Is it possible to go from car park to stateroom in 15 minutes? Yes it is. Boarding Anthem of the Seas at Southampton for its maiden voyage was simplicity itself. Across the red carpet to check in staff with tablets. Photo taken and sail pass stamped it’s through security and onto the ship, and what a ship. Third largest in the world carrying over 4,000 passengers and yet no queues. Totally new design, out is the huge atrium looking up 12 plus decks, in are chandeliers, winding stair cases, flowers giving off wonderful aromas, it’s elegant and glamourous rolled into one, it’s impressive.
This is the maiden Voyage and the excitement on board is electric. A tug/fireboat salutes the ship with the customary water jets as we move slowly away from our berth to commence our turn round by the Ocean Terminal. This done Anthem salutes Southampton with 3 long blasts of the ships deep noted whistle and we make our way to the open sea, cheered on by hundreds of people who had come to see this special ship and yes it is special in so many ways.
After receiving a welcome on board glass of bubbly in a proper glass flute it is into the elevator only to be met with a large picture of a quirky looking animal or bird in bright colours. These are a feature of all the enclosed elevators as opposed to the glass ones. It’s different and perhaps not to everyone’s taste but they certainly make you smile and get people talking.
Stateroom 9185 on deck 9 is an ‘Inside Virtual Balcony’ of 180 sq. ft. An innovation where one wall becomes an 80 inch, high definition screen showing the infrastructure of a balcony and what is going on outside, live. Adjustable sound allows you to hear the sea. Wake up and see a seagull fly by or a view of where you are berthed just as with a real balcony or an outside stateroom with a window. Amazing, and maybe the answer to anyone who is put off booking an inside cabin due to them suffering from claustrophobia.
Large double bed, two wardrobes, cupboards above the bed, lots of drawer space, enough room for an extended voyage let alone an 8 night cruise. 4 US style plug sockets and 2 European (one in the bathroom) will be more than enough for anyone. Hairdryer, kettle and a good supply of teabags. A 42 inch interactive television and even the telephone has a touch screen. The bathroom with large glass shower cabinet, Italian toiletries of shampoo, shower gel, conditioner and moisturiser together with fluffy towels and designer basin gives a quality feel.
Later in the cruise I moved to a balcony stateroom, 7110, to experience the real thing. The difference was the 55 sq. ft. balcony with 2 large reclining chairs and a table. The ship even has suites on two levels starting at a huge 740 sq. ft. so you can still go ‘upstairs’ to bed.
Food in the eyes of many is what matters on a cruise and on this ship the choice is endless. 18 different dining venues that can be pre-booked or you can book traditional dining. Book traditional and you will alternate across 4 different restaurants whilst maintaining the same waiters wearing a different uniform for each restaurant. American Icon for steaks and familiar American style dishes, Chic to enjoy Chilean Sea Bass, Herbed Scampi Style Shrimp, Onion Crusted Chicken to name but a few, Silk for dishes from Asia, India, Thailand or Japan or The Grande where every night is formal night with food to match, Duck a L’Orange, Grilled Lemon Sole and much more.
There are speciality restaurants galore each with its own dress code. Chops Grill, Royal Caribbean’s signature restaurant that has proved a hit on all their ships, Wonderland a restaurant of difference with surprises, Izumi introducing fabulous Japanese Cuisine, the ever popular Johnny Rockets and Jamie’s Italian the on board restaurant of our own Jamie Oliver to name but a few and all unique in their own way. This ship is a gastronomic delight with something to bring everyone’s taste buds alive.
For the ultimate experience try Chef’s Table, a 5 course dinner for up to 16 people. Different wines paired and served with each course served by the Sommelier.
Royal Caribbean are known for their innovations and this ship has many. Favourites such as The Rock Wall and the Flowrider surf simulator have been joined by Rip Cord iFly a skydiving simulator, the first at sea, Sea Plex the largest indoor activities space at sea where at times the area is cleared of sports equipment and replaced with bumper cars as used at fairgrounds. North Star is a must for every one of all ages. A capsule on the end of an arm extending 150 feet above the deck and 440 feet above the ocean giving incredible views and you can even get married in here.
How often have you had your Sea Pass card in the same pocket as your mobile phone and then find that the card won’t work? Those days are gone, the new cards cannot be demagnetised and taking a further step forward Royal Caribbean have devised the ‘Wow Band’, worn like a wrist watch it does everything that your card does and comes in several colours.
Entertainment has been taken to a new and exciting level with shows like the Olivier Award winning musical ‘We Will Rock You’ performed in the 1,300 seat theatre. 2 decks high this state of the art theatre has good sight lines from all seats. Spectres Cabaret in Two70, a show of dance, aerialists and musicians complemented by video and digital scenery making for one of the most spectacular shows at sea. Quality cabaret in the guise of the Sir Elton John tribute act, Jonathan Kane the only person to be endorsed by Sir Elton, Jane Curry an extremely versatile singer, Neal Austin one of the funniest comedy magic acts I have ever seen. ‘Music Hall’, a two tier entertainment venue with stage and latest technology hosts such musicals as Hairspray, Chicago and others.
The Esplanade is graced by shops of world known names selling quality goods. It never appears crowded despite the large number of passengers.
Guest Relations, an area equipped with tablets so instead of having to wait for a place at the desk you can use one of the tablets to get your question answered or speak with one of the guest relations officers who are in the area for your needs.
For relaxation the Solarium with its water falls, pools, palm trees and comfortable loungers with beautiful views out over the wash of the ship. This area like the indoor pool and H2O zone pool has jacuzzis and these areas all have their own bars.
Overlooking everything on deck 15 is Gi-Gi, a 10 metre high Giraffe made of 15 carbon fibre pieces and weighing 4 tons. Wearing a yellow swim suit and big pink life belt, after the captain, she is boss and loved by young and old alike.
This is a ship of the future, a new concept, bringing a refreshing newness to cruising. Sailing out of Southampton for the summer season Anthem will reposition to Cape Liberty on the 27th October, unfortunately not to return so if you want to try this wonderful ship and see how good cruising can be, do it now while you have the chance. For me this is the future, bring it on
More information at www.RoyalCaribbean.com
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
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See Alan's video of Anthem of the Seas
Jason Bradbury talks about the Quantum class ships and Anthem of the Seas