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Quantum has robot bartenders, blazing-fast broadband, RFID for luggage tracking

Anne Kalosh
Tech guru David Pogue and Royal Caribbean's Richard Fain previewed Quantum's technology dazzlers at an event inside Meyer Werft's covered building dock II with Anthem of the Seas grand blocks as the backdrop
Quantum of the Seas will have unprecedented bandwidth to enable photo sharing and streaming video and nifty apps to ease scheduling while harnessing radio-frequency identification (RFID) to open stateroom doors and enable travelers to track their luggage. In a newly announced bar, robots will mix the drinks.

These and other technology dazzlers were revealed Monday afternoon during a Royal Caribbean shipyard presentation—streamed live from Meyer Werft in Papenburg—by Royal Caribbean chairman and ceo Richard Fain with David Pogue, host of PBS's 'NOVA scienceNOW' and Yahoo Tech founder.

'We were determined to take the best advances in modern technology, turn them into shipboard wows and take the frustration out of the vacation. This ship’s combination of ease and flexibility would make a yoga instructor proud,' Fain quipped.

Starting with check-in, Royal Caribbean will enable passengers to generate boarding documents at home online, upload their own identification photo and receive digital boarding credentials. The company's goal is that when passengers arrive at the pier, they can go from sidewalk to ship in 10 minutes with no check-in counters, no forms to fill out and no lines. 

They'll be able to track luggage in real time on their smartphones thanks to curbside tagging with RFID technology at drop-off, and monitor their bags’ progress en route to the stateroom. At departure, the process is reversed.   

'On this ship we have Line Busters 2.0,' Fain said, because Quantum improves on Oasis of the Seas' advances for trimming queues. 'Our objective is that nobody should ever have to spend time waiting in line.'

RFID 'WOWband' wristbands need only a tap to quickly navigate the ship, make on-board purchases, serve as the room key—which never demagnetizes—and more. (If passengers prefer a SeaPass keycard, they can have that instead, Fain said.)

New apps put travelers in control of their schedule. 'Cruise Planner' allows passengers to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins. And 'Royal iQ,' available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship, includes a calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program and allows travelers to keep in touch with each other and home via phone and text capabilities.

Royal Caribbean International's Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, evp operations, said these advances allow travelers to tailor everything about their cruise ahead of time so they can start enjoying their vacation the minute they step on board. In essence, she said, 'They get back the first day of their cruise.'

There will be a quantum leap in Internet speed thanks to unprecedented bandwidth provided by satellites launched with tech partner O3b Networks. With speeds that match fast broadband connections onshore, cruisers can be online 24/7 using any personal device they bring on board. They can watch streaming video, check email, share images on social media and have face-to-face video conversations—at prices lower than what it costs today aboard other ships, according to Fain. Different pricing packages will be available.

Quantum’s connectivity makes it possible for one of the SeaPods in SeaPlex to become a live global video gaming suite where passengers can use Xbox Live and compete with other gamers worldwide. 

Technology also powers surprise-and-delight elements on Quantum of the Seas.

In the new Bionic Bar, patrons will place orders using tablets then watch robot bartenders mixing their cocktails.  

Robots also drive the six agile 'Roboscreens' in the Two70°, the enormous aft lounge with 270-degree views from triple-deck-high windows. The Roboscreens will stage surprise performances, creating scenes while soaring and twisting solo, or uniting as one. Passengers will also experience Vistarama, floor-to-ceiling glass walls that transform into an expansive ambient surface that projects any scene, real or imagined, including the multidimensional performance spectacle 'Starwater.'

And Quantum of the Seas crew will use technology to help customize service. Custom apps will enable crew to keep better track of passengers' tastes and preferences such as gluten-free dining or early show seating.

'It's an inspiring reveal,' John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Leisure Group and, told Seatrade Insider from Meyer Werft's massive building dock II, where grand blocks of Quantum's sister, Anthem of the Seas, served as the backdrop to the event. 'This is pretty cool. They're taking the next step to make cruising more customer-centered, with smart check-in and so forth.'