The 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas definitely is the right name for this self-proclaimed “smart ship” that aims to broaden the appeal of cruising. Think robot-bartenders, roaming tablet-equipped guest services personnel and ship-wide, high-speed Internet access.
Usually choosing a name for a ship is a contentious process, said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., speaking at the ship’s christening on Nov. 14. “But you can’t say ‘quantum’ without thinking ‘leap’ so as soon as someone said ‘Quantum of the Seas’ we knew we had the name for this new class of ship.” Fain called it a “before and after ship,” saying that pre-Quantum cruising paradigms like long check-in lines could become as anachronistic as using a pay phone.
Technologically enabled both for cruisers and behind the scenes, it’s one of the few ships created with cold weather sailings in mind, with indoor pools, sports spaces and cutting-edge activities to keep passengers of all ages active and entertained, even when it’s freezing outside. The ship’s new “dynamic dining” replaces the concept of a traditional main dining room and scheduled seatings with five no-fee specialty restaurants.
On an inaugural cruise out of Port Liberty, NJ, travel agents and media got a taste of the future—and loved it. This is a technology-laden ship that Luddites can equally love and it is packed with bragging-rights activities like simulated skydiving and surfing, bumper cars and trapeze training guaranteed to make everyone’s Instagram or Facebook friends jealous.
let the fun begin
The promised 10-minute sidewalk-to-ship check-in took me only five minutes. After passing through security, I was approached by someone with a tablet. “Do you have your “SeaPass” (the pre-registration document)?” I did, and although I had uploaded a photo, mine was snapped again on the spot. I showed my passport and was officially checked in. No SeaPass? No problem. A colleague who hadn’t pre-registered walked to a desk—no line—where his “SeaPass” was quickly printed out.
Inside the cabin was my “WOWband,” an RFID (radio-frequency ID) wrist band that serves as room key, onboard charge card and ID. While I didn’t check luggage, those who did could track them on their Royal iQ apps, thanks to RFID luggage tags. An empowering time-saver, the downloadable Royal iQ app can be used to make and modify reservations for dinner, shows and spa treatments. Those who are not comfortable with the app or prefer to have someone else do the reserving will find the guest services lounge very accommodating.
The fast check-in and luggage tracker “give people back their first day of vacation,” says Vicki Freed, senior v.p., sales, trade support and service. “Many people don’t start enjoying the ship until their luggage is in the room. Now, they can go dine or explore the ship and not worry about where their luggage is.”
something to tweet home about
Skydiving isn’t something you’d expect to do on a cruise, but RipCord by iFly offers the exhilaration of skydiving in a safe, controlled environment. And this is just one of the astonishing—and free—activities on board the ship. SeaPlex, the largest indoor activity space at sea, is home to a circus school, complete with flying trapeze, bumper cars and roller skating as well as basketball, soccer and other sports. The ship also offers a climbing wall and a FlowRider surf simulator.
Equally thrilling and less taxing is the 15-minute ride in the NorthStar, a glass bubble that takes up to 14 guests up 300 ft. then swings out away from the ship to provide helicopter-like views.
And no matter what the weather, the ship’s large pool area, with its retractable roof, is ready. There’s also an elegant adults-only indoor solarium with tiered pools, hot tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows, and an indulgent 2-deck spa.
dining in a post-modern era
Food is definitely part of the adventure. Imagine sitting down in an Alice in Wonderland-style room and being handed a frame with a blank canvas. As you paint it with water, the menu appears. That’s the start of the whimsical ($45 pp) dining experience at Wonderland, where chairs have faces and dishes are often served with a magical mist rising from the plate.
Quantum’s diverse dining choices encompass 18 restaurants, each with a unique menu and ambiance. Three celebrity chef eateries have come aboard: Devinly Decadence, with rich tasting, low-cal concoctions by Devin Alexander, chef of the TV Show “World’s Biggest Loser”; Jamie’s Italian, designed by British chef Jamie Oliver; and the first American gastropub at sea, created by James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz.
Those who prefer not to run up a dining tab have five distinctive full-service restaurants to choose from. The Grande’s elegant ambiance calls for formal attire while eclectic Chic has a contemporary feel. Silk, with a Pan-Asian menu, American Icon Grill’s regional comfort foods, and Coastal Kitchen’s Mediterranean-California fusion round out the fee-free specialty options.
“People are really excited about having access to so many specialty restaurants—beautiful, intimate spaces, each with its own distinctive cuisine and ambiance, without the fees,” says Freed. “It’s all about variety and choice.”
