Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas - A Very Honest Review

Cruise and luxury travel blogger, Becky The Owlet, in front of Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas docked in Liverpool


Hey Owlets,


It feels so odd to be writing about Royal Caribbean again, but here we are. If you’re a long time reader of The Owlet you’ll remember me saying that you shouldn’t go back to the same ship twice, after my magical first cruise on Independence of the Seas was overshadowed by a trip that was equally memorable for all the wrong reasons. I’ve spent a few years exploring other cruise lines, but post-pandemic my parents are no longer able to sail with any Carnival lines due to the stricter health requirements, so we looked into giving Royal Caribbean another chance and found a deal for a week on board Anthem of the Seas that we just couldn’t say no to! I’ll be honest with you, I was very apprehensive about it after my previous RCCL experience but I was drawn in my remembering the magic of my first trip, and you know what? I’m really glad I gave it another go. 


Becky checking in for a cruise in Southampton port

The Pre-Cruise Process-


Travelling post-2020 requires a lot more paperwork. You’ll need proof of vaccination, travel insurance, your QR code for check in on the app (you need to have completed everything on the app in order to check in) and your negative COVID test.


It took a few days to get all of the paperwork together and get checked in on the app, but it wasn’t a huge issue - my only recommendation is to screenshot absolutely everything, including the QR code on your app, if you’re sailing from Southampton - there’s barely any signal in the terminal and the wifi is intermittent at best! We’d done all of this and went from car park to on board in under half an hour which is one of the quickest boarding experiences I’ve ever had!


Anthem of the Seas British Isles Cruise Review

On Board Atmosphere and The Crew - 


I’ll be honest with you, despite the nerves after my experience on Independence of the Seas I was absolutely buzzing to show Jack the full Royal Caribbean experience and it didn’t disappoint (although it also didn’t overwhelm me, being brutally honest).


The ship itself is absolutely stunning - there are lots of bars and plenty of entertainment with varying degrees of impressiveness. We aren’t the “typical cruise activity” kind of people - we much prefer to just relax and do our own thing- but we found ourselves joining the quizzes most days because the crew made them so entertaining. The quizzes totally lacked the serious atmosphere that usually stifles the fun on other ships. The evening entertainment was great for the most part too - the singer in Boleros was really talented, we loved the Caribbean band and the shows in the theatre every evening were brilliant. If you’re ever on a ship and see “Graffiti Classics” on the daily planner then I suggest you skip dinner and go to both shows!! My only two let downs were the Music Hall - it was so loud that everyone left, actually killing the atmosphere entirely - and We Will Rock You - it’s an incredibly well produced show but it just wasn’t our kind of thing. We always found something to do, but I definitely noticed that the evenings ended earlier on Anthem than when we were on Independence - I’m assuming that’s something to do with Covid, but it was a little odd to see everything shut down at midnight.


The one thing I do have to mention is how incredible the staff are - the ship was stunning but the crew genuinely made our holiday - they couldn’t do enough for us and nothing was too much trouble. As an example of the ridiculous attention to detail we experienced, I often fall asleep with one of my wireless earphones in as I like to listen to podcasts to relax before bed. I normally find it somewhere in the bed the next morning, but we were running late one day and I totally forgot. I came back to the cabin after breakfast to find that our cabin steward had not only found my earphone in the bed but had put it BACK IN THE CASE so it was charged ready for me. The crew are so busy and the cabin stewards work incredibly hard so the fact that they were that thoughtful was mind blowing.


Promenade deck on board Anthem of the Seas
The promenade deck on Anthem of the Seas

How the Crew Handled Issues  -


As it was my parents’ first cruise in two years we treated ourselves to the dining package which allowed us to eat at speciality dining restaurants every evening (it’s an excellent deal - definitely do it if it comes up). I have complex dietary needs and for the most part the crew were incredible.

I’ll talk more about the dining options further down, but for now I wanted to mention an issue I had on board - not to complain about the situation I experienced but to talk about the amazing way it was handled. We had eaten in Chops Grille for most of the cruise (side note, it’s incredible) - we were served by a waiter and the speciality dining manager and they were both so incredibly thoughtful, even to the point that our drinks arrived at the table every night before we’d ordered any! We decided to try a different restaurant on one evening, and sadly this was a night and day difference. Our waitress was rude and dismissive when I mentioned my allergies. Guest services had called the day before to ask to change our dining time because we wanted to be done in time to see the show and instead we were left waiting an hour before we even got our drinks. When our starters finally arrived at the table at gone 9pm (we arrived at 7:15pm to be done in time for the show at 9:30pm) they served my mum’s starter (who was sat directly to my left) with a squid ink crumb after we told them that my squid allergy was so severe that it couldn’t even be served on the same table.


