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Royal Caribbean’s newly launched Wonder of the Seas promises the ultimate seacation

Priya Joshi experiences life aboard the world’s largest cruise liner.

By LLM Reporters  |  July 9, 2022
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Words by Priya Joshi

Lined with speciality restaurants, coffee shops and bars, with nostalgic tunes filtering through the speaker system hidden in the trees, Central Park is an oasis of calm, boasting 20,000 varieties of plant life and trees. Nothing too unusual about that you might think, except that this particular park is located on a ship.

It’s just one of the many stand out features on what is officially the world’s biggest cruise liner, Royal Caribbean’s newly launched Wonder of the Seas, that really gives you a sense of the scale of this mammoth cruise ship that is making gigantic waves. 

The latest addition to the prestigious Royal Caribbean fleet, the £1 billion Oasis class flagship Wonder of the Seas has full capacity for 6,988 passengers and 2,300 crew. With a gross tonnage of 236,857 and measuring fully 1,188 feet in length, and with 18 floors it outranks its closest rival by one extra deck meriting the accolade of ‘the biggest’ cruise ship in the world.

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Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise liner in the world

You might imagine it’s no easy feat to get everyone on board, more so in view of the demands of the post Covid travel requirements. But in something akin to a military operation we are guided smoothly through the snaking lines at the terminals at Barcelona Port Europe’s largest cruise harbour, to check in for a three-day sail and ready for the adventure to begin.

The main deck of Wonder of the Seas is a bustling high street where revellers are already spilling out of the pub and lining up for pizzas freshly prepared to order. Others make a beeline for the on-board Starbucks and the unexpected May sunshine has lured guests to the top deck where the party has already started ready for the grand sail away. There’s a Caribbean theme and reggae tunes play in the background as bar staff in Hawaiian shirts eagerly mix up rum cocktails by the bucketload.

Those familiar with the Royal Caribbeans fleet of 25 ships will recognise that this ship too follows the tried and tested blueprint of its predecessors. But on Wonder of the Seas, it’s all just that much bigger and even better.

As you wander through the vast theatre spaces, bars, restaurants, and shopping areas, you are left breathless as you attempt to take in the reality of what is practically a small metropolis on the sea. This becomes most evident when you stumble into the Suite Neighbourhood, a village of 288 exclusive suites set over two decks targeting a premium traveller.  

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The Suite Neighbourhood offers exclusive suites for the premium traveller

The introduction of the suite neighbourhoods takes the experience to another level, with the royal suite and ultimate family suite offering an air of exclusivity, privacy and luxury for the discerning traveller with a taste for the finer things and the money to match. Set across two floors and with a chic and stylish lounge area complete with a baby piano, a fully equipped kitchen, separate mezzanine bedroom with large his and hers adjoining bathrooms, The Royal Suite is a lavish home away from home. 

Accommodating ten guests, the ultimate family suite is designed with children in mind with eclectic, brightly coloured decor, but no expense is spared here either. It boasts its own cinema, slide and karaoke space and at £48,000 a week it’s a decadent, colourful retreat for the affluent family cruisers.

While there’s no doubting the sense of luxury that the large suites afford, the standard cabins actually have everything you need, equipped with a comfortable double bed, a sofa bed which doubles the occupancy to four if required and a larger than expected shower and bathroom, wall hanging TV and with the bonus that it all comes with a much more accessible price tag at £770 pp for a week. The truth is, with so much to do and see on the ship, you may not be spending too much time in your cabin anyway. 

Perhaps the only challenge is how to fit it all in. The Royal Caribbean app comes in handy for this, enabling you to scan the list of events, the days entertainments and book restaurants at the touch of a button. For those preferring to do things old school, a daily newsletter is left in your cabin with all the details made available to you to schedule your day. I ran through each day’s schedule planning my activities and booking restaurants, eager not to miss a thing. 

Relax and unwind

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Soak up the sun on one of the private poolside casitas

The top deck is a good place to start, setting the tone for the trip that promises to be one big party on the high seas. The seating is arranged around the large pool like an outdoor arena with loungers, and cushioned seating from where you can sit and watch the DJ play as cocktails are delivered to you, while you bask in the Jacuzzies or dangle your legs in the Perspex water-filled boxes above the pool.

