With its home in Tianjin, China, Ovation of the Seas has been built specifically to sail in the Chinese seas, furthering Royal Caribbean International’s commitment to growing the China holiday market. Ovation joins Quantum, Mariner, Voyager and Legend to make up the largest fleet of ships for any cruise brand in China, with home ports in four cities – Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and Xiamen.
Royal Caribbean’s President and CEO, Michael Bayley said: “It’s wonderful to welcome Ovation of the Seas to the Royal Caribbean family of ships. We have once again introduced yet another one of the most technologically advanced cruise ships and the very first that has been built for the China market – a market we continue to demonstrate our commitment to expanding. Quantum Class has redefined the status quo, and we are excited for our guests in China and Australia to enjoy their extraordinary vacations on board this stunner.” Built by Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany at a cost of US$1 billion, Ovation spans 18 decks, encompasses 168,666 gross registered tonnes, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,091 staterooms. And similar to its siblings that have gone before, it features first-at-sea amenities including: the North Star, an observation capsule that gently rises more than 300ft in the air to treat guests to breathtaking panoramic views; thrilling skydiving and surfing experiences; Two70, a daily social space which transforms into a multifunctional entertainment venue in the evening; and SeaPlex, the largest indoor activity space at sea, in which activities such as basketball, roller-skating and bumper cars can take place. All of this plus 18 restaurants, the Royal Esplanade shopping mall, the Music Hall for live music and events, the Pool Deck, a solarium, a conference centre and a fully equipped fitness centre.
In addition, Ovation of the Seas offers three specifically Chinese attractions to help Chinese guests feel at home. Firstly, Fan Bingbing, the internationally-acclaimed Chinese actress has been appointed Godmother of the ship. Secondly, in a unique collaboration with China’s Forbidden City Imperial Palace Museum, Ovation offers displays of historical relics from the Forbidden City and feature invited experts to hold talks about the Imperial Palace in Beijing. And finally, there is also a giant 33ft ‘Mama and Baby’ art installation, depicting a mother panda and her cub, reaching out to one another as a symbol of good luck – pandas are considered national treasures in China. Signage is also written in English and Mandarin, and the decoration is slightly different, tailored more towards the Chinese market. Some retail stores have also been replaced, and fast food restaurant, Johnny Rockets has been substituted by Kung Fu Panda Noodles.
Once again, not straying far from the previous two ships in the series – which is completely normal for projects such as this – system integrator, Amptown System Company (ASC) took on the entertainment technology feat installing more than 40 entertainment spaces. Planning and realising the Quantum series has changed the operating infrastructure of the company, it created a well-established team of ASC audiovisual engineers, sound and lighting designers, network specialists, all of whom work closely with the Royal Caribbean architects and technical team under the leadership of Royal Caribbean’s Superintendent SLVR & Architectural Lighting, Christopher Vlassopulos. And a guided tour by the man himself was most definitely the best way to experience a cruise ship for the first time. CLIMB ABOARD Getting on board the cruise ship – which was docked at Southampton, UK during my visit – was as official as you’d expect. I had to hand in my passport to obtain a badge that would allow me access. This was followed by a double lot of security checks and meeting my guide for the day, Christopher, the moment I stepped on board – although the latter was probably more so I didn’t get lost! Even without much prior knowledge of the cruise ship industry, it’s not difficult to ascertain that there is a mammoth amount of technology installed on board, however, until you see it with your own eyes and see every inch of detail that has gone into each aspect of the vessel, you’ll still under estimate the task… and this is just one cruise ship.
