This is a review of our Anthem of the Seas New England/Canada adventure from August 25 – September 3, 2016. We are a family of 5 (myself, DW, DD 8, DS 7 and DD 4) in adjoining balcony cabins (11556, 11558) on Deck 11 right across from the entrance to Adventure Ocean, the kid’s club. It was the PERFECT location for us. Not noisy at all, right near the elevators and right near the kid’s club. My father and his girlfriend were in a hump balcony room on Deck 9 (9690) and they loved that location as well. This was a cruise to celebrate his 70th birthday.
Day 1 (Embarkation) – We live in central NJ, so it was a short drive to Bayonne. We arrived at the port around 10:10, dropped off our bags, tipped the porter so that the bags weren’t thrown into the ocean , and parked the car. Very easy. We then met with a RCCL employee with an Ipad, and were sitting waiting to board the ship by around 10:35 or so (we uploaded our photos beforehand, but my dad did not, and he said the process was super simple at the port as well – although I think he arrived at the port around noon or so. We boarded the ship shortly after 11:30, and went straight to Café 270 for lunch. No Windjammer for us on embarkation day, although that would have been easy too at that time. Enjoyed our lunch sitting in 270, and this was a common theme of our vacation. 270 is an amazing venue for breakfast, lunch, or just sitting watching the wake. Indeed, one of my favorite things was when they put on a show with a virtual orchestra playing John Williams music. I caught it by accident, but it was great, and wish I could have stayed for the entire thing. When we finished our lunch, the line for 270 was out the door. Moral of the story. If you can, get on EARLY! Also, one gripe about Café 270 that is more of an annoyance than anything else (and I think this goes for a lot of places on the ship) . . . the dessert at lunch and pastries at breakfast are behind glass, and an employee has to get them for you. Well, there was always one employee there, and he or she was in charge of making specialty coffees as well. So if someone came up an ordered a lot of for fee beverages, you were basically SOL until they were finished. Like I said, nothing major, just a little annoyance. OK, so then we went straight to the Seaplex for 12:30 bumper cars, and we got there in time to be included in the first wave of cars. Was very cool, and could say we checked it off of our list. Then we made our way to North Star. We had reservations for the day we were in port in St. John, but it was really cutting it close with the return of our tour, so we wanted to see if we could get on the first day, and we did. Another thing to check off of the list. While my wife and kids were waiting in line at North Star, I went back to the Seaplex (another unique amazing venue) and made reservations for the only thing we were shut out of online, the Puzzle Room. More on that later. But I can tell you to make those reservations immediately because even at that early time, they had probably less than 10 spots left the entire 9 day cruise! After the North Star, I cancelled our reservations for later in the week in the Royal IQ app, and we went to check out the rooms. All of our luggage was there by 1:45, and we changed to go swimming. We went swimming in the current pool and the wave pool and the inside pool that afternoon. The inside pool is very nice but the water is FRIGID. Wave pool and Current pool much more tolerable. We then went as registered the kids for Adventure Ocean and changed for dinner. We booked the Grande for day 1 mostly because I dress up for work, and I can’t stand dressing up on vacation. So with a casual dress for the Grande on day 1, this is what we chose. I understand some people love dressing up on cruises, but I am not one of those people. I also don’t go to dinner in a bathing suit either. Dress khakis and a polo shirt. But putting on a suit and a button down shirt on vacation is like nails on a chalkboard to me. So dinner at the Grande. It was OK. Nothing memorable, nothing horrible. Probably that sums up the food, with a few exceptions, on the entire ship. Couple of points about the ship that I know people ask a bunch of questions about. I bought a soda package before I sailed, and found the Coke Freestyle machines to be perfectly adequate. If anything was out, it did not remain out for long at all. I NEVER wanted for something that I could not have (I drink Coke Zero, and while some machines did not have it at all times, it was always available somewhere, and in the machine that did not have it, it was replenished the next time I checked). We then checked the kids into Adventure Ocean and explored the ship. It is a beautiful ship. Never found it to be too crowded except for all of the flea market sales that they do on Deck 4. That place is a zoo. Take Deck 5 across and you will be fine.
