Quantum: Debutante Of The Seas

Those of you who hang on my every word . . . assuming for the sake of this post that such hapless souls really exist . .  will no doubt recall that last August I was privileged to see Quanum at the Meyer Werft shipyardQuantum of the Seas in her gawky, gangly, pre-teen stage. Not to be uncharitable, she was displaying some serious zits back then.  You don’t have to take my dubious word for it.  Just look through these prepubescent pictures.  (The last 27 at the bottom are the new ones of the completed ship.)

All of us who took that tour of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany last August voiced the same unshakable conviction: there was no way on God’s green earth that this ship was going to be presentable to the public come November. And yet, I was completely, if uncharacteristically, wrong!  I know, I am every bit as shocked as you are!

Quantum of the Seas Michael'sYet, here I sit at Michael’s Genuine Pub penning these words while sipping a brewsky and reveling in Quantum’s debutante ball. For those unfortunate readers who may not flutter about in high society like some of us social butterflys, a debutante is ” a girl or young lady from an aristocratic or upper class family who has reached the age of maturity and, as a new adult, is introduced to society at a formal ‘debut’ presentation.”  I have a little sage advice for you young guys out there. Tread carefully when pulling the pigtails of your best friend’s freckle-faced kid sister.  Some awkward teens grow up to be ravishing young ladies!

There is simply neither space nor time here to detail all the innovative features and fascinating facets of this amazing ship.  Speaking of time and space, did you know that Albert Einstein wrote a book about space . . .  and it’s about time too.  (Sorry, I really can’t help myself.  It must be genetic.)

Bionic BarHere is one of Quantum’s more fascinating features.  This is the Bionic Bar which mixes you a drink, delivers it to you and then listens to your marital woes (although personally, I must say, I found the one on the right to be a trifle aloof and diffident.)

Since we can’t cover everything here, if you are interested in knowing more about:

1)  the back story regarding how this entire series of blog posts came to be, click here.

2)  the trip to Germany, the PreCab Cabin tour and the big “Reveal”, click here.

3)  The amazing technology behind smart check-in, the on-board app, the WOW bracelet, the incredible wifi bandwidth and more click here.

4)  The concept of Dynamic Dining, the wide array of dining options, the North Star and Ripcord by iFly, click here.

5) the average bmi of an adult African aardvark, I don’t have a clue where you should click!

Vicki FreedWho is that mysterious woman sipping a latte in the Royal Esplanade?  Why, I do believe it is Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service.  I interviewed her for this blog a while back . . . and yes, she is that incredibly generous with her valuable time.   Click on the image, or here, to listen to that interview.

One of the dining venues created by Devin Alexander, New York Times best-selling author and media personality, is called “Devinly Decadence”.  For me, while the cuisine definitely pleased the palate, at first hearing the name jarred the sensibilities.  I was all prepared to dredge up grammatical technicalities from my English major past regarding which parts of speech properly modify one another, not to mention spelling, when it finally dawned on me that the name of the venue was not “divinely” but rather eponymous, a take on her name Devin.  OK, so the little gray cells don’t fire as rapidly as they once did!

To tie a final bow on this five-part series on the Quantum Of The Seas, this royal debutante has blossomed into a regal mistress of the high seas.  I have no doubt but that she will delight her guests of all ages and for many years to come.

Quinceañera on Quantum of the SeasOne final note.  As I arose from my table at Michael’s and strolled down the Royal Esplanade, my ear was caught by the lilting voice of a young women emanating from inside Boleros.

As I stood at the door and gazed inside, it was obviously the speech of a newly minted fifteen year old young princess at her Quinceañera, roughly the Latin American equivalent of our debutante ball.    As I listened to her excited but quivering voice, I could not help but smile and think to myself,  “How perfectly apropos!”

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Quantum of the Seas: Dining, Diversion and Difficult Decisions!

Back when the book I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas Anthony Harris was all the rage (I know, I am dating myself), I ran I'm OK You're OKacross this little ditty.

“I’m OK, You’re OK, OK is what we both are,
But as between the two of us, I’m more OK than you are.”

That fairly well sums up my misguided, even slightly delusional, outlook on life.  “Keep moving, nothing abnormal to look at here, Bub.”

However, I will be the first to admit that I do have a slight psychic tic when in comes to making decisions.  Thank goodness men’s attire has become less formal.  You have no idea how much time that has saved me standing in front of my impressive rack of neckties in the morning unable to pull the trigger.

If you share this particular character flaw, you may need to solicit a little professional help in planning out your Quantum of the Seas vacation.  (Our folks are excellent at helping with that, by the way.)  To shamelessly paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous quote about Russia, the Quantum of the Seas offers choices, wrapped in options, inside of alternatives!  Fasten your seat belt because we are about to go around the ship in 800 words.

