Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Royal's preview of Quantum draws praise

Royal's preview of Quantum draws praise

By Tom Stieghorst
Quantum of the SeasPAPENBURG, Germany -- A little more than two months from completion, the Quantum of the Seas looms large over the flat north German countryside at the Meyer Werft shipyard here.

The powder-blue-and-white ship now has its basic structure but awaits all of its interior appointments plus a few special features such as the North Star observation arm, which has yet to be installed.

But the ship was complete enough last week for Royal Caribbean International to open it to a small group of reporters and about 50 travel agents for a sneak peek at the next big thing to sail the high seas.

Royal officials are increasingly confident that in the Quantum, they have a ship that will give the groundbreaking Oasis-class vessels, which the line introduced in 2009, a run for their money.

"I think you're going to have two reactions," Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain told agents a day before the three-hour tour of the 167,800-ton work in progress. "You're going to think the ship is magnificent, and you're going to say, 'It will never be done on time.'"

In fact, more than one agent agreed with Fain's assertion. managing director for Adelman Travel in St. Louis, said he had expected interior work to be further advanced and the ship to look less like a construction site.

The guts of the Quantum at this point are still raw insulation, naked steel, unfinished carpet and open pipe and cable runs. But several areas were finished early, including a few cabins, to give visitors a sense of the final product.

Detrick said one of his favorite features on the ship are the interior cabins, which offer floor-to-ceiling electronic views of the ocean. "The virtual balcony cabins are phenomenal," he said.

In an interview, Fain agreed, saying they were one of the innovations he's most pleased with.

"They just work," he said.
Quantum of the Seas interior cabinAgents had mostly praise and only a few reservations after traipsing through the Quantum in hard hats and boots while Fain described some of the vessel's signature elements to them.

"It was a very impressive reveal," said John Lovell, president of Vacation.com. "I love all the technology. It's really going to appeal to young people, especially the millennials that we're all trying to attract."

Atop the ship are two novelties that depend on view: the Ripcord by iFly skydiving machine and the North Star observation gondola. Sandwiched in between is the multipurpose SeaPlex, an indoor activities hub for everything from bumper cars to basketball.

"That's going to be a home run," Lovell predicted.

Others agreed.

"I see it as a space where parents and kids will come to play together," said Alex Sharpe, president of Signature Travel Network and a father of three.

Sharpe said the Quantum will buttress Royal Caribbean's reputation as the leader in innovation and deliver great value for the money.

"It's clear why the big Royal ships get the premiums they do," he said.

Sharpe said he's concerned that some of the features will be so popular that Royal might not be able to handle all the demand. The SeaPlex, for instance, will be catnip for meetings and incentive groups, he predicted.

Fain said his team was confident that everyone who wants to try something will be able to do so over the course of a seven-night cruise, although it might be harder to squeeze everyone in on short introductory cruises.

In admissions to the North Star, for example, attendants will give first preference to those who haven't done it, Fain said.

A significant change with the introduction of the Quantum will be the elimination of the main dining room in favor of four smaller, themed restaurants, each seating about 430 diners. A fifth complimentary restaurant with 128 seats will be reserved for suite guests.
RCCL Chairman and CEO Richard Fain"I'm very impressed with Dynamic Dining," said Uf Tukel, co-president of WMPH Vacations in Delray Beach, Fla. "Having those different themed restaurants, those are going to be stunning to look at."

Noting that dining at all five restaurants will be included in the cruise fare, he said, "Typically, they're the kind of experience that might cost more."

Although far from completed, the restaurants had certain features already in place, such as a striking pair of louvered lenticular screens that display photos of regional America in the American Icon Grill.

Food and beverage director Cornelius Gallagher also teased some of the more exotic dishes, including one at the experiential Wonderland restaurant that involves chocolate chili foam cold-fried in liquid nitrogen. When diners eat it, smoke comes out of their noses, Gallagher said.

The tour concluded with a preview of Two70, a three-story aft room that will showcase an innovative 3-D projection system and a sextet of 100-inch, robot-controlled video screens.

"The Two70 is just ridiculous -- tech-wise, art-wise, functionality-wise," said Andy Albright, president of National Agent's Alliance in Burlington, N.C., a life insurer that buys a large volume of incentive cruises. "It's unbelievable what they're going to get out of that room."

Paul Largay of Largay Travel in Waterbury, Conn., said the homeporting of the Quantum and its sister ship the Anthem of the Seas in New York, combined with some of the new check-in technology Royal has developed, will make them very convenient for his customers.

"That's a huge attraction just because of the logistical considerations," he said.

Largay said the various uses of technology on the ship were very impressive. "I think the general public is going to love that," he said. "They're going to wonder where it has been all their lives."

Of the ship overall, Largay said, "I think it is going to be a new standard."