It’s easy to while away a few hours on a lounger or you can reserve one of the private poolside casitas where you can soak up the sun as cocktails from the two-story poolside bar The Lime and Coconut are brought to you by the eager to please staff. It’s a beach resort atmosphere as guests grab the perfect spot to soak up the sun and lose yourself in the all-encompassing sea views. And you won’t have to worry about the children as they can escape to the Wonder Playscape, a mini waterpark slide with climbing walls and slides to keep them amused.  

Food, glorious food – and so much of it!

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Speciality restaurant Giovanni’s serves delicious authentic Italian cuisine

Maybe it’s the sea air or the multitude over 40 of on-board restaurants, cafés and eateries on board, but food beckons. Constantly.

Depending on your package there are several restaurants included that offer more than enough appetising options for the duration of your stay, such as the Windjammer Marketplace buffet where eager to please chefs provide a daily banquet of inventively displayed international cuisines catering to every palate. There’s the main dining area that harks back to traditional table service dining and the stylish Solarium Bistro for healthy salads and pastas while El Loco Fresh is a hive of activity as guests bustle through grabbing tacos and wraps and sweet desserts. For a quick bite on the run, head for the high street with pizza served up at Sorrentos until 3am.

The speciality restaurants such as Chops, the grill and steak house, Izumi, the sushi restaurant for flavours of the Far East, the Coastal Kitchen for a taste of the experimental cuisine or the US inspired The Mason Jar for some US inspired comfort food or Giovanni’s Italian for the best spaghetti arrabiatta this side of the Med. The speciality restaurants come at an additional cost averaging around £30 a head, but it’s a good way to round up the family for a special dinner at the end of the day’s activities. 

Thrills and spills for the active cruiser

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All ages are catered for when it comes to fun and little ones will love Wonder Playscape

With 54 years as the leader in the cruise industry, what Royal Caribbean does best is provide a multi-generational experience, so all members of the family will find ways to entertain themselves on sea days. If you’re looking to fill those days with sporting activities to thrill you, you could take to the zipline 60ft up above the decks or scale the 80-foot climbing wall, while the more daring might be tempted to show off their surfing skills on the 12-metre-long FlowRider surf simulator. You can plunge 10 stories down the tallest slide at sea, Ultimate Abyss, or take on the twisting, turning, adrenaline-pumping waterslide trio, The Perfect Storm. It offers a quick adrenaline rush and I’m told the views at the top are pretty spectacular. 

Health and wellbeing at sea

For passengers wanting to splash out, Vitality Spa guests can book to see Dr Enrique, who offers Medi-spa treatments such as Botox-style skin tightening from £238, and CoolSculpting to freeze off fat for a cool £630 per session. Royal Caribbean is also the first cruise liner to offer Vitamin IV drips. 

Scented with refreshing lemongrass the quiet zone offers a tranquil escape to meditate, read and relax in a luxurious setting away from all the on-board excitement. For those who like to maintain their health and fitness regime while on holiday there is a full-sized gym on board and free exercise classes as well as a football pitch and jogging track.

Wall-to-wall entertainment

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Enjoy the sounds of the fifties in the intimate setting of the Music Hall

Family entertainment is where Royal Caribbean comes into its own and there are daily shows and gigs to fill sail days and evenings. 

Early evening, and as the entertainment gears up, you might well wander into a salsa class in the Boleros bar or a crooner at the authentically British Cask and Clipper or listen to some piano tunes at the Schooners pub. You can watch the big matches on giant screens at the Playmakers bar on the promenade, browse the designer goods on the high street or stumble into a music trivia quiz in the Karaoke bar, a sedate affair which later is transformed into a full-blown karaoke night as revellers bolstered by spirits take to the stage to belt out some top tunes.    

In the meantime, a rock ‘n roll tribute band are setting up in the Music Hall, an intimate setting where they perform impressive renditions of Elvis and Buddy Holly tunes prompting guests young and old to get out of their seats and jive, as the sounds of the fifties spill out into the ship.

