Photo tour of D8 Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony on Quantum of the Seas

In:
17Nov2014

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas has a lot to offer, including a number of staterooms.  Today, we will look at the category D8 balcony stateroom and take you through the cabin to give you an idea of what to expect if you book this category.

On Quantum of the Seas, we reviewed stateroom 6244, which is located on Deck 6 just outside the aft elevator bank.  Entry to the room is by RFID scanner, which is above the door handle.

Walking into the room, you will immediately see the light from the balcony shining ahead of you.  The stateroom is rather long and narrow.

The bed is joined together but can be split apart if need be.  There's a large, flat screen television across from it and two night stands on opposite sides of the bed.  Access to the balcony is also on the other side of the bed.

The bathroom features a stand up shower, toilet and sink.  One thing we noticed immediately with this bathroom is there is far less of the white plastic you typically find on other Royal Caribbean ship restrooms.  Instead, there's far more glass and tile, which we found a welcome change.

Another change to the restroom is the shampoo and soap options.  On older Royal Caribbean ships, passengers would find a shampoo dispenser on the wall.  On Quantum of the Seas, the dispenser has been removed and instead small bottles of shampoo, soap and conditioner are available.  

Back out to the stateroom, you will find two armoires that allow you to hang clothing as well as store other clothing.  These seem larger to us than closets on other ships.

Of course, the reason to book this stateroom is the balcony.  At 55 square feet, the balcony is on the small side but it has enough room for two chairs and a table.  It's enough space for two people to comfortably enjoy the view and ocean air.

This stateroom does also include a sofa that opens into a bed.  Frankly, any more than two passengers in this stateroom would feel confined quickly. For a couple looking for the a balcony stateroom, the D8 category is perfect for them.

Restaurant Review: American Icon Grill on Quantum of the Seas

In:
17Nov2014

Today, we are taking in breakfast and dinner at Royal Caribbean's brand new Dynamic Dining restaurant, American Icon Grill aboard Quantum of the Seas.

American Icon Grill is one of five complimentary sit down restaurants aboard Quantum of the Seas and as the name implies, it serves up American comfort food that were handpicked from a variety of local favorites across the country.

American Icon Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we had a chance to try it out for breakfast and dinner.  Let's see how this new restaurant concept stacks up.

Atmosphere

American Icon Grill is located on deck 4, in the rear of the ship.  In fact, four of the complimentary restaurants are stacked on top of each other between decks 3 and 4.

The entrance to American Icon Grill is a glitzy walkway that features a lot of lights, mirrors and glass.  It's bright and reminded me of a hip restaurant you might find in a large city.

Despite the fact the restaurant is just one of many onboard that replace the main dining room, it's rather large.  It can handle 430 guests and on my visit, it was perhaps half full.

With all the complimentary restaurants, you will be asked if being seated with other passengers is okay.  On my visit, I managed to get a table alone but I certainly would not have minded the company.

Eats

The menu at American Icon Grill is the same throughout your cruise and each meal has its own special menu.

We will start this review with breakfast and then move onto dinner.  

Eating breakfast in American Icon Grill reminded me very much of breakfast in the main dining room on every other Royal Caribbean ship.  In fact, the menu was nearly identical, with an assortment of eggs, pancakes, french toast and other basic breakfast foods.

I opted for the french toast, which was exactly like the french toast I was used to on other ships' main dining room.

I did enjoy the french toast and found it to be soft and tasty.  The truth about breakfast on Quantum of the Seas, and all Royal Caribbean ships, is the menu is pretty similar every morning.  You dine at American Icon Grill because you prefer to be seated and have your food brought to you, as opposed to dining in the Windjammer which has essentially the same offerings but you must serve yourself.

At dinner, the menu opens up considerably and there's more than just what you can find upstairs.

At dinner, you are served an assortment of bread rolls.  I asked about the sourdough rolls and savory bites you typically found in the old main dining room, but they do not seem to be available here.

