A Quantum leap takes place in cruising

A quantum leap in cruising will take place when RCCL’s Quantum of the Seas launches this autumn.

Being lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the new ship, Quantum of the Seas, at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg was something I wouldn’t necessarily have expected.  The new SMART ship technology might have been something that was under wraps (and if it all does work – and my money is on it working – it will make a real ‘splash’).  But perhaps even more entertaining was getting the opportunity to speak to Richard Fain, the CEO of the cruise line, himself.

Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, leads our tour of Quantum of the Seas
Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, leads our tour of Quantum of the Seas

To get the low down from the man at the top about all this new SMART technology on board was pretty special.

But as Richard also said, “Boys like their toys and this is one big toy I get to enjoy”.

Richard enjoys the dodgem car at the new Sea Plex
Richard enjoys the dodgem car at the new Sea Plex

Richard also explained that bookings are on the increase for the cruise line, with Quantum of the Seas and the next ship in line to be launched, Anthem of the Seas,  already securing 150,000 reservations.

The new SMART technology is all about a unique partnership with a company that makes masts for mobile phones named O3B (the other 3 billion – presumably those who do not .  Only this company has now branched out into satellites.  In total, there will be eight satellites that will give Quantum of the Seas, and then the entire fleet, virtually unlimited bandwidth for use by crew, passengers and the ship.

What does this mean?

  • Luggage can be tracked with your smart phone
  • Shows, speciality restaurants, spa treatments can be booked on line with your Cruise Planner
  • Documentation is all organised on-line so no check in queues when boarding.  Passengers can upload their own security photo, and receive digital boarding confirmations
  • Cabin doors will be opened with a wrist band. RFID WOWband wristbands, which require only a simple tap to quickly navigate the ship, make onboard purchases and serve as the room key
  • Two70° is a multi-level hang-out which will have virtual bands and musicians, as well as 270-degree panoramic sea views.

But some of the touches I like are, for instance, the virtual balconies designed for all the 375 inside state rooms.  They really do look realistic but are projected images from cameras based around the ship.  Cool!

Is it the Bahamas?  No, its a virtual balcony for an inside stateroom
Is it the Bahamas? No, its a virtual balcony for an inside stateroom

 

And, just for fun, they will have North Star.  This apparatus looks like a glass pod extracted from the London Eye and then put on a huge mechanical arm.  The pod will suspend guests 300 ft. above the ship and even out over the ocean.  Can’t wait to try that one!

Quantum of the Seas with North Star arm protruding
Quantum of the Seas with North Star arm protruding

 

Digital sculpture suspended from the ceiling
Digital sculpture suspended from the ceiling

And the first sky diving experience at sea, RipCord by ifly, is going to be a real hit with children and adventurous adults.  These simulators are already operating in Orlando but Quantum of the Seas will be the first ship to have anything like this.

Josh explaining the new RipCord by ifly sky dive simulator
Josh explaining the new RipCord by ifly sky dive simulator
The RipCord by ifly tube is ready for skydivers
The RipCord by ifly tube is ready for skydivers

 

But maybe the best idea of all is to have robotic bartenders at a Bionic Bar.  I didn’t get to see this feature but I can only imagine it will be a great addition to this Bionic ship!

Bionic Bar with Robot bartenders. Image provided by RCCL
Bionic Bar with Robot bartenders. Image provided by RCCL

With SMART Technology,  Bionic Bartenders, Virtual Musicians, bandwidth that allows you to stream your favourite films on your lap top, there will be a whole lot of on board tech going on.

To book go on line or contact your travel agent: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

 

 

The Rib Room serves it up spicy

Gleneagles and the Rib Room have something in common. The Ryder Cup.  

The spicy 'Suarez' was invented during the World Cup
The spicy ‘Suarez’ was invented during the World Cup

Although Gleneagles has the real deal, the Rib Room in Knightsbridge is not far behind with its very own Ryder Cup cocktail.  Currently under wraps, all will be revealed in a few days time.

I have never been to the Rib Room in the Jumeirah Hotel on Sloane Street. This time of year there are mainly wealthy middle easterners inhabiting the exclusive shops of this neighbourhood and a fair few of those are staying at this very nice hotel.

A barman at the Rib Room doing his thing
A barman at the Rib Room doing his thing

As I plop down in the cool darkened space, I have a quick look around. Glamorous but understated décor in dark wood, the Rib Room has an elegant dining area and has an astonishingly long bar.  The serving staff are impeccably dressed and assist me immediately.  In fact, it is such a beautiful day, I decide to move outdoors.  So far, so good.

This is the dessert plate being served at the Rib Room. Decadent.
This is the dessert plate being served at the Rib Room. Decadent.

Before trying something from the Rib Room’s wine list, I decide to slurp on a Suarez (created to go along with the World Cup festivities in June).  Meaty and spicy (with a ‘bite’?) I imagine it reflects this football player quite well!  A great drink for first thing in the morning…as an option other than a Bloody Mary.

Rib Room - bar - gin 01

Moving on, I tried the Rib Room’s wonderful Viognier which is a reasonable £8 a glass.  It had a delightful bouquet and was a smooth, creamy yet fruity white.  It was hard to make a choice from their list of over four hundred and fifty wines and champagnes on offer.

