Royal Caribbean Quantum Class cruise review: What to expect in 2023
Royal Caribbean Cruises offers a good value for money proposition. Comfortable rooms and great facilities are supported by world-class food, entertainment, staff and routes. I just wish it did more for big families.
Royal Caribbean Quantum Class cruise review
- Departures: Brisbane International Cruise Terminal and Sydney International Passenger Terminal
- Season: October to April
- Rooms: Staterooms (Interior, Balcony, Oceanview), Suites
- Food: Included alongside basic drinks (tap water, lemonade, coffee, tea, juice)
- Cost: From $480 to $4300 depending on room type and cruise length.
- Drinks Package: US$69 to US$89
- Review Details: In order to get an insight into the upcoming Australian cruise season, I travelled on the Odyssey of the Seas, the same Quantum-class ship coming to Sydney and Brisbane, during the European summer. I spent 9-days exploring the Mediterranean Sea in a balcony Stateroom.
- Itinerary: Rome-Napoli-At Sea-Santorini-Rhodes-Ephesus-Mykonos-Crete-At Sea-Rome
- Book: Royal Caribbean cruises
My review, in short:
- My star rating: ★★★★
- Costs: My room was ~$1400 (9-nights, Stateroom balcony), which represents good value compared to doing this trip by plane. Drinks are "resort prices." Extras, like excursions and spa treatments, hit the wallet hard.
- Excursions: Upcoming departures from Sydney and Brisbane explore the East Coast, the South Pacific and New Zealand. Typical destinations include Mystery Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Wellington, Auckland, Tahiti, French Polynesia and Hawaii.
- Decor: Rooms are functional, not glamorous. But the themed regions of the ship are beautifully done.
- Check-in and staff: A little cumbersome, mostly due to non-Royal Caribbean staff on the docks. Guest services queues too long. But overall, staff are fantastic.
- The room: Balcony is a lovely perk, but not necessary. Beds are comfortable, there's plenty of storage, and I had no issues with temperature or noise. Not well suited to families of 5 and over.
- Food: The included food is excellent, but then premium dining steps up to world-class. Drink packages marginal in terms of value.
- Entertainment: Diverse mix of shows, live singers, DJs and ad hoc events (belly-flop competition?). App makes it easy to schedule your day.
- Facilities: Even after 9 days, I still hadn't got to every facility and experience the ship had to offer. Everything I tried I enjoyed.
- Comfortable, quiet, climate-controlled rooms
- Incredible food quality
- Staff and ship design are fantastic
- Entertainment and facilities provide plenty to do
- Guest Services too slow
- Extras and drinks package can get expensive
- Difficult to get seat by pool on "at sea" days
- Not optimised for families of 5 or more
If you're seeking proof that we're finally "living with COVID" and that life is getting back to normal, then it can be seen in the return of the cruise industry. As an island nation, cruises have been a huge part of the Australian travel landscape for decades. The good news is, by late 2022, it was business as usual for cruise liners.
For Royal Caribbean, that will begin with the arrival of 2 Quantum-class ships to Australian shores. Out of Sydney, we'll have the Ovation of the Seas kicking off events from 29 October. And on 1 November, for the first time, the Quantum of the Seas will depart from Queensland's new Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.
Are you thinking about it? I wanted to get a taste of what to expect ahead of Royal Caribbean's return to Australia. As such, I jumped on the Odyssey of the Seas and toured the Mediterranean for 9 days. While it's not the exact same ship that's coming to Australia, it's the same class and the design, experiences, food, rooms, shows and fit-out are more or less identical.
In this Royal Caribbean cruise review, I'm going to give you an idea of what to anticipate if you decide to opt for the Ovation of the Seas or Quantum of the Seas. You may also find some value in my first-time cruiser tips and in the video above, a full tour of the ship can be watched.
Price and availability
The range of prices vary greatly depending on the length of the cruise and the number of destinations visited. The base interior staterooms can also be upgraded to ocean view (as in a window) or balcony in increments of around $150 per person. Then there are suites that offer apartment-style living for around 4 times the price of an interior stateroom.
