Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's brand new cruise ship that is under construction and a member of the Quantum class of cruise ships. Anthem of the Seas will have her first cruise in spring 2015, with a homeport of Southampton in the summer and Fort Lauderdale in the winter.
From Asia to the Caribbean, in the summer or in the winter, guests on Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships can luxuriate by the pool no matter the weather. The smart ships fully retractable roof can open or close to suit all climates.
Two of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship that offers cruises from the United States, and have garnered a tremendous amount of interest from guests, is Harmony of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Today, we compare both cruise ships in a head-to-head comparison.
In comparing both ships, we break down each ship's offerings and summarize what the strengths and weaknesses of both ships to see how each ship stacks up. As objective as we may try to be, the reality is we are talking about opinions, and as such, personal preferences will vary from person to person. We will certainly try to convey why we liked or disliked something, but understand some may disagree (and that is okay). This should be a fun contrast.
Shows: Anthem of the Seas
Both ships offer a variety of productions for guests to enjoy, comprising original productions and Broadway shows. Let us be very clear: the shows on both ships are wonderful, so we are about do the cruise ship equivalent of argue about which cut of steak tastes better.
The Broadway show on Anthem of the Seas is, "We Will Rock You", which is a West End musical that uses the music of rock band Queen in the performance to tell its story. On Harmony of the Seas, guests can enjoy, "Grease", the Broadway musical all about summer love in the 1950s. Both shows are identical to the original productions and we will call it a tie between the two of them.
Both ships also offer a slew of original productions to enjoy. Anthem of the Seas offers shows such as "The Gift" and "Spectra's Cabaret", which are a mix of music, dance and special effects. They represent the latest in Las Vegas-style entertainment and are anything but ordinary. Harmony of the Seas has Royal Caribbean's first original musical, "Columbus: The Musical", as well as two different ice skating shows. In fact, 1887 might be the best ice skating show we have seen on any Royal Caribbean ship to date.
The real X-factor for both ships are their specialized entertainment venues. Anthem of the Seas puts its best shows in Two70, a massive theater on the aft of the ship that can be transformed digitally in a number of ways. In fact, the Vistarama and Roboshows in Two70 are absolutely stunning to watch. Harmony of the Seas follows up with two shows in the AquaTheater, both of which are centered around eye-popping stunts and acrobatics.
While Harmony of the Seas has a greater array of entertainment offerings, we feel the quality of Anthem of the Seas' shows gives it the edge. Two70 alone is filled with a great variety of entertainment that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Onboard activities: Harmony of the Seas
When we talk about onboard activities, there is a lot of options across each ship. Simply put, you will not run out of things to do onboard.
Guests on Anthem of the Seas will have their choice of a number of Royal Caribbean innovations that make the Quantum class ships quite different from other ships in the fleet. North Star, the observational pod that takes guests 300 feet above see level for a 360-degree view of the ocean and area around them is very popular and equally impressive. Ripcord by iFly allows all anyone who's mother forbid them from ever contemplating sky diving to give it a shot in a much safer environment. Then you have the SeaPlex, an immense area of the ship dedicated to being active at sea. In fact, it is the largest indoor active space at sea, where guests can play on a full-size basketball court, go roller skating and even ride bumper cars.
Harmony of the Seas answers back with a ton of firsts of its own. Harmony of the Seas features the three water slides that are sure to get everyone in the family asking to ride it one more time. Speaking of slides, the Ultimate Abyss is the kind of slide experience that words cannot do justice. It is large, intense and a lot of fun while descending the 10 stories down. Harmony of the Seas has double the amount of FlowRiders that Anthem of the Seas has and a brand new aqua park for kids, Splashaway Bay. If you prefer your activities a bit more sedate, Harmony of the Seas also has a very fun escape room experience, rides and games in the Boardwalk and more.
One advantage Oasis class ships have always enjoyed is that they offer much more than any other ship, and in this case, the staggering amount of activities on Harmony of the Seas gives it the win for things to do.
