Just Back From… Quantum of the Seas: Hits & Misses

November 10, 2014 | By | 50 Comments

iFly on Quantum of the Seas - photo by Carolyn Spencer Brown

No question, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas has lived up to its prelaunch billing of being the most innovative ship to launch this year. It’s a unique ship, with tons of new features that include the North Star (a London Eye-style capsule observatory), the Ripcord by iFly sky-diving simulator, first-ever restaurants at sea such as Michael’s Genuine Pub and Jamie’s Italian, the Seaplex complex with bumper cars and a circus school and, oh, yes, the Bionic Bar, operated by robotic bartenders.

Onboard for over a week on an Atlantic crossing between England’s Southampton and New Jersey’s Bayonne, we sampled most of Quantum on what’s being billed as a “shakedown” cruise. (Shakedown is an industry term that refers to sailings that are meant to expose potential bugs.) That means plenty of quirks still need to be worked out before the ship starts regular service, and that’s completely understandable.

There’s one exception: The “smart ship” concept, with land-like speed Internet and state-of-the-art digital technology that will influence the way we book restaurants, entertainment and even embarkation, was not quite up and running, so we won’t reference it here. We look forward to hearing from Cruise Critic’s editorial team and members alike who sail on forthcoming voyages about how the smart ship works.

In the meantime, here are our hits and misses from Quantum of the Seas.

Our early impressions of Quantum of the Seas

    Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

    November 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

    Colleen and Dori sailing out of Bayonne on Quantum of the Seas

    Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.

    (Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)

    Ship: Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas

    Where: Bayonne, New Jersey

    Who: Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor and Dori Saltzman, News Editor

    Why There? Quantum of the Seas arrives at its temporary homeport of Bayonne on November 10 and immediately begins a series of three back-to-back, two night cruises. We’re on for two sailings, the final one coinciding with the ship’s naming and inaugural shindig. We’ll be touring the cabins, checking out Dynamic Dining and covering all the naming celebrations.

    We Can’t Wait: We’ve been writing about Quantum of the Seas for about a year and a half now. We’ve been teased on and off throughout that time by Royal Caribbean and now we’re ready to get on the ship and see it all for real. We’re particularly excited to check out Two70, the SeaPlex and the funky art work.

      Live from… Regal Princess: Reliving “Love Boat” Memories

      November 7, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

      Love Boat cast signed photograph - photo by Chris Gray Faust

      Saturday nights followed a specific routine back in 1981.  Too young for a real job, too young to date, I spent most weekend nights babysitting at the Andersons’ house, earning pocket money so I could buy the oh-so-trendy designer jeans my parents refused to purchase.

      Once the kids went to bed, I, like many other Americans at the time, turned on ABC to watch two shows that took me far away from cold Minnesota suburbia: “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”  Both set in tropical locales, the shows featured themes and romances that were just titillating enough for a 12-year-old to enjoy, without full comprehension.

      Cruising, in particular, carried a glamour reinforced at home. Every other year or so, my parents would pull out colorful caftans and sports jackets to go on a voyage by themselves, returning with shell souvenirs, new jewelry and perfume. A cruise ship seemed like a very adult place to me, at a time when I wanted nothing more than to become an adult — and the ever-changing roster of fabulous Love Boat guest stars solidified that image.

      Flash forward to 2014. I had already been scheduled to attend the Regal Princess christening when Princess Cruises announced that the original cast of “The Love Boat” would serve as godparents. My inner adolescent rejoiced. And when the line later announced that a cavalcade of former guest stars would also be at the ceremony, my fandom grew into a frenzy. Kristy McNichol, Lorenzo Lamas, Adrian Zmed — I felt like the pages of my Dyn-O-Mite magazines had come to life.

      A nostaglia cruise back in time

        Hot on the Forums: How Much Money Did You Spend Onboard During Your Last Cruise?

        November 7, 2014 | By | 15 Comments

        raining money - image courtesy of Jean Lee/Shutterstock

        You’ve paid for your cruise, booked your excursions up front and perhaps opted for a soda, alcohol package or both. So how much more do you expect to spend, once you board?

        About to leave for a four-day trip with her husband, Cruise Critic member CruizinMama1026, asked others on the Carnival Cruise Lines forum about that final tab, “I’m just curious what past cruisers experienced with their final Sign & Sail bill?”

        See how your Sign & Sail bill compares to fellow cruisers

          No Question Too Small: Cruise Critic Members are On the Case!

          November 6, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

          woman with binoculars - photo courtesy of Chubykin Arkady/Shutterstock

          Here at Cruise Critic, we pride ourselves on our detailed ship reviews, which encompass everything from deck plans to the type of tread on the jogging track. We supplement these reports with Cruise Critic Live! chats and Facebook photo albums, so our readers are the first to hear the latest and greatest about all things ship.

