Quantum of the Seas lives up to the hype
WOW is an expression often used by Royal Caribbean, and never has a word been more apt than for Quantum of the Seas. I haven't cruised on Allure or Oasis of the Seas, so this was easily the largest ship I have ever been on. And from the moment I completed my pre-cruise information and was asked to upload a photograph, I knew this was going to be an experience like no other.
I arrive at Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal in New York and am greeted in the foyer by a staff member armed only with a tablet device and a smile. Using my Set Sail Pass, this friendly individual was able to check me in before sending me on for security screening. Making sure the photo I had uploaded was indeed me, I was onboard the ship within 10 minutes of arriving at the cruise terminal - super-quick!
Arriving at my cabin, my room key/cruise card is waiting for me at the front door. But once inside, I realise that I don't have much use for it. One of the new innovations on Quantum is a wristband that you wear like a watch, that offers the same functionality of a cruise card - far easier than a lanyard round your neck or placing it in your back pocket.
The cabin itself (superior balcony) is beautifully presented, with a contemporary fit-out. The bed is set up next to the balcony doors, with the sitting area between the bathroom and bed. This is a nice idea, allowing you to easily lie down and look out your balcony window. Another neat cabin feature is the missing shower curtain in the bathroom. Instead, this has been replaced with a glass-enclosed shower. Minor detail I know, but cruise ship showers can be quite small - and they get even smaller when you try and avoid contact with the curtain.
A sweet taste of the Big Apple
Taking a cruise from New York is something I will never forget. Yes, they play any song that references New York or USA very loudly as you sail away (think James Brown's Living in America), but the experience of viewing the Manhattan Skyline and Lady Liberty, 15 storeys above the water on a cruise liner, is truly memorable. If you are looking for something to put on your cruising bucket list, setting sail out of New York is an essential.
A revolution in dining
Dining on Quantum of the Seas is different. In the evening, Quantum offers "Dynamic Dining", which means there are no set times to eat, no large venues that seat 500+ people and no required formal nights. In the evening, you have a choice of four different free-of-charge dining rooms: American Icon Grill, The Grande, Silk and Chic. These do require reservations, which can be made by phone or the Royal iQ app on your iPhone or iPad.
In addition to these four, there are seven casual dining choices that require no reservations, including the Windjammer buffet. There are also seven Specialty Dining options onboard (cover charges apply). These are Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver, Chef's Table, Chops Grille, Izumi Japanese Cuisine, Wonderland, Devinly Decadence and Michael's Genuine Pub.
Dynamic Dining may ostracise some traditional cruisers. But if you are travelling as a group or prefer to sit at the same table every night with the same waiter, you can still do this by making reservations for the entire cruise. However, I believe you will really miss out on experiencing what this wonderful cruise ship has to offer.
Entertainment and technology combined - 270
The venue 270, located at the aft end of the ship on decks 5 & 6, was one of the most talked about features before I boarded and I can understand why. During the day, 270 offers fantastic, 270-degree panoramic sea views through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
By night, it transforms into a stunning entertainment venue. The show Starwater was easily the most entertaining production I have ever seen at sea. The windows turn into massive projector screens, while aerialists and performers take the stage.
The fun of the fair at Seaplex
Another WOW feature of Quantum of the Seas is Seaplex. This is the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea. The space itself is very versatile, offering activities ranging from dodgems/bumper cars, circus school with trapeze lessons, roller skating and a basketball court. I was even told it can convert into a nightclub on rare occasions. Apparently the crew had a party there one evening before passengers joined the ship.
Fly high on North Star
The North Star is probably the most iconic feature of Quantum of the Seas and a feature that was in hot demand. It's basically a glass capsule (think London Eye) that rises up above the ship giving you 360-degree views, 300 feet above the ocean and over the side of the ship.
North Star is a must-do if you take a cruise on Quantum or Anthem of the Seas. However, pick your time carefully because the capsule only takes approximately 12 people at a time and the ride can last up to 14 minutes. So, even if there are only 50 people waiting, this can mean close to an hour's wait. My recommendation would be give it a few days before deciding to board the North Star when the queues have died down, or arrive early before it starts for the day.
Where robots rule - Bionic Bar
Now this was cool. The Bionic Bar is a great place to just sit and watch, as you enjoy the buzz of seeing bionic bartenders at work. And let's not forget your perfectly mixed cocktail!
To order a drink, you need your wristband and an iPad. On the iPad you can order whatever you want and how you wish it to be made. Or you can choose from one of the many cocktail options available. Once your order is submitted it appears on a screen next to the bar - and you can clearly see when your drink will be made and the time it will take. When it's ready, simply walk up to the bar, present your wristband to a panel and your drink is then released to you.
Sky's the limit with RipCord by iFly
Ripcord by iFly is the first ever skydiving experience at sea, and while I was hesitant at first, I'm so pleased I went through it. Now I've had a taste, it only confirmed that I have to skydive from a plane one day. Located at the aft end of the ship, above "FlowRider" (the surf simulator), there is a fantastic view to take in while you contemplate what you are about to do.
Staying connected at sea
Quantum of the Seas is known as the technology ship. With the streamlined check-in procedure, wristbands replacing cruise cards, virtual balconies, Bionic Bartenders and the fastest internet speed at sea, it's an obvious title. For me, however, one of the beauties of taking a cruise is turning off from your normal life where you are constantly checking emails and looking at your phone. Using the Royal iQ app, you find yourself glancing at your phone far more regularly than you should be - and there have been no proven medical issues from not checking your emails for a couple of days.
Who cruises on Quantum?
In my opinion, what Royal Caribbean are trying to achieve with Dynamic Dining, Seaplex, 270, Ripcord by iFly and high-speed internet on Quantum of the Seas is an experience that will attract new cruisers and a fresh generation of passengers. You wouldn't stay at a hotel on land if it took more than a minute for a web-page to load, so why should you expect to wait at sea.
The Quantum of the Seas itinerary
Quantum of the Seas will cruise from Cape Liberty, New York, until May 2015 before repositioning itself in Shanghai, where it is based year round.