QofS

A fun filled experience on Quantum of the Seas

I am the cruise industry’s biggest problem: the avid traveller who is reluctant to sail.

I’d toured a dozen ships as part of my job, sampling giant buffets, peeking at staterooms and getting a behind-the-scenes visit to the bridge and engine room. But that didn’t necessarily make me want to take a cruise.

Nearly 22 million people are expected to cruise this year, according to the industry, with 40 per cent of them first-timers. Those newbies are needed to fill cabins and help the industry continue to grow.

It wasn’t a fear of gastrointestinal illness or sinking ships keeping me away. I just wanted to do other things with my precious vacation days – take a late-night stroll through Venice, devour barbeque in Austin, Texas, or go skiing in the Colorado Rockies.

So when an opportunity to spend two nights aboard the latest, most-innovative cruise ship – Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas – presented itself, I jumped at the chance. It wouldn’t be the full cruise experience, but just enough to get a taste and maybe, just maybe, fall in love with life on the high seas.

Quantum was unlike any other boat I’d seen. It was contemporary, with tasteful furniture and funky, whimsical artwork.

It’s packed with all the latest technology and amusements: roller skating, trapeze classes and robots that make cocktails. And don’t forget the bumper cars. What a totally insane – but brilliant – idea.

Long lines prevented me from getting to ride North Star, an observation capsule that rises more than 300 feet (90 metres) above the sea, offering views of the surrounding ocean and the deck below. Those that tried it loved it.

But it was the skydiving simulator that ended up being my highlight of the trip.

After putting on a flappy blue canvas suit, earplugs, goggles and a helmet, I was escorted into a giant wind tunnel where a powerful fan provided enough of a gust to let me float in the air. With an instructor standing nearby, I moved left, then right, floating through the tube like I was skydiving. It was amazing and left me giddy for hours.

The food was much better than I expected. Quantum offers “dynamic dining” which means no giant, 2,500-seat dining room but five main restaurants (one reserved for frequent cruisers or those in suites) and seven specialty restaurants that cost extra. Another six smaller food outlets fill those midday snack cravings. All of that helps attract first-timers like me who dread one giant kitchen trying to feed the masses.

Given the size of the ship – it can accommodate up to 4,905 guests – I didn’t expect memorable interactions with other passengers. Boy was I wrong. Conversations were struck up in my skydiving class, at a bar and during dinner. I can see w lifelong friendships can start on cruises.