Allure of the Seas will have drydock at Navantia shipyard

In:
17Apr2015

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas will have its upcoming drydock session take place at Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, Spain.

 

The dry dock work will provide ship-repair, revitalization, upgrading and related marine services for Allure of the Seas, as well as other future work on the fleet.

Royal Caribbean first started working with Royal Caribbean back in 2011, when when Navantia won the bid to refurb Splendour of the Seas. Since then, the yard has worked on ships across Royal Caribbean’s brands.

The agreement runs through 2016 and includes the current drydocking of Explorer of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas this May, as well as other ships.

Photos from inside Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas

In:
17Apr2015

Royal Caribbean released new photos today from all around its newest cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas.

These photos show off many public spaces onboard the ship just days before the ship is scheduled to have it's inaugural ceremony.

Michael's Genuine Pub. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Gigi the Giraffe. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Cafe @ Two70. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Sunshine Bar in Solarium. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Schooner Bar. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Pool deck. Photo by Royal Caribbean

La Patisserie. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Jamie's Italian. Photo by Royal Caribbean

H2O Zone. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Devinly Decadence. Photo by Royal Caribbean

H2O Zone. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Devinly Decadence. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Artwork in the Royal Esplanade . Photo by Royal Caribbean

American Icon Grill. Photo by Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean gives all past Quantum of the Seas guests $100 onboard credit as a gesture of good will

In:
16Apr2015

Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley sent an email to all past guests that have sailed on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas with an offer of $100 onboard credit towards a future cruise on Anthem of the Seas.

Bayley's email was sent in response to the negative feedback surrounding Dynamic Dining on Quantum of the Seas in the ship's first few months.  Since that time, Royal Caribbean has worked to refine Dynamic Dining and the general Quantum-class experience.

Here is the content of the email to past passengers:

Thank you for being one of the first to sail onboard Quantum of the Seas. As the newest ship in our fleet, Quantum introduced many new concepts—which, I'm sure, is part of the reason you wanted to be among the first to experience it all. I know that things were not perfect, especially in the first few months of the inaugural season as we worked to refine the experience we set out to deliver. We listened to your feedback and it was clear we had some room to improve, especially with Dynamic Dining.

Many of you liked the flexibility of Dynamic Dining, but encountered issues with making reservations. Others simply wanted the more traditional dining experience to which they were accustomed on other ships. I assure you that we learn more with every sailing and with every comment we receive, and I'm pleased to announce that we've come up with a way to satisfy diners in either camp. Now, our more traditional diners can choose Dynamic Dining Classic, a new option that gives you the familiarity of traditional main dining by having the same dining times nightly, same waiters and same table companions throughout the cruise. And those of you who liked Dynamic Dining can enjoy even more flexibility and improved service throughout the experience, with Dynamic Dining Choice. We've already received a lot of positive feedback about these new options, and I can't wait to hear how you like it once you experience it for yourself.

As a gesture of goodwill and a thank you for your loyalty to Royal Caribbean, I invite you to come back and try the new and improved Dynamic Dining on our newest ship, Anthem of the Seas, and enjoy a gift of $100 in onboard credit per stateroom when you secure your booking in May.
Again, thank you for being our guest. We hope to welcome you aboard soon.

Cruise must be booked April 13 - May 31, 2015. Offer applies to all Anthem of the Seas sailings. Offer includes $100 OBC and applies to all stateroom categories. Promo Code ANTHEM must be entered to receive onboard credit.

What you need to know about Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas

In:
16Apr2015

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is finally here and she's arrived in Southampton, England to begin her service in the fleet. The 167,800 gross registered ton ship packs a lot to see, do, eat, and experience.  Here's what you need to know about Royal Caribbean's impressive new cruise ship.

Thrills and adventure

Anthem of the Seas is packed with thrills, starting off with North Star, the innovative glass observation capsule that takes passengers more than 300 feet above the ocean to give amazing views that were never before possible.

Ripcord by iFly offers the first skydiving simulator at sea.  Passengers get the change to have the sensation of skydiving without the whole jumping out of a perfectly good airplane fear.

The SeaPlex area of the ship offers the largest indoor active space at sea, where during your cruise there will be activities like bumper cars, circus school, roller skating, basketball and more offered.

PHOTOS OF ANTHEM OF THE SEAS ARRIVAL IN SOUTHAMPTON

The FlowRider surf simulator isn't new to Anthem of the Seas, but it's yet another fun opportunity for you to try as you give surfing a try.

All four of these experiences are complimentary to passengers , but there are some private rental time available for North Star, Ripcord and the FlowRider if you want a more intimate experience.

