20/11/2014

Just Back From… Quantum of the Seas: 6 Cool Things about the Cabins

Owner's Suite with Balcony - Bed in master bedroom - Quantum of the Seas

Cruises can be frustrating at time, mostly because of little things. Like having to stumble the desk to check the time on my phone when I wake up at night.

Why do I have to stumble to the desk, when there’s a bedside stand close by? As frequent cruisers know, there’s never a convenient outlet there. And speaking of outlets, there’s never enough of them. Between my traveling companion and myself, we have two cell phones, one laptop, possibly two cameras and, sometimes, a tablet, all of which need to be charged.

So it was, with much excitement, that I discovered a bedside outlet in my cabin on Quantum of Seas. The cabin also has two USB charging outlets along with the usual electrical outlets by the desk.

Those two elements weren’t the only small touches I discovered in the cabin during my four days on the ship — small touches that allowed me to “live” in my cabin more similarly to how I live at home. Here, in no particular order, are six cabin details on Quantum of the Seas that make a huge difference.

USB Charging Outlets: No more needing to use one of the only two electrical outlets for charging my phone. Instead, I was able to plug in directly to one of the two USB outlets located by the desk. I think I heard angels singing as my phone and camera battery charged, while at the same time I typed away on my also-plugged-in laptop.

Five more conveniences in Quantum’s cabins

19/11/2014

Just Back from… Quantum of the Seas: Two70

The Two70 Lounge on Quantum of the Seas - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Much about the Quantum of the Seas smart ship coverage has focused on the robot bartenders in the Bionic Bar. And that’s understandable (I had visions of the bar in Star Wars before I boarded).

But the real tech wows of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship are, in my opinion, “Vistarama” and the “roboscreens” in Two70. This space at the back of the ship is where cutting-edge technology is being pioneered.

The double-height space has an enormous window, which takes up the whole of the back wall. Press a button and a screen slides down, transforming into Vistarama – an ultra-HD screen more than 100 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Vistarama’s 12k resolution is nearly twice that of any IMAX cinema and can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.

On my sailing, I sat in on a tech talk with Nick Weir, the Brit-born vice president of entertainment at Royal Caribbean, who has overseen the 14-month project. He was understandably keen to show off some of the techno wizardry on offer, and during the afternoon demo we saw a Zeppelin balloon animation, a giant musical fish tank and a large red curtain, pulled apart to reveal a stage.

This giant animated red curtain also heralds the start of the evening show, Starwater. The curtain is pulled back to reveal an old-style theater, complete with dancers, seats and boxes, creating the impression of a theater in the round.

Read on to find out more.

18/11/2014

Member Review: on P&O Cruises’ Ventura

Member Molly Printemps was on her first cruise and thoroughly enjoyed the two-week Western Mediterranean itinerary on P&O CruisesVentura, joining at Venice. Molly’s review included some great tips for saving money on excursions and included the price of some onboard drinks – useful for future passengers who want to work out their holiday budget.

Molly’s Ventura experience was mostly very enjoyable, although there were “just a few niggles”. These included the price of onboard drinks and photographs, leaving some ports early and – that old British cruising chestnut – mandatory gratuities.

On the whole, though, Molly and her husband had a great time.

Read on to find out her highlights.

17/11/2014

Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

Jamey sailing on the MSC Armonia

Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, travelling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.

(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)

Ship: MSC Armonia

Where: We’ll be sailing from Genoa, stopping in Marseilles, spending a day at sea and then disembarking in Spain.

Who: Jamey Bergman, Production Editor

Why There? MSC Armonia has undergone a “stretching” operation whereby the ship was cut in two and had an 80-foot section wedged in. I visited the ship in August as it made its way into dry dock for the surgery; look for photos documenting the ship before and after.

We Can’t Wait: Aside from the fact that it’ll be a unique experience to take the inaugural cruise on a ship that’s just been cut in half and sewn back together, I’m also interested to check out all the new features, including the LEGO-themed playrooms in the kids’ club. (Yes, I’m too old for this, but I don’t care.)

14/11/2014

When towel animals go bad

Some passengers love them, and others are – quite literally – happy to wash their hands of them. Whilst I drew the line at a sinister bedspread figure lurking in shadows when I returned to my cabin on a Nile cruise, I personally love towel animals!

So much so, I went to the demonstration and ended up buying the book on another cruise. I tried to perfect a crab (above) – the easiest as it requires just one bath sheet without a complicated mix of large and medium towels or the added intricacy of face cloths). With its lop sided tissue eyes it wouldn’t have won any prizes, and was eclipsed by the perfect penguin my room steward created as a companion.