Specialty Dining: Harmony of the Seas
Perhaps no other area of the cruise ship experience has changed in the last few years as dramatically as specialty dining on Royal Caribbean ships. These additional cost options offer guests additional dining choices to consider, and the array of choices between both ships is impressive.
Anthem of the Seas boasts quite a number of specialty restaurants that stand out. Jamie's Italian, Izumi, Chops Grille and Wonderland top the list of popular places guests enjoy on Anthem. We also like the easy grab-and-go nature of Johnny Rockets, which is a la carte instead of a more formal sit down experience on Harmony.
Harmony of the Seas is equal to the task when it comes to specialty dining. One big difference on Harmony of the Seas, compared to her Oasis class sisters, is the inclusion of Jamie's Italian. Harmony also boasts its own version of Wonderland, which is significantly larger and encompasses two decks. Even Izumi on Harmony of the Seas is larger, with an exclusive hibachi dining area. You will also find the ever-popular Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar on Harmony of the Seas, which heavily sways our vote.
Given the fact Harmony matches and exceeds Anthem's specialty dining offerings (and Anthem lacks a Sabor), we have to give Harmony of the Seas the edge once again.
Complimentary Dining: Harmony of the Seas
Of course, complimentary dining is at the heart of any cruise experience and both ships have a lot of great choices. In comparing the complimentary options, this is a war of attrition, where each ship offers very similar options. Both ships have a Cafe Promenade, Sorrentos, Solarium Bistro, Windjammer, Park Cafe/Cafe @ Two70, Dog House and room service.
The key differences here are in the details. First and foremost, Anthem of the Seas is handicapped by the fact it has recently undergone a change from Dynamic Dining back to traditional dining, although it still retains smaller dining rooms in lieu of a larger main dining room. The hours of operations and size of the Windjammer are superior on Anthem of the Seas, but once again, size proves to be the benefit for Harmony. There is a wider selection of choices at Cafe Promenade on Harmony, and the entire main dining room experience is far superior. For that alone, Harmony of the Seas wins this battle.
Itineraries: Anthem of the Seas
This could be among the least subjective points to consider between the two ships: where they sail to.
Harmony of the Seas only offers cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean throughout the year. Essentially the same six to seven ports, no matter when you choose to sail on her.
On the other hand, Anthem of the Seas varies her offerings on the time of year. Depending on the season, she offers cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Bermuda, New England and Canada. In addition, Anthem of the Seas is capable of visiting CocoCay, whereas Harmony of the Seas is not. Given the options between the two ships, this is a slam-dunk for Anthem of the Seas.
Pools: Anthem of the Seas
The pool deck experience is arguably one of the most important because it seems this is where guests will spend the most time aggregately during their cruise. After all, when booking a cruise, isn't everyone envisioning sitting by the pool on a deck chair with a drink in hand?
Harmony of the Seas has a number of smaller pools, which helps with crowds, and its Splashaway Bay option for kids is the best kids pool area we have seen yet. However, Harmony of the Seas lacks a pool in the Solarium (it has hot tubs and a mister instead), which has bothered many adults who enjoyed having a pool of their own.
Meanwhile, Anthem of the Seas not only has a pool in the Solarium, but an additional indoor pool that is perfect for any kind of weather. Combined with the main outdoor pool, pool days on Anthem are quite lovely. Admittedly, the "wave pool" on Anthem of the Seas for kids is less than stellar, so the kids might be better off in the regular pool. Nonetheless, Anthem of the Seas wins the contest of aquatic adventure.
Kids & Teens: Push
Both ships offer the most activities and programming for kids that we have seen across any Royal Caribbean ship. In general, Royal Caribbean has been consistently increasing the amount of space and variety of programming for kids on its ships, and your children will have a blast on either.
Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean's supervised child program, and both ships have a large dedicated space onboard for kids ranging in ages from 6 months through 17 years old. Harmony of the Seas does have a larger footprint for its Adventure Ocean program, but the quality of offerings on both ships is nearly identical. Harmony of the Seas does have a few dedicated spaces that Anthem does not, such as the art and science labs.
