This recap/review is from first time cruiser and my friend Jodi. Its an overview of her experiences from a first time cruisers perspective. Give it a read, let me know if you have been on the Quantum of the Seas or other cruises you recommend. I can’t wait to book our next vacation!!
We had no idea what to expect on our first cruise, but it was everything we imagined and then some. For those of you wondering what it was like (not only for us as first time cruisers, but also because it’s a brand new ship that started sailing in November 2014 and is the most technology driven cruise ship to sail the seas), I thought I would share some points on the cruise. Apologies in advance for the long post.
As a ship that has technology at the heart of everything, Quantum of the Seas was the perfect first ship to sail for someone like me who is a tech geek at heart.
In addition to the regular SeaPass cards that are standard issue on other ships, the Quantum also gives passengers an RFID Wow Band that we wore on our wrists. We used it to open our stateroom door, to charge purchases to our room, for croupiers to track payers at the tables in the casino, to sign up for activities, etc. Very convenient and eliminated the need to carry the SeaPass around our necks (although the SeaPass did the same job as the Wow Bands, so passengers had a choice).
A new app called Royal IQ for Android and iOS meant that passengers no longer need walkie talkies to stay in touch with family on board. It includes IM and VoIP features so calls and texts to one another is the standard way to connect. Plus, it includes a directory so you can even call the various onboard services, from Room Service, to Restaurants, to Guest Services, etc. The app also enables you to see your statement in real time, as well as your schedule of activities. You can also reserve restaurants and shows through the app. What’s best about it is that it uses the ship’s Wi-Fi system to connect and using all aspects of the app is free.
Thanks to a new satellite system for Internet connectivity that Royal Caribbean has put in place, they have been able to significantly drop the cost of Internet access on board. Unlimited Internet access for one device at a time (you can use the same login on multiple devices, but only one at a time) cost us $120 for the week. I thought that was incredibly reasonable. Downside of this is that the kids (and I) were online more frequently than I would have liked. Upside is that I could share photos throughout the trip.
Dynamic Dining is the name of the game on Quantum. What this means is that instead of going to a main dining room at a set (or flexible) time for dinners, and being at the same table and having the same waiter each night, you instead reserved to go to different restaurants every night (or you could choose the same restaurant every night if you wanted). There are around six or so restaurants that are complimentary for dinners and a few specialty restaurants that you pay for if you choose to go to them. Except for Japanese, we chose to do complimentary dining each night and the food was really good. The restaurants change their menus halfway through the cruise, so you have new choices if you decide to go back to a restaurant. Lunch options were also plentiful and the food everywhere was really good. You have to be patient to find a table at breakfast in the Windjammer (although there are other places to get breakfast as well), but I loved their oatmeal so it was worth the wait. Waiters in restaurants also use an iPad for tableside capturing and placing of orders.
Unlike other ships that have one or two formal nights for everyone on board, you only had formal nights if you chose to eat in The Grande, which we did. I can only imagine that on traditional cruises it must be fantastic to see everyone dressed up on the same night. Whereas here, it was only those going to The Grande (where the food was outstanding!). The rest of the time, although it calls for smart casual for dinners, dressed up jeans were very common and acceptable.
The ship is spotless throughout with Purell stations everywhere. Before going into the Windjammer, guests are encouraged to wash their hands at the wash stations provided at the entrance. And as you finish eating, staff are standing by to remove your dishes and sanitize your table and chairs. Their primary focus for this is to prevent Norovirus on the ship. I’m not sure what it’s like on other ships, but I couldn’t be happier to see their focus on preventative measures.
Another place where technology was ever-present was in the Bionic Bar. A DJ plays music and robots dance to the music while putting together your drink order, which you place via an iPad.
Our stateroom was fantastic. We had a balcony stateroom mid-ship and on a higher deck (11). The main bed is a king and the kids slept on the couch that was converted to a double bed each night. The rooms are so well designed that closet space was plentiful – even though we had three very full suitcases between us (and lots of shoes!)
The gym on board is amazing. Tons of cardio equipment, state of the art weight machines, personal trainers if you want them, and classes you can sign up for. The mornings in the gym were insane, so if you plan to go and don’t want to wait for a treadmill, afternoons are best. As the treadmills are at a 90 degree to the ship, running on one felt very weird. Running around the track that circles the ship was much better – although unusable on the days when it’s either windy or rainy (which was three of our at sea days since we were doing the cruise in winter and it leaves from New Jersey). Classes are offers for TRX, yoga, spinning, etc. but the biggest issue is that it is first come first served, so those who got to the gym soon after coming on board pretty much filled up all available spots for classes running on each day of the cruise. They should offer more classes at different times of the day.
