Would I like to be WOW’d was the question I was asked. Well wouldn’t we all?!
I had been invited on board the brand new Quantum of the Seas for two nights to sample this new technological innovative cruise ship. Now, anyone that knows me will be aware that I am ‘Mrs Traditional Cruise Ship’ through and through. I like my white glove service, traditional dining, formal dress code etc. Royal Caribbean had been shouting about their new class of ships for the last twelve months or more, and I confess I hadn’t bothered to read beyond the headline statements of Robotic computer generated bartender, Bumper Cars and Sky Diving. I mean, honestly! Thats not a cruise ship, its a theme park, surely?
A very warm and sunny day at the end of October had arrived and I was stood in the car park of City Terminal, Southampton, looking up at the lovely sky blue hull of this massive ship with a big pink magenta bear looking down at me. And WOW, yes I was already WOW’d! Check in was smooth, but maybe could have been smoother. Royal Caribbean were introducing there new online check in which claimed car park to ship in 10 minutes. You do all the check in online, including uploading a suitable security photograph, print off your ‘set sail’ pass, and then proceed effortlessly through the terminal, stopping only to be checked in my waiting shoreside staff on their tablet devices. As Lizy commented, I bet the training for the check in staff was ‘interesting’ as most of them were from an era which skipped technology. I admit they were also fighting with the bandwidth supplied to City Terminal, so not all their fault, but it wasn’t quite the whizz through the terminal building we were expecting. Add to that the fact that every check in person we passed after checking in, stopped to ask us if we had checked in! No queuing for security scanning, we even had a separate scanning area for Suite Guests, of which we were privileged to be one.
Once onboard, we were up one deck via the glass lifts, and our Suite was very conveniently located by the midship lobby. Oh we have a doorbell! I love a nice doorbell on a ship. Its one of the things I aspired to as a young girl when I used to get door bell envy as I walked down the posher corridors of ships gone by. We had been allocated Junior Spa Suite 6242, and it was fab. Nice and spacious. Huge king size bed which did convert to two twins. Nice corner sofa with lush big cushions. Feb dressing table area with a light up mirror, always a good point for the ladies for easier to apply makeup when getting ready. There were lots of deep, wide drawers, plus smaller one between the bed and bathroom. Above the drawer unit was the large flat screen TV. We also had plenty of power points plus separate charging points for phones and tablets etc. I was impressed with that, but doubt I would have worked out what they were had lizy not been with me! And I loved the wardrobe which light up when opened so you could see what was what. More hanging space was in a cupboard between bed and bathroom, and lighting was more than adequate to suite the mood, with various options around the suite. The bathroom had puzzled us a little prior to embarking as it claimed to have an obscured screen between cabin and bathroom to allow for natural flow of light. In reality it was a narrow, heavily obscured, glass panel, which could hardly be seen through even when pressing against the glass with the lights on. The separate bathroom consisted of a bath with shower attachment, nice trendy sink and vanity unit and a separate, fairly large shower unit with glass door. the bathroom was to the right as we entered the suite and the separate toilet was to the left as we entered the suite. It had its own sink and mirror so hand washing wasn’t an issue, plus it provided yet another mirror for makeup application. The balcony was a decent size with lovely rattan reclining chairs and foot stools, plus of course the small table for the glass of chilled wine. We were extremely lucky with the weather. We sat on the balcony for a while basking in the sunshine looking across Southampton water. It was quite a sun trap, but we had work to do, a ship to explore. Onwards and upwards.
We had a plan. That plan was to not dilly dally, and to do a full tour of all the cabin types, plus as much of a ships tour as we could fit in before stopping for a bite to eat somewhere. We got in the lift and went to the top and stepped straight out onto the open deck. First fail! The bar was open, it was so early that there was hardly anyone was around, and the sun was shining. The cocktails were calling me. Lizy was not impressed and I was given a stern talking to about our order of prioritys. But cocktail tasting is research right? And how often does the sun shine on the last day of October and grant us the privilege of being out on deck, on a brand new ship, in shirt sleeves and not shivering, I rest my case. I am happy to report that the bar service and cocktail was first class!
