The Ovation of the Seas  is the world’s fourth largest cruise ship and the largest ever to visit Australia. It’s the newest of three “Quantum Class” ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, and it’s very hard to get all of it in one photo.

I was privileged to be invited on board for a tour of the Ovation during its recent stopover in Fremantle. I’ve never taken a cruise, although it’s long been on my to-do list (an Alaskan one in particular, if anyone’s listening) and this was my first time stepping onto a cruise ship.

Costing an eye-watering $1.3 billion, here’s a few facts about the Ovation of the Seas:

  • it can carry up to 4,905 passengers and 1,500 crew
  • it has 2,091 staterooms, with 1,572 having a balcony
  • it measures 41 metres wide and 347 metres long (nearly three football fields)
  • it has 18 decks, with 16 accessible by guests
  • on board activities include a rock-climbing wall, surf simulator, two outdoor pools, two indoor pools, a casino, a video arcade…

Getting onto the ship was quite a process, although not too onerous in hindsight when you consider 5,000 passengers hopping on and off for a quick bit of sight seeing. Not to mention annoying media tours.

I’d never been to the Fremantle Port Authority building before and it looks really old and tired. It feels like a multi-level high school gym with escalators.

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you may be wondering what it’s really like on board. Is it really a glamorous, floating hotel? Yes, it is.

Once you step inside, you lose the notion that you’re on a boat until you happen to walk past a window, or end up on deck. It reminded me of being in a large resort like Crown Melbourne, where there are all manner of services and differently themed restaurants trying to tempt you in. There’s plenty of (expensive) shopping to be done as well, with the likes of Cartier and Omega boutiques on board just in case you get bored.

Live entertainment is provided in several different areas around the ship – this theatre holds 1,800 people. Projectors in the Ovation’s Club270 at the front of the ship can produce images on screens 30 metres long and at a staggering 12K resolution.

There’s art everywhere, and it was nice to see Christmas decorations. There’s a Jamie’s Italian. There’s a gym, a day spa, a theatre, a casino, and even an arena full of bumper cards. If you want it, it’s probably on board somewhere.

The attention to detail is impressive, down to the changed-daily plates in the floors of all 16 elevators that offer a simple but important reminder of what day it is.

The Ovation of the Seas has 18 decks, and it’s a long way up when you get to the top. You wonder if this gigantic beast is ever troubled by the ocean. I never felt any motion in my time on board, but obviously we were stationary.

The ship is just as impressive up on deck, and it’s here that you really get an idea of the scale. The clear cylinder in the shot above is an iFLY, where you can do some “indoor” skydiving.

The “North Star” observation capsule provides 360-degree views, and rises to a mind-boggling 300 feet (91 metres) above sea-level.

Of course there’s a pool with a bar…and this isn’t the only one. The Ovation has four pools in total.

There are plenty of touch screen around the ship to provide general information to guests, or help you find your way back to your cabin if you’ve had a bit too much to drink (or if you just get lost, which wouldn’t be difficult).

So what about the food? There are several buffet restaurants on board, and four themed dining rooms (American, Japanese etc). The themed rooms used to serve similarly themed meals, although customer feedback wasn’t positive so now they all serve the same food.

The buffet offered a large selection of simple meals including salads, hot dishes, pre-made sandwiches, a build-it-yourself burger bar and desserts.

If you’re after something a little more sophisticated there are other restaurants to dine in at additional cost, including the above-mentioned Jamie’s Italian and a Heston-style degustation restaurant where you have to “paint” the menu with water to reveal what you’ll be dining on.

Doesn’t every hotel have a robotic bar?

An estimated 22 million people take a cruise somewhere in the world each year and I can see why, although I also see why it isn’t for everyone. It’s busy on board and there’s really no way to get away from people, apart from the confines of your cabin – unfortunately I wasn’t able to see inside any of the accommodation. You’re limited by the ship’s facilities, but when it comes to holiday needs there’s not much you could ask for that isn’t provided in some form.

The Ovation of the Seas is based in Sydney for 2017, and will spend the year cruising around Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the South Pacific. An eight-night cruise starts at just $1,700 – see here for more itineraries, pricing and that all important “book now” button.

See below for some more photos from my time on board the Ovation, which cover only a fraction of the ship. Wherever you’ve been, there’s always more to see.