When Royal Caribbean launched its latest and greatest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, in New York, International Traveller’s Quentin Long went along for the ride into the future.
As soon as Quantum of the Seas took to the water last November, the game changed again for large family- focused ocean cruise ships.
Whilst not as big as her predecessors, Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the giant leap forward in onboard technology and design leaves her larger sisters way behind.
The greatest leap forward is in connectivity. This is a ship with serious internet speeds.
Hanging their hat on Quantum being the ‘smartest ship’ to sail the seven seas, cruisers will experience comparable-to-home broadband speeds whilst at sea and, more importantly, at cheaper prices than most ships’ basic, tortoise-slow connection speeds.
This will be the first time you can stay in touch, update your status and happily use Google at sea, which may not be such a good thing for families who enjoyed the digital detox traditionally offered by a cruising holiday, but will definitely please Millennials.
Technology has been injected into the very DNA of the ship and is evident even before you get aboard: online check-in has kicked the long queues of past cruises into the distant past, while an app now serves as a luggage tracker and onboard concierge.
But the single piece of technology to make the life of the cruise traveller so much easier is the WOW wristband. A Radio Frequency ID-enabled bracelet, the WOW band acts as the key to your stateroom plus the signature for drinks and onboard purchases.
And yes, parents can put a limit on the wristband to stop kids spending up big. (Which is helpful, considering the step up in retail offerings onboard including such powerhouses as Bulgari, Michael Kors, Kiehl’s, Cartier and Hublot. And because you’re at sea it’s all temptingly duty free.)
But the improvements are not just technological. Onboard entertainment has been dragged into the 21st century too, particularly for Royal Caribbean’s major focus, the family market.
A full-sized basketball court transforms into a dodgem car track, a circus school with trapeze, and a roller disco rink. Meanwhile, the ubiquitous FlowRider surf simulator and rock climbing walls are back with the addition of a world-first sky diving simulator: RipCord by iFly.
As you would expect, there is more food and drink than any healthy human being can eat in a week, with 18 different restaurants (celeb chefs make an appearance, the most well-known being cheeky chappy Jamie Oliver with Jamie’s Italian) and 14 bars, including Bionic Bar where robots mix up the drinks.
It’s fun and smart, but not too enthralling given your drinks can sometimes sit in the queue for a good 20 minutes.
The most distinguished area of the ship is Two70 and Café @Two70, so named for the incredible expanse of views in this performance space-turned-bar, theatre and decent café.
In fact, Two70 epitomises the overall Quantum experience; surprisingly spacious for a ship that can carry a total of 4905 guests; sophisticatedly designed and furnished to make you feel like you are somewhere better than home; and incredibly relaxed and refined.
Now that’s a future worth signing up for.