As a baseline, if you intend to get out into the South Pacific, you can expect to spend between $1,000 and $1,400 per person for 10 or so days.
But there's also no shortage of cruise deals you will come across, which can save you some serious money. The risk of waiting is, of course, availability. In my searches as of June 2022, a lot of rooms were starting to sell out on many of the initial cruises starting at the end of 2022 and early 2023.
Royal Caribbean stateroom review
Unless you're bumping up to the suites, which are amazing in both opulence and price, you'll most likely be looking at a stateroom. They're all designed pretty much the same, with 2 notable variants. The view (or lack thereof) and the location.
I was in a balcony room overlooking the ocean on floor 13, right below the pool deck. I was also at the bow, close to the elevators.
Is it worth paying for a view?
Shortly I will talk about the location, but in regards to paying extra for a view, obviously it's lovely having a balcony. I found myself sleeping at night with the door open so I could feel the cool breeze and hear the waves. And I would sit out there most mornings to see the sun rise. But in the fair dinkum stakes, I only spent around 10% of my awake time in the room. There's just so much to do on the ship that hanging out in your room just isn't that appealing.
With that in mind, I think travellers on a budget or families needing multiple rooms don't lose out by getting an ocean view or even an interior room to save money. A balcony is fantastic but not necessary for a great stay.
I was really happy with the room design. They're thin, but long. The bed and, in particular, the pillows are very comfortable, with a large TV directly opposite. Bedside tables are very small, but there are 2 large cupboards and overhead storage as well. You can keep most of your stuff off the ground easily.
A stiff couch is available, which in some cabins can fold out into a sofa bed for families. I didn't find a use for it given I was travelling solo. When I wanted to relax in my room I was more interested in sitting on the spacious balcony. The 2 outdoor chairs and table may not work well with families, but for parents or couples, it's a great place to hang out.
A desk and fridge round out the main features, with the former sporting an array of power and USB points for charging. Just note that you will likely need a US to AU adaptor.
The bathroom is pretty tight. You can't fit 2 people in there at once unless one of you is in the shower. At least the shower outlet is high enough to fit tall buggers like me (6-foot, 4-inches) and the pressure was solid. I liked the large mirror and multiple towel hanging points too.
My room was always at a pleasant temperature. And I couldn't hear the people on either side.
Royal Caribbean room location tips
My negatives for the rooms relate more to location. If you are mid-ship, you can expect a fair walk to get anywhere. If you're at an end, as I was, you can expect a very long walk to half the of the activities. But a short one to the other half.
I'd also avoid floor 13, which lives up to its unlucky number. When staff are cleaning the decks late at night, there can be some loud persistent bangs above that wake you up. Plus, if you have a balcony room in the middle of floor 13, pillars obscure the view.
My pick for a room location would be near the elevators at the stern, a few floors down from Windjammer. Maybe floor 10 or 11.
There is one other negative. I'm also very disappointed with the lack of options for larger families. I've got 3 kids and despite the website saying there are some rooms that do facilitate 5, they seem hard to come by. You can't even search for 5 on the Royal Caribbean website without having to choose 2 rooms, which quickly makes the price untenable. And I couldn't spot them on deck maps.
Getting around and crowds
If you haven't been on a cruise this size before, you'll be surprised by how big Royal Caribbean can get. Even compared to the likes of P&O, Carnival and Princess.
It's a lot bigger than it looks and it already appears gargantuan from the outside. That's because of the sheer number of floors and the amount of criss-crossing you do walking between activities and eateries. I was easily hitting 10,000 steps a day without getting off the ship!
With a capacity that exceeds 5,000 guests and 2,000 staff, there's a lot of humanity aboard the Quantum of the Seas and the Ovation of the Seas. Yet getting around isn't too difficult. Large stairs can be found at both ends of the ship for access to any floor. The forward and rear elevators have numerous shafts ready to shift traffic.