I did not want to fill up on bread but I did try the cornbread muffins, which were really moist and tasty.

My waiter suggested the New England Clam Chowder, and I happily took him up on that suggestion.  I'm no soup expert but I think I can tell the difference between soup that is fresh made and soup that comes out of can and this soup was definitely not born in a metal container.

I also sampled another appetizer, the Reuben Turnovers.  I had tried these earlier this year at another Royal Caribbean media event when Dynamic Dining was announced and loved it so I had to have the real thing.  

I'm a big Reuben fan to begin with and these are pastries filled with pastrami and cheese on a bed of sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.  This is what I hope heaven serves as appetizers because they were stupendous.  I am a Reuben fanboy but I do believe these little bad boys are quite good.

I also decided to try one of the signature cocktails American Icon Grill offers in what they call The New Southern.  It tasted quite good, but I'm not sure it's my new favorite drink.  But then again, what I love about cruises is trying new food and drinks!

Back to the food, it was time for my entree and I went with what any self-respecting American would choose: a burger.  This was the dry aged steak burger, which sounded perfect to me.

This burger hit the spot, as it was juicy and had a lot of flavor with a nice toasted bun on top.  I also liked the pickles they served with it, which made the perfect topping.  

Not to be overlooked, the french fries have a parmesan garnish on top that reminded me of the fries one would get at Chops Grill.  I really enjoyed this choice.

Overall

I was surprised by American Icon Grill because of all the complimentary restaurants on Quantum of the Seas, I was looking forward to the others so much more that I overlooked this one. 

American Icon Grill had great tasting food across its menu, especially for dinner.  

After eating at American Icon Grill, I came to the conclusion it's like the last heir of the main dining room.  Breakfast (and lunch) are similar experiences to the main dining room and the food at dinner while more varied than what the main dining room offered, still felt like a similar experience. 

When I return to Quantum of the Seas in March, I will definitely be re-evaluating my dining strategy to include more stops here because I really enjoyed what I had.  We haven't reviewed the other complimentary restaurants yet on this blog but when we do, you will see that American Icon Grill stands out as a winner.

Full video of Quantum of the Seas naming and christening ceremony

In:
16Nov2014

Royal Caribbean formally christened Quantum of the Seas just a few days ago and we have the full video of the ceremony so you don't miss a minute of it.

Royal iQ app upgrades coming with new features

In:
16Nov2014

Royal Caribbean's new smartphone app, Royal iQ, is barely out but already they are looking at upgrading it to add more functionality.

Speaking with a few of the Royal iQ app developers while on Quantum of the Seas, they are eyeing adding new functionality, including the ability to view your Cruise Compass via the app and add the activities you like to your personal calender.

In addition, guests will be able to book more onboard services, such as spa treatments and beverage packages, directly through the app.

These new features are being targeted for a "spring" 2015 launch.

The Royal iQ app is currently only available for iOS devices but an Android compatible version will be coming "in a few weeks", according to the developers we spoke with.

In addition to using the app on your smartphone, passengers can take advantage of freestanding iQ stations around the ship.

Royal iQ's current functionality allows passengers to see their plans via a calendar, book dining reservations as well as text and call other guests onboard their ship for a nominal fee.  There's also an option to make ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship calls billed at a per-minute rate.

Royal iQ is currently available onboard Quantum of the Seas, but Royal Caribbean will roll the app out to sister ships Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas when they debut in 2015 and 2016, respectively.  Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will get access to Royal iQ in 2015.

Nine things I loved, hated and was surprised by on Quantum of the Seas

In:
15Nov2014

I'm just back from a quick 2-night pre-inaugural cruise on Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas and I wanted to share what really stood out to me on this cruise.

Like all cruise experiences, we go in with certain expectations and we find some things were better than we thought, some not as good and others completely surprise us.  Here's a quick few that stood out just a few hours after leaving this amazing new ship

What I liked

Royal Esplanade

The center of activity and where I was consistently drawn to was the Royal Esplanade.  It just seemed to be the place to be at any given time of day.

