When you’re planning your vacation, you may be thinking of relaxation, exciting adventures and exotic places. You may not be thinking of tech at all. But tech may make a different between having a fun trip and having a fantastic trip.
Quantum of the Seas, the newest cruise ship from Royal Caribbean launched in November 2014, is filled with tech to enhance your holiday experience. From a custom app for your smartphone and tablet to a $36 million dollar high-tech theater to robot bartenders to USB ports in your cabin, to wheelchair lifts in the pool, the Quantum of the Seas is packed with tech that’s both entertaining and useful.
I sailed the Quantum of the Seas for 12 days during my recent absence from The Wonder of Tech. Wonder of Tech readers deserve a thorough review so I boarded the ship on your behalf to test its tech for this article. The amazing vacation I enjoyed was merely a fringe benefit of my investigation.
This trip was neither my first cruise nor my first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship. I have traveled on many cruise lines and the majority of ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. The Quantum of the Seas quickly became my favorite cruise ship (and not only because of its advanced tech features).
Royal Caribbean calls the Quantum of the Seas a “smart ship” for good reasons. The technology provides entertainment and efficiency for Quantum guests but doesn’t intrude on the experience for those who want to remain tech-free. You can thoroughly enjoy your journey on the Quantum without using any tech. But why would you want to avoid tech???
Royal iQ App
Royal Caribbean has developed the Royal iQ app for passengers on the Quantum. The app helps you make dinner and show reservations, book excursions, track your luggage and stay in touch with fellow passengers on board. Before you begin your vacation you should download the app to your phone and/or tablet.
You can download the app for free here: Royal iQ App.
The app only works when connected to Royal Wi-Fi, the ship’s network, but the connection is free when using the app. You don’t have to pay for Wi-Fi when you’re using the app.
If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, you can use the app on tablets stationed around the ship.
Royal iQ is currently available exclusively for the Quantum of the Seas but will be coming to some other Royal Caribbean ships in the future.
Royal iQ lets you make and change reservations for shows, restaurants, and shore excursions from the app.
The good news is that you can avoid lines at Guest Services by using the app from anywhere on the ship. The bad news is that the reservation process is a bit cumbersome. You can try to make reservations on a certain date and time but if that isn’t available, the app doesn’t show you what times are available instead. A beneficial upgrade would be a chart that shows you available dates and times for the reservation you want to make.
Communicating with Others
One of the best features of the app is the talk and text service that lets you call or send messages to other passengers on board. Whether you’re traveling with friends and family or met new friends on board, this free feature will help you communicate with others on the ship.
You are assigned a personal number which you can share with others, then send them a message or call them. This feature alone makes the app a valuable tech tool.
When you drop your luggage off at the curb, the porters will ensure that your luggage is brought on board and arrives at your cabin so you don’t have to worry about lugging your suitcase onto the ship.
With Quantum of the Seas, the porters attach a tag with a chip onto your suitcases so you can track their movement as they go from shore to ship. You can follow the progress of their journey on the Royal iQ app. If you leave the tag on your suitcase during the cruise you can follow your luggage as it returns to shore when you return from your trip.
As you become busy on the ship, you may be challenged to keep track of all of your activities. The calendar feature of the app shows you your reservations and activities each day. A future update promises to show all of the ship’s available activities within the app.
Wearables are all the rage now and Royal Caribbean is ahead of the game with its WOWband. The WOWBand is a rubber wristband embedded with an RFID chip that can nearly replace a Seapass card, which is Royal Caribbean’s key card.
You don’t have to wear the WOWband, but if you do be prepared to be spoiled for real life. With a WOWband you can leave your SeaPass card and wallet behind. The WOWband acts as your:
- Room key to unlock your cabin door
- Credit card to pay for items on board
- Identification to find your photos in the Photo Gallery
Unlike a Seapass card, your WOWband can’t be wiped out by being too close to your smartphone. Since you wear it on your wrist, you don’t have to remember to take it along and you don’t have to worry about losing it so long as you don’t take it off your wrist.
The only thing the WOWband doesn’t do is get you on and off of the ship. For that you still need your traditional Seapass card.
The WOWband is comfortable, I wore mine the entire time I was on my cruise. I didn’t take it off when I left the ship, showered or slept at night. Being able to leave my cabin with nothing in my hands was very freeing, especially to go to meals, exercise or meet up with friends. The WOWband doesn’t need to be charged or plugged in to any outlet, you just wear it and it works.
After leaving the ship I quickly missed having the convenience of my WOWband and wished for a wearable with the same powers as the WOWband. The Apple Watch, announced while I was on the cruise, will have some of the powers of the WOWband but needs to be charged daily. I also realized that a WOWband was a much better option than a microchip embedded in my hand.
The Quantum is equipped with the Royal Wi-Fi network that can be accessed throughout the ship, even in cabins. You can purchase Internet service, including unlimited packages for multiple devices during the length of your cruise. Prices vary, with the lowest price being $10/day for unlimited Internet.
