Onboard Shanghai’s new Spectrum of the Seas

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It wasn’t what we expected. It was a public holiday and 4,400 people were on board mega liner Spectrum of the Seas.

We imagined crowded pool decks, long lines during lunch and all the inconveniences that come with cruising on a mini city. But our big question throughout the cruise was:  Where is everyone?

Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth, with speedy passport collection the day before the ship’s return.

Spectrum is a well-oiled machine −and a massive one at that. At 347 metres long and 135 feet wide, she’s slightly larger than both Anthem and Ovation of the Seas − her sister ships in the Quantum class.

At present, she’s also Asia’s largest and most expensive ship, with a building cost of USD 940 million.

Fittingly, given she’s homeporting in Shanghai, Spectrum is very much designed for the Chinese market. This is apparent in specialty dining venues such as Sichuan Red − a new restaurant featuring delicacies from China’s Sichuan province.

There’s also the debut of Star Moment − a glitzy karaoke venue where guests can belt out Mandarin and English tunes. The in-room TV offers Chinese movies and China-owned TV channels.

Nevertheless, Spectrum’s appeal is very much international. Ship decor is classy and minimalist, with modern paintings by artists from around the world.

We loved her layout and design. Though it did take a while to orientate ourselves, most dining places and facilities were extremely accessible from staterooms.

We were sailing on a round-trip from Singapore, so the bulk of guests were Singaporeans. But the cruise saw its fair share of guests from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. We also spotted numerous Indian, European, American and Chinese families.

Spectrum is best enjoyed with loved ones, family or close friends. We observed families everywhere letting loose and genuinely having a good time. There were birthday celebrations, family selfies and even an Indian wedding in the main dining room.

And this ship is made for multigenerational travel – the number one growth area in all travel sectors.

The Ultimate Family Suite is a two-level, 261-square-metre suite accommodating up to 11 guests, with three bedrooms, a slide to the living area and a sprawling recreation room for karaoke, movies and video games. Your extended family will love it.

But even if you opt for a stateroom, the ship itself has loads to see and do for guests of all ages. In fact, we didn’t get off for shore excursions at all, opting to stay on board to enjoy the many features.

And if you want to do absolutely nothing, there’s plenty of comfortable lounges to grab a cocktail and relax.

Here’s what we found:

Activities

Spectrum’s a ship for families, and the endless activities on offer are a testament to that. We unleashed our inner kid and tried as many of them as we could.

A new highlight is the Skypad, a virtual reality (VR) bungee trampoline experience. It’s good fun for kids, though we encountered some technical issues with the VR headsets and felt slightly motion sick afterwards.

Our personal favourites were the FlowRider surfing simulator and a laser tag battle over at the Seaplex. The indoor sporting complex also features a rotating schedule of activities like bumper cars, fencing, basketball and soccer.

We recommend making reservations in advance for favourites like the North Star observation pod and iFly skydiving simulator − those were completely booked out by the first evening.

Cabins

We stayed in an Ocean View Balcony cabin on Deck 8. Decked in a modern blue, beige and brown colour scheme, our roomy cabin was equipped with a comfy Royal King Bed, plenty of lighting, a long sofa, an in-room safe and ample storage space.

We did wish it came with more amenities though. Only two bars of soap, towels and a shampoo dispenser were provided. Bottled water on each sailing day would have been nice too − only one was given on the first evening.

Spectrum also includes Royal Caribbean’s first Suite Club, which we had a chance to tour. Located on Decks 13 through 16 at the ship’s forward end, the keycard-accessed enclave houses guests in Golden and Silver Suite accommodations.

In addition to a private elevator and exclusive dining and lounge venues, suite guests can also access a private outdoor balcony and a plush boutique for private shopping experiences.

Dining  

With 17 dining venues (including eight specialty restaurants), you’ll never go hungry. I confess that we ate practically half our bodyweight worth of food, and ended each day feeling more than satisfied.

For breakfast, make a beeline for The Cafe at Two70, which serves an array of breakfast cereals, fruit, pastries, bread and burritos. The bagels are delicious, as is the chilli con carne burrito.

Our experience at the main dining room was superb too, with attentive wait staff and timely food service. Unlike other Royal ships, Spectrum has an airy, grand main restaurant instead of four separate dining rooms.

While we found the fish options there a little dry and tough, the crab cake starter, steak with baked potato and beef Wellington are worth the calories. The apple pie with vanilla ice cream was a favourite with our dinner party as well.

Another highlight was specialty restaurant Jamie’s Italian. Besides the generous pasta portion, our group enjoyed the tasty starters like crispy polenta chips, and mouth-watering desserts such as lemon meringue cheesecake and raspberry rippled pavlova.

Entertainment

We went for shows on all three cruising nights, and were thoroughly blown away by the high production values and talent.

One of the highlights is The Silk Road held at entertainment venue Two70. An original production by Royal Caribbean, it centres around the culture, music and dance of countries like China, Persia and India. Featuring a mix of singers, contortionists, aerialists and dancers, the show impressed with lively performances all-round.

Over at the Royal Theatre, Showgirl! Past. Present. Future stunned with Broadway-worthy vocal performances, dazzling choreography and head-turning costumes. An acrobatic dance duo from Ukraine’s Got Talent also wowed the audience with their death-defying feats on the cruise’s final night.

Theatrical performances aside, you’ll encounter plenty of solid music acts just by wandering along the ship and poking your head into the various lounges. From Beatles cover bands to silent discos, on Spectrum of the Seas, the music and dancing never really stop.

 

The Verdict

Highs:  Comfortable cabins, quality food options and plenty of fun activities. The well-designed ship is very much the destination.

Lows: We were signed to a Wi-Fi package, but Wi-Fi was spotty throughout the trip. The Seaplex could have used a locker area, as guests had to leave their bags lying around during activities. Slow baggage delivery to rooms.

Best suited to: Multi-generational families, first-time cruisers and millennials travelling with friends.

 

Fact File

Cruise line: Royal Caribbean

Vessel: Spectrum of the Seas

Star rating: NYR

Passenger capacity: 5,622

Crew: 1,551

Passenger decks: 14

Entered service: 2019

Tonnage: 169, 379

Facilities: Eateries, bars and lounges, pools, surf and skydiving simulators, North Star, rock climbing wall, theatre, casino, spa and fitness centre, karaoke, library, medical centre, outdoor movie screen and kids’ club.

Bookings: See royalcaribbean.com.au