I was fortunate to be aboard one of the earlier Quantum of the Seas cruises, December 1 – 12, 2014, to be exact. While I did a few live posts, and one specific to Dynamic Dining, this review has been percolating for a while. There are some reasons for that, one being time. But the other is a little more complicated. I wanted to wait and see how the ship matured. New ship glitches are pretty common, and I look at the first few cruises on any vessel as something of a “shake down” cruise to work the kinks out. Quantum had some new ship glitches, but nothing that I found truly bothersome. In fact, I thought Quantum of the Seas was a fantastic ship, elegantly designed and beautiful. I enjoyed it so much, that I can’t wait to book another Quantum-class cruise. And oh yeah…I loved Dynamic Dining. The divergence of opinion on Quantum of the Seas was stark, but just as I suspected, Royal Caribbean has instituted some changes to improve the experience for all guests, including an introduction of new dining options. In short, Quantum of the Seas, and soon Anthem of the Seas offer a unique kind of Royal Caribbean cruising experience. It’s an experience that works for me.
Like a lot of things Quantum related, boarding Quantum of the Seas in Cape Liberty is a little different. Fitting of industry’s first “smart ship,” much of the check-in process can be dealt with at home, including your picture for security. (Hint: make sure you take your photo in good lighting with a plain background.) We were dropped off at the far end of the car line, and had to walk back to the porter area to drop our bags. The porters seemed to be working at their own leisure, at least the porter closest to me. So we waited…too long. This was exasperated by people being dropped off ahead of us, flashing cash, and getting their bags taken care of. Lesson learned – don’t get dropped off at the end of the line. Once we were through that, it was inside to find one of the personnel carrying a tablet.
If you printed your set-sail passes at home, visit with one of many people carrying tablets. They can process everything right there. Then you clear security and board the ship. Remember – your set-sail pass is your boarding pass. Every traveler needs their own and you’ll pick up your room key at your stateroom. The key to success here is to remember that the check-in process is different. Do as much as you can at home. Find one of the roving check-in folks as soon as you drop your bags. During our cruise there were a few outside the building, many inside prior to security, and some after security. There’s also a traditional check-in desk if you did not pre-print your set sail passes. Once we were done with the tablet check-in, we cleared security and immediately boarded the ship. If you subtract the unnecessary delay in checking our bags, we were onboard the ship within 10 minutes of beginning the check-in interaction. And there she was – Quantum of the Seas.
Walking on board I was struck by just how visually appealing the ship is. Quantum of the Seas is a beautiful ship! The aesthetics are truly different than other Royal Caribbean ships, and my first thought in walking aboard was that this feels more “W Hotel” than Royal Caribbean.
The Royal Promenade has been renamed the Royal Esplanade for the Quantum-class ships, but the space is still striking and beautiful, the heartbeat of the ship.
After taking a few photos, we decided to head to Jamie’s Italian for embarkation lunch. Jamie’s is an upcharge restaurant ($15 for lunch, $25 for dinner), but we have a habit of taking embarkation lunch at one of the uncharge restaurants if it’s offered. Why? The charge keeps the crowds in check. Jamie’s was delicious, and well worth the upcharge.
After a delicious lunch with some of the best dining service on the ship, it was time to head to our stateroom.
Our stateroom, 12290, was a Superior Oceanview with Balcony located on deck 12. We arrived to find an envelope containing our room key. I’d picked one up already at guest relations since I needed it for our drink package.
And with that, we entered the stateroom where we found our WOW bands and other Sea Pass card.
Quantum of the Seas’ staterooms feature some unique design features and are beautifully decorated. Quantum Experience Advisor Genevieve Gorder played a big role in that, and you’ll notice the difference in colors and general feel of the room immediately. You’ll also notice that your typical stateroom is a little larger. I was very pleased with the total design, the storage, comfort, everything. Fitting of a “smart ship,” you’ll find more power outlets than are typical of a cruise ship, including two USB ports, and the holy grail, a power outlet by the bed! The improved design of Quantum’s staterooms is also evident in the bathroom, which is noticeably larger, and all around better in design.
Storage was abundant, and I found this to be one of the most functionally designed staterooms I’ve sailed in. It would be a great spot to spend the next 11 nights. After unpacking, and settling in, it was time to explore Quantum of the Seas in earnest.
Around the Ship
Quantum of the Seas is very sensibly designed overall. The ship was easy to navigate, but she is the third largest cruise ship afloat. While not quite Oasis of the Seas size, Quantum is still a big ship. You can get your exercise on taking the stairs and walking from one end to the other on Quantum of the Seas. We started by exploring the top decks where you’ll find both an indoor and outdoor pool, as well as the North Star observation pod.
