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xxHadleyxx

Quantum in Asia, a review

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Because I was so grateful for the bit of information that a few people shared here about their experiences on Quantum in Asia, I thought I'd pay it forward and share as well.  We disembarked yesterday, having taken the 21 March 7 night cruise to Japan out of Shanghai.

 

I am still in China and will be for the next couple of weeks, so my apologies in advance for updating sloooowly as time and internet connections allow.

 

So let's start with what does "culturally enriching cruise" mean?  It is a nice way of saying that the line is not marketing to westerners wanting to see Asia while living in a Western bubble onboard ship.  RCI is marketing to the local Chinese population and adapting much onboard for them.  You WILL be a minority (if you are a westerner) and should not expect to have all the same things you always do.  Out sailing was about 15% non Chinese with the largest groups (in order) being: Australian, Russian, American and Indian.  Plus 4 Germany that we found, one large group from Mexico, a smaller one from Brazil and one from Venezuela.  I am sure ther ewere others we missed seeing out and about or did not hear about from crew.  We were told, repeatedly by crew, that this was FAR more Westerners than that had seen in MANY sailings---3-4 times more than normal.

Think about those cruises that have a high percentage of Spanish speakers (or others, but that seems most common) and many activities are translated into Spanish (maybe there are two Love and Marriage shows, etc) but not everything.  Sort of a bit like that---except that the food is different as well and while some Western choices are always around---most food is not what you are used to.

If having one of the night time entertainers on the mainstage speak only Mandarin, or having limited Western food options in the MDR is going to upset you---this is not the cruise for you.  There were several otherwise truly lovely Aussies on our sailing who complained a great deal about this and felt truly slighted to not have their language and food taste catered to.  Please do not be those westerners---thanks.  I will go through areas in more specifics as to exactly what is different as the review goes on.

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Getting to the Port:

 

(I am not going into Visas, both because I have a ten year visa and do not know how the 72 hour transit one works, and because that information seems readily available elsewhere).

 

We arrived late Tuesday morning from an overnight flight for a cruise leaving Thursday.  We had prebooked the Toy Story Hotel at Disneyland Shanghai.  We used the official taxi stand at the airport and took a taxi there for about 10 euro.  We bought a half day ticket for Tuesday (from 15:00-to close) and a full day for Wednesday.  We lucked into vary low crowds and had a lovely time at the parks.

 

Thursday morning, we had staff get us a taxi to the port.  We had printed out the directions to the port from RCI which were in Mandarin.  I really wish RCI would provide just the address without directions from the airport---everyone seemed to think we wanted to be taken ONLY by that route, swinging back by the airport first,  sigh.  But you really need to have where you wanted printed for sure.  All told the cab ride was about 26€.

 

Note taxis only take cash.

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Thank you for doing this, I'll be eagerly following. We have booked Quantum from Singapore next Feb and it's so hard to find info about it. Your timing is perfect!

 

Julie

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Just now, kernow said:

Thank you for doing this, I'll be eagerly following. We have booked Quantum from Singapore next Feb and it's so hard to find info about it. Your timing is perfect!

Realize that it will be quite a different demographic, ship and feel by that time.

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4 minutes ago, Biker19 said:

Realize that it will be quite a different demographic, ship and feel by that time.

Yes, I know that but still nice to have some current info. I'm sure all the Americans who are currently sailing on Symphony still enjoyed the European reviews before she arrived in Florida. Quantum gets so little mention on these  boards it will be good to have something.☺️

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We arrived at the port around 10:30 a.m.  and it was VERY busy (I really do not know when it no longer was to suggest a less busy arrival time).  Luggage handlers were RIGHT there at the taxi drop off ready to quite quickly whisk bags away.  I strongly suggest having all bags pre tagged and anything you want for boarding (carry on, passports, etc) with you in the front of the taxi and keep your hand on it the whole time to be sure nothing is accidentally "checked" as bags and gone before you realize.  Do a quick count of bags to be sure everything left the taxi (our driver actually had us look in the trunk carefully to be sure nothing was missed) and then let the porters move---they clearly have a system.

