Royal Caribbean Introduces Another Winner
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
I had my doubts about Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas. I really did. When someone promises they’re going serve the moon up to you on a platter – even if it’s one of the most successful cruise lines on the planet – I tend to be skeptical. And there were promises aplenty: ten-minute check-in. The fastest internet at sea. Revolutionary new amenities. Plugged-in components.
Amazingly, in Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has designed a ship that makes its existing fleet look positively frumpy. If there’s a single downside to Quantum, it’s that she’s so innovative she’s prematurely aged the Royal Caribbean fleet by ten years.
I arrived at the new Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal just after Noon. It’s a colossal improvement over the old “tent-and-building structure” that was just horrifying. If you hated the shuttle bus ride as much as I did, good news: It’s ancient history now, replaced with a modern terminal that has – gasp! – tide-sensing gangways.
While check-in wasn’t quite the ten-minute-wonder Royal Caribbean had promised, it was among the fastest I’ve experienced on any large mainstream ship, clocking in at 26.5 minutes from start to finish. Which is darn good. I should point out that I had problems checking in online, and that the time listed includes the time for the pierside staff to check me in. Your mileage may vary.
Once onboard – oh my. This is one gorgeous ship. Quantum of the Seas is a colossal improvement over the Voyager and Freedom-class vessels. She is representative of the new Royal Caribbean, and almost no trace of the ‘old’ Royal Caribbean is present. The entire styling and décor of this ship is unlike anything that has come before her. The Royal Caribbean trademarks of the 1980s and 1990s – the curved staircases, Viking Crown Lounge, marble surfaces – are all gone, replaced instead with an elegant, modern look that wouldn’t be out of place in a fine hotel.
Initially, I was concerned that Quantum of the Seas would suffer from a disconnect from the ocean, but that simply isn’t the case. While she still doesn’t boast as many windows as I’d like to see in her public rooms, she’s far more connected with the sea than the Voyager and Freedom class cruise ships. Windows line nearly every venue, and if there aren’t windows near your favorite watering hole (hello, Schooner Bar), clever lighting helps to mimic daylight outside.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at Quantum of the Seas!
After touring the ship, I jumped on the North Star just as the clock struck three in the afternoon. With the sun gradually fading over Bayonne, the capsule raised me and my fellow journalists high above the ship – and it was a pretty cool experience. I certainly cannot say I’ve ever seen a ship I’ve been on from so far above; however, it’s kind of in the “been-there-done-that” category at the moment. I’m glad I rode the North Star, but I feel no burning desire to do so again.
Tonight, I dined at Silk, the Asian-influenced restaurant aboard Quantum of the Seas. Located on the port side of Deck 4, Silk features authentic dishes from across Asia, including China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and India.
The setting was gorgeous (and somehow vaguely Norwegian Cruise Line-esque), and the dishes I had (the spicy hot soup and Peking Duck) were fabulous. In fact, I wish I had a few more nights onboard – I’d go back to Silk in a heartbeat.
This afternoon, I used my iPhone – against my will, I might add – to book a reservation for this evening’s performance of Starwater in Two70 – Royal Caribbean’s newest and most innovative entertainment venue.
As we got closer to the 10:15 p.m. start time, I considered not showing up. There was still a ton of ship to photograph, and the allure of sinking into one of the plush chairs in Vintages and settling in with a glass of Malbec to round out the night seemed immensely appealing. But, I found my legs carrying me all the way aft to the Deck 5 entrance to Two70.
I’m glad I went: Starwater was, hands down, the best entertainment I’ve ever seen at sea. There’s no runner up; it leaves everyone else inhaling its dust as it crosses the finish line. In fact, it rivaled the entertainment I’ve seen on land. This is what cruise ship entertainment should be – different, innovative, relevant, and above all else, imaginative.
I have never seen a show on land or sea that features a massive wall of windows that transform into a giant digital projection surface until now. I had never considered that robotic screens could be synchronized to music and dancers, or that Rhianna and Phil Collins songs could be combined. Or that Coldplay could be married with jazz, interspersed with The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. Or that production values at sea could exceed those found on land. Yet, I experienced every one of these things tonight.
The shows of Two70 are, so far, the thing I will take away from Quantum of the Seas. Coupled with her gorgeous interior styling, these are two features that will make me recommend her to others, and entice me to sail on one of her longer voyages.
Starwater features visual effects created by Montreal-based Moment Factory, and the production credits list reads like that of a feature film. This is no ordinary show; this is a unique and decidedly cinematic experience.
Not everything Quantum is perfect; I find the Royal iQ app confusing and needlessly complicated when a simple piece of paper would suffice, and I think the Bionic Bar – which has been out of commission for most of today due to technical glitches – is undeserving of all the publicity it’s been getting.
However, with the Solarium, the North Star, the plethora of dining options and culinary experiences (not to mention Two70) – Royal Caribbean has absolutely hit out of the park.
My first few hours onboard Quantum of the Seas have been a great learning experience for me. I learned that just because something is radically different doesn’t mean that it will not have appeal to the masses. Quantum of the Seas showed me that even though I know, love and cherish the ideals represented by “classic” cruising, there is a place on the seas for imagination and innovation.
Quantum of the Seas has done just that, and I am left with only one thought tonight:
The full report, both here and onboard:
Quantum of the Seas Preview
|Wednesday, November 12, 2014||Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey||Embark Quantum of the Seas. Evening sailaway.|
|Thursday, November 13||At Sea||Navigation Bridge and Engine Control Room Tour; Galley Tour and Complete Dining Venue Tour; Accommodations Tour; Pub Craft Beer Session; Evening Entertainment|
|Friday, November 14, 2014||Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey||Disembark Quantum of the Seas; Photo Tour & Recap|