Royal Caribbean’s Symphony to feature world’s tallest slide at sea

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony to feature world’s tallest slide at sea

Gallery: Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International has revealed features onboard new megaship, Symphony of the Seas.

These include the world’s tallest slide at sea, robotic bartenders and theatre shows.

The cruise line’s 25th ship, set to launch in April 2018, will claim the title of the world largest vessel when it sets sail on its inaugural season in Europe.

Royal Caribbean will put on popular Broadway production Hairspray – the cruise line’s first musical at sea – on board the 5,500-capacity Symphony.

In addition, guests will be able to enjoy the tallest slide at sea, the Ultimate Abyss (pictured), robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar and high-flying, high-diving performances at the AquaTheatre.

bionic-barroyal-caribbean

bionic-barroyal-caribbean

Families will be able to explore seven neighbourhoods on board, such as Central Park, which has more than 12,000 tropical plants, or the pool and sports zone, where there is a nine-deck high zip line, a beach pool and even a mini-golf course.

Symphony’s debut season will see it call at ports in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Provence in France, Florence, Rome and Naples in Italy.

From November 24 2018 Symphony will make Miami her home all-year around.

Michael Bayley, president and chief executive of Royal Caribbean International, said: “We set out to create a new level of holiday adventure and deliver the ultimate escape for families of all shapes and sizes.

“Symphony will introduce the most cutting-edge, customisable, and digitally-enhanced experiences in the Royal Caribbean fleet.

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A sea of changes await cruise passengers this year

Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean worked with O3B, a company that brings Wi-Fi to developing countries, to launch fast, cheap Internet access on Quantum of the Seas. (Jonathan Atkin / PR Newswire)

By Dave Jones

Cruises Royal Caribbean International Mamma Mia! (musical) Dining and Drinking Lifestyle and Leisure Blue Man Group

Those are just some of the improvements you’ll find at sea in 2015. Along with getting bigger, ships are getting better, ushering in a new era of cruise ship as resort.

The insistence on formal attire and assigned seatings for dining has faded on some cruise lines. Today, you’re more likely to pack khakis than a tux or a ball gown, and meals are often on your schedule, not the ship’s.

The biggest change for the plugged-in passenger (and who isn’t connected these days?) is improved Internet access. At sea, access has been slow, expensive and not always reliable. Its sluggishness has kept travelers from uploading pictures efficiently (ouch, if you’re joined at the hip with, say, Instagram) and streaming videos.

Royal Caribbean worked with O3B, a company that brings Wi-Fi to developing countries, to launch faster, cheaper Internet access on Quantum of the Seas when it debuted in November, and the cruise line is rolling it out to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. The line also worked with Harris CapRock in 2013 to improve the digital speed on the rest of the fleet as well as its Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises brands.

In the spring, Viking Cruises launches the Viking Star with complimentary Wi-Fi. Although a few lines have offered free Wi-Fi as a bonus for frequent cruisers or a benefit in certain suites, this oceangoing line will offer it to everyone. (Maybe hotels will take notice?) These developments should have a ripple effect throughout the industry.

As for a different kind of consumption, cruise lines are increasingly letting passengers enjoy outdoor dining. Most ships have long offered casual dining by the pool but, come night time, most options have been indoors, a missed opportunity for those who want to enjoy balmy evenings in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean.

In the last couple of years, Crystal Cruises has added outdoor dining venues to ships that were in dry dock, and Norwegian Cruise Line is offering open-air tables as part of the Ocean Blue restaurant. Viking also is creating open-air options.

Entertainment is changing too. On some ships, the curtain is coming down on variety shows. Stage shows on large cruise ships are more often defined by partnerships with land-based production companies. Norwegian, for instance, is working with Blue Man Group and Burn the Floor (ballroom dancing with a Broadway flair). Norwegian also has partnered with the Grammy Awards and offers performances by Grammy winners and nominees on some journeys.

You’ll find abbreviated versions of Broadway musicals too: Norwegian offers “Legally Blonde” on Norwegian Getaway and “Rock of Ages” on Norwegian Breakaway; the line plans to launch “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” in October on Norwegian Epic. Royal Caribbean stages “Chicago” on Allure of the Seas, “Cats” on Oasis of the Seas and “Mamma Mia!” on Quantum of the Seas; it will launch “We Will Rock You” on Anthem of the Seas in April.

