Review of Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas - April 2015
Helen Worthington – 27-04-2015 – Royal Caribbean – Anthem of the Seas
‘Anthem of the Seas’ is a heady and exceptionally well thought out assembly of innovative firsts – not just at sea, but at any holiday venue, worldwide.
As you board the ship, WOW! greets you at every turn and the exclamation ultimately becomes redundant and decidedly deficient when describing this amazing ship.
The attention to detail is phenomenal: from the bar in the shower for depilatory duties; to the gluten free oats used in the porridge at ‘Devinly Decadence’. Or the choice of ten or more ‘Vistarama’ imagery shows in the multifunctional Two70 and the lions head door knockers on the wall outside ‘Silk’.
‘Anthem of the Seas’ comfortably combines a new level of sophistication and glamour (for the Royal Caribbean brand), along with a plethora of new and exciting features across all genres of entertainment and accommodation, yet it still retains all the old favourites too!
There is still a Fitness Centre, a Vitality at Sea Spa (including thermal suites and an Elemis Face and Body Therapy room), a library, rock climbing wall (overseen by Gigi, a yellow 10 metre high carbon fibre giraffe complete with rubber ring), Adventure Ocean (Kid’s Clubs available from 6 months – 17 years) and the H20 zone (complete with the first wave pool at sea), but it is really worth highlighting the new features aboard.
She is the second of the new Quantum Class ships designed for Royal Caribbean and has 16 passenger decks (8 of which boast balcony staterooms). Like the Celebrity Solstice’s class ships, the staterooms above the life boats are recessed into the superstructure of the ship and don't look down directly at the ocean (similar to sheltered balconies on P&O and Cunard ships).
There are a total of 2,090 staterooms – more than the Waldorf Astoria in New York (so 4180 passengers at double occupancy): 1,570 balcony staterooms, 147 ocean-view staterooms, and 373 inside staterooms. Of these, 34 are wheelchair accessible and 28 are Studio staterooms for single travelers (including 12 Studio staterooms with balconies).
All aft-facing staterooms are 2-storey "loft" suites. Expanding on the "Virtual Porthole" concept introduced by Disney Cruise Lines, many interior staterooms feature a floor-to-ceiling 80” high, high definition LED TV screen showing live views from the outside of the ship, which Royal Caribbean calls a "Virtual Balcony".
There is a dimmer and sound control, but don’t mistake this for the TV remote! On average, staterooms are 9% larger than those on the Oasis Class ships and all have twin beds measuring 36” x 82” (90 x 210 cm), which can be converted to a King size bed. There are more than 30 different grades of accommodation.
Don’t want the kids in your room? Worried about them getting out onto the balcony without you? Royal Caribbean has obviously done its research into the demographic of its cruisers and has introduced the ‘jigsaw’ style Family Interconnecting staterooms, suitable for multi-generational cruisers or indeed a group of friends.
The combination includes a Junior Suite (with associated living space), an inside stateroom (with a ‘Virtual Balcony’) and a balcony stateroom – offering in total; 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a wrap round balcony and a secure vestibule. It is also possible to book these staterooms in combinations of 2 or even singly.
In fact, the whole ship reminds you of a huge geometric puzzle with accommodation, entertainment and dining not only syncing within each individual department, but combining to make one huge Rubik’s Cube of fun.
No space is left to waste – gone is the deserted during the day disco – the age of the mobile DJ is upon us on ‘Anthem of the Seas’ with DJs popping up in Two70, the SeaPlex (roller discos) or the Music House.
DJs will mash a few tracks while you wait for Bio or Nic to mix your Bionic Bar cocktail, ordered by tablet, viewed on a Perspex screen, complete with ingredients, where they are up to in the production process, comments from previous drinkers and selected drinks for your age group. Tap your WOWband (an updated and trendy form of SeaPass) on the end of your runway and watch your drink (shaken not stirred) come sliding towards you.
Two70 is a multifunctional venue – during the day a 3 storey high viewing lounge at the stern of the ship, with massive 270 degree panoramic windows. It has automatic window shades, able to reduce the amount of sunlight entering, a 13 projector mapping system to project live views from outside the ship or to display the ‘Vistarama’ imagery shows.
Relax in one of the many different types of seating systems in the space, pick up a picnic lunch freshly prepared at Cafe@Two70 or indulge in a cocktail from the bar. As the sun sets and the red curtains are drawn, the area is transformed with movable furniture, retractable dividers and chandeliers.
Prepare to be wowed as entertainment and technology are combined in a totally new concept, be it ‘Spectra’s Cabaret’ a multimedia floor show featuring music and acrobats as well as video and digital effects, ‘Roboscreens’ –a troupe of six massive (100”) LCD video screens which take on a 3D persona of their own in a selection of video effects or a Virtual rock or symphony concert. It is also an area which can be used for more intimate shows with comedians and ventriloquists, for example.
SeaPlex is the largest indoor sports area at sea – play basketball on a full size court, try your luck on the dodgems, roller skate or hone your trapezing skills in the circus school. On the mezzanine floor is a DJ booth, as well as table tennis, air hockey, foosball and self-levelling pool tables.
The NorthStar observation pod is a little like one of the capsules on the London Eye.It sits on the end of a 135’ crane arm which lifts groups of up to 14 guests up and over the side of the ship, reaching heights of over 300 feet above sea level. Rides on the NorthStar are complimentary, with the exception of sunrise and sunset trips.
