7 Reasons to Sail on Anthem of The Seas This Winter

Anthem of the Seas is the third largest cruise ship in the world and after months of sailing in the Pacific and Mediterranean, the ship has finally arrived in the Atlantic.

As I approach the docks, my complete attention draws towards a majestic 18-story building. It is longer than seven Boeing jetliners and there’s a giant glass capsule jetting out of its top. Anthem of the Seas by Royal Caribbean is the biggest ship I have ever seen and most spectators at the port feel the same.  Along with 4,179 other passengers, I walk into this floating island with pure astonishment. In the next two weeks, I was about to experience over thirty dining establishments, nightly entertainment in four venues, adventures like skydiving at sea, my first Robotic bar, and nine amazing ports of call across five countries. From where I sit, this is the best cruise in the world.

With each passing year, the cruising industry is getting more innovative with high tech infrastructure, modern architecture, and upscale culinary experiences. For this winter, Anthem of the Seas promises the best travel experience in cruising to those looking for luxury at affordable prices. Here’s my review of Anthem of the Seas. 

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1. Largest floating bedrooms

The interior of Anthem of the Seas is modern and elegant, reminding me of some of the classy hotels you would see in Las Vegas. Intricate flooring and ceiling work are specifically chosen to set a different tone on each floor, so you can feel the change in ambiance going from one part of the ship to the other.

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With 2,090 staterooms Anthem has more guest accommodations than the tallest hotel in the world. It also has more balcony rooms than any other cruise ship. The most fascinating accommodations are the spacious two-story lofts and three-bedroom family suites that come with a living/dining room, a TV room, a balcony Jacuzzi, and panoramic views. Say goodbye to claustrophobia!

2. Widest culinary selection at sea

If you are used to the one or two dining options presented on most cruise ships, be blown away by the culinary selection here. On the Anthem, there are 18 restaurant concepts to choose from. Themed restaurants include Japanese, Italian, French, Asian Pacific, American, British pub, cafe, buffet, and much more. Each one has a unique ambiance and creative cocktail menu.

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While just the design of the restaurants is worth checking out, the food is comparable to any upscale restaurant on land. Where else can you taste creations by world-renowned chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Michael Schwartz, and Devin Alexander on a floating island!

Furthermore, you are not restricted to sitting at round banquet tables along with other guests you don’t know. Couples can easily have a date night while families can reserve larger tables for privacy. Did I mention that a server is assigned to you for the entire cruise, who travels with you from restaurant to restaurant?

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3. Nonstop adrenaline rush

The activities on the Anthem accommodate not only families but adventurers as well. Choose more relaxed bingo, guess the tunes, or jeopardy game time, but then you can also go skydiving with RipCord by iFLY, go-carting, rock climbing, and skating at SeaPlex, surfing at FlowRider, and be lifted 300 feet above sea level in a pod on the iconic North Star.

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4. Serious fitness solutions

Sure, most cruise ships have a little gym and nice spa services, but on the Anthem, they take physical health seriously. There are fitness classes – yoga, stretch, Pilates, spin, even a boot camp, for those who want to stay healthy. You can get a personal instructor who will train with you, a nutritionist to consult with, and can select from several anti-aging solutions.

5. The best of Broadway

Anthem of the Seas offers an extraordinary lineup of multidimensional entertainment in state-of-the-art venues with mind-blowing technology. Shows such as Spectra’s Cabaret, We Will Rock You, and The Gift are huge hits, while international artists from around the world fly in to perform live music throughout the cruise.

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6. Entertaining for kids and teens

On no other cruise will you find two entire floors dedicated to teens and kids. SeaPlex is the largest indoor active space onboard offering tons of activities to stay active, from basketball and ping pong tournaments during the day, to a floating DJ booth at night. Kids’ favorite characters from Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda entertain the young ones. There is also a state-of-the-art video arcade and 3D movie room, and a Johnny Rockets diner for when hunger strikes.

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7. Inclusive to LGBT community

The daily cruise planner delivered to the stateroom lists all the activities happening throughout the ship. There are lunches for singles travelers and mixers for the LGBT community, offering a chance to make new friends onboard.

Anthem of the Seas sails around the world, and is now making its course around The Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, Barbados, Martinique, and St. Maarten, offering guests the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the destinations they visit.

