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Sailing the ‘SMART’ Ship By Inder Raj Ahluwalia

‘For the smoothest trip, sail the Smart Ship’. Well, I did! And don’t mind admitting that the experience was ‘smooth, smart, and fiendishly gratifying. I’m talking about my wild fling with Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, that’s making ‘waves’ literally and figuratively with its unprecedented levels of cutting –edge technology that amps up the vacation experience.

TECHNOLOGY TURBO CHARGE

It’s technology with the tightest twist, out on the high seas. Boatloads of bandwidth keep guests connected; easy-to-use systems expand guest choices and simplify schedules; RFID technology speeds the boarding process; and waiters take your orders digitally in gourmet restaurants. Innovation-rich, and with its technology enhancing guests’ experiences, the ship sports special features like virtual balconies that add a new dimension to stateroom comfort; and innovative, awesome dining and entertainment inputs. The bottom line is that it is a giant leap that will change cruise travel. It didn’t take me long to discover that the ship is one big high-tech dining and entertainment complex. They have all manner of ‘staterooms and suites with a view’ if I may call them that, including some with virtual balconies featuring external views. There’s the Royal Family Suite that accommodates eight passengers; the Sky Loft Suite for four passengers. And there are Junior Suites for four passengers.

IT’S SHOW TIME, FOLKS

There’s no business like show-business, and it is omnipresent on board. Casino Royale Music Hall sports an ornate interior and a classy look. But for me, the showpiece and revolutionary signature venue is Two70. So named because of its stunning 270-degree panoramic sea and destination views provided by vast, soaring floor-to-ceiling glass walls that span almost three decks high at the stern of the ship, and are a show-stopping and revolutionary step in ship design, Two70 seamlessly fuses entertainment and technology to create a transformative journey for guests.

FOOD IS THE FIRST LOVE

Being in total agreement with this wise adage, I did the ship’s culinary circuit rather well, and got a whiff of the exceptional onboard culinary experience, in the ship’s eateries – there are 18 restaurants and 7 bars. Piggy-backing on the innovation theme is their ‘Culinary Immersion Session’ that propagates what they call ‘dynamic dining’. This incorporates a special dining experience that creates new hospitality levels. The restaurants feature personality; guests get something special with more ala carte dining; there’s attention to detail; and technology is used to enhance guests’ experience and also to help the crew dish out more personalized service. The waiters take guests’ meal orders and stay on in the restaurant itself, informing the chefs about what’s required through use of their note pads. Each restaurant basks in its own special ambience. Windjammer is roughly the size of three tennis courts, features superb sea views and an endless variety of international cuisine. The world is on display in the myriad counters – ‘American Favorities’; ‘On The Mediterranean’; International Flavours; ‘Farm Fresh’; ‘Thirst Quencher’; Lite Bites’. Then there’s Chic. Huge, classy and trendy, Chic isn’t just a fine dining restaurant, it is a giant turf of culinary seduction. Try ‘New Style Caesar Salad’; or ‘Grilled Catalan Shrimp’ for appetisers. ‘Potato – Crusted Iceland Cod’ for entree; ‘Grilled Lamb TBone’ for the main course; and ‘Carrot Cake Trifle’ for dessert. Half the size of a football field, the classic The Grande is a fine dining restaurant that features a soothing, classy décor with dim lighting, soft music, and an ambience that takes you back to the 1920s. I’d advise you to go for Prawn Cocktail as an appetizer; Mediterranean Bouillabaisse as an entrée; Braised Lamb Shank for your main course; and Red Velvet Cheesecake for dessert. Having tasted blood, so to speak, I now did the full restaurant circuit. Silk is a Chinese restaurant that offers a social atmosphere. Name the cuisine, it is there. American Icon Grill provides a casual American experience. Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant is al fresco, and the food is authentic Italian and sinful. Entrée; salad; pork; cheese; then polenta; zucchini; and pork belly stuffed with vegetables comprises a meal of some substance. My stop at Vintages, the wine bar, lingers in my thoughts – thanks in main to the five hundred – odd wines served within its haloed precincts. Michaels Genuine Pub is exactly what pubs are. Wonderland is something special – imaginative food, a lovely décor, and special textures and flavours make this a rather special eatery indeed. Izumi is a typical Japanese restaurant renowned for its sushi. Chops Grille is the signature steakhouse of Royal Caribbean. And then there is the Bionic Bar where robots create your cocktails.

GUILTY AS CHARGED

If wracked by guilt with all this culinary indulgence, stretch your legs and take a jog up on the decks. Or try your hand at ‘cliff climbing’. Of course, with my penchant for ‘outsmarting’ all the ‘smarty-pants’, I skipped all pursuits that involved physical exercise, and just stuck to my perceived ‘basics’ of cruising, which are to have fun at every twist, at every corner, on every deck. It’s arguably the smartest thing to do on the world’s foremost ‘smart’ ship.

Author Bio

Inder Raj Ahluwalia is an internationally renowned travel and aviation journalist and author who has been recognised several times over as the ‘most – awarded’, ‘most – honoured’ and ‘best travel journalist in the world’.Ahluwalia has been writing on travel, tourism, hospitality, food, lifestyle and aviation for the past thirty – five years for leading Indian, and international newspapers and magazines, and covers some 50 countries, including his home base, India. He has lectured at several national and international forums, and has been part of ‘think tank’ activities involving tourism; heritage; environment; and aviation. He has also interviewed hundreds of tourism luminaries. Ahluwalia’s brilliant and distinguished writing career has been crowned by several international and national awards for travel writing. His impressive list of honours and awards includes the prestigious ‘MARK TWAIN TRAVEL JOURNALISM AWARD’ by the Heidelberg Convention and Visitors Bureau; the ‘MEDAILLE d’ OR du TOURISME’ (Gold Medal of Tourism) by the French Ministry of Tourism; a special ‘SWITZERLAND TOURISM’ award; and the BEST TRAVEL WRITIER IN INDIA trophy. He has also been nominated by the SINGAPORE TOURISM BOARD for ‘INTERNATIONAL HONOURS’ for his writing. He has also been recognised and nominated for diverse honours for his travel writing and talks, by several other tourism boards and private organisations.

Follow his articles : www.landandmyth.com

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