Perhaps the colder weather forced more people inside that would have otherwise been on the pool deck, but the combination of food, drinks, shopping and entertainment really made the Royal Esplanade into a hub of activity.

The Royal Esplanade benefits from is its design and feels more like a neighborhood than its Royal Promenade cousin.  Rather than ceilings three decks tall, this whole area felt a lot warmer.

The Via area on the Royal Esplanade is also a big hit and I really liked the serenity of the area. Calming music, a dozen giant high definition TVs (the same exact TVs as in the virtual balconies) and beautiful art really made this area flow.  I don't think it was a coincidence why Vintages was always full here.

SeaPlex

I almost put this in the surprise category but I think SeaPlex was always a big push by Royal Caribbean so I'll include it here.  I'll be honest, the sports deck was never an area I spent a lot of time at before.  But SeaPlex changes all of that.

What I love about SeaPlex is it combines a lot of options in one space without feeling like it's being squeezed in.  Remember the ice skating rinks on other ships? They were great but tiny and the basketball courts on other ships were always in the hardest to find areas.  

In SeaPlex, you have a sprawling part of the ship on Deck 12 that seems to have everything. Bumper cars, roller skating, Xbox, air hockey, table tennis, iFly and more.  I always found lots of people here and it really made a big impact.  On a week-long cruise, I could see many visits here to check it all out.  Heck, I never even saw the circus school, basketball court (deployed, that is) or challenged any kids half my age to air hockey.  

And the other big win of SeaPlex? Xbox. Seriously.  This isn't a console they tossed in a corner like it was with the Nintendo Wiis. A dedicated gaming area with uplink to Xbox Live on beautiful TVs.  The only thing missing was Mountain Dew Code Red and Funyuns.  

North Star

I never really thought North Star would be as fun and impressive as it was when I tried it.  The views are amazing and it's the way to see where you are.  I think I would force myself to get back to the ship earlier than normal in a port so I could see the island from that perspective.

The view never ceases to be "old hat" when you're in that observation pod.  Everyone in there always was quoting Royal Caribbean's marketing slogan of "Wow" and after experiencing it myself, I have to think why didn't they do this sooner?

In a bit of trivia, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain said prior to the North Star idea, the company considered a blimp that was tethered to the ship.  I like the observation pod idea a whole lot more.

WOWbands

I had such high hopes for the WOWbands and it hit that mark easily.  From announcing they would be complimentary to every way I used them, they made the cruise easier.

At its core, what made the WOWbands so great were they just worked.  And they worked easily.  No fuss and everything from the shops to the restaurants to guest relations were able to use them.  After perhaps 3 hours I put my SeaPass card back in the stateroom for good.

Two70 visuals

I don't care how into performance art you are or are not, but there's no denying the visual element presented in Two70 is stunning.  When you see what they can do with the back screens and the roboscreens, it's something to marvel at.

Having seen Starwater performed here as well as photos of what they did for the christening event, the technology behind Two70 is really quite impressive.  

The video projections and roboscreens offer visuals that are many times more advanced than the high-definition television you have at home and it shows.  There's so much potential with what they can do with these screens that I kept waiting to see what would they try next anytime a show was on.

What I didn't like

Wi-Fi not working all the time

Royal Caribbean promised super fast internet onboard thanks to new satellite technology and that worked exactly as promised. I used Facetime with my family multiple times and saw others streaming HBO go and Netflix.  However, the problem was getting to the connection.

The issue was the Wi-Fi networking that delivers the satellite connection to your devices.  In some areas, it worked really well (Royal Esplanade, Two70) but other places you would see a good connection but never be able to connect to anything.  

I believe this is just a "working out the bugs" kind of thing and by the time Quantum is in service regularly in a month or two, it will all be fine.  But not being able to use the Wi-Fi at all in my stateroom was annoying.