Entertainment across the ship

If you are looking for entertainment on Anthem of the Seas, there are some really interesting shows to catch.

The Two70 venue at the aft of the ship offers a multi-deck arena that offers some really innovative and provocative shows where technology and live performers come together to deliver some very impressive shows.

The Royal Theater offers two brand new shows for guests to enjoy, "We Will Rock You" and "The Gift".

If you prefer some live music, check out the Music Hall, where there is usually live performances being held for your enjoyment.  It's a great spot to hear some good tunes and to get out there and dance.

Brand new dining options

Anthem of the Seas will offer Royal Caribbean's new Dynamic Dining program, where passengers get to choose among 18 restaurants (including 5 complimentary restaurants) but without the formality of ship-wide dress codes or set dining times.

On Anthem of the Seas, passengers can choose between Dynamic Dining Choice and Dynamic Dining Classic.

Dynamic Dining Choice: Each evening, guests choose which restaurant to eat at, as well as when and with whom they want to dine with.  You can make reservations in advance online or onboard the ship.  

It's just like going out to a restaurant in your hometown: you can choose to call ahead and make a reservation or walk in and see if you can be seated.

Dynamic Dining Classic: For guests that prefer a more traditional dining experience, this brand new option will have a schedule of restaurants you will dine at each evening while retaining the same waiters and table mates.  Each evening you will change the restaurant that you dine at but your tablemates and wait staff will be there too.

Tech, tech and more tech

Anthem of the Seas is literally packed with brand new technology that offer guests the easiest cruise experience yet.

The ship offers the fastest internet at sea, with super high fast WiFi onboard that in many cases is just as fast as the internet you have at home.  Onboard Anthem of the Seas, you can stream movies from NetFlix, Facetime with friends back home and share photos very quickly.

New RFID technology in the form of WOWbands offer guests silicone bracelets that get you access to the entire ship without having to bring those SeaPass cards along with you anymore. Now all your dining reservations, activities and purchasing power is on your wrist.

Royal Caribbean also developed a brand new smartphone app for iOS and Android users called Royal iQ, where you can book entertainment and dining, track your luggage as it comes onboard the ship and communicate with other passengers seamlessly. 

Then there's the Bionic Bar, where robots will take your drink orders and create your favorite concoction right in front of you.  

If you book an inside stateroom on Anthem of the Seas, you will still have a great view thanks to the virtual balcony.  Inside each inside stateroom is an 80-inch LED UHD television that shows real-time views from the ship.  It's just like having a real balcony, but without the price!

Where will Anthem of the Seas be?

Anthem of the Seas will sail out of Southampton, UK for her inaugural season before departing for her new homeport of Cape Liberty, New Jersey later this fall.  

Anthem of the Seas will spend the summer in the UK and then move across the Atlantic to the New York City area to offer cruises to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada.  

As of the posting of this blog post, she will remain in Cape Liberty for the foreseeable future.

Restaurant Review: Silk on Quantum of the Seas

In:
15Apr2015

Dining aboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, you will likely have an evening at the ship's Pan-Asian complimentary restaurant Silk.

dined at Silk last year during the ship's inaugural events and was disappointed in the food overall but in the months since then, Royal Caribbean has updated the menu (and the service) and we decided to give it another try.

Atmosphere

You will find Silk on deck 4 of Quantum of the Seas in the aft section.  Entering the restaurant, it has perhaps the most interesting decor of the complimentary restaurants available on Quantum of the Seas.

Instantly, you will get the sense this restaurant has Asian inspirations and it certainly feels the part.

Inside Silk, you will find elaborate arches, patterns and colors that all look like they could be out of Bangkok, Delhi or Shanghai.  In terms of the theming you will find in any of the complimentary restaurants, I really enjoy Silk's decor the most.

The layout of the restaurant is similar to the other complimentary restaurants, with a large room in the center with various alcoves of tables surrounding the main room.  There's also windows that look out to the ocean on one side of the restaurant.

Eats

Silk's new menu offers a lot more choices than the original menu and it's once again a mixture of dishes from Vietnam Thailand, India and China primarily. 

The menu also offers a few generic dishes that you will find at all the complimentary restaurants, such as grilled chicken breast, pasta primavera and salmon.  None of these are Asian, they are just the "fallback" menu choices that are always available every night, similar to the main dining room menu on other Royal Caribbean ships.

There's no breads to start off with so you can jump right into appetizers.  Most tables in Silk offer a lazy susan serving table that encourage guests to share dishes between your table mates.  Our table near the window did not have one of these but odds are your appetizers will be served on the lazy susan.

To start off, I went with the spring rolls.  Simple, yet the kind of food that is perfect for an Asian meal.  They were a lot like any other spring roll I've ever had, so neither bad nor great.