I wanted to go see the Big Magenta Bear. Lizy insisted he could wait, but I argued not. It was a fabulous sunny day with blue sky and I wanted to see the Magenta Bear in all his glory, not in the North Sea while it was blowing a gale. Once again I was reminded of our plan to see the staterooms etc, but this was only to be a slight detour, so whats the worry. Oh I liked Magenta Bear. I believe he is the largest piece of floating art and is called ‘From Afar’ I defy you not to like him when you meet him. He’s huge and pretty awesome.
Our next ‘fail’ was stopping by the iFly to ask about the skydive experience. We were advised that it was VIP invites only for this short cruise, but they did have one or two slots for the next session starting in 20 mins time. Now dont get excited, I was not about to throw myself into a wind filled tube in the hope of a bit of free flying, but Lizy was more than up for it. She quickly ran back to the suite to change out of dress into leggings and suitable footwear and was back in time to attend the short safety briefing before getting togged up in her flying suit. Her flying skills proved impressive, and she was one of the few that flew solo and also to the top of the wind filled tube. She is a braver girl than me. She came of it on a high, gushing at how Awesome it was. So maybe now I am excused the deviation from the stateroom tour?
You will be pleased to note that we did complete the stateroom tour. I was very impressed with the Loft Suites. Oh wow, floor to ceiling windows, spanning two decks overlooking the stern of the ship. That is my kind of suite. Imagine waking up on the upper floor of that every morning, reaching for the remote control to draw back the curtains and then sitting up in bed to admire the view. Everything about those loft suites impressed me. The dining area, the seating area, the choice of furnishings, were all just perfect. I confess to being a little underwhelmed at the Owners Suite, but then I am a bit blaze about my choice of suites lol. Owners Suite was massive, but midship, all on one level and so didn’t deliver the wow of the loft suite outlook. Im struggling to work out the difference between Junior Mini suite, and Junior Spa suite, other than layout. We presume that with our being a Junior Spa Suite we had some sort of Spa privileges and benefits, but nobody onboard, including the Spa was able to confirm this, I need to make it may mission to find out. the jury is still out with me re the Virtual balcony staterooms. At the end of the day its still an inside stateroom, so would I find the view of outside frustrating in the fact that I couldn’t actually walk out there and feel the fresh air?
Lunch, we really need some lunch, but its a late lunch, so not too much or it will spoil this evenings meal in The Grande Restaurant. We decided to drop by Two70 and kill two birds with one stone. Eat and view this much talked about venue with two deck high panoramic views over 270 degs, plus all the technological wizardry of robotic video screens etc. Cafe@Two70 did not disappoint. Fabulous selection of hot and cold sandwiches, panninis etc. A good variety of sweet offerings and cookies, plus tea and coffee stations or the speciality coffee station for all the various variety of lattes, mochas etc. You simply place your order, the server gives you a bleeper and off you go to find a seat. When its ready a few minutes later, the bleeper alerts you and you collect. Far less stressful than lurking about with a tray in the self service buffet options. They also offer a take out service and will pack it up oin lunch boxes for take away. Our choices were delicious, and we finished off with small muffin type cup cakes. There were plenty of seating options ranging from table an chairs to seat four. Less formal higher tables and stool like chairs, or the softer for comfortable seating areas within the lounge. After our late lunch we decided to venture further into the room for a glass of fizz. Oh yes, I like it in here! Reminds me very much of the old Stern Gallery on the old S.S. Oriana that I cruised on as a child. To me as a child the old Stern Gallery must have looked as big as this. Thos floor to ceiling windows over two decks are very impressive.
After attending the obligatory muster drill, it was time to get ready for the evening ahead. At least we weren’t fighting for mirror space, which is just as well as we needed a pretty sharpish turnaround to be out in time for pre dinner drinks. We had booked early slots for dining on both evenings to enable us to maximise our evenings. Lizy has decided this evening to wear her interactive wow band on her wrist, which she can get away with because she is wearing long sleeves this evening. Im not so sure I want to wear such a device at all, but its good to have the choice. The wrist band allows you to gain access to your stateroom, pay for drinks and shop purchases etc, intact do everything a cruise card does apart from scan you off and on the ship. Just one piece of technology I’m not personally ready for, but I did see many around the ship wearing them. Pre dinner drinks in Vinatges Wine Bar. I like it in here, also loved the location close to Jamies Italian and just off The Via with yet another stunning piece of art. Vintages also serves taster menu, tapas style from Jamies Italian at $5 per dish, so would be a nice pre dinner or light bite stop during a cruise.
