The Quantum of the Seas sits just under two months away from her delivery to Royal Caribbean International on Oct. 28. During a visit to the Meyer Werft shipyard in late August, the ship (project/hull No. 697) was close to complete, with finishing touches being done everywhere among a buzz of one-shift shipyard workers and numerous subcontractors.
Major installations are set to be finished on Sept. 5, while crew comes aboard on Sept. 8 ahead of a Sept. 15 United States Public Health inspection. The narrow River Ems conveyance is scheduled for Sept. 21, followed three days later by sea trials and a United States Coast Guard inspection on Oct. 6.
A number of top Royal Caribbean executives said they will join the ship, living onboard from mid-October to the end of November to manage the delivery and first few sailings.
The Quantum ushers in a new era for the Royal brand, combining a big but not-huge (by Royal Caribbean standards) 167,000-ton vessel with the latest tech enhancements such as robotic bartenders, and the continuing evolution of what the brand offers.
“We’re not trying to create new features, but are taking normal things and making them appealing,” said Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Richard Fain, pointing to new smart technology ranging from bandwidth availability to RFID wristbands.
Those wristbands will replace the SeaPass cards (guests can still get those, if they so chose) and will let passengers purchase items and get into their rooms.
The Quantum will be the first Royal ship with RFID door locks (read: no card swipe), and the company stressed passengers will go from curb-to-ship in ten minutes, doing most of the check-in process at home. RFID wristbands will be waiting in an envelope at their staterooms.
Among the passenger highlights are the North Star, currently under testing in Poland, and RipCord by iFly, a sky-diving simulator. Passengers will get a one minute sky-diving experience, comparable to a real-world jump. Fees are non-existent, but Royal will introduce a package for more dive-time and instructor lessons for a modest charge.
What’s not on the top of the ship may be the highlight of the newbuild, which is in the aft of the vessel, taking up three floors in the space of the traditional main dining room. The lounge-like area is known as Two70° and will feature live entertainment, incredibly complex robotics, food and beverage and much more.
Better yet the space was innovatively engineered by Royal Caribbean to limit pillars, making it a nearly-full 270 degree view with windows that can act as TV screens via giant projectors.
As the back of the ship has traditionally needed a lot of support, the ship designers, instead of opting for pillars to hold the decks above it up, instead used a set of massive C-pillars (off to the side) and had the decks above support themselves off previous (forward) blocks with some innovative marine engineering.
Fain noted that the development, design, construction and outfitting of the venue is probably costing more than Royal’s first newbuild, the Song of Norway, which was launched in 1970. Dancers can enter out of the floor and ceiling, as the entire backstage area is hosted under the main floor in the venue. There are a few hundred tons of sound-deadening material around the section.
During a ship tour with Fain, more details were released about the company’s new Dynamic Dining concept, eliminating the main restaurant and offering 18 dining options for passengers.
“We are also elevating our specialty restaurants,” noted Brian Abel, vice president of food and beverage operations. As the ship moves to China in 2015, menus will be adjusted for the region, and Chic will turn into a Chinese restaurant, according to Abel.
Wait staff will be outfitted with tablets to take orders, and that software will learn passenger preferences over time.
“If you’re allergic to nuts or want to start the dinner with a Johnny Walker Black, we’ll know and it will be waiting for you,” said Abel. “We’re going to be able to personalize food and beverage through this technology.”
Read more about the Quantum of the Seas, from the cruise experience to marine engineering, in the upcoming Fall 2014 edition of the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine. Subscribe today.