There are a lot of appetizers to choose from but I was looking for a light meal today so I saved my stretchy pants functionality for the entrees.

For dinner I doubled down on Indian food, which is my favorite cuisine.  I ordered the chicken tikka masala and the vegetable curry.  

The chicken tikka masala was the same dish I ordered last year and it's still the same dish now.  A few chunks of white chicken meat in an orange sauce, served with jasmine rice.  

The chicken was good but nothing special.  Moreover, it lacked any spice that is typical of Indian dishes.

The vegetable curry came next and once again, it lacked any spice or distinguishing flavor.  I'm guessing Royal Caribbean wants to avoid spicy dishes for fear no one will order them (most Americans seem not to enjoy spicy ethnic foods).  

My table mates opted to go with Chinese and Thai dishes and they reported their food had better reviews than what I ordered. 

For dessert, I went with plain old strawberry ice cream. No disappointment here!

Overall

Unfortunately, I had another disappointing meal at Silk but I would say it was only disappointing because I ordered poorly.  

The people I dined with and others on the ship that ordered other dishes seemed to enjoy their Silk experience more than I did, which is encouraging.  If I were to go back to Silk again, I would skip the Indian dishes and go with the Chinese or Thai choices.

I get the sense the menu update has made Silk a better restaurant but its menu still has some pitfalls.  Since you can order as much as you like at Silk, I would recommend ordered one of everything for the table and sampling to see what you like best. 

Next time, I will stick with the Indian food in the Windjammer (which is quite delicious) and go a little further east for my dining choices.

Dynamic Dining Review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
15Apr2015

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 89 is available for downloading where Matt reviews Royal Caribbean's Dynamic Dining.

Dynamic Dining has transformed how guests enjoy dinner on their Royal Caribbean cruise, so this week, we review what we like about Dynamic Dining, how well it works (and doesn't work) and take a peek at what the future holds.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 89. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas arrives in Southampton

In:
15Apr2015

The world's third-largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, arrived today in Southampton, England in advance of her grand debut in just a few days.

Photos by Royal Caribbean

Anthem of the Seas' naming ceremony will take place on April 20th but the ship arrived today in port to be ready for the media onslaught that is expected to announce her arrival in the UK market.

Royal Caribbean managing director, Stuart Leven, said, "Anthem of the Seas is designed to deliver what today's holiday makers want - new kind of experiences and adventures. Ships like Anthem of the Seas will help attract new groups of people and build the future of cruising. The UK and Ireland is our second largest market and with over 1.7 million Britons now taking a cruise every year, it has huge importance for our business.'

Royal Caribbean indicated they expect the ship to deliver around £50 million to the Southampton economy during the upcoming season.  

Ovation of the Seas will cruise to Australia in winter 2016-2017

In:
14Apr2015

Royal Caribbean announced that Ovation of the Seas, the third Quantum-class cruise ship, will be homeported in Sydney, Australia for the winter of 2016-2017.

When she arrives, Ovation of the Seas will become the largest cruise ship to ever sail out of Australia and will also be the most technologically advanced ship in the region.

Ovation of the Seas will be the fifth ship in the Royal Caribbean Australian fleet for winter 2016-17, joining four other Royal Caribbean ships:Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas in Sydney and Legend of the Seas in Brisbane.

Additional details for the Royal Caribbean’s winter 2016-17 season will be revealed at the end of April.

“Royal Caribbean has been breaking the boundaries in Australian cruising since we arrived in 2007 but today, we have completely changed the face of the cruise industry, making the single largest investment in Australia by any cruise line,” said Gavin Smith, regional vice president, Royal Caribbean, Asia Pacific. “Ovation of the Seas will completely redefine the idea of cruising in Australia, taking the industry to the next level by offering a host of incredible never-before-seen features and technologies. This demonstrates our belief in, and long term commitment to, the Australian cruising market.”

Video: Royal Caribbean's Robot Bartenders Concoct Cocktails

In:
14Apr2015

As Anthem of the Seas debuts, Makr Shakr and Royal Caribbean team up on the finishing touches to the robotic bartenders at the Bionic Bar. Get insights into the human creativity that went into creating the robots as well as the cocktail concoctions inspired by the creativity of the ship's guests.

Things to do in Old San Juan

In:
14Apr2015

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is a popular cruise port because of it's close proximity to the United States and ample cultural and relaxing activities to choose from.

If you're looking to explore Old San Juan and get a taste of the city without paying for a formal excursion or guide, there are a lot of great places to see that are walking distance from your cruise ship.

