Smart Ship, Awesome Trip
Quantum of the Seas lives up to the hype.
By Doug Parker
The moment I made my way into Cape Liberty’s newly constructed cruise terminal to board Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas, I knew this experience was going to be one for the books.
Embarkation, in fact, began way before I even boarded the ship in Bayonne, New Jersey. During online check in, I not only entered the standard emergency contact and credit card information, I even uploaded my photo to avoid taking it at the pier. Upon entering the terminal, the embarkation staff greeted arriving guests with tablets, scanning our printed Sea Pass bar codes before pointing us in the direction of security and then to the ship (never to a counter). The process resembles Royal Caribbean’s Terminal 18 in Fort Lauderdale, with a pier-to-ship time at just 10 minutes.
Upon boarding the ship I first noticed two robotic bartenders making drinks to order in the Bionic Bar. Little did I know that these robots would be one of the centerpieces of the entire voyage.
Royal Caribbean calls Quantum of the Seas a “smart ship” — and with good reason.
Staterooms and Smartness
In my stateroom I found my RFID WOW band, which provided everything from stateroom access to buying privileges. The Royal iQ smartphone app lets you connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi network for free to message your friends on board, plan dining, make show reservations, and check your folio.
The staterooms on Quantum of the Seas range from solo staterooms to amazing lofts — with everything in between. The balconies extend out 6 feet from the sliding-glass door and give you plenty of moving room. Another smart stateroom plus is the dual USB port next to the two electrical outlets on the vanity area.
If you can’t swing the price of a balcony stateroom, you can opt for an interior stateroom complete with a virtual balcony: a floor-to-ceiling digital display of live conditions outside the ship. This was the first time I’ve ever experienced something like this in a stateroom and it blew me away.
Moments of WOW
Walking around the ship was almost a sensation overload. The North Star was the first must-do and it lived up to its expectations. This hydraulic arm complete with a capsule (think London Eye) allows approximately 15 people at a time to enter and go high above the ship. At first glance, I thought the arm only went up and down. But it actually moved us port and starboard over the ship, where we were 322 feet above sea level. The most popular thing to do in the North Star pod was to take a selfie.
Having been skydiving five times in my life, I also couldn’t wait to experience Quantum of the Seas’ skydiving simulation, RipCord by iFly. After 30 minutes of training and donning our skydiving gear, our group of about a dozen passengers headed up to take our 1-minute turns in the wind tunnel. I’ll tell you, it’s identical to really jumping out of an airplane with the exception that the simulated free fall experience is about 15 seconds longer, and there are no sinus headaches or long flights up to 14,000 feet.
It’s safe to say that RipCord by iFly managed to garner worldwide attention after The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon taped a segment on board of Jimmy skydiving with sidekick Steve Higgins.
Another innovative area on the ship is SeaPlex, the two-deck multipurpose area at the back of ship that features bumper cars, a circus trapeze school, basketball hoops that descend from the ceiling, roller skating complete with a DJ, a food truck that serves up hot dogs, and a video-gaming area.
And just when I thought I couldn’t experience any more WOW, I discovered Two70. This multipurpose transformational space really connects you with the sea with unrestricted 270-degree views of the ocean. Even though the space spans three stories, it still has a living-room feel, complete with books in the back.
Food and Entertainment
Royal Caribbean’s new Dynamic Dining says bon voyage to the traditional main dining rooms and breaks the dining experience down into 18 smaller, more intimate spaces.
Complimentary venues include Chic, which offers contemporary cuisine; American Icon Grill, which features unique takes on good ol’ U.S. comfort foods; Silk, which specializes in Pan Asian cuisine; The Grande Restaurant, which pays homage to ocean liners with a menu of timeless dishes; and Coastal Kitchen, which is available to suite guests and Pinnacle members only and combines California farmland with Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
In addition, a variety of specialty venues that come with a charge include Wonderland, which serves “imaginative” cuisine; Jamie’s Italian, which offers dishes from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver; Michael’s Genuine Pub, which serves specialty beer and dishes from James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Schwartz; Devinly Decadence, which boasts a healthy menu of favorites under 500 calories from bestselling author and chef Devin Alexander; and Royal Caribbean signature restaurants Chops Grill steakhouse, Izumi Japanese cuisine, and Johnny Rockets.
If sit-down dining isn’t your thing, then you can take your meal on the run in a selection of more casual eateries. I spent a lot of time testing out the Windjammer Marketplace, Sorrento’s pizza, SeaPlex Dog House, the Café @ Two70, and Café Promenade.
The nightlife on Quantum of the Seas is also a crowd pleaser, especially if you’re a music junkie like myself. The Music Hall is a two-story live music venue with a dance floor, plenty of lounge areas, two bars, pool tables, and a stage. This area really comes alive at night when you add live music and a bunch of your closest friends.
If dancing to cover bands and DJs isn’t your thing, you can head up to the Royal Theater and catch the Broadway show, Mamma Mia! Or the original Sonic Odyssey. Or head back to Two70 and catch a stunning show such as Starwater, which really shows off the high-tech production that this room was built for.
Dining and technology really take the front seat on Quantum of the Seas while staterooms and onboard activities aren’t far behind. Sisters Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas are set to launch this April and fall 2016, respectively, and there is no telling what we’ll see next. With Quantum of the Seas, the battlefield of cruise tourism is heating up. And it’s safe to say that Royal Caribbean gave the final checkmate of 2014.