Part ship, part spaceship and part playground, Anthem of the Seas is an 18 decked ‘floating resort’ of very high calibre. Fitted out to the highest standard and adorned with contemporary art in every available space Anthem is the third largest cruise liner in the world and the most technologically advanced (they have robot bartenders for goodness sake!). Arriving on board with expectations of an extremely posh ferry, this Quantum class ship immediately blew them out of the water and impressed on many levels. Aesthetically, it reminded me of luxury hotels in the Middle or Far East; with shiny art installations, plush fabrics and atmospheric lighting; but as time went on what stood out most was the thought behind every aspect of Anthem.
Take for example the 18 individually styled restaurants, which make up the newly coined Dynamic Dining Experience. Royal Caribbean has made a bold move away from the traditional, more formal fixed dining approach held fast by many cruise companies (although this is still available for those who prefer). In addition to 6 varied inclusive dining restaurants and a further 8 cafes, casual diners and self-serve, passengers can now choose from a host of other signature restaurants – for an added premium of course. Regardless of the extra cost, it’s clear that Royal Caribbean have given much thought to the complex palates of today’s travellers, enlisting the help of world renowned chefs to ensure no taste is left out.
Experimental foodies will appreciate the culinary wizardry on offer at Wonderland and there’s something for everyone at Jamie’s Italian. I dined on classic European at La Grande and delectable dim sum and Asian flavours at Silk, all washed down with paired wines. Health conscious passengers will be delighted that the calorie controlled dishes, detoxing smoothies and juices at Devinly Decadence are included in the complimentary dining package. And as I took a tour of a patisserie galley where teams of chefs made fresh bread, Executive Chef Gary Thomas explained this important decision; “Gluten free and dietary requirements need to be embraced. It’s a choice, a way of life.”
What’s apparent is that this is very modern ship and the necessities of catering for modern travellers, means offering lots of choice. Food is certainly a paramount priority for cruise ship passengers and although occasionally hit and miss, I was overall very impressed with the quality and variety offered on Anthem.
However, if you’re concerned that there is nothing to do aboard a cruise ship other than eat and drink, you would be very much mistaken. Over 2 days I dared to try indoor skydiving, the flying trapeze, roller skating and took a trip on the North Star; a viewing pod which ascends 300ft into the air to offer incredible panoramic views. I didn’t manage to squeeze in the climbing wall, dodgems or Flowrider surf ride but a girl’s got to find some time to relax and drink champagne. And there are plenty of pools, Jacuzzis and sun loungers to enjoy and do precisely that.
There’s also an indulgent spa, a fully equipped gym, fitness classes and a running track on deck 15. I didn’t jog the circuit but I did (surprisingly) get up for a brisk sunrise stroll; not wanting to miss out on panoramic ocean views and the invigorating sea breeze. It cured my champagne hangover in minutes.
I loved the adults-only glass solarium at the bow of the ship, with its uninterrupted sea view swing, jungle foliage and cascading lagoon pools. I loved it more when I discovered that the bartenders would happily add a generous shot of vodka to your healthy blueberry smoothie to get you in the mood for the evening’s pursuits.
The Anthem of the Seas can be your playground by day but it is definitely a party ship by night. With live music, a casino, cocktail bars and numerous shows, it’s impossible to be bored. The West End performance of “We Will Rock You!” was nothing short of show stopping and I had to keep pinching myself that I was on board a ship, not at a top theatre in London. Thanks to the daily Cruise Compass itinerary or Royal iQ app you need never miss the shows you want to catch, the most difficult thing of all will be deciding and there is a lots of choice.
Whether you choose to have your cocktail mixed by a dancing robot bartender or a human one there are bars galore and you can dip in and out of the action to your hearts content. When you’ve had enough of living the high life, simply retire to the sanctuary of your comfortable stateroom for a peaceful night’s sleep in crisp white bed linen. Compact, carefully designed to maximise on space and, like 1570 of the 2090 cabins on board, my Superior Ocean View Stateroom had a private balcony with 2 full size loungers. My personal concierge (Stephen from Jamaica) made ensured it was always neat and tidy, greeting me with beaming smiles which kept me thinking “I could get used to this”.
Rather conveniently, with the sleek WOWband (a digital wristband to navigate the ship and make purchases) you don’t even need to fumble for your keycard to enter your room. In fact the entire ship, with its digital wayfinders and Royal iQ App feels very futuristic and social media addicts will love the high-speed wi-fi, uploading lots of gloating selfies at every opportunity as I did. It’s also fun to keep track of how far you walk on this enormous vessel; I clocked up over 10,000 paces on my first day!
Anthem of the Seas isn’t so much a holiday as an experience, and although I can see why cruising wouldn’t appeal to everyone, I do believe that this sophisticated ship could convert more than a few. The concept is that you sail to a new destination at night, arriving at your next port early in the morning (book a room with a balcony to wake up to a new view daily) where you can either disembark to explore or stay aboard to enjoy the activities on offer.
‘New to cruise’ travellers need only to embrace the experience to find themselves enjoying all that there is on offer. For me, the fantastic crew, personal service and people I met made it so much more than the floating hotel I assumed it would be. Royal Caribbean, I had such a hoot, well done…I salute you!
Nasreen is based in Poole and describes herself on Twitter as a food & travel writer. Host of the Every Day Gourmet Supper club. Dorset roller girl, incessant feeder, collector of recipes and glutton (in the nicest possible way of course).