Seuss proving a coup for Carnival

With the addition of Dr. Seuss characters and the makeover of Camp Carnival into Camp Ocean on some of its ships, Carnival Cruise Line has more appeal than ever to the family cruise segment.

The changes, announced a year ago, bring an instantly recognizable name to Carnival’s kids offerings.

“For Dr. Seuss, as soon as you mention Cat in the Hat, they already know who it is,” said Ana Klacinski, youth director on the Carnival Freedom.

It’s a step up for Carnival, which competes at sea with characters from Nickelodeon (Norwegian Cruise Line), DreamWorks (Royal Caribbean International) and, of course, Disney on Disney Cruise Line.

Now Carnival offers a kids parade through the Freedom once each cruise, led by characters from “The Cat in the Hat,” as well as a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast featuring Sam I Am.

At the same time, Carnival has significantly improved the kids facilities on the Freedom and other ships. Seuss is now playing on 10 of Carnival’s 24 ships, and Camp Ocean has been installed on the Freedom, Breeze, Magic and Triumph.

The big change is to give each age group its own themed space to play in, from Penguins (ages 2 to 5) to Stingrays (6 to 8) to Sharks (9 to 11). Klacinski said kids are excited to see the play space has lost its day-care vibe.

“They have a name, but not only that, they have their own space that they don’t have to share with anybody,” she said. “And they love it.”

The Freedom also received a Dr. Seuss Bookville area adjacent to Camp Ocean. It provides space for unscheduled time that children and parents can play together and an introduction to Seuss books guests may not know.

Part of the magic of the Seuss parade is its mystery, Klacinski said. It begins with an announcement that Seuss characters are onboard and an invitation to gather in a lounge 15 minutes before the parade. No one knows quite what for. When the time is ripe, a chant begins: “Dr. Seuss is on the loose!”

One by one, the characters are introduced and then the parade begins, through the ship, with kids banging noisemakers and keeping the chant going until arrival at the ship’s main theater, where they’re invited on stage for a group reading of “The Cat in the Hat” while parents watch.

“It’s like a good, family-friendly event and comedy show at the same time,” Klacinski said.

The Green Eggs and Ham breakfast, held later in the cruise, attracted about 50 kids and parents on the cruise I was on. Food, including mint-green scrambled eggs, is served by wait staff attired as Thing One and Thing Two from “The Cat in the Hat,” and Sam I Am appears to greet and hug kids.

Chuck Soukop, a passenger from Punta Gorda, Fla., said he was delighted with the upgrades to Freedom’s kids programming. “It’s nice to have something for the kids to do that isn’t as expensive as Disney [Cruise Line],” he said.

Oasis of the Seas vs. Quantum of the Seas: a Cruise Ship Comparison

quantum-top oasis-bottomSince its debut in 2009, Oasis of the Seas has continued to turn the cruise world upside down. With first-in-cruising innovations like a zip line, a carousel, a levitating bar and real, live trees, it commands respect — even from those who argue its massive size doesn’t appeal. In addition to being the largest ship at sea, it’s arguably the most well-known. So where does that leave Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, and how can it possibly step out of the shadow of its behemoth fleetmate?

Below we’ve compiled a list of offerings on both ships to show you exactly what you’ll find onboard. Although these two vessels share some of the same venues and amenities, there’s a lot that sets them apart, and each provides an experience all its own. Read on to figure out which of these ground breaking ships is the right fit for you.

To the right: Quantum of the Seas (top) and Oasis of the Seas. Photo appears courtesy of RCI.

