Cruising Soars to Cosmic Heights

QBy Matt Lennon

Backed by the harmonious tones of songbird and godmother Kristen Chenoweth, Royal Caribbean International brought its much-hyped “future of cruising” into the present this month, formally christening the first member of its new Quantum-Class family of ships, appropriately titled Quantum of the Seas.

For the team at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, seeing the ship go into scheduled regular passenger service from its inaugural home at Cape Liberty Cruise Port marks the culmination of many years’ work which, like all major projects, began as a blank piece of paper. From the outside, 16 decks and 2090 staterooms make the ship the third-largest cruise ship in the world – but when it comes to this vessel it’s not about the size.

Royal Caribbean has staked its reputation on its newest creation, and the end result represents a beacon of engineering and technological innovation. “What sets Royal Caribbean apart is the ability to dream up and then build ships to create experiences that people would never expect to find in the middle of the ocean.

Quantum of the Seas demonstrates this beautifully, with so many ‘firsts’ that are revolutionising the cruising industry,” Royal Caribbean regional director Asia-Pacific Sean Treacy told travelBulletin. Few secrets have been kept about what the cruising public can expect to find onboard. At first glance, it is difficult to elevate any one feature above others, but the giant London-Eye style capsule known as The North Star is hard to miss from the outside.

Onboard ‘firsts’ claimed by Royal Caribbean include an indoor skydiving simulator known as Ripcord by iFly, dodgem cars and circus equipment complete with a trapeze. Throw in the more conventional activities such a surfing simulator and rock-climbing wall, and it is clear that Royal Caribbean is breaking from the pack and paving the way for the future of the sector.

While statistics show that younger travellers are now discovering the appeal of cruising, perceptions persist that floating holidays are an activity dominated by the older ‘empty-nesters’.

While the features and activities mentioned above are arguably tailored to the younger crowd, Royal Caribbean understands that it can’t be all things to all people – and this is clearly reflected in the offering onboard Quantum of the Seas.

Regardless of how old you are, quality food and entertainment are paramount to an enjoyable cruise, and the innovations continue into the dining room. In fact, there are five dining rooms, each included in the fare and each offering different cuisines.

A further 13 specialty outlets take the smorgasbord of dining options to 18. Another new concept which makes its debut on The Quantum of the Seas table is Dynamic Dining, which allows guests to dine when they want, and with whoever they want – a feature that will soon be rolled out to other ships in the Royal fleet.

The option has seen Royal Caribbean attract household names in the global epicurean industry such as Jamie Oliver, Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander, who have each contributed to the culinary offerings with their own brands and styles. In addition, robot bartenders mixing up drinks must be seen to be believed.

Onboard entertainment has also received a revamp with a “transformational” new venue, Two70, offering digital amusement in the form of Vistarama and Roboscreens which interact with live performers and music. Broadway shows are also available, with the world renowned ‘Mamma Mia!’ musical making its much-anticipated debut at sea.

Technology follows you back to your room with Royal Caribbean taking Virtual Balconies to the next level. While not an entirely new concept, the idea sees the furthest wall of inside cabins converted into a giant LED screen which projects a live feed from cameras positioned in various parts of the ship, giving the impression of a balcony cabin – mind you, minus the accessibility, private deck chairs and fresh sea air.

Australians, who are the world’s fastest growing cruise demographic in terms of market penetration, have been quick to jump at RCI’s revolutionary offerings, with forward bookings far exceeding expectations.

“Several thousand Aussies have already booked their holiday on the ship,” Treacy says. “Similarly, we’ve also had enquiries for the next Quantum-class ship off the rank, Anthem of the Seas, which launches next year (cruising from Southampton for its first season). We have some very loyal and enthusiastic fans, and there have been enquires already about the newest Ovation of the Seas, which launches in 2016.”

Quantum of the Seas is a crowning achievement and throws open the door to the next generation of innovation in the travel and tourism industry. The mega-liner has now begun its maiden season sailing round-trip cruises from New York and New Jersey to the Caribbean before taking on its next challenge.

In May, the futuristic vessel will head east via Europe and end up in Shanghai where it hopes to make a splash in the booming Chinese and Asian markets that await with bated breath and open wallets.