It cost a billion dollars to build, has 2,090 staterooms accommodating a maximum of 4,905 passengers, 18 restaurants, 14 bars, a Flowrider surf simulator, dodgem cars and North Star pod that transports guests 300 feet above sea level. This is the Anthem of the Seas, one of the remarkable Quantum class ships from Royal Caribbean cruise line. I sailed on her as she entered service in April 2015 and, based on my experience and cruising knowledge, I have developed these ten key tips, tricks and advice for anyone cruising on her or her sister ship, Quantum of the Seas. They should ensure you get the most out of your cruise.
1: Ensure Royal Caribbean and Quantum ships are right you.
Everyone I met from Royal Caribbean spoke about how they aim to attract and satisfy adventurous travellers. People that like to be active, busy and try new things. It also has a relaxed and informal approach to cruising, and dress code is mostly casual and smart casual. So travellers seeking a very traditional and formal cruising experience may be disappointed. But this is not their target!
The Anthem of the Seas, and her sister ship, should be thought of primarily as multi-featured resorts. The focus is on the activities and services within the ship, and of course the ports they call on. Therefore, people that enjoy resort-style vacations with many options for dining, constant entertainment and diverse amenities within walking distance should enjoy the Quantum ships.
Royal Caribbean are especially geared to keeping families happy and entertained, and focus their entertainment, accommodation and amenities to meeting the needs of both parents and children of all ages. They also try to meet the diverse requirements of multi-generational groups travelling together This is a growing trend in cruising.
There are many couples without children that also travel with the line. I would, however, recommend travelling out of school vacation and holiday times to avoid being swamped by families.
When I asked about solo travellers, the management and crew were more hesitant. They pointed out that on the Quantum ships there is the ability to configure cabins for solo travellers, but there would be single-occupancy surcharges. There did not seem to be specific activities, programs or a major focus on this demographic. So you would need to be more comfortable with finding your own connections and navigating the opportunities than on some other lines who cater more explicitly for you.
Overall, travellers attracted to Royal Caribbean tend to be younger than on many of the more traditional cruise lines, due to the focus on resort-like attractions, more casual atmosphere and adventurous activities. This will be even more prevalent on the Quantum class ships with their high-tech and energetic amenities and their approach to dining choices, which I cover in another tip.
2: Choose the right cabin.
On a ship the size of Anthem of the Seas, you have a wide range of staterooms to choose from. There are six broad types: 1,571 balcony, 148 outside (window only), 375 virtual balcony (no window but a huge screen showing the outside view), 16 family connected, 12 studio with balcony and 34 wheelchair accessible. But it gets even more complicated as there are also various grades of balcony and family cabins, which include suites, and some multi-level apartment-like rooms. So you should spend time on selecting the right one for your needs, and budget. Do not just go by price alone, as you must make sure the one you choose meets your ideal vacation requirements in terms of size, facilities and features.
I was able to visit 10 different cabin types on board and have made a video showing each of them. I recommend watching my video to help ascertain which is best for you. Of course, some will be out of most people’s financial reach, like the Royal Loft, but hopefully by seeing the full range you can decide. The staterooms in the video are: Royal Loft, Sky Loft Suite, Grand Loft, Superior Grand Suite, Spa Junior Suite, Royal Family Suite, Family Junior Suite, Superior Ocean View with Balcony, Ocean View Stateroom and Accessible Interior Stateroom with Virtual Balcony. I stayed in the Ocean View balcony which was a great size and I really liked. These are the main type of cabins available on the ship.
If you are travelling as a family, or with friends, there are many combinations of inter-connected cabins available. The deck plans online show which these are but I recommend you work with a cruise agent who really understands the ship to ensure you find a perfect match to your circumstances.
3: Understand dynamic dining, the other restaurant options – and make pre-bookings.
Royal Caribbean tried changing the traditional dining format on cruises by introducing “Dynamic Dining” on their Quantum Class ships. It caused some confusion and concerns initially, and while it seemed to me to be a great way to offer choice and flexibility – without requiring you to pay specialty-dining fees – they ended the experiment.
So travellers have to use the traditional cruising approach of set dining time and the same tablemates and staff. You can choose early (6pm) or late (8.30pm)
There are, in addition to the four complimentary dining options, other choices. Included in your fare are the Windjammer (a buffet restaurant open for all meals), Devily Decadence (healthy meals) and more casual places like Seaplex Dog House (hot dog and sausages) and the Cafe Promenade (snacks and pastries). If you are prepared to pay surcharges, there are some specialty restaurants, which include Johnny Rockets (a 50s style burger joint), Jamie’s Italian (UK Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s fast growing global chain), Izumi Japanese, Chops Grille Steakhouse (which I highly recommend!), Michael’s Genuine Pub and the trendy and experiential Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine.
4: Understand Royal Caribbean excursion types and plan accordingly.
