A very good afternoon to you, fellow cruise aficionados!
We wanted to share with you a few thoughts, observations, things we liked and occasional disliked about our recent 9-night cruise onboard Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas with the following ports of call:
• Cape Liberty, New Jersey;
• Royal Navy Dockyards, Bermuda;
• Philipsburg, Sin Maarten;
• San Juan, Puerto Rico; and
• Labadee, Haiti.
First, let's take a look around this beautiful ship. Anthem of the Seas was built in 2015 and as of today she is among top 10 largest cruise ships in the world. On this journey she carried over 5000 passengers and about 1500 crew members.
At the heart of the ship is an area they call The Royal Esplanade. Cannot miss it. It is a two story somewhat open space surrounded by shops, bars and a few premium and otherwise restaurants. It is located on Decks 4 and 5 right around the center of the ship.
As we walk towards the front of the ship, we pass an Irish pub which has a decent selection of craft beers and some creative cocktails. Next there are more shops and a venue called Music Hall. It is a 2-story open lounge where they have concerts, gathering and, of course, dancing at night. Sitting is cozy, but a bit confusing: during a performance there is only a handful of seats from which one can see the stage.
On the lower level Music Hall connects to a rather sizable casino that failed to win us any money, but we always consider casino losses whether here or in Vegas as a Air Conditioning Surcharge.
At the very front of the ship, on decks 4 and 5 is a typical theater with 1300 seating capacity, which seems a bit tight considering 5,000 passengers we had on board, but more about entertainment later.
From the theater we walk to the back of the ship and we are back at the Esplanade, the upper level where they have couple of premium restaurants and the Bionic Bar. This robotic bar is very cool to observe. You can order drinks from a tablet and watch them being mixed shaken or stirred by two robotic arms. Selection of spirits is rather impressive, but I have to say, it is a one-time experience to me. It is much more pleasant to have a drink at a real bar.
So, for those who are thirsty or ready to party, there is Boleros just one deck down where we spent just about every night enjoying a fantastic live Latino music, crazy dancing and refreshing drinks from very attentive bartenders and waiters
If we keep on moving towards the back of the ship on deck 5, there are several contemporary art pieces, some of them interactive and fun to mess with.
One may think (and that was our initial impression as well) that all the cool stuff is centered around The Royal Esplanade but to me area “south” from it on deck 5 is way more interesting! As we pass through couple more art installation, few boutiques and few food venues, we arrive to our favorite part of the ship: The TWO70. Part theater, part lounge, part cozy space, this two-story place at the very back of the ship gives you gorgeous views of ship’s wake during the day and fantastic shows at night when the venue converts to high-tech theater with multiple stages, moving screens, panoramic projection setup and much more. As many have said, during the day it works as a sort of living room. And it works really well: even if they have dancing lessons or kid’s activities, there is still more than enough room to lounge around, have a drink, enjoy the view or people watch. Even though we had a gorgeous balcony stateroom that we will share in a bit, TOW70 was our hangout place for most of the days.
Time to move up. Since decks 6 through 13 are mainly staterooms, we jump straight to the deck 14 through 16 and work our way forward. There are several adrenaline inducing activities at the very top: Ripcord and Flowrider. Both look very cool and challenging, but not something we dared to try even though basics of these two things are free (I believe couple minutes each).
I guess they decided that the ship would be too classy without a giraffe, so there is that thing.
Next stop is a Seaplex – a very roomy area that can be converted from a bumper car arena to basketball or volleyball courts or even a trapeze school. They also have an arcade, foosball, computer games, and even a food truck. Crazy, right? Anything to keep youngsters separated from elderlies!
Moving on, the main pool. Well, they have it. It is on a smaller size in my opinion, but then again, we never really got any interest in swimming or lounging next to it. Most of the time it seemed and felt rather crowded.
What was interesting though is the North Star – a mast that lifts a gondola to about 300 ft above the sea level or about twice the height of the ship. Looks and sounds a bit gimmicky, but it is very-very cool to see a birds-eye view of the ship as it cruises along! Puts things in a whole new perspective! NorthStar is free, but reservations need to be made in advance. There is a standby as well for those who feel lucky. NorthStar operates both in ports and while ship is cruising, but they do not launch it if the wind is above certain level.
A bit closer to the front part of the ship is another pool. This one is covered. A deck above there is a jogging path and a reasonably equipped gym. It did not look too crowded on the couple occasions we were there.
