Monday, 3 November 2014

Quantum of the Seas: It's familiar yet innovative

Quantum of the Seas: It's familiar yet innovative

Quantum-NorthstarSOUTHAMPTON, England — For all of its innovation, Quantum of the Seas will be familiar to anyone who has traveled on Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom-class ships. The footprint for Quantum is a step back from the radical ship design of Oasis of the Seas.

Quantum doesn’t have a Viking Crown Lounge, and the central promenade is a little different than on Freedom- and Voyager-class ships. But the overall impression is of a Freedom-class ship with a number of very innovative features bolted on to the prototype.

The “wow” features are new, of course. The North Star observation gondola looked quite inviting on a beautiful fall day before Quantum’s departure on a two-night preview cruise here.

The SeaPlex, an open indoor rec area, looked like fun with its bumper cars idling along its sides. It feels airy and open, with lots of windows illuminating the space so it doesn’t feel dim.

The Ripcord by iFly commands the aft part of the upper deck, along with a hulking magenta bear sculpture that serves as a conversation piece and is a bit unlike anything else on a Royal Caribbean ship.
Quantum-RobotBartenders-BionicBar-TSThe big attention-getter so far, however, has been the Bionic Bar. Crowds are consistently watching the two robotic bartenders pour their libations. There is something fascinating about the precision movements of these blue, impersonal robots.

Interior cabins are brightened by the floor-to-ceiling virtual balcony screens, another add-on that has also been installed on Royal’s Navigator of the Seas.

Perhaps the most noticeable change on Quantum is the number of restaurants, with the main dining room split into five new themed dining venues. Yet even here, the complimentary restaurants are in their usual place on the lower aft decks, except for Coastal Kitchen, a new concept for suite guests only, which is high on Deck 14.

Windjammer and the Solarium, also on Deck 14, are staples of Royal’s recent ship layout. The line’s trademark design elegance, quality materials and attention to detail is there, too.

The windows on the Two70° lounge (named for 270-degree panoramic sea views) at the back of the ship look enormous, defining the rear profile of the ship. But I have not seen the evening entertainment programming yet in Two70°, nor in the Music Hall, or the Royal Theater.
Quantum-SeaPlexAnother standout feature of Quantum is the poolside movie screen, which is mounted to one side of the pool, rather than at the end of the pool as on most designs.

The passenger mix on this two-night cruise reflects Royal Caribbean’s increasing international outreach. There was a noticeable contingent of Chinese guests, who were there to see the ship in anticipation of its deployment to Shanghai starting in May 2015.

June Arlen Eggesbo Lundeby, general manager of USA Spesialisten, a travel agency in Oslo, Norway, said that Quantum will appeal to clients from Norway who will combine a cruise with a pre- or post-cruise stay in New York.

“Cruise in Norway has been booming,” Lundeby said, as appreciation grows that on ships such as Quantum many passengers are not retired, and that it is a relative bargain.

“The prices are of big interest,” Lundeby said. “You would never find the same value in a four-star hotel vacation in Miami Beach,” she said.