Although they are mostly attracting adventurous travellers, Royal Caribbean have recently revamped and aligned their excursions around seven different types based on what they found their guests like. Spend time thinking and discussing with your family, or travel companion/s, which category appeals most to you and book those tours to ensure you get the experience you will enjoy the most.
The different excursion types are classified as follows:
- Active Adventures: Activities designed to get your pulse racing.
- Family Connections: Trips and activities that will please every member of the family, including grandparents.
- Royal Tour Challenge: Designed to appeal to competitive types by having friendly competition built into the excursion.
- Culture and Sights: For those who want to understand the history and see the key sights.
- Culinary Delights: These trips ensure you get to try the local foods and flavours.
- Caring Discoveries: This is for those who want to put something into the communities in the places being visited. They involve working on projects and activities to help the locals.
- Royal Premium Tour Collection: These are more select and premium tours for guests in suites or regular travellers who hold status in the Royal Caribbean “Crown & Anchor” loyalty program.
If none of the excursions offered by the line appeal you have two other options. You could use one of the independent operators like ShoreTrips.com and Viator.com or self-tour. If using another operator do your research and check on their insurance cover, that your insurance covers any issues and what assistance they will provide if they get you back after ship departure time. If planning to self tour, in addition to doing research before you cruise, I recommend you attend the port lectures. In addition to providing information on the Royal Caribbean tours, these will offer general advice and tips. Make sure you use the port guides that are made available on the Royal IQ app or from the excursion office. They include a map, must-see sights and the best places to eat and shop.
5. Budget properly.
When planning your Royal Caribbean cruise on Anthem of the Seas, or any other of their ships, I recommend you sit down and calculate what the total cost of your vacation will be by the time you get home. Do not just focus on the cost of getting onto the ship.
The main items to budget for include getting to and from the ship, travel insurance (highly recommended), excursions or touring, drinks, specialty dining, gambling, Wi-Fi, shopping and gratuities. Tips will be added onto your on-board account and will be at least $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for passengers in suites), 15% on bar bills and 18% on to spa bills.
One way of helping to manage your budget is to buy all-inclusive drinks packages. For example on the Anthem of the Seas when I sailed there were four options:
- Royal Replenish ($20 per person per day), which covered items like premium coffees, bottled water, juices, sodas and non-alcoholic cocktails.
- Select ($40 per person per day) which included beer, wines by the glass, sodas and non-alcoholic cocktails.
- Premium ($55 per person per day), which included premium cocktails, beer, wines by the glass, bottled water, sodas and non-alcoholic cocktails.
- Ultimate ($65 per person per day), which covered almost everything.
For more help on budgeting and saving money on a cruise read my articles at TipsForTravellers.com/Cruising
6: Use the pre-board check in option.
Processing over 4,000 guests onto the ship has the potential for long lines and frustrating times for passengers. Royal Caribbean provides the best check-in and boarding experience I have had with any line I have ever sailed with! This is achieved through technology. If you use it, you should find you will experience their promise of getting you from curb to ship within ten minutes.
To do this you have to check in online. You input various details, like your passport, and upload a photograph that can be used as your security image. On arrival you are greeted by legions of crew armed with iPads who scan your pre-check in form, check your passport and (if needed) take a replacement photograph if the one you supplied is not suitable. Your bags are tagged with RIFD chips which enables you to track their progress through the system to your cabin on the Royal IQ app. You then head onto the ship and collect your cruise card in your cabin.
7: Pack appropriately.
As previously mentioned, Royal Caribbean and the Anthem of the Seas is overall a casual to smart casual dress code. There is no formal night, but there is likely to be a Royal Night with Captain’s cocktail party, which everyone is encouraged to dress up for.
If you dine in The Grande then you are also expected to dress well, with men wearing a jacket. The dress code is described as “formal” but on Anthem this does not mean tuxedo or ball gowns. It does not even require a tie, but at least a smart jacket or suit for men and cocktail dress for ladies.
You can bring as much luggage as you want. So your main limitations are the airline restrictions, if flying to join the ship, and the amount of storage based on the cabin you have selected. Overall there is a plenty of storage in all the cabins I viewed, including room under the beds to place suitcases to free up more space. A lot of the hanging cupboards had two rails which means they take more clothes, but are not ideal for hanging long dresses.
In addition to clothes, you should bring adaptors if your electrical appliances do not use USA or European plugs. One good feature was that you could charge items like Smartphones and Tablets via USB chargers. You should bring a hairdryer and toiletries. You will not have many complimentary ones in most cabins. I also always recommend bringing a simple first aid kit with all your favourite and trusted remedies for minor ailments, as you cannot buy many of them in the shops and can avoid medical facility charges this way.
For more advice and tips on packing read my articles at TipsForTravellers.com/Cruising
8: Use the technology on board to plan and manage your time
Royal Caribbean has placed a great deal of technology on Anthem of the Seas, and the Quantum Class overall. Part of this is to enable them to deal efficiently with so many guests, but it does give you the ability to control and personalise your cruise.