 

 

What you will need for check in:

1. Passports with Visas.

2. PRINTED set sail passes (we had the digital copies on our phones--which is great everywhere else.  The Chinese were less than impressed by this, but did let us through to the check in desk with them, where we waited a bit extra to have new ones printed out for us.  We HAD to have printed copies.  Also (and onboard we were told this is a new policy of only about a month) KEEP THE SET SAIL PASS PRINT OUTS; YOU NEED THEM TO DISEMBARK AT THE END OF THE CRUISE!!!  No one told us this until 2 days before the cruise ended--by which point we had tossed ours (as had many of us used to sailing in other areas of the world).  Technically getting them reprinted onboard costs 3$ per person--though we were not charged.

3. Departure card (other half from your arrival by flight).  If you lost that or filled it in wrong (like my husband who put his departure vessel as our flight out of China at the end of the whole trip, instead of the Quantum, they have more before you get to the check in counters and you can fill in a new one).

4. Japan tourist card (you'll be given one to fill in as you make your way towards check in)

 

There was a line for gold and silver VIPs (a special program sold in the Asian market, which sounds similar to The Key) AND Crown and Anchor members. I was concentrating on getting where i needed to be and am not positive which status levels could  use the line--it may well have been all of the Gold and higher.  I know we are Diamond Plus and were let into every one of the various VIP queues, which made boarding much, much easier.  If you are Diamond PLus, even if it is not labled (mostly it is not) you should head towards any line labled for Gold VIP or Gold Program and you will need to show that, then you are ushered in beyond ropes and skip so many waits.  I think this applies to Diamond as well, though I am not 100 % positive.

 

There was only one place we had to wait behind more than (at most) 5 people.  It was right after the check in counter, when we were directed to head towards immigration: they were only letting in small waves of people into the immigration lines at a time, and the holding area in the meantime was a crush of people (mostly, at that early point in the morning some form of VIP and all convinced they should be ahead of everyone else there waiting lol).  We stood crammed in for about 5 minutes before they let in a new wave, at which point we were still behind the barrier, but the first ones held back so at least only pushed from behind rather than into others as well.  5 minutes later were were through and the lines separated again, we were in the VIP lane again and talking to immigration officers in moments (since my passport photo a few years ago I have gotten some highlights and added a pink streak to my hair---I got questioned a fair amount about this relatively minor change, just an FYI).

 

The last line before boarding was to hand over your passport and Japanese entry form to be kept until after our final stop in Japan.  Keep your set sail pass, and your photocopy of your passport (another thing we did not know we needed and had to ask for onboard---required for entry into Japan).

 

 

By 11:10 we were on board and heading to Windjammer to get some lunch before the masses of people in the regular lines crowded onto the ship (I have never been so grateful for status as I was on this cruise).

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Bringing back fond memories of my trip on Quantum.  Which by the way was one of my favorites to date because it was the first time, we were the "foreigners" on a ship.  I'm now going on the Spectrum, from Singapore to Shanghai, and know the mixture of passengers will be more extensive, but still, it is culturally enriching, and I'm so looking forward to it.

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Just now, Joseph2017China said:

Bringing back fond memories of my trip on Quantum.  Which by the way was one of my favorites to date because it was the first time, we were the "foreigners" on a ship.  I'm now going on the Spectrum, from Singapore to Shanghai, and know the mixture of passengers will be more extensive, but still, it is culturally enriching, and I'm so looking forward to it.

Your posts about your trip were SO helpful to me trying to plan for this one---thanks

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(by the way, fear not, I will not drone on in this level of detail about everything on the trip 😂  I am trying to focus on things which are different from what people may be used to in order to help in planning.-I am sorry if I get too long winded)

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Feel free to drone on! I love really detailed reviews:classic_biggrin:

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1 hour ago, xxHadleyxx said:

Your posts about your trip were SO helpful to me trying to plan for this one---thanks

Glad it helped.  Glad you are posting also because there is such low amounts of information on trips such as this.  Many people are missing out on adventures for fears of the unknown.  But Shanghai and Asia is like all big cities in the USA or Europe.  Full of history and fun, and not much difference except for the language. 

