Ovation of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship based in Australia, arrives in Sydney

At the length of more than three football fields, weighing 167,800 tonnes and featuring 18 decks and 16 guest elevators, Australia's biggest, newest cruise ship - Ovation of the Seas - has arrived in Sydney.

The arrival of the $1.3 billion giant is a milestone for the cruise industry in Australia. On a drizzly morning that was a far cry from Wednesday's heatwave, the 348-metre long, 41-metre wide and 50-metre tall ship sailed into Sydney Harbour around 5.30am, coming into dock at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

On board were 4286 guests  who travelled from Singapore to Sydney and will disembark on Thursday morning.

Ovation of the Seas docks in Sydney

The fourth largest ship in the world will make Sydney her home for the next two days before sailing to New Zealand. Courtesy: Today, Nine Network.

Ovation of the Seas will stay in dock at the terminal overnight with 4618 new guests embarking on Thursday afternoon, before setting sail at 4pm on Friday  on a New Zealand cruise. 

The mega-liner is the fourth-largest cruise ship in the world and the largest cruise ship to be based in Australia, having taken the record from Explorer of the Seas, a 3800-guest, 138,000-tonne ship that arrived in November 2015. 

Traveller's national editor Anthony Dennis, who has already travelled on board the Ovation of the Seas from Singapore, has tested out the ships' new attractions including the skydiving simulator – the Ripcord by iFLY.

"I'm skydiving above Singapore, my facial cheeks temporarily embedded somewhere deep inside the recesses of my skull from the force of the wind (you know the look)," Dennis writes.

The thing about mega-ships, is that people can be put off by the number of people on board (the ship has a capacity to hold 4905 guests) but as Dennis experienced, the 'I don't want to be stuck on a ship with thousands of people' is just another myth.

"True, Ovation of the Seas does have a whopping capacity for a total of nearly 5000 'guests' (Royal Caribbean's doesn't call them plain old 'passengers' any more) with the ship also hosting a further 1500 crew.

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"You may, therefore, be surprised to learn that it's a lot less crowded than you think. Even when dining at Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italian aboard the ship the restaurant was somehow only three-quarters full and there were few, if any, queues for casual food and coffee elsewhere."

And what about giant cruise ships being like a floating RSL club?

"Aside from being disrespectful of RSL clubs this myth represents one of the most common objections of cruise sceptics. They tend to base their view of this kind of holiday around the larger passenger ships such as the Ovation of the Seas. But it's anything but tacky (and I didn't even manage to stumble across the ship's gaming area and I would actually need to check to tell you where it's located)," Dennis writes.

"Nowadays cruise ships like this one, in terms of design, owe more to upmarket hotels and resorts than they do to the old style of passenger liner with its nautical-inspired (think Neptune, seahorses and fishing nets) decor. Staterooms are stylish, contemporary and four-to-five star-like with many boasting small balconies with my cabin featuring a separate shower and toilet."

Ovation of the Seas will be based at Sydney's Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay for its maiden 2016-17 Australian summer season. 

It is Royal Caribbean Cruises' fifth locally-based cruise ship, joining sister ships Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Legend of the Seas, and making Royal Caribbean the single largest cruise line operating in Australia this season. 

In a statement RCI said Ovation of the Seas is expected to deliver millions in economic benefits for local tourism.

"Her two-day visit to Sydney is expected to inject over $3.3 million in passenger spend alone, while her maiden Australian season is expected to inject more than $35 million into the national economy," the statement reads.

The ship will make ports visits around Australia and New Zealand, and also the Pacific.The decision to name Australia as Ovation of the Seas' first home port represents the continuing growth of cruising in the domestic market. 

The Australian cruise industry now generates $4.58 billion in economic output, according to the most recent figures from the Cruise Lines International Association, and has risen 43 per cent in the last three years. Last year, more than 1 million Australians took a cruise trip, while more than 40 cruise ships will sail Australian waters this summer.

Ovation of the Seas hit the water for the first time in March this year sailing down River Ems from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, in northwestern Germany, where the ship was constructed.

The ship's first stop was Southampton, where she cruised a list of short itineraries before heading to Beijing in June 2016. China was Ovation of the Seas' first home port after launch. The ship was based in Shanghai from May 2016 before being home-ported in Sydney.

Ovation, the 24th ship to join the RCI's fleet, is the most technologically advanced cruise ship to arrive in Australia. The mega ship is the third Quantum-class ship in RCI's fleet, which also includes Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. German-based Meyer Werft has built all of RCI's Quantum-class ships. (Read: Our review of Quantum of the Seas)

Quantum-class ships features include: Ripcord by iFLY – a thrill-seeking simulator that allows passengers to experience skydiving on a cruise ship (see Twitter video above); Bionic Bar, where patrons are served by robot bar tenders; North Star, an observation capsule that rises more than 90 metres in the air (the company said the North Star would reach higher than the pylons on the Sydney Harbour Bridge); 18 restaurants including Jamie's Italian; and SeaPlex, a large indoor activity space that includes basketball, roller-skating and bumper cars.

Only having just arrived for her maiden season in Australia, RCI will be bringing Ovation of the Seas back for a second season in 2017-18.

OVATION OF THE SEAS: THE FACTS

4905 Total number of passengers

2091 Number of staterooms

1572 Number with balconies

347 Length in metres

41 Width in metres

18 Number of decks

16 Number of elevators for passengers

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