And finally, our favorite place to hang out when we felt like just soaking: The Solarium. Supposedly adults only (well, not really enforced), this is an enclosed area at the front of the ship with several cascading cool lounging pools and four hot tubs. The best place to chill, have a drink, read, enjoy the vistas!
And, if one gets hungry, head out to the Solarium Bistro. Which takes us straight to the next section.
*** Food and beverage ***
Solarium Bistro is the best kept (yet obvious) secret on the ship! By far it has the tastiest food, ambiance and service (out of all non-premium dining venues).This is where we had majority of our meals. For dinner there is a buffet style set of delicious Mediterranean appetizers that we often had as a meal, there are several choices for the main course and, again, buffet style selection for deserts.
We also enjoyed Café Two70 where they have rather decent selection of soups and paninis if one happens to be all the way at the back of the ship.
Windjammer buffet was quite adequate for the ship of this size, the only complain we had, it closed at 9:00 PM. What do we do when we party late? Pizza place at the Esplanade just did not seem appealing to us (although very popular judging by how many folks were in line late at night).
And finally. Main dining rooms. We are generally easy to please and never had an issue on any of the cruises before, but this time the bar was set particularly low with the wait staff just not caring and food being… well, mediocre, worth than the buffet (even though they cook all of it in the same kitchen, don’t they?). Tried twice, just to be sure, same experience: slow service and very much subpar food once would expect from a chain one-star diner on the mainland.
Enough of a negative vibe! Switch to beverages! As if to make up for food, bars for the most part were fantastic. We had a beverage package, so we get to enjoy adult life without feeling too guilty. A lot of interesting cocktails and very creative improvisations. More than enough to satisfy taste buds no matter what deck you end up at any given part of the day or night, right? Speaking of days and nights, it is probably a good time to talk about Entertainment.
Swear, the last complaint the we are filing today are the main shows, I promise, we will be back to positive vibes in a second, but have to say this is the first time in our cruising experience the shows were... well, just not there.... Between technical glitches, very poor sound engineering and overall flow, we did not find any of the shows interesting. We never have done that, but this time we walked away from all three main shows…
On the flip side, comedians and magicians and all the other entertainers onboard were great: fresh, engaging, absolutely fantastic! Latino quartet in Boleros was phenomenal, I have no idea how they maintain that level of energy every night, but they were sensational.
Onboard entertainment was even more important with so many days at sea and, overall, I would say we enjoyed it despite occasional glitches and disappointments, however the cruise to us is always about destinations and, of course there were a few very exciting ones this time.
*** Ports of call ***
We sailed away from the Cape Liberty New Jersey. Check-in and embarkation were immaculate. Fast, efficient, overall very pleasant. As we set sail we get to enjoy absolutely phenomenal view of Manhattan.
View from the ship beats just about any Manhattan panorama we can think of, especially if one gets lucky with the weather, the light and overall ambience. Surprisingly fast we passed under Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with just 15 feet clearance and then we said "good bye" to the mainland for 9 nights.
Our first stop was Bermuda. First time on this island for us and this was one of the reasons we picked this particular cruise. We were dreaming about visiting Bermuda for quite some time. With only one day here we wanted to make sure we get a feel for an island and get to see the historical St George (the old capital). Since tourists can not rent a car on Bermuda and scooters are not exactly our idea of fun, we opted for an excursion from Royal Caribbean that took us all the way around the island with a few short stops at Hamilton, St George, beach and the lighthouse.
The tour was very informative, probably the best way to learn about the island in a short period of time we had. We loved how clean and civilized Bermuda is! Definitely sets it apart from many other islands we have been to. Hamilton was an OK place to visit, but we could not find anything special about it and surprisingly same goes for St George.
We strolled through town, had a little lunch, explored a bit and yet could not figure out what is all the hype is about. Cannot say that we did not enjoy Bermuda, we did, but somehow we were expecting something special and extraordinary and that was just not the case. Maybe it is one of those places that you have to visit and explore on your own for a few days before you start truly enjoying and understanding it. I guess we may need to file it under "a follow up is required".
