CruiseRoyal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas has kicked off its debut season in Europe with more wow offerings and experiences.

What it's like to sail the world's newest, largest cruise ship

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Wonder of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's fifth Oasis-class ship.
Wonder of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's fifth Oasis-class ship. Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

Catching a lift to descend from my cabin to the Royal Promenade, I did not anticipate I would be riding with a roaming pianist, but there he was with his spry upright piano and steampunk outfit, ready to playfully serenade riders with anything but run-of-the-mill elevator music.

Mostly surprising and delighting guests, the new Wonder of the Seas — fifth in Royal Caribbean International’s massive Oasis class — can best be described as a ship in transition. Constructed during the pandemic and originally earmarked for the Chinese market, the 236,857-gross-ton, 6,988-guest (maximum) vessel was reassigned to the U.S. soon before its 2022 debut. Therefore, the new largest cruise ship in the world is impressive, but it does have some catching up to do.

Wonder appears nearly identical to its preceding sisters, but several architectural cues differ. The forward Solarium and aft AquaTheater are sheltered by geodesic coverings to better climatise the outdoor spaces, and what was once the Viking Crown Lounge on previous ships is now home to the ship’s enhanced Suite Neighborhood. The reconfigured top-tier amenities now direct all balconies to the quieter sides of the ship and aim the exclusive ship-within-a-ship’s Coastal Kitchen, Suite Lounge and Suite Sun Deck toward the stern.

Boardwalk, one of eight unique neighbourhoods on board Wonder of the Seas.
Boardwalk, one of eight unique neighbourhoods on board Wonder of the Seas. Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

What to do onboard Wonder of the Seas

Elsewhere, the fun new Wonder Playscape jungle gym replaces one of the FlowRider surf simulators, and the sports court and mini-golf course have swapped places. The Splashaway Bay kiddie water park is also newly positioned next to The Perfect Storm water slides, and the updated Social 100 teens’ club has expanded to include a fresh Social 100 Patio just for young adults.

But the Royal Escape Room, adjacent to the Adventure Ocean children’s facility, has not yet been built out. Unfortunately for the time being, the deck plan-labeled Puzzle Break Center is an empty venue.

Also not finished on the inaugural sailing were the “inTENse” AquaTheater show and “365” Studio B ice-skating spectacle. Still, a sampling of the theatre's “Matrix” and “Tron” performances, and the ice-skating show without all its sets and props, proved to be just as outstanding, if not more so, than on previous outings. These two venues, as activated by ace performers and special effects, remain some of the most unique at sea.

The iconic AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas features full-scale productions that combine performances across the air, water and stage.
The iconic AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas features full-scale productions that combine performances across the air, water and stage. Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

Lackluster by comparison, however, is “Voices”. Instead of presenting a full-scale Broadway production such as “Hairspray” or “Grease” as on earlier Oasis-class ships, Wonder stages a good but pared-down vocal showcase remounted from former corporate cousin Azamara. The new Vue Bar, displacing the port-side Solarium whirlpool, is not much to write home about either, other than to say it has the same side vistas with a tropical drink in hand.

What to eat onboard Wonder of the Seas

Making up for any shortcomings, though, is the sheer quantity of remaining things to do — and eat — onboard. Among those carried over from the Chinese audience are Spotlight Karaoke; in lieu of a jazz club, a Golden Room for private gaming separate from the casino; and the biggest Windjammer eatery in the entire Royal Caribbean fleet. The expansive buffet and its seating make a complete loop around the Boardwalk and Johnny Rockets, Playmakers Sports Bar and Sugar Beach ice cream shop and more below.

Plus, what was initially planned to be a hot pot restaurant was quickly converted into The Mason Jar, a brand-new specialty restaurant for dinner and brunch — and an absolute home run at that. An inviting porch-like bar with cool rocking chairs and a swinging bench presents live country music and pours a great selection of cocktails such as the No Joke, Smoke & Coke. Next door, the dining room plates exceptional comfort foods ranging from delicious jalapeno cornbread and smoky deviled eggs to savoury breakfast biscuits and a sweet-tooth-fulfilling cinnamon roll.

Wonderland restaurant serves up a whimsical journey through imaginative, molecular-style cuisine.
Wonderland restaurant serves up a whimsical journey through imaginative, molecular-style cuisine. Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

Reprised alternatives include Izumi for mouthwatering sushi and teppanyaki, Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, Hooked Seafood and Wonderland, to name a few. The last is particularly appropriate for the namesake ship. Having never before dined there, I was extremely pleased by the venue’s creative, molecular-style courses, which were more filling than expected.

It turns out one of the best forms of entertainment onboard is simply pub crawling from one eatery to the next, and the repeated Rising Tide Bar is a perfect way to ascend from, say, the Bionic Bar to the Trellis Bar, nestled in the fully landscaped alfresco Central Park, on the way back to the cabin.

Even if your clients cannot afford a palatial suite, median-priced Balcony Staterooms are equally well designed with comfortable bedding and plenty of closet storage, and entry-level bathrooms are great examples of compact spaces that manage to not feel cramped.

Source: TravelAge West

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