The poor service and total lack of care given to allergies in this restaurant was the complete opposite of what we’d experienced everywhere else on board. At this point we gave up and walked out, thinking we’d get pizza (having booked the restaurant especially for formal night) and go to the show. Instead, the restaurant manager overheard what had happened and ran after us to insist that we have dinner in Chops with them, despite last orders having passed. He walked us over to Chops where our drinks had already arrived because the waiter heard what had happened and we were served in just 10 minutes. We still didn’t make it to see the show, but the show in the main theatre started at 10pm, and when we finished our meal at 10:20pm the restaurant manager escorted us through the crew restaurant entrance as a shortcut, then spoke to the cruise director who worked with the restaurant manager to find us seats even though the show had already started. 


I very much debated sharing this situation because I always try to be honest with you but I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. The reason I decided to share this is because at that point we were upset and frustrated that we’d missed our show and I’d nearly been put in hospital. Our evening could’ve been ruined, but because of the actions taken by the speciality dining manager and our waiter (who later happened to see us in the bar and asked again if we were okay) we actually ended up feeling incredibly special and finished the evening with huge smiles on our faces and feeling like we’d had a great night. Yes, what happened in the restaurant was wrong and it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen, but I can’t fault the way that the crew handled it and tried to put it right. I also overheard the manager calling the Maitre’d, other restaurant managers and hotel director to an urgent meeting, and by the time we left for the show they were starting to assemble so I think it’s fairly clear what it was about. They took the situation very seriously from a health and safety standpoint as well as making sure they got our night back on the right track, so I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that it won’t be allowed to happen again.


There are ships that are amazing for the facilities that they offer or the acts they have on board, and there are ships that stick in your mind for the outstanding service even if it’s an older or less well equipped ship - very rarely do you find both in the same ship, and Anthem of the Seas was exactly that.


The Solarium on board Anthem of the Seas
The solarium on board Anthem of the Seas


Facilities-


The decor is absolutely stunning from our beautiful (and HUGE) balcony cabin to the huge variety of passenger areas - the number of things to do on this ship is such that you honestly couldn’t get bored for even one second. I personally preferred the style of Independence of the Seas a little more, but in all honesty it was just because I really missed the Royal Promenade with the rainbow bridge! 


Anthem of the Seas is the first in her class - she was built differently with the aim of providing freedom dining to all guests in 3 differently themed restaurants. I personally love the concept but a lot of people didn’t, so they’ve since switched back to the old model and offer passengers the same table for the whole cruise, with all restaurants serving the same menu. One hangover from this new style of ship is the modern Royal Esplanade. If you’ve cruised before you’ll be used to the traditional style of cruise ship where you walk through bars as you navigate around the ship. With Anthem of the Seas the bars are more like what you would expect on a high street. Most of the indoor venues are off the Royal Esplanade and while they’re open fronted, they’re a lot more closed in and you actually have to walk into the bar rather than wandering through it. This unfortunately means that even though Anthem is bigger than Independence, we actually struggled to get a seat most of the time on Anthem. I think in “normal times” it would’ve been great fun - I can imagine people being packed into the Dog and Badger (the English pub) singing along to the guitarist, or Boleros packed to the rafters with people dancing - but in Covid times it just meant that we weren’t able to fit in as much as we would like because we had to get there early for a seat. They were fine with people standing to watch the entertainment though so if you don’t have disabled family members then go ahead! While we’re discussing bars we also need to talk about the Robot Bar!! On the first evening Jack and I visited the bar and it was so fun - it was great watching the robots make our drinks and being able to make up our own cocktails with the iPad. Sadly, it only worked for the first night of our cruise and after that it was out of action for the rest of the UK season. It was a little disappointing that my parents didn’t get to try it, but these things can’t be helped and when all of the technology comes from the US there’s not really a lot you can do at short notice. 


In line with other larger fleet members, Anthem of the Seas has two performance venues, Two70 and the Royal Theatre, which means there’s always something going on. We sadly didn’t get chance to see the show in Two70 because of the restaurant issue, but we watched the robot show on the last sea day and it’s incredible to see the technology at work!


Outside of the typical cruise ship entertainment, you have the Flowrider (like on all RCCL ships), a skydiving dome, the North Star and the Seaplex which is an endless black hole of things to do. The Seaplex dome houses roller skating (sadly not running at the moment because of COVID), go karting and loads of different games happening both on the court and in side rooms. We went on the dodgems and it was absolutely brilliant! It’s just such a unique thing to do with an ocean view. The one sticking point that I do need to mention is that you can only book the go karts once and the ride is only 3 minutes. Even if you go up there and there is no one else using it, if you’re not booked in you can’t go on. Dad wasn’t feeling too well on the day we originally planned to go and not knowing this Jack and I went on without him. When we went to rebook we had to go to guest services and explain the situation to them who rebooked it for us there. This was an issue we experienced a few times - the app you use to book everything is great but it can be a little inflexible at times so you still end up going to guest services to sort things out. Having said that, when I spoke to them they were aware of the issue and discussing it with head office so fingers crossed you won’t experience this! 


