Royal Caribbean has always been a favorite cruise line with our family. My husband and I celebrated our honeymoon on the now defunct ‘Song of America’ in 1992, and it was aboard ‘Radiance of the Sea’ that our kids enjoyed their first cruise in 2005.
After having cruised with Royal Caribbean numerous times over the past two decades, we were very excited to sail onboard their ‘Quantum of the Seas’ ship and share our family tips after experiencing the ship’s eateries and attractions.
Super fast Boarding at Bayonne
We arrived at the pier by 11:30 AM and expected large crowds, but there were none. There were multiple agents checking guests on I -pads and the process went along so fast, we didn’t need even need to mention our son’s disability.
Check-in took less than 10 minutes from start to finish, which was surprising if you consider the fact that there were over four thousand of passengers coming through.
We liked the innovative closet design along with the ‘virtual balcony concept that gave us a sense of the ship’s geographical location at all times, but we were somewhat disappointed with the cabin’s lack of sound-proofing.
As customary with all vessels, the ship’s exercise started at 4 pm before sail away from New Jersey.
The ship had multiple areas designated as emergency assembly spots for passengers to sit and watch the informational movie. We appreciated the short presentation along with the reminder to wash hands and prevent the dreaded Norovirus!
On our first night, We were slightly peeved to find out that our son’s sofa bed wasn’t set up by 11 pm when we were tired and ready to go to sleep.Moreover, the room attendant was rude when we tried to speak to him about it the following day.
But we’re thrilled to report that RCCL Customer Service bounced back in a big way.After we complained to Guest Services, Carol, the deck housekeeping supervisor, assigned a new attendant and sent an apology note with a complimentary wine bottle to our cabin.
Though the lines for Guest Relations were somewhat long (most complaints we heard were about the new restaurant booking system and the wristbands) we did find the staff courteous and helpful.
In the old system, passengers were assigned specific dining times, servers and tables for the duration of the entire cruise. The fun part about that was the relationships travelers got to develop with the servers and fellow diners. The downside was that if one didn’t like their fellow travelers or servers they had to ask the Maitre D’ to be moved to a different table, which was a hassle.
The new “Dynamic Dining’ concept the cruise line recently switched to, gives guests more flexibility.With this system, Guests can dine whenever, wherever and with whoever they chose every night. The upside is that passengers can try multiple food venues with different settings and servers.The downside is that each of these more intimate restaurants offers a fixed and relatively limited menu. And now, passengers need to remember to pre-book their restaurant choice ahead of time, dine at undesirable hours or wait in somewhat long lines for a table to open up.
Overall, we liked the new concept of the different venues and food diversity and thought that it was a good step in the right direction.
With that said, things can be improved in terms of food choices ( we would love to see sampler plates as part of the menus) and getting the current reservation system to work more smoothly.
The Free Restaurant Options
The ship had ten complimentary restaurants that offered diverse dishes from different cuisines
- Our favorite for breakfast and lunch was Cafe 270, next to the ships aft with freshly made to order paninis and salads.
- Chic restaurant with its bistro-style food and American Icon with its southern grub reminded us of the typical dining room food on the older ships while Grande’s menu was a nod to the bygone formal cruise dinners.
- Silk, the Asian venue was beautifully decorated and our favorite personal for its noodle selections
- The International Cafe and Sorrento Pizza served their usual sandwiches, pastries, salads, and pizzas.We finally got around to trying Sorrento’s gluten free pizza, and I have to admit it was delicious
- The Windjammer Buffet, another old time favorite, seemed to be modest in choices, but the bakery’s fresh cookies and muffins were a big hit with everyone.
The Quantum had several restaurants that offered meals with a fixed menu and price.
- If you enjoy innovative food in an unusual funky setting, then Wonderland is the place to try. At 50 dollars per person, diners start with discovering the different elements of ice, fire, earth through their five senses.I won’t give away details, so I don’t spoil the surprise, but all the items we selected, completed each other wonderfully, and provided a memorable symphony to the senses.