SeaPass cards to keep the lights on

I know we should all do our part to be more environmentally friendly but this little change was more annoying than anything.  When you're in your stateroom, you cannot turn the lights or air conditioning on unless you place your SeaPass card in a little slot near the door.

After a day, everyone figured out you could put any card in there and all it did was annoy people.  

Like I said, I know why they did it and it makes sense on paper but it didn't fly with me from a real-world perspective.

What surprised me

Music Hall

When you read about Music Hall on Royal Caribbean's promotional material, it sounds like a nice little area where bands will play.  Sounds cute, right?  The reality is this area was always the place to be every night.

First and foremost, the tribute bands found in Music Hall were phenomenal.  We had a Journey and Led Zeppelin tribute band onboard and they absolutely sounded like the real thing.  

After the bands were done playing, the DJ came on and it became a dance party.  I never saw so many people dancing and into the whole experience like I did in Music Hall.  I was really impressed by what I saw.

How small the ship felt

Quantum of the Seas is the second largest class of cruise ship Royal Caribbean has made and yet walking around the ship, it never really felt like "a big ship".

I noticed pretty quickly as I was making my around the ship that it did not feel like I was trekking through the Ardennes to get somewhere.  Rather, wherever I was, it was relatively simple and quick to get to where I wanted.

In fact, navigating the ship was also very simple.  Royal Caribbean added digital signage all around the ship to help guests find their way around the ship but the truth is after an hour or two, I had a pretty good sense of where everything was. 

When you can produce a cruise ship that is 11 times longer than a blue whale, it says something when people can easily get around.

Royal Caribbean christens Quantum of the Seas cruise ship

In:
14Nov2014

At a ceremony today aboard Royal Caribbean's brand new cruise ship, godmother Kristin Chenoweth took part in a ceremony christening the new ship.

Quantum of the Seas was named earlier this evening while docked in Cape Liberty, New Jersey, marking the official arrival of arguably the most anticipated new cruise ship of the year.

Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain spoke to those in attendance about what makes Quantum of the Seas special, "Our ships are built to be 1/3 traditional, 1/3 evolutionary and 1/3 revolutionary."

During the ceremony, Chenoweth used a tablet on the main stage to launch the champagne bottle against Quantum's hull.

Also part of the event were performances by the New York Police Department bagpipes and drums as well as a performance by singer-songwriter Clint Holmes.

Quantum of the Seas is the first Quantum-class cruise ship and marks the next evolution in cruise ships for Royal Caribbean.  It's the first ship in the fleet to not be based on the Voyager-class lineage since the Voyager class debuted and is full of new technological innovations, entertainment advances and impressive decor.

Quantum of the Seas also marks the introduction to Royal Caribbean of Dynamic Dining, which is the company's complete reboot of what dining is on a cruise ship.  The main dining room as well as dress codes have been relaxed in an effort to simplify dinner for guests while expanding the choices passengers have.

Royal Caribbean will have float in 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

In:
14Nov2014

As part of Royal Caribbean's continuing promotional efforts surrounding Quantum of the Seas, the company will have a float in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

No word yet on what we can expect but there will be a float and Royal Caribbean will invite select travel partners and frequent cruise guests to attend the parade, much like they did last year.

Macy's parade website does feature Royal Caribbean's float, entitled "A World At Sea" and has a photo of last year's float.

Royal Caribbean had a float in the parade last year to announce that Mamma Mia would be the Broadway show on Quantum of the Seas and it even featured Quantum of the Seas godmother Kristin Chenoweth.

The 88th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade airs nationwide on NBC, on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014.

UPDATE (11/15): Royal Caribbean has confirmed that pop star Nick Jonas will be performing on Royal Caribbean's parade float

Royal Caribbean will offer RFID WOWbands for free to all guests

In:
14Nov2014

Royal Caribbean has changed its mind about pricing on its new RFID bracelets known as WOWbands that are available on Quantum-class cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean previously announced the new silicone bracelets would cost $2 each but the company decided to change their mind and offer the bands for free to all guests.  

