On December 9th, 2016 my family and I, along with 2 friends embarked on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the seas for a 7 day cruise out of Port Liberty in Bayonne New Jersey. It was our first experience with Royal Caribbean, and we had chosen this ship and port based on a few factors. We chose this one due to the cost of the cruise overall, the port location which allowed us to drive ourselves to port, and the size and amenities on the ship played a major role. I should mention this was 3 of our 5 children’s first cruise. And their ages at sailing were 7, 13, 18, 22, and 30.
First impression -The traffic getting into the port was terrible. However, we were early and some of the back up was due to the fact that the previous cruise was still disembarking. We found a great parking lot located a mile from the port that offered a shuttle service for almost half the cost of parking at the port. Bayonne Parking is one we would highly recommend. The price was great and the shuttle service worked well.
Checking in- Check in was a bit chaotic but they had many employees standing just outside of security scanning passports and the lines moved relatively quickly. Security was a breeze, we were through and walking onto the ship within minutes! We were on the ship around 11 am at which point we went right to our room. Our setsail passes were ready and waiting for us just outside our door. We peaked at our room, dropped a few things off and met our steward. We were told our rooms would be ready at 1:30 so it was time to go exploring!
Beverage package– My husband purchased the beverage package which included alcohol, soda, coffee, and just about everything except the fancy drinks in the special cups. The price was reasonable and they gave him a special cup needed for the soda machines. The biggest perk about this package in comparison to other lines is that only 1 person needs to purchase the package. Having the kids with us I didn’t plan to drink much alcohol at all, so we were relieved to know we didn’t have to both buy the package. We found throughout the cruise that the drinks were well made, the specialty coffees were delicious, and the convenience of the cup was nice, however it was slightly annoying to carry the cup around if we only wanted the soda with lunch.
Amenities- The features that the ship offers seemed very appealing to us, and our children with their broad range of ages we thought there would be something for everyone. The Ripcord, the North Star viewing pod, and Flowrider were only open at random times, and the lines were outrageous for them. The North Star needed reservations for which we were unaware of. We called on our second day to make reservations and there was nothing available for the ENTIRE week. Our only chance was to go up and put our name on a standby list, and then wait there and hope someone didn’t show up. This was most disappointing as we chose the ship because of these great features, but with never having sailed on Anthem we didn’t realize we had to book things ahead of time. I did ask around and those that were able to make use of them enjoyed it so if your planning to cruise Anthem, don’t make our mistake, book ahead of time! Highly recommend booking it weeks before the cruise sails.
Entertainment/Activities for the kids- They have this great place called the seaplex. We wandered up there quite often throughout the week for various activities, and for when we had some free time and needed something to do. The line for bumper cars was unreal so if it’s something your interested in, get there about a half hour before the time and get in line. There was air hockey (for a fee) ping pong (free) and video games in the upper level that we never had to wait long to use. Our boys used the arcade and wasted a few bucks pretty quickly in there and I noticed that it was pretty empty for most of the week. They also have a rock climbing wall, which too I recommend getting in line early when it is open. There is space for 3 climbers at a time and the line moved along but not very fast. My husband and our two youngest tried it out and loved it. My daughter even won the climbing contest for her age group! For teenagers there is a place called “the living room” to go and hang out. My daughter (13) went on the 3rd day and after some time made some friends and we barely saw her for the last two days! They even have a nightclub just for their age group and she found herself there sometimes.
Adventure Ocean-This is where our 7 year old went a few nights. I loved how secure it was, and convenient! We would bring him there after dinner and he could stay until 10pm without extra charge. We also had the option to send him earlier in the evening and the staff would take them to dinner in the windjammer which he did a few times. They had plenty of activities planned out and I was very impressed with the staff and how they kept the group engaged. Checking him in and out was easy enough. The security on it was impressive, as nobody else can check him out, not even his siblings, unless they are on the list. Made for great piece of mind.
Food/Dining- I haven’t mentioned this yet, but our family LOVES to eat. We ate breakfast and lunch in the windjammer buffet, and we were NOT disappointed at all. The variety was fantastic, during peak times we struggled to find seating but the lines for the food were not bad at all. Everything was very tasty. Dinner- Our party of 9 all chose your time dining. We have never experienced this before so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Your time dining still requires a reservation in the main dinning rooms. If you didn’t have reservations there was a bit of a wait. With a smaller party I would expect that the reservation wasn’t as important. With reservations though we ended up sitting at the same two tables throughout the entire week which was great. We had fantastic waiters and they all went above and beyond to make sure we were happy. The maitre d even gave us complimentary champagne on two occasions when we had waited just a few minutes for our table to be ready. The food choices were pretty good, and we had some of the most amazing meals.
