Handing in my ticket and walking in, I was immediately floored. I had walked right into the love-child of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, a Las Vegas hotel lobby and a boat.
Sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas was anything but typical for a first-time cruise-goer like myself. When you think about a cruise and haven’t been on one before, you kind of imagine a glorified floating hotel. I can now safely say that was not the case.
Wonder of the Seas is a relatively new ship under the Royal Caribbean name, which made its maiden voyage this past year and has a guest capacity of more than 5,600 people.
Something that I find quite valuable in a vacation experience from the get-go is the immersiveness of the experience, and for that, Wonder of the Seas gets a 10 out of 10. Entering the ship in Barcelona, we were immediately faced with a massive entrance hall with neon lights marking different bars, restaurants and stores. Vegas, right?
I found out later that this was the fifth of 16 floors on the ship.
We reached our room where our key was waiting outside the door. That key would later function as our one-card-that-does-it-all, from room key to onboard expenses such as stores and premium restaurants.
The room itself was small in a chronic hotel-goer’s standards, but I assume for a cruise it’s quite standard. A small working table, a narrow couch, a closet and a double bed made up the main area, which was neat and ordinary. We had the pleasure of having a balcony facing outwards, meaning we got that swell ocean breeze in the evenings, and in the mornings, we had an incredible view of the waves and faraway lands (well, Europe) passing by.
The most shocking thing for us was the restroom, to be honest. While the shower and sink area were quite standard, the toilet was a surprise. You know those airplane toilets? The slightly frightening ones that take a second after flushing, then woosh away loudly? Same principle here.
When we first entered the room, a plate of tiny hors d’oeuvres was waiting for us with a small welcome note. It was a really sweet touch that only built on our excitement at, once more, being on a boat. That joy stayed with us for our entire week-long voyage, which took us from Spain through France and finally to Italy.
The dining options on the Wonder of the Seas had a broad range. Probably the most exciting for me was the hibachi restaurant, Izumi. If you’re looking for dinner and a show, that restaurant was, plainly speaking, one of the more insane and delightful hibachi experiences I have ever had.
Our chef came out singing at the top of his lungs, all the while clinking away with his many knives and spatulas to the beat, twirling them in the air. There was not much time to breathe between each section of the “performance,” so prepare to clutch your belly with laughter.
That, of course, was before we got away to munching on our mouth-wateringly delicious fried rice and steak. No belly was left unfilled by the end of the meal.
We also made embarrassingly regular visits to the onboard Johnny Rockets, a personal favorite from my extremely American childhood. Sadly, we didn’t go there for anything but breakfast, so we did miss out on those cheeseburgers and shakes, but the morning pancakes were oh-so-good.
Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade was quite a surprise, to be honest. We thought we were just grabbing something relatively close to our room before going for a midday nap, but the (extremely large) burgers there were a downright hit. We only got through half a burger each, but we loved every bit of them.
Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen was our final dining experience before having to say farewell, and we were not disappointed. The opening cheese board was divine and the main pasta courses were filling and delicious. The dessert, a flaky pizza dough stuffed with Nutella and bananas, was also delicious – especially the laughs we got from the waiter when we asked for it without the bananas.
The Mason Jar, our first afternoon cocktail onboard, was delicious and incredibly unique. The specially blended cocktails were sweet and strong – but mostly strong.
These, of course, were only the premium dining experiences. The more casual spots that are included in a ticket, such as Sorrento’s Pizza or Park Cafe, were plain, but they got the job done and we never had to go hungry for long, since everything was constantly open.
Long story short, it’s hard to get hungry on the Wonder of the Seas. In fact, it’s hard not to gain weight on the Wonder of the Seas – but I wasn’t complaining.
Besides the two obvious answers – lounging by the pool and touring whichever city we’ve docked at – there was a shockingly vast array of activities keeping us busy at every given moment.
Royal Caribbean’s cruises function primarily using an app that one can download to a smartphone, which allows you to remotely check in, insert personal information, reserve events and activities and track the activities schedule.
Every morning, we signed on to see what was happening that day and to sign up for whatever required signing up. This ranged from skin analyses to shopping events, from trivia games to incredible performances. Our favorite was the ice-skating performance on the fourth night of our journey during which a team of skaters showed off their skills to various musical styles and in numerous outlandish outfits. It was part-funny, part-mystifying.
We also loved the headphone party. As a chronic shut-in, it was quite surprising. One mode on the headphones takes you to a throwback party with music from as late as the mid-2000s and as early as “Greased Lightnin,’” while the other mode was all reggaeton.
At the same time, a Latin party was taking place in one of the onboard bars, and I couldn’t help but get on the dance floor, having been a Latin dance instructor myself. It was gorgeous live music with a band that brought out some classics and with a vocalist that truly enraptured the audience.
All the while, every evening had the casino doors open, with blackjack and poker tables spread wide across and a broad range of slot machines crammed tightly together. I’m not a gambler, but that room was never empty.
The crowd on the ship was broadly ranging in ages, from families with toddlers and young children to older couples enjoying their retirement. It was a comfortable setting, sort of like an all-inclusive resort in Greece or Cyprus, without anyone really feeling out of place.
Altogether, it did feel like there was no real reason to ever get off the ship. The Wonder of the Seas really has it all, and I can say without a doubt that I wholeheartedly recommend it – especially as a first-time cruise-goer!
Tickets start at $1,029 per person, not including taxes, fees and port expenses for a seven-day journey through the Mediterranean.
The writer was a guest of Royal Caribbean.