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45 minutes ago, Joseph2017China said:

Glad it helped.  Glad you are posting also because there is such low amounts of information on trips such as this.  Many people are missing out on adventures for fears of the unknown.  But Shanghai and Asia is like all big cities in the USA or Europe.  Full of history and fun, and not much difference except for the language. 

…And the pollution.

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16 hours ago, The_Big_M said:

…And the pollution.

you know, we've probably just gotten very lucky on the days that we are here---but it hasn't been bad at all.  I have asthma and was really worried about it, and had more issues with air quality in Tokyo than I have had here in Shanghai thus far (much to my happy surprise).

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We'd read (I think from Josh) that a dining package was a wise choice---that most crowding was in the MDR.  And my husband was keen to try Wonderland---having missed it the one time we have previously sailed on a ship with it.

we tried and tried to prebook a package online:  an Ultimate Dining Package for the excellent price of 186 would be in the planner---but it proved impossible to add to the cart and just gave us an error message that we had to boo onboard.  Calling gave the same result.  

So, the plan was to get some lunch, then find someone selling packages and see what could be done.  As it turned out, we did not need to find anyone---they found us.

 

While eating we were first approached by someone from bar staff about drink packages.  My husband cut him off and said he could save him time as we just had two questions:

1. Could only one person in the cabin purchase the package (DH drinks, I rarely do; I had a sum total of three alcoholic beverages on the ship and asked that all three be made weak.  I don't like coffee either).  That answer was yes, without hesitation.

2. Was there a 30% Diamond Plus discount?  He had to go check with his manager on that---the answer was yes (this was also printed on our letter when we got into our stateroom later).  

So by the time we were done with the salads drink package was bought with no effort on our part.  Note that the freestyle machines are not used on Quantum in Asia.  They sit there with signs saying they are not in use and looking very sad.

 

Not much later someone came around to explain the special dining packages being offered to Westerners only.  (I do actually think they had a different package for Chinese guests which included different items and a set meal at Izumi--though that is only a guess based on seeing lots of groups getting the exact same things at various places throughout the cruise).

There was a 3, 4 or 6 night options (no ultimate, no 5 night).  ONLY the 6 night included Wonderland (which we were advised is NOT the same as on other ships--it has been redone for the Asian market with a menu set by a Michelin starred chef out of Bejing.  I am afraid I have forgotten the costs of the smaller packages, but the 6 night package ran $170 per person.  The man selling knew the ship's schedule well and we made bookings based on his recommendations (except we insisted on Hot Pot for the first night, which he had tried to dissuade us from.  He did not push hard--just seemed incredulous that we knew what it was and told us most westerners do not want it, which is likely accurate).  He recommended using one meal for lunch on the day we docked on Osaka (our first port in Japan) to avoid the chaos of everyone else trying to eat at once and get off the ship as quickly as possible.  That was great advice.

 

So, we were able to book all of our packages and individual meals while having our lunch (and did not feel pressured, I think they would have moved on quickly has we been uninterested).  Easy peasy.  I'll note it was also pretty easy to change one reservation the next morning (having learned it conflicted with when the concierge booked the Starwater show for us).

 

 

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This seems like a good time to explain/review the dining onboard--what with all the dining plan talk.

 

I am afraid that I cannot tell you anything about breakfast---we are not breakfast eaters nor early risers---never saw breakfast anywhere.  I can tell you that in addition to the VIP gold and silver guests and those booked in suites, Diamond and higher Crown and Anchor members were able to eat breakfast in the Solarium Bistro.

 

We had read, and then were told by many crew members, that showing up to the MDR or Windjammer half an hour or more after it opens would greatly reduce crowding---so we never did show up near opening time and never saw major crowds.  Waits at the MDR were not more than 2-3 minutes to be seated.  Windjammer was crowded for lunch on the one day we headed there, but we found a table on our first walk through and there were not any lines to speak of to fill our plates.  

 

WINDJAMMER: there was a main island of Chinese specialties and one of "international food" which tended to have a bit of everything, including more chinese.  There was always a burger and hotdog station and pasta.  I'd say 75% of what was on offer was aimed at Chinese tastes, but there was always a few items that were familiar for westerners.  The quality was quite good both times we ate up there---fresh, hot, etc.  