Having unlimited Internet access from anywhere on the ship is very convenient. You can check emails and social media, use apps to call home for free, and even write a blog post while on board (though I don’t recommend doing that last one while on vacation). Often on a cruise you can feel out of touch with the world, but having Internet can help you feel more connected.
Royal Caribbean describes Royal Wi-Fi aboard the Quantum as “high-speed” but I respectfully disagree. While the speed is mostly faster than on other cruise ships, often the pace was painfully slow. Streaming video or having video chats would be nearly impossible, though audio calls were sometimes possible using FaceTime.
I used the Speedtest app to test the speed of Royal Wi-Fi in my cabin and found the following speeds on various days during the cruise:
See, Do You Feel the Need for Speed? for more information about the SpeedTest app.
The FCC has defined high-speed Internet to mean download speeds of 25mbps and upload speeds of 3mbps. Royal Wi-Fi on the Quantum doesn’t come close to meeting those standards, though the speeds are far superior to Internet access on any other cruise ship I have sailed on.
One of the most delightful high-tech advancements on the ship is the Bionic Bar, a fun venue where robots mix your drinks. You use your WOWband to identify yourself, then pick out your drink from a menu on a tablet in the bar. Don’t expect Tom Cruise in Cocktail, the menu is quite limited.
Place your order and watch in the queue on the big screen next to the bar to follow along to see when the robot will be mixing your drink. When your drink is ready, tap your WOWband on the bar and your drink will slide over to you.
Watching the robots mix drinks is entertaining enough but more fun ensues when the music plays and the robots dance to the beat. These bartenders may not be able to listen to your woes, but they will probably improve your mood with their moves!
One of the most impressive technological feats is the North Star, a glass pod that lifts you 300 feet above sea level to give you panoramic view above the ship. In good weather at sea the North Star also swings out over the side of the ship to give you a new perspective.
iFly by Ripcord
If you’ve ever wanted to sky dive but don’t like the idea of actually jumping out of a plane, then iFly might be your answer. The Quantum has a simulated parachute jump you can take without risking gravity being your demise.
A fun area of the ship is SeaPlex which is like a multi-purpose gymnasium with plenty to keep you busy. Depending on the time, SeaPlex can be a bumper car arena, trapeze school, roller skating rink or a basketball court.
On the second level of SeaPlex is the XBox One gaming lounge with games, TV monitors and comfy seating.
Royal Caribbean ships are filled with art work of many styles and media, but the Quantum brings art into the 21st century with a tech twist. Tech art can be found around the ship enhancing the decor as well as setting the mood.
One of my favorite spaces on the ship was the virtual butterfly garden, a hallway with animated butterflies fluttering over impressionist paintings displayed on video monitors. The setting is made more tranquil with soothing music playing in the background.
Another favorite space on the ship was the Two70 room located at the aft of the ship. This $36 million dollar room provides 270° panoramic views during the day and becomes a theater at night.
The windows are covered with screens that display videos created for the Quantum. Other entertainment include robotic monitors that turn, swivel and move while displaying custom videos.
Two70 is also home to a library that houses Mac computers, a craft workshop, and Cafe Two70. Reading nooks and a swing invite you to enjoy the space even when entertainment isn’t being provided.
Quantum of the Seas Video
This video gives you a glimpse of tech on the Quantum:
If you maintain the outlandish belief that you want to consider factors other than tech while choosing a vacation destination, rest assured that the Quantum has plenty to offer beyond cutting-edge tech. Non-tech decor, cabin sizes, friendly staff, entertainment, and abundant activities should please a wide range of passengers. From spacious venues to comfy reading nooks, you can find a place on the ship to match your mood.
The food in the four main complimentary restaurants rivals the finest dining establishments. Dynamic Dining that allows you to dine in any complimentary restaurant at any time, has received mixed reviews. I was not a fan at first, but quickly became a convert once I realized that reservations weren’t necessary for me to gain a seat at any restaurant without waiting. I reveled in meeting new fellow diners each night and eating in the restaurant of my choice at the time when I felt like eating. Dynamic Dining soon spoiled me with quality, quantity and variety of food, friends and fun.
I was traveling solo which made finding a seat (usually at a large table filled with other guests) easy and afforded me the opportunity to meet many other travelers from around the globe. Perhaps if I had been traveling with my family of five, I would have had more of a wait. But the ship was sold out during my voyage and still plenty of seats were available in the restaurants at dinner time.
Do you like the idea of a high-tech cruise experience? Which tech features would be the most appealing to you? What tech features would you like to see on a cruise ship? Let us know in the Comments section below!
*iFly image of Harold Wolf courtesy of Remy Perez
** Butterfly Garden image courtesy of Margalit Francus via Flickr and Creative Commons
*** Solarium image courtesy of Margalit Francus via Flickr and Creative Commons