Day 2 (At Sea) – I woke up and went to the Gym at 6am. The gym is the biggest and best gym at sea, IMHO. I went every day of the cruise, and made sure I countered all of the eating I did. Then everyone else woke up and had breakfast at Café 270, a personal favorite of my son’s. We then all went to do RipCord by Ifly at 9:40. A truly remarkable experience at sea, especially because there was a photographer there to capture the magic. Such great shots of my kids, it was amazing. There is not always a photographer there, which is weird, because RCCL made $310 that day because I knew I had to have all of the photos as soon as I saw them. Don’t know if I would have bought the photo package otherwise. We then spent the day swimming, both with the kids and then without, in the Solarium, which is a beautiful space with a three tiered pool area. Very relaxing. Dinner was at American Icon, and, to this, I have to disagree with some of the other reviewers. Was it the best place I have ever eaten? Of course not. Was it cafeteria food? No. It was average food overall, but the waiters there were some of the most pleasant we dealt with on the entire cruise. I actually had the burger there because there was nothing that interested me on the regular menu, and it was really good. It came with a caramelized onion jam that was awesome. Best burger on the ship, IMHO. So that was actually one of my favorite dinners. That night, since my wife wanted to retire with the 2 younger kids, I took my oldest daughter to see The Gift. We both looked at each other halfway through, and asked each other if we knew what was going on. The answer was no, and we left. Apparently, upon talking with my dad the next day, nobody really knew if there was a plot to that show. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good either.
Day 3 (Boston) – After breakfast at Café 270 again, we got off of the boat at around 8 and took a cab to the Prudential Center to take a Duck Tour of Boston. Our driver was very entertaining, and my dad wa talked into buying the kids duck whistles (thanks, Dad)! One disappointing part of the tour was that when we did a Duck Tour in Atlanta, the whistles were free and the kids got to “drive” the boat when it was on the water. Didn’t happen here, but they had fun nonetheless. After we got off of the tour, we took a quick cab ride to Fenway Park, where we had an 11:00 a.m. tour. Everyone loved the tour of Fenway, and it was neat to sit in the Monster seats. After the tour, we had reservations 5 minutes away at Sweet Cheeks BBQ, a restaurant owned by Tiffani Faison, from Top Chef Season 1. OMG, was that place good. The biscuits, Fried Chicken, Ribs, everything was amazing. We then walked around Boston and eventually cabbed it back to the ship for some more swimming fun while others were in port. A very fun and exhausting day. Dinner that night was in Chops. I had prepaid for us, so I knew that I would be getting money back on my account because my youngest was free and my other 2 kids would eat for 10 bucks. So here is where the most frustrating part of the trip came about. I recall reading on Cruise Critic that the specialty restaurants all have kid’s menus that are reflective of their specialty (and Jamie’s did!). But Chops did not. Would it have been so hard to put a 3oz. filet on the kids menu? They had the same standard kids menu of chicken fingers and pizza that was in the other dining rooms, and I was not about to pay 10 bucks for that “crap.” I have no problem paying for value, but that was not value. So the older 2 did not order and everyone shared their steaks with the kids. And to be completely honest, the steaks at Chops are not high quality. Certainly not worth the 40 bucks extra I paid to dine there. My wife has always said that she didn’t like Chops, and I think this just confirmed that I won’t waste my money there again on a another cruise. Too many other free venues that serve similar food.
