Cruising. It’s a subject that divides my friends and I. While they have never cruised before I have a number of times. So while I know how absolutely amazing it is, they are not convinced…..yet. Recently I was invited to attend the naming ceremony and inaugural sailing of Spectrum of The Seas in Shanghai. This new ship in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Ultra Class has been created with the Asian market in mind, for passengers who want to explore the wonders of the east while sailing in luxury. Spectrum is the largest and most expensive ship in Asia. The vessel is 1,139 feet long and houses 16 guest decks with a host of activities for passengers. We spent a few days on the ship touring the ship and trying out the newest additions to this impressive vessel.
If you’re thinking that the rooms on board must be small to fit everything else on the ship (people have asked me this time and time again), think again! We stayed in a balcony stateroom, complete with our very own unspoiled view across the vast ocean. Each room is carefully designed to include everything you’ll need for your stay, without taking up too much space. Our double bed, complete with crisp white linen, was more than big enough for two adults (and I toss and turn and my bed mate didn’t complain once!), and the couch can also turn into a bed if needed. There’s a television if you want to have a chill evening with room service and a movie. You also use this interactive TV to see what events are happening on the ship. As a devout tea drinking Irish woman, tea and coffee making facilities are essential in my book (you’d be surprised at the amount of places that don’t have this), and Royal Caribbean doesn’t miss a trick here. Being able to enjoying a cup of tea and sit on the balcony was pure bliss, and a definite pinch me moment as we sailed through Asia on this remarkable ship.
While on board we viewed the luxury suites, and this is when things got really serious. The rooms are nothing short of spectacular. Spectrum is home to Royal Caribbean’s new exclusive Gold & Silver Suites. Guests staying here can avail of private restaurants, lounges, private outdoors spacing including pools and sun loungers. Each room could be a swanky New York City apartment, or something you would spy in a magazine. Tastefully decorated, sea views and balconies there’s nothing more you could ask for.
The Ultimate Family Suite
This suite deserves a review of its own. Truly living up to its name sake it is the ultimate accommodation for the entire family. Sleeping up to 11 people the suite features a number of bedrooms, each with private en-suite and seating areas, a large balcony with dining space and hot tub! There’s a movie room complete with a popcorn maker and comfy chairs. Kids (and even the adults) will love the giant Connect-Four, air hockey table and the trio of electronic consoles; a Playstation, X-Box and Nintendo DS…..if my nephew’s seen these they would never leave the room!
Guests in The Ultimate Family Suite even have their own Royal Genie who will look after their every wish, arranging exclusive experiences for them.
Dining is one of the best parts of any holiday and can really make your travels memorable. Unless you’ve been on a Royal Caribbean cruise you wouldn’t believe the dining options on board (it’s quite astounding when you think about how many choices there are…..and you’re in the middle of the ocean!).
When you book your cruise you’ll receive a complimentary dining pass. This means you’ll have access to the Main Dining Room, the Windjammer, Sorrento’s Pizzeria, Splashaway Café, Seaplex Dog House and the Noodle Bar. Everything you need is in these dining spaces; the Windjammer is a self-service restaurant that’s open most of the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The variety of food is endless; there’s sumptuous seafood, Asian delights, freshly made salads, bread of every shape and size, an entire section dedicated to desserts, and that’s just the beginning. Anything you eat on board is made fresh and the quality is amazing, but if you’re a food connoisseur you have to check out the speciality dining options.
Celebrating a special occasion or fancy a little theatrics with your dinner? If so Wonderland by Dadong. This Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant serves food designed by renowned Chinese chef Dong Zhenxiang.
Sichuan Red is a new restaurant designed especially for Spectrum and is full of Asian flavours from the Sichuan province of China. Japanese food lovers will no doubt visit Teppanyaki where you can dine in the traditional teppanyaki style and see the chefs expertly cook your meal right before your eyes.
