Anthem of the Seas is at the cutting edge of cruising, writes Hollie-Rae Merrick
Cruising isn’t what it used to be. Back in the day, things were all quite regimented and traditional, but take a cruise on Royal Caribbean International’s new ship Anthem of the Seas and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d fast forwarded past 2015 and ended up in the future.
The ship is full of high-tech gimmicks and mod cons – whether you’re enjoying a drink served by a robot bartender or trying the first sky-diving simulator at sea.
Anthem is the line’s second ‘SmartShip’ and launched two months ago in Southampton when it was christened by its travel agent godmother Emma Wilby. Sister vessel Quantum of the Seas made her debut last October.
Sailing from Southampton for the summer season, Anthem is almost an exact replica of Quantum. The only difference between the two is the onboard entertainment and the bizarre animals perched on top of the top deck, guarding the entrance to the Seaplex.
On Quantum, it’s a 30-foot magenta bear, while on Anthem, it’s a 32-foot giraffe that has been nicknamed ‘GiGi’ by the ship’s crew. Wearing a green rubber ring and a yellow wet suit, GiGi is just one of countless quirky features dotted around the ship.
One of my favourite areas onboard Anthem is the Seaplex. It’s an exciting new area that has been introduced on the Quantum-class ships and is definitely one of the most popular places to spend time.
Royal believes that combined with North Star and Ripcord By iFly, Seaplex will help to attract new-to-cruise customers, simply because the three innovations are unique to Royal Caribbean and something most non-cruisers wouldn’t expect to experience on a holiday at sea.
Seaplex is a multi-purpose area that takes on different guises during a cruise. At one point, it will be set up for circus tricks and you’ll spot passengers learning the trapeze, while on another day, it will be home to a roller disco. My favourite was when it was crammed full of bumper cars, which took me down memory lane as these were childhood favourites.
Also on the top deck is North Star – a glass pod that lifts guests 300 feet above sea level. Based on the London Eye, the bubble gives guests a 360-degree view of their surroundings, whether they’re out at sea or in a far-flung destination.
And what makes it even better is that it’s free, but you may need to book it in advance. If, like me, you’re scared of heights, you might want to have a little tipple beforehand. Fortified or not, the views make it an experience not to be missed.
The sky-diving simulator Ripcord By iFly is the latest of Royal’s innovative onboard experiences, in the same vein as surf simulator Flowrider, which can also be found on Anthem.
For all ages
The onboard children’s facilities are impressive. The brightly coloured Adventure Ocean area, which offers a wide range of play equipment, is open to kids between the ages of three and 11, who are divided into Aquanauts (three to five), Explorers (six to eight) and Voyagers (nine to 11).
There are also facilities for babies and tots between the ages of six months and three. For older teens keen to enjoy a little freedom, the Living Room is the place to be.
If you’re keen to escape the chaos and just relax, head to the Solarium – an adults-only area at the front of the ship. It has its own bar and is a little slice of tranquility on a pretty tech-heavy ship. While you’re there, stop by Devinly Decadence, a healthy-dining restaurant serving dishes that contain fewer than 500 calories.
Modern to Retro
When it comes to entertainment, Two70 has the wow factor. A cafe by day, it’s after dark when it really comes to life. It’s the line’s futuristic approach to evening entertainment, with the floor-to-ceiling windows transforming into a massive high-definition screen, which acts as the backdrop to shows.
The venue also features six ‘Roboscreens’ controlled by robotic arms, which spin around and twist individually and in unison.
But if this is all getting a little techy for you, there’s a sanctuary onboard that harks back to the days when computers and social media didn’t even exist. In the Puzzle Break room, passengers have to work together to solve brainteasers to escape the room.
Food for thought
Another feature that Royal hopes will attract first-time customers is the new onboard dining concept. The line has not only scrapped set dining times, but it’s replaced the main dining room with four areas, each with its own menu and theme.
Silk serves Asian dishes, Chic offers contemporary cuisine, American Icon Grill provides a journey around the US and the Grande is the most formal.
Royal has also expanded the range of speciality dining venues with the introduction of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian and the whimsical Wonderland, where nothing is what it seems. The latter is not to be missed, providing an experience similar to that in a Heston Blumenthal restaurant.
Book it: The 14-night Spain & Med Beaches itinerary, departing Southampton on July 4, starts at £1,499.
Ask an Agent
Thomson agent and Anthem godmother Emma Wilby says:
“The moment you board Anthem of the Seas, you cannot help but be taken aback by the sheer scale and luxury of the ship.
“My first experience onboard was of placing my hands on the Pulse Spiral pad, an impressive chandelier made up of more than 200 bulbs that mimic the heartbeat of the observer. This is one of many art installations secreted around the ship.
“As a foodie, I can confirm that Anthem’s dining options are second to none. I would particularly recommend Wonderland, where I dined three times, so that each person who visited me onboard could also enjoy the experience. Devinly Decadence served the most wonderful beef tenderloin, cooked to perfection, while Izumi was a real treat.
“For those more into activities, iFly by RipCord was my favourite. All the sports staff are fantastic at giving clear instructions and calming the nerves if necessary.
“There’s so much to love about this ship, you need to experience it for yourself.”
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