Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed onboard Royal Caribbean’s new ship Wonder of the Seas, a liner so big it has more than 15 pools, a Boardwalk with a carousel and a Promenade called Central Park that’s home to 20,000 live plants. Plus, she gives the inside scoop on where to eat and drink, including Southern cocktails served with a rasher of candied bacon.
Wonder of the Seas is the 26th ship to join Royal Caribbean’s fleet. At 237,000 gross tonnes, this new £1billion ($1.35billion) liner is the biggest in the world and has more to see and do than any other large cruise ship ever built.
More than can be squeezed into a fortnight, let alone a week. It can accommodate 7,000 guests and its 18 decks have a plethora of thrills, from a zip-line to a surf simulator to the Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea. Be warned, this is scary!
Kessel on a very big vessel: Travel writer Jo (above) films onboard Royal Caribbean’s new ship Wonder of the Seas
At 237,000 gross tonnes, this new £1billion ($1.35billion) liner is the biggest in the world
My goal was to experience and film as much of Wonder as possible during my four-night voyage from Barcelona.
But while I enjoyed every show and high-octane ride (apologies for the squealing) it was impossible to dine at all 30 or so restaurants and bars. Next time!
The video starts on the elongated, tropical pool deck. There are three main swimming pools as well as umpteen smaller ones for chilling in (indoors and out) and a splash park for kids.
The video starts on the elongated, tropical pool deck, showing one of the three main pools (pictured)
I’m a particular fan of the glass float pools where hours can be spent ogling the ship or sea.
Aerial footage is featured next, which gives a sense of the sheer scale of Wonder and offers a bird’s eye view of the ship’s family-friendly amenities.
Everything’s bright and colourful – a reminder that this ship is about having fun, whether you’re young or young at heart.
‘I’m a particular fan of the glass float pools where hours can be spent ogling the ship or sea,’ says Jo
Jo’s footage shows the FlowRider surf simulator on board. ‘The video captures all the fun that can be had,’ she says
Jo braves the zipline. ‘Its 18 decks have a plethora of thrills,’ she says of the ship
The footage shows Jo trying out the ‘Wonder Dunes’ mini-golf course
Indeed, the video captures all the fun that can be had, from surfing to zip-lining to mini-golf.
If you’re very brave you can ride what is the tallest slide at sea: The Ultimate Abyss. This slide plunges ten decks and must be ridden in a sack.
A confession: wriggling into the hessian bag gave me second doubts and clammy hands. The POV footage shot on the descent (complete with petrified screaming) shows quite how hair-raising this slide is. Do it again? Never! Should you try it once? Absolutely!
Jo stands outside the Ultimate Abyss slide, which plunges ten decks and must be ridden in a sack
‘Wriggling into the hessian bag gave me second doubts and clammy hands,’ Jo says of her ride on the Ultimate Abyss
While Jo says she would never again ride the ‘hair-raising’ Ultimate Abyss, she recommends giving it a try
Jo says that a ride on the old-fashioned carousel on Deck 6’s Boardwalk is ‘perfect for calming nerves after the Ultimate Abyss’
The slide finishes on Deck 6’s Boardwalk, a tastefully-designed al fresco esplanade that resembles a seaside pier. This is home to an old-fashioned carousel (think Mary Poppins-style horses) which is perfect for calming nerves after the Ultimate Abyss.
Up next is our favourite spot on the ship – a Promenade on Deck 8 called Central Park.
The film shows how it’s hewn from the ship’s interior, open to the elements and landscaped with 20,000 real plants. It’s a lovely space to escape the crowds and its Park Cafe was our go-to venue for breakfast or a quiet drink.
Pictured is the Promenade on Deck 8, called Central Park, which is Jo’s favourite spot on the ship
Jo describes the ship’s Park Cafe as her ‘go-to venue’ for breakfast or a quiet drink
The video then moves on to the cabins. Everything’s spanking new and well-sized, including my balcony cabin, which I was extremely happy with… until catching a glimpse of what top dollar can buy.
