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Anthem of the Seas: On Song From The Start

As Anthem of the Seas begins to clear her throat, ready for her imminent maiden voyage, a lucky few of us here at Fred.\ Holidays got to experience this fantastic ship first hand over the weekend. Here is what we got up to during our time on one of the most technologically advanced cruise ships in the world.

After an early morning trip down to Southampton, we arrived at the cruise terminal with excited smiles on our faces. Royal Caribbean’s online SMART check-in meant that everything was already completed beforehand and all we had to do is waive our passports and printed-off passes to a few members of staff and we were on board.

A Bionic Tonic

Bionic Bar

Following such an easy check-in process, we were then faced with the daunting task of deciding where to start on this mammoth vessel. However, after dropping our bags off in the stateroom, it felt rude not to head straight to the Bionic Bar. Having received lots of publicity for its futuristic approach to drinks preparation, the robotic bartenders were a popular sight for everyone on board. As we stood and watched the two mechanised mixologists hard at work, it became clear that it wasn’t just a gratuitous gimmick, but rather a whole lot of fun.

Simply tap your WOWband (Royal Caribbean’s omnipotent wristband) on one of the iPads to order your drink and then watch it climb the queue on the funky computer screens until it’s your turn to be served. It’s a lot like waiting in line at a real bar, except without that annoying guy standing next to you, waiving his money in the barman’s face and demanding to be served next. There are hundreds of drink combinations to choose from, and all are created by one of the robot arms locating your chosen spirit from the bottles in the ceiling before adding in whatever mixers you chose and depositing it into an awaiting cup. Once your drink is made, the screens tell you it’s ready and you’re left with the proud task of walking forward, swiping your wristband again and waiting for your completed drink to be delivered right into your grasp.

Drink-of-the-future in hand, we headed off to explore more of the ship. Anthem of the Seas has no less than 18 different dining areas and so we went to see how many we could find. The main promenade, just down from the Bionic Bar, is home to a number of the more casual eateries. Here, we discovered Sorrento’s, where you can help yourself to various different types of pizza; Michael’s Genuine Pub, in which you can watch sports with a pint in hand; La Patisserie, which offers a relaxing environment in which to enjoy a coffee and an indulgent snack; and the Café Promenade, where light lunches and sweet treats are the order of the day.

However, it was a venue situated elsewhere which tickled our taste buds when it came to lunch. Jonny Rockets, an American dinner situated at the top of the ship, provides a menu filled with delicious burgers, hot dogs and the thickest of thick shakes. So much so that it takes all of the strengths you can muster just to get it up through the straw.

A Lofty Experience

Royal Loft Suite

Suitably full, and having explored the top deck, including ground-breaking facilities such as the North Star viewing capsule and the Ripcord skydiving simulator, we decided it was time to take a look around the ship’s accommodation. Various different grades of stateroom and suite were available for viewing so that we could get a good idea of the different options. There are 2090 staterooms in total, all surprisingly spacious and featuring plenty of exciting amenities. Most of the inside staterooms have a ‘virtual balcony’, allowing you to see a live feed of what’s happening outside, whether you are in port or at sea. Other great features include glass shower doors, Family Connected Staterooms which allow larger groups to all stay in one adjoined space, 34 wheelchair accessible staterooms and 1,571 with a balcony. These balconies were made a full 200 millimetres wider than originally planned in order to fully maximise the space available.

Usually the most spacious and impressive accommodation is saved for the Owner’s Suite but, on board Anthem of the Seas, this ‘WOW’ moment was reserved for the Royal Loft. All Loft Suites are split over two floors and feature a number of extra amenities and increased space, but the Royal Loft is in a world of its own. Whilst the downstairs area features a dining/living section, seating area on the large balcony, separate media room, and a bathroom; the upstairs is home to the main sleeping area, walk-in wardrobe, bathroom, and another balcony that comes complete with whirlpool tub and swing chair. And that’s without even mentioning the stunning views on offer.

Evening Eateries

Wonderland Restaurant

Having been blown away by the most extravagant accommodation on the ship, it was time to return to our own stateroom and get ready for an evening of entertainment. Our assigned restaurant for the first night was The Grande; a dining venue that usually serves classic dishes from around the world. However, for this special pre-inauguration event, the menu was made up of a few dishes from four of the main dining areas, which also included Chic, Silk and The American Icon Grill.

These, along with Divinely Decadence - the ‘500 calorie or less’ restaurant - and Coastal Kitchen (only available to Pinnacle members and guests staying in a Grande Suite and above) make up the six main dining venues on board Anthem of the Seas. An evening at any of these is included in your cruise fare, but there are also a number of speciality options you can choose for a small surcharge. These include the first ever Jamie’s Italian at sea, Japanese restaurant Izumi and Wonderland. The latter offers a feast for all the senses in the form of molecular gastronomy.

