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CruisinChills

Questions regarding Anthem, sailing from NJ in winter, and more

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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?)

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Anthem is one of my favorite ships, the port being less than a 2 hours drive makes it even better. 

I have sailed her in multiple times all in cold winter months. You are correct the first day to day and a half and last day will be cold but she is built for cold weather. There is an indoor pool and lots of indoor activities. You won't be disappointed. Parking is a breeze there is a parking garage a 2 mile walk from the check in building. You drop your luggage off with the porters, go park and walk right into the building. Anthem is free food is sufficient.  The reataursnts are Johnny rockets, wonderland, imuzumi, chops and jaime's Italian. I LOVE the lamb chops at Jamie's and will always pay to go there. Wonderland is an experience everyone should try, just once.

There are three different drink packages, a soda only package. I think they still have that. A refreshment package soda, coffee, tea, bottled water and the alcohol package. They range I  price from 8.99, 25 and 56 per day if purchased before sailing....my prices may be slightly off but in same ball park.

There is a specific teen hangout spot, not too familiar with it though. There are bumper cars (sign up at iPads as soon as you board the ship) and other things all on the same deck. The ifly and northstar will be available about 60 days prior to sailing. If all booked once again book on ship as soon as you get on, sometimes they open more times.

Hope this helps

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I've done many winter cruises from Bayonne, never had an issue. One minor correction from the prior response, it's a two minute walk from the parking garage, not a two mile walk. Fyi, an eight day cruise will get you down to Cape Canaveral at 8 or 9 am, while the seven day will get you to Cape Canaveral a day earlier, but not until noon or 1 pm. I'd rather have a full day of daylight.

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I am pretty sure that you do not sign up for the bumper cars.  You just go and get in line.  (that's in my experience.  I realize that things can change)

 

While February is certainly still winter, every now and then there is a warm spell.  Or a blizzard.  It's unpredictable.

 

Pre-cruise reservations for iFly and NorthStar are limited, but you can often book as soon as you board.  And when they do pop up in your Cruise Planner is unpredictable.

 

There is a great Escape Room.  It's fun to do as a family.

 

Solarium Bistro is a nice change of pace at night.  No fee.  Mediterranean-based appetizer buffet, salad bar, soups, desserts all serve-yourself.  Waiter will bring entrees - 3 have an upcharge.  Easy to avoid those.  (they aren't worth it, IMO)

 

Parking in the garage is $22 per night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm on the Anthem in January, and I cannot book iFly or NorthStar.  Or  any of the shows.

 

Deluxe Beverage Package is $52 pp per day.  All adults in the cabin must buy if one wants it.

Refreshment Package (everything but alcohol) is $28 pp per day.  No requirement for all to buy.

Soda Package (you get a souvenir cup with an RFID chip that activates the Freestyle Machine for hundreds of combinations) is $8.99 pp per day.

 

Add 18% gratuity at purchase.

 

There are combos:  soda + 1 device wifi (called VOOM on RC) - $23.00 pp per day

deluxe + 1 device VOOM - $62 pp pd

 

coffee card - $31 for 15 coffee drinks  ("specialty" coffee)

 

 

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We've done Anthem spring break cruise which was basically the end of winter/beginning of spring in terms of temperature.  The seas were a little rough leaving NJ but calmed down as we got farther south and the weather warmed.  My teen daughter had fun in the Living Room and it's basically near the Seaplex, which is where all the teens hang out if they aren't in the Living Room.  Sorrento's and Cafe Promenade are open for late night snacks, and the hot dog place in the Seaplex is also an option too.

 

If your cruise is in February, the activities like North Star and iFly probably haven't been released yet.  Try to do North Star when you are in a port because doing while at sea is a bit boring compared to having a higher vantage point of things you can see.  Once you get on the ship, go to the ipads at Shore Excursions and book the Escape Room/Puzzle Break.  Anthem doesn't have the dedicated Escape Room like the Oasis class ships, but it's a fun activity that's still "free".

