This was a 12-night cruise to the Eastern Caribbean from Cape Liberty, New Jersey (New York harbor). The ship called at:
San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and St Kitts.
I have now sailed on Anthem of the Seas ten times. She is now third (behind Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2) on the list of ships that I have traveled on the most often. While this fact is unlikely to attract the interest of the Guinness World Record people, I thought it might be helpful to people to talk about why I have returned to Anthem so often.
Anthem was the second ship built in Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships. The Quantum ships are different than the other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. For this project, Royal brought over a number of key executives from Celebrity Cruises. Not surprisingly, as a result, the Quantums have a sophisticated Celebrity-like atmosphere. With the possible exception of Royal's Radiance class ships, Anthem and her sisters are the most elegant ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.
The ship was built by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. My experience has been that Meyer Werft builds high quality ships. Anthem is no exception.
In the public areas, I particularly like two rooms - - 270 and the Concierge Club. 270 is a multi-story venue at the back of the ship. Although it is used for shows, the seating is not like a theater. Rather, there are tables and chairs arranged like a living room and thus it has an intimate feel despite its size. Most of the aft wall is taken up by windows so that there is a lot of natural light during the day and the views are often spectacular. In the evenings, the windows turn into video screens, which can be used for video shows or to provide effects in support of live shows. Also, adjoining 270 is the 270 Cafe, which is open for breakfast and lunch. You can take the food into 270 and relax in its unique atmosphere while you eat.
The Concierge Club is open to guests staying in the suites and to members of Royal Caribbean's loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society, who are at the Diamond-Plus level or above. Like 270, the Concierge Club is at the aft of the ship but it is on a much higher deck. Thus, the panoramic views from its windows are even more spectacular. The décor of the room is contemporary and tasteful with the furniture arranged as in a lounge. In the mornings, there is a continental breakfast buffet with tasty things to eat. In the evenings, there is the social gathering with complimentary drinks. I have met many interesting people at these social gatherings, often creating friendships that have endured well after the cruise.
Royal is in the process of eliminating its Concierge Clubs. As the various ships in the fleet have come in for their scheduled refits, the Concierge Clubs have been replaced by “Suites Lounges.” The Suites Lounges are limited to guests staying in the suites and Pinnacle-level members of the Crown and Anchor Society. As a result, Diamond-Plus members are relegated back to the Diamond Lounges. Inasmuch as the Concierge Clubs were often inferior to the Diamond Lounges on the other ships, this was no big loss on those ships. However, the superior quality of the Concierge Club on Anthem is a big reason why I have booked so many cruises on Anthem. Thus, any such conversion on Anthem (rumored to be scheduled for 2020) will be a sad day.
On my first few voyages on Anthem, I booked one of the ship's inside single-occupancy cabins. These are small but efficient cabins. They have a large video screen that takes the place of a window so you can see what is happening outside. I was content with these accommodations until Royal ran a special on balcony cabins and then I was hooked.
I have had balcony cabins on many ships but there is something about Anthem's balcony cabins that I find special. Decorated in muted earth colors, these rooms have a subtle, contemporary look. The furniture is well-arranged and the bathrooms have the nice little touches that I have only found before in the bathrooms on Celebrity Cruises' Solstice-class ships. For me, luxury is doing my artwork with a soft Caribbean breeze blowing in through the open balcony door.
My cruises on Anthem have not all been to the Caribbean. While the Quantum class ships were designed with the New York to the Caribbean itinerary in mind, Anthem has also taken me to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Bermuda, Boston and New England, and Florida and the Bahamas.
One of the really good things about Anthem is that it is so big that it can provide different cruise experiences to match different tastes. One couple who are fans of the ship spend each day in the enclosed solarium at the front of the ship. In contrast, I may pass through there once or twice a voyage. Similarly, while I have looked at its facilities, the amusement park at the back end of the upper decks is not part of my Anthem cruise experience. The surfing simulator, the bumper cars, and the sky-diving machine probably appeal to some guests but Anthem is designed so that these facilities do not interfere with the cruise experience of people who are not interested in them.