Read on to find out more.

13/11/2014

Cruise Critic members pull off flash mob wedding proposal

Our inaugural crossing on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas last week was full of dramatic moments – crossing through a stormy Bay of Biscay, attending Cruise Critic’s biggest-ever Meet & Mingle, and, of course, the chance to try out the ship’s innovative new features. We loved Dynamic Dining’s choice of restaurants. The Seaplex, with its trapeze school, roller skating and bumper cars, made us feel like kids again. The craft cocktails at Michael’s Genuine Pub and the perfectly prepared pastas at Jamie’s Italian – two new-to-Royal Caribbean venues – would bring us back to Quantum (and Anthem and Ovation, the successor ships, which will also feature them).

Read on for the full story.

12/11/2014

Member review: First family cruise for baby granddaughter

Member Bargate Bill gave 5+ ratings to all the amenities he and his family used when they sailed with P&O Cruises‘  Azura for six-month-old granddaughter Martha’s first cruise.

The member review this week – a 10-day cruise from Southampton to Lisbon, Gibraltar, Malaga, Cadiz and La Coruña – was full of advice for parents and grandparents worried about the facilities for very young children.

Keep reading →

11/11/2014

Just back from… Quantum of the Seas: Hits & Misses

iFly on Quantum of the Seas - photo by Carolyn Spencer Brown

There’s no doubt about it, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas has lived up to its pre-innaugural billing of  the most innovative ship to launch this year. It’s a unique ship, with tons of new features that include the North Star (a London Eye-style capsule observatory), the Ripcord by iFly sky-diving simulator, the first-ever restaurants at sea such as Michael’s Genuine Pub and Jamie’s Italian, the Seaplex complex with bumper cars and a circus school and, oh, yes, the Bionic Bar, operated by robotic bartenders.

Onboard for more than a week on an Atlantic crossing between Southampton and New Jersey’s Bayonne, we sampled most of Quantum on what’s being billed as a “shakedown” cruise. (Shakedown is an industry term that refers to sailings that are meant to expose potential bugs.) That means plenty of quirks still need to be worked out before the ship starts regular service, and that’s completely understandable.

There was one exception: The “smart ship” concept, with land-like speed Internet and state-of-the-art digital technology that will influence the way we book restaurants, entertainment and even embark, was not quite up and running, so we won’t reference it here.

In the meantime, here are our hits and misses from Quantum of the Seas.

Our early impressions of Quantum of the Seas

10/11/2014

Live from… Regal Princess: Reliving “Love Boat” Memories

Love Boat cast signed photograph - photo by Chris Gray Faust

Saturday nights followed a specific routine back in 1981. Too young for a real job, too young to date, I spent most weekend nights babysitting at the Andersons’ house, earning pocket money so I could buy the oh-so-trendy designer jeans my parents refused to purchase.

Once the kids went to bed, I, like many other Americans at the time, turned on ABC to watch two shows that took me far away from cold Minnesota suburbia: “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island”.  Both set in tropical locales, the shows featured themes and romances that were just titillating enough for a 12-year-old to enjoy, without full comprehension.

Cruising, in particular, carried a glamour reinforced at home. Every other year or so, my parents would pull out colorful kaftans and sports jackets to go on a voyage by themselves, returning with shell souvenirs, new jewellery and perfume. A cruise ship seemed like a very adult place to me, at a time when I wanted nothing more than to become an adult – and the ever-changing roster of fabulous Love Boat guest stars solidified that image.

Flash forward to 2014. I had already been scheduled to attend the Regal Princess christening when Princess Cruises announced that the original cast of “The Love Boat” would serve as godparents. My inner adolescent rejoiced. And when the line later announced that a cavalcade of former guest stars would also be at the ceremony, my fandom grew into a frenzy. Kristy McNichol, Lorenzo Lamas, Adrian Zmed – I felt like the pages of my Dyn-O-Mite magazines had come to life.

A nostaglia cruise back in time.

07/11/2014

How much money did you spend onboard during your last cruise?

raining money - image courtesy of Jean Lee/Shutterstock

You’ve paid for your cruise, booked your excursions up front and perhaps opted for a soda, alcohol package or both. So how much more do you expect to spend, once you board?

About to leave for a four-day trip with her husband, Cruise Critic member CruizinMama1026, asked others on the Carnival Cruise Lines forum about that final tab, “I’m just curious what past cruisers experienced with their final Sign & Sail bill?”

See how your Sign & Sail bill compares to fellow cruisers