And then there are the casual eateries like Windjammer Marketplace, a buffet of cuisines from around the world; SeaPlex Dog House, a food truck with gourmet hot dogs; and perennially popular Johnny Rockets and Sorrento’s pizzeria. Bars, too, have their own personalities and drink menus; not to be missed is the Bionic Bar, where the robot bartenders always seem to draw a crowd.
shrek, science and autism-trained counselors
Sure, families will want to bond around bumper cars, skydiving, surfing and other “wow” fun, but often, kids (and their adults) just want to be with others their age. Quantum offers all the children’s, tweens and teen programs the line is known for, including DreamWorks entertainment and character events. The Royal Babies & Tots Nursery allows parents to drop off kids from 6 to 36 months. Potty-trained kids 3 and up can enjoy the Adventure Ocean programs, which are divided into four age groups, and there is a robust teen program.
Plus, as on Royal Caribbean’s other ships, Quantum has counselors trained to engage with autistic children and make them feel secure, notes Freed. New to the Quantum are an expanded Adventure Ocean science lab, and the first wave pool at sea, a part of the DreamWorks Animation Madagascar-themed H2O Zone waterpark.
staterooms with a view
With its Virtual Balconies, previewed earlier this year on the Navigator of the Seas, every cabin on the ship has a balcony. If you haven’t seen these, take my word for it, they are amazingly lifelike. Curtains frame a floor-to-ceiling high-definition screen that links to a video camera at the bow or stern. Footage comes in nearly real time so it syncs with the ship’s movements.
Quantum’s cabins are, on average, about 9 percent larger than on Oasis-class ships, with even more clever storage. Families will especially like the flexibility of “Family-Connected” staterooms, which allow up to three stateroom categories to be connected. And single travelers will appreciate the generous-sized Studio stateroom options; some even have balconies.
Upgrade options have also expanded with three Junior Suite categories, some with a new split bathroom design, and exciting Loft Suites, which feature 2-story walls of glass. One of the most spectacular is the Royal Loft, with a private balcony and whirlpool.
“We are a contemporary ship due to our size, yet we offer a truly premium product,” says Freed. “The suite class, with its concierge club lounge, is a very luxury experience, so there’s exclusivity when you want it, but you still have access to all the variety of experiences the ship has to offer.”
Quick fact: There are 2,090 staterooms in total—1,575 balcony; 148 outside; 275 virtual balcony, 34 wheelchair accessible.
entertainment—techie and traditional
Technology takes center stage at Two70, a multi-tiered Great Room with 270-degree panoramic views through floor-to-ceiling windows spanning nearly three decks. By day, it’s a relaxing library and gathering space, but come showtime, the room comes alive. The expansive window is transformed into a canvas for images that interact with and amplify the performances of live musicians and dancers who descend from the ceiling and rise from under the stage floor, sometimes seeming to float in space as they perform. Six large Roboscreens also dance through the air. Currently, two shows have been custom-created for this space.
The full-scale production of Broadway musical “Mamma Mia” at the Royal Theater is equally exciting. Music lovers will also enjoy the tribute bands and late-night dance parties at the 2-story Music Hall. And smaller piano and DJ spots cater to those who prefer more intimate venues.
Quantum of the Seas will sail out of the New York Harbor from Cape Liberty, NJ on 7- to 12-night Caribbean itineraries during the winter 2014/15 season, then heads to China. Quantum’s new sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, will be introduced in Southampton, UK, in April 2015 with cruises to the Mediterranean, moving to Cape Liberty in October. Rates start at $999 pp dbl.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
Norwegian Getaway from A to Z (September 2014)
What Travel Agents Are Saying…
Linda Greene, MCC, of Cruise Planners, says Quantum of the Seas is especially suited to families. “There are so many child-fun experiences on the ship…that beautiful pool deck with lots of swimming areas, DreamWorks characters and activities, the multi-plex for bumper cars, and also roller skating and other sports, and, of course, the NorthStar experience. And the bionic bartenders would entertain geeky kids for hours.”
Green loved the innovations: The quick check-in, wristbands that served as key cards (“It was handy to avoid searching for key card each time!”) and the dynamic dining that “takes freestyle to another level with no ‘main dining room’ and having different menus in every venue makes each one feel like
specialty dining. Plus, the food was excellent.”
Greene’s only caveat was to be sure to place clients with walking issues near the elevators. “There are only two elevator banks and lots of walking. Also, hallways are very narrow and will present challenges to those in wheelchairs and scooters, especially when those ubiquitous carts are out there.”