The decision to change the bands to be free is a move, in part, to increase their adoption rate.  Royal Caribbean expects at least half its guests to use the WOWbands on any given cruise.

Royal Caribbean will sell some WOWbands in onboard shops that offer unique designs and more attractive or collectible.

The WOWbands are part of Royal Caribbean's effort to help make purchases easier and give guests quicker access to their staterooms.

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
14Nov2014

Our first full day onboard Quantum of the Seas is also our last.  It's so weird being happy and sad at the same time but a two-night cruise is better than no cruise, right?

I set my alarm early because I wanted to be able to get up and get as much time on the ship today as I could.  This idea made perfect sense in my mind but the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me.  Regardless, it's far easier to be groggy on a cruise ship than anywhere else!

Naturally I went to the Windjammer for breakfast.   Personally, I always go straight to the make-your-own-omelette station for breakfast.  The regular options in the Windjammer breakfast never did much for me.  There's an omelette station at the rear of the Windjammer that literally no one went to so I was able to have my eggs made for me without any wait.

I also decided to eat my breakfast in the outdoor seating area of the Windjammer.  There's about a dozen tables or so on the aft of the ship and when you have great weather, it's really the perfect place to enjoy breakfast.

In the name of research (or at least that's what I tell myself), I went down to American Icon Grill for another breakfast.  I wanted to see what this was going to be like and breakfast (and lunch) at American Icon Grill is nearly identical to having those meals in the main dining room on other Royal Caribbean ships.  The menu was pretty much the same as what I had experienced in the main dining room.

Just like the main dining room, you will be seated with other people and I found this just as fun as the main dining room experience. It's always great meeting new people and talking about the cruise you're on.

After my multiple breakfasts, I was ready for more exploring. I started with the Solarium, which is the adults-only pool spot at the front of the ship.  Royal Caribbean designed it to look like a brook that has little lagoons that spill down a hill onto each other.  I found it quite serene and an area adults will love. 

I also discovered the small wings on either side of the Solarium that offer a small outdoor area that jet out over the ocean.  It's great for photos!

I walked back along the pool deck to SeaPlex to see more of this area.  One area in particular I wanted to experience was the Xbox pod.  On previous Royal Caribbean ships, there have been Nintendo Wiis but they have rarely been used and I wanted to see how the Xbox pod faired.

The truth is this area is really nice and I wish I had some time to play a few games.  There were a few games loaded (Call of Duty Ghosts, FIFA, Titanfall) but guests can bring their own games too.  The super comfy gaming chairs are there and there are some massive high defitintion TVs to play on.  My inner 16-year-old would have been in heaven.  Heck, I still love video games so I thought this area was a home run.

I had a few minutes to spare before my next event so I quickly sampled the hog dogs at SeaPlex Dog House.  This small restaurant offers a few different hot dogs, brats and weiners for you to enjoy with a large variety of toppings.  I went with a Coney dog with extra sauerkraut and it was heaven!

My first media session of the day was a Q&A with the Royal Caribbean people responsible for bringing the SeaPlex to life.  Originally called the "Seanassium", the SeaPlex offers basketball, bumper cars, roller skating, circus school, badminton, and dance parties complete with a DJ that can literally hover over the middle.  

It was interesting to hear the stories behind SeaPlex and how they built this area. It's a real credit to what Royal Caribbean can do with these ships.

Right around noon, Royal Caribbean promoted a Selfie at Sea promotion.  Basically, everyone onboard was given selfie-sticks (devices you attach your smartphone to that faciliate taking a photo of yourself) and we were told to tweet and instagram out our selfies at noon exactly.  I came up with three ideas, none of which I absolutely loved (my creative juices were not exactly flowing), but it's all in good fun.

