Ovation of the Seas moves its homeport with the seasons in a grand circle, including Tianjin (Beijing’s seaport), Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sydney, Australia. Cruises cater to Chinese passengers when the ship sails from China.
Gone was Johnny Rockets, a fast food mainstay of Royal Caribbean cruise ships. So, a meal of burger and fries was difficult to find on the 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas during a five-night voyage into the South China Sea.
No problem, however, if your taste runs toward noodles. A new, flashy Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop was ready for business on the sun deck.
At the breakfast buffet in the Windjammer Marketplace, congee and its side dishes were spread out over an entire station, accompanied by pickled mustard plant, salted duck eggs, Chinese mud carp, bamboo shoots, pickled tofu and some other items I did not recognize.
Eggs to order?
Not on the breakfast buffet menu, though I learned later during the cruise that such a request was possible during non-peak hours. Pre-cooked fried eggs were piled into a big bowl, because passengers in China do not want to wait for such items to be prepared for them, explained Orlando Rosa, the ship’s food and beverage manager.
At lunch, a lonely American food counter in the Windjammer included some pre-cooked hamburgers, a little lettuce, tomato slices and a platter of French fries getting limper by the minute, as passengers ignored this staple from the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
Meanwhile, several decks below, Michael’s Genuine, an American gastropub designed by Miami’s award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, was serving little in the way of pub grub. The most popular item was the daily special at $35 — an ample whole fish, with head and tail, and assorted vegetables in a very spicy Chinese pepper sauce.
You get the picture
When Ovation of the Seas cruises in and around China — it is based year-round in Asia or Australia — passengers get a Chinese experience, from food throughout the ship to a second casino added for high rollers that bustled each evening while the vessel’s bars and lounges were empty.