As I am writing these lines, the Quantum of the Seas is on its way back to the port of Shanghai, China, after eight days spent exploring the southeast coast of Japan. Hiroshima, Yokohama (Tokyo) and Kobe were the ports from which my Japanese adventure begun.
THE WOW FACTOR
First and foremost, the ship itself offers a spectacular travel experience, one of the most comfortable, modern and innovative experiences when it comes to cruises. We are now at the tenth cruise and so far we have experienced every class of the Royal Caribbean, yet the Quantum exceeds all expectations. The ship has 16 decks, a total capacity of 4,905 people, and a crew of over 1,800, being the second largest ship in the world. Especially for the Quantum class, the American company launched a satellite into the orbit, which offers access to high speed WiFi for the passengers and the crew (this feature has now been extended to almost half of the Royal Caribbean fleet). 1GB transfers can be easily downloaded in just 10 minutes, this way your office emergencies are no longer a problem.
The staterooms are even more spacious, cleverly divided, with many storage areas. The entertainment possibilities are diverse. You can learn to surf at FlowRider, play Superman in the iFly simulator, (which is identical to the one the astronauts use), but the Quantum of the Seas jewel is the North Star glass capsule, which takes you 100 meters above the ship. The view from the North Star is absolutely breathtaking.
The Quantum also features a basketball court, a shopping area designed like a mall, a spa center, and a gym larger than many of the posh places in Bucharest.
Besides the Royal Theatre (with a capacity of 3000 seats and cabaret shows every evening), another technological innovation is the Two 70, a giant amphitheater at the stern of the ship, which can be reconfigured from a stylish lounge into a performance venue by means of huge 4K screens. The “Star Water” show is performed here almost every night, which can be easily compared to the hi-tech performances that you can only see in Las Vegas.
Last but not least, the culinary experiences offered by this ship are comparable to those of the most sophisticated 5-star hotels. The dinners enjoyed at the Quantum’s specialty restaurants easily rival those at the Ritz, Fairmont or Oberoi. Overall, you can chose between 18 restaurants, 11 of which are included in the cruise price, where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. But the icing on the cake is its 7 specialty restaurants.
Jamie’s Italian is owned by the legendary chef Jamie Oliver, Wonderland immerses you in the imaginary universe of Alice and serves molecular cuisine, Izumi will appeal to those who love Japanese food, and Chops Grille specializes in steaks and grill.
Aboard the ship, Romania is represented with honor by three persons, managers of the most important restaurants. Daniel Blăgoi will explain all about the organic ingredients used in the preparation of the dishes served at Jamie’s Italian, George Şerbănescu will recommend you the specialties on the Izumi menu and at the Grand, Georgia Alexis will greet you with a smile on her face and is always ready to tell you stories about her adventures in the Caribbean’s and Trinidad.
HIROSHIMA AND THE MIYAJIMA ISLAND
The first and the most emotional stop was in Hiroshima, the city completely destroyed by the blast of the first atomic bomb, detonated there on the morning of 6 August 1944. A visit to the Peace Memorial Park museum is painful and overwhelming, but also compulsory. Also, visiting this place helps you to better understand the Japanese people. Strong-willed and hardworking, they have proven over time that they are capable of overcoming any catastrophe. Mystical and rural Japan reveals itself on the Miyanjima Island (located near Hiroshima and part of the World Heritage).
Also known as the Island Temple, Miyajima is renowned for the famous Itsukushima Shrine and its Otorii gate, which is 16 meters high and is located about 200 meters offshore. At the base of the Misen, one can discover a very special temple, the DAISHO-in, which combines the Buddhist influence with the traditional Shinto faith.
Our adventure continued with a stop in the Yokohama port, from where a high-speed train takes you to Tokyo in just 35 minutes. You will soon discover that for the Japanese the train represents an institution in itself and also a source of national pride, and that all stations are larger than the Bucharest’s North Station. Almost everyone takes the train or the subway to get to their offices, whilst wearing genuine Hermes handbags and Armani suits.
In Tokyo, your first destination should be the famous Shibuya intersection, which the movie enthusiasts may remember from “Lost in Translation”, directed by Sofia Ford Coppola. Also known as “The Scramble”, it’s the most crowded intersection in the world.
You’ll know that this is true if you stop for a coffee at the Starbucks café across the street, where you can have a “front seat” to watch the swarm of people outside.
The Meiji Shrine is nearby, which is one of the most important temples in Japan (visited every January 1st by more than 3 million people).
Harajuku is also just a stone’s throw away, and a stroll along this district’s streets will remind you of Gwen Stefani’s videos.
The coolest part of the town is around the Tokyo Station, a hub through which 6 million people pass on a daily basis. The famous Imperial Palace and the Sky Scrapers district are also located in the surrounding area.
For the best views, you can stop for a green tea at the Aman Hotel lobby, located on the 33rd floor. Sadly, the time available for exploring the metropolis was not very generous; however, it was just enough so as to label Tokyo as a “cool” and “vibrant” city, where we have seen some of the best-dressed people in the world. Someday, we will definitely return in this city, even for just a week.
The third and last stop of the ship in Japan was in the Kobe port, from which it only takes 20 minutes to reach Osaka on a high-speed train. This city, which is the second largest in Japan, is entirely different from Tokyo. A lot nosier and slightly more chaotic, Osaka has, nevertheless, a particular kind of charm.
The Osaka Palace is only impressive from the outside (I would only recommend its interior to the history enthusiasts), and the temples here do have a special charm (although they do not compare to the temples on the Miyajima Island), but it is here that you’ll discover the “electronic Japan”, the home of robots and Manga characters.
As soon as the dusk settles, the city is flooded by colored lights, and the Nabma center starts to resemble the famous Times Square in New York.