DYNAMIC DINING

Quantum Restaurants First, you must grasp the concept of dynamic dining which, fortunately, is so strikingly simply that even I got it on the first try.   The concept is to offer a mind-boggling array of delectable yet distinctive cuisine within an alluring variety of settings and ambiance served up when and how you choose.  For the first time on a cruise ship you have ultimate flexibility and control of your dining decisions.   For someone who can’t touch their toes with a yardstick and whose life has been careening like a steel ball in a pinball machine for decades, flexibility and control would be nice!

There are eighteen dining venues from which to choose.   What is particularly exciting is that, in addition to the specialty signature restaurants you have come to expect, there are five unique full-service restaurant options that are all complimentary and sans reservations!  Those are American Icon Grill, Chic, Silk, The Grande Restaurant and Coastal Kitchen.  To learn about some of the other eighteen options, simply click here .

Quantum Celebrity ChefsAnother exciting aspect of dynamic dining are these three celebrity chefs:  Jamie Oliver (Jamie’s Italian), Michael Schwartz (Michael’s Genuine Pub) and Devin Alexander  (Divinely Decadence at Solarium Bistro) all working their magic under the watchful eye of Cornelius Gallagher, Director of Culinary Operations at Royal Caribbean International.

If you would like to watch a brief video that perfectly encapsulates the themes I have just been sounding, simple click here.

DRAMATIC DIVERSIONS

For some people a perfect vacation is defined as doing nothing.  I think Royal Caribbean must have had a completely different set of folks in mind when they built the Quantum of the Seas, i.e., the ones whose definition of a perfect vacation is doing everything!  If the ultimate aim of taking a vacation is to escape the ordinary and experience the extraordinary, this ship has struck a center bulls-eye.

What kind of diversions would you find on the perfect cruise ship?  Hmmm . . . let’s dream a moment.

Quantum North StarThe perfect ship would have an “intimate, jewel-shaped capsule” that gently ascends over 300 feet above sea level offering “breathtaking views of the ocean, the ship, and the exciting destinations.”   That would be North Star.

Quantum SeaPlex                                                       The  ideal ship would also have a magical indoor space where you can indulge in your favorite activities like crashing bumper cars, roller skating like we did way back when, shooting a little hoops with a pick-up team or attending a circus school where you learn the ancient craft of the flying trapeze.  I know, let’s call it SeaPlex!

Ripcord by IFly

As long as we are brainstorming, let’s go way out on a limb.  In fact, forget the limb altogether.  Let’s create a way to experience the exhilaration (or in my case, sheer terror) of skydiving without committing the insanity of jumping out of a perfectly sound plane!  You will be floating on air in no time . . . literally . . .  thanks to Ripcord by iFly.

I promised you 800 words and I am getting perilously close.  I haven’t even mentioned Two70, Dreamworks, the Royal Loft or Music Hall.   If you have been paying attention, as I know you always do, it has no doubt begun to dawn on you.  If your humble scribe can’t decide which features to highlight, how are you going to figure out where to eat and what to do?  Not to worry, mon ami.   We have an army of people (OK, probably more like somewhere between a squad and a small platoon) that are eager to assist you.  You aren’t alone in your quest for adventure.

And with that, this is the 800th word: Cheers!

Quantum Of The Seas: Smartest Ship On The Seas Six Ways To Sunday

I have an embarrassing admission to make.   I have long harbored a secret (note I did not say laudatory) desire to be widely recognized by my associates as “the smartest person in the room.”  It has taken quite some time, intensive therapy and, it goes without saying, a mountain of irrefutable evidence for me to arrive at last to a place of serene acceptance.  I now freely acknowledge that the only time that phrase can be applied to me with complete veracity are those occasions when I step into a my hall closet to retrieve my wind breaker.

By way of stark contrast, Quantum of the Seas is indisputably “the smartest ship on the seas” six ways to Sunday.  If you are unfamiliar with that idiom, basically it means “every way possible, thoroughly, completely.”  (If you are a linguistic junkie like me, click here for a full explanation of why there are six ways to get to Sunday.)

Quantum of the Seas in Papenburg

As mentioned in my previous post, I was an eyewitness to the Quantum of the Seas reveal held in the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany on Monday, August 25th.  If you would like to view the full-blown (full-blown as in the one-hour, twelve plus minute) version, pop some popcorn, pour yourself a giant root beer float, fully extend the Lazy Boy recliner and click here.  It is very entertaining, actually.  If, however, you prefer the Denton abridged version, succinctly summarized and meticulously hyperlinked,  read away.

SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY

1)  SMART Check-In

Royal Cabibbean's SMART check-inAs explained by Richard Fain, RCCL’s Chariman and CEO, the first inclination was to make check-in easier.  The second thought was, “Let’s just eliminate it.”  I like the way these people think!

The process begins with entering all your documentation online at home before you even begin your trip (but after you have booked it with a travel professional).  You can even take a selfie and upload your own picture.  You will then receive digital boarding confirmation.  When you get to the ship, you print out a boarding pass and a crew member simply swipes your passport and scans your bar code as you board the ship.  The goal is “sidewalk to shipboard” in ten minutes.

Would you like to know more about the RFID (radio frequency identification) luggage tracking system that allows you to know when your luggage has been delivered to your room?  Are you eager to learn about RFID WOW bands, i.e., wristbands that facilitate navigation of the ship and onboard purchases?  Read More

2)  SMART Concierge

Smart concierge Again, this process begins at home with Royal Caribbean’s newly updated Cruise Planner.  Some people are spontaneous free-spirits that like to be blown along like a leaf on a blustery fall day.  OK, that would not be me.  I am more the type that gets very anxious just after lunch if I don’t have a clear plan for dinner.

Cruise Planner was designed for type-A’s like me who want to scope out the many dining options within “Dynamic Dining” (more about that next post), evaluate options for shore excursions and book my pedicure (just kidding, I am more of the full body massage type).  But what about when you get on the ship?  Someone should come up with an app for that.  Oops, RCCL just did.  It is called Royal IQ and it does amazing things.  How amazing?  Read More

3)  SMART Connect

Quantus of the Seas Smart connectAnyone who has ever cruised knows just how frustrating an issue connectivity has always been on every cruise line, including Royal Caribbean.  You could spend a nice down payment on a Harvard education just trying to connect.  Of all these six ways to Sunday innovations, the one I am about to describe will undoubtedly be the biggest game changer of all.

Royal Caribbean has partnered with O3b, a fascinating company in its own right, to deliver connectivity that is several times faster with hundreds of times the bandwidth than has been possible in the past.  This is done by means of a satellite directed beam that literally follows the ship along its route.  This means you will be be able to stream videos, Skype, Facetime and perform all the other functions you are used to on land.

Before we leave the subject of technology, by way of an insight into the soul of Royal Caribbean and not just bits and bytes, Richard Fain announced that RCCL is giving every crew member on every ship in the fleet a Windows tablet amounting to over 40,000 free tablets!  These hard-working folks spend months away from their families and these tablets, combined with the improved connectivity, will mean the world to them in terms of staying in touch.

If you want to be blown away (figuratively, of course), just watch this video.  View More

4)  SMART Experience

OK, fair warning.  It is not going to be possible to treat this subject in any detail here.  WeTwo70 Nighttime 2 are talking Two70, robotic entertainment, virtual balconies, North Star, RipCord by iFly, SeaPlex, bumper cars, roller skating, Bionic Bar and much, much more. But if you come back soon . . . I have always longed to have a repeat visitor . . . I promise we will explore both entertainment and dining in great detail.

For now I will simply mention that Two70 is one of the most amazing venues ever created on land or sea.  The name comes from the floor to ceiling glass windows that offer a 270 degree panoramic view of the surroundings; windows that can transform themselves into giant screens.   Eighteen 8k hi-def projectors will be able to create an amazing ambiance turning the room in a matter of seconds into a rain forest or a famous cityscape.

Are you ready to view another amazing video?  View More

5)  SMART Service

Royal Caribbean has always been renowned for their service but they are adding custom apps that will permit crew members to better accommodate guests’ preferences and peccadillos.  Do you prefer gluten-free dining or your dry martini shaken not stirred (in which case you are having severe James Bond delusions)?  Crew members are now equipped to cater to your every whim.

6)  SMART Sustainability

One of the more interesting aspects of this category was the reveal that this will be the first cruise ship to fully use an air lubrication system where the ship literally floats on a tiny layer of microscopic bubbles which coat the hull and reduce friction.  There are 66,000, give or take, light bulbs on the ship and not one is incandescent.  They even freeze the garbage so it can be recycled upon reaching port versus going into a landfill.

Time has overtaken us.  As I mentioned last time, all the pictures I took on my adventure can be viewed here.  Until next time, travel safe.  Your addiction to these spellbinding posts can be our little secret. Hey, you’re only human.

A Quantum Leap(frog)

Over the past several days, I have been standing in tall cotton . . . as we are wont to say in the south.  Just consider these three fortuitous and unexpected events.  First, as mentioned in my previous post, I was one of five travel professionals selected from a pool of more than five hundred entrants to accompany approximately seventy other folks from the travel industry and the media on a special charter flight to Papenburg, Germany.  Our express purpose was to take a sneak peek at the soon to be launched Quantum of the Seas and later on the Anthem of the Seas.

