Two Nights Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Newest Marvel
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
When Royal Caribbean first introduced Sovereign of the Seas back in 1988, she literally revolutionized the cruise industry. Not only was she the largest cruise ship constructed since the S.S. France of 1961, she succeeded in capturing the imagination of the travelling public with her soaring atrium and unheard-of amenities.
Eleven years later, in 1999, the line turned the cruising world on its head once again with Voyager of the Seas. She introduced concepts like rock-climbing walls and ice skating rinks at sea, along with the architectural marvel that was the Royal Promenade – a horizontal atrium spanning four decks in height and running over a quarter of the length of the entire ship, bordered by two soaring vertical atriums. Many doubted these features would work; after all, why would anyone want to go rock climbing at sea? Fifteen years later, rock-climbing walls are de-facto equipment on most mainstream cruise ships, and Royal Caribbean’s atrium styling is often imitated but never duplicated.
One decade later, they brought the world Oasis of the Seas – the largest cruise ship in the world. Again, many doubted she would succeed. Who wants to sail with nearly six thousand other guests? As it turned out, lots of folks. Not only did she work, Royal Caribbean is currently constructing a third Oasis-class vessel in order to meet demand.
Which brings us to Quantum of the Seas. Although not on the same massive scale as Oasis of the Seas, she’s plenty big: 1,141 feet long, 136 feet wide, and sporting draft (the amount of the ship that’s under water) of 28 feet. She’ll carry 4,180 guests at double-occupancy, served by a crew of 1,490. In many ways, this could be the most important ship in the history of Royal Caribbean. From ten-minute embarkation to robotic bartenders to venues the likes of which the world has never seen before, a lot is riding on her becoming the same out-of-the-gate success that her predecessors were.
In the past, I’ve been, shall we say, critical of some of Quantum of the Seas’ new features – for the simple reason that they’re not personally what I’d look for in a cruise. I can’t fathom why I’d want a skydiving simulator on a ship, or have the ability to play Xbox around the world from the middle of the Atlantic. I’m on a cruise! Who needs Xbox? Real life is freakin’ awesome!
But, my job is to understand why this appeals, and who it appeals to; to discover what the WOW-factor is that Royal Caribbean is always talking about, and how it relates to cruisers of all types. That’s why I’ll be sailing aboard Quantum of the Seas on her first New York media preview cruise on November 12, 2014 – to discover my own WOW. This is a ship that, to be honest, I just can’t make up my mind about. When that happens, there’s only one solution: I have to see it for myself.
Initially, I wasn’t planning on travelling during the first half of this month. I’m swamped with a book I am writing at the moment, and the deadlines are piling up. I even cancelled another cruise I had originally scheduled for this time period. But when opportunity knocked, I couldn’t pass this one up.
I think I’m different from other people that might be onboard. The robot bartenders do nothing for me; I cruise to escape technology. Technology, though, plays a huge role aboard Quantum of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has developed a new App (ROYAL iQ) that allows you to do everything from arrange shore excursions, make dinner reservations, and even track your own luggage via an RFID-equipped luggage tag. They’ve got robotics galore, from the robotic performers in Two70 at the stern of the ship to the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator and the NorthStar – a glass capsule mounted to the end of a hydraulic arm that whisks you high above the ship. Internet connectivity is reported to be some of the fastest at sea, and Royal Caribbean wants you to be able to Skype and FaceTime your friends and upload videos to YouTube. If it works, Royal Caribbean will be the hero of the connected passenger. But satellite technology is enormously fickle; will it work as promised?
To me, this is all amazingly innovative stuff, and there’s absolutely no question that the ship is a technological marvel. I can tell that without even having set foot onboard. Moreover, in the history of the entire company, Royal Caribbean rarely misfires: every new ship they build hits their target.
My task, over the course of two days: take in as much of the ship as possible. Specifically: I’m going to try the things that I am personally least sure of. That means riding the North Star; “Skydiving” in RipCord – even taking the new bumper cars in the SeaPlex for a spin. I also want to highlight the areas that aren’t the focus of as much press, like the ship’s Solarium, restaurants, lounges, and other public rooms. I want to do my customary Royal Caribbean tradition of having a drink in the Schooner Bar – a legacy lounge among Royal Caribbean ships. I want to walk the decks, run my hands along the walls, and get a feel for what makes Quantum, well, Quantum.
I hope you’ll join me. If you have any questions for me while I’m onboard, feel free to drop me a line via the comment form, email or twitter, and I’ll do my best to answer. Will I be a convert? Will I have to offer apologies for my initial skepticism? Only time will tell.
Stay tuned – our Quantum adventure runs from Wednesday, November 12 to Friday, November 14, with a full Photo Tour to come shortly afterwards!
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|