This was the first time that I'd been on a cruise fresh from the shipyard, and the excitement was building as we prepared to leave Genoa. The workers were waiting to see her sail for the first time, the pilot boat was in place and the crew had already been on board for a month, so they were itching to set sail. Suddenly we were off, sailing out to the tunes of the ship's godmother Elaine Paige, and it was quite emotional leaving the shipyard, with the workers waving us off as we began our voyage to Venice.
I had six nights on board, which gave me plenty of time to explore. As you would expect from a new ship, Ovation is beautiful, with an understated elegance and style. Accommodation is all suite and all veranda, and there is plenty of deck space for the ship's 600 guests. Ovation is definitely an improvement on what is already a very good product, and I particularly liked the fact that you could always find little areas tucked away for a spot of seclusion.
You also have The Retreat on Deck 10, with private cabanas all around and a big hot tub in the middle. Here you can expect especially attentive service, with waiters on hand serving Bollinger champagne, caviar or any food of your choice. This area has been well thought out, and it's a mixture of your suite and deck life rolled into one, for those times when you want a little more privacy.
My veranda suite was on Deck 11 in a great position, and like all Seabourn ships the accommodation is fantastic. There is plenty of space and the glass-fronted balconies are furnished with two loungers and a small table, ideal for in-suite dining. I also saw the Penthouse Suites and the amazing Wintergarden Suite, which are well worth considering if you want more space, with larger balconies and more amenities.
There are more dining options on Ovation and Encore than the three smaller ships, and I managed to sample all of them during my cruise. The main dining room is lovely: light and airy, with a good selection of table sizes and great service. If you enjoy Japanese food I can recommend the Sushi restaurant, which is smaller and more intimate. The Colonnade is perfect for buffet-style breakfast and lunch, but offers a different experience in the evening, with table service and a a variety of themes.
One of my favourite evenings here was a family-style dinner with ribeye steak inspired by Thomas Keller. You can also dine in the speciality restaurant The Grill by Thomas Keller, but you will need to make a reservation and I recommend you do this before you travel. For more informal dining the Patio Grill is the place to go, with a great selection for lunch and al fresco à la carte dining in the evening.
It was hard to believe that this was Ovation's first sailing, as there was very little going on in the way of maintenance or snagging issues, the staff were fantastic ,and everything operated like clockwork.
I had a very special Seabourn moment as we sailed into Venice, with a party up on the pool deck where we were all issued with a Venetian mask. The officers were serving canapés and drinks, the fantastic Seabourn singers provided the stirring soundtrack, and we sailed very slowly into Venice, the city like a film set as we made our approach. What an entrance for this fabulous new ship.