Royal Caribbean's Newest Ship Was Built to Lure People Who Hate Cruising

Quantum of the Seas berthed at Southampton Docks, U.K. Photograph by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Step aboard the newest ship in Royal Caribbean Cruises’ fleet and you’ll find muted earth tone carpets, glass elevator doors, dark woods. Remove the gangways—and the need for a passport—and this area on Quantum of the Seas could easily be a tony residential tower in Frankfurt or Manhattan.

“We decided early on that it would have a different look … we created a more sophisticated design,” says Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean’s chairman and chief executive officer.

The subdued design is just one element the cruise line has deployed on the new ship, which carries 4,180 passengers and 1,500 crew members. Quantum of the Seas is, in many respects, the first cruise ship designed for people who hate cruising. After a two-year period marked by intense media focus on cruise fires, fatal groundings, and virus outbreaks, the cruise industry is keen to mount a full-scale assault on the stereotypes that keep millions of people from considering a vacation at sea.

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Royal Caribbean launches its new smart ship, Quantum, from New York City today, ushering in a new, modern-day approach to cruises. Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman reports on the technological advances of the ship and steps the cruise industry is taking to attract the millennial generation. He speaks on “In The Loop.”

Royal Caribbean has two more Quantum-class ships on order for its fleet, with Anthem of the Seas arriving next fall, and a third, dubbed Ovation, in late 2016. All three are much smaller than the line’s two Oasis-class behemoths, which each carry more than 6,000 people per sailing. Quantum of the Seas will spend the winter sailing from New Jersey before relocating in the spring to Shanghai, the first brand new ship from a U.S. line to enter the market in China.

The Quantum employs some technologies that are relatively new to the industry, such as bag tagging that lets passengers use smartphones to track the location of luggage from drop-off at the pier until it reaches their cabins. Reservations for dinner and further activities are made on tablets around the ship, and waiters are expected to record a diner’s preferences via that technology so that other dining venues will know how you take your coffee or whether you prefer red or white wine, Fain says. The satellite-based Wi-Fi onboard is fairly speedy for sea-based system.

There also are activities aimed at younger cruisers, who often might prefer a land vacation where they can hike, surf, or golf. At the rear of Quantum‘s  Deck 16, 11 decks above that chic boarding area, an attraction using high-speed jets of water allows passengers to surf or water board. Cruisers can “skydive” in a vertical wind tunnel that simulates the sensation of free falling. And a glass capsule extends 300 feet into the air, allowing 360-degree views. A rock climbing wall—beside a 30-foot pink bear—is right around the aft corner, one deck below. Also on Deck 15 are some other Royal Caribbean trademark activities, including the bumper car arcade, the full-sized basketball court, the roller skating rink, and the circus school.

Robots preparing drinks for guests at the Bionic Bar on the Quantum of the Seas
Photograph by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Pretending to jump from an airplane while cruising the Caribbean “conveys in a very dramatic way, and it’s something that busts old stereotypes about what a cruise is,” Fain, a 35-year company veteran, said on Wednesday afternoon while slurping a vanilla milkshake from Johnny Rockets, the fast-food diner found in 30 states and on a dozen RCL ships. “Obviously, this isn’t a sedentary vacation. It helps to raise that awareness, particularly in non-cruisers.”

The prospect of a sedentary vacation at sea, surrounded by all-you-can-eat food, overpriced drinks, smoky casinos, and crowded pools repels millions of people the industry calls “cruise resisters.” This image of the typical cruise has been shaped over years among many people in North America and Europe. Recruiting that category represents the largest single opportunity for industry growth.

With its many physically active on-board pursuits aimed at a younger crowd—some have described the Quantum-class ships as a bid for millennials—Quantum of the Seas was designed to overcome the negative perceptions.

Ditching the traditional dining room is an additional tactic: A variety of 18 restaurants, booked by iPad or in one’s stateroom, serve different foods at night, furthering the notion that cruisers will try most of them over a seven or 10-night cruise.

Royal Caribbean has also redesigned its traditional buffet area, where most cruisers congregate for breakfast and lunch. The Quantum‘s buffet, on Deck 14, is called the Windjammer Marketplace; the offerings assigned to various stations are sorted by cuisine, such as pan-Asian, antipasti, American favorites, and sandwiches. The food stations are all well-lighted and gleaming, the sort of islands familiar in upscale grocery stores and urban food markets. It’s an all-you-can-eat proposition, to be sure, but it’s also a place where the dishes are presented in discrete sections and portions, with nary a huge serving tub in sight.

“It’s clear to me that as an industry we have not done a good enough job effectively communicating … to those who don’t know what cruising is,” Carnival CEO Arnold Donald told reporters in May. “It’s not just 3,000 people at a buffet line and super crowding.”

That’s a message that the entire industry is hoping Royal’s newest ship will convey.

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