RipCord by IFLY is a 23’ glass skydiving simulator which allows blue overalled guests to experience the thrill of being weightless. Positioned behind FlowRider, it also allows onlookers to watch tricky manoeuvres in water and air at the same time! Both experiences are complimentary.
‘Anthem of the Seas’ is sailing out of Southampton for the summer season 2015, so its indoor pool (with a retractable roof) and the Solarium (for over 16’s only) will be a real bonus in the unpredictable English weather.
The Solarium was my favourite area on Anthem: Starting forward on deck 14, it slowly cascades down two decks to large panoramic windows, like a lazy, slow flowing waterfall. Complete with jacuzzis, larger pools, recliners conveniently situated in the lapping shallows, a ceramic swing, tropical plants and herbs on the bar it is one of the most relaxing areas on the ship. Deck 14 also has an outdoor pool with a large (220’) video screen and six other Jacuzzi pools.
Above it (deck 15) is the jogging track –where 3 times round (due to the size of the ship) is just one mile!
It is impossible to describe every feature of ‘Anthem of the Seas’ in detail, but worthy of a mention are:
Michael’s Genuine Pub, based on the American answer to a British microbrewery cum gastropub, where the waiters in snappy braces and flat caps were probably the happiest group of staff on the ship.
The casino with literally hundreds of slot machines (as well as the other usual gaming tables).
Boleros – the Latin American bar, complete with a live Latin band and suitably chilli inspired cocktails.
The 2 storey Music House which in Anthem tradition, offers multiple use age as a disco, karaoke club and billiard hall, as well as hosting theme party nights and live rock music (currently from the 80’s tribute band – The Wild Boys).
The Royal Theatre, which is the home of ‘We Will Rock You’ the Queen inspired musical. Complete with some of the West End cast (including Kevin Kennedy, aka Curly Watts from Coronation Street), this is an extraordinary and not to be missed show!
Whilst the ubiquitous art sales continue on board, the art collection curated for ‘Anthem of the Seas’ and called ‘What Makes Life Worth Living’ is a stunning and eclectic mix of over 3000 works.
Littered throughout the ship, it starts off with the quirkily attired animal photos in the lifts and the ‘Pulse Spiral’ on the Royal Esplanade (a two storey public space, roughly half the length of the ship, replacing the Royal Promenade found on other Royal Caribbean ships), with its 200 bulbs and heart sensor.
Then there’s the ‘Meetings’ sculpture in the Solarium and the ever changing LED displays on decks 4 and 5, as well as ‘Healing Garden’ a cluster of crystal cherry blossoms the full length of the aft lift lobby wall, not to mention the interesting and clever items livening up each and every stairwell or adding interest to restaurant walls.
Finally, there are 18 dining venues on board (and all the bars). Royal Caribbean have replaced the conventional – same restaurant, same time dining on ‘Anthem of the Seas’ with two new systems. This is to mesh in with their 4 smaller restaurants, now that they have done away with the traditional large, main dining room.
The 4 dining venues are Grande (Continental), Chic (contemporary), American Icon (American) and Silk (Pan Asian fusion). American Icon is open for all meals (Eggs Benedict for breakfast is a recommendation here), the other 3 only for dinner. Additionally, Coastal Kitchen (Mediterranean meets California fare) is only open to Suite guests and C&A Pinnacle members.
‘Dynamic Dining’ is similar to NCL’s freestyle dining concept, in that guests make reservations at the restaurant of their choice (online and before boarding if they wish), at the time they want to eat. Dress codes is smart casual (apart from in Grande, where it is a formal dress code).
The second concept: ‘Classic Dining’ is more akin to that experienced on Disney Cruise Lines whereby guests rotate round each of the four restaurants – eating at the same time every night, with the same fellow guests and with their waiting staff also rotating with them. Don’t like Chinese food and it’s your turn to dine in ‘Silk’? In each of the restaurants, it is always possible to choose steak, chicken or salmon instead of other main course items.
Alternatively, that may be the night guests choose to experience one of the other complimentary restaurants, like the Windjammer Marketplace (open 24 hours), Café Promenade, Cafe@Two70, Sorrento’s Pizza, SeaPlex Dog House or Devinly Decadence (Devin Alexander’s calorie controlled restaurant where dishes contain 500 calories or less – even the divinely tasting chocolate cake!) Alternatively, why not treat them to one of the speciality dining venues?
Like all Royal Caribbean ships, Anthem has the speciality restaurants Chops Grille, Izumi, Johnny Rockets and Chef’s Table where an additional fee is charged to eat. New to this list is Jamie’s Italian (by Jamie Oliver. The only speciality restaurant with an outside seating area and where antipasti tasting platters start at $10).
Michael’s Genuine Pub (inspired by Michael Schwartz) and Wonderland (a zany Alice in Wonderland inspired eating and drinking experience, described as imaginative cuisine, all of which is revealed on a white board which comes to life at the touch of a paint brush in true magic painting style).
There is so much more that could be said about ‘Anthem of the Seas’ – but then this would be a book not a blog! Suffice to say, that Royal Caribbean set out to bring something new, innovative and exciting to cruising and they have not disappointed with ‘Anthem of the Seas’ and the rest of the Quantum Class ships.