Our group of 11 (ranging from ages 9mo-60) embarked onto the Anthem of the Seas on May 5, 2016 from Bayonne. I (in my late 20s) personally have been on many cruises throughout the years and have sailed on most major cruise lines including ... Read More
Our group of 11 (ranging from ages 9mo-60) embarked onto the Anthem of the Seas on May 5, 2016 from Bayonne. I (in my late 20s) personally have been on many cruises throughout the years and have sailed on most major cruise lines including 4 previous RCCL cruises (all Explorer class), Carnival, Celebrity and Princess. I have never had such an overall terrible experience before on any vacation that I have ever taken.
Instead of going into detail about every aspect of the ship as I normally would in review, I would instead like to leave some bullet points that summarize my personal experience.
*Entire Esplanade area is devoted to trying to get you to spend even more money. Like sailing on a giant shopping mall. Consists of 'luxury' stores such as Bvlgari, a for-pay bakery (where you can enjoy slightly better looking pastries than what's available in the Windjammer buffet for a price), and a few scattered bars that are obviously dead during the daytime. Absolutely no free (aka included) activities to be found in this area. What felt like Daily sale promos (50% OFF; Captain's Sale, etc.) would be held in the middle of this area where people would line up in the middle of the ship for their chance to obtain some of the junkiest jewelry/accessories I have ever seen in my life. Apparently buying a $20MSRP (as set by RCCL, but available for purchase for $1 online) watch for $10 is worth spending an hour in line for some people but I digress.
*Went to an art auction which used to be one of my favorite parts of previous cruises I have taken; being able to enjoy art and have a few glasses of champagne was always relaxing in the past. In this case, 1 server, 12 glass tray of 'complimentary' champagne/mimosas for 50+ people. Literally needed to be on your toes and scan for the server restocking to even obtain an initial glass. It really felt as they were purposely limiting the amount of champagne they had planned to give out. This may not seem like a big deal overall but it really contributed to this cruise ship's apparent theme; trying to get the most money out of you while spending the least.
*Have to sign up for shows and other activities way in advance (we did as soon as we boarded the ship) or they literally become "sold out". They make a huge deal out of this with no compromises. It seems like bad business practice to offer a limited quantity of something that comes standard for everyone on most other cruise ships. It should be ensured that each paying customer should have an equal opportunity to the already dearth of activities that this ship provides. The funny thing was that apart from Spectra's Cabaret I do not recall them checking reservations at the door for the other shows (We Will Rock You and The Gift). Unaware of this fact, we walked in a bit later to The Gift to find that there were absolutely no seats in the house despite our fabled reservation.
*One of the couples of our group were traveling with three small children who wanted to participate in "Breakfast with the Animals" which was basically having breakfast with people dressed up in animal suits. If you walk through any touristy area in the United States, you have a hard time shaking off people dressed as Disney princesses, etc who try to obtain a tip in exchange for a picture. On the Anthem, not only do you have to pay a sordid additional price for this wonder, it was the only activity already sold out as we had boarded. Our group member was told that they would be placed on the standby list and they would have the head waiter sort out a spot. Every single night for the first four nights, the head waiter would be reminded of this and would respond that "he is working on it and it looks promising" with nothing to actually show for it. Our group member would go to Guest Services daily to see if anything had opened up (because the kids really wanted to go) and finally Guest Services stated that somebody had cancelled and that she was "really lucky" to get a spot. The breakfast was booked and the kids were happy. That night, the head waiter in the dining room came up to our table and shamelessly gleamed that he was able to finally secure them a spot for the breakfast. Guess what the date and time were? The same exact one that my group member had already booked with guest services; unjustly taking credit for something that he had absolutely no part in and was only due to my group member's perseverance. The kicker here is that the actual breakfast (one of the few activities on the ship seemingly geared to small children) was filled with mostly childless adults.
*Went to my reservation for their indoor skydiving and forgot to wear socks. The guy at the front desk would not let me attend my session nor would he allow me five minutes to quickly return to my room to grab socks (because he said they were running on a time schedule). I realize that this one is partially my fault for not wearing socks but I'm sure that I am not the first one that this has happened to. They already provide a jumpsuit and shoes for the skydive. Would it kill them to have a small box of disposable socks (like they do at shoe stores) for this kind of situation?. Instead, I had to miss an activity that was already sold out and I had booked at the beginning of the cruise.
*Stood on the stand-by line for the North Star; which is an attraction that goes up and gives you a nice view of the ship. The station attendant at the North Star chose me specifically out of the line (I'm 6'5) and loudly announced in front of everyone else in line: "You look big, how much do you weigh?" When I gave my response, he stated that he did not believe me and took me over to a scale. When I stepped on the scale, it showed that my weight was 60 lbs over what I had weighed at the doctor's office a month before and was apparently over the weight limit for the attraction. I stated that it could not be possible but he escorted me out of line and announced that I was too heavy to go on it. Flabbergasted at how this could be possible and slightly scared that it was true, I ran over to the scale in the ship's gym where I weighed 55lbs less than I had outside (It was Day 8 of the cruise so an extra 5 lbs were indeed gained). Not only did this attendant publicly embarrass me in front of a group of strangers; he proceeded to deny that anything could be wrong with the tattered scale by the North Star station. Another attraction missed.
