The world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, has just completed its maiden voyage - and I was lucky enough to be on it.
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There's something about the idea of cruising that I naively associated with an older generation, travellers with plenty of time on their hands and a disposable income to explore the world with ease. Certainly within the UK, there's a preconceived notion that those who embark on world cruises are those who have reached retirement; sun-seeking vacationers who can afford to splurge on a luxe travel voyage.
Wonder of the Seas embarked on its maiden voyage on 4th March 2022
My experience on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, the newest (and largest) addition to their Oasis Class fleet, couldn't have proved me more wrong. I was admittedly apprehensive before embarking on the world's largest cruise ship, convinced my youth would stick out like a sore thumb. Yet a week of sun, sand, surfing, zip-lining, pina coladas, and waking up to ocean sunrises every day, I'm kicking myself I didn't consider cruising sooner.
So, what's it really like to cruise as a 25-year-old? Here's everything I discovered during my 7-night cruise onboard Wonder of the Seas.
The ultimate taste of A-lister destinations
My favourite takeaway from my first cruise is the fact we only unpacked once, yet woke up in a new location each day. Having boarded Wonder in Miami, I got a taste of the Beckhams' luxe lifestyle as we sailed out the port to the view of pristine white skyrises and the heat of the scorching Florida sun. Two days later, we were sipping on rum punch on Royal Caribbean's private island, Labadee, only to wake up in the Bahamas the next day, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will embark on their Caribbean royal tour.
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Wonder's Suite Sun Deck is an exclusive sun trap for Suite guests
Cruising really is nothing short of luxury when it comes to destination sailing. We docked at ports I had only dreamt of visiting, stepping off the ship onto plush white sands, crystal clear waters and towering palm trees.
I soared across Haitian shores on Labadee's terrifying, exhilarating, 60-story-high zipline and tackled North America's tallest waterslide on Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's luxe private island in the Bahamas.
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If you're not an adrenaline-seeker, there are plenty of options for those who prefer to pull up a sunbed and lounge to the sound of waves crashing. Upgrade your island game at Royal Caribbean's Coco Beach Club, where the infinity pool, private overwater cabanas and swinging hammocks are nothing short of ultimate vacation bliss.
Coco Beach Club is the ultimate zen spot on Perfect Day at CocoCay
Royal Caribbean doesn't just operate from the States either, their stunning fleet of awe-inspiring ships sail from ports all over the world - and Wonder of the Seas is coming to Europe in May 2022.
You'll never go hungry on a cruise
If you thought you'd be short on dining options onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, you really do have nothing to worry about. If anything, there were too many choices when it came to mealtimes, with guests treated to an abundance of world cuisines in several stunning restaurants.
The food offerings within the complimentary onboard restaurants were often exceptional. We loved strolling down to the Windjammer Cafe for a lazy breakfast, enjoying fresh fruit, fluffy pancakes with maple syrup and perfectly poached eggs with buttery hollandaise. Solarium Bistro provided the ultimate chill lunch hangout and a mouthwatering Mediterranean-inspired buffet, while spending the evening in the Main Dining Room offered a taste of the timeless glamour of traditional cruising.
Chops Grille was one of our favourite restaurants on the ship
A few slices of Sorrento's pizza after a night of cocktails and comedy in The Attic always went down a treat too… though it's admittedly far too easy to overindulge when the options are so tempting.
Dining packages are also available for those who prefer to indulge a la carte, and the speciality dining options onboard Wonder are really something to write home about. New to Royal Caribbean, the Mason Jar Southern Restaurant & Bar is a homely waterside haunt reinventing Low Country classics, Bayou staples, and bold BBQ.
The Mason Jar is new to Wonder of the Seas
Guests are delighted with live country music and dishes both crave-worthy and comforting. Meanwhile, the brunch menu brims with breakfast dishes that could pass for dessert. We couldn't get enough of the tastebud-teasing Sweet-Tooth Cinnamon Roll or savoury southern Chicken 'n Waffles.
The crew will treat you like royalty
It would be fair the say the kindness and efficiency of the crew onboard Wonder of the Seas were easily one of the highlights of the trip. Poolside staff were quick to replenish cocktails, while restaurant waiters were attentive and charming, with servers always keen to share the history or inspiration behind your dish. Fittingly, Royal Caribbean refer to their excellent service as 'the Royal way', and it's easy to see why experienced cruisers are always keen to return to Royal's Oasis Class ships.
The entertainment is world class
Having come from a performing background, I had high expectations for the entertainment on Wonder of the Seas. Aside from the exciting onboard amenities, dazzling interiors and newly expanded pool deck, I felt it was in the ship's entertainment that Wonder really came alive.
Three exciting (and complimentary) shows are performed on Wonder, including Tap Factory, the all-female cast of InTENse and the new 365: The Seasons on Ice, a whimsical display of the colours, textures, sounds and sights of the four seasons during a heartfelt and spectacular display on ice.
Aerials, acrobats and nail-biting 60ft dives into plunge pools left audiences in the AquaTheater totally mesmerised - myself included. InTENse really was unlike anything I had seen before, with the talented all-female cast performing tricks worthy of Cirque du Soleil's stage.
Wonder's AquaTheater sets the scene for mesmerising dive spectaculars
Debuting later in the season in Wonder's Royal Theatre, audiences will be thrilled by new show, The Effectors II: Crash ‘n’ Burn, using state-of-the-art technology, flying drones and thrilling choreography - an exciting contemporary theatre experience for guests of all ages.
Despite the endless offering of entertainment, Wonder's current scheduled voyages lack a Broadway show - an often integral and highly anticipated part of cruising that I was slightly disappointed to have missed. I couldn't help but think the sparkle of a well-known musical so raved about on Royal Caribbean's other ships would have helped Wonder to truly shine, though the other shows are certainly not worth missing.
There are plenty of spots onboard for a cocktail (or two)
I caught the end of a conversation between two regular cruisers, who were quick to mention: "If you're bored on a cruise ship, the problem is not the cruise." And I have to agree. I boldly packed my book, anticipating a cover to cover read during our slower days at sea, but instead found myself tackling the boogie board on the FlowRider, Wonder's epic onboard surf simulator.
How much does it cost to cruise on Wonder of the Seas?
Royal Caribbean International is offering Caribbean and Mediterranean cruise itineraries on its new Wonder of the Seas ship from £615pp.
Price based on a 7 night Western Mediterranean Cruise from Rome departing 12th May 2022 for two people sharing a double interior stateroom. To book, please visit: www.royalcaribbean.com/gbr/en