Anthem of the Seas' Royal Theater hosts the ship's major production show, "We Will Rock You." The nearly two-hour musical -- which debuted in London's West End and has toured around the world -- sets Queen's biggest hits to a story set 300 years in the future, on Earth (renamed iPlanet), where rock and roll doesn't exist. A group of "Bohemians" is seeking a rhapsody. The result is an exceptionally performed show, with a plot that can drag at times. (For a taste, catch just the last half hour, which has the most show-stopping numbers of the performance.) The singers are definitely Broadway-caliber and the price (free) can't be beat.
When "We Will Rock You" isn't rocking you, various other acts are performed at the theater. They include a fantastical Royal Caribbean original production called "The Gift," the three-act "In Concert" set to songs of the '70s, '80s and '90s and "Name That Tune."
The SeaPlex is the one-stop spot for all things fun during the day. The splashiest option is probably the bumper cars, which will have you mercilessly crashing into fellow passengers in no time. When the bumper cars aren't in use, though, the space can be used as a roller rink for actual roller skating. (Bring socks.) It's also where the "circus school" takes place. There, passengers (who must sign waivers) are taught to swing through the air on a flying trapeze -- over a huge, air-filled mat. It's open to passengers 6 and older.
Four SeaPods (small rooms for socializing) are located on the second deck of the SeaPlex. Passengers can play air hockey or table tennis there or try out games in the Xbox video game lounge in one of the Pods. The second level is also a great spot to watch the DJ booth float -- with the assistance of a mechanical arm -- over the roller rink below during skating sessions.
Passengers looking for a mental challenge can try out Puzzle Break, a game that has teams digging for clues, cracking codes and trying to "escape" from a room using only their brains and cooperation. Puzzle Break takes place in Fuel, the teen center, but it's open to adults. (It will be too challenging for young participants.) Check your daily cruise program to see when Puzzle Break is offered; it runs multiple times on sea days.
Trivia, bingo, "name that tune" and pool games (think belly flop contests) are held throughout the cruise, and crafters can head up to The Workshop in Two70 for things like scrapbooking sessions.
There's no shortage of activities at night on Anthem of the Seas. In addition to the entertainment venues and casino, keep an eye out for the "Stowaway Piano Player," who moves around the ship with his piano, "evading" the ship's officers and entertaining passengers in odd spots like elevators and stairwells.
Casino Royale (Deck 3): The casino is fairly large, with a variety of slot machines and table games that include craps, roulette and blackjack. It's a bit off the beaten path; you actually have to look for it, rather than just stumble into it. It's one of the few indoor venues that allows smoking, which permeates even the small nonsmoking section of the casino.
Music Hall (Decks 3 and 4): This is the ship's two-deck live music venue, where you can listen to tribute bands, have a late-night drink, dance the night away and even partake in karaoke. It's a huge space, reminiscent of a nightclub, rather than what its name suggests (an old-fashioned music hall). There's a large square bar on the upper floor and plenty of seating, including less noisy options. There are also seats around the upper level so you can watch the band perform and passengers gyrate on the dance floor below. Between bands, a DJ plays, and you might even stumble upon the odd variety performance; we saw a ventriloquist. Downstairs, you'll find another large bar, a dance floor, the stage and more seating. If you like your music loud (there's a strong emphasis on rock), then this is the venue for you. If you enjoy a more sedate post-dinner drink, you might be better off in the Schooner Bar.
During the day, Music Hall is given over to dance classes and comedy improv workshops. Or just relax with a beer and a game of pool.
Two70 (Decks 5 and 6): On most nights, you can watch the show "Spectra's Cabaret," which is offered twice per night on certain evenings. There's no real storyline or acting; it's really a vehicle to show off the amazing technology in Two70 and is a visual feast for the eyes and ears. Vistarama comes into full play, with geometric shapes and jellyfish beamed onto the HD screens that cover all the windows. Two70 also has six huge TVs mounted on robot arms that dance in tune with the performers, displaying shapes and bright colors along with digital performers. Meanwhile, the human performers dance, sing and execute extraordinary acrobatics. It's fun, exuberant and generally engrossing, but it's 50 minutes long, and certain sections sag a bit.
