This was a 12-day transatlantic crossing from New York harbor (Bayonne, New Jersey to Southampton, England with calls in the Azores and in Cherbourg and Le Havre, France.
Most cruises are round trip - - the cruise ends in the port where it started. However, occasionally when a cruise line wants to base a ship in another port, passengers are allowed to come along for a one-way ride. This is known in the cruise industry as a “repositioning cruise.”
Each year a good number of ships make two repositioning cruises across the Atlantic. In the Spring, they sail eastwards from ports in the United States to various ports in Europe. When the weather starts to turn cold in Europe, these ships sail back to the United States. Anthem has been following this pattern for the last several years, spending the warmer months sailing out of Southampton and the cooler months sailing out of Bayonne.
Repositoning cruises are different than a traditional transatlantic crossing in several respects. First, they are longer. Cruise ships cannot go as fast as the old transatlantic express liners so it takes longer to cover the same distance. Anthem traveled at about 18 to 20 knots during this voyage.
Also, whereas the old liners used to charge ahead regardless of the weather, cruise ships usually take a more southerly route where the weather is generally calmer. On this voyage, Anthem met with generally calms seas. It was not the Caribbean but there was no appreciable rolling or pitching as the ship made its way across the ocean. There was also a good amount of sunshine with high tempertures in the sixties.
Another way repositioning cruises differ from traditional crossings is that there are ports of call on such cruises. Yes, the old liners would occasionally stop at another port after beginning a crossing but those stops were to embark additional passengers and were typically short in duration. The stops on a repositiong cruise are generally similar to the port calls on other cruises. For example, Anthem's calls in the Azores and in France were full day stops with time for shore excursions or independent exploration of the surrounding country. Indeed, the call in Le Havre was long enough to allow passengers to take shore excursions into Paris that involved three-hour coach rides each way.
Today's repositioning cruises are also less formal than traditional crossings. Whereas a crossing on a liner often involved formal wear each night – at least in first class – the dress code on Anthem was the same as on a Caribbean cruise Thus, jeans, polos, t-shirts, blouses and sundresses were allowed. Golf or Bermuda shorts were acceptable too but only for breakfast or lunch. Swimwear was okay but only in the pool areas. There were three nights in which passengers were encouraged to “Wear Your Best” and quite a few passengers did so; however, it was not mandatory and many just adhered to the type of clothing they always wore.
A repositioning cruise involves more sea days than a cruise. In the old days, the liners usually left it up to the passengers to entertain themselves on a crossing. As a result, you had such things as passenger-organized costume parties and passenger talent shows. This changed towards the close of the liner era. Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) featured a packed program of enrichment speakers, activities and entertainment on its crossings – a traditional carried on today by Queen Mary 2.
Anthem rose to the challenge of having eight sea days with a diverse array of offerings. First, there were all of the entertainment and activities that Anthem offers on a regular cruise. Thus, features such as the North Star observation arm, the Seaplex entertainment complex, the surfing simulator, and the rock climbing wall as well as the various pools and the spa were all is use. Evening entertainment included the production shows “We Will Rock You,” and “The Gift” in the theater and “Sprectra's Cabaret” in the high-tech Two70 venue.
There was also live music in several of the bars and lounges including Perry Grant who held court in the Schooner Bar and who did a one-man show in the theater. Mr. Grant is a unique phenomeon. He has appeared on a number of lines including Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line and, as on Anthem, he fills whatever venue he is appearing in with passengers who return night after night to hear his wit and music.
Going beyond its cruise offerings, Anthem also had enrichment lectures. Michael Varhola spoke about Atlantis and historical subjects. Angel Colon lectured on various medical topics.
Inasmuch as the crossing coincided with the coronation of King Charles III and Anthem has a large following in the UK, a special party with a balloon drop was held in the Royal Esplanade on coronation day.
Of course, a major part of modern cruising involves dining. Despite the length of the voyage, Anthem held to the same standard of dining and service in its dining rooms as on a regular cruise. The food was good and the service efficient and friendly. The only item that was rationed was lobster. In the past on Royal Caribbean, guests could eat as much lobster as they wanted. On this voyage, passengers were limited to two tails each. I was told that this was due to an increase in demand for lobster in China, which is making lobster more expensive and more difficult to obtain.
As a general rule, repositioning cruises are less popular than regular cruises. On this voyage, there were some 3,800 passengers as compared to Anthem's maximum capacity of 4,905. Of these, a high percentage were members of the top tier of Royal Caribbean's loyalty program. This is not unusual. Top tier cruisers know that the fares for repositioning cruises are typically less than those for a regular cruise of similar length and that there is often more space per passenger on a repositioing cruise.
With much of the check-in now done with the Royal Caribbean's app, embarkation in Bayonne was amazingly quick. Disembarkation at Southampton's City Terminal was also efficient.
Along the same lines, the lifeboat drill was also done digitally. Passengers obtained information about the emergency procedures either through the Royal Caribbean app or by watching video on the stateroom television. You went to your muster station just to see where it was and to be checked off by a crew member. This was a much less budensome procedure than the traditional muster drill where everyone had to assemble at their muster station and pretend to listen to the captain read off the emergency procedures. It is also more consistent with health safety than having large numbers of passengers gather in a confined space.
There was no pre-cruise Covid testing requirement for this voyage and very few people wore masks. During the voyage, there were no signs of an outbreak or of sickness among the passengers or crew.
At the end of a repositioning cruise acroos the Atlantic, most passengers elect to fly back. However, there is often an opportunity to sail back the other way on Queen Mary 2.
Above: Anthem leaving New York harbor.
Below: Sailing into the sunrise.
Above: A street party to celebrate the coronation of Britain's King Charles III.
Below: Perry Grant performing in the Royal Theatre.
Above: Anthem in Cherbourg.
Below: Anthem in Le Havre.
Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - Anthem of the Seas - Anthem Crosses the Ocean 2023