I’ve deliberately left the North Star until last to talk about - honestly this could be a blog post on it’s own!! We were kindly given some on board credit by the Royal Caribbean PR team and before we even boarded I knew that it was going to be spent on the North Star. If you’re not familiar, the North Star is a hydraulic capsule that lifts from the top deck above the ship and out across the sides. Full disclosure, I hate heights but I’m a sucker for a good photo opportunity so despite feeling physically sick at the thought of it I went anyway and didn’t regret it for one second. It’s not cheap but it’s worth every penny - they also don’t charge more for sunset flights so if you’re like me, do your research and plan what time you book carefully. The ride is around 12 minutes long- as we went up the sun was just above the horizon and it had set by the time we touched back down. It was truly breathtaking - one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at sea and I honestly can’t recommend it enough.


A selection of desserts at Jamie's Italian on board Anthem of the Seas
A selection of gluten free desserts from Jamie's Italian


The Food-


One of the issues that I had on board Independence of the Seas last time was the food. I’m gluten intolerant and allergic to molluscs (squid, mussels, scallops…. you know, all the nice things you eat on cruise ships) and I felt like a massive inconvenience. Despite ordering this night before I found that simple things were missing - I remember ordering a pie one day in advance and rather than give me gluten free pastry or ask me to order something different I just had a soup bowl full of the contents of the pie. I know this because I ordered the same thing as my parents, but while theirs was well presented mine was slopped down the sides of the bowl and dripping onto the plate. It’s partially this feeling of being such an inconvenience that put me off going back on Royal Caribbean for so long, but wow have they stepped up the game in the last few years!!


I can honestly say that, with the exception of the one situation I mentioned earlier, I never had a bad meal, felt like an inconvenience or that my allergies weren’t being taken seriously. One of the head chefs walked me around the buffet at breakfast and lunch, all of the restaurants were incredibly careful with my allergies (and in speciality dining I didn’t get asked to order the night before). I had pancakes and waffles for breakfast, gluten free French toast, pizza, pasta… you name it, it was there and they were more than happy to help! 


There are two situations that I have to mention just because I find it so funny, plus it shows what lengths the crew will go to to look after you. On my first morning on board I asked if there was any avocado around - if you sail a lot you’ll know they’re usually a rarity, but some ships have guacamole because it’s easier to disguise the varying degrees of ripeness as “chunky” so it’s worth asking. The chef asked me to give him a few minutes so I figured that they were just grabbing some more guacamole from the galley - I was wrong. As promised he appeared a few minutes later and handed me an entire (perfectly ripe, I might add) avocado. I was a bit overwhelmed with that to do with an ENTIRE avocado for a single meal but it was one tasty breakfast! After that, every day that we went to breakfast in the buffet, there was guacamole on offer so they clearly listen!


The second situation involved a trip to Jamie’s Italian - one of the speciality restaurants on board. If you’re gluten free you’ll be well used to being offered ice cream or fruit for dessert so I expected nothing more than this. Again, I was wrong. The waiter said they had 5 gluten free desserts and asked if I’d like to try a small bit of each. In my mind I thought “oh wow, they have mini desserts”, but 5 minutes later he delivered 5 FULL DESSERTS to our table. I didn’t know whether I was in heaven or dying of embarrassment. I enlisted the help of my family so we all ate a bit, and then he put the rest in takeaway boxes which made for the ultimate midnight snack after we’d danced off some of our dinner.


This above and beyond attitude carried throughout all of the restaurants - in Izumi the chef made me a totally different starter inspired by the dish I wanted but couldn’t eat, in Chops every meal was incredible from start to finish. There was the odd occasion, particularly in Jamie’s Italian, where the food was quite bland, but that was because they’d made a sauce from scratch for me while I was enjoying my starter and it hadn’t had time to cook down. Would I have preferred a more flavourful dish? Yes, of course I would. Having said that, it’s very much the thought that counts for me. It blows my mind that they would go as far as to make me an entire dish from scratch in the middle of a busy service, rather than asking me to order something different which I would’ve been happy to do. For the care, thoughtfulness and kindness that the crew showed me, I’m happy to add some salt at the table.


While we had the dining package for the week that there was four of us, my parents did a back to back cruise and ate in the main dining room for the second week. Obviously I can’t personally review this, but when I asked they said that the MDR food was just as good as the speciality restaurants, and the photos they sent me backed that up. 


The view from the loft suites on board Anthem of the Seas at sunrise
The view from one of Anthem's Loft Suites

Final Thoughts - 


I feel like this review has unintentionally ended up a little bit mixed. From a personal standpoint I always like to focus on the good because we’re on holiday and I just want to make the best of it, but our experience wasn’t perfect (nothing ever is!) and some of the things we noticed might be a dealbreaker for you.


One of the things I always ask myself is “would I go again?” and honestly I would. A few months on and we still talk about things that happened on board Anthem and say what a good time we had. Yes, there were a few things that ideally wouldn’t have happened, but mistakes happen - we’re only human - and how they dealt with it was incredible. 


Anthem of the Seas is a stunning ship, full of incredible crew that work hard to look after their guests - nothing is too much trouble and that shows. On top of that, the multiple pools, full calendar of high quality entertainment and huge list of facilities is sure to keep your entire family entertained for weeks on end!!! If you ever get the chance to sail on Anthem of The Seas then book it, I promise you’ll love it.


Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 

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