Anthem of the Seas 4/6/19-4/13/19
This was our first trip on Royal with 4 cruises with NCL and 4 cruises with CCL. I am 60 and DW is 52 and we live in northern Vermont. While my review will include comparisons with our other cruises I can say that hands down Anthem exceeded our expectations and is easily our favorite ship. When I compare Royal with other cruise lines I will make allowance for those things that are strictly Anthem, such as the shows. As some of you know I did have reservations about sailing on such a large ship after being stationed on an aircraft carrier in the Navy (and Anthem is bigger than that carrier) but I would say that I would sail on Anthem anytime the price is right.
4/6/19 Embarkation Day
We left our hotel in Albany at 5:45 and boarded the Yankee Trails bus at 6:30 and the bus left on time at 7. There were no stops along the way to pick up extra passengers so we got to the port at 9:30 after a very relaxing ride. We waited for our luggage to be off-loaded and after the porters had it loaded we were cleared to leave the bus. We walked into the terminal at 9:50 and were checked in and sitting down in zone 8 by 10. Staff members came around handing out copies of the cruise compass and boarding started at 10:30. We started boarding at 11 and we were sitting in Two70 for lunch by 11:30. First impression of Anthem was definitely “WOW”. We made immediate use of our drink package and had two Royal Lemonades in hand by noon. Royal uses paper straws which can get soggy if you drink your drink too slowly. I had a Cuban pita pocket which had ham, pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard and DW had an avocado wrap with an avocado BLT salad. Food was tasty but my pita pocket was microwaved which made it a little chewy. Walked around Esplanade and stopped to by voom and surf for $19.99 a day (this package is needed for Facebook). Stopped at Brass and Bock Pub and Boleros for drinks in each venue. Cabins were ready at 1:30 so we went up and found our luggage already there. Our key cards were in the mail slot and we saw our cabin, 6142, for the first time. Nicely put together balcony cabin with lots of storage available (including two large storage areas over the head of the bed). We had the beds together but couldn’t visualize them being apart. Muster took place at 2:30 in the Royal Theater and went fairly well for muster drill. There are no life jackets in the cabin. After the drill we walked about for a bit and then went back to the cabin to freshen up for dinner. Our cabin steward was Ikomang. We were in the early seating in the Grande MDR and our wait team was Dominic, Bayyr and Maksim. We are assigned to a two top and it is close to the two top next to it, so we were able to converse with the couple at that table all week who are from Massachusetts and very nice. Bayyer offered to push the table together to make it a four top but there wasn’t that much separation and we decided to keep the tables as they were. I ordered the calamari and escargot, prime rib and crème bruelle. DW had mushroom soup, spaghetti Bolognese and chocolate cake. DW said it was the best spaghetti she’d ever had. I found the prime rib to be a little better than CCL’s, mostly because it was a thicker cut. DW mentioned to the waitstaff that she had a seafood allergy and couldn’t have iodized salt and from that point on one of the waiters would give her the next night’s menu at the conclusion of each meal so she could order it ahead of time, something neither NCL nor CCL did (yes, they would have if we had contacted special needs, but the waitstaff on each of those lines were each told the same thing and while they made sure to not let her order anything with seafood Royal took it a step further). Dinner took almost 2 hours but it was our fault, we were busy talking with our “table mates”. Walked around Esplanade after dinner then went to the Welcome Aboard show at 8:30. Dennis Charles is our CD and he told us that there were just over 4880 passengers with just under 900 kids. The comedian was okay (we enjoyed the next night’s adult show much better). We went to a show in Two70 that demonstrated all that venue had to offer and it was entertaining. We called it a night early and easily made the drink package worth it throughout the day and the drink waiters at the different venues did a good job of getting our drinks for us. A very good start to the cruise.
General observations- the elevators have a plate in the floor with the day of the week that changes each day. The elevators have a button designated for the gangway so you didn’t have to remember what deck the gangway was on. For being such a large ship Anthem is easy to navigate and there are excellent maps to let you know where things are by the elevators. It’s hard to tell how large the ship is because sight lines are broken up so well. I was surprised to feel the ship moving because of the wind and waves, something I didn’t expect on a ship so large. The lights in the passageways dim and will brighten when motion is detected. A card needs to be put in the slot by the door to keep lights and AC on. The thermostat can’t be set lower than 68 degrees. Cabin has one standard plug by the bed, two in the vanity, two USB ports and one 220v plug. There is a low voltage plug in the bathroom for a shaver.
