Cruise on the smartest ship at sea

VIRTUAL SKYDIVING: Soar like an eagle and get full body exfoliation.

By any measure, it’s a colossus and it’s coming to a port near you. After all, this is a ship that cracks 19,900 eggs a day in its main kitchen.

Fresh from the inaugural sailing from its European shipyards via the Middle East to Asia, I’ve just spent three night’s aboard Ovation of a Seas on a taster cruise out of Singapore.

New car smell is a knock-out fragrance, but new mega-ship smell kept my nostrils partying for 72 hours. So just how big is this billion dollar behemoth?

It may not be the most salubrious frame of reference, but she weighs in at four times the tonnage of Titanic. She’s three and half rugby fields long. One and a half laps around the running track clocks up a kilometre. Catering to 4900 passengers and boasting 1300 crew, she towers 15 stories.

Currently ranked as the fourth-equal largest cruise ship in the world (Royal Caribbean clean sweeps the top five), this latest entrant to the company’s Quantum Class of vessels is also considered the smartest ship at sea.

Aside from the daily Cruise Compass programme of activities, there’s a conspicuous absence of paper – a very good thing given passenger loading.

Liberally sprinkled across the ship, Royal IQ stations and mounted iPads, enable you to book every activity imaginable, from shore excursions, to spa treatments. You can also download the Royal IQ app, which doesn’t require paid for WiFi to operate, to make bookings and build your custom calendar, on your own device.

Speaking of WiFi, Royal Caribbean reputedly offers the speediest service at sea. I despise WiFi charges, and Royal Caribbean’s web packages start at a pesky US$13 a day – but at least the service is robust and Roadrunner-fast.

The design elements and contemporary art works throughout the vessel ooze class, comparable to the fresh, crisp and elegant interiors of a new build, five-star hotel. Royal Caribbean whips up much buzz over its inventive prowess to its active leisure and entertainment offerings like North Star, the glass capsule that soars 90m above and to the side of the ship, and Flowrider, the virtual surfing innovation.

But the newest toy is Ripcord by iFLY – the world’s first freefalling skydive simulator at sea.

Previously disgracing myself on Flowrider, I was determined to make a better fist of virtual skydiving. After being suited up and given a basic skills briefing, you’re encased within a billowing glass tube, with a gargantuan vertical fan (covered by a grill) blasting air up at you at 160km/h.

Thrust airborne, I felt like a levitating monk. And if you’ve studiously followed the briefing, astutely assuming the optimum body positions, you’ll soar like an eagle. But you certainly feel battered by the wind force.

After this unexpected full body exfoliation, I saw no need to book a spa treatment or massage. iFLY is an energising body-bashing thriller. The entertaining swirl of sensory thrills continue at Seaplex, which is like a mini-theme park.

Royal Caribbean’s bells and whistles are all geared at courting the family market, although there were plenty of seniors aboard having a whale of time. At night, I sampled Two70, the futuristic entertainment venue which has revolutionised the typical big-show affair at sea.

The multi-storey glass-panelled back end of the ship transforms into a sweeping screen for projections, while six flat-screen rhythmic robots, called roboscreens, rev up the illumination magic even more.

Studded with high-tech wizardry, the multi-dimensional live shows on Ovation of the Seas would have to be the best I’ve ever seen, on a cruise. Robotic technology has also invented mixology, with Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bar. Order up a cocktail on the bar’s iPad and watch the robotic mixologists make it and shake it.

When it comes to libations, I far prefer chatting to bar staff but for pure gimmickry, the Bionic Bar is a good for a giggle.

Prior to boarding, I had apocalyptic dreams about how hideous feeding 5000 people, at the same time, might look. The traditional notion of the main dining room has been unceremoniously axed on Ovation, replaced with five complimentary and distinct main restaurants.

They form part of the ship’s full culinary arsenal, serving up an unrivalled 18 separate dining venues. I sampled some the ship’s signature restaurants, like Izumi, Wonderland and Jamie’s Italian, which were truly exceptional.

If you’re up for a dose of extravagant molecular gastronomy in fantasy surrounds, Wonderland wows with its zany, food-science-based cuisine.