There is a definite advantage for older kids (tweens and teens) on Anthem of the Seas because of SeaPlex. SeaPlex offers so much for this age group, that it is undeniably fun for them and because it is indoors, there is rarely any excuse to miss out on it. Bumper cars, Xbox gaming, ping pong, roller skating, dancing, circus school and more are part of the SeaPlex offerings. I am not certain how much Royal Caribbean was targeting teens when they developed the SeaPlex, but it is a homerun with these adolescents.
Of course, Harmony of the Seas has water slides and the Ultimate Abyss slide, which provides plenty of thrills for teens. There is also the zip line, mini golf course and the rest of the sports deck. You are just as likely to find plenty of teens hanging out here, as anywhere else. As we mentioned earlier, Splashway Bay is far superior a kids pool area than Anthem's H2O water zone.
The nursery facility on both ships is excellent and quite large. Parents of children under three years old will do well with either option.
In the end, we might give a slight edge to Anthem of the Seas for older children and Harmony of the Seas for younger children, but the differences are too minute to pick a clear winner.
When comparing these ships, they represent the two newest cruise ships in the United States cruise market and also come with a premium price tag because of that distinction. While rates will vary from sailing to sailing and month to month, you can expect to pay more for either ship compared to other ships in the fleet. These ships offer the best that Royal Caribbean has to offer, and it comes with the price tag to match.
Even with their premium price tags, both ships offer guests a lot to see, do and eat onboard. Royal Caribbean designed these ships to be destinations in and of themselves, and that means a lot of return on the money paid to cruise on them. Until further notice, we declare the value proposition for either ship a tie.
Verdict: Harmony of the Seas
Picking a winner was a lot like picking a favorite child: it depends on the day, but we are giving a slight edge to Harmony of the Seas. It is the newest, shiniest and down right most enjoyable ship we have cruised on to date. In most cases, Harmony of the Seas matches what Anthem of the Seas offers and gives back even more.
Harmony of the Seas also benefited greatly from the fact Royal Caribbean added a number of Quantum class features to the ship, such as a Bionic Bar, stateroom design and upgraded technology. If this were a comparison between Oasis or Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas might have done considerably better.
Once again, it is worth noting that we really like Anthem of the Seas. Her entertainment is quite impressive and there is nothing like Two70. Moreover, North Star, Ripcord and the entire SeaPlex is tons of fun, especially if you have older kids with you.
However, we are here to declare a winner and the "face that runs the place", the stylin', profilin', limousine riding to the port and wheelin' n' dealin' cruise ship is Harmony of the Seas!
In the spirit of fairness, we also posed this question to the public, with a twitter poll and Harmony of the Seas also seems to win the popular vote.
Considering entertainment, dining, staterooms, or anything else that matters to you, which Royal Caribbean ship do you prefer
— Royal Caribbean Blog (@theRCLblog) January 4, 2017
Guests on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas can reserve their own special spot on the pool deck that will be just for them throughout the day in a prime spot.
Thanks to Christy McLarty for providing this photo
The sun beds are located near North Star and overlook the pool deck in the North Star Private Lounge area on deck 15. The sun beds offer not just a private chair for you, but they are furnished with added cushions and pillows and come with a bottle of Moët Chandon Ice Imperial.
The cost is $150 per sun bed (plus 18% gratuity), and offers access to it throughout the day. These sun beds are available for all guests to reserve once onboard the ship.
Thanks to Rich Freudenberg for providing this photo
Do you want to reserve one of these chairs? Tell us what you think about this option in the comments!
Many people choose to celebrate the holidays on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and we have a look at some of the Christmas decorations onboard Anthem of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean decorates its ships quite nicely for the holidays, and each ship has a different look and feel for this special time of the year.
Special thanks to Christie McLarty for providing these photos.
Happy New Year!
