By David Beers, Editor of CruiseReviews.com
November 20, 2014.
This is part 2 of my review of Quantum Of The Seas. You can read part 1 here.
Quantum Of The Seas is called the world’s first ‘SmartShip’ because of the abundance of new technology and innovations the ship features. One thing I noticed immediately is the use of flat screens – some are really big flat screens – almost everywhere. The cabins have large flatscreen TVs facing the bed. Interior cabins use an 80″ flatscreen for the inside wall, providing a virtual balcony in live-time using outside video feed. In public areas you see flatscreens used for background imagery, especially the soothing displays lining both walls of The Via.
Hi-Speed Internet At Sea
The highly anticipated O3b satellite internet was something I was looking forward to trying. This new service provides true hi-speed internet at sea, with the bandwidth aboard Quantum being higher than all other cruise ships – all of them from all cruise lines – combined. I uploaded two videos from my iPhone to Facebook from my cabin. The uploads were reasonably fast but once loaded I was able to watch them on my MacBook as quickly as I could at home on my DSL internet. I did a test of surfing various websites and there was around 2 seconds or so of lag time for a new website to fully load. Experienced cruisers know that the standard ship internet often can take a minute or more to load a webpage. Do I hear a WOW? Yes, I was highly impressed. The ship will offer three tiers of internet pricing with different levels of speed. The middle “premium level” plan with unlimited service for $22 a day will suit most users. Yes, I said unlimited use. It will be the first purchase I make when I board Quantum again in January for an 8 night cruise.
The Fun Stuff
Since it was a very short cruise I only had time to do a couple things. The North Star was great fun and even though we had cold weather and winds, people braved the elements to line up on deck 15 for their ~15 minute ride in the bubble. They operate it in port but can only go up and down for port safety reasons. Wait until the ship is at sea so you can get the full up/down/sideways experience.
The SeaPlex is a multipurpose venue that is already famous for the bumper cars. I can’t really describe how much fun this is, all I can say is that when you hear a bunch of middle-aged adults laughing, giggling, screaming with glee, like they were kids again, you know it is a hit.
SeaPlex also has a second level with ping-pong tables and other amusements, and the venue is quickly converted to other uses such as circus acrobat classes and rollerskating. It’s an ingenious use of available space on a ship. Oh, and don’t forget to get a great hot dog with all the fixings at the SeaPlex Doghouse!
I didn’t try the iFly skydiving venue. I think I’ll save that experience for my next cruise aboard Quantum. After all, anticipation is a good thing!
Okay, Let’s Talk Food
Dynamic Dining. The two words that changed everything. When Royal Caribbean announced the new dining concept it wasn’t long before the naysayers became quite vocal on cruise websites and in social media. They lamented the loss of the traditional assigned seating dining, disparaging the new program, even though nobody had even experienced Dynamic Dining yet. Then there were those of us who embraced the idea as something different, something that gave us complete control over the where, when, with whom, and which cuisine of our dinners on a cruise. Assigned seating is a vestige of the past, a necessity for feeding lots of people on ships that only had one or two dining rooms with limited space. If you like ‘the old way’, well, okay, but I’m ready to move on and have my cruise evenings highlighted by exciting dining in various venues.
I toured all the restaurants on Quantum Of The Seas, talked to the new culinary management team Royal Caribbean has brought in-house to implement Dynamic Dining (as well as revamp all other food and beverage programs), and of course sampled some of the new cuisine. Trust me, it’s going to work and once you try Dynamic Dining you’ll like it.
What are some things that make Dynamic Dining special? Instead of one big galley preparing thousands of meals banquet style, which is the norm for assigned seating dining, the main galley is broken down into several smaller kitchens. Each kitchen and it’s culinary team is dedicated to a specific restaurant. So the kitchen for The Grande restaurant makes the same menu every night. No rotating menus every day. What happens when a chef makes the same things night-after-night? The wait staff serves the same menu night-after-night? Quality and guest satisfaction increases. And what’s more, Dynamic Dining strives for each dish to be prepared “ala’ minute”, meaning to order.
