This weekend I spent a couple of days in the company of a robotic bartender.
Oh, and I flew. I had the biggest grin on my face as I soared with my arms outstretched before me, overlooking the ocean.
As a brand ambassador for Royal Caribbean and as one of their official Royal Mums, I was invited to join them, along with a select group of others, to experience their newest ship in the fleet – Quantum of the Seas.
And it was amazing.
Billed as the world’s first ‘smart’ ship, it really is going to change the way people cruise.
It features amenities never seen on a cruise ship before.
It boasts world firsts.
It really does have the wow factor.
Just over 2,000 guests were invited onboard to sail out of Southampton before anyone else sets foot on the ship. We were the guinea pigs, the testers, the lucky ones.
So what can you expect on Quantum of the Seas?
1. It’s the world’s first ‘smart’ ship
Quantum has its own satellite link making it the first ship with high-speed internet.
On top of this check in will completely change with the ability to upload your own photo ID at home as well as download all boarding documents.
When you arrive at the terminal, you are greeted by someone with a tablet who will scan your documents and your passport and in theory it will take less than 10 minutes to get on the ship. It basically means skipping the lines at embarkation.
There will no longer be the traditional Guest Services onboard the ship either. Roaming staff will be on hand for questions and excursions and other queries will be answered via Royal IQ points.
And there’s the wristbands. Wear them like a watch and they give you access to everything you need on the ship – your room, payments.
It has USB ports in the staterooms. I cannot tell you how delighted I was when I discovered this. Even took a photo of them (above)!
2. Dining has evolved
There are 18 restaurants on Quantum, ranging from those incurring a cover charge such as Jamie Oliver’s Italian and Devinly Decadence to complementary venues like Silk, American Icon and the Grande.
Royal Caribbean is moving away from the old style of cruise dining where you eat in a main dining room with set dinner times. Now there are a number of restaurants that you can choose from.
My absolute favourite was the quirky Wonderland: an Alice in Wonderland inspired venue where the food is a ‘story’ and the chef cites Heston Blumenthal as one of his heroes. It sounds a bit ‘out there’, but really we had the most wonderful experience there with a fabulous Croatian waitress who added to the theatrics and beautifully presented food.
And the cocktails. Oh, the cocktails. Sound gimmicky but were some of the best I’ve ever tried.
3. There are robots serving your drinks
Or robotic arms which reach up to the bottles of optics above and deliver your choice of drink. The Bionic Bar is real innovation. A bit gimmicky but a great focal point.
4. Entertainment has gone up another level
Quantum is the first ship to offer a bumper car rink at sea. Yes, you can screech with delight on the dodgems at the SeaPlex arena, a huge space which is also home to roller skating, basketball and circus school (learn the trapeze, learn to juggle). You can also plug in at the Xbox centre or play a spot of table tennis or table football.
The children’s H2O Zone has also been given a first; the first wave pool at sea. It’s a lot smaller space than say Allure and Oasis of the Seas, but it’s well designed and features giant Madagascar movie characters.
5. You can fly
You thought a surf simulator was the pinnacle of fun on a ship, but Royal Caribbean have introduced a skydiving simulator.
Ripcord by iFly is an absolute thrill ride. Don a boiler suit, goggles and a helmet and step into the arena to float on the wind like a bird.
It’s quite difficult to master at first, but then an instructor grabs you by the scruff of your jumpsuit and whisks you high up into the ‘tube’.
Absolutely brilliant. A real highlight for me and my 11 year old son is very very jealous of me right now!
6. You can view the ship from the sky
The jewel in Quantum of the Sea’s crown is the North Star; a pod much like the ones you find on the London Eye, which is attached to a mechanical arm that slowly hoists you 300 feet above ground to give you unparalleled views of the ocean.
I can highly recommend you try it at sundown for amazing views and looking down on the ship as she’s all lit up.
The full two and a half hour theatrical version of hit musical Mamma Mia! For free. I think that’s pretty amazing and I absolutely loved the show; they have a fabulous cast.
Another Quantum jewell is the Two70° entertainment area. Sitting at the back of the ship, it boasts a 270 degree panoramic view of the sea through the stunning floor to ceiling glass walls which span three decks. When the technology comes out to play, said glass walls are transformed into a stunning digital backdrop, while giant robotic screens in front of it rotate and tilt to add to the fun.
A show in this space is a feast for the senses. We watched Starwater, a spectacle Vegas-style dance show with singers floating from the ceiling, men whipping around on ropes dangling from holes in the roof and fabulously costumed dancers creating magic in front of a stunning digital backdrop. It really is a showstopper.
8. Stateroom make over
The room decor is very grown up, classy and modern. You can watch a video of my Quantum of the Seas Superior Ocean View Stateroom with balcony here. And if you opt for an interior stateroom, you can have a virtual balcony with real-time views of the ocean via an 80-inch LCD screen. There are also studio staterooms for single travellers.
9. I’m freeeee
All off these cool things are complimentary. You can skydive as often as you like. You can go up in the North Star as often as you like. You can bumper car to your heart’s content!
So which were our favourites?
I’ll leave the Royal Mums to tell you . . .
Quantum of the Seas is a very grown up, modern ship with a much more contemporary feel.
It won’t be for everyone. Not everyone likes this high-tech, digital world we live in and probably go on holiday to escape it.
But she will most definitely appeal to an audience who are ready to move up another level with their cruising.
Teenagers will love the SeaPlex space, the fact that you can play in the Xbox area and connect to players on other ships or anyone around the world.
And discerning travellers will love the grown up feel of Quantum.
But here’s the thing with tech; it can be buggy. Things will go wrong, things will stop working. I guess that’s something those travelling on Quantum are going to have to accept.
However, having travelled with Royal a few times now one thing I do know is that they will be all over it, getting it back up and running before you know it.
And at the end of it all I have this memory. First Day Ever!
Quantum of the Seas is sailing from New York this Autumn, and her sister ship, Anthem of the Seas will follow in Spring 2015.
And if you want a little nosey around, you can take a video tour of Quantum of the Seas here.