Quantum of the Seas dares its passengers not to have fun. It's a bold ship that screams for your attention via its innovative features. It's got a London Eye-inspired gondola attached to a mechanical arm that allows passengers to sail 300 feet above sea level and get a bird's-eye view of the sea and ports. Cruisers can go skydiving at sea, crash into each other in bumper cars, fly on a trapeze at circus school or jog on a large track that breezes by the legs of a giant magenta polar bear sculpture. And Two70, a completely interactive entertainment venue, is hands-down the most technologically advanced space of its kind at sea.
As a company, Royal Caribbean took a big leap with Quantum of the Seas, especially in the realms of dining and technology. On the food front, the line is setting traditional cruise ship dining on its ear by eliminating the large-scale main dining room concept and replacing it with several small venues that offer the same menu options each night. Calling its concept "Dynamic Dining," Royal Caribbean is banking on passengers embracing the idea of exploring new culinary experiences and not minding a bit of planning to do so. Passengers who want to get the most out of Dynamic Dining -- those who want to ensure they get to eat where they want, when they want and with whom they want -- will be best served by making reservations ahead of their cruises, rather than playing it by ear.
On the technology side, Royal Caribbean has made Quantum its "Smart Ship," getting hi-tech, from communications to kitsch, to give modern cruisers the online tools they expect in their daily lives, as well as a bit of whimsy. For example, the company has made a huge investment in satellite Internet, promising speeds that rival those you'd get on land; that's a huge deal, as cruise ship Internet is generally quite slow. Indeed, surfing speeds on Quantum are fast -- fast enough that you can stream video and even Skype with loved ones on land.
Also making its debut is Royal iQ, an interactive scheduling service that lets passengers make reservations for dining, entertainment and activities (like skydiving or the North Star) and keep track of their schedules with a calendar feature. It's available as an app for your mobile device or via kiosks and tablets throughout the ship. (Kiosks are located by elevators throughout the ship; tablets are in the guest services area.) The app can only be used on the ship, though you can download it ahead of your trip. Other techie tweaks include robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, interactive photo kiosks, USB ports for in-cabin charging and RFID bands instead of key cards.
Another way the ship stands out is with its design. The 3,000-piece, $5 million art installation onboard is all about fun. Its boldest piece is a 30-foot-tall magenta bear (nicknamed "Felicia" by the crew), but its most breathtaking is probably "Waves of Light," a gorgeous free-form mirror and glass sculpture that sits outside of Vintages and Jamie's Italian restaurant.
As for the layout of the ship, virtually all of the action at night takes place around the Royal Esplanade, Royal Caribbean's name for Quantum's two-deck promenade, featuring most of the ship's alternative restaurants, shops and bars. Adjacent to the Esplanade is The Via, a small area that has funky cone-shaped pods for seating, watercolor art and a contemporary vibe. The indoor promenade is a hallmark of Royal Caribbean ships. Even with a few design tweaks, Quantum of the Seas will feel decidedly familiar to fans of the line. There's no question: It's a Royal Caribbean ship.
Ultimately, it's not just big-ticket items or new concepts that make Quantum of the Seas a fantastic ship. Royal Caribbean really thought about the small touches. It's most evident in cabins, where things like environmentally efficient lighting, bathroom night lights and bedside outlets are standard. Cabins and balconies are sizable by industry standards, and there's more storage than most people could fill during any weeklong sailing. Bathrooms are small but smartly designed, and small features like in-shower hooks, shaving bars, and shower and vanity shelves and hooks make really efficient and comfortable use of the space.
Service onboard Quantum of the Seas is exceptional at every turn, from waiters and room stewards to customer service representatives and activities staff. It's personal and quick, and we felt pampered. Smiles from crewmembers felt genuine, and ship staff cheerfully handled even difficult issues with grace and aplomb.
Quantum of the Seas is audacious, employing bold features (mostly successfully) designed to appeal to the modern cruiser who expects the creature comforts and whiz-bang elements available on land. The blend is pitch-perfect, and passengers of all ages will find plenty to love onboard.
Quantum of the Seas and its abundance of amusement park activities draw fun-loving couples, groups of friends and families. For now, most passengers hail from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. This will change when the ship moves to Asia in 2015; the majority of passengers are expected to be Chinese travelers, and the primary language onboard will change to Mandarin.
During the day, virtually anything goes: Swimsuits and shorts poolside are perfect, though shirts for men and coverups for women are required for dining indoors. At night, casual resort wear is the norm. That means slacks or khakis for men with collared or Hawaiian shirts; sundresses, or capris or skirts with blouses for women. Formalwear isn't required on Quantum of the Seas, unless you elect to dine at The Grande, where formal dress is required. Acceptable formalwear includes evening or cocktail gowns or dressy slacks and blouses for women, and tuxes, suits, or slacks with sports coats, dress shirts and ties for men.
Passengers on all Royal Caribbean ships are charged $13.50 per person, per day ($16.50 for passengers in suites). Gratuities can be prepaid or added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during each sailing. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs and spa bills.