Cruising to Nowhere in Particular on the Anthem of the Seas:
“The cruising life isn’t for all of us. It isn’t even for most
of us, but it is for some of us, and for a few of us it is essential to survival.”
― Jim Trefethen, The Cruising Life: A Commonsense Guide for the Would-Be Voyager
If, like me, you’ve often thought about trying a cruise but haven’t booked one recently, you might be in for a big surprise. Of course, my preconceptions date back to a cruise that I remember vividly describing to my parents as being a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ but which, even forty years or so ago, was little like a normal cruise experience because I was a guest on one of the now obsolete Schools Cruise Ships. At the time the attraction for me wasn’t the luxury of cruising, which is just as well, because describing the schools accommodation as ‘basic’ would be generous. It was the chance to see faraway places (Yalta, Istambul, Dubrovnic and Mykanos). My invitation to preview the Royal Caribbean ‘Anthem of the Seas’ would involve sailing from Southampton to the coast of the Netherlands, then back again, without stopping, so an altogether different experience.
I was curious. And, rather fascinated by the list of on-board activities which just sounded unlikely! More of that later though
Cruising on a Royal Caribbean quantum class ship is an experience that no one could forget. The ship is equipped to make any on-board experience ultra comfortable and luxurious. Starting with accommodation – even standard cabins are large – big enough for a good sized double bed, a desk, tv and sofa (which can convert to make an extra bed). Most come with balconies, equipped with loungers and table and all have en-suite shower rooms as a minimum. If you are travelling as a family, there’s a number of options, from interconnecting cabins through to loft apartments which can sleep up to four on two levels (the main bedroom is literally a loft). It looks rather more like a grand London apartment than a cabin on a boat. But, even if, like me, you imagined yourself just sitting out on your own private balcony watching the sea, you’ll probably be seduced by the on-board activities.
Of course, there are the type of things synonymous with a cruise – On board cabaret every night for example which I thoroughly enjoyed – a lively, cirque du soleil type of experience. There’s also a West End show experience, which I missed but from fellow passengers know was pretty spectacular. There are indoor and outdoor pools, but on Anthem of the Seas they are large enough to swim properly. And, there’s a spa where I was indulged with one of the best facials I’ve had on land or sea and where you can have every kind of treatment from acupuncture through to botox, in addition to more conventional massage, facials, wraps and pedicures.
The standard restaurants include a traditional cruise formal dining room, the Grande, which serves European bistro style food. There’s Asian cusine and an American steak-house too. But, if you are looking for lighter options Anthem of the Seas has some excellent cafes serving salads, sandwiches and burgers. And, to my delight, there is a small restaurant with a calorie managed menu so that you can enjoy surf and turf for under 700 calories and chocolate raspberry pudding for under 90 calories. The food served at Devinly Decadence was delicious, fresh and really didn’t feel like a compromise of taste to save calories.
For those wanting a ‘premium’ option, Anthem of the Seas has a whole range of restaurants that are not included in the standard cruise fare. I walked around most of them but didn’t get more than a (very tasty) mouthful at Wonderland. I did try dining at the on-board Sushi restaurant, but personally found the menu rather disappointing. I have probably been spoilt by experiences like ‘Sake no Hana‘, ‘Chisou’ and ‘Kouzu‘ . Here, there was no sake on the menu and the wine was a choice of red or white. And most of the dishes on the menu seem to have been designed to share – I was offered a plate with eight identical Californian rolls. Other premium restaurants include Jamie’s Italian, Chops Grille, an American Steak House and the Prime Table, a ‘chef’s table’ food and wine matching experience within Chops Grille. I’d love to have had a chance to try Chops Grille and Prime Table, I suspect Anthem of the Seas does best at serving excellent quality ingredients that can be prepared and cooked simply. Actually though, what I found remarkable was the quality of places like Windjammer, the main informal dining area. Not only was there a lot of choice, but everything was beautifully presented. And, throughout the dining areas there was a real emphasis on hygiene. Gary Thomas, Executive Chef, does a fabulous job of managing to cater for just about every whim!
Apart from spas, on-board shows, bars and cafes and live music, what else is there to keep you busy on Anthem of the Seas? Well, there’s a host of technology led things to do. From ordering a drink at the robotic bar to ‘surfing’ down the infinity wave. From taking a ride on night star to floating in the sky diving simulator. There are places to play computer games and there’s a lift system from floor to floor of the eleven deck ship that could grace any contemporary apartment block. There are plenty of sea-side type activities too from a bumper car arcade which doubles as a rollerdrome to a climbing wall and a running track. There’s a whole range of indoor and outdoor pools with whirlpools, swings, waterfalls and lounging areas. It’s a place where you can easily enjoy a holiday without ever leaving the ship. I suspect I’d end up spending far too much time in the spa, where apart from the treatments you can pay for access to use the facilities including saunas, steam rooms, rainforest showers and relaxation loungers. There’s a well equipped gym too, so despite the all exclusive dining options no one has any excuse to leave less fit than they came on board. Oh, and there are FAR too many shops!
I loved the helpful ‘watch’ system instead of a key card to open my cabin door and pay for extras. Far more convenient, especially if you are messing around in the pool or indulging yourself at the spa.
Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas is family friendly, with plenty for everyone to do and with special events for teenagers and kids on board. It’s a safe haven if you are travelling, somewhere you can return to after a day exploring on shore to relax and unwind. It makes life easy, in all the best ways. And, things have changed – I’d defy anyone to NOT find some part of the cruising life to love on Anthem of the Seas
With many thanks to Royal Caribbean for the invitation to preview Anthem of the Seas.