, I am now stressing.

Don't stress - the tour operators are well aware if the ships will be late and make accommodations for it.  It is their livelihood and they don't want negative reviews.  BTW - you will have phone service just in case you have to contact the tour company.  Don't stress - be happy  :classic_biggrin:

Edited by geospyder

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