Royal Caribbean's North Star observational pod on its Quantum class ships has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
The North Star is a one-of-a-kind and intimate experience that takes guests on an exhilarating journey high above the sea. This glass observation capsule gently rises more than 300 feet in the air and rotates upwards and over the sides of the ship to provide the most breathtaking, 360-degree views imaginable. These views helped the North Star break the record for “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship.”
North Star is available on three Royal Caribbean ships Quantum of the Seas from Beijing (Tianjin), China and Ovation of the Seas from Shanghai (Baoshan), China; Sydney, Australia; and Singapore. The third, Anthem of the Seas, cruises from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New York Harbor to Bermuda, The Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean is adding additional time for guests to enjoy two of the premier attractions on Anthem of the Seas.
In an effort to enhance the overall guest experience, Royal Caribbean is adding support staff onboard to accommodate expanded hours of operation at Ripcord by iFly and North Star attractions. This will allow more guests to experience these popular attractions than ever before.
The expanded hours for these attractions will be in place for sailings beginning November 27, 2016.
Royal Caribbean is also adding more convenient line-up of show times that complement the evening dining options. For guests in the early dinner seating at 6:00pm, their evening show will be at 8:30pm. For guests in the late dinner seating (8:30pm), their show time will be at 10:30pm.
The additional hours are part of the changes Royal Caribbean is making to Anthem of the Seas that were announced this week, including a notable change to dinner.
Royal Caribbean will be discontinuing its Dynamic Dining program on Anthem of the Seas, beginning with sailings on November 27, 2016.
The reason for the change is feedback from guests indicated a preference for a dining program that combines traditional seating with the option for flexibility. As a result, Royal Caribbean will offer on Anthem of the Seas My Time Dining program, with traditional and flexible options, as well as introduce new, upgraded dinner menus. The four main restaurants – Chic, Grande, Silk, and American Icon – will now become the main dining venues to support the My Time Dining program and will all feature the same upgraded dinner menu each evening. My Time Dining flexible venues will be located on Deck 4 in American Icon and Silk, while Chic and Grande will be designated as the early and late seating restaurants on Deck 3. The name and décor of each venue will remain unchanged.
All Anthem of the Seas sailings departing on-or-after November 27th, 2016, as well as sailings departing November 23rd, 2016 through April 14th, 2017 onboard Ovation of the Seas, will be impacted by this change. In addition, beginning November 27th, 2016, Anthem of the Seas will offer either one or two formal evenings per cruise, dependent upon sailing length.
All active bookings on-or-after November 27th, 2016 on Anthem of the Seas will automatically convert to the new dining program, respecting all pre-selected times, party sizes and other reservation features.
Traditional Dining will occur in The Grand and Chic restaurants and choose between early (6:00pm) and late seating (8:30pm). Traditional dining includes a fixed dining time, fixed venue, fixed table assignment and same table companions each evening.
Flexible Dining will occur in the Silk and American Icon Grill restaurants. Guests in Flexible Dining choose a preferred dining time and are seated on a first come, first served basis and include a variable dining time with fixed venue and flexible table assignments.
Families with small children can take advantage of My Family Time dining benefits while sailing onboard Anthem of the Seas. This is available as part of the traditional dining experience during the early seating time and can be reserved pre-cruise via Cruise Planner or once onboard. My Family Time dining allows children ages 3-to-11 to enjoy their meal within 40 minutes of seating before heading to the evening’s Adventure Ocean activities.
New, upgraded dinner menus will be introduced each evening in all four main dining restaurants.
The decision to change how guests dine on Anthem of the Seas marks a tremendous reversal in fortunes for the Dynamic Dining program, which at one time was arguably heralded as the future of cruise ship dining.
Back in March 2014, Royal Caribbean had previously announced its Quantum-class cruise ships would usher in a radically new dining program called Dynamic Dining, where there would be no main dining room and instead would offer a combination of complimentary and specialty restaurants for guests to choose from. Then in August 2014, Royal Caribbean announced Dynamic Dining would spread to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is a rather unique cruise ship, and offers some truly fun experiences that are certain to make memories for everyone in your group.
