We just returned from our cruise on Ovation and I decided to post some thoughts here as the Ovation doesn’t get a lot of comments.
Caveat: We used to cruise only Hapag Lloyd but due to having kids now decided to try out some mass-market lines. We did Celebrity Solstice a bit over a year ago so there will be some comparisons.
Room: We had a Grand Suite which was good-sized (about the size of HL's entry-level rooms). The bathtub-shower combo was not ideal but there was enough space to easily move around even with kids. 😉 We thought is was much better for travelling with the little ones than the Sky Suite on Solstice as we had a curtain to separate the areas.
Kids Entertainment: Good program at the kids club but only having 100 spots total for over 1000 kids on board is just not okay. People started lining up to get into the little kids’ club 20 minutes earlier with usually no spots left 5 minutes before they opened. It was better towards the end of the cruise, probably because most parents had given up by then.
Food: What can I say… We are food snobs and there wasn’t one single dish that I would describe as truly good but it was better than expected. We were surprised by the fact that food items such as the pizza and desserts/sweet treats were actually better on Ovation than on Solstice as we had heard that Celebrity had the better food. We had access to the suite restaurant on both ships and neither came even close to the kind of food offered on Hapag Lloyd. Solstice’s Luminae had a few good dishes but also quite a few disasters, while Ovation’s Coastal Kitchen was more consistent (in being average). The suite lounge was also better on Ovation. Not so dark and better food offerings. We avoided the speciality restaurants as our try on Solstice was a major fail and the reviews weren't very promising.
Ports: RCI cancelled the exact same excursion that X had cancelled the year before so we didn’t even get of the ship in Noumea. We didn’t find it very exciting the last time around. Mystery Island was quite enjoyable. The kids loved playing at the beach and in the shallow water. There were same blue box jelly fish but thankfully only on one side of the island.
Embarkation/disembarkation in Sydney: Embarkation was much easier with RCCL, maybe 20 minutes max. Was a zoo with Solstice, possibly due to the Noro outbreak on board. Getting off took only 5 minutes on both ships.
Other stuff: We didn’t really do much as the kids are still too little to leave them alone in the evening. We tried the rock-climbing and the North Star which were both fun, sadly missed our appointment for the iFly rip cord thingy on the first morning (and no availability left for the whole cruise), and spent some time in the casino. After finding out it was still possible to use the on-board credit to play (with a 5% fee), I played through all of it and brought the winnings home in cash. 😄 Internet was good throughout the cruise. Service was fine. A bit slow in CK and a few forgotten water bottles when also ordering something else but overall no complaints.
We have decided for ourselves that we won’t book a suite on a mass-market ship again. Food is one of our main enjoyments and they just can’t deliver. And when pricing a family cabin on a Europa 2-cruise, it’s actually not more expensive in most cases. Still, due to our super-low expectations after the Solstice cruise, we came home positively surprised. And the kids certainly had a good time. 😉