We have been sailing on Anthem since it started sailing in 2015. It's a nice, modern ship with plenty of bells and whistles and our first couple of sailings were extraordinary! We enjoy sailing out of Cape Liberty for the convenience ... Read More
We have been sailing on Anthem since it started sailing in 2015. It's a nice, modern ship with plenty of bells and whistles and our first couple of sailings were extraordinary! We enjoy sailing out of Cape Liberty for the convenience and quite honestly, embarkation AND disembarkation couldn't be smoother. They get high marks for that. RC lets passengers know up front the recommended arrival time is between 12-1PM, but fellow cruisers show up as early as 9AM to be the first ones on board and then have to wait 3 hours in what terminal staff call "the bull pen." Even after they're on the ship, the rooms usually aren't ready at least for another 90 minutes. Fun times, however with this most recent sailing in May 2018, we noticed things started going noticeably downhill.
First, the negative reviews on this site are, unfortunately, mostly all true. Travel irons are confiscated at the security check-in when they previously were not for other cruises, forcing one to be creative or use the on-board laundry valet service for a fee.
The muster drill has become a joke as it is nothing more than roll call and videos about washing hands. They didn't even show us how to put on the life jackets! Even before entering the buffet they have a station with about four sinks where you MUST wash your hands and I find it incredulous that the sinks are filthy and yet somehow RC believes human hands are dirtier than the sinks they provide. Not that I have a problem washing my hands, it's just there's SO MANY announcements about doing it obviously to cut down on the norovirus which also happens to be an AIRBORNE illness. Chew on that for a minute.
There were noticeably many more children on this cruise than on some others we have taken on Anthem around the same time every year. The reason is, in an effort to cram as many people on board as possible, RC solicits a "kids sail free" promotion every so often and unfortunately there is no way to determine on which cruises this promotion is offered. One thing IS for sure - it IS offered on Anthem. I don't have anything against traveling with the young ones, but there were a lot of them. Sitting in the stairwells, playing on elevators and such and it's because there really isn't much for them to do. One minute in iFly if they are old enough, one time on the North Star, bumper cars and skating really isn't much to do on a 10 day cruise. The video arcade is a joke, the XBOX wasn't working and how many games of ping pong can two people play? I would be disappointed as a pre-teen/teen because the ship really wasn't designed with children in mind. An Oasis class ship would be more suitable for families with young ones.
Dining has gone way downhill, and I think the reason is because there isn't one main dining room. When Anthem was new, RC rolled out "Dynamic Dining" to mixed reviews. There were a number of specialty restaurants, a few you had to pay for and then a few (four, I think), that were free. They were called Chic, Silk, American Icon and The Grande, and the food was spectacular! There was nice variety every night, but the problem was the reservation system. Passengers had to reserve seatings in advance of the cruise only to show up and there not be any record. The system was very flawed and instead of fixing the system, RC simply discontinued the Dynamic Dining program, only to have relics of these four restaurants on the ship now serving as one main dining room. As a result, the food is all the same poor quality and unimaginative unless you want to PAY for a Chops Grille experience without the cover charge.
While nice, the Windjammer Buffet was a circus, mainly because of the number of children. It is set up in such a way that it's impossible not to bump into anyone, which is fine but with kids running around and pushing, it's a disaster waiting to happen. You literally have to dance in circles to get from the serving stations back to your table. Food overall was much more spectacular than the offerings at dinnertime in the dining rooms.
The revamped room service was incredible! - when it was new. Everything was excellent quality, in fact, many nights on the maiden voyage, we opted for room service even with the fee - it was just that good. On this cruise, the food made me very sick. Perhaps it was a poor quality of beef. Maybe it was because they ran out of honey mustard (!) and substituted mayo instead for the chicken tenders. In any case, it needs some work. Like fresh food. So I complained and they sent champagne and fresh fruit to my room to compensate for the bad experience, and my stateroom attendant threw it out, claiming I could have put it in the refrigerator. Well guess what? Full size dishes do not fit in the refrigerator!
It's also amazing to me that they allow 2 bottles of wine per passenger to be brought onboard, but refuse to allow you to bring on bottles of water. I'm not talking a case, but maybe 3 or 4 liters. The provided Evian isn't for everybody, and if they made it possible to get water around the ship I wouldn't mind the water restriction.
Our Activities Director - "Hello Clo" - was abominable. Lifeless and a bit of a windbag. We all look forward to the comedian being corny if not providing just a few laughs, but this comedian Steve White was horrible. Offensive in every way. AND they gave him two shows, one in the main auditorium and the other in 270 which is odd because of the sheer amount of people. 3500 people can't fit in 270, so you can imagine the madhouse it was. The second comedian was much better but they gave him ONLY one adult show at 8:30, which coincided with our dinner time, so we actually had to choose either dinner or seeing the show. Events were so poorly planned that Clo actually said during the cruise that she was being transferred to another ship! I thought the crew usually finds out their next assignment AFTER the cruise.... Hmm....
I've noticed some concerns from reviewers asking about the weight restriction on North Star. Basically, and I'm saying this as nicely as I can because I also had concerns about the weight restrictions: if you don't "look" like you're over 300 pounds, there won't be a problem. Interestingly, the reason they do have the restriction is because if the ride stalls, the harness they use has the restriction. NOT the North Star.
My concern about the tipping process is this: after we have paid our fare to enjoy this vacation, RC then takes another $300 for the 10 day gratuity, which is fine since the crew is working for it. I have no problem with that. But then they say that if you want to reward someone for going above and beyond, then feel free to recognize them with an ADDITIONAL gratuity! Excuse me?? See, and this is related to the "nickel-and-diming" some reviewers are talking about. If RC worked the gratuity into the cruise fare and made the price "all-inclusive", there really wouldn't be a problem. But all over the ship are signs offering things like wine tastings, saying $50 PLUS 18% gratuity! Why not just say $59 including tax and gratuity? To me, it softens the blow.
Overall, the ship is magnificent and we enjoy it very much. We do, however miss the Voyager class ships which offer a "Promenade" the length of the ship and it comes in handy because while there were a lot of people onboard, it didn't feel overwhelming like Anthem does. RC didn't seem to put a lot of thought into the public areas, and their main promenade-type hallway always seemed overcrowded. In addition, at the end of the day Voyager class ships (Explorer, Adventure), were just more "fun" than Anthem in some way. Maybe it was the excellent "bon voyage" parades... In addition, they had libraries and bars and intimate settings where one could have a drink or two and enjoy a good book or conversation. During this last cruise experience, we were grateful to have a balcony room so as to escape from the crowds. Other people looking for respite (and there were a lot of them), eventually found their way to 270 so there really isn't a "quiet" spot on the ship. Read Less