#SelfieAtSea from Wonderland

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

#SelfieAtSea with Shrek! #QuantumOfTheSeas

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

#SelfieAtSea on #QuantumOfTheSeas is obviously at Izumi

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

Since it had been like 20 minutes since I last ate, I went up to the Windjammer for lunch.  I opted for my usual assortment of curries and other tasty food.  Unlike breakfast, lunch (and dinner) at the Windjammer offer a great variety of choices. Also, do not miss the fresh baked cookies in the Windjammer! They roll those bad boys out of the oven all the time and they are amazing!

After lunch Royal Caribbean opened up a number of staterooms for guests to see as a kind of "open house".  It was great to see the various suites and special staterooms unique to Quantum-class but the rooms were quite crowded so it was difficult to really document it properly for the blog.  Nonetheless, seeing those loft suites, virtual balconies and family staterooms in person was a great treat!

I managed to stop by the Cafe @ Two70 to sample a Royal Caribbean classic: the pot roast sandwich. These are the same sandwhiches from Park Cafe on the Oasis-class and it was amazing!  It's a must-try.

Next I had a tour of the ship's bridge and got to meet her Captain.  Bridge tours are always a very cool experience because you get to see so the nerve center of the ship and it's something that never gets old.

We also took a tour of how how environmentally friendly Quantum of the Seas is and what it does to reduce its footprint.  

I had a few meetings in the afternoon that will manifest themselves in future blog posts and I also managed to do more exploring.  Walking around Quantum of the Seas, you really get a sense for how pretty the ship is.  I never got tired of the bright colors, sounds and detail found onboard.  In fact, the art work throughout the ship is really quite well-done.  I'm no art critic, but much of it is pleasing to look at and provided a nice backdrop.

My first dinner was at Silk.  I was not about to leave Quantum of the Seas without trying the restaurant that serves up Asian food.    Once again, I walked up with no reservations and was seated immediately.

The food at Silk was more hit or miss.  I was seated with other guests and we all ordered all the appetizers to sample.  Like I said, some were good and others weren't anything special.  I think the problem with Asian food is you have to make it authentic or you it's bland.  I found a lot of the ethnic dishes in the Windjammer to be better. 

Nonetheless, I liked Silk.  It's not my favorite restaurant onboard but there are some options like the Chicken Tikka Masala and ramen soup that were quite good.

I was lucky enough to be invited to try Wonderland, one of the specialty restaurants onboard. The specialty restaurants were closed officially but Royal Caribbean invited select people to dine at them.  

I'll have a full review of Wonderland in a future blog post but essentially it's a whimsical restaurant based on Alice in Wonderland, where they really emphasize challenging your senses during your meal. 

All of the food is for the adventurous type that is heavy on the decoration.  I found the food that we tried to be really quite good and high quality.  The beef and halibut stood out as real winners.  And the desserts were all amazing.  

My one issue with Wonderland is previously, Royal Caribbean had promoted Wonderland to be really over-the-top in schtick.  Meaning, at the Quantum reveal event earlier this year and in subsequent promotions online and in video form, they had waiters dressed up with lots of props and zany decor.  In reality, the restaurant didn't match up to that expection from a purely aesthetic statndpoint.  I'd still recommend it as a must-do but I think once per cruise would be more than enough.

Our meal in Wonderland was a long one so when I got out, I wanted to do a little more exploring before heading to bed.

I stopped by Music Hall, which featured a Led Zeppelin cover band that was outstanding.  They really sounded like the classic Rock giant and along with the Journey cover band the night before, really made Music Hall the place to be.  On both nights, Music Hall was filled and people were really enjoying themselves.

I decided to round out my night with a stop at Michael's Geniune Pub.  Like Music Hall, there was a big crowd here and I sampled Michael's Geniune, which is the signature craft beer. I really liked it and enjoyed talking to a few different people at the bar.

Alas, by now it was after midnight and I needed to get to bed despite my heart telling me, "No, you fool! Keep going!".  

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