Anthem has two productions shows in the theater, both have good production values and are performed well. However, I found Royal's home-grown musical “The Gift” depressing and muddled and so I do not go to see it when I am on Anthem. Royal's version of “Rock of Ages,” the West End musical based on the music of Queen is more entertaining but it is difficult to sit through a show that has a plot when you have seen it a couple of times.
But, performing the lead guitar parts in “Rock of Ages” is Joyce Kuo, who has a gift for the guitar. On the nights when “Rock of Ages” is not on, she sometimes performs concerts in other venues around the ship, playing songs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and George Harrison. I always enjoy these shows.
Another production show, “Spectra's Cabaret” is performed on certain nights in 270. It is not a traditional cabaret but rather an other worldly production with psychedelic and mystic overtones. There is music, singing, acrobatics and full use of the screens and technology of 270. Guests often are puzzled by the show. However, once you realize that there is no plot, you can sit back, enjoy the music and marvel at the effects.
In addition to the production shows, Anthem brings on visiting entertainers. Fiddle player David Klinkenberg was well received by the guests on this voyage as was Boston comedian Don Gavin. There is also live music in the Music Hall nighclub and in various other venues. Of course, there is the standard Royal Caribbean programming such as “The Love and Marriage Game Show.”
When Anthem entered service, it featured a new dining concept called “Dynamic Dining.” Each of the four main restaurants had a different menu and guests could go to whichever one they wanted on a given evening. This novel concept proved unpopular and in practice, technology failures hampered the operation. Unfortunately, Dynamic Dining has been discontinued on Anthem.
In its place, all of the main dining rooms follow the same menu. Two follow the traditional two-seating cruise ship system and two follow a flexible dining system. In short, it is like the other Royal Caribbean ships.
I have always enjoyed the main dining rooms on Anthem and on this cruise they were in top form. The service was friendly and efficient. There was good variety and quality in the food. Although I do not usually eat fish, my experience with the broiled swordfish early in the cruise led me to try a portion of the “Fish of the Day” each evening. I was not disappointed.
As usual on Anthem, I had dinner in two of the specialty restaurants, Chops Grille and Jamie's Italian. I find that I can rely on these two venues for good quality food and service. Anthem also has an Izumi but the open location in a well-trafficked passage is not appealing. I tried Wonderland when I first came on Anthem and found its unusual menu and atmosphere interesting but not sufficiently so to inspire me to return.
On this voyage I tried the Johnny Rocket's hamburger restaurant. I have enjoyed this 1950s-inspired venue on other Royal Caribbean ships but I had never tried it on Anthem. Whereas Johnny Rocket's is an enclosed room styled like a mid-century American diner on most of the other ships, it is essentially a sheltered counter in the open pool area on Anthem. Also, the staff did not dance and entertain the guests as on the other ships and the menu was much different than I remembered. The hamburger and cheese fries were quite good but not up to those provided on the Dive-in Grills on the Holland America ships or the Guy's Burgers on the Carnival ships. Moreover, those venues are complimentary whereas there is an extra charge at Johnny Rocket's.
On this voyage, Anthem did not encounter any bad weather and so there was little movement of the ship.
On the return voyage from the Caribbean, Anthem had to divert to Bermuda in order to evacuate a passenger who was too ill to evacuate by air. As a result, the ship was late by a few hours in returning to Cape Liberty.
While I very much like Anthem, I do not think it is perfect. There is essentially no enrichment program. With the exception of the Captain's Corner Q&A session, all of the lectures were by people who have something to sell (e.g., art, jewelry, spa treatments). When the ship was based in England, the programming included a series of lectures by an astronomer who was able to use 270's technology in support of his talk. These talks were well-attended and well-received. Similarly, early on, there were watercolor classes. Such lectures have disappeared from the program.
This brings us to my biggest concern about Anthem in the future - - that it will be “dumbed-down” further in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Hopefully, Royal will realize that it was not a mistake to have built a sophisticated ship for the North American market.
Above: Captain Sprecko Ban.
Below: A dance in 270.
Above: Visiting entertainer David Klinkenberg performing in the ship's theater.
Below: Guitarist Joyce Kuo accompanies one of the singers in a concert in 270 featuring members of the ship's production cast.
Above: Some of the food served on Anthem. (See our Anthem of the Seas menus page).
Below: A balcony cabin on Anthem.
Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - - Anthem of the Seas - - Caribbean 2019