Meet the £16,000-($20,000) a-week-per-person two-floor Royal Loft Suite.
Not only does it have wicker swing chairs and a hot tub on its balcony, but its lounge has a grand piano whose ivories play like a dream.
Pictured is Jo’s cabin, where ‘everything’s spanking new and well-sized’
The video goes on a tour around the £16,000- ($20,000) a-week-per-person two-floor Royal Loft Suite
Jo admits she was ‘extremely happy’ with her cabin until she laid eyes on the Royal Loft Suite (pictured)
The Royal Loft Suite has wicker swing chairs and a hot tub on its balcony
Jo says the Royal Loft Suite’s lounge has a grand piano whose ivories ‘play like a dream’
Wonder is colossal and getting around does ‘wonders’ for one’s daily step count, which means there’s no guilt about refuelling. Food is excellent and our top picks for complimentary dining are the Solarium Bistro (we love the small plates) and Park Café. But for New England-style seafood speciality restaurant ‘Hooked’ can’t be beaten. Order crab cakes and whole Maine lobster.
Happily, there are umpteen ways to burn off those calories, from lapping the Promenade Deck (these laps feel longer than on other cruise ships) to clambering up a climbing wall to riding the high-speed water slides – a trio of slides called ‘The Perfect Storm’.
Despite this name (which should have rung alarm bells) the swerves and velocity of the orange one came as a shock, as both the POV footage and audio demonstrate. Did I dare do it again? Bizarrely, yes. And that’s the beauty of Wonder. You can push yourself to your limit or just say no.
‘Food is excellent,’ Jo says of the culinary offerings on Wonder of the Seas
According to Jo, there are umpteen ways to burn calories on the ship, including clambering up a climbing wall (pictured)
Jo prepares to ride the ship’s high-speed water slides – a trio of slides called ‘The Perfect Storm’
Jo rides the orange ‘Perfect Storm’ waterslide and finds that the ‘swerves and velocity’ of the ride come as a ‘shock’
That said, a stiff drink was in order afterwards. Wonder has innovative watering holes, from the Rising Tide Bar (a bar which moves up and down three decks) to the Bionic Bar with robot bartenders.
My favourite, however, is the ship’s new Southern restaurant and bar, The Mason Jar. Their ‘Far from Manhattan’ cocktail is laced with bourbon and served with a slice of candied bacon – an unusual, moreish combination.
Royal Caribbean is proud of its trailblazing entertainment and Wonder takes this to the next level.
The footage homes in on the Rising Tide Bar, which moves up and down three decks
Jo tries The Mason Jar’s ‘Far from Manhattan’ cocktail, which is laced with bourbon and served with a slice of candied bacon. ‘An unusual, moreish combination,’ she says
‘Royal Caribbean is proud of its trailblazing entertainment and Wonder takes this to the next level,’ says Jo. Above is the ‘ice-dancing extravaganza’ on Wonder’s skating rink
The film’s finale features the ship’s new beatboxing show (where the only musical instrument used is the human voice) as well as an ice-dancing extravaganza on Wonder’s skating rink.
Piece de resistance, however, is ‘Intense’, a spectacle which takes place in the ship’s Aqua Theatre, whose stage is a pool.
Its all-female cast includes five Olympians whose high dives, somersaults and watery acrobatics leave the audience gasping.
And then there’s the jaw-dropping acrobatic display by the World Champion slackliner performed on a tight-rope strung over the water.
You have to see it to believe it. And that pretty much sums up Wonder of the Seas.
For more videos from Jo, visit her YouTube channel – Go With Jo.
Summing up Wonder of the Seas, Jo says: ‘You have to see it to believe it’
Pictured is the ship’s Splashaway Bay water park. Jo says that the liner ‘has more to see and do than any other large cruise ship ever built’
Wonder of the Seas measures 64m (210ft) wide and 362m (1,188ft) long. Above is the ship’s Solarium