GETTING TO NEW JERSEY:
This was our first time cruising out of New Jersey. We flew in the day prior to Newark, so that we could have a relaxing evening, adjust to the time change, visit a friend for dinner and then in the morning check off "Carlo's Bakery" from the Bucket List! So we stayed at the W Hoboken, literally about a 7 minute walk to the Bakery. Our flight into Newark was fine, the airport is in need of a serious renovation. It's very dated and somewhat slummy. Our friend picked us up and that went smoothly as did our ride to Hoboken.
I can't stress enough how brand loyalty can be so advantageous when traveling. We have been Starwood members for a long time, but a few years ago became Starwood timeshare owners in Palm Springs. This transaction also upgraded our status to Gold with Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and I think there has only been maybe one time in three years that we have not been upgraded upon arrival. The W brand of the Starwood family is quickly becoming one of my favorites. We have been upgraded to their WOW suite a few times now and WOW is right. Lots of room, separately living room, bedroom and often times a great view! Well, we had an OUTSTANDING view of the Manhattan skyline.
Seriously, if you want to see great views of NYC, but don't necessarily need or want to go into the city- this is the place to be. We had a great night of sleep and the next morning took a stroll over to Carlo's Bakery.
We were surprised that there were only 5 people in line, no line out the door like we were expecting, so maybe now that he has bake shops all over the country, going to the original location is not as much a bucket list thing for people to do. Oh well, after years of watching "Cake Boss" on TV, I was still thrilled to visit the original bake shop. A cupcake, 4 cannoli, box of assorted cookies & a Carlo's Bakery tank top were purchased. The cookies did make it home 10 days later, unopened, ready to share with the family. We had a yummy breakfast of our bakery treats along with room service coffee & Mimosas from our room looking out at the Manhattan skyline. A perfect way to start the day!
I had pre-arranged a limo ride from the W Hoboken to Port Liberty, I used a local service that was recommended by the W Hotel's concierge team. They were prompt, they were efficient and reasonable. $50 plus gratuity for the ride. Getting to the port can be a little challenging. Their street infrastructure is not ideal for the amount of traffic that comes and goes on a day when a ship the size of QUANTUM OF THE SEAS is in port. It will be interesting later this year to see how it is getting in and out of the port when we cruise on the LIBERTY OF THE SEAS- a much smaller ship. But it's vacation, the ship is not going anywhere without you, so we just relaxed with anticipation of getting on the ship.
The entire process once we got out of our car was ridiculously simple. Our bags were already tagged with our cruise luggage tags, so we gave them to a porter and we were on our way. We entered the terminal building and were directed to one of the marked employees with an iPad to "check-in"- they confirmed that we had completed the online check-in, nothing was missing and asked us the standard health questions and then directed us to board the ship. The new Quantum class of ships are the "smart ships"- so it is set up so that when you get on board- one of your key cards is outside your cabin door and everything else is inside your cabin. So we literally took an welcome aboard picture, put our things through the security machines, had our boarding pass scanned (I should note that during the online pre-registration process for Quantum, you have the option to upload a picture of yourself, which eliminates the need for the staff to take a picture at check-in) and then walked up the escalator and boarded the ship. It was literally no more than 10 minutes from the time we dropped our bags curbside to the moment we set foot on board the QUANTUM OF THE SEAS. The most efficient check-in process that I have ever experienced- EVER.
LET THE CRUISE BEGIN:
Well, we had a few "business" things to set up once we boarded. This cruise was my annual Vacation.com Conference and we had some pre-arranged discounts for Beverage packages, internet packages, etc. So we wanted to make sure to get set up for those things once we boarded. This was all very smooth for us. We had some troubles getting our "Royal IQ" app to work, so we went by Guest Relations and it was a simple fix with how to view the app on some smart phones. I learned something new about my Android phone. So "Royal IQ" is just one of the many innovations on the Quantum class of ships- this is an app on your phone that will have your personal itinerary (dining, show, excursions that have been reserved), this will allow you (for a fee- I believe it's $15 for the entire cruise) to text or call other Royal IQ users on your cruise, which is very convenient. It works off the ship's satellite Wi-Fi signal, but you do not have to have the internet package for Royal IQ to work. This was a great way to keep in touch with our fellow cruisers, there were a few times when the text messages weren't going through well, but it was rare.
As for the Internet on this ship- WOW. I've never been on a ship with Wi-Fi THIS good! I tend to prefer cruises because I can completely "unplug", but on this cruise, I did check emails everyday- I tried not to, but I can't help myself. So while I loved having great internet to use social media, I did feel as though I didn't really get away from work. Perhaps when I sail on one of these Quantum Class ships again and it's not a work-related conference, maybe then I won't be so glued to my phone. I never once locked it up in the safe and usually on a cruise it's in the safe the entire time!