Once you get the lay of the land, you'll discover multiple floors, such as the top deck, where you can traverse with ease to get around. But be warned that spots around the pool can be tough to get during "at sea" days. The staff didn't police towel droppers that "bagsed a spot" with a towel at 8am and then disappeared for half a day.
I also wasn't impressed with Guest Services. Not the staff, just the process. The queue was almost always about an hour long no matter when I went there. And people ahead would spend long stints talking through their problems. If you have to go a couple of times as I did, that's huge chunks of your holiday wasted.
Guest Services needs more staff and ideally a fast queue option for people with quick-fix issues. For example, has my phone been handed in? Or, I lost my room card – can I have another?
Food and drinks on Royal Caribbean
I was blown away by the quality of the food available on the Royal Caribbean Cruises. To oversimplify, you've got your included food and drinks and then premium dining options.
There are "included" eateries found all across the ship. Available pretty much whenever you feel like it is Windjammer, which provides a buffet experience that changes shape for all 3 meals. It's a huge cut above what you might get in a Bali resort buffet, with a varied and delicious array of foods. You've also got good coffee, basic drinks and made-to-order fare like roasts and omelettes.
You've also got the main dining hall, which offers sit-down dining. Again, fantastic food quality with a menu that shifts around each day to give you something new to think about. Other eateries I enjoyed that are also on Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas included Sorrento's, which gives you tasty pizza well into the night and Café Two70, which does sandwiches and healthier options.
At bars and eateries, you can grab tap water, juice, flavoured milk, coffee, tea and lemonade at no extra cost.
The premium dining options cost a very pretty penny, but it's world-class. I personally loved the themed Wonderland restaurant, but they were all fantastic if you have the money to spend extra on such things. But you don't need to do so to eat really well.
The drinks packages are harder to justify. Drinks are expensive on board even though they look reasonable at a glance to Aussies. That's because those prices are in US dollars. So, you're looking at around AUD$12 for a beer. And between $13 and $17 for a cocktail. That can add up quick on a hot summer's day.
However, the deluxe drinking package can be up to AUD$130 a day (it can vary down to $90-ish). How many beers can you put away day after day? For me it's a bit on the steep side, although to be fair, comparable to your typical resort.
Royal Caribbean facilities
One of the big shocks for me when I explored the Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas was just how much there is to do. It's nuts. And all the good stuff can be found on Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas too.
I'll be straight up and say that I didn't do this cruise with my kids, so I can't offer much in the way of valuable feedback on things like day care in this Royal Caribbean cruise review. Hopefully, I can add more on that in the future. But obviously, there's a lot for them on deck. For younger kids there is a full waterpark, but no waterworks on this class. There is also a couple of smallish pools and a number of spas.
Towards the back of the boat, you have a harnessed trampoline experience, which adults use, but is definitely better suited for kids. Then there is the surf wave Freerider, which is great fun. Rock climbing and indoor skydiving can also be found here, although the latter does cost extra.
Next door, you'll find a large indoor sports complex, foosball, billiards, Xbox consoles and arcade machines. There's table tennis, basketball and soccer. Various other scheduled activities like dancing and skating happen here and there are even dodgem cars.
Elsewhere on the boat, you'll find a very well-provisioned gym with great views, an amazing solarium protected from the elements, a day spa, full-fledged casino, a bar manned by robots, kids disco and the North Star. The latter lifts you high above the vessel for a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding world.
Cost of activities
Most of this stuff is included, with only a few things gated off at extra costs. What is disappointing is how much those things do cost. Getting a massage in the day spa is several hundred dollars. Entering the Texas Hold'em Poker tournament was a $100 buy-in and there's no normal option like $20.
The leap from included to not-included can be so much that it's out of the reach for most travellers. Perhaps giving guests a one-time discounted rate before bumping up to "rich people only" prices would be better?
There's a stack of shows available to watch on Quantum-class Royal Caribbean cruise ships like the Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas. They all unfold in short bursts and at multiple times, generally in that 40- to 60-minute range. They are mostly found in the Royal Theatre, which is a traditional in design, or the futuristic Two70. The latter is home to some incredible moving screens that tie into the production in mesmerising ways.
