A cruise holiday has always played second fiddle in my vision of an ideal holiday. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that I have not been on one in more than 2 decades. However, that all changed recently after my experience on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. Stuck without a holiday since Nov 2019 and given that leisure travel is unlikely to resume in 2021, I bit the bullet and booked a Cruise to Nowhere. I paid approx. $1,400 for 2 adults and 1 child for a 5D4N stay in an Ocean View stateroom with balcony, exclusive of any add-ons. The child ticket was free due to an ongoing promotion and Cruise to Nowhere is not eligible under Singapore Rediscover Vouchers (SRV) campaign. To my pleasant surprise, even with the pandemic-enforced restrictions in place, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and made even more memorable as I also celebrated my birthday on international waters. Needless to say, it was Olympia’s first ever experience on a cruise and she was thrilled to bits. She kept asking to go back, never mind that she had to undergo 2 rounds of Covid-19 testing. Here is my review of Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas, a Cruise to Nowhere.
Tips On Planning Before The Trip
Having almost zero experience with a cruise holiday, it was a steep learning curve for me. However, I am the sort of person who enjoys planning holiday itineraries so I actually relished this specific challenge. Having clocked 1 experience under my belt, here are some tips that I am sharing so that you can also maximise your trip on Quantum of the Seas.
Tip #1: Change To Current Sailing To View Calendar of Activities On The RC Mobile App
We all probably know that downloading the Royal Caribbean mobile app is very helpful in planning our activities on the vessel. Amongst other things, it shows the deck plans as well as your calendar. However, the frustrating thing is that we do not know ahead of schedule what activities are available on the days that we are sailing and this complicates planning. Well that all changed when I learnt that it was possible to temporarily switch your itinerary to another cruise that is currently sailing. (Credit goes to another financial blogger who told me about this) I know this concept can be quite confusing so let me explain exactly what I did.
Step 1: I logged into Royal Caribbean mobile app and found that I was automatically synced to my actual cruise reservation, i.e. depart 4 Feb (Thur) and return 8 Feb (Mon)
Step 2: I searched for Quantum of the Seas that was currently sailing on the date of my research, i.e. depart 21 Jan (Thur) and return 25 Jan (Mon).
Step 3: I slowly scrolled through each day (1-5) to see what activities were available as shown in Diagram 2.
For holiday goers like me who plan travel itineraries to the last detail, this was a game-changer! I could now predict which activities were likely to take place on the days that I would actually be on board. Furthermore, this allowed me to narrow down the specific time slots of the entertainment shows that I wanted to watch. Do note that all shows staged on the venues of Royal Theatre, Two70 and Music Hall can only be booked on board after boarding and are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Therefore, your arrival time/boarding time absolutely matters.
Trust me, you will save plenty of time when you have this valuable information beforehand! This is especially the case if you are booked on a “heartlander” stateroom class like me and do not have the benefit of concierge doing the reservations on your behalf (only available to those on Sky Loft Suite and above).
Once you have successfully secured your prized seats to the shows, do turn up early to snag the best seats as they are all free-seating.
Tip #2: Beverage and Dining Packages Are Not Necessities
I discussed with my wife beforehand and we decided not to purchase any dining and beverage packages.
Firstly, the water served on a cruise ship is drinkable. To play it extra safe, you can also boil it before drinking it. As parents, we felt confident enough to serve boiled water from the cruise ship to our 2-year-old. We could also request for water from Café Promenade and Sorrentos which are opened till late. Furthermore, other basic drinks such as coffee, tea, milk and juice were also served during meal times. Therefore, we did not find it necessary to pay extra money (ranging from $10 to $65 per pax) for a Beverage/Drink Package on the Quantum of the Seas. If you like a glass of wine to go with your meal, then the alcohol package is worth considering.
Secondly, specialty dining venues do not come cheap. They range from a low of $31 to $130 per meal while unlimited passes go for S$135 per pax. As we have done our homework and found that the food pictures from the 11 Complimentary restaurants looked appetising on their own, we decided not to purchase dining packages. Well, turned out that appetising was a huge understatement because the food at the complimentary restaurants far exceeded my expectations.
Furthermore, we are not big eaters and are unlikely to extract maximum value from the speciality restaurants on board. Of course, for those who can and would like to, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to splurge on food and drinks while on a cruise holiday!