 

Entertainment/show wise, we only watched We Will Rock You and passed on everything else.  We spent a lot of time in the Music Hall, and there's always a rotating cover band performing (we had Journey and Aerosmith).

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Thank you all so very much for your feedback so far.  This is looking like a great change for us to make as I'm tired of being at the mercy of school-vacation airfare hikes!  And, you know, there is not much point now worrying about weather in 6 months.  It will be what it will be, and they will make the necessary adjustments.  (And cruising out of FL means still being at the mercy of Mother Nature since we always seem to get snowstorms on the day we're supposed to fly out!)  None of us are prone to seasickness, so a little rocking doesn't bother us.  

 

Another quick question, the "deluxe" beverage package several of you have mentioned presumably includes ALL drinks?  We don't drink soda, pretty much just water, and then I am curious about alcoholic beverages (mostly "cruise cocktails" for me and beer for the husband).  What's the average cocktail price?  Beer?  Might make more sense to buy as we go but I really love not having a huge bill at the end ...

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11 hours ago, tennislvr8 said:

Anthem is one of my favorite ships, the port being less than a 2 hours drive makes it even better. 

I have sailed her in multiple times all in cold winter months. You are correct the first day to day and a half and last day will be cold but she is built for cold weather. There is an indoor pool and lots of indoor activities. You won't be disappointed. Parking is a breeze there is a parking garage a 2 mile walk from the check in building. You drop your luggage off with the porters, go park and walk right into the building. Anthem is free food is sufficient.  The reataursnts are Johnny rockets, wonderland, imuzumi, chops and jaime's Italian. I LOVE the lamb chops at Jamie's and will always pay to go there. Wonderland is an experience everyone should try, just once.

There are three different drink packages, a soda only package. I think they still have that. A refreshment package soda, coffee, tea, bottled water and the alcohol package. They range I  price from 8.99, 25 and 56 per day if purchased before sailing....my prices may be slightly off but in same ball park.

There is a specific teen hangout spot, not too familiar with it though. There are bumper cars (sign up at iPads as soon as you board the ship) and other things all on the same deck. The ifly and northstar will be available about 60 days prior to sailing. If all booked once again book on ship as soon as you get on, sometimes they open more times.

Hope this helps

2 mile walk? It's more like 1/8 of a mile.

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Just now, Chris_2448 said:

2 mile walk? It's more like 1/8 of a mile.

Typo meant 2 min

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Since you mentioned Yankee Trails, I thought I would fill you in. They leave from Albany and it's $90.00 per person round trip to the pier. I believe you can also book your cruise through them which may allow for a reduced price on transportation.  I can't address parking in Albany. Whenever I have taken their bus, I have left from the Park n Ride on the Thruway and have been dropped off by family to catch the bus. You can not leave your car in a Park n Ride in NY too long or they will tow it away.

 

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We've sailed from NJ in a couple of snowstorms including one that dropped 10" and closed EWR for a couple of days.  Ship still sailed on time.  Parking garage is covered except for roof level, otherwise there are a couple of nearby hotels that offer free parking and shuttle with an overnight stay (search for them on cc).  We're 30 miles from port and feel much more confident driving to Cape Liberty than flying to Fl. 

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2 hours ago, MaritimeR&R said:

I can't address parking in Albany

Fortunately their website DOES!  https://tours.yankeetrails.com/Tour/Norwegian-Escape-New-York  I picked the Escape but they offer others as well - https://tours.yankeetrails.com/Tours/Cruise_Express_Northeast

 

You can park your vehicle at their facility for the duration of the trip.  I can't speak to the security of their facility but it wouldn't be good of them to be insecure.  As it's at their building I imagine there are people around much of the week.

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Posted (edited)

I will add that given its February, I would get to NJ at least a day ahead.  Hotels should be very affordable that time of year and you could explore NYC.

