Virtual balconies give inside stateroom guests a digital view of the sea. // © 2015 Royal Caribbean International
Feature image (above): Royal Family Suites onboard the new Anthem of the Seas sleep up to eight guests. // © 2015 Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas made its grand entrance into the cruising world on April 22, just six months after the launch of sister ship Quantum of the Seas. Both vessels carry 4,905 passengers and underscore Royal’s aim to offer the most revolutionary and technologically advanced ships in the world — not to mention the largest.
Onboard innovations range from the robot bartenders at Bionic Bar and dramatic large-screen special effects in entertainment venue Two70 to fast, reasonably priced Wi-Fi access. Royal is also taking advantage of tech portability with a very welcome development: As guests approach the cruise terminal, they are greeted by a happy army of turquoise-shirted staffers who check in passengers on iPads. The entire process — including the taking of ID photos on the spot — clocked in at under two minutes.
Agents on Quantum’s inaugural cruise also praised the ship’s range of accommodations. The addition of virtual balconies on Anthem’s 375 inside staterooms is particularly popular. With 80-inch high-definition screens that are nearly floor-to-ceiling, the faux balconies display real-time views of the sea.
Anthem has a variety of opulent suites as well, including the 975-square-foot Owner’s Loft Suite. The two-deck-high stateroom offers a master bedroom, two bathrooms and a living and dining room on the main level. The sofa converts to a double bed, allowing for up to four people in the suite. The main level also boasts a 303-square-foot balcony, and there’s a smaller side balcony on each level, as well.
Additional accommodation options were clearly designed with families in mind. Choices include Family Connected rooms and 543-square-foot Royal Family Suites, which can sleep up to eight guests and feature balconies, two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
My Family Time Dining is a great option for kids disinterested in a leisurely dinner and for parents who would like one. Courses are served to children more quickly than normal, and when diners ages 3 to 11 are finished, they are picked up by staff members of kids’ program Adventure Ocean, leaving the adults to linger and relax.
The Dynamic Dining concept was another hit on the inaugural cruise; it allows guests to be a bit more spontaneous, choosing restaurants and dining times day by day. For those who prefer the traditional system of sitting at the same time, at the same table and with the same tablemates each evening, there’s Royal’s Dynamic Dining Classic.
Anthem’s 18 dining venues include three restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs: Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver; Michael’s Genuine Pub by James Beard Award-winner Michael Schwartz; and my personal favorite, Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro, where chef and cookbook author Devin Alexander serves up meals that are delicious and healthful.
Entrees such as grilled chicken enchiladas and ahi tacos are less than 500 calories, and all desserts are free of artificial sweeteners.
No matter where passengers choose to dine, they should schedule time to explore the ship’s long list of leisure activities. Families will find many ways to be active together, from basketball and table tennis to the FlowRider surf simulator. There’s also lots of fun to be had on bumper cars, at the roller rink and at circus school in SeaPlex, the largest indoor space of its kind at sea.
All activities are complimentary, so passengers can jump from one choice to the next without cost concerns. The only problem they are likely to run into is finding enough time to sleep.
Anthem’s homeport is Southampton, U.K.; the vessel will sail the Mediterranean through October. It will then move to Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., to sail to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.