As perhaps the ultimate in improvements, you now have a greater number of cabin choices. In days past, you could specify inside, outside, balcony or a suite. Nowadays, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Cunard offer special “studio” cabins for single travelers who previously would have been assessed a single supplement for a solo spot.

If you’re in a lower-category cabin where space can be snug, some cruise lines are using technology to create a more open feeling. Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have LED screens designed to look like windows that show a view from the bridge so you can see what’s going on outside.

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Cruise Tip of the Week

Check on newest amenities before you book

If you’ve fallen in love with a cruise line’s newest features — say, the skydiving simulator or robot bartenders on Royal Caribbean or the Guy Fieri-branded burger bar on Carnival — be sure to confirm before you book that your ship has the latest and greatest. Sometimes — but not always — lines retroactively add the most popular new features to older vessels. Check before you pay your deposit.

Happy Sailing!

Quantum Technology Delivers Ease

Royal Caribbean International’s new smartship creates a better cruise

By: Marilyn Green

<p>In addition to a skydiving simulator, Quantum of the Seas offers keyless entry to staterooms and robotic bartenders. // © 2014 Royal Caribbean...

The technology on Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) new Quantum of the Seas is so smoothly, logically blended into life onboard that it makes returning home a bit of a shocker — you actually have to take a key and open your door. Guests on the November inaugural cruise were confronted by technological miracles; the designers of Quantum have been able to create a space where spectacular technical strides create a smooth cruise, rather than demand the focus of attention.

Take the online digital check-in. It needs a bit of time (you must create your own photo ID), but if you complete it, there is virtually nothing to do at embarkation — just collect a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wristband that functions as your ID/room key. You can also track your own bag to your stateroom via RIFD tags, and new guests of all ages quickly mastered the Royal IQ app, clustering around the kiosks or downloading it to set up their appointments, reservations and plans.

New onboard experiences are, of course, technology-driven and incredible feats, but they seem perfectly normal within the world that is Quantum. People simply accepted technological magic and got on with enjoying features such as the North Star gondola that looks enough like the London Eye to seem familiar. And the guests trying out the skydiving simulator merely remarked that it took a lot more effort than it appeared, instead of marveling at the technology that produced the experience.

One of the life-changing features is RCI’s new onboard Wi-Fi access, satisfyingly fast and priced at moderate rates, which is expected to attract many who would otherwise not cruise, such as the huge millennial market.

“For millennials, it’s not a real vacation experience unless they can share it,” said Bill Martin, chief information officer for Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Another popular smartship feature is the Robotic Bartenders at the Bionic Bar, but even those seemed eerily familiar (I couldn’t watch them without looking around to see the alien patrons from Star Wars’ famous cantina scene). The Robotic Bartenders B1-0 and N1-C are programmed to the movements of American Ballet Theater’s principal dancer, but their shapes somewhat resemble aquatic creatures. Drinks are ordered tableside with a tablet, mixed briskly by the robots and brought to the customers by a live waiter.

Two70, the performance space, is backed by six RoboScreens that add an extra troupe of performers or coalesce into one impressive image. The room’s Vistarama transforms floor-to-ceiling glass walls into very real backdrops, shown off in the performance of the Cirque-like spectacle “StarWater.” Although the effects are dramatic, the space somehow is very friendly, and several groups remained chatting and sipping drinks for an hour afterward the show.

When you hear about the 80-inch “virtual balcony” LED screens in the inside cabins, it sounds like a gimmick. But in fact, it opens up the whole space and gives occupants a true vision of the weather and surroundings. The smartship elements also have increased efficiency and environmental responsibility; computer modeling is used to reduce Quantum’s energy consumption, including efficient hull configuration, engine design and energy saving devices.

Even the crew’s superb service has been given a boost with tablets carrying custom apps that help them track guest preferences. And those same personal tablets enable the crew to Skype their families. They can now be a part of key occasions and see for themselves how their relatives are doing. The rest of the RCI crews will also be given these tablets without charge as the technology is installed across the fleet — 40,000 personal tablets in total.

“This isn’t about technology for its own sake,” one guest said, mirroring my own thoughts. “This is technology for making things better.”