We booked this cruise while on another cruise back in 2015, so we had plenty of time to read reviews, and to plan accordingly. We are fairly frequent cruisers (Diamond Plus with Crown & Anchor Society) so we had a pretty good idea ... Read More
We booked this cruise while on another cruise back in 2015, so we had plenty of time to read reviews, and to plan accordingly. We are fairly frequent cruisers (Diamond Plus with Crown & Anchor Society) so we had a pretty good idea about much of the process, but the Anthem is a bit different in a number of ways.
First, you have the option of uploading a self-prepared security photo to the website prior to embarkation. We did this, and of course we did online check-in, so upon reaching the pier we simply walked over to one of the representatives holding a tablet, handed her our printed Set Sail Passes and passports, and literally within 2 minutes we were heading through the security screening. We were then on the ship within 15 minutes of reaching the pier!
Prior to the cruise we stayed at the Newark Airport Ramada. They offer a park and cruise special, which included up to 21 days of parking in their fenced lot. We arrived the evening prior to sailing to be safe. The hotel provided a complimentary shuttle to the pier. We had already arranged the time during the hotel reservation process, so we went to the lobby at around 10:15 a.m. as instructed, and although we ended up waiting about 1/2 hour the shuttle process worked very well. Upon reaching the pier a porter grabbed our bags (I always print and laminate the luggage tags provided by Royal Caribbean and then attach them as we head to the pier. So our bags were ready to be delivered to our stateroom) and we headed inside the terminal for check-in (described above).
We downloaded the Royal IQ App and paid the $7.95/person fee to use it during the duration of our cruise. I had read numerous complaints about it but frankly my wife and I found it quite useful. It is fairly robust (you can even book excursions using it) and it allowed us to keep in touch when separated on the ship. It supports both "chat" and voice communications. A couple of times we had to disconnect then reconnect to the wifi router, but other than that we found it worth the modest fee.
We also purchased a one device surf and stream package prior to sailing. We found the internet service to be far superior to any we had ever experienced at sea before. I actually streamed an entire hockey game at one point and we were able to make wifi phone calls to friends and family. In case anyone is wondering, a one device plan can be shared by multiple users. However, only one device can be connected at any point in time.
We had a balcony stateroom on Deck 8. The room had plenty of storage and offered 3 A/C outlets and 2 USB charging ports. We didn't really need any sort of outlet multiplier as was typically necessary on other ships. I had seen complaints about the beds - ours was firm but not uncomfortably so. We slept well!
The air conditioning works only when the balcony door is closed AND locked. The lights in the room shut down within a minute or so of removing the Seapass Card from a slot at the main light switch. If desired any card would work in that slot (another old hotel card key, for example) but we didn't find that necessary. The bathroom included a glass encased shower with a curved door. Not only was it roomy but the mirror in the bathroom didn't steam up as it always did on other ships.
I had also seen numerous complaints about the movement of the ship. My wife and I agreed that it seemed to roll as much as some of the smaller ships (it was reminiscent of cruises we have taken on the Grandeur of the Seas). Perhaps the somewhat narrow and tall design contributes to this. But it wasn't bad enough to interfere with anything other than on one particularly rough day on the return to Bayonne when many activities were canceled or postponed due to rough seas.
The entertainment was very good. We Will Rock You was quite fun. We missed The Gift, but we did see Spectra's Caberet, which we didn't enjoy as much as we had hoped. The headliners were generally good. My wife and I tend to gravitate toward the Schooner Bar in every ship, and on the Anthem we found "A Girl Named Jake" who was a phenomenal performer. I haven't any idea how much longer her contract runs, but if you sail within the next couple of months she'll probably still be there and is well worth a listen. Other venues had various types of music going. There was a Beatles tribute band that played on several nights. They really had the crowd hopping. There are so many venues that you're likely to find something of interest every night.
We found the food to be good. Some have complained, but we didn't notice any real difference from other cruises. Windjammer is the usual buffet food. They did seem to have an abundance of fresh fruit, which was great. The MDR was good, and we did enjoy 2 meals at specialty restaurants. Some have complained about the service. We didn't notice any real drop-off in service among the dining venues. All crew members we encountered were friendly and willing to help. Perhaps it's a matter of expectations. We have cruised enough to know what to expect and we weren't disappointed.
We did have some trouble getting into sync with our stateroom attendant. We left the room at different times each day, usually affording at least 90 minutes to 2 hours for the room to be serviced, but on 2 occasions he didn't get around to us. I must say that after more than 2 dozen cruises this was the first time we experienced that.
The Seaplex was very interesting. It's a great place for kids as well as adults. Bumper cars at sea is a pretty cool thing, indeed. There are a variety of activities there to keep every family member engaged, including Xbox units, table tennis, etc.
We did try the NorthStar, which we enjoyed. We tried it at sunset in port, which was a nice experience. While in port they don't extend it beyond the ship, but you'll get views of the port. At sea they do extend it over the water, but of course all you'll see is...well...more water. It's just a matter of preference.
We signed up for iFly but didn't make it. Something left for next cruise...
270 is a great venue. Dining during the day and entertainment at night. It can transform to a variety of different purposes.
Pools were great. Solarium is beautiful. Good to have a covered area when cruising from New Jersey in January! It was chilly outside on the first full day of cruising and on the last full day of cruising. Other than that it was warm enough to enjoy our balcony.
There were 2 formal nights on the cruise. We enjoy dressing for those. I don't get many opportunities to wear my tuxedo. Neither does my wife have much call to wear formal gowns. It's nice to dust those off once in a while. We had thought that there would be 2 smart casual evenings as well but found that all other evenings were casual. I wore my linen suit on one evening anyway...I packed it and had it pressed on board, so I was determined to use it!
Disembarkation - WOW! We're still scratching our heads about how easy leaving the ship was. We had a low tag number (4) so by the time we arose, finished packing our remaining items to carry off with us, and got showered and dressed our tag number had been called. So we went down to deck 5 and literally walked off the ship within seconds. Upon entering the terminal we immediately found our bags and off to customs we went.
We waited a whole 30 seconds or so for an agent, walked up and were cleared about 15 seconds thereafter. It couldn't have been more than 15 minutes from the time we closed our stateroom door behind us until we were at the curb for our shuttle back to the Ramada to pick up our car. It was without a doubt the smoothest and fastest disembarkation we have ever experienced.
So would we recommend the Anthem? Well, since we're booked to cruise on her again later this year we'd have to say, "Yes!" My favorite ships are the Oasis class (I enjoy the variety of activities available on the larger ships) but I'd have to say the Anthem (Quantum class) is a close second. And as for my wife, she has declared the Anthem her favorite ship. Although I was a bit apprehensive given the negative reviews I had read, but I'm glad I gave it a try myself. We had a great experience on a lovely ship with a good crew.
Oh yeah...we did actually stop at several ports. But my wife and I visited only a few of them, and those only on our own. We enjoyed the ship on other port days, since it was largely uninhabited while in port. We actually had our pick of Solarium pools one day. And we were able (other than day one) to use pretty much any machine desired in the Fitness Center each day. Read Less