We had chosen to dine in The Grande Dining Room this evening which suggests a more formal attire as the dress code. We were met at the door and once our reservation had been checked we were shown to a table by the window. Loved the decor in here, very art deco and did very much what it said on the tin. Lizy had immediately spotted the lovely cutlery and even the fine etched glassware. Attention to detail was very well thought out. The food was delicious, and it was obvious that the waiters were trying to recall every step of their training on what was in effect the grand opening of this restaurant. But overall I was very impressed, definitely my kind of dining experience. Food was very well presented, hot and very tasty. I like the fact that each restaurant seems to have a signature cocktail too!
After dinner we had time to have a nice leisurely stroll through the ship. We even stopped by for a few formal photographs. I love the fact that the photographers onboard have chosen not to use any of those ridiculous fake backdrops of ship scenes, Titanic stair cases etc. Instead they use the various forms or art installed across the ship for a more relaxed shot.
Ah, the famous Bionic Bar. No robot will ever replace a Barman for me, but the Bionic Bar was entertaining to say the least. We couldn’t help but feel sorry for the engineers etc that were trying their hardest to get the Bionic Robot to do exactly what he was supposed to. I’m sure it all works perfectly in their encoded format and on the computer simulator, but in reality the Bionic Bartenders were having a lovely time mixing whatever the heck they felt like mixing, then shaking and stirring in their own amusing way before dispensing into a plastic beaker and delivering to the edge of the bar for you. I had a trendy white and silver swivel chair to swing about in while I waited, so I was happy enough. Lizy was chatting to the engineers about their invention and trying to get inside the Bionic Bartenders brain, they even managed to order me a Mia Tia between them, and very nice it was too. But I’m not so impressed with the plastic beaker service. Not quite fitting with my cocktail dress profile, but hey, it’s a bit of fun.
We could have booked to see Mama Mia this evening in the Royal Theatre. But it was the full production two and a half hour show, and because our time was limited on this trip we decided against it. We did sneak in the back of the theatre for about 20 minutes though and watch the bit where the three ‘Dad’s’ turn up on the island for the wedding. I was very impressed. This was not the usual standard ship board production. This was the real West End full on type production. The scenery was spectacular and acting and singing to an extremely high standard. I could have happily sat and watched more, but we had a ship and its offerings to investigate.
We were just about to investigate the onboard shops but were drawn into The Music Hall. To me, this conjured up images of Ye Olde Thyme Music Hall with variety acts and the like. Wrong, very wrong! this is the late night hot spot of the ship, covering again two decks. We had alrwady missed one tribute band this evening but were in for a treat when The wild Boys 80’s tribute band took to the stage. That will be another WoW then! I had cocktails too, what’s not to like? After bopping away to those, from the comfort of my seat, it was time for a change of scene so we headed to Boleros Salsa Club. Oh its all going on onboard Quantum. It cannot be said that there is not something for everyone. The Salsa band were in full swing and the Mojhitos were flowing. That’s another major like from me! it was at this point that lizy decided it was time to change from her cocktail dress to something a little more comfy, and the beauty of that is that you can on here, because there is no set dress code. You are more likely to dress to suite your chosen dining venue of the evening, and even for me, Mrs Traditional Cruiser, that works. I didn’t feel out of place in my cocktail dress among those that had chosen to dress a little less formally. The ambience around the ship somehow seemed to suit all.
