This weekend, Flea and I joined 2,000 other invited bloggers, journalists and travel industry types for a 48-hour sneak peek at the brand new Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, which is sailing from Southampton this summer.
Anthem of the Seas is a big deal – it’s the third largest cruise ship in the world, carrying more than 4,000 passengers at full capacity, with 18 restaurants, 5 swimming pools and its own skydiving adventure. Not to mention climbing wall, dodgem cars, roller disco, spa, solarium, gym… the list goes on and on.
If you’re considering a cruise this summer, here are 10 things we think you’ll love about Anthem of the Seas:
1. The Pools
The pools on board are, in Flea’s words, “epic”. There is a large outdoor children’s water play area featuring a lazy river, splash pool, fountains, waves and lots more – with dedicated seating so parents can relax while keeping an eye on younger children. The main outdoor pool is a great size, with lots of seating, and a bar area with an elevated seating deck. But that’s not all – there’s also a second large indoor pool (although the roof here does open in good weather) with yet more seating and two huge whirlpools. Beyond that is an adults-only solarium for some quieter relaxation away from younger guests. It’s all very clean, and bright, and Flea loved testing out EVERYTHING.
2. Ripcord by iFly
If you’ve ever fancied skydiving but don’t have a head for heights, then iFly is the perfect compromise. You’ll get the chance to experience skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel, perched on the back of a cruise ship. These sessions, included in the price of your cruise, are brilliant fun. You’ll go through a quick safety training workshop, then be kitted out with a jumpsuit, helmet and goggles. Then your instructor will guide you into the tunnel and help you fly – it’s an amazing experience, and not as scary as you might imagine, we promise. Flea adored this and said it was the best thing we did all weekend.
If you’ve ever worried your kids might get bored on a cruise ship, then Anthem of the Seas has the perfect answer. Seaplex is a large arena that changes throughout the day – in the morning, we saw people playing basketball, then Flea joined the circus and learned to fly on a trapeze. Later, there were dodgems. Dodgems! On a cruise ship! Around the arena is a mezzanine where you’ll find a series of chambers, with different sorts of entertainment – we loved the air hockey and table tennis areas, but there’s also an X-Box lounge, kitted out with comfy seats where kids can while away a few hours. If you’re hungry, there’s even the Dog House, a retro food van serving hot dogs, sausages and brats, all day.
4. Flow Rider
Ever fancied surfing? Flow Rider is a quite spectacular activity, particularly with its location on Anthem of the Seas, perched at the top of the ship’s stern, with views over the ocean. You don’t need a wetsuit to get surfing on this static wave machine – you just need a bit of nerve! The instructors will give you some basic tips, and then you can choose to ride the waves on a boogie board (for kids under 48″ this is the available option) or a surfboard. I can tell you it’s a LOT harder than it looks, but a great deal of fun.
5. North Star
Imagine London Eye, over the sea, and you have some idea of what North Star might be like. Basically, it’s a large mechanical arm, with a glass capsule on the end. Every half hour or so, it rises slowly into the air, giving passengers a 360 degree view of the ship and its surroundings, from 300 feet above the ocean. It’s spectacular and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Be warned, though – it does move about so if you’re prone to motion sickness, take precautions!
6. Johnny Rockets
There are 18 restaurants on board, ranging from high heels and frocks fancy to uber-casual and cosy. You’ll have great fun exploring them all, and with the new Dynamic Dining package being offered by Royal Caribbean, you can mix and match your dining options while still enjoying some of the familiar cruise ship dining habits (eating at the same time, with the same people) if you’d like to. Flea’s pick of the bunch, though, was Johnny Rockets, a retro-style diner next to the main pool, serving great quality burgers and freshly cooked fries with some of the best shakes you’ll have tasted in many years.
7. Bionic Bar
There’s a lot of technology on board Anthem of the Seas and most of it is really cool. Perhaps our favourite is the Bionic Bar, a bar tended by robots. Here’s how it works: use your wristband to log-in to the iPads situated along the bar (you must be over 21 to do this). Then choose from the menu of cocktails (or invent and name your own drink), and the robots will mix and pour it for you. Touch your wristband to the bar, and your drink is pushed along a conveyor belt into your hand. It’s lots of fun and the kids can join in, too – there are non-alcoholic options available. But do choose your time carefully – when we arrived one evening the wait for a drink to be made was 15 minutes!
8. Climbing Wall
The climbing wall is a real feature of Royal Caribbean ships and the one on Anthem of the Seas is great- it’s situated on the side of the ship, on the top deck, so the views are spectacular – although bring a sweater, as it can get windy! I loved that Flea was kitted out with climbing shoes as well as a helmet and the staff were great at encouraging her to keep trying when she fell off.
9. We Will Rock You
I cannot even tell you how much I think you’ll love this show – the songs, the production, the performances – it’s all absolutely top notch and you really don’t need to need to be a Queen fan to enjoy it – Flea was captivated. The quality is amazing, certainly as good as anything I’ve seen on the West End. The other musical options on board are just as impressive – there’s live bands in the Music Hall, DJs in the Seaplex and Bionic Bar, and music in many of the bars.
10. The Art Installations
Here’s the thing – cruise ships can be (in my experience) a bit bland. Long corridors of cabins, lots of beige swirly carpets… it’s not always the most exciting place to be. But the artwork on Anthem of the Seas gives the ship a real sense of fun, and personality. We loved the interactive light installations, including a huge chandelier that throbs and glows in time with your heartbeat. There are cute goats wearing sunglasses in the elevators, and sculptures all over the place. Our favourites were some of the art installations, particularly Gigi the giant giraffe, a 10 metre tall art piece created by French artist Jean Francoise Fourtou.
Want to know more? Here’s Flea’s video round-up of the weekend’s highlights, and you can see more photos over on Facebook.
We were invited to sail on this mini-cruise as guests of Royal Caribbean, and all food and entertainment was complimentary. We stayed in a superior outside stateroom with balcony. For the latest information on booking and destinations visited by Anthem of the Seas, see the Royal Caribbean website.