Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s latest and greatest, is a mega ship with mega activities to match; from simulators to outdoor adventures, along with 18 places to fuel up and enjoy high quality food and drink. You have to strategize carefully to experience it all!
Test driving a new cruise ship may sound like a plum assignment but it is actually quite challenging. I was on the new Anthem of the Seas for just 42 hours, at least some of which had to be dedicated to sleep, and there was a ton of stuff to see and experience.
Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest and largest ship, has 18 restaurants, a flying simulator, a 300 foot sky ride, bumper cars and a Bionic Bar with robot bartenders.
Oh, there are also shows, a casino, shopping, a spa, a huge fitness center with exercise classes, a pool with a retractable roof, hot tubs, and a giant TV screen over the outdoor pool where I was able to catch some of the Jets game as we pulled out of Bayonne, New Jersey. If that’s not enough, there is a rock climbing wall, full size basketball court that also doubles as a roller asking rink and surfing simulator.
My not quite two day boondoggle, which I took with my sister, brought us out into international waters (so those who wanted to gamble could) and gave us up close view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline as we sailed away.
Our first order of business was that Bionic Bar. This is not for craft cocktail connoisseurs; it is where you swill gaudily colorful drinks you order by iPad. Forgot having to catch a bartender’s eye. Here, you can see how long the wait is for your drink and watch as the robots grab liquid and shake their creations.
Just for comparison, we went to the gastropub, which featured craft beers and delicious cocktails like a rosemary infused Manhattan and bourbon flights. In a bid to upgrade its food, Royal Caribbean partnered with celebrity chefs, and Michael Schwartz, the chef at the pub, offers vegetarian bar snacks like falafel, polenta fires and farro salad (there is also plenty of meat; my sister sampled the pork sliders and gave it thumbs up).
Another celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, has a restaurant onboard Anthem of the Seas. Jamie’s Italian, one of the specialty dining restaurants that costs extra, had samples so we tried risotto balls and bruschetta. We also tried sushi from a Japanese place – surprisingly good – and the low calorie offerings from Devin Alexander.
The buffet restaurant had healthier and more upscale selections than I remembered encountering on previous Royal caribbean cruises. There is a gluten free section and plenty of vegan and vegetarian food. We got to meet David Reihana, the Corporate Traveling Executive Chef of Royal Caribbean, who showed us behind the scenes at the kitchens and told us that the cruise line is constantly balancing the feedback from guests. The number one complaint is that food is too salty – and the number two complaint is that food is not salty enough, so it’s a tough road to hoe.
The buffet also has artisan cheeses and plenty of fresh fruit, and servers come around bringing drinks. If you are traveling with children, you will eat probably eat here most of the time; there’s also a ‘food truck’ with hot dogs a pizzeria and cafe that has soups and sandwiches. You won’t go hungry.
We had a Superior Oceanview room, with a large balcony and much more space than I anticipated. There was a couch, which also slept two, but as just two people, we had plenty of room. We used some of our precious little time on board to see some of the suites; these passengers have giant rooms with Frette linens, L’Occitane bath products and access to a private restaurant and lounge. And we looked at some tiny interior rooms, with ‘virtual portholes’ that have a live feed of what we could see from our own balcony. I felt way too claustrophobic in those, but there was a family suite of two small interior room where you also got a private hallway connecting them; this is a way for a family on a budget to have separate rooms for parents and kids, and a little more space.
Guests are given bands, like Disney magic bands, that open rooms and have your credit card info stored. We couldn’t take advantage of duty-free liquor shopping on such a short cruise, but I loved a band that I wore instead of a room key that I could misplace. You can wear the band in the pool, too. If you prefer to go old school, you also get room keys.
No Time to Spend in the Room Anyway!
Seriously, besides sleep and a shower, there is too much to occupy your time so you will spend hardly any time in that room. We ‘missed the boat’ on the rock climbing and flight simulators, since time was so limited, and the spring simulator didn’t appeal to either of us. But we took an abs class and an intense spin class, lounged in the pools and hot tubs, channeled our inner kids on the bumper cars and went to a couple of nighttime shows.
Up in the Sky
We took a ride on the NorthStar, a capsule that takes you 300 feet up in the air. Again, I am extremely claustrophobic, but this didn’t bother me at all. The capsule was airy, with only about 15 people in it; note that you are are weighed before going on the ride, so you might want to consider your buffet selections carefully. The capsule reminded me of the London Eye, but there is only the one capsule.
The Anthem of the Seas has reliable, fast WiFi, called VOOM (for a fee; suite passengers get it included). You can rail against the need to stay connected, but if you can turn off the work emails, it is nice to know you can stay in touch with your kids, elderly parents, or stuck at work friends if need be.
Note: I was a guest of Royal Caribbean, which provided our 2 day cruise. Opinions expressed are my own.