If you fancy some traditional Chinese cuisine then I recommend spending an evening in Hot Pot. We dined here on our second night on-board Spectrum of the Seas and it will be an evening I won’t forget. Hot pot is a traditional style of Chinese dining, where you share a large steaming pot of flavoured broth and cook a plethora of ingredients in the bubbling mixture. First we chose our vegetables and noodles from a colourful buffet and our waiters brought seafood and meats to our table. I really enjoyed mixing up my ingredients and trying different flavour combinations throughout the meal. Our group was full of laughter and excitement as we shared ingredients, took inspiration from our neighbour’s hot pots and pretended to be master chefs for an evening.
No trip on Spectrum on the Seas is complete without paying a visit to the Bionic Bar. This fully robotic bar is filled with every tipple imaginable, and is just so much fun to use. Using an i-Pad you pick your ingredients and two robotic arms will magically mix your concoction á la Tome Cruise in Cocktail! Fun Fact: They based the arms on the movements of a dancer from the New York City Ballet, so they’re surprisingly graceful.
Things to do
Take a trip on The North Star. This glass capsule takes you over 300 feet above the ocean and gives you a 360 degree view across the sea. Have you always wanted to go sky diving but can’t face jumping from a plane? Head over to RipCord by iFly for a skydiving simulation that will leave you invigorated and energised. This was probably my favourite activity on-board. It was just mind blowing to be skydiving in the middle of the ocean, and is an experience I won’t ever forget. Thrill seekers will be kept on their toes with the many experiences on-board Spectrum. Jump on the Seaplex where you will don a virtual reality headset and be carried away to another world with a selection of VR games.
Swing by the arcade and try your hand at old school games. Unleash your inner Katniss Everdeen and try out your archery skills or get competitive with ping pong and fencing. Relieve your childhood with a ride on the bumper cars (yes there’s really bumper cars at sea, in fact there’s everything you need at sea!), or be part of the winning team at Laser Tag.
Each evening enjoy West-End style shows complete with live music, colourful costumes and talented performers. By day Two70 is a venue where guests can soak up 270 degree panoramic views through floor to ceiling windows (there’s also a café here with sandwiches, salads, cakes, coffee and more! So grab some grub and get a window seat and enjoy the scenery). By night the space is transformed into a theatre with videos projected onto the windows, acrobatics, singing and dancing. Here we saw Silk Road. This show was created for Spectrum and was just outstanding. The artistry and the performers are world class. Over in the Royal Theatre there are nightly shows that wouldn’t be out of place on Broadway!
For those seeking a relaxing retreat a visit to the spa is a must. Allow yourself to be primed and pampered into a state of bliss. If you’re looking to keep fit as you sail the seas there are yoga classes, a state of the art gym and a running/walking track around the ship where you can get your daily steps done while taking in the ocean views.
The list of amenities on-board Spectrum seem endless! There are three pools, a music hall with live bands (we danced the night away to The Beatles), an outdoor movie screen, pool bars, outdoor cafés, DIY ice-cream stations, a Vegas style casino and even a bar dedicated solely to karaoke.
Gone are the days when cruising was seen to be a holiday for the older generations. While they would no doubt feel at home on the ship there is a distinctly young feel on-board. It’s an entertainment smorgasbord of fun that can rival any on land holiday you can think of. If you’re not keen on the idea of being on a ship (I know some of you would prefer dry land) trust me, you’ll never once even think you’re sailing on the open seas! The ship is insanely massive, and it’s more like a small city than a ship. Everything you could ever want is on-board, and the staff are so accommodating they’ll find you whatever you need. If you’ve been thinking about a cruise let this be the extra push you need to book that dream holiday, and if a cruise was the furthest thing from your mind take a leap of fate and get on-board ASAP. To really understand the concept of cruising you have to experience it first hand, and there’s no better cruise line to do that with than Royal Caribbean. I’ve sailed with other companies before and they were great, but nobody does cruising like Royal Caribbean. They have that extra touch of class and a “je ne sais quoi” that makes a trip with them one you’ll remember for a lifetime.
TRAVEL ARTICLE BY SINEAD SMYTH