They have invested in a Wi-Fi product that claims to have as much bandwidth on one ship as all the rest of the cruise industry combined. I found it to be pretty good, although it could be patchy at times. I did try and push its limits by trying to FaceTime with it, and it did work most of the time.
While there is the daily “Cruise Compass” program in your room to plan your days and get information on what is happening, this is moving towards a more technologic based format. This makes cost and environmental sense too.
There are four key things you should use and focus on:
- Royal IQ App. This can be downloaded onto your Smartphone or tablet off the Apple or Android app stores and enables you to personalise and make bookings. Once on board you confirm and register it once you go online, or via a code you get off the interactive TV. In addition to managing all your bookings like shows, meals and excursions, you can also track your luggage, review the Cruise Compass daily program, Port Guides and communicate with your party via its instant message service.
- WoW band. These are wearable bands that you can use instead of your cruise card to open your cabin door and to charge items on board. Although they come in different colours there is no identification showing it is your band, so you need take care it does not get mixed up with others on board. Currently you have to hand it over to servers when ordering drinks to take to the till. I assume at some point there will be a system to just swipe it.
- Interactive TV. The television in the room is highly interactive. In addition to movies on demand or checking your bill, you can also make some bookings and sign waivers for activities like using the Flowrider or IFly skydiving simulator to save time at the attractions.
- Digital Wayfinders and Signs. All round the ship are easy-to-use interactive screens that will show you how to get to different parts of the ship, as well as give you the latest information on entertainment and restaurant availability.
9: Get to know the ship by focusing on Royal Caribbean Top Highlights.
The Royal IQ app and the printed ship maps recommend a tour of highlights you should explore and visit once on board. To encourage guests to do this you can drop the map off, or submit via the app, that you have complete the exploration and have a chance of winning a prize, including complimentary specialty dining.
The areas they highlight and recommend you visit are:
- Dynamic Dining Venues.
- Specialty Dining Venues.
- Bionic Bar. This is the first robotic bar in the world where you use a tablet to concoct or order a cocktail and they make it for you.
- North Star. This capsule takes passengers 300 feet above sea level for panoramic views.
- SeaPlex. This is the indoor sports zone where at different times of the day you can play basketball, ride dodge cars, take part in flying trapeze classes or party at a Roller Disco.
- Ripcord by IFly. You can fly as if you were skydiving in this vertical wind tunnel.
- Two70. This is a multi-level room at the rear of the ship with floor to ceiling windows with views of the ocean by day, which by night turns into vast screens with cabaret shows and virtual concerts.
- Pulse Spiral. In the Royal Esplanade is a 200 light build fixture hanging from the ceiling that will provide a light show to the heartbeat of guests who place their hands on the control panel. Impressive and good fun.
- The Via Rotunda Sculpture. The stores and some of the cafes and restaurants surround this large modern sculpture. It was designed by Richard Hudson and is mesmerizing.
10. Experience the ship, and all it has to offer.
Once you have visited all the highlights above, you will have a good overview of the ship and how to find your way around. Over the next days then embrace and get to see and do as much as you can. It is a vast resort with a multitude of attractions and if you have a very port intensive trip consider allocating at least one day to spend on the ship trying everything out.
Make sure, in addition to trying the IFly, North Star and Flowrider attractions, that you also experience the entertainment. The West End show “We Will Rock You”, which has the music of Queen, is magnificent and is two hours of great songs, fun story and excellent performances. Spectra’s Cabaret in Two70 is a funky and fun mixture of song and dance. Also look out for the production shows “The Gift”, a stage version of “Name That Tune” and music shows and bands in the Music Hall like “Groovy Town” (70s music). You will also stumble across a roaming pianist known as “The Stowaway Piano Player” who will pop up in unexpected places – including the elevator!
Based on my limited experience of the other classes of ships across the fleet, I personally found the Anthem of the Seas to be more stylish and classy. It should appeal to a younger and more cosmopolitan audience. It is contemporary, tasteful and has a stylish feel throughout the ship.
Despite its vast size, I did not feel I was in a vast shopping mall of a ship as there are carefully considered and crafted districts and sections. Overall the quality of finish is outstanding and the attention to detail finished off by the quirky and engaging artwork was excellent. It felt up-market and slick. I was very impressed with the ship, feeling it embodies the more modern trend that places like Las Vegas have followed in developments like the City Center which have also discarded the brashness, loud neon and bright colour palette for a more distinguished range of browns, golds and natural tones.
Additional Tips For Travellers Royal Caribbean content:
- Anthem of the Seas Staterooms Overview Video
- Royal Caribbean Insider Insights and Tips Audio Podcast
- Tips For Travellers Royal Caribbean Photograph Album
- Tips for Travellers Royal Caribbean Page
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