So once we had our drink & internet packages all signed up for and our Royal IQ apps were working well, we went to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bags and pick up our key cards. This ship also has the WOWbands- which can serve as your key and your key card if you wanted to wear the bracelets. I'm not a fan of them personally, but there were plenty of people wearing them. As a fashion thing, just not me. But it's a cool concept and something unique to this class of ship.
DECOR OF QUANTUM:
This was probably one of the most beautifully decorated ships that I have ever sailed upon. Now I may be partial because this ship had butterflies everywhere and if you click to see the album on Flickr, you will see what I mean. I'm still trying to find out the inspiration behind the butterfly theme, but have not been able to get as much of an answer as I'd like. I was told that the artist commissioned for this ship usually includes butterflies in his work and has for over 10 years. Also, I was told that Butterflies are a universal and beautiful symbol of transformation and celebration, which was a perfect alignment with Quantum Class. All I know is that for me, my mom must have had some input on this décor. Boarding this ship and seeing the butterflies everywhere just made me feel as though my mom was cruising with us the entire time. Having lost my mother last year to Liver Cancer, knowing how much she loved cruising and butterflies- there was never a doubt that this was "her ship".
Butterflies aside, this ship is beautiful with all of her decorations. She's clean, she's sleek, she's luxurious, she flows very nicely and she is very easily navigated.
UNIQUENESS OF QUANTUM:
There are some things that you will only see on Quantum Class ships for now, until they decide to bring some features to other ships (if & when possible). SportsPlex is a unique area of the ship where you can drive bumper cars, you can go roller skating, you can participate in a circus school & it's also a place used for some ship board shows like the Quest. The scheduled activities have dates/times that they will be available and it's posted for the entire cruise- so there are set dates/times for bumper cars, roller skating, etc.
Two70 is a fabulous multi-purpose lounge area with enormous floor to ceiling windows- giving you a 270 degree view of the ocean, hence the name. They have various shows in this lounge and it also turns into DJ dancing on some of the nights. It's a great venue to hang out during the day with unique furnishings and a real life swing! I very much approve of the flooring for dancing. It's wood, it's great, you don't stick in fact sometimes it was a bit too slippery- which almost never happens on a ship!
This ship also has the Music Hall- another great venue where some shows were held but also turns into a DJ dancing venue on some nights after the bands are done. GREAT dance floor here also!
The Ripcord by Ifly is a simulated sky diving experience. I was signed up to do this on the last day, but ran out of time. (Truth, I was so tired, I overslept and missed my appointment). The North Star, which is a Tram-like Pod that holds about 12 -15 people will take you up and over the ocean with fabulous overhead views of the ship & surrounding areas! We did this on our second to last day, it was quite windy at the time, but I was surprised that we really didn't feel it at all. It was a great "ride" & gorgeous views.
There is a flowrider and rock climbing wall, like many other ships in the Royal fleet.
DINING ON QUANTUM:
Quantum Class ships have come up with "Dynamic Dining" and as is the case with anything new, sometimes there are kinks to work out and Royal is going forward now with two forms of Dynamic Dining. You will have the option with "Classic" to be set up with Rotational Dining between the 4 complimentary dining venues and your wait staff will rotate with you- so traditionalists will get what they love about traditional dining, yet still be able to experience 4 different free restaurants with different menus and not have to hassle with making a variety of dining reservations. For non-traditionalists, you have the option to make different reservations for every night of your cruise and dine wherever you want. Your wait staff will be different each night. There are so many different dining options on Quantum and we tried to hit most of them, but our cruise was not long enough! Grande, Silk, Chic, Jamie's Italian, Michael's Pub, Izumi, Neverland, Chops Grille, Devinly Decadence, American Icon Grill - seriously, this ship has SO MANY OPTIONS! We had many great meals- our favorite was Jamie's Italian and we would have liked to go back, but didn't have the time and they were booked solid for the remainder of our cruise. We did go to Windjammer for a few breakfasts & lunches. We had lunch at Johnny Rockets one afternoon and we ate lunch at Café Two70 several times- GREAT Panini's and a fabulous Roast Beef sandwich that is so popular there is a line just for those! Café Promenade and Sorrento's always available for snacks.
DRINKING ON QUANTUM:
Again, never far away from your next bar! This ship has several places that you would expect: Baleros, Vintages, Schooner Bar, Michael's Genuine Pub and of course all the lounge/dancing venues have their bars along with the casino. Unique to Quantum though is the Bionic Bar,
where you order your drink on a tablet, you can decide how much you want to different alcohols and then the Robot makes your drink, once it's ready you swipe your card at the dispensing station and it is robotically moved to you. It's very cool to see. We unfortunately didn't get a chance to make a drink. It was a busy cruise with both conference things and cruising!
