Ovation of the Seas has left Germany behind, and is heading for Southampton. Crowds gathered at Bremerhaven cruise terminal to send the 168,666-ton ship on its way and a selection of music – from Enya’s Sail Away to a version of Wild Rover in German – blasted out across the water, silenced only when Captain Henrik Loy blew three blasts on the ship’s whistle.
Work continues at a feverish pace to prepare the ship for the arrival of the first guests, from the media and travel trade, who step aboard for a one-off event on Monday.
All weekend a team of craftsmen has been putting the finishing touches to a mirrored silver art installation lining The Via walkway between the Royal Esplanade and the Vintages wine bar. In keeping with the ship’s future deployment in the Far East, it looks like an enchanted – and very blingy – bamboo forest.
The Chinese connection is everywhere, from the dual language signage around the 4,180-passenger vessel to some of the pictures adorning the stairwells.
Ovation’s sister ships each have a giant-sized animal sculpture outside the top deck Seaplex – a pink bear in the case of Quantum of the Seas and a giraffe wearing an inflatable rubber ring on Anthem. There’s nothing yet on board Ovation, apart from some steel brackets on which the creature will be mounted, and everyone from company chairman Richard Fain down is staying tight-lipped and very secretive.
My money has always been on something that continues the China theme, but my fear is that it would be too obvious. Like everyone else, I will have to wait a few more days.
Inside Seaplex, rows of dodgem cars are plugged into charging points while a trapeze training school is set up in the middle of the rink. Round the corner, the climbing wall, Flowrider surf simulator, and Ripcord by iFly sky-diving simulator await their first thrill-seekers
Back inside the ship, dancers are rehearsing in the theatre for the first performances of two specially-created shows – The Dream, and Live.Love.Legs. At the other end of the vessel, in Two70, aerialists descend from the ceiling, tumbling and turning, as they prepare for performances of Spectra’s Cabaret.
Groups of staff gather for briefings from their bosses; waiters take wine glasses from box after box; furniture is removed from packing cases, and shops are being stocked with watches, T-shirts and souvenirs.
Everywhere there are earnest techies and managers – from Royal Caribbean and from shipbuilder Meyer-Werft – peering at spreadsheets and bar-charts on their laptop screens, checking that last-minute preparations are running to schedule.
After the inaugural events in Southampton and the official maiden voyage, Ovation sets out May 3 for a 52-night odyssey to China, where she will spend the summer. In November she will re-position to Sydney for a winter cruising the waters of Australia and New Zealand.