The indoor pool space was really great for sailing from cold weather. You could enjoy it, even on the first and last days of the cruise when the weather was not warm. As great as the indoor pool space was, without question, my favorite area on the top decks was the beautiful solarium. My favorite in the fleet.
And of course, there’s the Royal Esplanade, and The Via, all nicely done.
Michael’s Genuine Pub was a great spot for a beer and snacks along the Royal Esplanade. Also on the Esplanade, La Patisserie, the coffee shop which featured pastries, and of course, coffee. The shop uses Starbucks beans.
Also on the Royal Esplanade, Boleros, Royal Caribbean’s signature Latin lounge. This was where you’d find MrsMJ and I most nights of the cruise. Not only was it a lively scene, the band was just the best I’ve seen on a cruise ship. We even bought the CD. 🙂
Of course, no review of Quantum of the Seas would be complete without a word on the Bionic Bar. Located upstairs along the Royal Esplanade, the Bionic Bar struck me as something of a gimmick, but somehow, I found myself there most evenings at least once. If nothing else, it’s fun to watch a shot of Johnny Walker get poured by a robot.
One of the more striking public spaces aboard the ship was the Two70 lounge. Located aft, the lounge feature multi-story sweeping views of the sea. Two70 is also home to a visually impactful show, Starwater.
As great as all this is, there was nothing more fun for me than bumper cars at sea in Quantum’s entertainment complex, the SeaPlex.
Here’s a little video for you.
But what cruise would be complete without a sky diving lesson?
Or going surfing?
Or a ride in the North Star with sweeping views all around the ship?
And please do not miss MAMMA MIA! If you are bored on Quantum of the Seas you aren’t doing it right!
A key part of any cruise is dining, and with few exceptions, I think Quantum of the Seas really shines. Of the Quantum of the Seas reviews out there, none can be complete without a story on Dynamic Dining. Let’s get a few things out there right now. Dynamic Dining is a major change in traditional cruise ship dining for Royal Caribbean. Instead of one big dining room, Quantum offers five complimentary restaurants that you can either just show up for, or make reservations. During our cruise, there were four complimentary restaurants, but shortly after, Devinly Decadence was added to the complimentary mix, likely to ease crowding at the four main restaurants. There’s also Coastal Kitchen, exclusively for suite guests. There’s the Windjammer buffet, of course, and Solarium Bistro which are complimentary. There are also several upcharge restaurants.
There was a lot of opinion floating around at the time of our cruise about Quantum of the Seas, Dynamic Dining, and the very real IT issues guests experienced on my cruise. My sense is that a lot has been done to address issues some experienced. For the record, I do not think that the rollout of Dynamic Dining and Quantum of the Seas was the smoothest new ship introduction on Royal Caribbean’s part. Even on our 12/1 sailing, there were still approximately 100 computer types on board trying to resolve problems with the dining reservations system, the Royal IQ app, etc. I know that some guests lost reservations they had confirmed, experienced lengthy waits for meals or in line trying to get seated, etc. For the record, I did not wait in line for a meal, and found the service improving each night of our cruise. Let me repeat that, I did not wait in line for a meal.
I have an opinion on why I was not negatively impacted by any significant issues during my cruise, take it for what you will. First, my original dining reservations were booked early by my travel agent, and I made no changes to them. I did not need to because I got the times I wanted where I wanted to eat. Second, I use iDevices and at the time of my cruise Royal IQ was only available on iOS. Please know that an Android version is now available. Third, I actually downloaded the Royal IQ app and attempted to use it. (No flaming…. I know others did the same and did have problems). Fourth, on the handful of occasions when I did experience problems making Royal IQ work while onboard the ship, I either signed into one of the iPads in guest services or at other locations around the ship and took care of business, or I visited a restaurant I wanted in person to reserve a table. I did NOT march down to guest services to queue up for help. Finally, I rolled with it – meaning I did not expect a flawless experience on the early cruises aboard Quantum of the Seas. I expected little issues, and I had a few.
Several months prior to our cruise, my travel agent reached out to let me know that we could reserve our desired dining for the cruise. I took a quick look at the complimentary main-dining options which were (descriptions are my take on things):
- American Icon – Basic American “comfort food”
- Chic – European inspired “contemporary”
- The Grande – Traditional formal dining
- Silk – Asian food
As a Diamond Plus member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society who booked the cruise before it became publicly available, we were also offered the opportunity to reserve dining at Coastal Kitchen, a restaurant normally reserved for suite guests. I booked each restaurant for one night of the cruise, Chops Grille (upcharge steakhouse) for the first night, and left the remaining nights open. I wanted to experiment, and see which restaurants I preferred before committing too many nights, and of course, there were other surcharge specialty restaurants I wanted to try as well.