- Chops (30$ per person) is a staple steak house with consistently excellent quality food and service while Izumi is a good place to grab your sushi/sashimi fix when you crave a quick, tasty lunch.
- Like everyone else we found the Devinly Decadence (20$ per person) concept of 500 calorie dishes tantalizing, so we tried it one evening.Our son voted the flatbread pizza choices a cruise favorite.
- In Jaime Oliver’s Italian (25$ per person) restaurant, we found the appetizers and desserts more tempting than the main courses, so we geared our appetite accordingly.
- Michael Swartz’s pub exceeded our expectations and managed to wow us with its charcuterie platter that complemented our selection of libations well.
Quantum of the Seas comes with an impressive array of activities guests can enjoy.The ship offers trapeze lessons; a skydiving simulator called I- fly, surfing lessons, rock climbing, and bumper cars as well as several pools and hot tubs.
Because of the stormy weather during our trip our son only tried out the indoor trapeze lesson, the I-fly simulator and bumper cars.
The weather also interfered with our original booking, and we ended up riding the North Star, an enclosed gondola, while sailing at sea with only waves to watch, instead of near on of the ports where the views would have been more spectacular.
Noteworthy was the glass swing in the aft theater that our son discovered and sat on for hours along with the comfy rocking chairs nearby.
We thought the Mama Mia production was a worthy addition to the ship lineup but ended up too tired from the day trips to see the other two productions.
For kids, the Quantum offered, the not-to -be-missed DreamWorks parades along with character breakfasts and photo apps.
Decor and Art
Quantum of the Seas is one of the more interesting ships to walk around and to admire the artwork as well as ride every elevator to take ‘selfies’ with the quirky pictures displayed inside.
Not to be missed is the Bionic Bar that all passengers get to gawk at and watch robots mix and serve drinks.
Autism Travel Tips
- Royal Caribbean is very Autism Friendly and not only provides a particular department (like other cruise and airlines) designated to special needs accommodations but is in the process of training its staff to understand and help passengers with autism better.
- Contact the access desk after booking your trip make sure to notify the cruise line of your kid’s individual needs and any accommodations he/she needs
- Pre-book your itinerary your show times and paid restaurants online to help you plan better
- After boarding the ship, head on to guest relations and remind them you are traveling with a special needs child
- Ask to meet with the activities coordinator and kid’s’ club director to relay your child’s needs.
- Ask for help in disembarkation! If your flight is later in the day ask permission to stay in the room until 9:30 AM when most crowds have left, and your kid won’t need to brave any crowds.
- Ask for pre-seating for shows! Similar to pre-boarding you can request permission to get into the show halls ten minutes before the other members of the audience to get your kid settled down.
- Try to sit as close to an exit as possible in case your kid wishes to leave in the middle of the show.
- If that’s not a possibility, then you can ask for seats next to in the hall’s disability seating area (close to the main entrance) and see if that is available.
- Remember to bring a set of noise canceling headphones to lessen the sound if your child is noise sensitive.
- Ask to meet with the ship chefs if there are known food allergies.
- Go in person every night, pre-book the restaurant you wish to dine the next day and ask the Maitre D’ for a quietest table possible way from loudspeakers, music, bars and the kitchen.
- Always try to book a table at the time they first open for dinner, so your child doesn’t have to wait in any line
- Ask to get a copy of the menu so your kid can decide ahead of time what he /she wants to order.
- The I-Fly is not recommended for noise sensitive children as it is incredibly noisy.In fact, the staff makes travelers wear ear plugs and goggles for protection.
- For Rock Climbing and I-Fly require passengers to wear special shoes that are provided free of charge.,make sure your kid wears socks
- You should prepare your kid in advance to the idea of wearing the ship wristband.
Passengers open the cabin door and can pay charges onboard with it
- Bring a piece of a stick -on velcro to substitute for the buckle and help them put it on and take it off quickly.