4/7/19 Sea Day
I was up at 6 and had a nice shower. The shower is a bit smaller than what we have at home and of course the bathroom is cozy. I had to walk around a bit to find coffee because nothing was open until 7 except for Café Promenade, which is open 24 hours. It’s 41 degrees top side. Went to Windjammer when it opened and there are a good number of choices and lots of action stations. There are sinks at the entrance and you are expected to wash your hands before entering. Had some more coffee and grabbed a donut. Woke DW at 830 and went to the Solarium Bistro for breakfast. There is a nice buffet selection, including pre-made omelets and eggs benedict. We had a ten minute wait in line. Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle was at 10 in the Music Hall and we got there just as it was starting. Dennis said that he reads CC (and sometimes posts to correct misinformation, but he didn’t reveal his screen name) and a raffle was held for two backpacks with Royal stuff in them. There were light refreshments available and we had about 40-50 people there. We did a gift exchange and while I was talking to another couple from New England (who turned out to be two cabins from us) everyone split. Spent some time in the Solarium hot tubs and soaking pools. Went back to the cabin to change out of our wet things and then went to the Vet appreciation event in Two70. There were a good number of vets with wives there and even some none vets who showed up to show support. Dennis walked around the room to each vet and had them introduce themselves and tell where they’d been stationed. At the end of the event they played taps for those who never came home. The event lasted about an hour. Walked around a bit and made use of the Bionic Bar just for gins. We went to Brass and Bock and ordered a couple of Dublin Ice Teas. DW didn’t like hers so I took it back up to the bar and originally the bar tender said we had to wait ten minutes for another drink but once he understood that DW didn’t like the drink he took it and made her a screw driver. Went back to the cabin with a couple of drinks and enjoyed them on the balcony before getting ready for dinner, the first formal night. I ordered the shrimp cocktail (which are smaller than on CCL), duck l ’orange and cheesecake. DW had fruit plate, port shank, and carrot cake. Watched the captain introduce his officers on the Esplanade and chatted with HD Michael for a few minutes. We had reservations for The Gift this evening and thought it was an awesome show. Had few drinks in Boleros before heading to the adult comedy show in Royal Theater with Heath Harmison and he was hilarious. Back at the cabin we filled out the room service card for coffee to be delivered between 9 and 9:30 the next day.
General observations- a sign at the Solarium Bistro advises that they have almond milk, soy milk and lactose free milk available on request (didn’t see this sign in other venues but don’t see why it wouldn’t be provided if asked for). The “do not disturb/please make up room” sign is magnetic and sticks on the door. At dinner we saw some shorts and some tuxes but more suits and business casual.
4.8.19 Port Canaveral
I slept in until 6:15! Went down to solarium and perused the library since I didn’t bring any casual reading material with me. There were books in several languages available (English, Spanish and German were the ones I noticed). I found a Reader’s Digest from December 1962 and took that to read. Of course I had more coffee at Café Promenade. Back at the cabin I put my suit in for next day cleaning for $15 (less than what I pay at home). Room service called a couple of minutes before delivering our coffee and he was surprised when I gave him a tip. I had ordered two coffee and two decaf coffee and the carafes easily held 8 cups. The milk that I had ordered was in a glass and the half and half was in individual packets (on CCL the half and half is in a small pitcher). We went up to Windjammer for breakfast at by the time we arrived some items were getting scarce both because it was busy and it was close to the time when they transitioned from breakfast to lunch. After eating breakfast we watched some of the belly flop contest (ouch!) before getting ready for our excursion. We met in the Royal Theater for our excursion which was transportation to Universal. We left the theater at 12:10 and were underway on the bus by 12:30. We arrived at Universal and had to go through a security check point before entering. We had purchased one park tickets online before the cruise and chose to visit Islands of Adventure. We wanted to visit Hogsmeade and Jurassic Park so we did those two areas first and then worked our way back to the entrance. We had plenty of time to walk around and see everything but we didn’t do any of the rides, and most of them seemed to have wait times of around 45 minutes. We got back to the bus area at 6:50 and it left when it got full which was by 7. Got back to the ship around 7:50. Changed into swim wear with cover ups and then grabbed a bite to eat at Windjammer. This was our first evening meal at a buffet on any of our cruises and while it was tasty we still prefer the MDR it did the trick this night. Wait staff does come around asking if you want drinks so we grabbed a couple which were the only ones we had this day on our drink package. Went to the Solarium and soaked in a hot tub for a bit but the bar was closing when we arrived (around 9) and the pools were already closed down.
