Hotel Director Dean Baily has no doubt that Quantum of the Seas is a historic ship. “This will be the game changer. When people look back in history at what ships really revolutionized the industry most of them will be Royal Caribbean, if not all: Song of Norway was the first ship built dedicated to the cruise industry in the Caribbean - - before that it was all ocean liners that had been converted; the Sovereign back in the day; certainly, the Voyager when it came out; then certainly Oasis at the forefront and very close behind it Quantum of the Seas.”
“I think the design of the ship is mind blowing. It is spectacular. As much as I love Oasis and Allure, it is the most spectacular ship that we have ever created. The [Meyer Werft shipyard] knows how to build. We have had great success with them before with the Radiance class ships, very beautiful, nice lines. The lines on this ship as well.”
“We have faced a few challenges because any time you bring out a new ship, especially a new ship with so many innovations, there is a certain amount of vetting in period. But I think the team responded well. I think the guests who were here in November can see the difference. [It] is starting to feel very much like a Royal Caribbean ship.”
Perhaps the innovation that has attracted the most public attention on Quantum is the implementation of Dynamic Dining. Quantum has no main dining room, no traditional seatings and no flexible dining. Instead, it has a series of variously-themed, complimentary restaurants, allowing the guests to decide when and where to dine each night.
“Royal Caribbean's trademark has always been innovation - - always trying to push the envelope. We have listened to our guests for 45 years, always trying to find out what excites them about cruising.”
“We had this format and so did the rest of the industry - - first and second seating in big dining rooms, which was a firm favorite with a lot of our guests.”
“As we progressed through the years, more and more guests told us they wanted flexibility in their dining, they didn't want to eat everyday at 6:15; did not want to eat every day at 8 or 8:30. So we introduced My Time Dining. It started off with 20, 30 or 40 seats for a real niche market. But it got so big that we couldn't really control it the way we would like - - some of our ships went up to almost 2,000 seats on My Time Dining. Because there was no structure it was difficult to provide the same service standards that we have always done with that mass of people. Everyone would just come because there was nothing to stop them.”
“So what we did was make small intimate dining rooms, developed a system where you make your reservations around when the entertainment is, kind of like Oasis and Allure. This has progressed even further where they can [reserve] pre-cruise. [It] creates a much better flow into the dining rooms. And we are offering the guests variety and the choices that they want.”
“The only thing that the guests don't get is the same waiter each evening. When we did all of the surveys, having the same waiter was fifth, sixth or seventh down the list of things that [the guests] wanted. They wanted high quality food, they wanted flexibilty and they wanted much more variety. Those are the top three things that they wanted and we addressed those.”
In order to manage the flow of passengers throughout the ship, guests are encouraged to make reservations. Some critics have argued that they do not know where they will want to eat on a given night during a cruise and that having to make reservations prevents spontanaity.
“We are not saying that people cannot walk up. What we are saying is that people who have a reservation will go in first. Maybe we are not advertising that as much yet because we are still trying to learn and have all our processes in place. But certainly, people who are walking up now are being seated.”
Another critcisium of Dynamic Dining is that the menus in each restaurant stay the same throughout the cruise. Thus, if you stay in the same restaurant throughout the voyage, you will not have much variety. However, as Mr. Bailey pointed out, if you try all the various restaurants, you will have as much menu variety as you would in a conventional cruise ship main dining room. Moreover, the décor of the different restaurants also provides variety. “The rooms we have, the spaces, they are fantastic. The décor is fantastic and really lends itself to the menus that we have in there.”
In addition, having the same menu each night allows the servers to have “real knowledge of the menu and cater to people's allegeries - - like any good restaurant in the world. They can talk about the quality of the food and tell you what people said about it, so you can make informed choices. That is what we are trying to do. And with our technology, if you are in a new restaurant, your waiter [will have] knowledge of your food allergies [and be able to see some of your preferences [on his or her tablet].”
Under Dynamic Dining, the various restaurants have different dress codes ranging from casual to formal. As a result, there are no ship-wide formal nights.
“Part of survey was to ask how important is a formal night. Again, our people are telling us, in general, they really don't want to get dressed up. Now you have a dining room with 3,000 people on Oasis and Allure and maybe 50 percent are dressed up, sitting next to people who have not made an effort. So [here we] made a restaurant for people who want to dress. You see tuxedos and very formal suits going in there.”
As the name suggests, Dynamic Dining is a dynamic rather than rigid concept and so one can expect changes as time goes on. “As we learn more, as we find out exactly what our guests want, we will continue to tweak.”
The innovation on Quantum also extends to entertainment. In the main theater, you have a full length version of Mama Mia and the avant garde show Sonic Odyssey. You have the advanced technology 270 lounge aft. Then for daytime fun, Quantum offers such novelties as the Northstar, the sky diving simulator and the Seaplex center.
“Entertainment and activities - - [guests] want quality events. They don't want the welcome aboard show with the cruise director telling them this is what you do on a cruise. It has to be a quality experience.”
“I think our entertainment really responates with the guests. It is a transformation of what we have done in the past. We have broken tradition but on very good advice from our guests. We are driven by what our guests want. We always listen to our guests. We don't want to gamble and throw the dice. We want to take calculated risks. We have executed very well over the years and will continue to do so.”
All-weather cruise ship
The original concept for this class of ship was to create all-weather cruise ships. Most cruise ships were designed with the calm, warm waters of the Caribbean in mind. However, over the last decade, more and more ships have been deployed to places where the weather is more variable. To serve such areas, Royal Caribbean wanted ships not only with better seakeeping nautical qualities but also with more enclosed space for those days when going outdoors is not so attractive.
“I was on the Explorer and other ships out of New York. Normally, the first two days were written off because of the weather. Now, we have [both] an indoor pool and the Solarium. We don't have to have the kids going inside to the Solarium - - the grown-ups have a nice area for themselves, peaceful, tranquil. Then you have the indoor pool which satsifies other people who want to be in that type of environment. And the roof comes off in better weather. Then you have the Seaplex - - another space that is multi-functional in all weathers and all climates.”
Quantum was designed as a “smart-ship,” using modern technology to present an experience that is beyond what has been offered at sea before. For example, “no other ship gets close with the level of internet that we provide. All the ships in the world combined, do not have that amount of connectivity. We can do three, four, five times what the world's cruise industry has.”
This technology is not just for show but is vital to the ship's operation in areas such as dining, shore excursions, entertainment and guest information. “It has been a massive undertaking. All those systems have to talk to each other. For the most part, it has worked very, very well. There are a few issues that come up as with any system in the world. But we are working through those things and each day, it is getting better and better.”
Cruise ship interview - - Quantum of the Seas - - Royal Caribbean - - Hotel Director Dean Bailey