Sunday Life

| 12.7°C Belfast

A spectacular two-day trip aboard the world's biggest cruise line has turned sceptic Claire Craig into a fan

Close

The gargantuan Wonder of the Seas

The gargantuan Wonder of the Seas

Aboard Wonder of the Seas, the pool deck

Aboard Wonder of the Seas, the pool deck

The Aqua Theatre

The Aqua Theatre

The pool deck

The pool deck

Social 100 Patio - Deck 17

Social 100 Patio - Deck 17

©2022 Michel Verdure

Wonder of the Seas, an Oasis-class cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International

Wonder of the Seas, an Oasis-class cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International

©2022 Michel Verdure Studio, In

The Boardwalk - Deck 6

The Boardwalk - Deck 6

The living room of an Ultimate Family Suite

The living room of an Ultimate Family Suite

©2022 Michel Verdure

The Suite Sundeck view

The Suite Sundeck view

/

The gargantuan Wonder of the Seas

When it comes to holidays, cruises seem like a divisive topic. Having never been on one before I was mainly of the opinion they were for older people who just wanted to relax in one place. Nothing wrong with that but not really for me.

So when the opportunity arose to spend two nights on Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Wonder of the Seas as she made her European debut, I didn’t immediately jump at the prospect. Aside from boredom other concerns included the thought of feeling claustrophobic, travel sick and, well, just a bit trapped.

However, not all cruise ships are made equally and Wonder of the Seas is the world’s largest. Plus after two years of not being able to go anywhere (thanks Covid) and in the spirit of saying yes to new opportunities, it seemed silly to decline.

Flights were booked, bags were packed and Covid tests were taken (Royal Caribbean requires that all travellers over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated and all guests aged two and up must produce a negative test before sailing).

A two-hour flight to Barcelona and a short taxi ride later and we were ready to embark. At first sight of the ship it was hard not to be blown away by the sheer size of Wonder of the Seas. Standing at a statuesque 236ft above the water, with a total of 18 decks, she was certainly impressive and overshadowed everything else in the dock.

Boarding was an easy and straightforward process and on entering the ship’s interior my first thought was it was like being in an enormous shopping centre, albeit a very luxurious one.

Deck 5, or The Royal Promenade, is full of shops, restaurants, and bars. More than that it is also packed full of visual appeal. You’ll see huge vases filled with fresh flowers, high ceilings, statement lighting. Oh and there’s also a Ford Mustang and an enormous silver cowboy hat planked in the middle. Because, why not?

With fears of feeling claustrophobic rapidly reducing by the minute, it was time to check out our room — an exterior stateroom with a balcony. Again the room was much larger than I had imagined with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space to unpack. Plus a queen-size bed and spacious shower. But really there was far too much to see and do on this ship to be spending much time in the room so, with our newfound sea legs, we were off to explore.

When it comes to describing the activities onboard Wonder of the Seas it’s hard to know where to start. There’s swimming pools, whirlpools, surf board simulators, a zip-line, water slides, mini golf, rock climbing walls and the tallest slide at sea, The Ultimate Abyss — a twisty, turny, helter-skelter of a ride that plummets down 10 floors in a matter of seconds. Inside the ship has a running track, a spa, a gym, an ice skating rink, and a basketball court. So, as it turns out, it didn’t look like boredom would be an issue either.

While it may sound like a cliché, there really is something for all ages on Wonder of the Seas — from the adults-only space of the Solarium to the children’s play area at SplashAway Bay and Social 100, a section for 13- to 17-year-olds. There’s also plenty of first-class entertainment with Olympians and world record holders among the ship’s 100 performers.

And speaking of clichés it’s not difficult to see why people put on weight on a cruise. With more than 40 restaurants and bars to choose from, the selection on this ship was staggering. Speciality restaurants include Hooked Seafood, Giovanni’s Italian, Johnny Rockets and Chops Grille.

The ship’s main dining room gives a flavour of traditional fine-dining cruise cuisine and there are also plenty of self-serve eateries on board. There’s even a Starbucks for those who need their daily matcha fix. Or if it’s a late night snack you’re after, there’s a pizzeria open till 3am.

No less impressive (and the reason you may need a late night snack) is the ship’s drinks’ selection. Cocktail enthusiasts and craft beer aficionados can happily work their way through the menu in the Cask & Clipper or let robots serve them up something special at the ship’s bionic bar. There’s also a karaoke bar, a music bar, two casinos and a comedy club. Oh and if you’ve had a few drinks and feel like the floor is moving, then it just might be as The Rising Tide bar gently ascends and descends through the ship’s decks.

Wonder of the Seas has eight distinctive neighbourhoods and one of my favourites was Central Park — a very convincing leafy suburb with more than 20,000 real plants and pavement bars and restaurants. While having a sea view room was blissful, an interior balcony looking out to this area would be the perfect place to people-watch over a cup of coffee.

At full capacity Wonder of the Seas can hold 6,988 guests plus 2,300 crew but is cleverly zoned and spacious enough that crowding should never be an issue. Despite the ship’s size you soon find your bearings, plus the 24 guest elevators and interactive maps make getting to where you need to go easy. All areas are kept spotlessly clean and there are numerous sanitisation stations throughout. And while the pace of life at sea may be laidback and relaxed, the service on board was anything but thanks to the friendly, attentive staff.

The strangest thing about being on a cruise is probably the fact that you forget you are — until you look out a window. Forty-eight hours on Wonder of the Seas was a drop in the ocean in terms of experiencing all this ship has to offer but it definitely changed my perception of what a cruise would be like. However, it’s also probably spoilt me as I now don’t think I’d want to be on a ship smaller than this.


Top Videos



Privacy