Best For People Who Want
A brand-new family friendly resort at sea cruise experience with fun activities and high technology, extensive sports equipment and wide variety of onboard entertainment options
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A small destination-oriented ship with a close-to-the-sea cruise experience. Ships with few children.
Quantum of the Seas was the first in brand new class of vessels for Royal Caribbean entering service in 2014. The name for the class was originally "Project Sunshine" until the line picked the names "Quantum of the Seas" for the first ship and "Anthem of the Seas" for the second ship to follow in 2015.
The new class is a very respectable 167,800-gross tons, making it the second largest class of cruise ships in the world after the (much larger) Oasis-class also owned by Royal Caribbean at 220,000-tons per ship (two in service, a third on order). However the concept of the ship design is completely different not only from Oasis, but from many previous Royal Caribbean ships, which came as something of a surprise to industry watchers.
Quantum will not have the ice skating rink or a long horizontal atrium known as the "Royal Promenade" found on many of the larger Royal Caribbean ships built after 1999. Rather than having cabins with an actual inside-facing promenade view, the inside cabins on Quantum come with a "virtual balcony" which will actually be an 80-inch high definition television screen showing a live camera feed of the passing scenery.
Much of the ship still remains to be revealed, but many of the amenities were shown to public at an unveiling in New York on April 16, 2013. The ship was characterized by the company executives Richard Fain and Adam Goldstein as "high-tech, open and family friendly," along with plenty uses of the word "wow."
Family cruises do seem to be the focus here, with plenty of adrenalin inducing activities. Without a doubt, the amusement park-like features will be the most discussed topics about this ship, but it has other qualities as well that indicate the overall experience will be tasteful and accommodating, not a circus atmosphere at all.
Significantly, an over-arching theme of new cruise ships is to do away with "single-purpose rooms that remain dark most of the day." This means that late-night discos have been replaced with bar/lounges that serve up food and entertainment starting with casual lunch and on through dinner - meaning the space remains occupied all day, but changes character as day turns into nighttime.
Richard Fain indicated Quantum will be a "classy" ship - more like Celebrity than anything else. I expect to see a new level of opulence, even for Royal Caribbean which already builds beautiful ships in my opinion.
The décor has not been revealed to a large extent, yet, except for the staterooms and one large public room called Two70°o (that is the degree symbol, but the room will just be called "two-seventy." This room features 270-degrees of three story windows to imbue a "connection to the sea." Two70° is being described as the ship's "living room."
The Windjammer Food Court is up to par with Royal Caribbean and the service there was very friendly. My coffee was refreshed often. One nice addition is a cookie maker where several types of hot, freshly baked cookies are available all day. It is just too bad they didn't think to combine this with fresh ice cream by the scoop such as Holland America offers.
But the food in the included "Dynamic Dining" rooms varied; Silk was a mishmash of Asian cuisine where some items were good, but others were served cold or undercooked. Great American and Chic were average to awful. One meal marked "tenderloin steak" resembled pink prime rib without the dark edges, but it tasted and had the texture of processed bologna. The formal "Grande" was probably the best "included" dining room with langostino “Lobster” and lamb shank and decent desserts nightly.
Without a doubt, dining is the most positive aspect of Quantum. The added surcharge dining rooms, especially Jamie's Italian ($25) and Wonderland ($45) were both phenomenally good in their own way. Jamie's has delectable gourmet Italian - not lasagna or veal, but bucatini noodles with thick black truffle shavings in olive oil, pork belly or brick baked lamb chops. Highly recommended.
Wonderland has an "Alice in Wonderland" feel that would be perfect on Disney. The smoked eggs with caviar and foie gras are brought to you under a glass dome infused with applewood smoke. When the waitress lifts the lid the fragrant smoke pours into the room. Each dish was enough for two people, which seemed like a big waste of food, especially when it is all so delicious. The lamb and beef cuts were so tender they literally fell off the bones.