Oasis of the Seas Quantum of the Seas Both
oasis aquatheater image

quantum north star image

american icon grill image
American Icon will be featured on both ships
Size Tonnage: 225,282
Passengers: 5,400
Decks: 18
Tonnage: 167,800
Passengers: 4,180
Decks: 16
Cabins If you’d rather wake up to trees than ocean views, try a balcony cabin that overlooks Oasis’ Central Park or Boardwalk “neighborhood.”
Quantum’s cabins are, on average, nine percent larger than those on Oasis. Solo cruisers don’t have to worry about dreaded single supplements, either. Twenty-eight studio cabins(12 with balconies) are available for anyone cruising alone. Meanwhile, “virtual balcony”interior cabins offer real-time ocean views via floor-to-ceiling LED screens, and family connected suites combine three cabin types to accommodate larger groups. Royal Caribbean ships offer several similar stateroom categories across the fleet, but Oasis and Quantum have a couple notable stateroom standouts.
Restaurants Following its recent dry dock, Oasis received Mexican restaurant Sabor, as well as the Boardwalk Dog House, which originally debuted on sister ship Allure of the Seas. Oasis also offers for-fee options at Giovanni’s Table, featuring Italian fare, and upscale 150 Central Park, which boasts a rotating six-course menu. If you’re looking for a quick bite, the Cafe @ Two70 offers gratis picnic-type fare with 270-degree views. Another quick option is the SeaPlex Dog House, the first food truck at sea, featuring free gourmet hotdogs and sausages. An interesting extra-charge offering includesDevinly Decadence, where all meals are fewer than 500 calories. Both ships will offer Royal Caribbean’s new“Dynamic Dining” concept, which does away with traditional dining and, instead, allows passengers to choose from a number of eateries at their leisure, some of which are free and some of which incur extra charges. Dynamic Dining will roll out on Oasis in spring 2015. You’ll also find Sorrento’s Pizzeria on both ships, as well as the Windjammer Cafe buffet; Izumi, which offers Japanese cuisine; Johnny Rockets for burgers and shakes; Wonderland, molecular gastronomy featuring dishes like disappearing noodles, and wasabi and apple crisps prepared with liquid nitrogen; American Icon Grill for comfort food; Coastal Kitchen, which showcases California-Mediterranean fare for suite passengers only; The Grande, a fancy affair, which focuses on dishes served aboard the ocean liners of yore; Silk, Royal Caribbean’s pan-Asian restaurant; and Chops Grille, the line’s steakhouse.
Bars The Rising Tide Bar, which debuted on Oasis of the Seas, is set on hydraulics and travels between the Royal Promenade and Central Park. In its Bionic Bar, Quantum will feature robotic bartenders. Passengers order drinks via tablets and can then watch as the robots (more like mechanical arms, really) prepare them. Vintages, a swanky wine bar where passengers can try new or favorite beverages, is featured on both ships.
Activities & Entertainment For breathtaking entertainment that combines aerial and aquatic feats with the ship’s wake as the backdrop, you won’t want to miss performances at the AquaTheatre on the ship’s Boardwalk, where you’ll also find a carousel. Look up in the sky, and you’ll see fellow passengers whizzing by on the sports deck’s zip
Try any number of at-sea firsts on Quantum, including a visit to North Star. Best for those without a fear of heights, the glass pod, positioned on a mechanical arm, will raise passengers 300 feet above sea level for 360-degree views. Meanwhile, SeaPlex ttriples as a venue for basketball, roller skating and bumper cars. Adrenaline junkies will appreciate trapeze classes and a RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator. A handful of RCI ships offer Broadway productions as part of their theatre entertainment. Oasis, where cruisers can catch performances of CATS, and Quantum, featuring Mamma Mia!, are no exception. Both ships also feature rock climbing walls and the line’s signature FlowRider surf simulators.
Itineraries Based in Fort Lauderdale at Port Everglades, Oasis sails Western Caribbean itineraries. Homeporting in Bayonne’s Cape Liberty through spring 2015, Quantum sails Southern Caribbean voyages. It will then permanently relocate to Shanghai for Asia sailings. Until Quantum relocates to Asia, both ships sail a mix of BahamasEastern Caribbean and Europe itineraries from the U.S. East Coast.
Family Oasis’ Adventure Ocean is housed in one giant expanse on the same deck. In addition to exclusive areas separated by age group, there’s a science lab, a workshop and even a theater, where participants rehearse before performing for their parents at the end of each sailing. Quantum’s Adventure Ocean spans two decks, and it features a science lab as well as a cool teen space will provide a similar experience to that found on Oasis. Both ships showcase Royal Caribbean’s stellar kids offerings, each boasting extensive Adventure Ocean facilities. The line also has a partnership with DreamWorks, and cruisers can enjoy parades and meet-and-greets that feature Shrek, Fiona and other characters. These two vessels also include the H2O Zone, where young cruisers will find splash pools and colourful sculptures that spray water.

