Royal Caribbean launches the world’s largest-ever cruise ship; Jeannine Williamson shares her voyage

Wonder of the Seas is big on thrills and new attractions for all the family

After a final check of the harness I’m instructed to sit down on a wide wooden board, hold the handles that are above my head and start shuffling forward. Seconds later I am airborne and soaring eight storeys over Central Park. Far below me are cafes, restaurants and a garden studded with beds and greenery.

Any initial butterflies are quickly blown away by the exhilaration of my first-ever experience of zip-lining on a ship that’s full of firsts. Rather than being in New York, Central Park is one of the eight ‘neighbourhoods’ on the world’s biggest, brightest and boldest cruise ship. Carrying up to 6,988 passengers at full capacity and with 2,300 crew members, Royal Caribbean’s fifth Oasis-class vessel, Wonder of the Seas, is akin to a floating resort with facilities that you’d be hard pressed to find in any one place ashore.

After braving the zip wire, later that day I reward myself with a cocktail at The Mason Jar, the line’s all-new dining venue that brings deep southern American soul food to sea with a backdrop of toe-tapping live country music. I can’t resist the Mississippi Moonlight made with ‘ole smokey blackberry moonshine, lemonade and fresh blackberries. The menu includes blackened fried green tomatoes, Cajun catfish and towering burgers, and for dessert there’s twice-friend Oreos dusted with sugar and a bourbon dipping sauce. Possibly make a note to head for the walking track or gym the next day if you’re tempted to order this wickedly sweet treat (although in the interests of research I tried a mouthful and it was delicious!).

That said, on a ship this big there really is something for everyone in terms of dining and daily entertainment. Wonder of the Seas has more than 20 restaurants and food outlets, including the ultra-healthy Vitality Cafe, El Loco Fresh Mexican restaurant and Giovanni’s Italian, to name just a few. You can eat your way around the world as well as drink in different bars from the atmospheric Cask & Clipper pub to the Bionic Bar where drinks are mixed and served by robotic bar tenders.

Adding an extra deck to the latest Oasis ship has enabled Royal Caribbean to include even more facilities for everyone. This is a fantastic vessel for silver travellers looking to travel with their children and grandchildren, and the accommodation includes family cabins. Little sailors can immerse themselves in the new underwater-themed PlayScape, older youngsters (and the young at heart) can head down waterslides, scale the rock climbing wall, and try the FlowRider surf simulator or the zip line. There are pools aplenty too, and the main pool deck has a party vibe with its music and al fresco bars. Away from the headline attractions, I enjoyed wandering around and discovering novel talking points such as an idiosyncratic astronaut seemingly lost in thought.

When it’s time for some peace and quiet, the ship has the biggest Solarium in the fleet and it was one of my favourite spots for lunch, relaxation and a cocktail or two. Overlooking the back of the ship, the adult-only area also has hot tubs and super-comfy chairs that are lovely for a cheeky afternoon snooze. The new Vue bar, as the name more or less implies, offers some of the best views from the ship, particularly at sunset.

The Suite Neighbourhood is another new area and is Royal Caribbean’s stylish take on the exclusive ship-within-a-ship concept. Guests staying here can be self-contained, with their own lounge, restaurant and sun deck, and venture out to the rest of the ship when they want to. 

Although you certainly don’t want to miss the entertainment. With a cast of 100 performers, it would be extraordinary enough on dry land, let alone on a cruise ship. One morning we went to Royal Parade (pic 8), the ship’s main thoroughfare, to watch the swashbuckling Anchors Aweigh parade of costumed characters. At night the choice includes an ice show, sophisticated and technical stage productions combining live action and video screens and, most breath-taking of all, the AquaShow with aerial artistes, swimmers and divers that plunge into a 14ft pool from 60ft boards. 

Leading to the AquaTheatre is the Boardwalk, a fun fairground-style neighbourhood with a carousel, fast food outlets and even Zoltar, the fortune telling machine, made famous in the Tom Hanks’ film Big. If Zoltar was asked for a prediction about his floating home I’m sure he would foresee that Wonder of the Seas is going to be a huge success, in every sense.

Find out more

Wonder of the Seas will spend its maiden season sailing on week-long itineraries from Barcelona and Rome visiting destinations including Florence, Naples and Capri, Italy; Provence, France; and Malaga, Spain. A seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise starts from £770, excluding flights.

In November, the ship will return to the US to sail from its year-round homeport in Port Canaveral.

Call our Silver Travel Advisors at 0800 412 5678 to book. Visit Royal Caribbean International for more information. 

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Jeannine Williamson

Award-winning travel writer

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