We were planning to be sailing on NCL Epic in February from San Juan, but have been floored by the sky-high airfare for our (school vacation) week. Every year this problem gets worse and worse and I've sort of reached my breaking point! It got me thinking about cruising out of NY (we live in MA, so no flying necessary), which I did several years back in late April. NCL Bliss is one option out of NY, but then I saw this cruise on the Anthem, same itinerary except one more sea day (so 8 days on Anthem vs. 7 days on Bliss), gives us a chance to experience the revamped CocoCay (my only trip there was many, many years ago), and is CHEAPER than the current Epic sailing we are scheduled on. We have sailed Royal several times, but the most recent was about 7 years ago. I love cruising and am not going to be super-critical when I'm on vacation, so I've been equally happy in the past on whatever cruise line I've been on. In the past 7 years we have done mostly NCL (helped by a couple of particular cruises that got us to Platinum status quickly), as well as two on Disney, but there is no reason I would not want to try Royal again. I'd love some opinions on the following from people who have experience with either Anthem, sailing out of Bayonne, or anything else:
- It's February, it's NJ, I know it will be cold for the first day or day and a half (and the last one as well). I realize the main risk of sailing from the Northeast in the winter would be a blizzard or other storm; presumably the ship will do what they can to stay ahead of or behind most difficult weather. Anyone care to share any personal experience on sailing in the winter from NJ?
- What's the parking situation at Bayonne -- availability, price, etc?
- Alternately, I've seen some mention of Yankee Trails bus from upstate NY, any insight on that (cost for the trip, cost or availability of parking wherever you leave your car)?
- As I said, it's been a while since I've been on RC, so I'm not familiar with their eateries. NCL has built a brand around offering a huge quantity of dining options, but many of them are fee-based. Are the complimentary dining options on RC sufficient or are there specialty options that are "must-do's"? (And, can anyone point me to menu links for RC or for the Anthem specifically?)
- Speaking of fees -- I haven't booked a NCL cruise in many years that DIDN'T include "free" beverages. What does it cost to purchase a package on RC?
- My teen (14) is extremely curious about what activities or areas the ship offers specifically for her age group. I see a "Teen Disco" on the deck plans, but can't tell if that's it? She is one that loves to hang out in the clubs and is extremely bummed to have aged out of the age where they can do art projects and science experiments in the younger kids' labs. ;-)
- Presumably the popular activities (the sky bubble thing, the iFly, etc.) book up; when does the booking window open for these things and if it has already opened (and is therefore possibly already booked up), what's the best way to try to reserve once on board?
I probably have more questions but am hoping for some feedback on the above so I can make a decision fairly quickly! (And on that note, any idea how long the buy one, 50% off second guest offer will last?)