Edited by Crazy planning mom

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I've done the Anthem winter Bahamas sailing twice and booked for Nov. 2019 and Feb. 2020 - not that crazy about the Bahamas but it's a nice getaway in the winter and I love being able to drive to port (2 hrs. 15 min.).  Parking is relatively inexpensive at $22 a day; most of the time I've been able to park in the garage there - once on a Summit sailing I had to park in the lot directly across the street from the cruise terminal.  System is the same for both areas - pay for your parking when you return and show your receipt when you leave.  Other than the crazy crush when boarding and disembarking, especially at the elevators on the ship, you don't get the feeling of being really crowded.  I used to sail NCL but I can't take the smoke in their atrium area that drifts up from the casino.  I understand Bliss has a glassed off smoking section so I might think about giving NCL another try.  BTW, have not run into snow on any of the trips but it's bound to happen one of these days.

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Parking at Bayonne is $22/day, but this is peanuts compared to parking at Manhattan piers (which, IIRC, is over $40/day).

 

Sailing out of Bayonne on the Anthem is the best choice you can make! Anthem of the Seas is made for cold weather sailings.  Two out of the three pool areas are indoors (one family, one 18+), the sports area is indoors (except for, of course, the rock wall and FlowRider), and the promenade area is great to walk around inside.

 

Anthem has, apart from the MDR and the Windjammer buffet, a hot dog stand at the sports area, and pizza and pastries on the promenade, Solarium Bistro (Mediterranean), and Cafe 270, which offers breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. For extra charge, there's Jamie's Italian, the Steakhouse, Izumi sushi a la carte, Johnny Rockets, Michael's Pub, and Wonderland (molecular gastronomy). I've never done the specialty restaurants, as I've always felt the complimentary food is sufficient, but people marvel over Wonderland, which is more of an experience than just a meal.

 

iFly and North Star book up quickly pre-cruise but you can book them on board.  Do it embarkation day: you can go to the iFly signup desk or sign up on your phone app or stateroom TV.  FYI: my first Anthem cruise I booked both on the last day and there were such high winds they cancelled both activities so I didn't get to go.  Some people on the boards have even said that they did iFly or North Star early in their cruise and managed to book it a second time later on.

 

There's also a free escape room on board that's fun for teens and adults and not well advertised. I went to guest services embarkation day and booked that.

 

Can't speak to teen activities but I'm sure others can direct you!

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We used Yankee Trails from Albany to NJ for our Anthem of the seas Cruise to Bermuda (it was May However)

We parked in their lot (right next to the bus terminal and office). This was included at no extra charge.

It seems like someone that came back had a dead battery in their car. They immediately called their maintenance department, jump started the car and they were on their way.

We would certainly consider them for any NY or NJ cruise in the future.

 

We also liked the Anthem, The covered adult pool and hot tubs in the front of the ship are awesome and I'm sure it would be a great spot in cold weather. It is a large ship but the only time we felt crowded was when the muster drill ended and everyone was heading towards the elevators.

 

We did not have any kids with us (although my wife might call me a kid at times) but we partake of the bumper cars. That Whole area seems like it would be great for kids to hang out. Bumper cars (I think there was roller skating), basket ball, foosball, air hockey, ping pong, Nintendo and they even had a place to eat there.... not to  mention the rock climbing, flo-rider and i-fly nearby, you might not see your kids for the entire cruise 🙂

 

anyway, enjoy your cruise....

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2 hours ago, CTSandy said:

I've done the Anthem winter Bahamas sailing twice and booked for Nov. 2019 and Feb. 2020 - not that crazy about the Bahamas but it's a nice getaway in the winter and I love being able to drive to port (2 hrs. 15 min.).  Parking is relatively inexpensive at $22 a day; most of the time I've been able to park in the garage there - once on a Summit sailing I had to park in the lot directly across the street from the cruise terminal.  System is the same for both areas - pay for your parking when you return and show your receipt when you leave.  Other than the crazy crush when boarding and disembarking, especially at the elevators on the ship, you don't get the feeling of being really crowded.  I used to sail NCL but I can't take the smoke in their atrium area that drifts up from the casino.  I understand Bliss has a glassed off smoking section so I might think about giving NCL another try.  BTW, have not run into snow on any of the trips but it's bound to happen one of these days.

