I’ve been on cruises to different parts of the world a total of seven times, four of which were on Royal Caribbean, upon which I have benchmarked all the other sea voyages I have embarked on. I always go for comfort and style in my travels and I have always felt that this cruise line company’s standard of service and well-designed facilities are what fastidious travelers look for. I guess, when you spend an arm and a leg for a trip, you deserve nothing less.
But, it’s been almost 15 years since I last sailed on one of Royal Caribbean’s megaships, that’s why I was thrilled to have another opportunity to experience its lofty standard of service and excellent facilities once again through the Quantum of the Seas.
The four-year old Quantum of the Seas, built in Germany at a cost of $935 million, can carry a total of 4905 guests and 1500 crew. It has 2090 staterooms, its official name for cabins, 75 percent have balconies. The company banners them as the largest and most advanced staterooms ever, and I certainly agree because mine was large enough for me to host a small cocktail party.
The ship has a total of 18 decks (floors), but only 16 are accessible to guests. Upon embarkation, I immediately noticed that the 16 guest elevators were moving up and down, non-stop, as the ship was running on a 95 percent load factor. Of the 4684 passengers on this cruise, it was not surprising that 94 percent were Chinese. The ship’s homeport is Shanghai.
Because of the sheer size of the ship and the various facilities located mostly on both ends, I have to admit that, as in my previous Royal Caribbean cruises, it took me quite some time to be good at directions. On the first two days, I’d go to the wrong decks and go forward instead of aft, and vice versa. Of course, as the cruise progressed, going anywhere in the ship eventually became a no-brainer.
For people like me who travel and want variety in their meals, that wasn’t a problem because the ship has a total of 19 restaurants. The offerings cover the entire spectrum of choices---American, Italian, Chinese, Mediterranean, Japanese, French, etc., served buffet or a la carte. In fact, there were too many choices that I found myself spending time deliberating on what menu I would want for my next meal.
Getting bored while at sea never happened either. On Day 1 alone, I had a full schedule: In the morning, I watched those daring passengers who tried the Ripcord, where one drops off from the top of something that looks like a crane at the topmost part of the ship, simulating the experience of a skydiver jumping off from a plane.
In late afternoon, I had fun watching the DreamWorks cartoon characters jazzing up the ship’s atrium lobby, Royal Esplanade, eliciting screams of delight from the tiny ones who were accompanied by their parents who were taking photos from every imaginable angle.
As in my other Royal Caribbean cruises, the ship’s captain, Norwegian Erik Standhal, hosted a cocktail party at the Royal Esplanade that same evening, with all of us guests dressed in our formals. He officially welcomed us to the cruise and, at the same time, introduced the officers of his 1597 crewmembers composed of 51 nationalities, 27 percent of which were Filipinos.
After a lavish Chinese feast for dinner at the ship’s premium Chinese restaurant, Silk, I joined the other passengers watch a colorful and entertaining Las Vegas-type show at the 1500-capacity Royal Theater located at the ship’s stern.
When the show ended, my friends and I trooped to Sorrento’s for some honest-to-goodness pizza, of which they had a rich variety to choose from. While enjoying our midnight snack, my mind drifted back to the reasons why the cruise line industry is the fastest growing segment of worldwide tourism. The price tag for a cruise comes out much cheaper because accommodations are already included in the price, with non-stop meals to boot!
Small wonder Royal Caribbean continues to build bigger and bigger ships. In fact, in April this year, it will roll out what will be the biggest luxury ship in the world, the Symphony of the Seas, which can carry a total of 6780 passengers. It will be more like a city than a ship. Because of its massive structure, the ship will offer passengers seven “districts” to choose from.
The quantum measure of fun, excitement and relaxation I had at the Quantum of the Seas is enough to convince me that Royal Caribbean’s forthcoming mammoth megaship is certainly another tourism tool to look forward to.
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