I ate dinner the first night in Devinly Decadence, which is the bistro restaurant located in the solarium on deck 14. This venue was established by Chef Devin Alexander, who is famous for being chef on NBC-TV’s Biggest Loser, as well as authoring several books on healthy eating. I was originally scheduled to dine in The Grande that evening, but instead of that classic French-style food I asked to be seated in Devinly Decadence so I could try a more health conscious meal. I’m glad I did this. The service was very gracious and quiet. Devin was in-house and talking to guests at the tables. And then came the food, and I was blown away.
I ordered three courses, starting with a Thai beef papaya chopped salad, then the entree of cowboy rubbed beef tenderloin, and ending with a dessert of pumpkin cake in shot glasses. It was so much food that I left totally stuffed, yet no dish had more than 500 calories. Grass-fed beef is used, which is a healthier choice than corn-fed. I loved this dinner from start to finish. Everything tasted so fresh and full of flavor. Try it. You’ll be glad you did.
You can read more about Dynamic Dining and see the menus for all the restaurants here, at the Royal Caribbean website.
I ate a couple times in the Windjammer Marketplace which is a standard on all Royal Caribbean ships. However on the Quantum the Windjammer has a new look with food service islands spread out over the venue which improve access and guest flow. There is also a specialty coffee bar. Also carried over from earlier ships are Sorrento’s pizza, Johnny Rockets hamburgers, and the Cafe Promenade. I noted that Johnny Rockets on Quantum has a fast-food style now, with meals bagged up to go so you can eat anywhere. I like that.
Earlier I said Royal Caribbean views their competition as all hospitality providers, not just the other cruise lines. To that end, the company has taken onboard entertainment to a level that indeed rivals the best shows anywhere, whether it be New York City, Las Vegas, or in this case, aboard Quantum Of The Seas. Mamma Mia! is the featured production show in The Royal Theater. It is Broadway at sea. It could just as easily be Broadway on Broadway because it is such an excellent staging, with gifted performers. The show even has an intermission since it spans 2.5 hours. Royal Caribbean pioneered full Broadway productions at sea on the Oasis Of the Seas and it just keeps getting better and better.
Want something more surreal? Beautiful and yet ethereal? You must see Starwater, which is presented in Two70. It’s hard to describe the show. You just have to see it. It can evoke an emotional connection.
Music Hall was one of my favorite venues. It has two levels, two bars, a stage and dance floor, and a vibe to it that really can captivate the crowd. Tribute bands for Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen played and were outrageous. The whole joint was rocking and rolling. Great fun! The space can also be used for a variety of uses, once again continuing a theme of Quantum Of The Seas in having multiple uses for several public areas as with SeaPlex and Two70.
A question I had before boarding Quantum was how family-friendly would it be. The ship is upscale, of that there is no doubt, but it will be a wonderful fit for a family. While there are age limits for some things such as iFly and NorthStar, kids will have a blast in the SeaPlex, the H2O Zone, interacting with the Dreamworks characters roaming the ship, and of course in the Adventure Ocean youth programs. The Dynamic Dining is prepared for young appetites, and really, the concept can work well for younger kids since earlier dining can be reserved. The ship has the Royal Babies and Royal Tots program too. And then there is Sorrento’s pizza.
And don’t forget to take a selfie with the elevator art! The works are off-center on purpose to allow for selfies.
Final Thoughts – At Least For now
Quantum Of The Seas is going to be a hit. I’m excited to know that two sister ships are being constructed. I’m excited to be sailing on Quantum for 8 nights this coming January when I can make a better attempt to ‘do it all’. During my brief time aboard I heard people everywhere commenting, saying things like “isn’t this a lovely ship”, or “I really like this”. Were there some shortcomings? Yes, a few. It’s still a new ship and the crew is still getting a good workflow established. It happens on every new ship as it develops a personality, and yes I do believe ships have personalities. It’s the old Navy man in me. I predict Quantum’s personality will be one that is serene yet trendy, elegant yet comfortable. Quantum Of The Seas is a ship for everyone and it definitely is a new standard for contemporary cruising.