Here's a tip: Show up early so you can get the best seats -- the first row of the balcony level or the bench seating on the lower level. Unlike those in a typical theater, the higher seats are better, as you get to take in the entire spectacle and the sheer scale of Vistarama. Also, if you sit on the lower level, you might well end up face to face with a staring singer or dancing with an acrobat.
Two70 also hosts comedians on occasion; check your daily newsletter.
While it's possible to get a drink virtually anywhere onboard Anthem of the Seas, there are only a few bars that don't double as entertainment spaces or restaurants. The vibe of each venue is slightly different, and we found passengers tended to find their favorites and stick with them. During the day, the hot spot is the North Star Bar, while, at night, Schooner Bar is hopping.
Boleros (Deck 4): If you fancy a tucked-away Latin-themed night spot, Boleros is a great choice. It's deliberately dark, with plush seating and themed decor, and it's an ideal spot for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail or two. There's a dance floor to bust some Latin moves, though we never saw it being used, as well as a small stage for musical performances at night.
Schooner Bar (Deck 5): Decorated in dark wood and marble, the Schooner Bar is the ship's piano bar. A piano player takes requests from passengers who sit at a bar that surrounds the piano. It makes for a fun time. It's also a nice spot to grab a drink before having dinner at nearby Chops Grille.
Bionic Bar (Deck 5): Swing by the Bionic Bar to watch the two Makr Shakr bartending "robots" mix up your creations, which you order via tablet. This one is pretty gimmicky, but it's worth trying at least once. After you've ordered, the robotic arms will grab a shaker, mix up your concoction and pour it into your cup. Then, it will set the drink down into a slot atop the bar and push it toward you. Screens on either side of the bar will show you how long until your drink is made and which robot is making it. You can create your own cocktail from a list of ingredients, or choose from the bar's menu; the signature drinks are definitely on the sweet side. The space itself isn't really a bar -- it's more of a walkway -- and seating is limited. Still, it gets crowed -- especially at night, when a DJ starts spinning tunes -- and drink wait times can be fairly long.
Only passengers 21 or older can order drinks. RFID bracelets or SeaPass cards, which are linked to your profile, are required to order.
Vintages Wine Bar (Deck 5): Vintages is an upscale wine bar that's in a prime spot at the top of The Via, the fancier end of the Esplanade, with seating and tables along the walkway. It has a large bar, as well as wine-dispensing machines that allow you to serve yourself with the swipe of your key card. The vibe in Vintages is refined and relaxed; it's a place to make conversation and perhaps discuss different types of wine. If you're hungry, choose from nine tapas-style small plates that run $3 to $5 apiece.
Sky Bar and Pool Bar (Deck 14): The Sky Bar serves as the main pool bar, while the Pool Bar is the main bar for the adjacent covered pool.
North Star Bar (Deck 15): As the name suggests, this bar is set just below the entrance to the North Star and is an ideal spot to look out over the entire pool deck and out to sea. It has a selection of cocktails starting at $12, as well as Champagne, wine and beer. There's bar seating, and cushioned seats and loungers in a small area in front of the bar.
Anthem's three main pools all are located on Deck 14. For sun-seekers, there's the main pool deck, surrounded by lots of lounge chairs and wicker couches that feature padded seating. There, you'll find two whirlpools -- one on either side of the pool -- and a giant movie screen. There's also a self-service soft-serve ice cream machine, popular on any warm-weather cruise, and the required poolside bar.
Also outdoors near the main pool, you'll find the H2O Zone, dedicated to families with young children. It's not completely separate; it's more an adjunct to the main pools, with a wave pool for youngsters in the center. On one side, there's a little splash pool for babies (where swim diapers are OK to use) and on the other, a very cool "lazy river" pool. There are also kid-size deck chairs. How thoughtful is that?
If you forgot your sunscreen, you can pick it up at Sea Trek, by the main pool, which offers a choice of sun-related products.
A second pool is located under a retractable roof, just adjacent to the main pool. It is quieter than the outdoor pool and is self-contained; it has its own bar, two whirlpools and a wading pool with loungers in the water.