Overall, I found Dynamic Dining to to be a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Frankly, I liked the new variety in venues, both complimentary and with an upcharge. For me, the best complimentary restaurant was Silk, which is focused on Asian inspired cuisine. The Hibachi Steak was my favorite, with the duck being a close second.
The decor and general atmosphere in Silk was also my favorite of the included restaurants. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the others, just that Silk was my preferred. It’s also the only one of the complimentary options that I visited more than once.
Of the upcharge restaurants Wonderland ($45 per person) was the hands down winner for me. A new restaurant introduced by Royal Caribbean on Quantum of the Seas, Wonderland promises to figure prominently in the Dynamic Dining experience. Word of warning – if you’re the type that seeks out McDonalds when dining in Paris or Rome, you may not be comfortable here. In a few words, I would describe Wonderland as whimsical and adventurous.
The menu is certainly unique, right down to the fact that you have to paint it with water to read it. Once that’s done, one of the more interesting dining experiences at sea is revealed.
At first, I thought Wonderland was going to be a “big plate, small food” kind of place. I was wrong.
You’ll have all sorts of options throughout the meal. My advice – engage your waiter and let them know your likes and dislikes. Basically, let them guide you on your culinary journey. Things start small, with delicious tastes. Favorites – liquid lobster, olives, sashimi. Just when you’re certain you’re in a small food kind of place, kimchi and a wonderful vegetable medley appear. Than a beef rib that will knock your socks off. Keep in mind there are other options, I’m just sharing my experience.
I’m not a big dessert person, but Wonderland’s take on Baked Alaska was a favorite of mine.
Since my December 1 cruise, Royal Caribbean has announced that it will add a “classic” option to Dynamic Dining on Anthem of the Seas, which will presumably spread to the other Dynamic Dining ships. If you wish, you can select classic, which will feature a rotational dining setup that will take you through each of the restaurants with the same waiter, at the same time, each evening. Hopefully, this will alleviate some of the most common complaints about Dynamic Dining from cruise traditionalists as well as offer variety for those who don’t wish to eat at the same time each night. The bottom line from my Quantum of the Seas dining experience – if you are hungry, you want to be.
Ports of Call
Our December 1, 2014, cruise was an 11-night itinerary. When you depart from Cape Liberty, you are going to spend a few days at sea getting to the Caribbean. Frankly, this was an attractive feature to me as I find sea days, especially on the first day or so of a cruise to give you a real opportunity to unwind. Our itinerary looked like this.
Day 1 – Embarkation
Day 2 – At Sea
Day 3 – At Sea
Day 4 – San Juan
Day 5 – St. Maarten
Day 6 – Martinique
Day 7 – Barbados
Day 8 – St. Kitts
Day 9 – At Sea
Day 10 – At Sea
Day 11 – At Sea
Day 12 – Disembarkation
I spent most of the sea days relaxing, but did make 4 of 5 Zumba® classes taught by none other than Mrs MJonTravel, and hit the excellent gym on a couple days too. As for the ports, St. Maarten is a perennial favorite of mine, and I finally took the time to make a pilgrimage to a place every #AvGeek should go.
Admittedly, I could have been a bit more aggressive in getting you a good shot of the arriving 747-400, but I had a bar stool that kept me out of the rain shower that passed through. 🙂 We took a taxi to Maho Beach on our own. In the other ports, we did a mix of ship sponsored shore excursions and our own thing. I won’t review each port individually, but will post a select few pictures.
Evening in St. Kitts
Quantum of the Seas in Martinique
The beautiful beaches of Barbados
You can view all of my pictures from ship to shore here.
The Bottom Line
I’ve only touched the surface of the total Quantum of the Seas cruising experience with this cruise review. This ship, and her sister ships to follow, are unique in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Beautiful, and elegantly designed, these ships promise to offer many years of exciting vacation experiences. My advice – approach your Quantum-class cruise with an open mind. These ships offer a unique Royal Caribbean experience that was designed to appeal to a new generation of cruisers. I throughly enjoyed my Quantum of the Seas cruise, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to book another Quantum-class experience aboard Anthem of the Seas. Another cruise review in the making! Enjoy your Quantum-class cruise!
-MJ, April 4, 2015
- Pictures: My Google+ Photo Album, Including many Menus and Food Shots
- Quantum of the Seas Deck Plans
- Interview with Quantum of the Seas Executive Chef
- Favorite and Least Favorite Thing About Quantum of the Seas (The Internet – It’s Both Good and Bad)