We choked on our wow as we gazed at the vision afloat in the port of Southampton, UK. The Quantum of the Seas, the technologically smartest ship afloat today, has that effect on cruisers. And we exhaled that wow only after we disembarked two days later. With 18 decks, 18 restaurants and 2,090 staterooms and entertainment enhanced with technological wizardry, the Quantum would give most high-end land-based resorts a complex. And she did seem to preen and pout for us, much like a Hollywood star would, on the red carpet. (We were part of international media on board for a pre-inaugural cruise.)
The ship at times seemed almost as vast as the ocean on which she glides on a bed of bubbles for fuel-efficiency. Yes, getting lost on the Quantum is a real possibility for those who are directionally challenged. However, this has also been taken care of and we sported RFID WOW wrist bands which we repeatedly tapped in order to navigate the fascinating vessel (the third largest afloat) with surprises round every corner. The child’s-watch-style wristband also served as our room key and toted up our onboard purchases.
In its effort to keep the cruiser happily entertained, the Quantum has not forgotten the more traditional joys of cruising – dining – and in fact, the concept has been fine-tuned to give the cruiser greater choice, flexibility in terms of time for dining, no assigned seating or mandatory formal nights. There’s an array of dining options too. There are three dazzling complimentary restaurants instead of one main dining room and everything from pizzas to sushi, American regional favourites, the fare of classic ocean liners, Pan Asian, Japanese, Mediterranean plus zany eateries like Wonderland with waitresses dressed like Alice in Wonderland! We did not dine there but we were told that the cuisine in that restaurant is spiked with wondrous flavours! Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s first gourmet outlet at sea is on the Quantum, too. Weight watchers can dine occasionally at Devinly Decadence where all the menu choices are less than 500 calories. The menu has been designed by Devin Alexander, media personality and chef of the popular show The Biggest Loser.
After days of feverish sightseeing and evenings spent partying or sampling on-board activities, nothing comes close to retiring to one’s stateroom, done in pastel blues echoing the palette of sea and sky. The staterooms come with all the comforts of a TV, en suite shower and toilet, a vanity and hair dryers etc. Balconies bring the outdoors indoors while the Grand Loft Suite and the Royal Loft Suite are two-deck high staterooms that lasso amazing views of the ocean. In the inside cabins, the Quantum has “virtual” balconies or large LED screens that showcase real-time views of the ocean beyond and the blandishments of faraway ports of call that the ship pulls into!
If you have harboured secret ambitions of being a trapeze artist in a circus, head for Quantum’s circus school where you can learn the tricks of the trade. At SeaPlex, swinging from a trapeze will seem like the easiest thing in the world – plus it will give you a new upside-down perspective of the ocean and the world! This space is the largest sports and entertainment area at sea and has a full-size basketball court, a skating rink as well as the first-ever bumper cars on the ocean! For the more daring, the Ripcord by iFly, the sky diving simulator gives cruisers a taste flying while at sea. The roll-call of firsts does not cease! The North Star is a jewel-shaped capsule that swings 300 ft above sea level, like an airborne UFO commanding gasp-value views of the ocean and the ship! A rock climbing wall, and the Flow Rider Surf simulator are some of the other options on offer so that guests are entertained on at-sea days as well as between forays into the real world when the ship anchors at faraway ports of call. Jog, play a round of golf, attend a dance or stretch class, or listen to live bands that play at various venues… Swim in the four pools and four whirlpools or revel in a massage at the Vitality Spa… yes, the Quantum packs quite a wallop!
The Quantum’s jaw-dropping firsts are likely to leave even blasé cruisers a trifle breathless and awe-struck! To start with, we were checked in smoothly by Ipad sporting staff which meant it took 10 mints from sidewalk to ship. Since the ship operates on an unprecedented bandwidth (thanks to satellites launched by partner O3b network), we had generated our boarding documents online prior to departure. We downloaded two apps on our smart phones to track our luggage in real time, made spa appointments and booked dining reservations almost instantaneously. Thanks to the smooth connectivity, during the cruise, we did not feel totally adrift on an endless indifferent ocean! We even had video chats with friends and family in the midst of a heaving sea! And that happened post gourmet dinners, frenzied late night partying and after watching the glitzy Broadway show – Mamma Mia. Psst: the show was as good as the original.
Indeed Royal Caribbean International pulls out all the stops when it creates its futuristic cruise ships – it’s like the creators are having as much fun as the cruisers; experimenting with cutting-edge design and technology merely to entertain and enthral guests and to ensure their comfort. Where else but on the Quantum would you have a Bionic Bar with robots mixing, shaking and stirring cocktails? The Two70 degree lounge with three-deck-high glass walls is a charmed space by day with expansive views of the ocean. At night, it’s another story. The lounge becomes a Vistarama with the floor-to-ceiling glass walls transformed by 18 projectors into an ambient surface to reflect the bewitching moves of extravagantly costumed dancers and singers of the riveting show, Starwater. In addition, six screens (dubbed the dancing Roboscreens) move on robotic arms – twisting and turning and uniting as one as though in imitation of the dancers – a feat where technological magic and human inspiration and ingenuity fuse seamlessly, leaving the audience at a loss for words to describe the experience! We disembarked after two days and nights of living in what seemed like a world of fantasy where the lines between reality and dreams seemed blurred… we were lagging behind the crowd, trying to extract the maximum from the last sweet moments on board the Quantum. Did we really have to leave our sea-worthy utopia behind? Was there a way we could live the dream forever?
We are travel writers/photographers, more accurately, travel junkies who pursue their passion like obsessive lovers, always on the lookout for the next fix, the next trip…We have eyeballed lions in South Africa, slurped snake soup in Hong Kong, danced with the Masais in Kenya, stayed with a local family in a Malay village, landed on the ice fields of Alaska and interacted with a witch doctor in South India… but eventually we return to the city we call home: Mumbai; loud, energetic, chaotic…Briefly, we embrace her, tire of her and are soon on the road again … to trawl the world and our own backyard (i.e. India) for exotic and unusual destinations and even tried and tested tourist trails.