 

Summit only in Bayonne from May to October so should have no problem parking in garage during winter months.

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We have cruised In winter months from both Bayonne and Manhattan and have yet to experience snow or rain.

We have been on the Quantum,sister ship of thebAnthem but will be on the Anthem for the first time in October.

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We're just off Anthem yesterday. It was our first cruise with Royal and our first out of NJ. We loved it! Beautiful ship, amazing crew. To answer a couple of your questions:

 

Eateries - there is plenty to choose from without paying extra. We ate in the MDR or Windjammer every day and were very happy with the offerings. We also tried Cafe Two70 and the Dog House once each. They had a promo for 40% off at Jamie's one night and we had reservations, but we didn't make it back onboard in time so we never did get to try it. If you google the different venues + menu, you'll find them easily. 

 

My kids are 5 and under so I don't know what the teen activities were but there were a couple of areas dedicated to them and activities geared towards that age group at the Sea Plex. 

 

We didn't get around to making reservations for anything in advance except for We Will Rock You (recommend checking that out for sure!). iFly and North Star book up really fast online. There's a place where you can go once onboard to make reservations or you can use the Royal IQ app. My daughter and I really wanted to get on the North Star and I kept checking the app until a time that worked for us opened up. I also used that to make reservations for My Time Dining. It was really handy. 

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Thanks again for all of your answers.  You've all helped convince me that this is the right cruise for us -- booked it today!  

 

I notice that there is plenty of stuff available to book online already (dining, beverages, and much more), but almost nothing for onboard activities, except for 3 or 4 things (ship tour, brunch, etc.).  Is this likely to mean that all spots for pre-reservations for iFly/North Star are already booked, or that they haven't been listed yet?  Same goes for shows (WWRY).  Are these things just things that will go up closer to the cruise?

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23 hours ago, Merion_Mom said:

I'm on the Anthem in January, and I cannot book iFly or NorthStar.  Or  any of the shows. It's too soon.

 

Deluxe Beverage Package is $52 pp per day.  All adults in the cabin must buy if one wants it.

Refreshment Package (everything but alcohol) is $28 pp per day.  No requirement for all to buy.

Soda Package (you get a souvenir cup with an RFID chip that activates the Freestyle Machine for hundreds of combinations) is $8.99 pp per day.

 

Add 18% gratuity at purchase.

 

There are combos:  soda + 1 device wifi (called VOOM on RC) - $23.00 pp per day

deluxe + 1 device VOOM - $62 pp pd

 

coffee card - $31 for 15 coffee drinks  ("specialty" coffee)

 

 

 

8 hours ago, hp_slash said:

 

Sailing out of Bayonne on the Anthem is the best choice you can make! Anthem of the Seas is made for cold weather sailings.  Two out of the three pool areas are indoors (one family, one 18+), the sports area is indoors (except for, of course, the rock wall and FlowRider), and the promenade area is great to walk around inside.

The solarium is 16+.

Anthem has, apart from the MDR and the Windjammer buffet, a hot dog stand at the sports area, and pizza and pastries on the promenade, Solarium Bistro (Mediterranean), and Cafe 270, which offers breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. For extra charge, there's Jamie's Italian, Chops, Izumi sushi a la carte, Johnny Rockets, Michael's Pub (doesn't exist any more - it is  now just a generic pub, with a general $$ menu), and Wonderland (molecular gastronomy). I've never done the specialty restaurants, as I've always felt the complimentary food is sufficient, but people marvel over Wonderland, which is more of an experience than just a meal.

 

iFly and North Star book up quickly pre-cruise but you can book them on board.  Do it embarkation day: you can go to the iFly signup desk or sign up on your phone app or stateroom TV.  FYI: my first Anthem cruise I booked both on the last day and there were such high winds they cancelled both activities so I didn't get to go.  Some people on the boards have even said that they did iFly or North Star early in their cruise and managed to book it a second time later on.

