It’s not every day a larger-than-life, over-the-top Mad Hatter strolls up to your dining table as you’re brushing water on an empty whiteboard on which a menu appears as if by magic.
In the middle of the Mediterranean.
Telling you that he’s the only sane person on board.
But this is Wonderland, one of 11 specialty restaurants onboard Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) record-breaking new ship, Wonder of the Seas. The service in Wonderland is impeccable and the presentation akin to something out of a fairytale. Diners declare the food divine. And because the kitchen has details of your special food requirements ahead of time, the dishes are tailor-made to suit.
Dining options at sea
There are excellent eateries throughout the ship’s eight neighborhoods: Mexican, Southern US, Japanese, Italian and many others. If you don’t want to pay the extra for a specialty dining experience, the ship’s main dining areas offer excellent buffet and waiter-service options. (If you keep kosher, make sure to let RCI know well ahead of time.)
Between meals, there are cafés and food stations all over for quick snacks and coffee breaks. And there is a plethora of bars dotted around the decks. You can choose to drink sundowners at the cantilevered Vue Bar, sample an Old Fashioned in the Rising Tide, a bar that gently rises and falls through the decks, or even sip a Bloody Mary in the Bionic Bar, which is a marvel of modern technology where guests watch in awe as their drinks are made to order with precision and flair by robots.
But of course, food and drink are not the only reasons to sail on Wonder. The ship is a veritable leisure wonderland.
Fun for all ages
There’s something for every guest type: groups, couples, singles and families. Play areas abound for the young – splash pools adorned with myriad water features. There are areas just for teens too.
Slides on board aren’t just for the kids. It’s a brave person who takes on the heart-pumping Ultimate Abyss – a 10-story test of courage on the tallest slide at sea. Talking of brave, the zip-line crosses nine decks in the air above the Central Park neighborhood, thankfully with lots of staff on hand to make sure safety comes first. Budding surfers can try to stay upright on the FlowRider and there is also laser tag and an escape room to while away the day.
For the slightly less adventurous, mini-golf, table tennis, a sports court, a carousel and many more activities are on board, to say nothing of the exercise classes, trivia quizzes and spa facilities.
The entertainment is world-class, with Vegas- and Broadway-style shows on stage, ice, air and water. If you’ve previously sailed with RCI, you’ll know about the high-quality acts, but the new AquaTheater Show inTENse takes diving, high-wire acrobatics and synchronized swimming to the next level. There are always musical performances to catch somewhere on board – Country, Latin, Irish and many others. And if you fancy yourself as a crooner, there’s always Karaoke.
It’s also both a great place to meet new friends and get away from the crowds. People are usually friendly and happy to chat, dine together or share a bottle of wine. Perhaps the friendliest people are the multinational crew, who greet you with large, genuine smiles at every turn. However, if you are looking for peace and quiet, the huge solarium is adults only and offers dining, a bar, whirlpools and plenty of lounging options.
Wonder of the Seas is the fifth vessel to enter service in RCI’s Oasis class. The company says an Oasis ship “packs more adventure into one week” than any other vacation. That’s a bold statement. But Wonder is crammed full with enough thrills, entertainment, drink and relaxation offerings to suit any traveler.
Wonder is immense. It is nearly 365 m. long and more than three times larger than the Queen Elizabeth 2. To put the dimensions into context, “if you complete 2.4 circuits of the jogging track that’s more than a mile,” says Lucy from the RCI press team.
The stats speak for themselves: 6,980 guests, 18 decks, 24 guest elevators, 2,867 staterooms, 2,300 crew and so much more. Bigger in every way.
Onboard though, you don’t necessarily feel the size. The ship is divided into eight neighborhoods – with adult-only spaces, a fun-filled boardwalk and the delightful Central Park, with its upscale restaurants, wine bar and bountiful greenery. And with a ship this size you don’t feel the movement of the sea.
This summer, the ship is offering seven-day Western Mediterranean sailings out of Barcelona and Rome. At the end of October, there’s a 14-day transatlantic cruise followed by week-long Caribbean cruises, many including stops at RCI’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay.
While RCI’s Rhapsody of the Seas is sailing out of Haifa this summer, the company knows Israelis love to cruise and many will be tempted to hop on a short flight and join Wonder from Spain or Italy. As many as 20,000 Israelis are expected to sail with RCI in 2022 alone.
The writers were guests of Royal Caribbean International. They host The Jerusalem Post Podcast – Travel Edition jpost.com/podcast/travel-edition.