How not to get fat on your next cruise vacation

Rough estimates by fitness instructors show that most cruisers gain an average of 1-2 pounds a day. If this statement scares you from taking your next cruise vacation, read this article first. On my recent 2-weeks cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of The Seas, I interviewed Maurice Van Rijthoven, a 30-year old fitness instructor from Netherlands. He oversees the VitalitySM Spa and Fitness center, the largest floating fitness area ever built. This 6,000 passenger vessel also boasts 30 restaurants and bars. Clearly, this is not your destination for weight-loss, but its possible.anthem of the seas

Located at the middle of deck 15, the SeaPlex is a large indoor gym with a full-size basketball court that can be converted into a dance floor, a flying trapeze school, a roller-skating arena, that converts to a bumper cars playground. The “SeaPlex” also features the SeaPlex Dog House food truck and table tennisair hockey and foosball tables on a second-level mezzanine.

bumper cars on Anthem of the Seas

The Spa and Fitness Center are located on decks 15 and 16, offering beautiful views of the surrounding seas. On embarkation day, Rijthoven gives a tour of the gym and spa. This is the best time to sign up for classes as they tend to fill up. Daily class offerings start at 7am and include yoga, pilates, stretching, spinning, body sculpt and more. The spin class emulates a Tour de France type of challenge for the 16 bikers participating. Some of the classes require a fee to attend.

For those who like to freestyle it,  the gym is well stocked with TechnoGym equipment, and includes practically everything one may need for a total body workout, including cardio, weights and a stretching area. The outdoor jogging track is 1/3 of a mile, with an uphill feature, and a great way to get your daily run. But you need to go early morning or late in the evening, as it gets crowded with sunbathers during the day. gym at anthem of the seas

There is also a bootcamp you can sign up for if you need a little group motivation. Generally, 8-10 guests participate in a daily regiment with a personal trainer that keeps them in shape. Rijthoven tells me that on an average, 20-30 people sign up for one on one personal training sessions during the cruise. Roughly 10% of cruisers use the gym facilities, which is tragic for Rijthoven to witness as he overlooks some of the finest equipment on sea.

“The biggest mistake people make is overindulging,” he says. Vacationers think its ok to eat and drink whatever they like, because they are on holiday. They wouldn’t ordinarily pack in these many calories in their normal diet. Rijthoven offers workshops throughout the trip educating travelers on how to properly balance having fun and keeping fit. A personal consultation – Eat more to weight less measure your metabolism rate and advises a diet plan accordingly.

For those who want to make a drastic change in their physical wellbeing, he advises a Detox program that travelers can do once they get back. This helps them remove toxins from within the body, and allow it to better absorb nutrients.

One of the ship’s restaurants, Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro offers spa cuisine created by author of The Biggest Loser Cookbook series, Devin Alexander. The menu boasts dishes that are under 500 calories for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a wide selection of salads, sandwiches, seafood, pasta, as well as dessert.

For those who forget to check in with the fitness regime regularly, you may get messages delivered to your door or your tv screen reminding you about the special classes being offered each day. Rijthoven advises that if all cruisers found it in their schedule to exercise one hour daily, whether it is running, attending a class, or training on your own, they won’t end up gaining weight from their vacation.

The Best Adventures on Sea

A cruise vacation doesn’t have to be only about eating, drinking, and hanging out by the pool. Travelers can choose to participate in high adrenaline activities offered on board, that are safe for all ages. Here are some of the coolest adventures one can experience on the new Royal Caribbean ship, Anthem of the Seas

Skydive – Afraid of heights? Kids and adults can experience what it feels like to fly, within the confined wind capsule on board. RipCord by iFly® has introduced a groundbreaking simulator that gives a free fall skydive experience for an entire minute. The trainers show you proper posture for flying and also guide you through your flight.

skydive on Anthem of the Seas
Photo courtesy of Ana Loza from Argentina

Lift off – As we approach each port, the first thing locals notice is this giant capsule lifting off from the top deck of the ship. North Star is like a London eye that takes 14 passengers at a time, ascending gently 300 feet above sea level, and giving breathtaking 360° views. There are high power binoculars available inside the capsule so you see the surrounding areas. This is really fun while departing a port, so you can get a great view of the city.