I think we went in search of the Dodgems next. Well, that is the only way I can explain how we happened to be on deck 15 in the arcade racing cars and fighting battles in aeroplanes. The Dodgems, or Bumper Cars as Royal Caribbean prefer to call them, had finished for the evening. Maybe tomorrow. Next stop was the upper floor of The Music Hall. Always good to see places from a different perspective. It was mega busy in here by now and the dance floor was packed with people dancing to the music of the DJ. Good job there was a bar on the upper floor too or it could have been a non nightcap event. Some went off to play pool, which I presume were self levelling as we were now at sea, but for me my bed was calling. Lizy was keen to test the hot chocolate offerings so we dropped by Sorrento’s for hot chocolate and cookies. Both were yummy. Our suite wasn’t too far away, just a short stroll to midship and up two decks in the lifts. I couldn’t resist ringing my doorbell, even at that time of night. I had it so I was going to use it!
And so, to sleep. Well, that is after I had worked out the combination of getting all the lights to turm out. I seemed to be turning others on as fast as I turned some out. but I got there in the end. The bed was lush. Pillows like soft marshmallows and the duvet fluffy. All just as it should be.
Saturday 1st November 2014
What’s going on, its another lovely morning here at sea, and our Junior Spa Suite was a lovely place to wake up. I stepped out onto the balcony to a lovely sunrise, just how I like it. After a potter around the Suite, it was time to go in search of some breakfast. With a quick detour to see the Solarium area at the front of the ship. Oh WOW, wow and wow again. It’s like a tropical oasis. This ship is not all about the gadgets and gizmos, this one of the nicest public areas I have ever seen on any ship. It really is like a little oasis, a tropical paradise. I wasn’t expecting that at all as I approached. I could while away a few lazy hours here that for sure. We stopped by the bar. For a cola I will have you know!! The bartender was very keen to mix me and lizy one of his healthy juice potions of various veg, herbs and things, but euhw that just does not appeal in the slightest. We asked him if it was nice and worth a try, but his face said it all. There were two very nice looking restaurants just behind the bar, but guessing that they too woul;d be full of healthy stuff we moved on to find the Windjammer Market Place. it was at the other end of the ship all along. We entered to find a steward directing us in the direction of the wash hand basin and dryers. Good idea and I much prefer this to the hand gel.
Now anyone that knows me will know that I am not a lover of these self service type restaurants at sea. I much prefer to sit comfortably, choose from a menu and be waited on whilst I drink a nice fresh cup of tea. I cant fault the Windjammer Market Place. Its was very spacious, had a massive choice, and everything look fresh, but I got my smoked salmon, gave up the hunt for a bagel, and a waiter went in search of some cream cheese for me. In the end I gave up and had toast and jam! But its all available in here, full English, cereals, breads, fruits, you name it and its in here, but personally I don’t have the sort of patience to go looking for it first thing in the morning. The coffee from the vending machine was very good and there was a good choice of juices.
Outside on deck it was a very fresh but lovely morning. The North Star was busy doing its thing. I have to say that does fascinate me!
We decided to have a quick tour of the spa and gym area. Nothing out of the ordinary. Full of all the usual stuff from what I could see. It’s another of those places I don’t often frequent. Some people were being way too energetic having a full work out, looked more like a boot camp than a relaxing day at sea to me.
We were limited with what we could access with the childrens areas due to training and meetings going on, but what we did see looked pretty amazing. Im sure no child or teen would get bored on Quantum of the Seas.
Next I had to find The Car. Royal Caribbean always seem to have a car in the Royal Promenade so surely Quantum had one? we asked a photographer yesterday and he recalls seeing one, but couldn’t remember where. Eventually it was found. The Yellow car. I have to say I was disappointed, it was lifesize, with a driver inside chattering away to himself, but it wasn’t a car. It was just a fancy piece of art I suppose.
The various restaurants have food tastings going on so we drift around a couple of those before landing in the Schooner Bar. What do you know? They are offering cocktail tastings. Lizys not keen but I am, hic!
