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They are calling it the ‘smartship’ for the smoothest trip. They promise ‘sidewalk to ship’ in 10 minutes, there’s real-time luggage tracking, the ‘first of 40,000 free Windows tablets for crew’, and there’s a robot that fixes drinks. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas wants to change cruise travel forever, and I can tell you that they are succeeding.
My tryst with the wonder ship turned out to be the stuff of cruising legends. Thirty minutes after boarding, I found myself in Jamie Oliver’s al fresco Italian restaurant. Sinfully authentic gastronomy followed and it was only after lunch that I deigned to visit my ‘stateroom with a view’, if I may call it that. Large bay windows invited constant viewing and the accommodation itself was supremely comfortable.
Quantum of the Seas is one enormous hi-tech dining and entertainment complex that’s made for everybody. The ornate interior of the Casino Royale Music Hall is the venue for some good music, which I stepped into to hear when I found myself thereabouts. The central lounges have shopping areas to vie with the best of international airports, and there are pubs, bars, eateries, cafés and boutique establishments arrayed cheek by jowl. Consider the fact that there are 753 culinary personnel — half the ship’s total staff strength — and you realise just how integral dining is to the cruise experience.
Midway through the media ‘meet-greet-and-shoot-the-breeze’, I noticed we had set sail. It was a moment of history. What a moment! I was on the first foray of the world’s most tech-savvy ship. I promptly reached for another (celebratory) drink.
That festive mood accompanied me to dinner at The Grande. Half the size of a football field, the fine-dining restaurant features a soothing décor with dim lighting, soft music and an ambience that took me back to the 1920s. An assortment of appetisers (prawn cocktail, traditional lobster bisque, wild mushroom risotto with truffles) was followed by the entrées (Mediterranean bouillabaisse, sole almondine, and braised lamb shank) and then the desserts (molten chocolate lava cake, classic Napoleon, and red velvet cheesecake).
Still the evening wasn’t quite done. Bringing the curtain down on a fabulous day was the show Starwater.
The Quantum class of ships advances the cruise experience with the introduction of revolutionary signature venues and none stands out more than Two70, so named because of the stunning 270-degree panoramic sea and destination views provided by its vast, soaring glass walls that span almost three decks high. It’s a show-stopping and revolutionary step in ship design. This multi-level venue seamlessly fuses entertainment and technology to create a transformative journey for guests.
Two70 unveiled spectacular, mysterious and unexpected entertainment as the sun set. Live performers (including aerialists) and breathtaking video mesmerised guests. We were also treated to the Vistarama — floor-to-ceiling glass walls that display projections of dazzling digital scenery which encircles the room. Two70’s unparalleled technology, theatrical lighting and cutting edge sound equipment created a completely enthralling evening. The show was extraordinary, its effects spectacular, the energy levels high, and the venue a story in itself. That night, I slept the sleep of the blessed.
The morning after the night before…! Well, for a no-breakfast sort of guy, I did rather well at the Windjammer, up and away on the 14th floor. Roughly the size of three tennis courts, the restaurant features amazing sea views and an endless variety of international cuisines. The world was on display at its many counters — ‘American Favourites’, ‘On The Mediterranean’, ‘Farm Fresh’, ‘Thirst Quencher’, ‘Lite Bites’. I swear I would have tried them all but I had things to do and promises to keep.
So I ascended to the top of the ship and the rewards were immediate and considerable. Everywhere, as far as the eye could see, was the ocean — a great swathe of silvery white with waves breaking the surface. Thanks to the giant size of our ship, I had hardly felt we were moving at all but out there, clutching the railing, some 20 stories above the sea, I got a sense of the speed of our travel. We were cutting through the water with decisive precision.
I had signed up for a ‘culinary immersion session’ to learn about what they call dynamic dining, a whole new level of hospitality. The restaurants have personalities, the guests get more à la carte dining, there’s greater attention to detail, technology enhances the experience for guests and also helps the crew dish out more personalised service. The waiters take orders and stay in the restaurant itself, using their Notepads (there they are!) to inform the chefs of what’s required. It’s all a bit flaky but effective enough.
I did a round of the ship’s eateries — 18 restaurants and seven bars — and got a taste of what the fuss was all about. The first stop on the jaunt was Chic, which lives up to its name. There was The Grande, of course, followed by Silk, a Chinese restaurant that offers a more social atmosphere. After this came the casual American Icon Grill, the Vintages Wine Bar (it lingers in my thoughts mainly because of the 500-plus wines it serves), Wonderland (quite special — imaginative food, lovely décor, and special textures and flavours), Izumi (typical Japanese, superb sushi), the Chops Grille (Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse) and the Bionic Bar (made-by-robots cocktails, aptly by a method called makershaker). Splendid!
I could have done this forever, but it was show time again. Less than 24 hours later, I found myself back in the technological wonderland that is Two70, this time for an electric performance of Mamma Mia, the incredible venue taking care of the rest.
Then came the bit I hate: the farewell dinner. The word ‘farewell’ never goes down well with me but I can’t say the same for the dinner, which went down rather well. Chic isn’t just a fine-dining restaurant, it’s a giant turf for culinary seduction. Among the appetisers was a new-style Caesar salad, a grilled Catalan shrimp and a pastrami-cured salmon. The entrées included potato crusted Iceland cod, grilled lamb T-bone, slow-cooked vegetable cassoulet, a baked salmon strudel and a pan-roasted Australian barramundi. And then for dessert: a carrot cake trifle, a dark-chocolate torte, a plum crêpe mille-feuille and a yoghurt panna cotta.
I had to be dragged away at midnight and then again off the ship the next morning, which wasn’t bad really, considering I had the time of my wicked life.
SAIL: I boarded and disembarked Quantum of the Seas at Southampton, England, when she was on her pre-inaugural sailing. Her maiden voyage was on November 2, 2014 from Southampton to Cape Liberty, New York. Quantum of the Seas is currently sailing a range of itineraries in the Caribbean and the Bahamas with the port of departure being Cape Liberty. In May 2015, she will embark on her journey to Shanghai, where she will be home-ported from end-June 2015 onward. En route to Shanghai, she will make a stop in Singapore and on June 12, 2015, offer a 3-night cruise to Malaysia.
PAY: The price of a cruise vacation on Quantum of the Seas (from $200 per person per night inclusive of all taxes and port charges) includes the accommodation, ocean transportation, most meals and entertainment, and some beverages. The cruise cost varies by sail date, itinerary, number of nights and destination. The pricing is dynamic and it’s based on availability and demand, so prices vary for each sailing and stateroom category. Also, guests have to pay separately for spa and salon services, dining in specialty restaurants, shore excursions, laundry, all alcoholic and some non-alcoholic beverages.
STAY: Quantum-class ships feature 2,090 of the Royal Caribbean’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever, including 1,571balcony staterooms, 148 outside staterooms, 375 virtual balconies (interior staterooms offering expansive real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations via virtual balconies), and 34 wheelchair-accessible staterooms.There are up to 16 family connected staterooms (perfect for multi-generational families or groups of friends, with separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all). There are also 12 new studio staterooms with balconies plus 16 studio interior staterooms, both for single travellers.
CONTACT: 011-49061000, firstname.lastname@example.org, tirun.com
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