[Update: Some readers have feedbacked that the quality of the food at the complimentary restaurants have dropped in standards]
Tip #3: Purchase Your wifi on the Cruise Planner
If you are like me who cannot survive without internet, it would be wise to purchase your wifi on the cruise planner before departure. Do take note that the cut-off time for bookings via Cruise Planner is 11.50 Eastern Standard time, 2 days before your departure. VOOM Surf+ Stream packages range from 1 to 4 devices. If you want to save money, you can click the “forget wifi network” and toggle between your devices under the same internet package.
Tip #4: Take note of the restrictions on some activities
There are plenty of exciting activities on board which can fill your schedule completely. However, several restrictions apply and some of them affected my 2-year-old toddler as shown in Diagram 6.
On hindsight, I would have waited till at least Olympia is 3 years old so that she can at least try iFLY. But then again, not sure if the Cruise to Nowhere concept would still be available then?
Tip # 5: Purchase Travel Insurance for additional coverage
It is comforting to know that Royal Caribbean will provide a full refund (whether in cash or future cruise credit) if your travel party or close contacts test positive prior, at boarding terminal or during the cruise. This is in addition to covering onboard medical treatment in the event of Covid-19 related expenses. Nevertheless, being super kiasu, I have decided to purchase travel insurance policy from Starr via SingSaver. (It is running a $10 PayNow cash rebate till 31 Dec 2021)
It has a “cruise rider” that I added on top of the base policy so it obviously covers cruise to nowhere. It helps to cover for events such as:
- Having to cancel the trip (eg: my daughter falls sick which is a high probability event now that she is in preschool), bereavement in the family etc
- Medical expenses from personal accidents on the ship that are not related to Covid-19
- Lost luggage/travel documents etc
The other insurance policy that I did consider was from MSIG. Most importantly, I bought travel insurance plan for my family to give us some peace of mind.
Heartland Boy’s Experience on Quantum of the Seas
With all the pre-planning out of the way, here is a look at some of the activities we did on the Quantum of the Seas. Judging from her experience in school, we knew that Olympia would not be comfortable with being dropped off at Adventure Ocean. Despite missing out on that, we were able to keep her occupied with these kid-friendly activities on the cruise.
I spent some quality father-daughter time with Olympia making a holiday card while the mum got to soak in the hot jacuzzis located the adults-only Solarium.
The wife and Olympia enrolled in a cupcake decorating class at Jamie’s Italian restaurant. The end result was a cute looking cupcake to help celebrate my birthday. While they were busy decorating the cup cake, I managed to sneak in a session at the Flow Rider. It was also my first time boogieboarding and I am glad to be able to tick another item off the bucket list.
We were also at the swimming pool every day except on the first and last day as swimming was a good activity for Olympia to work off the additional calories from all the ice cream that she indulged on the cruise. This trip also exposed her to video games for the first time to the extent that we were not allowed to touch her controller. The arcade, located on the same deck as the bumper cars, was a slight let-down in my opinion as I had expected it to be bigger.
This cruise once again confirmed what I already know my whole life, i.e. I cannot dance to save my own life. Despite being born with two left feet, I tried my best to be a positive role model for Olympia. One noteworthy mention is Heartland Boy snagging the coveted gold medal at the Volleyball competition which hanged proudly on Olympia’s neck throughout the trip.
Finally, we ended each night with a different show. I was rewarded for my diligent planning as the family managed to watch all the 4 shows at our preferred time slots. The 10pm time slots were not suitable since they were way past Olympia’s bed time. That pretty much summed up our daily routine on Quantum of the Seas – activities for Olympia in the mornings, exercise in the afternoons ending with enthralling performances at night.
To break the routine, we ordered room service for breakfast on one of the mornings. We dined at the balcony under the full glare of the merciless sun. Despite the heat, it was a refreshing change of scenery, and definitely a breath-taking view that I wouldn’t mind getting accustomed to.
Overall, I am most satisfied with the hospitality of the staff and the food quality on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. Despite it being a cruise to nowhere, it felt like we were really away on an overseas vacation far away from Singapore. Our decision to prioritize a secation over a staycation also paid off handsomely. If the Covid-19 vaccine situation does not improve, we might even explore another cruise trip (maybe Genting World Dream) at the end of the year? That shows you how hooked we have become on cruising now.
P.S. On 12 May 2022, we sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas which is also a cruise to nowhere. Read my review of our experience in this blogpost.
This blog article is published on 14 Feb 2021. By the way, cruising makes for a perfect Valentine’s gift for your loved one especially when Royal Caribbean’s Cruise to Nowhere has been extended twice till end October 2021. You can book it via Klook to earn Klook credits (cash rebates). Alternatively, score 5% discount by booking your cruise to nowhere trip via HSBC credit card.
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