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New cruise ship a floating heaven for tech geeks

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas boasts satellite WiFi, robotic bartenders and virtual balconies that give windowless rooms a view of the ocean. Follow reporter Nick Barber on Twitter.

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Cruise ships aren't normally thought of as being high tech, but Royal Caribbean is hoping to change that with the Quantum of the Seas. That's what we're on in the middle of a very windy and cold Atlantic Ocean. We're going to be taking a look at robotic bartender, virtual balconies and high speed satellite WiFi.

MONTAGE break

The new ship is 348 meters long, which is longer than five Boeing 747 jumbo jets. It's 2100 guest rooms and all of the public spaces are blanked with connectivity from satellite WiFi provider O3B Networks. In our tests we got 4 megabits per second down, enough to stream HD video from Netflix. A day pass for the middle tier of service will cost passengers $40.

To date we've only been able to get the capacity utilization up to about two thirds of what we have on board. Which is very encouraging to us. Many of my communications officers were afraid that if we started giving it away, we'd max it out. Hasn't happened.

Quantum of the Seas has 600 megabits of network capacity. Royal Caribbean expects WiFi to contribute about 4% to its on board revenue and would like to expand the satellite Wifi across its fleet.

Cruising is hard to appreciate when you can't see the vast expanse of an open ocean. About 20% of the ships staterooms wouldn't normally have a view of the ocean because they're on the interior of the ship. Virtual balconies change that. Quantum has two 20-thousand dollar Red Epic cameras capturing 5K video of the ocean and streaming it to 80-inch LED HD TVs. The result is an almost lifelike balcony with sound in a room that would otherwise have four static walls

We use high speed cameras and high speed processing to get that image into the room within a few milliseconds because if it doesn't match the motion of the water because the picture doesn't match what you're looking at.


A drink from a robot while sailing on the ocean? Quantum is the only place you can get it. The Bionic Bar features two Kuka robots that can strain, muddle mix and shake drinks that users create on a tablet app. The robots can make about one drink a minute or about a thousand drinks a day.

Michael Lewis
Developer, Makr Shakr
This was a project that started a year and a half ago. It was a request from Google for their IO conference in May to show how new technology is changing the way we live and we came up with this.

The robot has 30 liquors and 21 mixers to make drinks. The most popular one when I was on aboard: a Long Island Iced Tea.

Quantum is sailing from New Jersey to the Caribbean. Its sister ship Anthem of the Seas will start sailing from the UK to the Mediterranean in 2015. On Quantum of the Seas in the Atlantic, Nick Barber, IDG News Service.