North Star on Anthem of the Seas

Rock Climb – On the Anthem, there is a 30 foot high rock climbing wall where beginners can practice along the colored coded rocks, and advanced climbers can create their own pathways.

rock climb on Anthem of the Seas

Surf – Taking surfing lessons right onboard with FlowRider®, a 40-foot-long surf simulator located at the back of the ship. You don’t have to worry about high tides or jelly fish here.

surfing on Anthem of the Seas

Sports and more – The SeaPlex on deck 15 is the largest indoor active space at sea. Here’s where you will find most kids and teens playing video games, table tennis, and munching on hot dogs. Even adults join in the fun enrolling in circus school, basketball and cricket tournaments, roller skating and bumping cars.

bumper cars on Anthem of the SeasAll of the adventures are free for the cruisers on board Anthem of the Seas, although some may require advance reservations.

A New Perspective on Cruising

My first cruise travel experience was about 10 years ago. I took a 4 nights/ 5 days cruise from Tampa to Cozumel, Mexico. Although it was a relaxing experience, I decided that the cruise travel experience was not for me. The main reason being that I love to explore the local cuisine and culture of a country, and spend as much time as possible with the locals. On the cruise, I spent majority of my time on the ship with other travelers. We had organized games, shows, activities, casino, shopping, dining, etc., but I felt it was geared towards families and older crowds. I felt a little too sedentary.

anthem of the seasBeing on Anthem of the Seas, a brand new ship by Royal Caribbean, has changed my perspective on cruising. This 2-weeks Mediterranean sailing took me to different ports across 5 countries – UK, Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. There were organized tours offered in each of the ports, from city tours to wine tastings, I got to know about the history, culture, nature and art of the areas, and I always had the option to walk around on your own. We visited some ports that I may not have been able to see otherwise – Gibraltar, Cartagena, Seville, Vigo, etc.

Being on board offered a very different experience as well this time around. Anthem of the Seas is one of the biggest ships in the world, with 2,090 staterooms and a capacity of 6400 people (guests and crew). Given that, the cabin sizes are huge. I had a superior room with a balcony and sitting area, but there are also 2-storied lofts and 3 bedroom suites available. I never felt claustrophobic during my two week sail.

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Walking around the ship’s 18 decks can be quite fun. It took me a couple of days to get oriented, and realize where everything was. I admired every architectural detail, the beautiful artwork adorning the promenade, intricate flooring and ceiling work set to match the tunes of different areas of the ship, contemporary style of the rooms, themed music halls and theaters – this was by far the most beautiful ship I have ever seen.

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In my previous cruising experiences, there were only 1 or 2 options for dining – generally a formal sit down and a casual fast food place. On the Anthem, there are 30 eateries to choose from! Themed restaurants include Japanese, Italian, French, Asian Pacific, American, British pub, cafes, buffet, and much more. Each one has a unique ambiance and creative cocktail menu. Just the design of the restaurants is worth checking out. The food is comparable to any upscale restaurant on land. Furthermore, you are not restricted to sitting at round banquet tables along with other guests you don’t know. Couples can easily have a date night, while families can reserve larger tables for privacy.

spice at anthem of the seas

Sure most cruise ships have a little gym and nice spa services. But on the Anthem, they take physical health seriously. There are fitness classes – yoga, stretch, pilates, spin, even a boot camp, for those who want to stay healthy. You can get a personal instructor who will train with you, a nutritionist to consult with, and several anti aging solutions.

The activities on the Anthem are geared not only to families, but adventures as well. I typically won’t sit for a bingo, guess the tunes, or jeopardy kind of sessions. But here, I can go skydiving, go-carting, rock climbing, skating, surfing and be lifted 300 feet above sea level.

wave rider anthem of the seas

Another fact I liked about Anthem is that you really don’t need to travel with your family or friends to enjoy this cruise vacation. On the daily calendar are scheduled lunch for singles on the ship and LGBT community mixers. Of course, there are tailored activities for teens, youth and couples too.

There are several options to choose from for evening entertainment. At any given time, there is live music at 4-5 venues across the ship. Depending on my mood, I can sit at the piano bar, listen to 80’s rock, watch Broadway style performances, cabaret shows, or get up close with world renowned musicians.

we will rock you anthem of the seas

I view cruising in a different light now. A ship like Anthem of the Seas is not just for the older generation, but can be a lot of fun for younger travelers too. If this is what the new age of cruising looks like, I will definitely be considering this option for my future travels.