After a pleasant evening in the Grande Restaurant, it was onto the Music Hall for some 80s style entertainment. This two-tiered venue features a bar and dancefloor downstairs and a relaxed seating area with pool tables on the upper floor. Live acts and DJs provide a backing track to your evening well into the early hours of the morning, but we decided to check-out what was happening in the SeaPlex for the second half of the night.

The SeaPlex is the largest indoor entertainment and leisure venue at sea, and witnessing it during the day and at night will make you realise just how flexible it is. Whilst we had seen people racing around in bumper cars here during the day, these had been removed for the evening to leave us with a giant dancefloor on which to practice our moves. It is here where another one of Royal Caribbean’s technical advancements is also showcased. A DJ booth, which is suspended from the ceiling via a mechanic arm, can be lowered down and moved above the baying revellers’ heads as they dance.

A Show-Stopping Second Day

Spectra's Cabaret Show

The next morning, we enjoyed a European style breakfast from the Café @ Two70. This dining area is a gourmet marketplace which offers a choice of hot and cold food throughout the day in close proximity to arguably Anthem of the Seas’ most remarkable public space. We got a small taste of what Two70 can offer during a Royal Caribbean presentation after breakfast, but we would get a true sense of how impressive it is later that evening.

The rest of the second day was spent testing out a few more of the never-ending facilities available on this fantastic ship. We played some table tennis and air hockey in the SeaPlex (which also has Xboxes for children and bigger kids too); relaxed in the solarium, where you will find a main swimming pool, two Jacuzzis and plenty of loungers; and dined in the Windjammer Marketplace for lunch. This buffet restaurant has options from all over the world to cater to every taste imaginable. There’s even a self-serve drinks dispenser with over a hundred different options for those who also like to mix it up when it comes to beverages.

With a range of different shows and entertainment options, it’s easy to organise your evening around when you would like to eat. As we weren’t dining until 8pm, we took the opportunity to watch the early performance of We Will Rock You. Far from being a cheap imitation, this spectacular production is the same as that which has appeared on the West End, written by Ben Elton in collaboration with Roger Taylor and Brian May, and is not to be missed.

Our dinner that evening was amidst the warm and welcoming atmosphere of Silk, although the menu featured a selection of different dishes from the four main restaurants, just like the night before. Another sumptuous dining experience finished as we headed off to see what Two70 had up its sleeve when in full flow. This entertainment facility is the most expensive public space on a cruise ship and was designed so that each and every seat in the house offers a unique perspective and unobstructed views.

By day, it is a relaxed lounge area with stunning 270° vistas of the ship’s wake but it is in the evening when it really comes to life. Large blinds are pulled down over the floor-to-ceiling windows so that projections can be cast onto them, six LED screens mounted on robotic arms twist and turn as they work in tandem and separately from one another; and various parts of the staging area rise and fall to create a performance on a range of different level. The show we saw, Spectra’s Cabaret, will be a mainstay on Anthem of the Seas and was definitely a highlight of our time on board. By fusing dance, music, circus performances and a liberal dose of showmanship, the quirky production takes you to a secret dimension ruled by light and sound. On a high from what we had just witnessed, we headed off to the Music Hall once again where we danced into the night.

The next morning, there was just enough time to grab a buffet breakfast from the Windjammer Marketplace before we had to leave. Again, there was something for everyone, regardless of whether you prefer a healthy breakfast, a fried feast or a meal made up entirely of pancakes and syrup. Sadly, disembarkation came all too soon and so we all trudged off the ship in begrudged fashion.

Final Thoughts

North Star

Overall, Anthem of the Seas really is a ship for everyone. If you enjoy the excitement of cutting-edge facilities like the North Star, Flowrider, Two70 and Bionic Bar as well as ‘first at sea’ experiences like bumper cars and Ripcord then there is something for every minute of the day. However, if you prefer the more relaxed areas of a cruise ship, it is easy to look beyond these headline acts to find many more excellent public areas. Places such as Bolero’s, Michael’s Genuine Pub, Vintages, the solarium, the stylish restaurants and the well-appointed, spacious cabins help to create a feeling close to that which you would find in a boutique hotel. And that’s without even mentioning the extensive spa and gym facilities.

For all the bravado and brashness of the hi-tech areas and WOW moments (which are all undeniably amazing), it is the smaller, more understated touches that make the ship what it is. Whether it’s a quirky sculpture, an interactive art installation, or an unexpected mural found in the lift; there is so much to put a smile on your face. The futuristic bartenders, robo-screens, floating DJ booths and exciting activities simply provide a welcomed, if rather extravagant, cherry on the top of an extraordinary cake.

If you would like to see the ship for yourself then we can offer a range of Anthem of the Seas cruises which sail right out of Southampton in the summer of 2015. Call us today to embark on a holiday you’ll never forget.