Yes, let’s start with the ship herself. She is not a RCI ship in look or feel, she has the stunning class, style, décor and charisma of an X ship (namely the Solstice class). From the stylish two tier shopping area, to the soft ... Read More
Yes, let’s start with the ship herself. She is not a RCI ship in look or feel, she has the stunning class, style, décor and charisma of an X ship (namely the Solstice class). From the stylish two tier shopping area, to the soft furnishings, to the way the elevator lights changed colour to announce they had arrived at your floor, to no Bingo announcements, to the bathroom with the large shower, and the ladies leg shaving bar, to the balcony furniture with the footstool, to the covered solarium... I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Now this is not a problem for me as I love Celebrity cruises and their ships, but people who have not done their research may have a bit of a shock. I know that Quantum herself is off to the far East but when Anthem sails out of the UK next year I suspect that the ‘tattoo and football shirt crowd’ who are used to the Independence in British waters may have a bit of a shock. Perhaps this design is a conscious effort by RCI to ‘up’ the brand and the clientele they attract. And the prices of the cruises of course as Anthem next year from Southampton is extortionate!
So to the crossing itself. On arrival at Southampton our luggage was quickly tagged with the new tracking bar code bag tags. I was disappointed to see that the peeled off bit was just dropped on the ground though – so at the end of the day there would be approximately 8000 pieces of peeled paper floating in the English wind! It took me about 30minutes from ‘kerb to ship’ so a long way short of the promised 10 minutes; but I was sensible enough to realise that a new ship would have a few ‘glitches’. Many people claimed it took them several hours to check in. I had downloaded the Royal IQ app but apparently I had no luggage registered. Would I spend 8 days with no change of clothes?? The check in process was slightly chaotic with the InterCruise staff standing with iPads so there were many wavy bending lines. A few weeks prior to the cruise the completed online check in details had been lost; of course those of us on CC were alerted to this and resubmitted the info; but many of course did not realise this which aggravated the delay.
On board after the initial WOW feeling and rushing around to take pictures to be posted on FaceBook before she sailed; the word spread that the enigmatic wine machines in the Vintages wine bar was dispensing free wine - Vintages has never been so busy! In fact they were free all week ( a fact I failed to notice!). Then all drinks were free at all bars until 9pm that night. This was the start of the extent of the effort that RCI went to; to keep us all ‘happy’. It has been posted that they gave us $300 per cabin in OBC which was refundable if you did not spend it; and a 25% FCC. They also refunded the internet packages, and all movies in the cabins were free for the duration too.
RCI went above and beyond IMHO. In addition to the above there were also gifts almost every night (although I notice on ungrateful person had his commemorative book for sale on eBay in the UK within minutes of it being left on their bed!). So onto the cruise itself…..
The first day was not good. Many were seasick as the weather was very rough. After that the weather was glorious for the remainder of the crossing. We had an emergency stop in the Azores for a medical evacuation.
So, let’s get down to the changes.
Dynamic Dining – I love it and cannot imaging going back to the Main Dining Room concept again. There are 4 restaurants to choose from; I had made previous reservations on line but to be honest there was no need to do this unless you wanted a specific restaurant on a specific date/time as there was just one line for those who wished to dine –booked or not. This does need to be ironed out and there should be 2 lines.
Each of the 4 restaurants has its own kitchen and its own cuisine. The food in all was excellent with the biggest compliment (surprisingly IMO) going to Silk. You must have the chocolate desserts in Silk and Chic. You must avoid the peanut butter cheesecake in Silk and the Red Velvet cheesecake in Chops.
I do not actually think there is a need to dine in the specialty restaurants as there is such a variety of menu in the ‘free’ restaurants that you can dine on a rotation basis through the 4 and not repeat your choices (apart from the chocolate desserts in Silk and Chic of course …!) Johnny Rockets was a disappointment as it was not a proper restaurant but more like a takeaway stand. I never saw them do any business all week. By all accounts Wonderland was sublime. We did dine at Chops and it was very good (better than our meal the previous month in Chops on Oasis).
Much has been said about the Grande restaurant and the RCI website mentions that it is “formal night every night.” Unfortunately, as many of us suspected, this was not enforced. It was such a shame to see approximately 90% of people dressed ‘properly’ (and yes there were many ball gowns and tuxedos on board) and then there were gentlemen who were in short shirt sleeves and no tie. One big bad mark against RCI for not enforcing the dress code. The line for Grande was also the longest ever night. To me this meant that people liked ‘dressing up’; and perhaps they should keep the formal night concept throughout the ship?
Around and about:
There were so many comfy chairs, where you could curl up with a good book (or that should be kindle..who reads a book these days), there was so much to look at. The 270 area was simply stunning, such a versatile use of space both day and night.
To be honest there were not as many activities on during the day as I thought there would be. It was almost as if the Cruise Compass was produced with wide spaces between each activity/event to make it look as if there was more on! And things kept changing.
My next big bad black mark goes to the Casino. This was basically smoker’s corner – it was impossible to breathe in there; and smokers did not stay to the smoking section – they were smoking everywhere. It was horrid. And the smell of smoke floated up the stairs to the Royal Esplanade….and even worse; along the corridors where you were waiting in line for dinner at the restaurants on the same level. Design failure. If they have to allow smoking indoors (and there was a perfectly good outside, covered area designated for smokers) then there should either be doors on the casino so it cannot escape. Better still, stop allowing smoking indoors. Rant over.