Cabin- We booked 2 oceanview rooms on deck 3 for the 7 of us. From the start our room was kept clean, our steward was attentive, and he always managed to sneak in like a little tiny ninja when we weren’t looking. This might be my favorite part of cruising. I leave in the morning and come back to a clean room and a made bed! Then we come back from dinner and our bed is ready for us! The storage was great, I felt we had plenty of space to spread out, unpack and stay organized. We had 4 suitcases in total, and had plenty of room to unpack everything and put our luggage under our bed for the entire week. The bathroom was roomy, and the shower was big. They even have a little rod in the shower for my foot to rest on while shaving my legs. (It’s the little things that I love)
Cabin Tip- I brought a collapsible laundry hamper with us for the first time to use for dirty clothes. This was GENIUS. I read it on a facebook post and loved the idea. It worked perfectly, and the hamper fit into the closet. I put a trash bag in it so when it was time to pack up to go home, i just took the dirty clothes out and put the whole bag into a suitcase.
Fitness Center- I used this almost every morning for the entire cruise. I like to start my day with a few miles on the treadmill and watch the sun come up, or the ship pull into port. They had plenty of treadmills, bicycles, and a great spot for group classes. The weight options were not as great as I’ve seen on other options, but there were many people using them all week. They had a lot of options for the group classes but I didn’t attend any.
Spa– For the first time, I made use of the spa services on a ship. My friend and I decided we would get a couples full body massage and split it. We went over to the spa to inquire about pricing and maybe make an appointment. We chatted a bit with the girl, and she said they had time right then to take us. The massage was wonderful, however a bit pricey. For 50 minutes I would say it was worth it though. They did try to sell us some of their products afterwards but were very nice about it when we declined.
Entertainment- They have the 270 and royal theater that they offer shows in. Another thing I wish I had known prior to sailing was that you need reservations for most of these shows! Any of the headliner shows you must have reservations for. We were able to catch most of the bigger shows, and I’m glad we did. “We will rock you” and “The Gift” in the royal theater were my two favorites. We saw Spectra’s Cabaret and a few others in the 270 and enjoyed them as well. The aerial dancing and robotic screens were pretty great. Not to mention the big screen in the back. (It has 18 projectors!)
Things not to be missed- Dancing with the suits was hands down one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Along with the Quest. These happen in the 270 and are worth every minute. Also, the “silent dance party” was another great time. I won’t go into details, but it involves headphones, two djs, and lots and lots of laughs and dancing. Don’t miss this. And finally, the thriller flash mob. I missed the first dance lesson in the beginning of the week, but I caught the rest. They teach us the thriller dance, and then we performed it on the last night in the royal esplanade right before the farewell event. Very entertaining! Spend some time in the solarium, it’s quiet, peaceful, and always plenty of room in the hot tubs and pools. Can most often get a lounge chair at any time of day as well.
Ports- We stopped in Port Canaveral, Nassau, and Cococay. I won’t elaborate on the ports themselves, but I will say that disembarking wasn’t too terrible except at Cococay which was the only tender port. Another thing we were unaware of is that you have to go to Boleros lounge on deck 5 and get a ticket which assigns your party a number. They then call numbers accordingly. This was awful. By the time we realized what the numbers being called were for and made our way to Boleros, we had number 31 and they were only at 5. We didn’t get off the ship until after 11 am, and then sat on the tender boat for about 30 minutes while they got everyone on. I didn’t like this and felt that it created chaos that wasn’t necessary.
Disembarkation– This was very easy. Almost felt too easy. We learned that we had to go up to the guest services mid week and request self assist and then choose a time. We chose an early time of 6:30 am and kept all of our bags in our room. We got up, went and had breakfast, back to our room to get our luggage and off we went. Walked up on flight, they scanned us out, and off we went. Customs was done in about 3 minutes to get the 7 of us through, and then we waited about 5 minutes for our shuttle. In our car and on our way home within an hour or waking up. As much as I didn’t want to come home to snow and cold, getting off of the ship was very easy.
I also have to send out my congratulations to our friends who got engaged on the final night! Congrats Timmy and Kayla!
- Beverage package
- Embarking was easy
- Staff was friendly
- Food was amazing
- The ship is beautiful and well decorated
- Great options for the children for entertainment
- Needing reservations for EVERYTHING (Well, it felt like everything)
- Tender port system was a nightmare
- Traffic getting into the port
- They kicked me off on the last day
- It was cold the final sea day, however I am well aware that RCCL has no impact on the weather and therefore this is not something to hold against them. I will choose my ports and dates more carefully in the future.
Thanks for Reading!
I didn’t mention quite a few things, because if I did this would be much longer. If you have any questions reach out to me and I will respond as quickly as I can!