10 Reasons why Quantum of the Seas is the Cruise Ship for You 


Try indoor skydiving - photo courtesy of Royal CaribbeanWhen Quantum of the Seas hits the cruise market in November, it will be Royal Caribbean’s first new ship since Allure of the Seas made a splashy debut in 2010.

Allure was the second in the line’s wildly popular and innovative Oasis Class, but it has been heralded as much for being the biggest cruise ship in the world as it has for its cool first-in-cruise features like its neighborhood concept and enormous Aqua Theater high-diving show.

With Quantum, the cruise line is going somewhat smaller but no less glitzy; the new ship features so many innovations that would appeal to virtually anyone, its hard to imagine it won’t be a huge hit for the company that keeps raising the bar for activities at sea. Not convinced? Here are 10 reasons Quantum of the Seas is the ship for you.

Try indoor skydiving - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

1. You can try skydiving at sea. People probably thought Royal Caribbean was nuts when it added the FlowRider surfing simulator to its ships. Turns out, it was a stroke of genius, and people flock to it to give it a try or watch as others do. (The spectacular wipeouts are the stuff of legend.) So this time, when RCI announced it was adding a RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator to Quantum, it just made sense.

For free, each passenger will get a chance to spend a full minute experiencing the sensation of a skydiving freefall. And adrenaline junkies who get hooked on the experience can book additional private skydiving time (for a yet-to-be-determined fee).

Play at the SeaPlex - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

2. You can play at the SeaPlex. OK, so maybe we were a little skeptical when we first heard about its bumper cars, floating DJ booth and roller skating. But we’ve seen the light, and this space is going to be just plain fun.

Designed to entertain with a huge variety of activities, including Xbox gaming and full-court indoor basketball, we can see this spot as the place to be on sea daysor when the weather is lousy.

Staying fit on Quantum - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

3. You’ll have no problem staying fit. A new generation of cruisers has cruise lines paying attention to fitness activities, an area that was traditionally more of an afterthought on older ships.

New ships these days generally have excellent fitness centers and a variety of classes designed for those who want to try something new or just keep up with the routines they do at home. RCI has upped the ante, bringing in former NFL player Dhani Jones, who also made a name for himself trying new sports and traveling the world in his cable TV series “Dhani Tackles the Globe.” Jones has served as an adviser, providing input for the ship’s fitness facility and activities.

On Quantum of the Seas, passengers can try out hot fitness classes like FlyWheel and FlyBar; on shore at the cruise line’s private islands of Labadee and Coco Cay, passengers can take beach bootcamp classes. While the classes require a fee, passengers still can stay in shape onboard for free at the fitness center, which will be stocked with TechnoGym equipment.

Dining options on Quantum - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

4. You’ll find so many dining options. Royal Caribbean certainly isn’t the first to offer flexible dining options, but its “Dynamic Dining” concept might feature the most diversity among “free” choices. About half the restaurants on Quantum of the Seas are included in the cost of the cruise, and the variety is exceptional, with American comfort, Asian and contemporary sit-down dining options to go with casual bites like a hot dog cart and pizza. In the age of for-fee restaurants, passengers on Quantum of the Seas have plenty of included options for food; they don’t need to spend another dime. Still, if they want to try something different, the ship can accommodate.

Alternative for-fee restaurants run the gamut from traditional steakhouse (Chops Grille) to molecular gastronomy experience (Wonderland). Royal Caribbean also joined forces with celeb chefs Michael Schwartz, Jamie Oliver (aka the Naked Chef) and Devin Alexander, whose Devinly Decadence offers nothing but healthy-yet-delicious food choices. (We loved the healthy hamburger RCI featured during its Dynamic Dining reveal event.)

Dreamworks characters on Quantum - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

5. Families can stay together. Clearly, RCI was thinking aboutfamily cruisers when it came up with activities for Quantum of the Seas. And yes, there are kids clubs, the DreamWorks Experience, a large pool deck and a massive movie screen.