Royal Caribbean packed a lot into this ship, but we picked seven aspects of the cruise experience that we really love and think you will too! Anthem of the Seas offers quite a variety of activities, with thrills, impressive technology and more dining options than you would know what to do with.
1. North Star
Before you even step foot onto Anthem of the Seas, you will see one of the more prominent features of the ship, North Star.
Royal Caribbean's North Star takes guests in an observation pod 300 feet above sea level for amazing views of the area around the ship. For the the first time ever, guests can get an amazing view around their cruise ship and take what is sure to become amazing photos of the scenery.
Whether at sea or in port, the views from North Star are stupendous and a one-of-a-kind experience.
2. We Will Rock You
Did you know some Royal Caribbean ships offer full Broadway shows? On Anthem of the Seas, guests can enjoy the hit musical, "We Will Rock You."
Written by British-comedian Ben Elton, this hilarious award-winning and record-breaking phenomenon is built around 24 of the greatest hits of British rock legend, Queen. The best part about the show is it is included in your cruise fare!
3. Bionic Bar
Regardless of if you actually get a drink here, the Bionic Bar is an experience to itself onboard Anthem of the Seas. Two robot bartenders can make two drinks per minute, delivered in plastic cups via four conveyor belts.
Built by Makr Shakr, the idea is simple: guests place orders via tablets and then can watch the robot bartenders start mixing the cocktails. Bionic Bar combines two big trends, robotics and mixology.
The single armed robot will get the ice, mints and lemon and then squeeze and shake them to make your drink. Eventually, there wont be a limit on what the drinks the robots can make. The customization is what Royal Caribbean is aiming for.
4. Anything in Two70
When we cruise on Quantum-class ships, we become self-diagnosed Two70 junkies. Two70 is the large, multi-purpose space at the aft of the ship offering some of the best entertainment onboard Anthem of the Seas.
Two70, Royal Caribbean's transformative space onboard Anthem of the Seas fuses highly advanced robotic and projected technology with live performance, creating an unparalleled entertainment experience on land or sea.
As its name implies, Two70 offers a two hundred and seventy degree view from the aft of the ship. An expansive ocean view that is two decks high allows you to see an amazing view during the day. At night, Two70 transforms to offer a seamless video projection, robotics and human artistry.
An undeniably cool innovation onboard Anthem of the Seas are the RFID bracelets known as WOW Bands.
WOW Bands give guests everything they have been accustomed to having in a SeaPass card, on their wrist. This means getting access to staterooms, making purchases and checking in for entertainment has never been easier.
Guests can use their WOWband to enter their staterooms, purchase beverages, merchandise and anything else Royal Caribbean sells. Plus, WOWbands serve as an easy way to distinguish which muster station each guest is assigned to.
WOW Bands are an optional feature, but once you try the WOW Bands, you will likely be leaving your SeaPass card behind in your stateroom.
6. Ripcord by iFly
RipCord by iFly is a skydiving simulator that will be a first for cruise ships. Rather than descend from 10,000 feet in the sky, RipCord allows guests to get the sensation of skydiving without the incredible risk.
Guests put on a jumpsuit and goggles and then soar up to 23 feet in the air for a two-minute adrenaline rush.
7. Music Hall
Spanning two decks, the Music Hall lives up to its name with bands, musicians and DJs playing music for all to enjoy.
If you want to jump into a crowd of people and put your hands into the air like you just don't care, then Music Hall is for you.
This hip spot features live music in the evenings to get things started and that gets a crowd in of itself. But after the band is done, the DJ comes out and then Music Hall really comes alive.
Guests onboard Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas can get a real taste of New York when they dine in the Windjammer's New York Deli. Experience specially prepared deli favorites like pastrami sandwiches, rye bread and kosher pickles that the Big Apple is so well known for.