 

There's also a free escape room on board that's fun for teens and adults and not well advertised. I went to guest services embarkation day and booked that.

 

Can't speak to teen activities but I'm sure others can direct you!

 

2 hours ago, CruisinChills said:

Thanks again for all of your answers.  You've all helped convince me that this is the right cruise for us -- booked it today!  

 

I notice that there is plenty of stuff available to book online already (dining, beverages, and much more), but almost nothing for onboard activities, except for 3 or 4 things (ship tour, brunch, etc.).  Is this likely to mean that all spots for pre-reservations for iFly/North Star are already booked, or that they haven't been listed yet?  Same goes for shows (WWRY).  Are these things just things that will go up closer to the cruise?

 

See my post at the top of this post.

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We cruise both NCL and RCL  (about one each per year).  Cape Liberty is much easier (and cheaper!) for parking, etc. than NYC. Royal's cruise terminal is convenient even if the signage to get there sometimes isn't too clear.  Check the East Coast Departures forum for up to date info.  

 

Since you haven't cruised RCL in 7 years, two changes have made it more similar to NCL.  First, you can select My Time Dining- similar to NCL's dining- for the main dining room. You still need reservations for the specialty restaurants.    Secondly, RCL no longer enforces a dress code in the dining rooms- on our most recent RCL cruise (Symphony in January) we saw men in shorts and baseball caps at dinner, and one of the young women at our table sometimes wore her bathing suit with a very short cover-up to dinner.  We were sure she would be asked to dress appropriately - not!  

 

The Anthem usually gets great reviews on this forum.  I'd go for it rather than the Bliss or Epic (although we're sailing the Bliss this year- but it just worked out to be best for us).  

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2 hours ago, JerseyGem said:

The Anthem usually gets great reviews on this forum.  I'd go for it rather than the Bliss

I've sailed on both, not sure you can really go wrong with either.  They both have their positives and negatives...

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21 hours ago, CruisinChills said:

Another quick question, the "deluxe" beverage package several of you have mentioned presumably includes ALL drinks?  We don't drink soda, pretty much just water, and then I am curious about alcoholic beverages (mostly "cruise cocktails" for me and beer for the husband).  What's the average cocktail price?  Beer?  Might make more sense to buy as we go but I really love not having a huge bill at the end ...

 

Have a look at your cruise planner to see what the price point for the deluxe drink package is for your particular sailing. Someone already mentioned that it's priced at $52 per person but for my cruise in March it is $65 per person. It was originally $62 when it first became available (we've had this cruise booked for a while) but went up a few months back. 

 

For us, it is not worth the cost to get the package but you would have to do some math to see what works best for you. 

 

Onboard the Brilliance last spring since we did buy drinks a la carte... draft beer was in the $7-9 range and cocktails ran the gamut of $8 -14, before gratuities. On that cruise we did purchase the 10 drink punch card when it became available mid-cruise. We had previously purchased a card on the Oasis so were looking for it on this cruise. One was for draft beers (can't recall price) that made it slightly cheaper than buying one-off and if memory serves the cocktail card was 10 for $89 (in that ballpark). 

 

Not sure if this is available on the Anthem but perhaps someone who has cruised on her already can advise as I'd like to know too!

 

My husband and I have cruised Royal several times but this will be the first one for our four kids so we're curious to see what they think of the experience (previous cruisers with Disney and primarily NCL).  My parents also booked a cabin beside us and while they are very seasoned cruisers across many lines, this will be their first with Royal in about 15 years so I'm *very* interested to get their thoughts (they cruise primarily Celebrity and NCL these days).

 

We are looking forward to our Anthem cruise and wish you a happy sailing!

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13 hours ago, spacepotatoes said:

 There's a place where you can go once onboard to make reservations or you can use the Royal IQ app

Not any more, Anthem switched to the RCI app yesterday.

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