I didn't see every show, but what I did get to was enjoyable. Great production values and performances and a decent range. Some were pure musicals and others were more acrobatic. There were magic shows too. I wasn't awfully excited about the shows before I got on the Odyssey of the Seas, but ended up going out of my way to see what I could.
In addition, there are random occurrences that happen around the ship. Live singers in the English Pub, daily trivia and like-minded games, live bands and DJs playing up in the pool areas. At one point, I even saw a pianist going up and down the lifts! There are even more outrageous affairs like a best bellyflop competition.
Needless to say, the entertainment was topnotch. My only real complaint is that the speakers on the top deck didn't match the quality of the performers. Poor tinny and distorted sound, which let down the afternoon poolside bands.
Thankfully, the very well-made Royal Caribbean app gives you a pretty clear run-down of everything that is happening. It allows you to build out your own calendar of activities so you know what's on next. You can also reserve seating at shows, monitor your bill and book extras (like tours) through it. A breakdown of safety procedures, health commitments and excursion guides are there as well.
I also like that the app can double as your key card to get you in and out of your room with a tap of the phone.
If there was one part of my experience in the Mediterranean that was unique to that trip, it was the excursions. At least in terms of what you see and do. However, in terms of the process, I can give you an accurate run-down in this Royal Caribbean cruise review.
Excursions or day trips allow you to get off the Ovation of the Seas or the Quantum of the Seas at a dock and to explore a destination. You can get off as soon as the doors open and you need to be back on board by a set time that afternoon. Sadly, that time is before dark, so you don't get to experience the nightlife on these locations.
There are tour options you can book through Royal Caribbean for the most seamless experience. You literally meet your group on the boat and can be walked off to transportation, guided the whole day and returned promptly for departure. But you can also just get off and do your own thing, either exploring on foot, hiring a car or organising a tour yourself.
It's as simple as walking off the ship and tapping your room card. Then you're free. Just note that upon return, you will have your bag X-rayed and go through a metal detector, so smuggling booze may not be the best option. Also, the staff in the docks aren't from Royal Caribbean and the standard drops swiftly.
Royal Caribbean staff are excellent
Speaking of staff, I feel it's important to mention the impact they have on your holiday in this Royal Caribbean cruise review. They stand out for all the right reasons. A mix of nationalities, everyone I dealt with and came across shared positivity and joy I haven't experienced anywhere else before. I don't know how they stay so upbeat, to be honest. It feels genuine.
I frequently had interesting, enjoyable chats with the staff. Every time you turn around, someone is seemingly there to ask you if you need anything or to help you out. But best of all, Royal Caribbean seems to be happy for the staff to be who they are. It wasn't like watching robots under strict behaviour instructions. Personalities were free to shine through and the cruise was all the better for it.
For example, there was a young lady at the Windjammer who met people every morning and instructed them to wash their hands. She would dance for everyone who went past and greeted each person individually with a smile. Everyone! For 9 days!
I was really impressed overall, but in peak periods the bars didn't have the staff to meet drink demand. I think having a staff member dedicated to easy drinks (i.e. not cocktails) that operates like a "12 items or less" queue at the supermarket could solve this.
As an Australian, I very much appreciated that tipping isn't expected.
Royal Caribbean cruise review verdict
Prior to going on the Odyssey of the Seas, I didn't have much interest in doing a cruise. The idea of being stuck on a boat without the option to get off felt like a recipe for boredom. But I'll admit now I was wrong. I'd happily go on another cruise again, including the Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas vessels on their way to Australia in 2022.
The food was great, the entertainment engaging, the facilities topnotch and the ease of it all hard to beat. Just waking up in the morning, looking out the window and realising you're already in another country and didn't have to do anything to get there is a pretty compelling argument in itself.
I just wish they could make it easier for me to bring a family of 5 to the experience.
Disclaimer: I was invited on this cruise as a guest of Royal Caribbean. Opinions and photographs are my own. All editorial content is created independently by Finder.