After spending a few days aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, which launched in 2015, it was obvious this 16-deck behemoth was built to suit families more than couples on a honeymoon or romantic getaway — unless, of course, they bring the kids along.
Although there were few children on a preview sailing, it wasn't hard to imagine the squeals and shouts and the other sounds likely to emanate from children as they encounter this floating amusement park.
Anthem of the Seas experiences include "skydiving" in a wind tunnel, surfing on a Flowrider simulator, and going up in a capsule that elevates passengers 303 feet above the ocean.
Although much of public areas are covered with pools and hot tubs, into each sea day some rain may fall. So the indoor SeaPlex center entertains with bumper cars, a flying trapeze, roller skating rink/indoor soccer field, ping-pong, foosball, video games and more.
Yet there are aspects of Anthem of the Seas that even sophisticates could love.
Sky Loft Suites are for Lovers
Out of 2,090 staterooms on the ship, more than 1,500 feature a private balcony, the holy grail of cruise passengers.
Since Royal Caribbean would be wasting space and losing revenue by not building some inside cabins, there are 375 of these with a "virtual balcony," a floor-to-ceiling video of the view outside. You may find these ersatz ones disappointing because with a balcony you don't just see the ocean, you feel it.
On the other end of the cost spectrum, the ship's new, two-story sky loft suites would be even better for a romantic getaway than a balcony cabin for couples who appreciate more room.
A stairway leads up to the "royal king" bed (smaller than a real king-size bed) and a romantic balcony view. Downstairs there's a small living/dining room. Sky loft suites have two bathrooms and two balconies. And the small side balcony featured a swing chair overlooking the ocean that spelled s-e-x-y.
Spa on Anthem of the Seas
In the hushed atmosphere of Vitality Spa on Anthem of the Seas, it's unlikely moments of Zen will be interrupted.
The spa does feature a couples treatment room, yet many twosomes find it more relaxing to engage in individual sessions.
There's also a beauty salon and a large, open fitness center on board that offers Pilates and Yoga classes as well as sweatier pursuits such as Beach Bootcamp and TRX.
Stroll the Royal Promenade
Anthem of the Seas' Royal Promenade on Decks 4 & 5 is like an indoor mall. There are places to pick up pizza and pastries, places to shop for apparel and logo souvenirs to wear. If you didn't pack a hoodie or sweater and are freezing, they've got you covered.
Bvlgari on Anthem of the Seas
The Italian jewelry firm Bulgari has been creating magnificent fine jewelry and watches since 1884. It's particularly well known for creating items that feature golden snakelike chains, Roman coin jewelry, and important cabochon gemstones.
On the ship, you won't see the most expensive and exquisitely crafted designs that decorate the décolletage of red-carpet celebrities, but you can buy a more affordable trinket that bears the Bvlgari imprimatur. Those who try their luck at the casino and win ought to come in and pick up a lucky charm for their love.
Art on Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas isn't a floating museum, but there is art in abundance. For example, each elevator features an oversize graphic of an animal in drag.
On the Royal Esplanade, we admired a shiny sculpture that reminded us of Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate"in Chicago.
What delights most are kinetic artworks that morph while one gazes at them. Some evoke the changing seasons; some were psychedelic; some were playful and humorous. Each time you encounter a new one that you haven't seen before, you'll want to share it with your cabin mate.
Like most cruise ships, Anthem also maintains a small "art gallery" where framed pictures by less creative artists are for sale.
North Star on Anthem of the Seas
Get (legally) high on Anthem: take a ride on the North Star. This glass observation capsule rises 303 feet in the air and rotates upwards and over the sides of the ship for 15 minutes of sightseeing from an uncommon aerie. Squeeze your honey as you look down — as long as neither of you is claustrophobic or acrophobic.
Not Just for Nerds
You may not find it on the deck plan, but there's a good hideaway for adults inside Two70 at the aft end of the ship. As you enter, take the staircase on the port side. On top you'll find a small library filled with fiction, non-fiction, travel books, and games.
Just beyond is a roomy business center furnished with four widescreen Apple computers. Log in, and send each other a love note from the sea.
Celebrate the Sunsets
Are sunsets more beautiful and romantic when you're at sea? We think so, even when you're seeing a New Jersey parking lot adjacent to the ship's port. Look beyond it for a magnificent view of New York City illuminated by a rainbow-hued sky.
Pool + Bar on Anthem of the Seas
Henry James said that "summer afternoon" were the two loveliest words in the English language. Cruise ship passengers may disagree, as "pool bar" gives James' phrase strong competition.
Pools are plentiful on Anthem of the Seas, and this one is accompanied by both a wading pool with sunken loungers and a couple of hot tubs. While the water is a hive of activity during the day, come sunset, when the kiddies are at the troughs, it's a beautiful time to kick back with a cold one in warm water.
Sushi at Sea
Savor a grown-up meal at Izumi (a la carte pricing), where the fish is fresh and there's a nice table for two apart from other diners. Among the menu's signature rolls, the Truffle Creamy Lobster Tempura Roll is particularly scrumptious.
The lobster tempura chunks tossed in ponzu olive oil and spicy mayo with a hint of scallion and truffle oil are so yummy that you may end up picking them off each slice of the sushi that accompanied it and devoured the lobster with your fingers.
Check out the Views from Two70
Deck 5's Two70 is a multi-purpose room with views that span 270 degrees. Come for a drink at the bar and watch the world go by through expansive glass windows. Technology can transform it into a completely different atmosphere, with theatrical screens covering the windows and projected images that reveal worlds of imagination.
Anthem of the Sea Weddings
Shipboard weddings have never been more popular. Although Anthem doesn't have a dedicated chapel, there are multiple indoor and outdoor venues where a couple can tie the knot.
The Wonders of Wonderland
Even the physical menu is uncommon; you'll receive framed parchment, a brush, and a small jar of water. As you "paint," the menu reveals itself. But it's really up to the staff to orchestrate your meal. After you tell the waiter if there's anything you'd rather avoid, he'll present course after course accompanied by a brief dissertation regarding the ingredients and preparation.
Some of the dishes are odd and not terribly tasty, e.g. an olive with the consistency of an eyeball created out of oil and delivered in a spoon of oil.
"Baby Vegetables in the Garden | Soil & Pebbles" consists of tiny vegetables perfectly cooked and the "soil" is a moist mixture of pumpernickel bread and truffles. Beware of the "pebbles" — chicken livers rolled in chocolate powder — though.
The surprise of the night is 12-hour braised beef on the bone, tender and moist and delicious. Unfortunately, it comes toward the end of multiple courses, so you may barely have room for a slice.
Advice to carnivores: Make a reservation for Wonderland, but choose a limited number of dishes and cut to the chase after a few tastes and leave room for the savory beef.
Take in the View from a Hot Tub
With the kiddies all tucked away in their cabins, make your way to the Solarium and sink into one of the lighted hot tubs. They're not private, but they are on a lower level than the bar.
Want to stay dry? There's a swing big enough for two kids at heart.
If you're lucky enough to be sailing out of the Hudson River as night falls, observing this magnificent cityscape and the Statue of Liberty is an incomparable way to begin a bonne voyage.