Royal Esplanade and Via. I dislike the Royal Promenade; I think it has as much ambiance as a shoe box; so I loved the 2 tier elegant flow of the RE and Via. Very like the 2 tier flow on board X. And there were even ‘Xs’s’ in the window decoration….. Shops on board were high end; Bulgari and Cartier, a good selection of Omega and Tag watches, and a Michael Kors shop. There were no $10 Bijoux Ternier bags or the inch of gold offerings.
Entertainment –There was a charming violinist called Analiza Ching who was on Britains Got Talent and a hypnotist called Christopher Carress. The CD was pretty useless IMHO. The full production of Mamma Mia was outstanding. Starwater was just weird. I never saw the robo-screens working in 270. We did not have the Gatsby show, or Sonic Odyssey, or Wink or the Mamma Mia after show party. No reason was given.. The Music Hall venue hosted live bands - the 80s band and Archie’s band Horizon were good.
The Diamond Lounge joined the Music Hall and the overflow from the DL sat in the Music Hall. The DL was open 5.00 – 8.30pm on the crossing. The DL hostess never walked around or introduced herself so I do not even know her name . Seaplex to me was strange. It had odd opening hours and it always seemed to be under utilised.
Cabins – the cabins seemed bigger: longer and with a much larger balcony than usual. The cabins followed the same alternate formula as on X – that is one has the bed by the balcony, then the next has the sofa by the balcony. As already mentioned the bathroom was very X. There was no clothes line in the shower but there was a little hook. The shower was on a pole which could be moved up and down. The shower itself was huge (very X…) with a large curved door that opened outwards, giving even more room. There is no more ‘gloop’ but rather little bottles of shampoo and bars of soap. There were wardrobes built around the bed, one long and one shorter with 2 deep drawers. There was a huge flat screen TV which pulled out so you could watch it from the sofa; there were 2 chairs with foot rests on the balcony. . I could not find a balcony light. There were no nets at the window so if you were getting dressed in port you would need to pull the curtains. The hairdryer is in the drawer of the dresser. On our cruise the mini bar was empty. There are plugs for both US and European plugs and there were also 2 USB ports. The power did NOT have to be on (via the card in the light control) in order for items to charge via the USBs. The décor was taupe and blue. There was also a power socket by the bed. We were on deck 13, upgraded from an inside virtual balcony (like so many others). A good position with only slight noise when they were moving the chairs in the morning in the solarium above. But at the very end of the corridor was a (very heavy) door that led straight into the Solarium which was handy. The room service menu seemed to be smaller than usual, and there is now an additional charge for hot items at breakfast - so if you want eggs/bacon etc they cost $3.95 per item.
Movies were free all week (because so many people were seasick.) They seemed to be pretty current offerings like Maleficent.
Solarium – take the covered solarium on Oasis and then add the covered solarium on Solstice and put them together to give 2 large solarium areas. Perfect for cold weather cruising. This does mean that the outside pool area was rather small should you have perfect weather. I guess you cannot have everything.
I just loved the Solarium area. Always plenty of chairs, they have a multi-level plunge pool and several Jacuzzis in the front 2-level solarium and then a larger pool in the second area. Again, artfully done with plants, statues, and wonderful furniture. Unfortunately the covered round rattan chair would not fit into my suitcase.
There is a very large pink bear. Why? Because they can.
There is sky diving. Why? Because they can.
There is a pod that rises 300 ft above the ship and then swings out 90o over the side. Why? Because they can.
There are dodgem cars, a circus school, roller skating. Why? Because they can.
Because of the weather North Star was not ‘flying’ as much as she could. I waited in line for about 40 mins and I was one pod-load (she takes around 15 each trip) from boarding and it was cancelled due to the weather. The next time I waited about 50 mins and got on. Where on earth can you soar above the Atlantic and get such a unique view of the ship. I think it must be beautiful to do this in the Caribbean whilst sailing between the islands. I do suggest that they take bookings for this though to negate the long wait times.
I also did the iFly. To be honest I didn’t like it very much but I can say I have done it. They take bookings and it was a very smooth slick operation. Again around 12 to a group and then at the end your instructor shows you how it should be done.
I just loved the Bionic Bar. Yes it wasn't working as smoothly as it should - but that meant drinks were free whenever I went (hic). They were so cute, especially when they 'shook' the drinks!
Moaners and groaners
Goodness it was like the ship of complainers. .People seemed to be wanting to out do each other with their complaints. They were finding fault when there was nothing wrong – like the man who was shouting at the GR lady that there were ‘no shops on board’ and he couldn’t buy toothpaste. Strangely enough I found the toothpaste in the General Store. My take on this is that RCI were overly generous with their early OBC and FCC offers and people then were of the mindset of ‘what else can I get out of them if I try enough’. I was ashamed of the behaviour of some of my fellow cruisers. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would know that there were bound to be a few hiccups when they chose to sail on a ship that was 2 days old RCI went above and beyond in my opinion. All wifi charges were refunded, in addition to the OBC and FCC.
On the final morning we were all up early for the spectacular sail into NY. It was a beautiful clear still morning…..New York themed tunes were blasting out; champagne was served, North Star was flying…I think many shed a tear at the sight. What a great way to end.
So, in summary: Oasis met Solstice and they had a baby called Quantum. I personally had no issues at all with boarding times, service, food, or anything else that people are complaining about. My two ‘black marks’ are regarding smoking in the casino and not enforcing the dress code in Grande. Both of these can be easily rectified by RCI management. She is a beauty, and one of the best cruises I have taken. Would I cruise Quantum again? Yes, you bet……!
Thank you for reading.