Cool cocktails at the Rib Room.
Cool cocktails at the Rib Room.

The Rib Room also has dozens of gin and bitters combinations and quite a few themed drinks as well.  The Drinking with Dickens includes the following offerings in honour of Mr Dickens visit to the U.S. in 1842 where he tried the American Invention:

Poison of choice at £15
While you wait Martin Miller’s Gin, Earl Grey syrup, Yellow Chartreuse. Made to make lose track of time. Served up
Help yourself Appleton Rum, Damson Gin, Crème de Cacao, Chocolate Bitters, Lemon Juice & Egg White. Tempting and refreshing rum sour twist. Served on the rocks
For love o’ liquor Patron XO Coffee, Baileys, Galliano, Coconut Cream. A creamy after-dinner indulgence. Served up
Just one more Bacardi White, Peach Liquor, Lemon Juice, Fresh Grapes and Sauvignon Blanc A sophisticated peach scented aperitif. Served up
The Venus Bombay Gin, Deviation Sweet Wine, Jasmine Tea, Elderflower Cordial, Peach Bitters A winning composition to stimulate the senses. Served up

One of my party tried the Adnam’s Cooper gin with lavender bitters on the rocks.  Very fragrant and you could definitely taste the lavender.  A bit like drinking perfume.  Slightly pricey at £16 but at least it is different.  I also tried one of the virgin cocktails; the Scented Cranberry Martini with
Cranberry juice, vanilla, citrus, orange flower water.  Simple and refreshing on a hot, summers’ day.

We also had the dessert platter.  Utterly divine!

The Rib Room Bar opening hours are:
11am to 12.30am (Mon-Sat)
12pm to 10.30pm (Sun & Bank Holidays)

The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place, London, SW1X 9PY

 

 

Sao Joao, Porto and the Do’uro River

Sao Joao fireworks in Porto from the Do'uro River.
Sao Joao fireworks in Porto from the Do’uro River.

“Look!” I shriek.  “The fireworks are flowing over the bridge like water!”  Bang, kerpow, splash!  This pyrotechnic display is not only colourful but very, very loud.

I had never seen such a spectacular fireworks display as the one I experienced in Porto to celebrate the festival of Sao Joao.  I couldn’t have had a better view point than being on board the MS Infante D’Enrique river vessel on the Do’uro River, jostling alongside all sorts of other fishing boats.

Do'uro River at night.
Do’uro River at night.

I was sailing with tour operator CroisiEurope on the Do’uro River 8 day itinerary and, by chance, the cruise began on the day of the famous St. John the Baptist Festival (23 June).  The festivities start at sundown with locals setting up long tables for sardine and pork dinners…all washed down with beer or wine.  It is an old medieval festival that has been going on for six hundred years but the partying is bang up to date…including massive tents with singers and bands lining the banks of the river.  And all ending with an enormous firework display.

View from the Mateus House in Vila Real
View from the Mateus House in Vila Real

Porto is a spectacular city during the day as well as at night, boasting ancient neighbourhoods full of narrow streets juxtaposed with enormous monuments, castles and cathedrals.  Cross over the spectacular Ponte D. Luis I (bridge) to the other side of the river for wineries and eateries, all offering the very famous Port wine made from the varietals that have been produced here for centuries.  In fact, the Do’uro River Valley, is the oldest wine appellation in the entire world.  And the city of Porto, along with the terraced vineyards all along the river were named an UNESCO world heritage site in 1996.

View from the Do'uro River
View from the Do’uro River

Two of the favourite places we visited along the Do’uro River was the Mateus House and Vila Real.  Vila Real is tiny, but interesting, and was the seat of a region that had many palatial manor houses. The manicured, landscaped gardens of the Mateus House were some of the more beautiful I have seen.  The orchards and vineyards were wonderful as well.

Two new friends, Cushla and Paul from New Zealand, exploring the manicured gardens of Mateus House
Two new friends, Cushla and Paul from New Zealand, exploring the manicured gardens of Mateus House

While in Vila Real my husband and I tried a pastry made from egg yolk in the shape of a rooster’s comb! I think it was named ovos moles.  Many of the country’s typical pastries were created in the monasteries during the Medieval period by nuns and monks and sold as a means of supplementing their incomes. The main ingredient for these pastries was egg yolks. Is it true that the medieval nuns used vast quantities of egg whites to stiffen their habits? If true, and not just myth, they may have then developed endless dessert recipes to use all those surplus yolks. The names of these desserts are usually related to monastic life or to the Catholic faith such as barriga de freira (nun’s belly), papos de anjo (angel’s chests), and toucinho do céu (bacon from heaven).

ovos moles, a dessert created and exclusively sold in Vila Real
ovos moles, a dessert created and exclusively sold in Vila Real

 

River cruise ship Infant D'Enrique
River cruise ship Infant D’Enrique

But the terraced vineyards are spectacular to view as you travel up the river.  I would thoroughly recommend a Do’uro River cruise especially for those with any interest in wine and history.

The River Do'uro
The River Do’uro

For more information www.visitportugal.com

To learn more about CroisiEurope river cruises visit www.croisieurope.co.uk