4.9.19 Coco Cay
Up at 6:15 again and down to Café Promenade for my coffee. I chose this morning to walk around the ship to take pictures and got most of decks 4 and 5. Stopped by Guest Services to have a couple of erroneous charges from day 1 at Boleros removed which was done quickly and efficiently. Once DW was up we went up to Windjammer for breakfast and had two Captain’s Calls (spiked coffee) since it was Cruise-Thirty. Pulled into the Cay a little earlier than scheduled and we got off the ship at 10. Loved being able to use the pier. It took about 40 minutes to get from our cabin to the clam shell area. They had transportation available to take us over to South Beach. We grabbed the clam shell in the back row that was closest to the bar and had a good view of the water. The water was chilly at first but because it was so shallow it warmed up quickly. We lounged, drank Coco Locos and waded the day away. While wading we saw many fish, including rays and sharks. At one point we were 15 to 20 feet away from a 4-5 foot shark. We left our clam shell around 3 pm and did some shopping at the straw market before heading back onto the ship. Made it back to the cabin around 4 to prepare for dinner. We didn’t eat anything on Coco Cay because we had eaten a large breakfast. At dinner I at escargot, beef with Yorkshire pudding, and chocolate cake. DW had the onion soup, fried chicken and pastry puff. Had a few drinks after dinner while waiting for the show. Comedian/ventriloquist Ron Lucas performed and I remember watching him years ago and he is still very funny. Grabbed a couple of drinks to take back to the cabin since we have to be up early tomorrow for our excursion. Despite liberal applications of sun screen we both got burnt on Coco Cay (next time we’ll use lotion instead of spray).
General observations- The crew and other passengers are friendly and the crew is always cleaning. I spoke to the concierge for the clam shells on the Cay and he said that they live on the island for a month at a time and then have one week off (he lives in Nassau).
Up at 6 again but DW had to get up with me for our excursion. We went up to the Windjammer for breakfast (it opened at 6:30 this morning). There were very few people so breakfast went quickly. We went to the theater at 7:30 to meet up for our sea lion encounter. We were off the ship by 8 and met up with Blue Lagoon hosts to receive our wrist bands for our encounter. There didn’t seem to be much organization but the process went smoothly and quickly. The boat ride to Blue Lagoon took about 30 minutes and the tender crew pointed out the rich people’s mansions (Oprah, Michael Jordan, Beyonce’, etc.) as we passed by and danced with us to pass the time. We arrived at Blue Lagoon around 9 and we were split into groups for our encounter with one group doing the water portion and our group doing the dry portion first. We posed for photos with Charlotte, a 7 year old female, who was a real character. After that we proceeded along the dock to our underwater platform (we were required to wear life vests anyway) for our encounter with Roxie, a 5 year old female. After our encounter we grabbed a couple of drinks and enjoyed people watching before heading to the photo shop for our pictures. We decided to get all of our pictures on a flash drive for $154 and it included a video of our encounter with Roxie (and a release so we can get the photos printed). Since we hadn’t eaten too big of a breakfast we grabbed a buffet lunch for $22 each and then boarded the tender back to the ship. Did some shopping at the stores inside the secure area before heading to Solarium for more hot tub time. Went to the cabin at 4:15 to get dressed for dinner. I had shrimp cocktail again (ordered two this time), chicken parmigiana and tres leche. DW had Caesar salad, chicken parm and crème bruelle. The chicken was served with mashed potatoes and ratatouille which seemed a bit odd. Back to the cabin to change and then grabbed a seat in the Music Hall. As had become our habit we tried different drinks on the menu and really liked Metalliquor. We watched karaoke and family feud. For family feud they handed out tickets to pick people to play but many didn’t respond to their number when it was called. Called it a night early.
General observations- They have lifeguards on duty at all pools including the shallow ones in Solarium. Ship’s officers seem to be always present walking around, we have seen the captain several times and have spoken to the HD a couple of times. Discovered a food station all the way aft on Windjammer with outdoor seating that doesn’t seem to be too busy. Photographers aren’t as aggressive as on CCL and casual shots when leaving the ship on the pier are limited in number. Received only three towel animals during the week. The seats in Royal Theater aren’t very comfortable.
