This was an eight-night cruise to Florida and the Bahamas from Cape Liberty cruise port on the New Jersey side of New York harbor.
Much had changed with regard to Covid protocols since our last review of Anthem in January 2022. First, the number of passengers aboard was no longer severely limited. We were told that the ship was sailing at 90 percent of capacity. While the crew still wore masks full time, masks in the public areas were optional for vaccinated passengers and few passengers wore them. Seating in the bars, lounges and the theater was no longer limited by signs saying that this seat is reserved for social distancing purposes. Pinnacle level members of the Crown and Anchor loyalty program were no longer excluded from the Concierge Club.
Some protocols did remain. As a practical matter, vaccination was required. You had show proof of vaccination as part of the check-in process. Along the same lines, during check-in you had to show proof of a negative antigen or PCR test taken within two days of embarkation. Crew members were not allowed to leave the ship in the various ports of call and crew members returning from vacation underwent several days of quarantine before resuming their duties. In addition, complimentary masks and hand sanitizer were placed in the passenger cabins.
In general, the cruise experience was much like it was before the pandemic. There were occasional reminders that the disease has not completely gone away but most people paid it little mind.
Florida-Bahamas cruises are a mainstay of Anthem's American season. (The ship spends the summer and early fall based in England and the rest of the year, she is based in New York harbor). Most of these cruises are seven day voyages calling at Port Canaveral, Nassau and Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas' Coco Cay. This voyage also included a stop in Miami.
It took Anthem a day and a half to reach Port Canaveral. During the passage down the East Coast the weather was fine and sunny, significantly warmer than it had been in Cape Liberty. As a result, many passengers choose to spend their time on the open decks or poolside.
Although it is one of the world's busiest cruise ports, Anthem was the only cruise ship in Port Canaveral that day. When acting as a port of call, this port is typically a jumping off point for visits to the nearby Kennedy Space Center or to the theme parks in Orlando. Although the weather was once again fine, many passengers choose not to leave the ship but rather enjoy its open decks, pools and other attractions. A space shot was scheduled for very late that night. Some passengers later claimed to have watched it from the ship while others insisted that it had been cancelled. Inasmuch as the launch was scheduled for 4 a.m., most passengers could not testify either way.
Miami rejoices in the title “Cruise Capital of the World.” However, once again Anthem was the only cruise ship in port. This is not to imply that the cruise industry has abandoned the port. Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have built new mega-cruise terminals there and another huge terminal is under construction on Dodge Island. As a port of call, Miami offers excursions to South Beach and to its lively ethnic neighborhoods. However, once again, many passengers choose to spend the day aboard Anthem.
The next day, we were at Coco Cay. Royal Caribbean has spent many millions of dollars developing this island which was not too long ago a bit of limestone rock with some scruffy vegetation. It now has its own pier, sandy beaches, a huge pool, bars and dining venues as well as various attractions including a balloon ride and a water park. Plants have been imported and the area open to passengers has some pretty garden-like areas.
Although crew members predicted that there probably would be another ship in port with us, it again turned out that Anthem was the sole visitor. As a result, there were many empty sun loungers throughout the island even though a large proportion of Anthem's passengers spent the day ashore.
Royal Caribbean bills the port as a “perfect day at Coco Cay.” The improvements that have been made to the island are well done and are designed for those looking for “fun in the sun”. However, there is no intellectual or cultural side to the port.
It is a short journey from Coco Cay to Nassau and Anthem essentially drifted there overnight. When we arrived, we found that the port is being expanded to accommodate more cruise ships. Inasmuch as we were the sole ship in port, one had to wonder whether this construction was really needed. However, such thoughts were quickly dispelled as four other large cruise ships, including the giant Allure of the Seas, quickly gobbled up the berths that were not under construction.
Even though the port had warned that there might be more crowding than usual due to a state visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the island's resorts and the shopping in downtown Nassau attracted a large number of passengers from Anthem. No one we spoke with reported seeing the royal couple.
The check-in and disembarkation at Cape Liberty was generally efficient. However, we did encounter a problem checking in. As noted earlier, guests are required to present proof of a negative Covid test during check-in. These days, it is not unusual for providers to send you your results online. You just open the app and there are your test results. However, we found that the mobile service inside the Cape Liberty terminal was insufficient to open the app. Consequently, we had to find a sympathetic supervisor who had access to a better internet connection. She indicated that this was not an unusual problem. Thus, to avoid such delays, it is a good idea to print out a copy of your test results and other important documents beforehand just in case.
As noted earlier, Anthem was at 90 percent of her passenger capacity. This amounts to nearly 4,000 people. However, the ship is well-designed for passenger flow and it did not feel crowded. As you might expect, because of the itinerary, there were more children and teens aboard than on Anthem's longer Caribbean cruises. But the ship's facilities and attractions for younger passengers appeared to hold their attention.
We have had very good dining experiences on Anthem both in the main dining room and in the specialty restaurants. However, this time, we ate all our meals in Coastal Kitchen. This intimate dining room is open to guests staying in certain suite categories and to Pinnacle Club guests. The food has always been very good in the past but this time was even better. Combined with the friendly service, one can only call it an excellent experience.
With regard to entertainment, Anthem had the same production shows as in the past - - the Queen tribute “We Will Rock You” and the psychodelic “Spectra's Cafe.” A rather depressing show “The Gift” was cancelled at the last moment.
A show that has become almost a staple on Anthem is the Beatles Celebration. This is a Beatles tribute band, which performs songs by the Beatles both in a concert setting and as a dance party. On this voyage, the horn section of Anthem's orchestra played with the band during one show, which allowed the performance of several Beatles songs in which horns played a prominent part on the original recordings.
From a nautical perspective Anthem performed quite well. She had to sail at nearly full speed to make some legs of the journey. However, the ride was quite comfortable with no significant ship movement. The weather was very good. On the way home to Cape Liberty, a severe storm followed us up the coast but the captain kept up speed so that we kept ahead of the storm and were not troubled by it.
Above: Anthem in Nassau.
Above: Captain Srecko Ban addressing members of the Crown and Anchor Society in the Two 70 Lounge.
Below: The High Seas Horns join with the Beatles Celebration for a concert in the Royal Theater.
Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - - Anthem of the Seas - - Florida and the Bahamas cruise 2022