Day 4 (Portland, ME) – Breakfast at the Windjammer was very nice. Omelet station in the back barely had a line and there was an abundance of tables in the back, including outside. We were there for breakfast and lunch a few times and could always get a table. The reviewer who said that there were announcements being made for people to leave is just not telling the truth. That is complete hogwash. Everyone was again, very friendly and even got us drinks. Speaking of drinks, aside from the Chops issues (which again, were minor), the free drink situation on this ship is abysmal. By free drinks, I mean the Iced Tea/Lemonade/Flavored Water stations. Now, on every other ship, RCCL or otherwise, there is a free drink station open 24 hrs a day somewhere in the ship, whether it be right outside the buffet or in a Café Promenade type venue. The ONLY free drink stations on this ship were in the Windjammer, and when they were closed (after 3:30 and after 9), you were again, SOL. Now, its real easy to fill up a couple of cups and bring them to the room fridge, but the lack of anything but water available after 9pm on the ship (and bars don’t carry iced tea or lemonade) is incomprehensible to me. But that’s what it was, so, we move on. Didn’t let that minor annoyance affect us. On to Portland! Took a morning tour of Portland and its lighthouses, including an old home tour which was fascinating. On a side note, I don’t know whether its proper to mention what private tours we took in this particular forum, but if anyone needs to know, they can email me and I will answer any questions. We got off of that tour and boarded another bus with the same tour company to Kennebunkport. One of my favorite towns in Maine, home to the Bush family. We had a fabulous lunch at the Crab Shack, a well-known restaurant, and had great homemade ice cream at Rocco’s, with some really interesting flavors. We then walked around Kennebunkport and even drove right by the Bush compound on the way back. A great day in Maine!! We had dinner booked with everyone for Jamie’s Italian that night, but after Chops, we decided to make it an adults dinner and fed the kids at Windjammer before eating at Jamie’s. I loved Jamie’s. The planks were great, and the fresh pastas very tasty. Unlike Chops, in my opinion, a huge upgrade over the regular dining rooms. Would definitely dine there again.
Day 5 – (Bar Harbor, ME) – So the only ship excursion I booked all week (Lobsters, Lobsters, Lobsters – lol) was canceled by the cruise because the tour wasn’t “operational” – whatever that means. So my wife booked this nature cruise while on the ship with a private company, and it turned out to be very nice. On that note, I prepaid for the Internet Streaming package for 2 devices, and it was great. Got a 4mbs download speed at all times and it never logged me out all cruise. Totally worth it for us. The cruise took us past Acadia National Park and we saw lots of bald eagles and seals. Wasn’t the tour of the Lobster Oceanarium that I planned, but was a nice replacement. The tour had us back on the ship at lunchtime, and we ate lunch at the Windjammer and the kids went to the club in the afternoon so we had some nice adult time on board in port. I think we also did the roller skating before dinner that night. Everyone had a blast. We had dinner at Chic that night, again without the kids, who had dinner with Adventure Ocean. I had the best duck dish I have ever had on a cruiseline at Chic that evening. Truly outstanding in every way. And they served lobster that was bought that day in port. A nice touch on a NE cruise. Very good dinner. I think we listened to some music that night (the Music Box is awesome) and just relaxed.
Day 6 (St. John, Canada) - So right off the bat, I want to counter that one horrible review of Anthem that stated that ALL passengers were forced to wait on a select few with immigration problems, and that nobody was allowed off the ship until 12:30. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. A flat out lie. I was off the ship at 11:45 and right on time for our noon private tour of St. John. Nobody was angry, nobody was waiting on the ship, and nothing like that ever happened. I don’t know why people lie, but that reviewer did. Anyway, we ate breakfast at the Grande that morning. This was, by far, the WORST mean we had on board the entire cruise. Waiters and staff didn’t look like they wanted any part of working there, and the food was all premade (couldn’t get a crepe without banana in it – REALLY???). Needless to say that we did not eat in the dining room for breakfast again. Then the kids went to the club while my wife and I went to the Puzzle Room. Was very unique and fun. Shout out to Brandon from Adventure Ocean who was our guide. He answered all of our questions and we made it out of there with 5 minutes to spare. Couldn’t have done it without him. Thanks, Brandon! So then we got the kids and got off of the ship. The private excursion we went on was very nice, but the 7 person van we were supposed to have broke down, so we got two vans, with a husband and wife tour guide. They were nice but I think that since they were last minute replacements, we didn’t get a proper tour. For example, my dad, who was in the second van, did not get any narration in his cab. The wife answered all of his questions, but did not give a “tour.” Also, our car had a student driver, which I think is unacceptable for a tour. I swear to you, at one point the tour guide told him that it would be a good idea to stop for pedestrians. I should have said something, but I didn’t. That’s on me. The places we visited were great. Awesome Fish and Chips at the Caves restaurant for lunch and a great trip to the Sea Caves when the tide was out. We arrived back at the ship at 6pm, and went straight to Silk to see if we could get a later reservation. They said no problem, and we fed the kids and my wife and I went back to Silk later for a private dinner. Was very good. We couldn’t decide what to get, so we shared 4 entrees among us, and each of them were good. The standout was the Lamb Chops. Neither of us thought the Hibachi Steak had any flavor, which is contrary to every other review that I have seen, so that goes to show you that food tastes are subjective. We saw a comedian that night and he was funny. Off to bed we then went.
