Our Journey to New York to see Royal Caribbean’s Latest Innovation(s)
She has been billed as the most eagerly-awaited new cruise ship of 2014. Her features, amenities and even her dual deployment in North America and Asia have turned heads. This week, we’ll get to give you our take on one of the most talked-about ships of the year.
Beginning Wednesday, I’ll be spending two nights aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas as she embarks on her first North American media preview voyage prior to her christening on November 14, 2014.
Our voyage is a simple one – but that’s okay. This one is all about the ship, and a simple loop into the Atlantic and back will be just what the doctor ordered. Our full itinerary here and onboard:
|Wednesday, November 12||Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey||Embark Royal Caribbean’s brand-new Quantum of the Seas||17:00|
|Thursday, November 13||Cruising the Atlantic Ocean|
|Friday, November 14, 2014||Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey||07:00||Disembarkation; Onward journey home. Photo Tour & Voyage Recap|
Everything about Quantum of the Seas is designed to be new, innovative or different in some way – and that includes the terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. Dubbed Cape Liberty, the cruise terminal here has been Royal Caribbean’s home in New York since 2004. The old terminal was nothing to write home about, and involved a cumbersome bus ride from the terminal to the ship itself.
To prepare for Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean built a new 125,000-square foot terminal adjacent to the existing terminal. Pegged at an estimated cost of $55-million dollars, the new state-of-the-art terminal is crucial to one of Quantum’s key new features: an all-digital embarkation process that, Royal Caribbean says, will have you from the curb to the ship in just 10 minutes. The bus ride is also a thing of the past; embarkation will be conducted via enclosed gangways that lead directly to the ship.
Known as SMART Check In, all necessary forms for your sailing are filled out pre-cruise on the Royal Caribbean website. You can even register your credit card and upload a digital photograph to use as your shipboard ID photo that will then be attached to your SeaPass card or wristband (more on that in a minute). Once that’s done, you’ll receive a digital boarding confirmation which you’ll take to the pier, presumably to present to security personnel. Royal Caribbean promises “no check-in counter, no forms to fill out, and no lines to wait in.” You’ll tap your barcode against a scanner, swipe your passport, and away you go.
This is something I’m personally really excited about; if Royal Caribbean can pull it off, it will revolutionise the way guests embark for their cruise. Although, the airline industry made the same promise over a decade ago when web-based check-in began to take off. I don’t know about you, but I still wait in lines at the airport.
At the terminal, you’re going to notice two very new – and very different things. One is that your luggage will be tagged with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag. This will allow you –and presumably, shipboard hotel operations – to track where your luggage is in real-time. Unfortunately, for this short preview cruise I won’t have a chance to check this out; we’ve been asked to bring carry-on luggage only due to the short sailing time.
One thing I might get to test out are the new RFID WOW Bands. I’ll be one hundred percent honest: I’m not thrilled about these, and I can’t for the life of me understand how this is better than a keycard I can tuck into my pocket. But, I’m onboard to experience everything I can, and the new bracelet – which will do everything from open your stateroom door to, presumably, purchasing onboard items – is one thing I am eager to try for myself. Good news, though: traditional SeaPass cards will also be offered to guests at no additional cost.
There are more digital tricks in Ro