Ovation of the Seas christened in China

By Ewan McDonald

Ovation of the Seas' first call to her new homeport in Tianjin, China. Photo / Supplied
Ovation of the Seas' first call to her new homeport in Tianjin, China. Photo / Supplied

Blessed by one of the world's highest paid entertainers, a suitably gigantic bottle of French champagne smashed on to its helipad, and with donations to tornado victims, the world's newest "Quantum Class" cruise liner has left China on a voyage that will bring it to New Zealand in summer.

The $1 billion Ovation of the Seas is the world's fourth largest cruise ship and, like the top three, is operated by Royal Caribbean Line. Carrying up to 4905 passengers and 1500 crew, it continues the booming industry's expansion into ever-bigger vessels offering more entertainment and dining experiences. Once were cruise liners, then super-liners and mega-liners; the Quantum class liners are, well, top of the line.

Following a glitzy naming ceremony that blended Vegas show-stoppers, maritime traditions and the appearance of X-Men star Fan Bing Bing - said to be the world's fourth highest paid actress - as its "godmother", the liner set sail from Tianjin with 4000 invited guests and media aboard.

Tianjin is its Chinese home port. Later in the year it will sail south from Singapore for its first Australia-New Zealand season in December.

Ovation will be the biggest, newest and most technologically advanced cruise ship based Down Under. It measures 346m long and 41m wide and weighs in at 167,800 gross ton.

Although Ovation will easily claim the title of the largest cruise ship to have ever sailed New Zealand waters, it's onboard toys and experiences that will float cruise-lovers' boats.

iFLY brings skydiving to life at sea while the North Star aerial observatory offers 360-degree views more than 90m above the water. A robotic arm lifts guests high into the sky in their viewing capsule, taking in the sights wherever the ship happens to be. In Sydney Harbour, the North Star will reach higher than the pylons of Harbour Bridge.

The Bionic Bar lets guests order their favourite cocktail via a tablet. Two bionic arms mix, shake or stir the drink in tune to the resident DJ without human assistance.

Two70 lounge boasts 270-degree ocean views by day and multimedia entertainment at night, using robotic video-screens, digital projection and high-flying aerialists and performers.

SeaPlex will be the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, offering bumper cars, shipboard surfing, zip-lining, a basketball court, rollerskating, circus school and more.

Passengers will be more connected than on any other cruise ship in the region, with high-speed Wi-Fi.

Ovation features 18 restaurants and a recipe-book of the world's cuisines in fun and formal settings, including partnerships with celebrity chefs - Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Italian" will be moored off Rangitoto before the landlubber's version opens in Queen St.

Ovation has even lifted that curse of cruising - the stateroom that doesn't have a view. Passengers in internal cabins will wake to a "virtual balcony" of the ship's surroundings, a 3D view projected on to their walls.

Ovation of the Seas' godmother Fan BingBing. Photo / Supplied
Ovation of the Seas' godmother Fan BingBing. Photo / Supplied

The ship was launched at its German shipyard in April, but Royal Caribbean delayed its naming ceremony until Saturday, when it began its first cruise for some 4000 invited guests and media out of Tianjin. The massive artificial deepwater harbour, about three hours drive south of Beijing, is the world's fifth-largest port and the hub of China's rapidly developing cruise industry.

Best known outside China as Blink in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the ship's "godmother" is said to be the world's fourth highest-paid actress (some sources say second after Jennifer Lawrence). Fan Bing Bing is possibly the most recognised face across Asia, as a fashion icon and pop singer as well as her numerous movie and TV roles.

Champagne fanciers will probably debate the one-off Perrier-Jouet bottle used to christen the ship. Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain announced it as the equivalent of 38 normal 750ml bottles. Champange protocol has a 36-bottle container is a Goliath and a 40-bottle vessel is a Melchizedek, but since no one got to drink it, the argument is a bit of a fizzer.

- NZ Herald

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