*We had a big table of 11 for dinner (rotating through the restaurants) but were clearly staying in different staterooms and not all joined at the hip for the entire cruise. Our waiter on the first day had announced that we could come between 515-545 and usually we arrived within this timeframe albeit not all together. On Day 5, the head waiter came up to our table at the end of the meal and actually scolded us saying that we were "compromising service" because we would not all arrive at the same exact minute. He stated that our waiter had to keep going back and forth to our table and giving each new arriving person a menu and a water fill and that he was unable to devote that much time to our table. Apparently people from 4 different state rooms on different floors of the ships must synchronize their every movement on vacation. The most rational thing to do, as practiced in most dining rooms, would be to wait till everyone has arrived and was seated before handing these things out. This was clearly above their heads. Instead, there were days where I would be asked for my order before even being given a menu and days where I had to chase the waiter around for a water refill. The 'barman' was nowhere to be found most of the time and I had to order drinks from the waiter as well. Absolutely mediocre service.
*There is no longer any sushi available in the dinner buffet (and I purposely checked on a couple of nights); instead you must go to their for-pay restaurant Izakaya. The area by the pool deck that normally serves BBQ food (burgers, hot dogs and condiments) on other cruise ships is a Johnny Rockets here for which you have to pay extra. The crazy thing is that people actually sit there and pay for these things when similar items are available in the Windjammer at the same time not 20 feet away. Most of the areas outside of the Windjammer cafe that serve food have the soda machines which you need to buy the drink package and a receive a special cup to use. I walked to the Windjammer when lounging by the pool at 4PM because I was thirsty and found the door closed. When I asked the attendant there where I could get some water, he directed me to the Esplanade cafe nine floors below. I looked at him bewildered and asked if there was really nowhere else I could get water by the pool and he replied "No". Of course If I had purchased a soda drink package, I could thoroughly enjoy a soda machine.
*Three of the members of our cruise were sick from eating food in the Windjammer buffet on three separate days of the cruise. The selection of food is very very minimal and many of the same exact things are present every day for breakfast and lunch. Multiple stations carry the exact same selection. No variety to be found. Finding something edible is difficult and I am not a picky eater at all. Hard, tasteless biscuits and pastries run amok. The food in the restaurants is only marginally better. Most of the meals are bland and unenjoyable although a few dishes were good. The Grand restaurant (the formal restaurant) was the best of the bunch and we had spent two nights there. (3rd and second to last night of the cruise). Unfortunately, preparation varied significantly as well. The first night; the lobster was cooked to perfection and actually wonderful. The second night; it was overcooked, chewy, and flavorless.
*They charged a dining service charge for an 8 month old who exclusively breastfeeds and did not eat a single morsel of cruise-provided food. When contesting the charge with guest services, our group member parent was told "Well, I'm sure you could have found something for him to eat; the charge stays".
*No "Drink of the day" specials to be found on this ship but there were a few 2for1's usually at awkward hours. The drinks however are horrendously overpriced and this ship seems to cater specifically to people who purchase the all-you-can-drink package.
*The waters were rocky on our way towards Bermuda from Bayonne and the pools/rock-climbing etc. were closed for a lot of the time. When we finally got to our destination, we were completely rained out with a torrential downpour and wind. Absolute waste of a usually wonderful port with one of the best beaches in the Caribbean (Horseshoe Bay). Not that anyone can be blamed for the weather but the ship's management could have at least offered some compensation in the form of extra entertainment or game show or just about anything to keep us occupied during the day. All we got was an apology over the loudspeaker. St. Maarten was fantastic as usual. Boarding time back to the ship in Puerto Rico was 12PM and kind of prevented do anything significant there. Labadee, the RCCL private island, is gorgeous and definitely improved from previous trips but still another place where RCCL tries to milk as much money out of you as possible to participate in any additional activity.
I think I will stop here but there are many, many more experiences such as these among our group of 11 and needless to say we will never sail on the Anthem of the Seas again and may give up on RCCL cruise lines.
Overall, the best parts of the cruise were the smooth embarkation, the cabin size, the artwork on the ship. the shows (much better than usual cruise shows), and the cruise director. This was not enough however to make up for the sheer amount of disappointment we all experienced individually and discussed throughout our trip. It brought unnecessary stress to our lives on a vacation that comes so rarely to many of us. If you are going to be taking this cruise, I would have an overall tip. Buy the all-you-can-drink package because being inebriated most of the time is the only way I can imagine somebody actually enjoying the experience the Anthem has to offer. Read Less