After another day at sea we arrived to Sin Maarten. This is where we decided to stay on the ship since island is still recovering from the last year devastating hurricane and as much as we wanted to help with our tourist dollars, we could not find anything we wanted to do here especially since we have been here a few years back and the highlight of that trip: watching landing of Boeing 747 over Maho beach is hard to beat! Unfortunately, KLM no longer fly that beauty to Sin Martin, so we decided to take it easy and hang out on the ship.
Next was Puerto Rico. Without a doubt our favorite destination on this trip. We docked at San Juan Cruise Port which put us straight in the old San Juan. We docked at 7:00 in the morning, the best part of the day, when stores are still closed, there is hardly anyone out and we have the entire town to ourselves. Very cool to walk these old streets, take in beautiful colorful Spanish houses and courtyards, make our way to the phenomenal Castillo San Felipe del Morro, explore this gorgeous old Spanish fort which is immaculately restored and preserved by the National Park Service. So many things to see, take pictures of and simply enjoy despite of the hot and humid tropical weather. Then make our way back to town via Passeo del Morro right by the straight that our ship followed. And get back to the city to taste Passion Fruit mojitos and mofongos for lunch at Raices, a nice little local place recommended to us by our new friends. Can this day get better? It absolutely can: the view from our stateroom as we sailed away speaks for itself. And that was one of the reasons we picked a stateroom on the right side of the ship, so that we can see this beautiful historical fort in all its glory as we sailed away.
Our final stop was Labadee Haiti. It is Royal Caribbean private resort that is completely isolated from the rest of the country. They do a great job providing barbecue-style food and drinks from the ship (and yes, our premium drink package worked just fine there). Beach was a bit busy, but if one gets up early enough and makes way all the way to the end of the property (for the best view of the ship), it is possible to grab a spot under the tree and enjoy a peaceful and relaxing day. And after a hot day on the beach it is so nice to come back to your stateroom to enjoy your personal island of civilization. And what a beautiful island it is.
*** The Stateroom ***
We were overall very impressed with the stateroom, so we wanted to do a quick walk through to show what it looked like.
As you enter the room, there is a thermostat that seemed to do a decent job maintaining cabin temperature as long as the balcony door stayed shut.
On the left there is a bathroom that seemed better and larger than typical to us: Certainly, a nice touch to have a glass door rather than a flimsy curtain that still exists on some ships.
Plenty of storage space around the vanity and a few useful hooks on the wall. Overall a very nice and contemporary feel... not only of the bathroom, but of the entire room.
Aside from decor, a very important point is storage and surprisingly we had enough room to nicely distribute the content of our 4 suitcases. Crazy for two, right? Either way, there is a taller wardrobe on one side of the sofa and a shorter on the other side. But it does have couple of drawers underneath. This shorter wardrobe has a few shelves and a safe, which is not large enough for a laptop or even a decent size camera, then again, we were not entirely certain why we would need a safe on a ship anyway.
There are couple of tiny night tables, one on either side of the bed. Unfortunately only one side has an outlet, but that's OK, we cut cord on this cruise and stayed disconnected, hence no need to recharge phones as often. There is additional storage above the bed. Handy for hats and bulky items such as snorkeling gear and what not.
Opposite to the bed is a flat Samsung TV of a reasonable size. Not that we ever really watched it. Next we have another storage space with several shelves and a minifridge. Definitely better than a MiniBar! So that one can store bottled water or those two bottles of bubbly that they allow you to bring onboard. Seems that with the Drink Package came these souvenir mugs, but can't say we found them terribly useful, but to each his own.
There is a table that can be moved around to have a room service breakfast or mess with the computer. Have to mention a very nice selection of outlets: two American, one European for which we brought an adapter just in case and two USB ports. All our cameras and gizmos that we had with us were well fed and super happy throughout the entire trip. One thing worth mentioning: Royal Caribbean will NOT let you bring an extension cord onboard. Probably a smart move considering that cheap ones can be a fire hazard. They also do not allow and do not provide Irons or even Steamers. Which, to be frank, is not a big deal at all considering that in this humidity everything de-wrinkle itself in no time.
So, this room on Deck 11 cabin 604 was our home for nine magnificent nights this past summer.
All good things eventually come to an end, so it is time for us to say good bye and toss a few coins into the ocean. Don't judge coins are completely biodegradable! More importantly, it has been our traditions for over 10 years of cruising: as long as you manage to hit the ocean with your coins on the last night of your sailing, you will be back. And I know that we will!!
See you very soon Caribbean, take care and until next time… Read Less