4.11.19 Sea Day
Up early again and after grabbing coffee walked around decks 14, 15 and 16 taking pictures. After waking DW up we went to breakfast at Windjammer and then lounged around the pool deck, Solarium hot tub, etc. Our reservation for Northstar was at 1 so we went to that. It takes you up 300 feet above the water and from one side of the ship to the other (they get more people through that way versus taking the arm out all the way). Dropped the camera off at the cabin then went to We Will Rock You and what an awesome show! Then we went back to get ready for the second formal night. Luggage tags were in the cabin waiting for us for disembarkation day, a stark reminder that we weren’t going to be on the ship much longer. Had more photos taken before heading to dinner. I had caprese salad, lobster with rice and veggies, and molten cake. Asked for peanut butter on the side but they said they didn’t have it (had I known this I would have grabbed a couple packs of peanut butter from WJ). DW had the Caesar salad, grilled chicken breast and molten cake. The waiters did a parade. Desert was a little delayed and the ice cream was partly melted (and the cake was cooked too much so no “molten”). Did some shopping and then went to Two70 for Spectra’s Cabaret. My review- I actually dozed off a couple of times and DW and I agreed that the show took third place of the three main shows (The Gift and WWRY are a toss-up for first and second because we enjoyed both shows for different reasons). Stayed in Two70 for the show Red which is a dance party. Left there and caught the late night comedian, Steve Caouette, who was hilarious.
General observations- many people have the Wow band and many have said that they have broken and needed to be replaced. When someone with a band ordered a drink they had to remove it in order to have it scanned. Johnny Rockets wasn’t open for breakfast on any day that I saw although I may have missed it. I had read on Cruise Critic that it was table service, you ordered your food and it was delivered to your table, but the signs indicated that you placed your order and picked it up at the counter.
4.12.19 Sea Day
Up at 7 today (wow, I slept in!). The photo gallery (which has screens to view your pictures after scanning your cabin key) was closed and the casino was also closed (it opens at 8). After the casino opened I obtained a voucher from the cashier for $100 charged to my cabin for a $5 charge. I played the slots for 10 minutes which cost me $30 and I earned 10 points (you earn a cruise with 2,400 points). After DW woke up we went to Two70 for some spiked coffee (Cruise-Thirty) and watched the towel folding demonstration. Windjammer for lunch. We went to bingo and decided to play. They draw receipts to give out door prizes and I won a t-shirt and a bingo fish. We were one number away from winning the free cruise. Freshened up for dinner where I had coconut shrimp, New York strip, and apple pie a la mode. I forgot to note what DW had. The New York strip comes with a gravy that gives it a pot roast flavor so if you like your meat plain make sure that you tell them no gravy. Went back to the cabin and finished packing and put our luggage in the hall, then went to the farewell show in the theater. Quest was held in Two70 and this was followed by virtual fireworks. Our Quest team took third place and we agreed that Royal Quest was the second raciest we had attended, with NCL being the raciest and CCL the third. The virtual fireworks were pretty cool.
4.13.19 Disembarkation Day
Up at 5:30 and last coffee at café promenade to go over the final bill. The drinks on the drink package were not reflected on the final bill although they did show up on the invoice displayed on the cabin TV. We are assigned zone 23 with our time for disembarkation between 8 and 8:30. We had our last breakfast in Windjammer and it wasn’t too crowded, surprisingly. Waiting areas for disembarkation are the theater and Two70 and the gangway is located mid-ship. Disembarkation started at 7:40 and our zone was called at 7:50 (up through zone 27). We hit the gangway at 8:05 after we used the restroom one last time. There is a machine in the terminal that takes your picture and compares it with what’s on file and as long as all is okay you don’t see a CBP officer.
Closing thoughts- I know at one point that we ate at the Dog Shack but can’t remember exactly when, but the Coney Island I had and the Brat that DW had were very tasty. We definitely got our money’s worth with the drink package, even with only having one drink each on the day we were in Port Canaveral. When events let out of the theater there is a crowd of people waiting to use the elevators, etc. but this is to be expected. In comparing Royal to Carnival there are some minor differences. As I mentioned Anthem is far and away better than any other ship we’ve sailed due to her age (just turned 4), size, shows, etc. We found the activities (trivia, karaoke, family feud, Quest, etc.) to be comparable between all of the lines we sailed. The waiters did “dance” three nights but it was half-hearted and not really well done. The linens (towels, bedding) are comparable to CCL and NCL. CCL and NCL both have body wash in the shower, Royal uses bar soap. The food and service on Royal are a little better on Anthem then they were on CCL or NCL. Royal really impressed DW with how they handled her allergies and this made her feel special. We were favorably impressed with Royal and will definitely sail with them again whenever price and itinerary match up, but I am willing to spend a little more to sail with Royal. How much more? That remains to be seen.
Standard size for balcony cabin, I liked the layout of the balcony better than other ships, the shape is not as wide but more room between the door and the railing. Great views. Lots and lots of storage in this cabin.
Booked transportation only, bought park tickets online. Great day all around!
We booked the clam shell to keep from getting sun burn but got sun burnt anyway. Fantastic day on the Cay!