We had a standard verandah cabin and I was very happy with the size of these staterooms. Lots of room to walk around, we had an extended balcony which was great. The bathrooms were decent sized for a cruise ship. I loved that the shower had a door that opened out vs. yucky shower curtains or the sliding circular door found on some of their other ships. Also, toiletries are in individual tubes and are replenished throughout your cruise. I much prefer this to the containers mounted on the shower wall. Also, it was nice that they had separately "shampoo" and "conditioner"! That being said, I didn't like the conditioner product and continued to use mine. The bed was fairly comfortable, I thought it could have been a bit softer, but my husband was fine with it. We had a great cabin attendant, never missed a beat! The "do not disturb" signs are actually magnets, so if you're not looking for them on the door, you'll never find them- but a very cool idea. Beautiful flat screen TV, mini-fridge that is filled (for charge if you consume), lots of storage- two closets, several drawers and plenty of over bed and over couch storage! And for a cruise ship- lots of power outlets--there was a double outlet at the desk, a double outlet on the side of the bed AND a double USB outlet - so we didn't need to use our travel power strip! One thing to keep in mind- any invitations you receive for repeat guest cocktail parties and such are going to be found on the TV "inbox" of messages. I had missed an invitation one day and then realized that everything is done electronically.
This ship has the Dreamworks characters- they have scheduled photo shoot opportunities listed on the Daily Cruise Compass. There is also a Character Breakfast for $10 that you can reserve, we did this one morning and it was fun and worth it. You did get to meet three characters and have a good breakfast with song & dance. Highly recommend for the children or the kids at heart! This ship has The Royal Esplanade - sort of like a Promenade but not as large and they do have some Dreamworks parades/shows & photo opportunities that happen here from time to time, always listed in the Cruise Compass!
A variety of shops, though I didn't do a lot of shopping myself. The Spa is beautiful and I'm ashamed to say that this gal, who is a fitness instructor in addition to Travel Planner, NEVER stepped foot in the gym, never found it, didn't really look for it, but I've heard that it was great! HA! To my credit, I did think when touring the spa that I would fall into the gym somehow, but that didn't happen. Trivia games, The Quest, the Newlywed game, Dancing with the Officers, Movies in the Theatre...all of these happen. Quantum has dynamite shows too- on this ship we had Mamma Mia Broadway show, we saw Saltwater and Sonic Odyssey (amazing earth harp player), comedy that was awesome and then at the conference we had a few special shows of our own. Music bands were excellent including an Aerosmith Tribute Band that had concerts three nights on the cruise.
This ship sailed to Port Canaveral, Nassau and Coco Cay in the Bahamas. We stayed on the ship in the Bahamas both days and enjoyed the pool area. Port Canaveral day we went to the Kennedy Space Center with the ship excursions desk and it was well worth the visit, overall a great day filled with education of our Space program. A BONUS was the anticipation of a real Rocket Launch that was scheduled for that evening- we were able to view that from our ships balcony! Another "Bucket List" thing checked off - it was pure coincidence that the launch was scheduled on a day that our ship was in port! This itinerary allowed us to have four days at sea, two at the beginning and two at the end. A bit of rocky seas on the way back and not great weather overall other than our three days in Florida and the Bahamas. But there are so many options and activities available on Quantum of the Seas to begin with, it was not a problem at all! We just didn't come back with that fabulous tan!
Super simple!! Now we had decided to walk off with our bags- it was such a short walk getting on the ship, we knew we could handle our own bags and that made it much easier for us to schedule our limo pick up. We were out of our cabin and curbside in less than 20 minutes!! We wanted to get into NYC early so we could make the most of our one day, and we DID! We were at our hotel (Parker Meridien) by 9am, we checked in, our room was ready- we walked across the street to get breakfast at Starbuck's and then took a cab to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and spent a few hours there, then another cab to Radio City Music Hall where we saw the Rockette's Spring Spectacular. When the show was over, a Pedi cab was waiting to take us to Central Park and we toured around the park for an hour.
Back to our hotel to freshen up and then we met my cousins for drinks and dinner at a nice hole in the wall Italian restaurant two blocks away. We had a FUNtastic day in the Big Apple. What a great city!
I loved this ship, I can't wait to sail on the Quantum Class again. The Quantum of the Seas is being repositioned and renovated somewhat for a new homeport in China. The Anthem of the Seas will be coming to New Jersey where she will be home ported. The Ovation of the Seas is being built specifically for the China market and there is a 4th Quantum Class coming in 2019, unnamed at this time and we are hoping that she will be US Bound- perhaps a Florida homeport. We had great service and a great experience with Royal Caribbean yet again. We danced a lot on this cruise- which will always bring a good review of a ship for our own personal experience. We certainly didn't get to see and do everything that we could on this ship, but we will next time we sail on Quantum.
I have a list of things that you must see/do while on a Quantum Class ship..so click here to view that listing. This is a compilation of things from friends, colleagues and others who have cruised on Quantum that I have met "virtually".
To View pictures of this beautiful ship, see flickr album here: QUANTUM OF THE SEAS PHOTOS.