Athem is the most innovative ship afloat. Robot barmen, bumber cars, sky diving simulator, a pod raised 100ft above the deck, a huge giant giraffe and more. I was ready to dismiss the ship as a load of gimmicks, but Anthem proved me wrong.
There’s certainly a lot of technology around and one of its best uses is to enhance the guest experience.
Gone are the queues for the check-in desks. On arriving at the cruise terminal we were checked in where we stood by staff using tablet computers. A small green stamp on our boarding documentation and a scan of its bar code was all that we needed to board the ship, where officers and crew were lined up to welcome us. A great, hassle-free start.
The first thing that struck us on boarding was what a beautiful ship it was. In a way it was a shame that the innovation grabbed the headlines. It’s very good, but so is the design, layout, decor and facilities.
We realised we had no key cards, they were outside our cabin. However, you don’t even have to carry the cards around as there are alternative wrist bands that carry out the same functions.
Those booking an inside cabin will appreciate another technological innovation. Instead of a blank wall, guests are greeted with a huge screen linked to an outside TV camera so guests have the same view as those with balcony cabins. The screen even shows a balcony rail. A virtual balcony cabin -now that’s really clever.
So, what else does Anthem deliver that you won’t find elsewhere?
Fancy a cocktail? Then try the Bionic Bar. Log on to one of the tablets with your card or wrist-strap, choose your cocktail or design your own, then one of the two robots will grab some ice, add the ingredients from the huge range of optics, give it a shake, and pour. Tap your card on the counter and your drink slides to you. It probably attracts more sightseers than customers as the robots have an almost human quality and, if not busy, will dance to the background music.
Seaplex is a multi-purpose area that is used for a number of activities. On our first visit it was dodgem cars and we had great fun whizzing round and bumping into fellow guests. On our next visit, half the area was being used for basket ball and the other half was given over to guests who wanted to try their hand on a circus flying trapeze – an experience I decided to decline – but it made a good spectator sport.
Out on deck there were the old favourites, a rock climbing wall and the flow rider, a surfing simulator, along with a new addition, Ripcord. This is a large tube in which an up-draft of around 120mph is generated, allowing guests to experience the feeling of sky-diving. There is always an instructor on hand to help and again it proved highly popular with both participants and spectators.
Last but by no means least, is North Star. This is a pod similar to that on the London Eye which is raised to over 100ft above the deck. It can be used for sight-seeing or booked for special events such as weddings.
We never did find out what the giant giraffe was for but then it didn’t really matter!
Yet despite all this innovation, the key to this ship is that it is elegant, well equipped and beautifully laid out. The Royal Theatre holds over 1000 people and puts on top-class shows. We saw “We Will Rock You” and it was one of the best shows we have ever seen in any theatre on land or sea. Anthem doesn’t do fixed dining so there is no restriction on the length of the shows.
Of course, none of this is compulsory and there are plenty of places to chill out, both inside and out. As well as outdoor pools and Jacuzzis there’s a lovely pool with a bar and a sliding glass roof in case the weather turns against you. For adults only there is a delightful two-deck high solarium with cascading pools and palm trees. Younger ones will love the kids clubs and a teens-only area which is supervised until the early hours of the morning. Parents may have problems persuading their kids to spend time with them.
Food is a key element of any cruise and Anthem certainly delivers on this point. With no fixed dining times or formal nights, there are eighteen places to eat of which the buffet, three cafes, a pizzeria and six restaurants are included in the fare. Amongst the speciality restaurants are Jamie’s Italian, from our own Jamie Oliver, Izumi’s Japanese restaurant, and Wonderland. OK, this you have to see and experience but if I tell you that the menu is blank until you brush water on it and when you lift a glass it may whisper to you, perhaps you will begin to see what I mean. The food follows this vein.
Of course, with all this going on you may forget you are on a cruise ship, but on top of all this there are all the ports of call to be explored. Fitting in all the things that you want to do, ashore and on board, may take some planning.
Anthem of the Seas really is like no other cruise ship. It will dispel all the myths for those trying out cruising for the first time and even hardened regulars can admire the peace and relaxation the ship provides, the marvellous layout, the stunning design, the choice of food and the exciting entertainment, which is enhanced by the use of the great technology.
Is there anything to add? As Captain Andersen said, you can build the best ship in the world but ultimately what matters most is the crew. Yes, the crew are great and their pride in being part of such a unique experience really shows.
Anthem cruises from Southampton. Her last sailing is on 27 October, her repositioning cruise across to her home port Cape Liberty in New Jersey, from where she has regular sailings to the Caribbean. My advice? Grab her while she’s still here.
For more information go to www.royalcaribbean.co.uk or call 0844 493 4005
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Anthem of the Seas Launches!