ICFR takes a look at the guest experience onboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas
This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats
The 4,905-guest Quantum of the Seas with its brand new ‘smart technology’ is definitely making a splash in the cruising world and is a departure from cruising as we know it. Built at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, at 167,800gt Quantum is the largest ship ever constructed by the yard.
So what actually is behind the much-celebrated smart technology onboard the ship? The cruise line’s partnership with satellite firm O3B is what makes it a reality. O3B stands for the Other Three Billion, presumably referring to most of us who don’t have access to amazing bandwidth. The ship’s dedicated O3B satellite will zap down steerable satellite beams and provide fibre-like capacity plus nearly unlimited bandwidth for Quantum of the Seas. It’s a maritime miracle that will take the customer experience forward by leaps and bounds.
Before guests arrive, they can generate boarding documents online, upload their own security photo, and receive digital boarding confirmations. On arrival at the cruise terminal, guests can go from shoreside to ship in 10 minutes with no check-in counter and no queues. Check-in staff use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology tablets to quickly register passengers. The room key is waiting at the cabin as is the branded WOWband (RFID bracelet) that acts as the cabin door key – very handy for those who dread check-in delays.
Passengers occupying inside cabins benefit from a major boost to their environment with the new floor-to-ceiling virtual balconies which have real-time imagery provided by cameras located near the ship’s bridge. (While new to Royal Caribbean, these may remind some guests of Disney Cruise Line’s virtual portholes.)
Another new extra is the downloadable app for smart phones. ‘Royal IQ’ keeps guests’ personal schedules updated and allows them to book shows, attractions or excursions. It is also possible to track luggage using the app and RFID technology, though I am not entirely sure folks will bother with that.
But what they will bother with is the remarkable amount of bandwidth. Passengers can even stream and download movies on their laptops. Tablets will also be used to take orders in every restaurant, which should improve the dining experience.
Attractions seem to have a techno focus as well. North Star, a ‘London Eye’ sort of pod attached to a wrench-shaped pole, elevates guests 300ft into the air before pivoting them out over the ocean for spectacular views.
Two70° is a large entertainment space with very comfortable, intimate seating that combines with original Royal Caribbean productions. There is a troupe of six Robo-screens that define this space as something futuristic. These screens can twist around and create all manner of visual displays during the shows.
The iFly by Ripcord is a sky-diving simulator; a novelty activity that kids and grown-up kids will love. But for the adults, it is the robot bartenders, created by Makr Shakr, that were causing a ‘stir’. Charmless they may be, but the drinks they produced were pretty decent when I visited.