Divinely Decadent is another tasty restaurant with somewhat low-calorie food (500 calories per serving), but after three courses you will feel stuffed. The beef is all grass fed, and there is very little gluten or carbohydrate of any kind. The chicken pizza is outstanding as well as the chicken enchiladas. Only the hamburger lacked appeal - looking like a double-deck Big Mac with cheese. It was just announced that Divinly Decadent is now the fifth free "Dynamic Dining" room. It was crowded for lunch, but near empty at dinnertime when it was an extra-fee restaurant. It remains to be seen if making Devinly Decadent one of the core Dynamic Dining venues will increase its patronage and alleviate lines at the other free restaurants at the peak dinner hour of 7pm.
Another improvement is Sorrento's Pizza on the Promenade where you can now order any pizza to specification to be served on the spot (not for room service). The pizza was very tasty too. Another big daytime eatery hit is the "270 Cafe" which replaces the "Park Cafe" on Oasis. The beef sandwiches are amazing, as well as the salads - all at no cost. This is another food highlight of the ship.
Service with a smile is always the Royal Caribbean way, although one should not expect the outgoing performance style found on Carnival - except with certain bartenders in certain lounges. Still, the new Royal Caribbean service can be impressive. On recent cruises if they did not know the answer every single crewmember has a walkie-talkie and they can call up anyone they need. Not once did we receive a "that is not my department" style of reply. It was always, "let me see what I can find out for you."
When we asked, the Food & Beverage manager admitted Dynamic Dining needed help and that they planned to add 30% more service people. There were few busboys anywhere, and tables sat dirty in all restaurants for long periods while people waiting to be seated stood in line outside. Many guests did not make any reservations, so the cruise line made reservations for them for the first two nights.
The bars were also largely devoid of waiters, so only the bartenders served drinks. They also had to go out and clean tables on a regular basis.
Royal Caribbean suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite); $3.50 for the waiter; $2.50 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 Head Waiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion. If you want these charges added to your accounts you must tell Royal Caribbean at least two days before the cruise ends. Otherwise, be prepared to count out the cash and hand it to the people who serviced you personally.
A 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Additional gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.
The biggest entertainment on Quantum is the full Broadway production of Mamma Mia, and it is a high quality show with a very large cast. But it is the only production show, and it only showed four times on our 8-day cruise, the final showing on the fourth day. Reservations are highly recommended to see all major shows on Quantum, and for the restaurants as well, so one man told me he had reservations and arrived 10 minutes before show time the final night, but the room had already been opened to the public so all the seats were taken. They missed the last opportunity to see the only production show on the cruise, when the cruise was barely half over, with no way to make that up.
When I asked him what he thought of the ship overall, he said exactly what I heard from many people. "I think this ship was designed for maximum profit for Royal Caribbean," he said. "But for us, it's boring - nothing to do but eat and shop." I heard several people say that, because experienced cruisers understand the cruise business, and they mostly admire it. But they also know what they don't like.
The main showroom doors were locked during the daylight hours for five days of the cruise. There was one matinee of Mamma Mia and two showings of DreamWorks' Penguins of Madagascar movie in 3D (with one more showing one night). By contrast, Disney Cruise Line continuously shows a variety of all its 3D movies morning through night each day of every cruise.
Another entertainment venue, the Music Hall, is next to the Casino. On our press preview cruise it featured two different tribute bands, one for Journey and one for Bon Jovi on the same night. On our 8-day cruise only one tribute band played and they left after day four. On days 5, 6, 7 and 8 the Music Hall mostly featured Karaoke, trivia games and dance lessons, even at night. The Princess house band "Horizon" did play a one -hour set on two of those final nights, but word is out that this room will become the "high-roller" casino when the ship goes to Shanghai.
Boleros has live Latin music and dancing every night - basically dedicated to those who speak Spanish. Quantum is the first cruise ship I have seen where the entire cruise staff spoke native English. The cruise staff hosts were from Mexico, Brazil or the Philippines and their English was sprinkled with their home tongues. here is a rough example of how they sounded conducting their many trivia games; "Here is group one, group dos and grupo tres. Si, I mean group three, es bueno."
The last entertainment venue is "270" (formerly called 270-degrees but that became too difficult to manage) with 540 seats. The main feature there is an array of six robotic arms each holding a rectangular video screen. Each can rotate and arrange the screens in a variety of ways within a certain range. These Robo-show screens were included in the ethereal show "Starwater" which repeated every night until the last two nights. The show, with acrobats and music is entertaining, but certainly is not anything new in cruise ship entertainment, except for the Robo-screens.