Miami Air Charte

A quick shout out to Miami Air. The food was both abundant and delicious and the service impeccable. Thanks for a great ride!

Secondly, in the departure lounge, my name was randomly drawn from among the four other contest winners for a seat in business class. Finally, upon arrival, we were dispersed to various small hotels and I was dropped off at the Arkadanhaus Papenburg. This beautiful boutique hotel had only been opened two weeks.  No guest had ever slept in my room which pretty much eliminates all possibility of bed bugs (assuming I am not a carrier, of course!)  and was situated on the canal in the picturesque heart of the city.  Our hotel soon became the envy of the other participants.

Arkadenhaus PapenburgIn some circles of Christian theology, there is a doctrine called “dying grace” which holds that pious Christians who depart this life somewhat precipitously (as opposed to a protracted illness, for example) are often granted a few particularly glorious days just prior to their demise. My wife’s uncle, for example . . .  a true saint . . . was called home during a peaceful sleep following an especially memorable family Thanksgiving gathering a few years back.

Now when you consider that I will soon be boarding a flimsy aluminum tube where I will be careening through the lower levels of the stratosphere at 500 plus miles per hour over a vast ocean, I am sincerely hoping that the items catalogued above merely represent a run of Las Vegas style good luck rather than my personal experience of  “dying grace”.  I’m not quite ready, Uncle Murray!

Starting with the previous post and for the next several, I will devote my modest literary talents to bringing you along on my whirlwind 48 hour touchdown to lift-off odyssey. My challenge will to be to distill a barrel of fun into a few drops of valuable insight. Given the enormity of the task, you will find embedded in some of these posts a very liberal sprinkling of hyperlinks. In that fashion, what catches your fancy here can be perused in detail at your leisure.

Let’s begin, shall we, with the title? Merriam-Webster defines a quantum leap  as “a sudden large change, development, or improvement.”  A quantumKnights gloves leapfrog is both coined and defined by your humble squire as “any sudden large change, development, or improvement that leaves your competition whimpering like a small child lost in the food court of the neighborhood mall.”  Royal Caribbean has thrown down the gauntlet and it remains to other cruise lines to accept the challenge. Those other cruise lines are in the unenviable position of having just watched RCCL vault over them in this multi-billion dollar game of leapfrog as if their feet were planted in concrete.

The remainder of this post, as well as subsequent posts on this subject, will be devoted to demonstrating the veracity of this admittedly bold assertion.

German Engineering

If you want a watch made, you go to Switzerland. If you want a world class ship built, you hire the Germans. You should take a moment and read this brief history of the Meyer Werft shipyard. Upon our arrival, we lunched in a building converted from the former Meyer Werft factory replete with the original moveable cranes overhead.

Following lunch, we toured the Ems PreCab Cabin Factory. Did you know that every cabin Vicki Freed and Terry Denton about to enter the Meyer Werft shipyard(some 2000 or so) will be built as a separate module and delivered to the ship to be inserted into its precise location? Nor did I. They have borrowed from the automotive industry the concept of a slow-moving (v e r y  s l o w  m o v i n g) assembly line where workers sequentially apply their own expertise. The picture on the left is Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Services, and your humble servant about to enter the factory.  It speaks volumes about Vicki’s generosity in risking her stellar reputation by allowing her photo to be taken with moi!

Anthem of the Seas under construction

Following the visit to the PreCab factory, we moved over to the Meyer Werft shipyard’s Laser Hall and the Block Assembly and Building Hall where we saw the Anthem of the Seas in an earlier stage of construction. These great ships are built in sections and joined together with a very strong, water-resistant superglue. OK, I made up that last bit.

At 4:00 pm, sensing that sleep deprivation and our forced march were threatening to render us comatose, they allowed us to park our weary carcasses for the highlight of the day, the live web cast “Reveal” staring RCCL’s own Chairman of the Board RichardRichard Fain and David Pogue at the Reveal Fain and technology guru David Pogue. “And what exactly did they reveal?”, I know you are dying to ask.  I will tell you . . . next time.  That is what those in the news biz call “a tease”.   For those who were hoping for a detailed listing of the many virtues of the Quantum of the Seas,  just watch for the next post.  The Quantum tour was day two of our trip.

Here is a quick summary of the remainder of day one. Enjoyed a very nice dinner. Crashed and burned. Awoke half an hour later to the ear-piercing sound of fireworks being set off directly outside my window which thunderous racket in my stupor I somehow wove into a dream about a surprise Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Let’s all pray that part was just a bad dream.

If you would like to see all the pictures I took on my trip, click here.  Now is your chance to participate by taking this short survey.