 

MDRs:  I don't know how they do things on other Quantum ships---but on this one the menu is the same in each of the four dining rooms, and which one you are seated in depends on how many people are there when you arrive (online i had made reservations for various ones on various nights, thinking i needed to----as often as not whichever I had reserved was not even being used when I got there and clearly those reservations meant nothing.  Dinner is sort of fixed and sort of my-time.  If you have "early dining" you can show up anytime from 4:45 until the time on the compass (which was usually 5:30).  If you have late you can do the same from 6:30 until the printed time (normally 8:00).  Yes----4:45 dining!  That's almost still lunch time in my world lol

on late port nights (we had 2) the MDRs were just open straight through from 4:45 until about 9:00.

 

I am going to try to attach photos of some menus in the next post---I hope I can make that work.  There were a variety of western and Asian (more Asian) starters, entrees and desserts.  The Asian items often had a bit of western feel to them (lots of chicken breast meat, for example).  The "standard" choice of pasta or plain chicken breast, etc is not there.  I am picky.  I always found something.  With the exception of one wilted salad, the 2 dinners and 4 lunches we had in the MDR were good.  Great service, good food, tasty, etc.  A waiter even kindly turned the philly cheesesteak sandwich into one with chicken instead of steak for me one day at lunch. 

We got a giggle about always being seated in a far corner of a dining room in what we termed "westerner Siberia" instead of mixed in with everyone else.  No idea why we were all corralled together, but that was fine.  We only ate in the MDR twice for dinner and had different menus each time.  I think that changed nightly, but am not positive.  For lunch there were only two menus which alternated.

 

Other included options were:

Sorrentos pizza--which was open until 3:00 a.m. nightly with the same pizza you've always enjoyed there (plus some Aisian soups)

little sandwiches and pastries in Cafe Promenade

a much smaller buffet with a tend towards sandwiches and salads in the back of two70 (we did not eat there, but walked through a couple of times, both times they had fresh carved roast beef sandwhiches on offer)

and the Dog House serving hot dogs back in Seaplex.

 

For low cost, there were cupcakes and cakes, etc in the coffee shop across from Sorrentos, Room service which had both western and asian offerings (7.95 delivery fee per order--same as RCI other places in the world) and a noddle and tea shop up on deck near the outdoor pool (looks like that might have been a Johnny Rockets originally?).  That one is very much for the Chinese clientele onboard.

 

I am going to try to post those menus now and I'll get to the specialty places in my next post, hopefully later today or tomorrow.

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Posted (edited)

Here is a sample of one of the dinner menus:menu.jpg

Edited by xxHadleyxx

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Posted (edited)

and here is one more of the MDR  menus (lunch was similar but with fewer options by about half)

menu2.jpg

Edited by xxHadleyxx

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Thank you for doing this! We are moving to Hong Kong next year and plan on doing a lot of cruises in Asia. It's good to be prepared and know what we can expect!

Jackie

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You mentioned about the concierge booking a show for you. Do we have to have reservations for all shows and did you make them all onboard or could you do it in the planner? There is nothing at all currently showing in our planner (although our cruise isn't until Feb so maybe too early).

Thanks

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4 hours ago, kernow said:

You mentioned about the concierge booking a show for you. Do we have to have reservations for all shows and did you make them all onboard or could you do it in the planner? There is nothing at all currently showing in our planner (although our cruise isn't until Feb so maybe too early).

Thanks

There was never anything to reserve ahead of time online.  Only one show, the Starwater show held in Two70, takes or requires reservations.  Those are made onboard.  I think it was the first sea day (day 2) and there was a two hour window that morning to stop by a table and pick up tickets for one of the performances.  It is in a relatively small venue and they run it several times over multiple days to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it.

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Alright, so moving onto the specialty dining:

 

The British Pub on board has been renamed Harp and Horn and serves a very Chinese meal in the evenings---the main things everyone seems to get there is a large, whole grilled fish in some sort of broth----my husband has had this type of meal on work trips to China, love lots of different foods, and he struggles to get through eating it.  My picky self has zero interest in this.  So we skipped this location (the crew also recommended skipping it)---but being so highly visible, it was packed with Chinese passengers enjoying a family style meal pretty much every night.

