bumper cars on court at seaplex on royal caribbean quantum of the seas

(8:30 a.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean's new ship, Quantum of the Seas, sailing a two-night cruise to nowhere from Southampton, brings to the waves a sleek, modern vessel, full of light, color and character.

It brings with it the new Dynamic Dining concept, which stretches the freestyle aspect of eat-when-you-want-where-you-want pioneered by Norwegian Cruise Line. Cabins are well appointed, and include interiors with "virtual balconies," with floor-to-ceiling HD TVs that allow inside cabin passengers to see -- and hear -- what those with real balconies experience.

Royal Caribbean leaders held a news conference Saturday, after the ship sailed its first night with passengers, comprising mostly journalists, travel agents and executives and workers from companies that participated in Quantum's creation.

The key themes:

  • Technology was a big talking point onboard. Of course, Royal Caribbean has been promoting Quantum as the industry's first-ever “smart ship,” and it's got new levels of tech innovations. The ship's O3B technology will revolutionize access to the Internet while you're onboard. "Did you ever think of a cruise ship where you could watch Netflix, download movies, talk to friends and family on Skype?" Executive Vice President of Operations Lisa Lutoff-Perlo asked. "No one wants to be disconnected anymore," she added. Maybe that's too broad of a statement because surely, some people do disconnect, but most of us can't or won't, so this major investment by Royal Caribbean in creating resort-like technological access is likely to be a game changer.

    Find out why the ship's technology is unique

  • The question, "Are the innovations on Quantum aimed at a younger generation of cruise traveler," was to be expected. There's a lot of talk about millennials and the change this generation will have on the way we travel (choice is key, staying connected is crucial) but you don't have to be in your 20s or early 30s to crave options when you travel. "The purpose of the technology is not just to satisfy the younger generation," Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said. "It's to satisfy everyone."
  • How will that work, exactly? Some of the new twists developed for Quantum include waiters armed with tablets that can take your order and send it to the kitchen, simultaneously. "You don't need to be young to appreciate faster -- and hotter -- food," Lutoff-Perlo said. Programs created can greatly reduce the time passengers spend simply embarking, such as the "7 minutes curb to cabin," initiative and the Royal IQ app, which allows passengers onboard the chance to change plans and reservations and even track their luggage delivery.

    The purpose of such leaps in onboard technology is, among other things, an effort to give cruise travelers the first day of their vacations back, Lutoff-Perlo said. And if you have ever spent your embarkation day in endless queues for registration, lines to make dinner reservations, book spa treatments, reserve seats for shows and occasionally going back to your cabin to see if the suitcase where you inadvertently trapped your bathing suit had been delivered, you could see how this "give me the first day of my vacation back" might also be a Quantum-inspired industry-wide game changer.

  • Interestingly, the Dynamic Dining concept, one of the most compelling aspects of Quantum for passengers, got a bit buried in all the byte talk. But it shouldn't. This new effort, which eliminates a main dining room venue in favor of four themed, fee-free restaurants, offers more choice in more intimate surroundings. So far, the Cafe @Two 70, with its collection of hot and cold sandwiches, salads and pastries, and its premium coffees, is a hit. Passengers who dined at The Grande, the ship's complimentary formal-night-is-every-night venue, raved about the lobster thermidor.

    See what's on the menu at all of Quantum's restaurants

  • Executives also announced the Dynamic Dining concept will be spread throughout the fleet, where possible. Oasis of the Seas has had its main restaurant carved into three specific restaurants, with Dynamic Dining service available mid-winter. It will also undergo other renovations, including the addition of a Coastal Kitchen restaurant and lounge, both dedicated to suite passengers where the Viking Crown Lounge resided. Allure of the Seas is also on the schedule for Dynamic Dining.
  • The prebooking option for restaurants onboard Quantum is quite a hit, according to the executive team, which notes that for its November 18 sailing, some 85 percent of passengers are using the service.
  • With no Viking Crown Lounge on this ship, Fain was asked: "What do you expect to be the new icon." Historically, that honor was bestowed on the Viking Crown Lounge, inspired by Seattle's Space Needle. Fain said the North Star would serve that role, noting that while he was excited about the project during the planning, the reality really surprised him. "It's a much more intimate experience than I realized, and I loved how comfortable and natural it was" to be inside the capsule. The North Star is a London Eye inspired glass gondola attached to a mechanical arm that rises more than 300 feet above the sea and provides 360-degree views of the sea and ports. The other expectation-exceeding feature? The Seaplex, with its bumper cars, circus school, floating DJ booth and more.
We're onboard Quantum of the Seas all this week and will be answering questions, so please jump in and participate. We're also posting photo albums on Facebook, attending a huge Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle (Monday) and plenty more.

--By Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief