There are a lot of different cruise ships out there on a lot of different cruise lines. Matt and I are by no means professional cruisers (but, full disclosure, full time cruising is my retirement plan) but we love being on board and have been testing out different ships as more and more cruise lines begin to said out of New York, Boston, and today… Bayonne, New Jersey!
Our latest venture to the Bahamas was the first time I had personally cruised with Royal Caribbean. I’ve done tours and reviews on a few other ships with other lines – the Norwegian Breakaway and Carnival Horizon – and today I’ll be showing you a little piece of the Anthem of the Seas. This beautiful ship is heading to Southampton in 2020 so I feel lucky to have been able to experience it.
First of all, the interior decoration on Anthem, I though, was beautiful. Boarding the ship, we were taken through a stunning lit up corridor with teasers of the restaurants and fun things to do once on board.
Now, these “meet the ship” posts get really long, so in the interest of maintaining space for a change I’m going to focus exclusively on the things Matt and I experienced rather than giving you a full walkthrough of the ship. If you have specific questions about things, I’d be happy to answer in the comments!
Matt and I always always book a balcony suite because we LOVE having our own little slice of sea. In warm, Caribbean cruises like this one, that balcony is amazing. For me it’s amazing all the time. The balcony we had on Anthem of the Seas was the largest balcony we’ve had to date. There are always larger balconies available to upgrade for a price, but we’ve never done that – a balcony is a balcony. The balcony here was probably a foot deeper than our other rooms and MAN did that feel luxurious! So from me, Royal gets extra points for their balconies. I mean, look at that view from the port in Bayonne!
If you look close, you can see the Statue of Liberty there on the other side of the Hudson River. She’s small, but she’s there!
Cruise ship rooms are, honestly, all basically the same with different decorating. I’d say that our room here was comfortable enough for two people. I think it may have been a little bigger than NCL, and a little smaller than Carnival. Still, it was spacious enough and comfortable. The bed was a bit firm for my taste, but that was also our experience on Carnival.
While Matt tells me that this is a pretty common thing, Anthem had two indoor pools! I, for one, thought this was awesome. None of the other ships we’ve seen have had this (outside the fancy pay-extra spa area) and it’s great to be able to use the pools and hot tubs without having to be out in the cold. That’s definitely something that I would have loved on our Transatlantic last year!
One of these indoor looks and generally pool areas is adult only, and it is called the Solarium.
…Are adult-only areas a thing in all boats and I’ve just missed them? This one is gorgeous and warm with all sorts of plants and just felt a bit more luxurious and relaxing than the other pool areas. It’s quieter, and relaxing, and lots of hot tubs if that’s your thing. Obviously it’s only adults only if it’s not rubbish weather – but when we went in it had that massage venue, yoga class ultimate chill and YES.
The outdoor pool venue is very similar to other venues in other ships. I was lucky enough to be able to snap a picture in Bayonne before we left, before the pool was opened officially and when it was too cold to go in anyway.
For entertainment on board, there were a few options. We’re always fans of outdoor theatres and show programming! This cruise was heavy in Disney movies – from Toy Story 4 to Spider-Man: Far From Home. We were lucky enough to catch bookings just right so that we could see all the on board shows, because slots for those fill up really fast before you get on board.
Of these shows, my favorite was probably “We Will Rock You”… which was not a Queen tribute as I expected, but instead dystopia where all music is banned except electronically produced music made by the global corporation Globalsoft. It was cheesy and fun, as musicals tend to be. Highly enjoyable, though, and the Queen music was fantastic of course.
We were also lucky enough to be able to pre-book iFly (a flight simulation experience) and the Royal Caribbean North Star. I didn’t go on iFly – as a person afraid of death by falling, it didn’t appeal – but Matt did!
…Same with the North Star. The morning we had booked it was super windy and rocky and I just couldn’t bring myself to go up. I think if we book it again, I’d do it on a port day and see if I could muster up the courage while we were not traveling. Matt took a couple pictures of the ship from above, so that’s kind of cool!
The North Star apparatus seems to only go up and down these days. Once upon a time, it used to go out over the port and starboard side of the ship, but not anymore? Or at least not that day, but it could have been weather-related. Regardless, it looks like a super cool experience and if you’re able to book it, I recommend it. Especially if you’re not afraid of heights!
We always check out the specialty restaurants, because although the MDR food is usually pretty good by our low standards (except Carnival….), the specialty dining venues area delicious. For this trip, we chose Jamie’s Italian, Chops, and Wonderland.
I mean, of COURSE I chose Wonderland?! I really don’t understand how, as a huge Alice in Wonderland fan, I could have passed up that themed restaurant!
The first one we tried was Jamie’s. Matt was super excited for this one! This was definitely a changed as usually he’s pumped about the steakhouse, but also a great thing. We wanted to start out with the Italian because I’m not always a big fan and didn’t want to end the trip with it this time.
Jamie’s was excellent, and I highly recommend it. Being who I am, I got so excited by the food that I ate it up quickly and it wasn’t until I was halfway through my dessert that I realized I probably should have been photographing for this post. And by then, it was a lost cause. There is a decent menu selection for all sorts of people – for myself, I’m not a fan of red sauce, so I had a nice Truffle Tagliatelle and was able to enjoy their homemade pasta. We were served delicious garlic knots ahead of time, and finished with a scrumptious berry pavlova so I have nothing but positive things to say about Jamie’s.
In fact, when walking out after dinner, I was overstuffed, joyful, and considering having them for lunch later in the trip. You know. Just in case other options didn’t work out.
The second restaurant we tried was Wonderland. As mentioned above, absolutely NEEDED to try this restaurant for its Alice theme. But Wonderland is unique in that it’s not so much intended to be a restaurant as it is a culinary experience. Even the menus are secret, until you reveal them with water and a brush!
The childlike wonder in me was, honestly, obsessed with this restaurant. Even before we went in. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of seafood dishes. I am allergic to all seafood, so this cut the menu down for me… but regardless, our server did an excellent job choosing dishes (we let her pick everything). I ended up with some very tasty appetizers with ingredients I would not have normally chosen, plus everything was very well plated and I appreciated the experience through and through.
On the very last night of our cruise, Matt and I said goodbye with Chops Grille. How could we miss a steakhouse? This is us, after all.
I was not at all impressed with Chops Grille. We’ve done steakhouses on all the different cruises, and Chops was the least impressive. It was cramped and overcrowded with no sense of intimacy at your own table, the service was lackluster, and the food was overcooked. It is entirely possible we just caught them on the wrong night as we book the last night of the cruise, but I don’t think I’d go to Chops again.
If you’re only booking one specialty restaurant, book Jamie’s if you want great food, or Wonderland if you want a great experience.
Outside if the restaurants and events, we didn’t do a lot on the ship? There were a lot of options available, so it wasn’t for lack of availability. There were dance parties every night if those are your thing (including a silent party which I actually wanted to go to, but it was at 11:15pm and that’s a bit late for me). Like most other ships, thee was karaoke and bingo and trivia, and of course special events in the casino. The karaoke game was better on Anthem than some other ships I sailed (no I didn’t sing, but it can be fun to watch!) – everyone we saw was just having fun and goofing around, which is the best of karaoke if you ask me. 🙂
A couple notes on Royal, as this is my first time going with them. There are a few really basic things that it is good to know about any cruise ships before getting aboard, and some things of note for me on Anthem were as follows:
- The My Time timing option is awesome. Matt and I aren’t conversationalists except among ourselves, so we really prefer a private table. Add to that the fact that I worry about missing dinner because of excursions and this was really the perfect option for us. You can make your reservations for different My Time dining before you get on the ship (which I recommend if you like peak times, like 7pm) and you don’t really have to wait in a line to get in AND what I particularly liked about this setup vs. Carnival is that you get the same servers every night! Shoutout to Iputu and Keenan, who were awesome.
- Royal’s excursions are a hot mess. I was so surprised when we got to Port Canaveral and it was just sort of “gang plank is down – good luck!” The offerings were fine and with the exception of Nassau, things were good once we found our group, but this was such a different and more chaotic system than the “meet in the dining room and we’ll all go together!” system that both Carnival and Norwegian use… gotta say, I didn’t love it. I’m already a bit stressed on excursion days because of the getting up early and finding my way in an unfamiliar place – having a clear, designated meetup location before leaving the ship is nice.
- This was definitely a “middle” cruise for us. There was a lot more variety of age groups and temperaments in the passengers than other cruise lines. The food was good but not great. The specialty dining was great but not amazing. The entertainment was varied but not super enticing. The accommodations were good but not particularly plush. All in all, it was a moderate level, all very nice but simply not the best we’ve seen. Also not the worst we’ve seen. 🙂
Generally speaking, I would sail with Royal again. There were enough perks that I was impressed, but not so many that I’m in love. We’ve already got our next cruise planned (Baltic Sea, September 2020!) but in the future I would consider Royal a contender and compare its prices and itineraries with NCL.
Still, even though I adore spending time staring out at the waves and being so disconnected from the world that nobody can reach me… I’m glad to be home. There’s been so much going on in the real world for me that even though I was able to tone it all down for a little while, I was never completely able to let it go and I am looking forward to finishing out the year and being able to breathe more easily for a little while. Besides, there is something wonderfully nice about sleeping in my own bed… and of course seeing my cats.
I did get the time to read The Starless Sea, which I do not think I would have been able to do until January otherwise. For that, if nothing else, I’m super grateful!
So next Friday I will be talking about our first stop in Port Canaveral and our tour through the Kennedy Space Center. For those of you who have stumbled on my personal Instagram 🙂 you may have seen the picture of the back side of a Saturn V rocket? Super cool – I’ll be posting that picture as well as shot of launch pads 39A & 39B, a shot of the shuttle Atlantis, and being super nerdy. 🙂 If that’s up your alley, be sure to swing back next Friday!
Have you ever sailed with Royal Caribbean? If so, what ship did you sail on and what was your experience? If not, would you consider it? Let me know your cruise thoughts in the comments!