Dave Monk reports on his time on board Wonder of the Seas, the latest addition to the Royal Caribbean International fleet.
As I walk along deck 15, I have some incredible views. Not just of the gentle waves and the glowing evening sky as the sun sets, but way below me where Central Park and the Boardwalk are lighting up.
I’m off the coast of Spain on Wonder of the Seas, the fifth Oasis-class ship from Royal Caribbean.
Originally destined for China, Covid intervened and she instead made her debut in Florida in March. Now she’s reached the Mediterranean, where I boarded in Barcelona.
This latest holder of the title of the biggest cruise ship in the world is 1,188ft long, 210ft wide and has 17 passenger decks. At double occupancy she carries 5,734 passengers – 6,988 if every berth is used – along with 2,300 crew. However, Wonder of the Seas dazzles with far more than just statistics.
Entertainment on Wonder of the Seas
One night I settle in the AquaTheatre at the stern of the ship to enjoy a high-energy show by an all-women team of dancers and acrobats, diving from as high as 55ft or seeming to fly above the audience’s heads on lines and harnesses.
A guest male performer flips and spins on a slack line suspended above the pool, spraying water everywhere. Another international act juggles a dazzling number of balls effortlessly.
Other shows around the ship include an impressive display of coordinated drumming and tap dancing called Tap Factory and a moving musical production called Voices: An Intimate Performance on a Grand Scale, which celebrates the full range of human vocal powers.
Singers on stage seamlessly sync with performers on screen, who produce all the backing sounds of beats, clicks and rhythm so no instrument needs to be involved.
Down on the ice rink in Studio B is 365: The Seasons On Ice, a story of the changing times of the year.
Later this year, Royal Caribbean’s own superheroes, The Effectors, return for a show in the Royal Theatre, where they battle with their archnemesis Crash and his new sidekick Burn.
New innovations on Wonder of the Seas
The evolution that began with the launch of Oasis of the Seas in 2009 has produced a series of floating resorts increasingly packed with new attractions, such as the Ultimate Abyss dry slide first introduced on Harmony of the Seas.
I’ve been on three of the previous Oasis-class ships and never cease to be amazed by the scale and engineering feats they involve.
New features for Wonder of the Seas include The Mason Jar, an American South restaurant serving comfort food such as fried green tomatoes, shrimp’n’grits, chicken pot pie, ribs and burgers – all while a house band belts out country music. The bar is stocked with 19 US whiskeys to wash it down.
The Vue Bar on the port side is a new popular al fresco drinking venue near the all-weather, adult-only solarium, matching up with The Lime & Coconut bar further along the deck.
Another new addition is the Wonder Playscape, an underwater-themed play area that provides outdoor fun for youngsters, with slides, climbing walls, games and interactive activities. Mini-golf course Wonder Dunes has also been given a makeover.
However, probably the most significant change on Wonder of the Seas as far as the rest of the cruise industry is concerned is a new, eighth ‘neighbourhood’ that’s exclusively for suite guests.
It’s following a trend to give more space and comfort to the higher-paying customers. The Suite Sun deck, with a plunge pool and bar, has been moved, but restaurant Coastal Kitchen and the Suite Lounge remain.
The Ultimate Family Suite now sleeps up to ten people and is still occupied while I am on board by guests who had sailed the transatlantic crossing.
The other top accommodation, the Royal Loft Suite, is booked until autumn even with a price tag of $40,000 a week.
Wonder of the Seas: Restaurants and bars
“It’s our upper-end space that sells first,” says Royal Caribbean EMEA vice-president Ben Bouldin. But he denies that other passengers are missing out, adding: “The goal of introducing more suites is not at the expense of anybody else on the ship.”
Every guest has the choice of eating in the main dining room or other complimentary venues such as the Park, Vitality and Promenade cafes, El Loco Fresh, and the Solarium Bistro, where I enjoy a healthy lunchtime salad.
One evening I walk into the Windjammer buffet just as it is being set up for dinner and am entranced by a tempting assortment of meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and desserts.
Among the specialty restaurants are venues serving steaks, Italian, seafood, sushi and burgers, along with a Starbucks outlet.
Aside from the robots in the Bionic Bar, human cocktail makers can be found in ten other bars and lounges, including an English pub, the Cask & Clipper, in the two-level shopping and dining mall, Royal Promenade. An enlarged karaoke bar is a throwback to when the ship was heading to China.
Many favourites have returned from previous Oasis-class ships, such as the Flowrider surf machine, Perfect Storm water chutes and outdoor movie screen.
With its wooden carousel and Zoltan fortune-telling machine, the Boardwalk conjures up memories of an English pier.
For anyone wanting to catch the Mediterranean sun, there are pools, hot tubs and loungers all around the top decks.
One of the delights of a new ship is checking out the artwork and Wonder of the Seas has an eye-catching variety from astronaut figures, a two-headed seahorse dangling between the lifts and a giant steel stetson sat in the Royal Promenade.
My overall impression? It’s bigger, better and even brighter.
Wonder of the Seas will be sailing seven-night western Mediterranean cruises to destinations such as Naples, Florence, Palma de Mallorca, and Provence. After finishing the inaugural European season the ship will return to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to offer year-round Caribbean sailings.
A sixth Oasis-class ship, Utopia of the Seas, is due to join the fleet in 2024. Asked during a press conference on board if there would be a seventh, Royal Caribbean International SVP Sean Treacy, simply replied: “Stay tuned.” Pressed to be more specific, he said: “It’s not a no, not a yes, we’re evaluating.”
Whatever the future holds, this ship will be a thing of wonder for years to come.
Key selling tips for Royal Caribbean
- Wonder of the Seas is the first Oasis-class ship to have an eighth suite neighbourhood with its own sun deck, private lounge and restaurant. The most expensive rooms sell first, so advise clients to move fast if they want that extra luxury
- Highlight the wide dining range, with favourites such as Windjammer, Giovanni’s Italian and Chops Grill joined by fleet-first The Mason Jar serving Southern food
- Describe The Vue Bar as a new place to enjoy a chilled glass of wine as the sun sets, creating a perfect photo moment when the colourful mosaic canopy comes to life, says Royal Caribbean UK head of sales Torey Kings-Hodkin