The staterooms have a large balcony and are well designed with plenty of storage space. The seating area has a couch and a handy desk and chair that are easy to move. The bathroom has a nightlight and a foot bar in the shower.
The 32-inch LED television programming had Pay Per View movies for $11.99 (available for 24-hours). Free channels included ESPN1, ESPN2, TMC, TNT, CNN and a few Royal Caribbean promotional channels. There were no free movie channels, no Fox or MSNBC. There was a TV channel called "Primetime" which had mostly cooking shows, shopping talk and chit-chat recorded by the cruise director.
But there is also a stealthy "interlocking stateroom" design practice where the bed area is a wider, but beyond the bed the room's seating area is narrower by about 16-inches. Then the adjoining staterooms next door have the bed and seating areas reversed. You cannot see where the room narrows because the diagonal is cleverly hidden inside a closet.
In addition to the Sea-plex, the ship is sure to have a separate fitness center and Spa facility. Naturally, the spa will be huge since these spas have become proven money-makers for the cruise line.
There will be a jogging track although the location has yet to be revealed.
Royal Caribbean fans should expect the most ardent followers of the line to be onboard for at least the first year. I would expect active young adults as well as plenty of family groups.
The forthcoming Quantum of the Seas, is set to enter service in the autumn of 2014. Sister ship Anthem of the Seas will debut one year later. Both ships will carry 4180 passenger berths, double occupancy, 4905 total, on what will be the second largest class of cruise ships in the world after the record-making Oasis-class, also owned by Royal Caribbean.
The most obvious aspect of Quantum entertainment venues is what is missing. Quantum has no ice theater, no AquaTheater, no ballroom dance venue, no jazz bar, no comedy club and the Michael's Pub does not feature a "singer/guitarist" as found on most ships.
There is no true Royal Promenade on Quantum, the main room on all other large Royal Caribbean ships since 1999. Quantum has a much smaller area that serves as a nod to the concept. There were temporary-looking shopping tables for "special sales" with signs that screamed "10% off" or "everything $10," but they were not temporary, they were permanent.
The main day-room is "270" mentioned above. During the days there were "Robo Shows" several times a day - each one a pre-recorded video about 15 minutes long to show what the Robo-screens can do. These are fun and different, but not much of a "cruise experience." There were other events in the room, one cooking demonstration, crewmember interviews, etc. The room is beautiful, with a commanding 270-degree view of the sea over the stern through two-deck tall windows. Those windows become a huge video screen at night. It has an adjoining cafe we will discuss later.
The third main entertainment venue is the Music Hall where the Bon Jovi Tribute band "Wanted" started at 10:30 p.m. each night - but just for the first four night. Boleros had the same Salsa dance band night after night. Schooners had a piano player starting at 7:00 p.m. who never spoke or sang a word because that would interrupt the video screens showing football on ESPN, which also stayed on during the many trivia games played there throughout the day. There were outdoor movies by the pool most nights but it was freezing cold.
This is the full entertainment situation on a ship designed for 5000 people. So, the bottom line is that most of the public space is shops and restaurants. During the days the pool areas were packed, but at night it is too cold for that, so the hallways and corridors fill up with people playing cards or reading books, sadly boring for a modern, mainstream cruise ship.
All of the usual Royal Caribbean children's facilities can be expected, with the addition of special characters from the Dreamworks experience, and, of course, Barbie.
Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.
Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance that friends and family can attend.
RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for preschoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.
Quantum will offer a nursery for infants and toddlers 6 months to 3 years. So far, no charge for these services has been announced and this is a great amenity for young couples who want to enjoy their vacation without baby onboard once in awhile. The minimum age for bringing a child onboard is six months.
There are two formal night "suggestions" on most seven-night cruises these days. In truth, the definition of formal has changed over the last few years and even seeing a tux is pretty rare these days. While just a few years ago the introduction of Freedom of the Seas spurred many gentlemen to dress in tuxedos, we actually saw blue jeans in the dining room on this cruise, and no one seemed to be objecting. Suffice it to say that even on formal nights you can get away with slacks, a collared shirt and a jacket, you do not need to bring the ties or especially the cummerbund if you do not want to. Women still tend to dress more elegantly and almost anything is acceptable for the ladies.