          But our secret weapon has to be our forums, where no cruising question is too small for our cruising members to answer, often live from their ships. And nowhere has the power of crowdsourcing been more apparent than on the inaugural voyage of Quantum of the Seas.

          Read on for more

            Steal of the Week: MSC Holiday Sailings from $33/Night

            November 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

            piggy bank cruising
            Everyone is looking for the deal of the century. So how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Check the Lido Deck each week to get the scoop on our favorite deals — then grab the phone and pack your bags.
            THE DEAL: MSC Cruises is offering a variety of holiday sailings onboard MSC Divina that start from just $299 per person for a weeklong cruise.
            WHAT WE LOVE: It’s rare to find cruise deals for sailings during holidays, and close to a miracle to find rates under $50 per night — let alone $33. (We testify to that here in our Winter Deals feature.) Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas sailings to the Caribbean all come in at budget prices onboard MSC’s newest ship. The line is encouraging cruisers to make the holidays about having a good time with family and friends and not the planning, preparing and clean-up. Traditional meals including a Thanksgiving feast, menorah lighting with Hanukkah foods, a host of Christmas decorations, classes and events (even a visit from Santa with a gift for each child onboard). Considering the busy travel season and the added amenities, the value of these sailings is tremendous.
            WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: The pricing structure is based on MSC’s new package experiences, which may be slightly confusing to book. You’re paying for an experience rather than a stateroom, so be sure to read over all of the inclusions before booking. Also, the holidays are right around the corner (stores and commercials are already celebrating) so if you already have plans and want to break them, there’s very little time to do so: these deals are last minute.
            HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (including that pesky fine print), click here.
            Compare flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.
            * Looking for cruises for under $75 or even $50 a day? We’ve got ‘em listed on our Cheap Cruises page.
            * Get great cruise deals — and exclusive member offers — delivered weekly to your inbox.

              Destination Spotlight: Spending a Port Day in Grenada

              November 5, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

              Petite Anse, Grenada - photo by Brittany Chrusciel

              Caribbean itineraries dominate the seas, but not all Caribbean islands are the same mix of sun, sand and souvenirs. On my recent vacation to Grenada, located far south in the Windward Islands within the West Indies, I found the popular cruise port a bit of a palimpsest, with traces of British and French roots visible in rusted fleur-de-lis fencing and cannons from another era. It’s a place where you can hike to a remote waterfall, and then bask on a busy beach.

              Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Silversea and recently, Disney, are just some of the lines that call on St. Georges, Grenada. If you find yourself on a port day in the Spice Isle, here’s a few things you can do, depending on your travel style.

              History Junkies

              A walking tour of Grenada’s capital, St. Georges, will provide plenty of rich history to fill your afternoon. Learn the real story behind the American invasion of Grenada with a visit to Fort George (nominal entrance fee). The fort is the chilling location where Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, along with members of his cabinet, were assassinated (bullet holes can still be seen), and it serves as a memorial, while also providing some of the best views to the city below. Just outside of the port facilities, see the ruins of gorgeous cathedrals still devastated by Hurricane Ivan, ten years later (the only bay tree to grow in the city is nearby, and so is the city’s only monkey). If you venture out of the city, more than an hour away from St. Georges is Sateurs, location of the tragic Leaper’s Hill, where indigenous Arawarks died in 1651 rather than be captured by French colonists. The historic cemetery includes the final resting place of the first known patient of sickle cell anemia. Just outside is a coffee shop run by a woman who makes homemade ice cream, using almonds from the tree in front.

              More reasons to see Grenada

                Wanderlust Wednesday: A Taste of Tunisia

                November 5, 2014 | By | No Comments

                British Virgin Islands - photo courtesy of Aplmac/Cruise Critic Forums

                Every Wednesday, we’ll be taking you on a journey around the world to some of the most interesting places our members have trekked, swum or merely witnessed from afar while cruising.

                Whether these photos inspire you to plan a relaxing escape or walk on the wild side, we hope they ignite your senses and give you ideas for your next cruising adventure. If you have a photo you’d love to share, send it to us at photos@cruisecritic.com or post it in our member photo gallery. Feel free to send us your Twitter handle. Maybe you’ll get a shoutout next #WanderlustWednesday!

                Tunisia — which is accessed by cruise ship through the port of La Goulette — is continuing to grow as a popular Mediterranean destination. If your itinerary includes a call here, make sure you take advantage of the easy access to popular surrounding areas like downtown Tunis, the Medina (Old City), ancient Carthage and the artsy village of Sidi Bou Said, where this gorgeous shot of typical blue and white buildings — some which offer some of the most breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea — was taken by Cruise Critic member Aplmac.

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