Quantum North StarThe cruise industry is abuzz with excitement about Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas. I wrote yesterday that during an interview with CNBC, cruise chairman Richard Fain called the giant ship "wonderful, exciting, fantastic and terrific." The CNBC reporter excitedly called the ship the "best and brightest."

The "smart ship" is how the cruise line pitched the $1,000,000,000 cruise ship. The media jumped aboard without first objectively testing the new ship. There are dozens of articles by travel publications endorsing the cruise line’s marketing image of the giant ship as the "most technologically advanced ship ever to sail."

Putting the marketing-hysteria aside, just how smart is the cruise ship?

Yes, the Quantum has the North Star viewing pod, the first iFly simulated sky-diving on a ship (which will keep the personal injury lawyers busy for a decade), another FlowRider simulated-surfing-device (a real money-maker considering the cost of private lessons), a robotic bartender and the first (old school) bumper cars at sea. But these are just gadgets designed for passenger fun. Same goes for the virtual balconies for the windowless interior cabins, for which the cruise line can now charge a premium.    

The internet connection on the Quantum is reportedly faster than other cruise ships, so the kids can download movies I suppose. But it’s still slower than land-based connectivity. Do you really want to Automatic Man Overboard see the kids turning into couch potatoes staring at their gaming devices during a cruise?

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean didn’t invest in technology to make the Quantum safer for the guests or the crew. In 2010, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, requiring the installation of automatic man-overboard devices. Other than Disney which reportedly has installed the safety devices, Royal Caribbean and the rest of the cruise industry refuse to invest the monies to utilize the technology, even though there is no question that the technology is available.

Automatic man-overboard systems are designed to immediately send a signal to the bridge and capture the image of the person going overboard so that prompt search and rescue measures can be undertaken. Royal Caribbean has experienced more than its share of passengers and crew going overboard in its fleet of ships. It needs to invest some of its tax-free bounty to install such safety systems. But instead it spent money on gee-whiz contraptions designed to WOW the public and increase profits. 

So as the Quantum passengers enjoy the iFly, FlowRider and North Star, drink gin-and-tonics served by robots, and gaze out of their simulated balconies, people will continue to disappear at sea. And the Quantum will continue to sail on without knowing, like the dumb ship that she is.  


Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the debate on our Facebook page.  

Photo Credits: Top – Royal Caribbean; bottom – CruelKev2’s blog         

  • Laurence Gore

    Is the virtual balcony in real time? If so, perhaps the inhabitants of those cabins will be able to view persons going overboard!

  • Christeen Rossington

    One would think it would be a huge asset for any ship to publicise Man Overboard Systems in place. Showing passengers Cruise Lines really do care for their safety.

  • Tony Weaver

    Mr. Jim Walker, you are a Wanker! Get a life instead of slagging off all these Cruise Lines!

  • Toney Weaver:

    Stick that nanny goat up your Khyber!

    Cheers . . .

  • Courtney Edmonds

    HAL is using man overboard detection systems.

  • John Goldsmith

    On the one hand I have to agree with Mr Walker regarding to Man Overboard System. The cost will actually be minimal compared to Bumper cars.
    On the other hand, any person who views this blog has, by now, realized that Mr. Walker has a bone to pick with the cruise industry. I’m fine with that as corporations need someone like Mr Walker, he does poke the pig on occasion, maybe a bit too much.
    Now I know that when I cruise, parachuting, surfing and bumper cars will not be on my bucket list. I can do that at home, and the huge RCC ships are not for me.
    But the industry is here and does provide a service. Like any business or service. Buyer beware.

  • Ron LaBarre

    I would think a “smart ship” would incorporate safety features for bridge watchstanders, engine room operations and watchstanders, etc. Just adding toys for passengers does not make it a “smart ship”. Innovations in ECDIS, radar displays, visibility, and maneuverability would be “smart”.

  • Jesse Cipollone

    Everyone is entitled to there opinion in this world. I have read every story on this site but these comments on this particular one are just appalling. Imagine loosing one of your loved ones on one of these monstrous sized ships. And knowing that they are not abiding by a law to protect there passengers due to cost, but we have fucking bumper cars at sea . REALLY. I have been on so many cruises but no more man. Protect the passengers that provide you with the 45 Billion dollar a year industry.