Quantum has some great activities on board, from bumper cars and circus school (trapeze – which my daughter did) to rollerblading. The SeaPlex is the venue for all these activities and more. Plus, there’s also the climbing wall, but since it’s outside is closed in poor weather conditions.
The FlowRider is a great experience. They offer everything from boogie boarding to traditional surfing, with different schedules for different levels. They also offer what they call private lessons (which my daughter did) but they are actually semi-private, with class sizes of up to 8 people. So within an hour lesson, you get to go four times – and each turn is until you wipe out.
Two very unique activities offered on the Quantum include the Ripcord by iFly and the North Star. iFly is indoor skydiving and included for each passenger is a 1 minute experience. It sounds crazy for it to be such a short period of time (you can go longer, but the prices are high), but believe me when I say that it was plenty long enough for someone that has never gone skydiving before. The instructor was amazing as was the experience. Truly unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Only downside is that you can’t take cameras into the waiting area (the wind tunnel sucks up everything!!) so unless you have another family member or friend outside, you aren’t going to be able to capture video of your experience. The North Star is a capsule (think London Eye) that takes you up and away from the ship’s deck so you can get a high up view of it. The lineups for this were always long 1.5 to 2 hours, so we never went on it. I suspect going on port days or for when it opens first thing in the morning is the best option for shorter lines.
The entertainment on board is truly amazing. Lots of singers/performers in the various bars and locations throughout the ship. Plus their featured shows (except for Star Water, which we though was bizarre beyond words) are incredible. There was a hypnotist, Mama Mia (brilliant performance that rivals Broadway), an amazing singer, and Sonic Odyssey (probably our favourite performance of the trip).
In terms of shopping, this ship is clearly aimed at passengers with money. Aside from the $10 t-shirt and accessory sales, and discounted watch sales, everything in the stores is priced for those that can afford high end jewelry, clothing, purses, and art. I would love to have seen some better priced items too.
As for our stops, here’s a quick rundown. Port Canaveral gave us an opportunity to spend some time at the beach. Definitely worthwhile to take the shuttle excursion for this. CocoCay in the Bahamas was fantastic. We rented foam floaties and pretty much relaxed on them in the cove the whole day. The only thing I wasn’t impressed with here is we wanted to rent a cabana for the day, but online it didn’t tell us that this option was for suites only. So when we went to try and book one within an hour or two of coming on board the ship, they were all already taken with a waiting list for those wanting one. I wish they would have been upfront on the website and told us that it was for suites only. In hindsight though, I’m glad it wasn’t available as there was really no need for it. The floaties were perfect. Also loved that lunch was provided by RC since it’s their Island. Nassau was a day we used purely for shopping. There are some free beaches, including one close to the port, but decided to see what the island had to offer instead. Going to Atlantis on Paradise Island is ridiculously expensive so we decided to give that a pass as it just wasn’t worth it in our opinion.
I loved the diversity of staff on board. Lots of crew from South Africa and other far away places. Although I know this is standard on other cruises too. The staff were amazing and couldn’t do enough for you.
Our cruise director, Ken Rush, is one of Royal Caribbean’s longest standing employees (30 years) and he was fantastic. Great sense of humour and did a really wonderful job of keeping us entertained in each of the activities he hosted. All were a ton of fun!!
Overall, we loved our first cruise experience. Coming out of NJ in winter is not ideal because of the iffy weather until you get further south. But I would probably do it again as there are so many activities on board that you never run out of things to do – even if they are indoors.
Elevators are plentiful, and there was generally never an issue to get onto one. Although we did try to use stairs where possible (that’s what happens when you wear a FitBit… I exceeded 10,000 steps on most days on board).
Based on conversations with people who cruise regularly, they liked the modern and high tech approach of the Quantum, but they prefer the Allure or Oasis (which is bigger and has more shopping options, among other features). We’ve already got Allure booked for December (that was supposed to be our first cruise until I decided to book a March break getaway), and are looking forward to experiencing that ship.
Thank you so much Jodi for such a great and detailed review. I can’t wait to book my next cruise!
You can follow Jodi on Twitter at @jodiechakowitz