The adults-only Solarium pool is just next door. This is our favorite pool. It's just beautiful, with three tiers of pools (each spilling over into the next), panoramic forward-facing ocean views, plenty of hot tub space and an air of serenity. On the lowest level, sun loungers sit in the water for those who want to take a dip without making the full commitment to swim. The Solarium also has its own juice/smoothie bar ($9 for smoothies) and a fabulously fun tiled swing that seats two.
Only two ships at sea -- Anthem of the Seas and its sister, Quantum of the Seas -- feature skydiving simulation. For anyone who loves adventure, RipCord by iFly is not to be missed. You'll need reservations to ensure your spot, but one "flight" is free for every passenger. Signup is at the back of the ship on Deck 15. There, you'll have to sign a waiver (if you plan to do multiple activities onboard, you can sign all waivers at once) and watch a short instructional video before getting dressed in your jumpsuit, helmet and goggles. (You will need to bring lace-up shoes or socks to complete your ensemble.) Next, you'll pose for pictures and head up to Deck 16 with your group for your flight. Flights last 60 seconds; prepare to be pushed and pulled around by the instructor who is in the simulator with you. You'll also probably be a little sore the next day after working muscles in brand-new ways. Have a friend outside to take photos, or you can buy pictures from the ship's photographer. If you're hooked, seek out a Ripcord experience on land; the activity is so popular onboard, there isn't enough time for people to do it twice. The minimum age for trying out Ripcord is 3.
The FlowRider surf simulator also is on Deck 16 and free of charge. Private, for-fee instruction is available, as well. Height restrictions are in place for anyone trying it out: 58 inches is the minimum for standup surfers; 52 inches is the minimum for those trying boogie boards. A rock climbing wall is located on Deck 15. Just look for the big giraffe statue, which is placed next to it. Her name is Gigi, and she's there just for aesthetics, so no climbing the giraffe.
Those who don't want to work so hard for their fun might enjoy the North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule attached to a mechanical arm that rises 300 feet above sea level, providing amazing 360-degree views. For the best experience, try it out at sea, where the capsule will both rise and extend over the side of the ship; in port, restrictions might be in place that prevent the capsule from going over the side. Riding the North Star takes 15 to 20 minutes and is free, though you'll want to make reservations. It can be booked for special events, such as weddings, for a fee.
There's really just one sun deck, located on Deck 15. Be aware that the jogging track runs around the entire deck, and space between the track and lounge chairs is quite tight. An exclusive sun deck for suite passengers is located on Deck 16, just forward of the SeaPlex's upper level.
Guest services is located on Deck 4. There, passengers can book restaurant, show and activity (circus school or iFly, for example) reservations, either directly through the ship's Royal IQ tablets or with the help of a crew member. (The area is always staffed.) This is also where passengers can report problems or leave feedback.
Passengers can book future cruises on Deck 5, near the midship elevator bank, at the Next Cruise desk. The shore excursions space is nearby, so passengers can use tablets or computer stations to research and book ship-sponsored shore excursions. If technology trips you up, you can get assistance from crew members there, too.
Retail space -- including Bulgari, Hublot, Armani Jeans and Prince & Greene -- can be found on the Esplanade on decks 4 and 5. Port Merchants is the ship's duty-free store. Kiosks set out in the main Deck 4 thoroughfare host sales and highlighted merchandise.
Two70 isn't just an entertainment space; its second floor is home to a craft workshop, decent-sized library, board game room and Internet cafe. Internet onboard truly is lightning fast, even allowing for video streaming. Anthem of the Seas is one of a few select Royal Caribbean ships that offer VOOM -- the only Internet package available. It costs $15 per day for one device. Passengers also receive a 50 percent discount when they purchase Internet for a second device; if you want access for your smart phone and laptop, it will cost a total of $22.50 per day.
To eliminate paper waste, the Photo Gallery on Anthem of the Seas, located on Deck 5, is completely digital. Ship photographers take your picture and then pop the images into the photo computer system. When you scan your wristband or SeaPass card at a photo kiosk, your photos will show up on the screen, thanks to face-recognition software. You can purchase digital copies, prints or both; an 8 x 10 is $20.
An art gallery is located next to Two70 along The Via on Deck 5.
A conference center, equipped with AV technology, is at the back of the ship on Deck 13.
Smokers have their own dedicated areas throughout the ship, including a portion of the pool deck and a sun deck on Deck 5 aft, outside Vintages.
The Vitality Spa is located at the top of the ship on Deck 15. There are 19 treatment rooms, including two couples' treatment rooms. The decor is muted, with natural tones of light brown and shades of purple, creating an air of calm. But there's not a lot of natural light; half of the treatment rooms are interior with no windows.
The spa contains a thermal suite, which is tiny, considering the size of the ship, and it does not even have a pool. It does have six heated tiled chairs, a rain shower, a sauna and a steam room. Only 30 day passes are available on any given day; pricing is $30 per day ($20 with the purchase of a treatment). Weekly passes also are sold at $99 per person or $179 per couple. There are no free steam rooms in the changing areas, which were rather small.
Pre- or post-treatment, passengers can chill out in the relaxation suite, which has 10 chairs and cups of free ice water, fruit-infused water and specialty teas.
Treatments start at $125 for a facial; a 90-minute bamboo massage is $235 -- not cheap. Men's services are more reasonable: A 55-minute grooming treatment with shave starts at $95.
You'll find the hair salon and nail bar for manicures and pedicures ($50 for 45 minutes) near the reception desk, and a teeth-whitening area is hidden away nearby. Note that it's quite easy for people on the Deck 15 track to look through the windows into the salon.
The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There's no need to forgo your fitness routine on Anthem of the Seas, which boasts one of the best-equipped gyms we've ever seen on a cruise ship. The fitness facility on Deck 16 is huge. (No kidding, it's bigger than many land-based health clubs.) It has a multi-tiered design that provides amazing ocean views from virtually anywhere you're sweating.
Those passengers who are gym-curious will feel comfortable with the range of beginner-friendly cardio options like treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, while fitness buffs will appreciate the free weight variety (up to 90 pounds) and large number of weight machines.
A spacious aerobics studio hosts classes, including TRX ($20 per session) and Body Sculpt ($30 per session), while a cycling studio is designed for spinning ($12 per session). Classes like stretching and "fab abs" are free. Personal training and nutrition consultations are also available for extra fees.
Those who don't mind getting up early or running at odd hours will love the two-lane jogging track, located on Deck 15. One lane is designated for walkers, the other for runners. You'll run a mile in just under three laps as the track winds through tightly packed lounge chairs. If you hit the track before the sun rises or when other people are eating, you'll spend more time focusing on your run and less time avoiding chair creep. A sign indicates the starting line, and you can measure a 5-kilometer (9.12 laps) or 10-kilometer run.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more family-centric ship cruising today. Anthem offers everything from kid-sized deck chairs and three family pools to a wide choice of family cabins and even family bathrooms throughout the ship's public spaces. Royal Caribbean's youth program, Adventure Ocean, runs a full and varied series of activities for kids, ages 6 months to 17 years.
Adventure Ocean is Anthem's huge kids club, spread across two decks at the front of the ship. The space is divided into six separate rooms, depending on age group and activity, and is open for kids aged 6 months to 11 years. Two separate teen areas on the ship's upper decks are dedicated to 12- to 17-year-olds.
Adventure Ocean is open from 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. On port days, it opens half an hour before the first shore excursion departs and is open through lunch; youth staff will take all children in their care to the Windjammer for a set-menu lunch before returning to the kids club for afternoon activities. (There's no added fee for this service.) You can leave your kids onboard while you go on a shore excursion.
Parents need to register themselves and their kids at the beginning of the cruise and must sign kids in and out each time they visit the club. Kids are each issued a brightly colored wristband, which indicates muster station and must be worn at all times.
A full program of activities for kids takes place throughout the day. You'll find activities based on arts and science, as well as scavenger hunts, dress-up games, quizzes and sports for the older kids.
You can also opt to leave your child in the club from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., when youth staff will take the kids to a dedicated area in the Windjammer Cafe for a 6 p.m. dinner and then back to the club. There's no added fee for this, but know that the program does not operate every evening.
From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Adventure Ocean turns into a Late Night Party Zone for children between ages 3 and 11. It costs $10 per hour, per child. Themes might include "trash the room" (which sounds fun) or a glow theme night.
