Honest review – Anthem of the Seas
I recently returned from a 3 night cruise on board the brand new Anthem of the Seas, sailing from Southampton, UK for the 2015 season. As I mentioned in another post, Anthem of the Seas takes all the successes from her sister Quantum of the Seas and takes them to the next level. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my time on board, she is a great addition to the Royal fleet and offers something different to the cruise industry. There’s something that will appeal to everyone.
Getting straight to the point, here’s my quick low down on Anthem:
- All the familiar innovations from Quantum of the Seas make a return on Anthem, together with the old Royal favourites. This includes iFly by Ripcord, the multi-purpose venues of Two70 and Seaplex, then an upgraded Bionic Bar by Makr Shakr and of course North Star. All are worth a gander if you have time!
- The choice – As I’ve said, Anthem takes the concepts first introduced on Quantum and takes them to the next level, enabling people to make choices about how they dine, or what they do and how they do it. Dynamic Dining, for instance, has matured and takes you on a voyage of culinary discovery through the various complimentary and for-fee restaurants. Each of the four main dining rooms excels in providing mouth-watering food accompanied with high-class service. These are supported by numerous other speciality restaurants, from relative newcomers to the Royal fleet such as Wonderland and Jamie’s Italian to Royal Caribbean classics such as Chop’s Grille. The introduction of Dynamic Dining Classic has also been very welcomed by many, enabling people who prefer the traditional main dining style to dine at the same time each night, with the same wait staff and dining companions throughout the cruise. On three night cruises Royal have also introduced specialist menus which enables people to experience the food of all four main dining rooms in any of them, a clever move for shorter breaks.
- Entertainment – Anthem really nails entertainment on the head, and then some. I felt the entertainment on board was perhaps the best I’ve seen by far on a cruise ship, and better than most I’ve seen on land too, with the likes of We Will Rock You headlining the Royal Theatre. This will be accompanied by The Gift in due course. Furthermore, you can see how the confidence has grown with the use of technology and art within Two70. Spectra’s Cabaret very openly embraces technology as central part of the show and it really works in wowing the audience but also in taking them along the journey as well.
- New entertainment – Anthem has a number of new tricks up her sleeve. First up is the ever increasing use of street theatre, most notably here through the ‘stowaway’ piano player. The idea is there is a piano player with a special interactive piano that moves around the ship and performs for guests during the cruise but encourages guests to not report him – a must if you can find him! And then there is Puzzle Break: Escape to the Future, the first shipboard escape room experience. The idea is that you are locked within a room and have an hour to solve clues in order to escape – A lot of fun!
- Design and art – Arguably much of the ship is physically identical to her sister, which is no bad thing as the ship has been so thoughtfully designed in the first place, however, what brings it alive and gives it character is the artwork. The curation of What makes life worth living? explores the universal themes of love, peace, joy and hope through multiple art forms across the ship. Of this most notable is Gigi the Giraffe on the top deck, together with an interactive light installation called Pulse Spiral which crowns the Royal Esplanade. This chandelier records your heartbeat and flashes 200 lightbulbs in time to it – it’s certainly worth a visit. Finally, Eve, a polished mirrored steel sculpture by Richard Hudson, is hard to miss as it dominates the entrance to the Via.
- Cabin design – The cabin’s on board Anthem are identical to Quantum. And this is a good thing as there is honestly a cabin to suit every possible budget, requirement or size of group. From the new balcony single cabins, to the virtual balcony cabins all the way up to the two-tier loft suites.
- Technology –Anthem is all about the use of technology to make your holiday easier. The online check-in system has been refined since my first experiences and you can easily get from sidewalk pavement to ship in ten minutes. Furthermore, the ability to pre-book most things is a very powerful tool and for the most part works very well (although I note there are still some teething issues with bookings going missing!). This is supported by the Royal IQ app which enables you to keep track of what you’re supposed to be doing, where you are eating that evening, entertainment as well as room charges, etc. I think the app is very much the tip of the iceberg and so much more could be done with it – and no doubt will be as the technology develops. The wi-fi is also very good, and although on this occasion I didn’t partake in paying for internet access I was told by fellow passengers that the speeds comparatively are very good.
The UK public’s response to the ship has been overwhelmingly positive thus far and it is a shame that the UK won’t benefit full-time from a quantum class after this year, even with the beloved Independence returning next year. Ovation of the Seas, debuting in 2016, will have a short season from Southampton so if you’ve not already experienced the Quantum Class ‘Smart Ship’ get booking!
(Images © Royal Caribbean and Marcus Adams)