Line: Royal Caribbean International
Built: November 2014
Passengers: 4,905 passengers
Routes: Caribbean out of Cape Liberty, New Jersey, until Spring 2015, when the ship moves to Asia.
Families and anyone who fears they might be bored on a ship.
People who hate crowds or large groups; those who prefer the intimacy and personal service found on small ships.
- Easy check in
- Fast Internet access
- A sky-diving simulator
- Bumper cars
- Music Hall, home to bands that cover Led Zeppelin, Journey, and Bon Jovi
- Wonderland, a molecular gastronomy restaurant
- Circus School Classes
The Solarium aboard Quantum. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
Until this week, if someone had to describe Royal Caribbean, he or she would likely say "playful" or "high-energy," but the cruise line best known for active all-ages fun is reinventing itself with the “world’s first smart ship,” Quantum of the Seas.
Much of the focus, prelaunch, was in fact on the technology. And for good reason: There are some big upgrades here. The line’s new embarkation process allows you to check yourself in from home, upload a photo of your choosing, and sail through customs to get on the ship faster than ever. Once there, you can track your luggage using the mobile app.
But the best technology improvement by far is the broadband access — eight times faster than what was previously available at sea — allowing you to stream live video, upload photos easily, and use video chat programs to keep in touch with people back home. The Wi-Fi is also a bit less expensive than what the cruise line previously offered and, hopefully, will inspire other lines to upgrade their Internet services as well.
The photo gallery area, where you can claim and purchase images of yourself, has also been upgraded. Now, instead of printing all photos taken, screens display the ship’s shots, allowing you to decide what you want to do with them, whether that means buying digital versions or paper ones.
Good luck trying to strike up a conversation with these bartenders. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
The line also uses robots in a couple places on the ship. The sexy Two70 lounge features six robotic screens that spin and dance during shows, but the most notable use is in the Bionic Bar, where the two bartenders are robots. Type in your order on a keypad, and the bionic arms go to work pouring from bottles and shaking drinks overhead. A few glitches slowed mixing during the preview sailings, but even if it takes longer to get a drink, the space is sure to draw crowds just the same.
Yankee Franks from American Icon Grill. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
The new dining options are a big part of the news on this ship. The biggest change: no main dining room. Instead, five smaller dining rooms serve up different menus in distinctive atmospheres with open-concept seating and smaller tables, enabling passengers to eat at sea more like they eat on land. The concepts, which include Pan-Asian Silk and American regional “American Icon Grill,” succeed in breaking up the spaces and offering guests more options without surcharges. Still, the food doesn’t compare to what you'd find in the specialty dining rooms.
Farrow salad from Michael's Genuine Pub. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
A handful of celebrity chef-helmed restaurants offer plenty of reasons to pay an upcharge. Miami-based Michael Schwartz launches a gastro pub onboard with casual dishes like deviled eggs, chicken liver mousse on toast, house-made potato chips, pickled vegetables, and pulled pork sliders. Schwartz also produces several upgraded in-room delivery breakfast items that, unlike the rest of the in-room dining menu, come with added fees.
Upstairs in the Serenity Lounge, Devin Alexander, chef for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” weight-loss show, has created a 500-calorie-and-under restaurant. Look for turkey meatballs and chicken satay skewers, as well as her take on a “Big Mac.”
Jamie Oliver also gets into the at-sea restaurant game with Jamie’s Italian, home to fried calamari, polenta squares, arancini, and house-made pastas.
Wonderland has an innovative design that matches its fresh cuisine. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
The most interesting restaurant onboard, however, is easily Wonderland, a multicourse tasting menu, which includes many dishes that use molecular gastronomy techniques to wow guests. Look for “liquid olives” that burst in your mouth, and disappearing noodles that dissolve in the broth. Some of the most impressive dishes include deep-fried balls of duck liver that seem to melt in your mouth, gorgeously plated carrots on a bed of pumpernickel “dirt,” and beef with bordelaise.
Quantum's superior oceanview cabin - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
The ship has four basic cabin categories: inside, outside, balcony, and suite. You'll find some technological advancements here, too. Sure, other lines have virtual windows in inside cabins, but Quantum of the Seas takes the concept a step further: Its virtual balconies feature 80-inch LED screens that project the view from the deck. The ship also offers studio cabins for single travelers, and more interconnected staterooms to make booking easier for families and large groups. At the upper end of the spectrum, some suites span two stories with a loft-style design and outdoor dining space. All suite passengers have access to Coastal Kitchen, a suite-only seafood restaurant with no surcharge.
Quantum is a haven for lovers of extreme sports. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
This high-energy ship has as many new bells and whistles as you'd expect on a Royal Caribbean new build, including the North Star — a pod that extends out above the sea for a 15-minute ride offering spectacular views of the pool deck and the ocean, unless you’re in port. The much-discussed, complimentary skydiving simulator, RipCord by iFly, includes about an hour of instruction and a minute floating in air. If you like it, you can sign up for more extensive classes for $50 each.
The ship also comes equipped with a surfing simulator, a rock-climbing wall, an arcade, bumper cars, and a roller-skating rink with a DJ booth and a food “truck” that serves hot dogs and bratwurst but doesn’t actually move from its fixed location. You'll find several pools and hot tubs, both indoor and out, including an interesting multitiered pool in the Serenity area, which also contains a juice bar and lots of pod-style, two-person chairs.
The spa and gym, though lovely, are fairly standard. Perhaps the most interesting class onboard is the circus school, which teaches acrobatic tricks, as well as juggling. The shopping esplanade has more name-brand shops than ever before, including Kiehl’s, Cartier, Bulgari, and Michael Kors.
The Two70 lounge is equipped to handle all kinds of performances. - Photo by Royal Caribbean International
At night, the ship comes alive with a full two-hour-plus Broadway-style production of "Mamma Mia," stage shows — complete with acrobatics — in the Two70 lounge, and impressive cover bands in the two-story Music Hall. There, musicians keep the crowd on its feet until late at night with multiple sets each evening.