Day 7 (At Sea) – We had a relaxing morning at sea, with the older 2 kids doing the circus trapeze school (OK, to be honest, I don’t remember the dates that we did the roller skating and trapeze school, but I think I’m right – lol – doesn’t change anything though!). The Seaplex, as I’ve said before is an amazing venue, and the Seaplex Doghouse has some damn fine dogs for lunch or a snack. After lunch, we went as a family to see We Will Rock You. I liked it, my wife thought is was OK. Kids enjoyed it as well, and were singing along at the end. So here is a funny story. I promised the kids virgin frozen drinks at the show, and so, at separate times, I gave my card to the waiter and ordered. I got no receipt with the order, and it never showed up on my account. I only realized on the LAST DAMN DAY that the sticker on my card said Royal Replenish, and even though I only paid for a soda package, I was entitled to unlimited premium non-alcoholic drinks all week. EPIC FAIL to not take advantage of that!!!! Anyway, after the show, we fed the kids and the wife and I went to Wonderland for dinner. Again, I don’t mind paying extra for spectacular food, but I think trying to fit good food into this whimsical concept was a fail, for the most part. Some things were excellent, like the entrée Beef (so large and tender), the dessert, the buffalo eggs and the kimchi. But most things were just meh, including my wife’s halibut. It was worth doing, but wouldn’t do it again for almost 50 bucks a head. We had reservations for Spectra’s Cabaret that night, and the older kids wanted to stay in the club, so we took the 4 year old. She loved it, and the way they use the venue is awesome, but it is a, let’s say, “interesting” show. You’re either gonna love it or hate it.
Day 8 (Halifax, NS, Canada) – What a tour!! Had the best private tour guide in an actual working 7 person van!!!!!! We went all over, including the gardens, and made our way to Peggy’s Cove. Wow, is that place beautiful. The guide then took us to a local lobster place, Ryer’s Lobster Pound, where for $22, we got a pound and a half lobster. No frills. Boiled in salt water, served in a plastic tray, with drawn butter. No bread, no sides, nothing. Just lobster and a fork. Was the best lobster any of us have ever eaten. Stopped at the maple syrup store for some souvenirs, and back to the ship we went, with a walk on the boardwalk past all of the shops. We then dressed for dinner at Chic. Dinner was good (the mushroom truffle pasta was very good) but the dessert was standout, the warm chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. Best dessert all cruise. Gambled that night and the wife and I won some money, so a very good day indeed.
Day 9 (At Sea) – A nice relaxing final day on board. Took some time to pack, had a leisurely breakfast and lunch (the kids played in the Seaplex a lot), and celebrated my dad’s 70th at American Icon that evening. We had talked to the staff the night before, and gave them candles and requested that they have some sort of small sugar free dessert available for him. They not only had a dessert, but one of the chefs made him a whole sugar free cake (mind you, it was disgusting – lol – but he loved it). Was truly a remarkable gesture that they did not have to make. It made just an OK dinner into an exceptional memory. Kids went to the kid’s club one final time and we hit the shops and the casino and got our photo USB. Some last minute memories were made.
We disembarked the next morning ay 9am after a breakfast at the Windjammer. We carried off our own bags and it was super easy. We were home before 10:30 where we did nothing but veg out and do laundry.
I am sure I missed some things. If anyone has any questions, I will be happy to answer them. We had an amazing time on the Anthem, and I wouldn’t hesitate to sail her again.