Our first stop on the tour was the Royal Theater. “We’re a floating soundbox, and when we’re selecting materials we have to choose those that are sound absorbing. “There is a lot of extra consideration that goes into the design of a cruise ship,” continued Christopher. But selecting the right products is also key, as they have to be durable, reliable and capable of being in operation 24/7. The main PA loudspeakers in the Royal Theater belong to Meyer Sound and the system comprises 20 Meyer Sound M’elodie ultra compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers and four Meyer Sound 700 HP ultra high-power subwoofers, split equally left and right of the stage. A further five compact Meyer Sound Mina curvilinear array cabinets make up the central cluster. Delays are courtesy of 12 Meyer Sound UPM1 ultra compact wide-coverage loudspeakers, while 40 Meyer Sound UPJunior loudspeakers have been installed as surround speakers and another delay line. Completing the loudspeaker inventory are seven Meyer Sound UP-4XP ultra compact loudspeakers installed for front fill. As with any Meyer Sound PA system, processing is taken care of by the company’s proprietary loudspeaker management system. Three Galileo 616 systems are in place for a broad range of control options. “For any manufacturer to get into the cruise ship business, it has to work harder than usual,” said Christopher. “We’ve been working with Meyer Sound for a number of years. They help us because they too have a great deal of experience, they assist with the design and although there is a lot of effort and resources involved, they give us an excellent and a reliable service because they know the importance of designing a cruise ship product properly.” To satisfy the need for a flexible infrastructure, 250 connection points are located around the Royal Theater, achieved with the help of an analogue Ghielmetti Patchbay. This routes input signals to a DiGiCo SD-Rack and two SD-Mini Racks, connected via an optical multicore to a DiGiCo SD5. Located at the FOH position, the SD5 is used to mix both FOH and monitors, the FOH sound being mixed in 5.1. The system can handle 448 audio channels at 96kHz, with the SD5 also offering three redundant BNC-MADI ports, eight analogue I/O and eight AES/EBU (mono) I/O, it is ideally suited to mixing a broad spectrum of events.
Sound Designer, Hendrik Maaßen, said: “The premium SD5 console and its fully integrated sound periphery correspond perfectly with the demanding requirements of the Royal Caribbean show specialists, who developed a wide range of different day and night entertainment for the Royal Theater.” As a system integrator with a comprehensive project experience in the maritime business ASC offers the complete range of media technology and services. With its core competence in theatre and musical sound reinforcement ASC realised a concept tailored to the idea of Royal Caribbean and on par with large stages onshore. Depending on the sailing schedule of any given ship, the shows in the theatre will change. For Ovation, the current shows are The Dream and Live. Love. Legs catering to the Chinese market. The stage is lit using a combination of more than 100 moving lights and 100 theatrical profiles. Elation features heavily in the intelligent lighting line-up, products include Elation Platinum Wash ZFX Pros, Satura Spot LED Pro moving heads, Platinum Beam 5R Extremes, Platinum Spot LED Pro IIs and Platinum Spot 35R Pro moving heads. These sit alongside Martin Professional MAC Viper Performances and Viper Wash DXs. Martin Professional Atomic 300 DMX strobes and LeMaitre MVS hazers provide additional special effects for any performance that requires it. ETC Source Four LED profiles and Desire D40 Lustr+ fixtures were used on the sibling ships so have therefore proved their worth alongside the moving lights. Particularly noteworthy are the ETC Source Four Series 2 Tungsten HD and Lustr, which set a high standard in terms of brightness and colour in the Royal Theater. A High End Systems HOG 4 Full Boar lighting console and a HOG 4 Playback Wing provides control. “In the US, I think we’re one of the largest customers of HOG consoles, we have more than many rental companies because Royal Caribbean has 25 cruise ships and Ovation alone has seven Full Boar consoles, there’s that and more on every ship,” said Christopher. A total of 144 Elation EPV20 LED panels have been installed, three screens in total – one large 5.8-metre by 11.5-metre screen positioned upstage as a dynamic backdrop and smaller 5.8-metre by 1.9-metre screens positioned at each side of the stage. The LED video system modules are attached to the theatre fly systems, installed hanging from rails, and attached to the front of lifting platforms, allowing the total LED surface of approximately 80 sq metres with a pixel spacing of 20mm to be visible or completely invisible depending on the scenery requirements. Content for the screens is fed through a coolux Pandoras Box Quad Server LT and a workstation equipped with the coolux Pandoras Box Manager LT and a Widget Designer ULT for show management. Furthermore, ASC fed two video signals from the Pandoras Box server into the ship-wide broadcasting system, allowing routing of the signals to the Christie HD10K-M lateral projections and the powerful Barco DP2K digital cinema projector in the theatre. This means the projectors can be used flexibly and creatively in the shows.