 

At night time the Solarium Bistro becomes a Hot Pot eatery, with an upcharge of $32 (it is included as an option on the dining plans).  My husband loves hot pot and we chose this for our first night on board (I was guessing that it would be quiet on night one, as westerners were not likely to go there and most of the Chinese were first time cruisers who probably would not find it so quickly.  This proved to be the case---we were one of 3 couples in the place that night, by midweek it was full every time we walked by).

 

It was funny walking in.  The crew member out front stopped us to tell us it was an upcharge, and when we said we knew and had a reservation, he looked concerned and asked if we knew what Hot Pot is.  I gather they have precious few Westerners there (something the waitress also mentioned).  Personally, I really recommend you give it a try as it is fun, something a bit different and a nice chance to try out this kind of dining in a setting where the waitstaff is more than happy to explain things to you and answer questions.  I know I will feel much more comfortable going to a business dinner of hot pot next week, having already done it on the ship.

 

So, the way it works is that each person has a pot of watery soup with tomato and some spice in it, over a burner, in front of their place at the table.  You head up to the buffet area and create your own sauce from several mix in items (soy sauce, peanut sauce, oyster sauce, cilantro, chilis, garlic, etc) which you'll use for dipping (the waitress is happy to go up with you and recommend a good combination and you can always change next trip up).  You then fill a salad plate with noodles and veggies which you want to cook in your hot pot (lots of greens, sprouts, fungi, tofu, etc).

Brought directly to the table is a platter of raw meats also meant to be cooked directly in your little hot pot:  thin sliced beef and lamb, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, squid....

Then you just cook 1-2 items at time in your little pot (it cooks fast), bring it out and eat it dipped in sauce.  If you struggle with chop sticks you'll be offered a strainer and tongs for fishing things out of the soup  and some flatware to eat with.

 

on the salad buffet were whole eggs. I asked if it was meant to boil the egg whole, or crack it into the broth to cook.  I was told both ways are common.  I boiled mine whole, right at the end (I did not like the idea of cooking other items in water that had already had egg shell in it).

 

At the end, many people eat the broth/soup.

 

Finally, head up to the dessert buffet for warm chocolate cake, ice creams and sorbets, fresh fruit, etc.

 

This was a great meal.  I got enough to eat even though the only meat from the list I'd touch is tilapia, and a less picky person could easily leave well over stuffed.  everything was tasty and fresh and it was an experience to be sure!

 

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The next night we dined at Izumi.  Izumi was my favourite RCI dining venue until they got rid of chicken hot rocks.  My husband loves a couple of their sushi rolls and it is still his favourite, so we normally go there every trip.  Many ships have been kind enough to make up a chicken dish of some sort for me, or let me order chicken teriyaki from the kids' menu, etc.

 

Izumi on Quantum is located on deck 5, with most of the seating out in the hallway and/or along the rail overlooking the shopping below.  Chairs were mostly hard molded orange  plastic.  Whereas most of the Izumi's feel like an upscale restruarant, this one feels like a mall food court eatery.  A complete FAIL on atmosphere.

 

The menu on Quantum is still a la cart, offering appetizers, sushi, sashimi (including a big family bowl over ice which I have only seen on this sailing and which was on signs, not the main menu), 3 noodle dishes (all with pork) and dessert.  with the dining plan each person gets a credit of 40 dollars towards dinner.  There was no flexibility at all from the kitchen in working with me to get something I will eat (I do not eat pork).  They would not even bring me a bowl of plain rice to go with the double order of vegetable tempura appetizer which i was making into my meal.

Meanwhile, ironically enough, my husband says it was the worst sushi he's ever had from Izumi.  It did not taste fresh---more like it had been made up hours ahead of time, if not weeks ahead and frozen.  and several of the components of his favourite rolls (things which were still in the descriptions on the menu) were not there.  we usually spend more than our allotment at Izumi and pay extra.  In this case, we had nearly $20 go unused---my husband just could not bring himself to order a second round of sushi as it wasn't good.  

 

All in all for us, this Izumi was:

 service: ok to good

atmosphere: terrible

food quality: mediocre

 

That said, it was packed most evenings, at least for the early dining crowd, with many groups ordering that bowl of sashimi over ice.

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