Ooh I am very excited this afternoon. We have been invited to go in the North Star and to rise high above the ship. Now, call me strange by all means, but I have always wanted to climb as high as the funnels of a ship and look down on it, and now Eeeek, I have the opportunity to go way higher than the funnels and fly above a ship at sea. We were a little delayed, the wind had decided to blow in the wrong direction and they weren’t prepared to risk taking us up in it. oh please dont let me loose my turn in the North Star After a few safety checks from officers with stripes, a few adjustments from engineers who built it, we were one of the 14 guest permitted on at a time. Oh wow, wow and wow again! I cant explain what it was like, but it was really surreal to see a ship, from so high ploughing through the ocean whilst we were still actually on it. I have never done the London Eye, but this surely has to way surpass any experience that could ever give me. I wanted to do it again, I wanted to go round and round. Imagine sailing into New York in the North Star, or in the evening with the ship all light up. Ok, I admit it, when I saw the artists impression of this, I dismissed it instantly as s stupid crazy idea, but it isn’t. Well done Mr Inventor for your vision.
Time to chill out and where better than Two70 with the stunning views of the wake. Lizy found the swing, I found lots of crazy chairs and pods. Most of them seemed to have couple sleeping in them, I do hope they knew each other.
Lizy had a date with a Hippo, dont ask, but she seemed please to meet her! We had a hot dog from the hot dog van. Yes, of course there is one at sea! And then lizy wanted to go back to her childhood when she found the child size sunloungers. She says she feels cheated as a child as they weren’t around when she was a young cruise passenger. lizy rounded off her hour with a date with two penguins. I really am non the wiser but she seemed excited about it!
Ah pre dinner drinks in the Vintage wine Bar. Glass of fizz, glass of sauvignon blanc, I dont mind if I doo. Now lizy has caught the eye of the cameraman and is doing her piece to camera. I wonder if the Hippo and the Penguins got a mention.
We were dining in Silk this evening which we had pre booked before we sailed. It was very busy in there, but we were escorted to a quiet little back corner behind some red silk curtains. I blame the waifs and strays we picked up along the way. We had extremely attentive service, nice cocktails, lots of wine, plus beer for the boys. The food was extremely good and plenty of it. I really shouldn’t have had desert, but I did, and another cocktail.
We were really looking forward to this evenings show in Two 70 entitled StarWater. We had fab seats on the upper level and didn’t miss a thing. Its described as a visual spectacle of groundbreaking technology and live performance artistry. I don’t usually do shows, don’t usually have the patience to sit for that long (don’t like to think I’m missing out on other stuff) but wow this one had got me! absolutely stunning, especially the finale. I could watch it again. The after show party kicked in as soon as the show ended and the place was buzzing. From there we moved onto the Music Hall which was full to the rafters, upstairs and down stairs.
We sat for a while but we were tired little chics. We had had a busy day, out and about exploring and flying high above the Quantum of the Seas. Lizy cant gop to bed without her hot chocolate and we might have indulged in a little slice of pizza too. And so to bed, or so I thought!
We got back to the tranquillity of our Junior Spa Suite and maybe lizy was a little bit tipsy, but she decided in her infinite wisdom that we should pack before going to sleep. That consisted of lizy emptying the entire contents of the wardrobe and every draw, dumping it all on the bed, and then proceeding to get into bed and go to sleep whilst I sorted the mess out that she had left me with. Daughters!!
There is no rest for the wicked, I was no sooner in bed than we appeared to be crawling up a cold wet Southampton waters. Revenge is sweet, time to get up Lizy. Breakfast at like 6.15am, really?! I had coffee, toast and jam and enjoyed ear wigging on the various conversations around me regarding different peoples thoughts on the ship. Disembarkation was vet swuft and quick. We were in the car before 7.30am and just as well, because we were no sooner driving out of Southampton than there was an almighty downpour. I would not liked to have been walking across the car park in that.
So, I was invited on Quantum of the Seas to see if they could WoW me. Me, Mrs Traditional Cruiser! Had they Wow’d me? Need I really answer that? They weren’t supposed to break me, but I rather think they did. Royal Caribbean has opened my eyes to the other side of cruising. I love my white gloved, formal, traditional cruising. I always will, nothing will sway me from that. But I can see where this fits in, and yes I would cruise on Quantum of the Seas or Anthem of the Seas. I love the choice that she has to offer. It’s not the holiday park environment that I imagined. It’s grown up, quirky, interesting, fascinating and fun, but also sophisticated at the same time. Is that possible? It must be because Royal Caribbean seem to have made it possible.