Studio B is a multi-functional space which transforms throughout the course of the day. Earlier in the day it’s filled with an inflatable snow castle the location for a high energy game of laser tag. Split into two teams and throw yourselves into the throng, dressed in high tech body armour as if going into battle for a less deadly version of Squid Games. 

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Ice spectacular 365: The Seasons on Ice is a mesmerising display

By evening the floor is now transformed into an ice rink for a performance of 365: The Seasons on Ice, where a professional cast of ice skaters spin and shimmy to musical highlights reflecting the changing seasons with stunning projections on the ice. It is a mesmerising display and a ringside seat to their poise and prowess on the ice as each skater outdoes the next is one not to be missed. 

By evening Studio B is reimagined again. this time resembling a 90s-style disco. There’s a buzz in the air as the guest DJ is Lindy Layton, famed for her hit song with Norman Cook and Beats International, Dub Be Good to Me. As DJ Lindy spins the discs, the space fills up with all night revellers who dance away unabashedly to some feel-good tunes.

The Royal Theatre would rival any west end venue and the performers too are exceptional, with innovative shows that stimulate the senses and far surpass usual expectations of cruise ship crooners and amateur theatrics. 

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Multi-sensory extravaganza ‘inTENse’ is performed in the outdoor Aqua Theatre

Voices: An Intimate Performance on a Grand Scale is an enthralling display of vocal histrionics with live performances supported by projections on a giant video screen in a medley of hits through the ages. It is a toe-tapping, sing-along experience that leaves you enthralled and marvelling at the vocal talents of the performers. A highlight in the entertainment programme, you would happily pay good money to see this show, but here of course you don’t have to. The Tap Factory too presents a unique display of rhythm, percussion and sometimes toe-curling contortion that has you captivated from the first drum beat to the last. 

A multi-sensory extravaganza ‘inTENse’, in the outdoor Aqua theatre, is a source of particular pride for the entertainments team at Royal Caribbean and as the entertainment director explains ‘they have thrown everything at it’. Performed by the first-ever all-woman cast, it is a giddying mix of water acrobatics, lights, music, lasers and circus style performers featuring dive boarding Olympic medal winners and an acrobatic display by the World Champion slackliner performed on a tight-rope, all taking place above the ocean with two nine-metre diving platforms and 137,000 gallons of water. It has to be seen to be believed.

It’s another show stopping spectacle and at the end of the performance the crowd spills back out on the boardwalk feeling overawed and charged with energy as the night’s revelry continues into the early hours.

It’s all so Wonder-ful!

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Wonder of the Seas is the perfect choice for a luxury seacation

The thing about the biggest cruise ship in the world is that there is space for everything you could imagine or want to keep you captivated even if you don’t leave the ship at all, from cocktail making robots, small gatherings for social events in the Central Park bars, and the serene luxury of the Solarium to the full sized carousel on The Boardwalk and a Disney inspired parade, all set amidst the most stunning sea views.

The party’s over for me and I leave the hardcore partygoers still making shapes on the dance floor. I wander back to my suite on the 12th floor intending to retire after a long weekend of fun, but the smooth and sultry sounds of Stowaway Piano: the roving piano player lure me to a quiet corner on the mid-deck and I sit listening for a while to the mellow tunes, seemingly sung just for me. It’s the perfect end to a jampacked sailing experience that has been relaxing, enthralling, and utterly mesmerising all at once. 

With Wonder of the Seas, Royal Caribbean have surpassed even their own exemplary standards for showmanship, creativity, and innovation, bringing the cruise industry of age for a multi-generational audience on a grand scale, the likes of which you have never seen before.

The bonding experience it affords through a shared, fun-filled experience with family members of all ages should not be underestimated and I can’t wait to come back, to try out the restaurants, shows and experiences I didn’t have time for, and to do it all again, but next time with three generations of my family in tow for the ultimate cruise holiday like no other. 

Factbox

Wonder of the Seas’ maiden European sailing departs from Barcelona on May 8, marking the start of its seven-night Western Mediterranean cruises. A September 29 departure from Rome costs from £770pp.

Visit royalcaribbean.com or call 0344 493 4005 for more details.

Photography courtesy of Royal Caribbean