Three rooms on Deck 11 are dedicated to the youngest cruisers. The Royal Babies & Tots Nursery is open to kids aged 6 months to 3 years; it's bookable onboard only. The fee is $6 per child, per hour, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and $8 per child, per hour, between 6 p.m. and midnight. There is a 4:1 baby-to-staff ratio and just two permanent staff members in this room, so you are advised to book ahead. The ship will add a third member during particularly busy sailings, but that's still a maximum of 12 tots on a 4,180-passenger ship. You can bring your own food, or the staff will order in from room service.
The main room has a soft play area, toys, mats and simple games and books. There is a separate sleeping area where babies can have naps in the day or sleep at night, with five cribs for babies and 10 cots for toddlers. The ship also has two strollers onboard, but they're not for public use; they're used by staff to soothe unsettled kids.
Opposite the nursery is Aquanauts, for potty-trained 3- to 5-year-olds. They'll find lots to do there with a library, dress-up area, games, toys, TV screens for age-appropriate videos, a craft area and a play kitchen corner. Kids can also go upstairs to the Science Room, where they can do cool experiments like blowing things up or making volcanoes.
There are no windows or outside spaces in all of Adventure Ocean, so staff take kids out for shipwide scavenger hunts or game sessions in SeaPlex at least once a day.
Between the nursery and Aquanauts is an open play area for younger kids, where parents stay and play, rather than drop off. It has a slide, soft play area, toys and games. It is also used by the nursery as a supervised play area for 45-minute play sessions with babies and tots. A spiral staircase connects this room with the upper deck of Adventure Ocean.
The upper deck also has three rooms -- two dedicated to the older age groups and one central Science Lab for all ages (3 and older).
The Explorers room is for 6- to 8-year-olds. It has TV screens and play areas, as well as spots for arts, crafts and drawing. Activities and games focus on age-specific themes like space, the world and dinosaurs. Explorers also take part in theater productions and sport competitions in SeaPlex, dress up, go on shipwide scavenger hunts and let loose at discos and ice cream parties.
The Voyagers room is for 9- to 11-year-olds. They have the usual range of age-appropriate games and videos, but there is much more emphasis on sports and outdoor activities, both around the ship and in SeaPlex. Voyagers also have movie nights, including popcorn.
In between the two rooms is the Science Lab, which is open to all ages. Children in the same age group are accompanied by youth staff to carry out experiments under close supervision.
The teens have two rooms at the opposite end of the ship from Adventure Ocean, on Decks 14 and 15. They are open to kids aged 12 to 17 years.
Teens get their own hangout space, The Living Room, on Deck 14 and a teens-only disco, Fuel, on the deck above. Unlike Adventure Ocean, both of the teen areas are flooded with natural light from large windows.
The emphasis in the Living Room is very much hanging out, rather than organized activities; teens are allowed to come and go as they please -- no need to sign in or out -- and there are no more than three youth staff members around (often fewer) at any one time. Staff are there if kids need them and to supervise, rather than to round them up for organized activities.
During holiday times and vacation weeks, when a lot of teens are onboard, staff may also divide the group into 12- to 14-year-olds and 15- to 17-year-olds.
The Living Room has been very thoughtfully designed for this age group, and it really is an ideal space for teens just to chill, mingle, relax and chat. There are beanbag chairs scattered about the room in addition to plenty of regular chairs. Games include foosball, Xbox and a widescreen TV for movies. The bits we particularly loved were the body-contoured seats by the windows where you can lie back side by side with a pal and watch TV on embedded screens -- or just stare out the window.
Optional organized activities might include age-appropriate scavenger hunts, trivia, game show-style competitions, painting, foosball tournaments and music video creation.
Fuel, the teens-only disco is located directly above The Living Room and adjacent to the teen-friendly SeaPlex and arcade. Dance parties take place most nights, often with a theme -- Miami night or glow parties. At the front of the ship, pool parties take place in the Solarium.
Teens also can opt not to eat with their parents and, instead, have dinner in the Windjammer (with a member of staff), depending on how many teens are on that sailing.
The spa offers a range of teen-specific spa options called YPSA. These include treatments to fight acne and skin blemishes, as well as massages and facials. Prices start at $25 for a boy's haircut; you can also opt for mother/daughter or father/son massages from $99.
There are no teens-only shore excursions, but there are plenty of family-friendly shore excursions, which will be marked with a family symbol in the shore excursion guides.