Typical Day On A Galapagos Cruise

Cruising the Galapagos Islands is for those who seek nature, adventure and an active vacation. One-week cruise aboard The Letty, a 20-passenger yacht run by Ecuador based company, Ecoventura will show you the very best of islands flora and fauna. Expect to get up close with animals and marine life, enjoy delicious meals and learn about Darwin’s evolution theories.

sunrise in the Galapagos IslandsA typical day aboard The Letty starts early in the morning. Watch the sunrise as you eat a healthy breakfast inside the dining room of the yacht.

cruise day 3The first activity for the morning is a hike or walk to one of the islands, where you will get to see amazing landscapes.

wildlife in the Galapagos IslandsDuring the island visits, expect an up close encounter with endemic wildlife, such as pelicans and iguanas. The Galapagos Marine Iguana is the only marine lizard to exist in the world.

giant tortoise of the GalapagosBe astonished by the Giant Tortoises that inhabit the islands. A Galapagos tortoise can weigh up to 595lb (270kg) with a carapace length of 4ft (1.2m) and outlive most humans.

snorkeling in the Galapagos IslandsBy 10am, the sun is up and it can get pretty hot, so time to cool down with a swim, snorkel or kayak. The convergence of three major oceanic currents brings an incredible mix of marine life to Galapagos.

kayaking in the Galapagos IslandsExpect to see beautiful coral reef, sharks, sea lions, penguins and lots of bird while you are out at sea.

cruise in the galapagos islandsAfter a busy morning, return to your boat for an authentic Ecuadorian lunch of ceviche, salads, grilled tuna, rice and beans prepared by experienced chefs. After lunch, its time for a Latin style afternoon siesta while your boat sails off to the next island.

sea lions in the Galapagos beachOnce you have renewed your energy, go to an undisturbed beach for a walk and some more sea lion watching. The Galapagos fur sea lions don’t feel threatened by the human paparazzi as long as you keep a safe distance.

blue footed boobies on the GalapagosBird watching is one of the highlights in the Galapagos. The islands are home to Nazca boobies, Darwin finches, frigids, cormorant, Blue footed boobies, and an occasional owl. Get your cameras ready to capture males performing mating dances to attract females.

sunset in the Galapagos

Enjoy picturesque sunsets of the Galapagos from the deck of the yacht while sipping a glass of wine.

eating in the Galapagos After a long day, its time to enjoy another scrumptious three course dinner. If you are lucky, you may even get a seat at the captain’s table.

To book a cruise to the Galapagos Islands with Ecoventure, click here.

Read more about traveling to the Galapagos Islands 

Cruise Ships and Naturalists Conserve the Galapagos Islands

Often times, once a destination gains popularity, tour companies and travelers pour in from around the world, threatening the sanctity of the place. Finding a balance between allowing for outside visitors and not destroying the natural habitats, can be a challenging feat. It was however, humbling to see the extent of preservation initiatives in the Galapagos National Parks of Ecuador during my recent visit.

First, I found that tour operators must pay a significant license fee to the park to obtain permits. These can range from $25-100k, depending on how many guests the tour agency plans to bring per year and how much they charge per person. Once the National Park gives permissions to visit the Galapagos Islands, they assign itineraries that must be strictly followed. This means that the tour companies are told which routes to take, which islands they can visit at what times of day, how long to spend there, etc. By doing so the Park ensures that visitors don’t constantly walk around in the same areas and disturb the wildlife each and every day. It also means that tour operators cannot travel the same route two consecutive weeks and have to offer different programs to their clients.

cruise ships in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador

Visiting Galapagos Islands by small to medium size cruise ships is very popular. Private boats can be arranged for 10+ passengers, while most vessels are designed for 16. There are also a few ships that take 100 passengers at a time. Unlike other cruise docks, the ships and boats in the Galapagos are only allowed to anchor themselves far from land. Most islands do not have a port, so transfers have to be made via water landing. Even the islands that have small ports, such as San Cristobal and  Santa Cruz, allow only fishing boats to be parked near the docks. When travelers get out for day excursions, they have to transfer from the cruise boat to land via panga (dinghies). Even when going kayaking and snorkeling, they have to jump off the panga at the sites. As a result, you could see sea lions, iguanas and pelicans welcoming visitors at every island. It seems they did not feel threatens by humans, as the boats here do not produce loud noises or oil spills.

