Spectrum of the Seas, the 25th ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, is the world’s first Quantum Ultra ship. Based in Shanghai, it will offer roundtrip itineraries to Japan, and is the most expensive vessel purpose-built for the Chinese market.
The glittering naming ceremony, held off the coast of Shanghai this month, had Chinese travel agents and media agog at the two godparents --- Chinese film and pop stars, Xiaoming Huang and Angelababy, who are also husband and wife and akin to royalty in their own country.
Slightly bigger than Quantum-class ships, including Ovation of the Seas, which is based in Australia every summer, the 169,377-GRT Spectrum of the Seas has many of the same features, along with a few extras. Here are some of the differences offered by this new ship.
1. Restaurants showcase popular local flavours.
Sichuan Red: Specialising in Sichuan cuisine, which is known for its lashings of garlic, chilli and Sichuan pepper, this is Royal Caribbean’s nod to authentic Chinese food. Located on the Royal Esplanade on Deck 4, the restaurant has an elegant feel with banquette and table-and-chair dining, under lotus-shaped light-fittings. It’s a great place to share dishes, especially the huge Alaskan crab and the famous Kung Pao chicken, with your family or friends. While touted as hot and spicy, the delicious dishes won’t faze Australians who are used to eating a variety of Asian cuisines. Pricing is a la carte.
Hot Pot: This speciality eatery behind the Windjammer Café on Deck 14 is unique to Royal Caribbean ships cruising in Asia. Hot Pot (which is also the name of a style of cooking, called Steamboat in some Chinese communities) is more casual spot for sharing food. Two diners, sitting opposite each other, share a bubbling pot of stock, into which they place raw ingredients such as meats, seafood and vegetables, and then cook it themselves. It’s a fun and delicious way to spend a couple of hours.
Teppanyaki: Chefs at this Japanese restaurant cook meals on an iron cooktop, known as a teppan, while putting on a performance to boot. Also known as ‘hibachi’, this style of cooking sometimes takes place in Royal Caribbean’s Izumi restaurant, but this is the line’s first self-styled teppanyaki venue.
Noodle Bar: While there are noodles bars on other Quantum ships, this one is in the expanded Grand Windjammer Marketplace. It features fresh noodles and chef demonstrations.
Leaf and Bean: Head here for traditional Chinese teas, modern bubble teas and the unusual Cheese Tea (green or black tea, with or without milk, topped with a foamy layer of milk and cream cheese and sprinkled with salt).
Splashaway Cafe: This brightly-coloured casual eatery adjacent to the kids’ pool area (Splashaway Bay) on Deck 14, serves breakfast and lunch.
Main Dining Room: Spectrum’s MDR is one big restaurant spread over three levels, with seating for 1,844 people, rather than Ovation’s four separate restaurants with different names. This is a beautiful space, with a stunning gold sculpture dangling between floors.
2. Entertainment includes new shows and karaoke.
Three new productions, with plenty of acrobatic and special effects, have been designed for the Chinese market.
Showgirl! Past. Present. Future: Staged in the Royal Theatre is a dance spectacular of Las Vegas proportions with a twist. Girls wearing bejewelled and beaded body suits topped with feathered head-wear dance with men in white top hats and tails, and later through a series of costume and set changes morph into can-can girls in Paris. According to Nick Weir, the line’s Vice President of Entertainment, there are more girls on stage on Spectrum than in the famous Moulin Rouge. The final dance sequence is a high-wire, leather-clad frolic and the best of the three production shows.
Silk Road: An extravaganza that tells the story of the famous route through dance, drumming, aerial tricks and an amazing contortionist, performed in the fantastic two-level Two70 theatre at the aft of decks 5 and 6.
Effectors: Royal Caribbean’s take on cartoon superheros uses four Effectors (a play on the term ‘special effects’) to represent a type of effect such as Pixel or Reverb, who are out to save the world through song, dance and drones.
Sing Out Loud: A night out on an Asian ship is not complete without karaoke. Star Moment, the first ‘mega karaoke bar’ to debut on Royal Caribbean’s ships, is chicly decorated with silver furniture.
3. Sky Pad is the craziest ride onboard.
Spectrum of the Seas features all the fun attractions of Ovation and Quantum but has added Sky Pad, which combines inverse bungee with trampolining. At the aft of Deck 16, the action takes place in a big, yellow, space-age ball where passengers in harnesses jump on trampolines while wearing virtual reality headsets. (This ride is also found on Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas.)
4. These suites are among the best at sea.
Ultimate Family Suite: This is the only one of its kind – a two-storey, colourful mini-theme park suite that sleeps 11. It’s large enough to fit mum, dad, the kids and grandparents. Children (and adults) will love the orange slide connecting both floors, the floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, air-hockey table, movie cinema, popcorn-making machine and wraparound balcony with a hot tub.
Exclusive Suite Club: Another first is the separate area for suite guests on Decks 13 to 16, accessed via a private elevator. There are 36 Golden and 106 Silver suites; each category with its own dining room and lounge. Gold guests have a private balcony at the bow of the ship; The Boutique is for private shopping and wine tastings; and the Golden Room is for VIP high-rollers.
5. Retail therapy comes with labels.
The Chinese are well-known for their love of designer brands, as is reflected in the shops onboard. Spectrum is the first Royal ship to carry Marc Jacobs and Titoni of Switzerland. Other stores include Tiffany’s and Bvlgari (also found on Quantum of the Seas).