Quantum of the Seas and the revolution in cruising

Quantum of the Seas is part of a revolution in cruising. For more than a decade, the watchword in the cruise industry has been “choice.” All of the lines have wanted to give guests more options with regard to what to do while aboard their ships. But, for the most part, the new options brought forward just embroidered the traditional model of cruising. Then, about five years ago, ships started to enter service that offered a new model of cruising with real choice. Quantum carries that model to a new level.

Under the traditional model of cruising, an evening on a cruise ship revolved around the two seatings in the dining room and the two shows in the ship’s theater. There was not much choice. Each guest was assigned to one of the seatings for dinner and, as a practical matter, that dictated which of the two shows in the theater you attended. The evening was pretty well mapped out. Yes, you could sit in one of the bars and listen to the piano player instead of going to the show but the majority of the passengers went to the show in the theater after dinner.

Norwegian Cruise Line broke with the traditional model when it introduced Freestyle dining. Guests were no longer assigned a dining time or a table in the main dining room but could dine when and where they liked. Most of the other cruise lines followed suit with their own versions of flexible dining. Still, because the main entertainment offering onboard was the two shows in the ship’s theater, your dining time had to be scheduled around the show times. Thus, the choices as to when and what to do were still somewhat limited.

Then, in late 2009, Royal Caribbean introduced Oasis of the Seas and a few months later Norwegian Cruise Line introduced Norwegian Epic. These two ships broke completely with the traditional model of cruising. They offered not only choice in dining but also choice in entertainment. The shows in the theater were no longer the only high quality entertainment option. Thus, under this new model of cruising, guests had real freedom to plan their evenings aboard ship.

Royal Caribbean subsequently refined its version of the new model with Allure of the Seas while Norwegian refined its version with Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian GetawayQuantum of the Seas.

With Quantum, Royal has taken the new model even further. It has eliminated the main dining room altogether. In its place are five complimentary restaurants each with a different theme and menu. This is in addition to seven specialty restaurants where there is a cover charge. Thus, it is no longer a choice between dining in a general restaurant (i.e. a main dining room) or going to a specialty restaurant. In effect, the choice is now between an array of specialized restaurants some of which have a cover charge and some of which are complimentary. As a result, Quantum presents guests with a better set of choices.

Of course, there are practical limitations on this freedom of choice. If a couple of thousand people decide they want Asian food at 7 o’clock and descend upon a venue that has capacity for a few hundred, someone is not going to get what they wanted. To guard against such possibilities the lines that have implemented the new model of cruising encourage guests to make dining reservations just like they would on land. Some guests feel that this is an imposition on their freedom of choice but most appear to accept it.

It is disappointing that Quantum will only be based in the Port of New York – New Jersey for one brief season. Originally, Quantum was going to be Royal Caribbean’s New York ship, replacing Explorer of the Seas in that role. But then Royal decided to commit the ship to developing the Chinese market and so Quantum will be leaving in the Spring 2015.

The reason this is disappointing is that another new model cruise ship is based in New York – – Norwegian Breakaway. Thus, Quantum and Breakaway would have been competing on a long term basis. It could only have been good for cruisers to have these two innovative cruise lines go head-to-head with their first tier ships. But then Quantum’s sister, Anthem of the Seas, is scheduled to take up residence in this port in the Fall 2015 so perhaps the grand contest will take place afterall.

This week in Beyondships, we have a new profile section on Quantum of the Seas. http://beyondships.com/RCI-Quantum-Profile.html This includes a nine page photo tour and commentary, which takes you through the public rooms and open decks. http://beyondships.com/RCI-Quantum-Tour-1.html

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