panga used for water landing in the Galapagos Islands

Thirdly, naturalists who work for the park accompanied the tourists throughout their tours. It is required by the Park to have at least 1 naturalist for every 16 passengers, although companies like Ecoventura organize 2. They not only educate visitors about the flora, fauna and history of the Galapagos, but also act as eyes and ears of the park. They made sure that the humans did not touch the animals, walked off the trails or wandered on their own. The naturalists were required to report any hazards seen on the islands to the park authorities.

sea lions resting on the beach in Galapagos Islands

While most islands in the Galapagos looked pristinely beautiful with white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters, water currants would occasionally bring debris on to shore. It was good to see that the naturalists made sure to collect any garbage they saw. They even asked the passengers to collect it during our excursion and took it back to the boat for proper disposal.

naturalist pick up trash from the Galapagos IslandRead more about the sustainability efforts of the Ecuador based cruise ship company, Ecoventura.

Read more about our experiences with the Galapagos Sea Lions.

Catching a shark in Georgia

This past weekend, I indulged in a fun activity where I went shrimping aboard Lady Jane, a United States Coast Guard certified vessel in Brunswick, Georgia. The 49 passenger boat took me for a two-hour cruise through the marshes of Saint Simons Islands, for an unforgettable fishing experience!  The experienced team was led by Captain Larry Credle. I looked forward to an an experience where I could enjoy the calm water, learn about the marine life, and eat some delicious shrimp. Continue reading “Catching a shark in Georgia”

World’s first four sustainable tourism destinations

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has put together a brand-new set of criteria that will help put travel destinations, not just hotels, restaurants or airlines, on the path toward social, cultural, and environmental sustainability. Continue reading “World’s first four sustainable tourism destinations”

Calling all virgin cruisers

Over the years I have met many people who are apprehensive about taking a cruise, and yet other who wouldn’t travel any other way. To be honest, being a restless borderline ADD person, I was quite skeptical about cruise vacations myself. Being locked in one place for days at a time is surely not my thing. I love to explore new places, eat at local restaurants, mingle with the natives and run on firm ground.

However, I took a leap of faith and decided to try it out for myself. Since I was still unsure of sea travel (did I mention I also have motion sickness?), I looked for the shortest and most affordable cruise vacation. It turned out to be a four day journey from Tampa, Florida to Cozumel, Mexico onboard one of Royal Caribbean’s newly refurbished ships during Christmas time.  There were more decisions to be made – the type of cabin (pothole, square window or balcony), the location of the cabin (which of the 9 floors did I want; in the middle or the tail of the ship) and dinner options (early or late seating). I decided on a balcony cabin located at a high floor, away from the elevators and in the middle of the ship. Have to say those were some good choices!

The cruise ships nowadays are like floating islands. They are huge, with a capacity of 3000 passengers and 1000 crew members. There were hundreds of cabins, 2 full service restaurants, a lounge, piano bar, dance floor, night club, spa, gym, casino, running track, game room, shops and a performance theatre. Forget motion sickness, I didn’t even feel it move when we pulled out of the port and were on our way into the Gulf!

Because of the holiday season, the entire cruise ship was decked up with Christmas trees, ornaments and decorations. Santa paid a visit and there was a special midnight feast of sculptures made entirely of chocolates, candies and cakes served on Christmas Eve. We even had a traditional Captain’s Ball for which the ladies had to dress up in formal dresses and the gentlemen put on their suits and ties.

Perhaps the most eye opening experience for me personally was the vast number of activities that are available onboard. Each morning, we were delivered a schedule of events and classes taking place that day. There were cooking classes, dance lessons, games, competitions, Broadways style performances, comedy shows and more. One could easily fill up a day between activities, meals, massages and of course, on land excursions. Once the ship docked at a port, you had time to get off and sightsee. You could even pre-book a tour from the cruise itself.

When I landed in Cozumel, I went horseback riding to the Mayan ruins, and then spent some time at the beach, grabbed some lunch at a Mexican restaurant and shopped for local arts, vanilla and jewelry. I also enjoyed watching the sunset from the ship’s floor to ceiling windows while enjoying a glass of wine each evening. The four days flew up magically and I didn’t feel un-entertained even for a minute.

With the economy being slow, cruise travel is really suffering which has led many cruise liners to lower their fares significantly. It has become an affordable way to travel, especially to some of the European destinations. The fares include room, all meals, entertainment, taxes and tips. For Americans not wanting to pay the high cost of Euro, this is a great deal.

Cruise to Amazing Alaska with Expedia!