But we love the idea of interconnected cabins that will accommodate grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and the kids. Multigenerational cruisers on Quantum of the Seas can book three interconnected cabins, each with its own living space and bathrooms, to provide together (or quiet) time.

Cabins are connected via a vestibule and can sleep between eight and 10 people. Total square feet is a comfy 575, and when the balconies are combined, you get a whopping 216 square feet of outdoor space. Even those travelling with a smaller brood will like the Family Junior Suites, which each include a half bath in addition to a full bath with bathtub, a must for anyone travelling with toddlers.

Two70 entertainment venue on Quantum - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

6. It’s whimsical. So much about Quantum of the Seas is designed to appeal to the inner child. Interior cabins have floor-to-ceiling HD TVs that broadcast real-time ocean views. (Royal Caribbean calls these virtual balconies.)

A giant glass-enclosed gondola attached to a mechanical arm atop the ship rises 303 feet above sea level, providing breathtaking views at sea and in port, a feature called the North Star.

Robots serve up drinks in the Bionic Bar, and a multimillion-dollar space, called Two70, incorporates technology, music and entertainment into what the cruise line promises will be like nothing we’ve seen before. Even the 2,980-piece art collection, which includes a 30-foot magenta bear on the top deck and a giant electronic helix in the atrium, screams fun. It’s true: Some of the features might border on gimmicky.

But isn’t a cruise vacation about letting loose and having a great time? There’s no way you’ll take yourself too seriously when you’re walking between the legs of a giant bear to enter a bumper car arena.

Improved internet access on Quantum - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

7. You can stay in touch with loved ones at home. With its partnership with communications company O3B, Royal Caribbean says Internet speeds onboard Quantum of the Seas will match speeds on land, something unheard of on cruise ships.

That means passengers who purchase Internet packages — pricing and packages haven’t been determined yet — can access email, share photos via social media or make video calls to shore. Royal Caribbean says the improved Internet speeds will drive down the costs, as well, which is a trend we hope catches on.

Staying in touch onboard Quantum - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

8. You can stay in touch with loved ones on the ship. With Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has introduced two new apps that can be used to enhance the booking and cruise experience.

The first, Cruise Planner, is designed to be used before you set sail to book things like excursions, dining and spa treatments. The second, Royal IQ, includes a component that will allow passengers to keep in touch with one another via their cellphones with texting and calling.

This is especially helpful for families or groups traveling together, when coordinating schedules can be tricky. Royal Caribbean has yet to announce the cost of using Royal IQ to communicate on the ship, but the fee for similar apps on other cruise lines is nominal. (Norwegian Cruise Line‘s iConcierge, for example, carries a flat fee of $7.95 per person.)

Quantum cruise cabin - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

9. Forget the loved ones: Cruise solo. Until fairly recently, cruise lines haven’t been particularly interested in catering tosingle travelers and instead focus on more lucrative couples or families.

Those who cruise by themselves often are forced to pay nearly double the per-person rate non-solos pay. (Cruise lines call this fee the “single supplement.) NCL’s newest ships in particular have bucked that trend, adding funky solo cabins and solo lounges for those cruising alone.

Quantum of the Seas has 28 solo cabins, which are fairly large (119 square feet) compared with other solo cabins. We love the inclusion of a standard-size bathroom and roomy balcony (12 have this feature), which is not typical when it comes to single-cabin options.

Quantum conveyance - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

10. It will get you warmed up for Anthem of the Seas. The lament heard most often at Cruise Critic is that Quantum of the Seas seems great, but it’s only in the U.S. for a short time before it heads to Shanghai, which will be the its permanent homeport.

Quantum of the Seas will sail from Bayonne, New Jersey, to the Eastern Caribbean from November 2014 to April 2015 before making its grand voyage to Shanghai, where Royal Caribbean will market the ship toward Asian passengers.

That means U.S. passengers have a scant six months to try out the ship. Still, identical twin Anthem of the Seas, which debuts in spring 2015, makes Bayonne its homeport starting in November 2015, sailing Bahamas cruises and Caribbean cruises. So if you don’t get a chance to sail Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas will provide virtually the same experience a year later.