We visited Old San Juan on a recent cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and had a full afternoon and evening in the city to take it all in.  What I love about Old San Juan is how easy it is to explore without fear of getting hopelessly lost.  Since Old San Juan is on a hill, it's fairly easy to get your bearings at any time.  

While there are plenty of excursions available in the surrounding San Juan area, I really like walking around the city to see the many sights (and smells) that are mere minutes from your cruise ship.  When you dock in Old San Juan, you will be let out in the heart of the city and that means you can walk to most everything available.

It is recommended to bring good walking shoes and appropriate clothing for a hot and humid environment.  With San Juan's many hills, temperatures regularly over 80 degrees and lack of natural shade, walking around will definitely burn some calories.

Let's take a look at my picks for things to do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The forts: El Morro and San Cristobal

Perhaps the best known tourist attractions in Old San Juan are the two old Spanish forts that used to guard entrance to the city, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal.

El Morro

San Cristobal

Both of these forts are on the northern coast of the city and both are United States National Parks.  There is not much to do to prepare to see these forts, you just walk in, pay the admission and then take as much time as you like to explore.

What is amazing about these forts is they give you a very good sense of what life was like for the Spanish troops guarding these fortified positions.  If you take the time to visit the exhibits, you will see the kind of threats Spain faced and tales of when foreign powers tested the Spanish resolve to defend the city.

In addition, the views of the city and ocean are unparalleled and you absolutely need to bring your camera here to take some great shots.

Admission to one fort gets you admission to the other fort for up to 7 days, so if you have time you can visit both.  The popular theory these days is El Morro is the more interesting and distinguished of the two forts, so you have time for just one, go with El Morro.

San Juan Gate

The San Juan Gate is the only remaining city gate and was one of six original massive wooden doors that centuries ago allowed passage into San Juan.

All the gates except for this one remain, and it's a bright red with a Latin inscription at the top that says, "Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini" (blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord).

Besides being an important piece of San Juan's history, it's located along the Paseo del Morro, which is a 3/4 mile walkway that follows the city wall below El Morro.  It's impressive to see the city walls that at one time controlled complete access to the city and with its location right on the harbor, it's a beautiful spot to enjoy a walk.

The path to and from the gate are quintessentially old San Juan.  Once again, there's little shade here so bring water for the walk and some sunscreen.

Access to the San Juan Gate is free and you can walk here anytime during the day.

Paseo de la Princesa

Located near El Morro is the Paseo de la Princesa, a beautiful area between where your cruise ship docks and the San Juan Gate.

The Paseo was originally built in 1853 and has been restored quite beautifully in recent years.  It's essentially a tree-lined promenade that is great for walking, people watching or enjoying the breeze.

You will also find local street vendors and artisans selling local food and crafts as well.

There are great examples of art to be found here as well.  

If you are thirsty, try a shaved-ice topped with your choice of flavoring known as piragua. For something more filling try alcapurria, Bacalito or Empanadilla’s.

Barrachina

Old San Juan is all about history, including the spot where the Pina Colada was invented, a small restaurant known as Barrachina.

Barrachina is located right in the middle of Old San Juan and it offers a lot of Puerto Rican cuisine, including the original Pina Colada.


While you are indulging in some coconut spirits, you should also have another Puerto Rican specialty: mofongo.  Mofongo is mashed plantains that are usually topped with a meat like shrimp, steak, chicken or octopus and drizzled with a special sauce.

 

It's hard to describe what mofongo tastes like except that it is quite good and something I always order when I am on the island.

You can certainly try a pina colada or mofongo pretty much anywhere and everywhere in Old San Juan, but for a bit of history (and somewhere to sit down and rest after all that walking), Barrachina is a great spot.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

I usually do not try to visit cemeteries but the colonial-era cemetary near El Morro is a pretty interesting spot.

Located outside the walls of El Morro, the cemetary is a famous landmark and is the final resting spot for many prominent residents of Old San Juan. Actors, poets, politicians, artists and more are all buried here and the layout of the graveyard is fairly impressive.

Since I do not particularly care for walking all around the cemetary, you can get a great view of it from El Morro and the area surrounding it so you can get a sense of the spectacle the cemetery is without going inside.

See it all (again) at night

If you are lucky enough to be in Old San Juan at night, the city transforms after the sun goes down.

Nearly all the sights we mentioned already in this post and others are lit up in the evening and it gives them all a very different look that has to be appreciated even if you just visited them a few hours earlier.

The city does a wonderful job of lighting up the city, so be sure to give yourself time to walk around at night and bring your camera too.

Your thoughts...

Where are your favorite places and things to do in Old San Juan?  Which of these would you most like to see for yourself?  Any questions? Share these and any thoughts you have in the comments!

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