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Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
19 Jun 2022

Today is the second day of my cruise on Anthem of the Seas, and it is a sea day as we make our way to La Rochelle, France.

We are sailing through the Bay of Biscay today, a patch of sea that has been feared by sailors for hundreds of years. Due to its exposure to the open Atlantic waters, the bay often encounters treacherous weather conditions and swells making ports inaccessible.

While we did not encounter treacherous seas like many unlucky sailors in the past, the sea was far from calm and the weather was quite dreary throughout the day. There was no rain, but was quite cloudy and chilly outside. I'm hoping we encounter more sunlight later on in this cruise!

Despite traveling west, the ship's time shifted one hour forward today to match with Spain and France's time zone. I took it easy this morning with a small breakfast at Cafe @ Two70 while catching up on blogging.

I had reserved a 12PM lunch at Jamie's Italian on this cruise, so I was looking forward to a delicious Italian meal! While I plan to eat primarily at complimentary dining venues on this cruise, I did treat myself and my friend Samantha to lunch at Jamie's with onboard credit I received when booking the sailing.

Jamie's Italian is my favorite Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant, and we ordered quite a few dishes to try. Starting our meal was the black truffle arancini, ultimate garlic bread, and burrata.

For the main course, I ordered my go-to dish of eggplant parmagiana and penne pomodoro. Samantha loved her baked lasagne and truffle tagliatelle.

I was far too full, so I took my dessert (Amalfi lemon cheesecake) to go!

The meal was fairly quick, with us in and out in a little over an hour. The food was up to par (and maybe even a bit better) with Jamie's Italian on other ships, and our server Ronald was fantastic!

Funny enough, Jamie Oliver himself was onboard Anthem of the Seas for the day yesterday to work with the staff on training and quality! It definitely paid off as the meal was delightful.

After lunch I decided to test my luck with my Crown & Anchor Society free play money at the casino. I quickly turned $8 into $30, but I am not much of a gambler, so I decided to cash out my winnings instead of losing it all.

Following today's (extra large) winnings, I took a walk around the pool deck to get some air. I fully expected the pool deck to be nearly empty, so I was extremely surprised to see a ton of guests "sunbathing" under the cloudy skies!

I've never seen so many guests on the pool deck during a dreary weather day in the Caribbean, so it was fun to see the cultural differences in attitude toward far from ideal weather.

After a few rounds of cards in the Solarium, we attended an afternoon "Where in the World?" trivia session at Schooner Bar. We were given a series of clues in order to guess where in the world the trivia host was describing. To my surprise, we did pretty well!

After such a large lunch at Jamie's Italian, we decided to skip the Main Dining Room in favor of a lighter meal at Solarium Bistro.

Solarium Bistro is a Mediterranean-inspired complimentary restaurant served buffet style (with main dishes ordered via a menu). From hummus to falafel, grilled vegetables, and salmon, it hit the spot for a quick dinner. Not many people even know this restaurant exists, so it was relatively empty.

This evening's festivities first brought us to karaoke in Boleros followed by tonight's big band jazz performance in Two70. I love jazz music, and Royal Caribbean always has amazing big band jazz performances, so I was excited to check it out.

Tonight's performance definitely did not disappoint and it has been my favorite entertainment thus far onboard. Samantha and I were both in jazz band throughout high school, so we are total geeks when it comes to jazz music! From the musicians' excellent improvising skills to watching guests dance to the tunes, it was a wonderful way to end our second day on Anthem of the Seas.

Tomorrow we are docked in La Rochelle, France!

Stray observations:

There was a Titanic staircase backdrop for formal night photos tonight.

There are no chairs on the promenade deck aside from the smoking area. Usually there are chairs to sit and watch the view, but I haven't seen any on this ship.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
18 Jun 2022

Today is the first day of my first ever European cruise! Over the next week, I'll be onboard Anthem of the Seas for a 7-night cruise, visiting four ports in northern Spain and France. The next week should lead to some fun adventures in La Rochelle, Bilbao, La Coruña, and Le Havre, so be sure to follow along on this live blog!

I arrived in London yesterday after spending the previous few days visiting friends in Edinburgh and Manchester. Upon arrival, I checked into my hotel in the city center, the Hilton London Bankside.

Staying the night in London

When checking in, I was pleasantly surprised with a complimentary upgrade to a suite! We were placed in the hotel's Vegan Suite, a room made with 100% vegan materials. With one bedroom, a living room, full bathroom, and half bath, it was very comfortable and spacious!

I ended up spending most of the evening relaxing in the suite, as I will be returning to London for sightseeing the weekend after my cruise. I realized it's a good idea that I'm never booked in a suite on a cruise ship. If how much time I spent in my hotel suite is any indication of how much time I would spend in a cruise ship suite... I would probably never leave my stateroom!

Suites at the Hilton London Bankside also come with complimentary access to the Executive Lounge, similar to the Diamond Lounge on Royal Caribbean ships. Complimentary soft drinks, coffee, and snacks are available throughout the day and a happy hour is served from 6-8PM with alcoholic beverages and a hot food selection.

The hotel had an impressive breakfast selection as well, with both cold and hot foods served buffet style and cooked to order.

I enjoyed the hotel's location near the river. Tourist sites and plenty of restaurants and bars were just a short walk away, and the hotel was well located for public transit. I’m glad I spent the night in London instead of Southampton, as it was extremely easy to get to the port the next day!

Getting to the Southampton cruise port

Southampton is around 75 miles from London and is easily accessed via train. I booked roundtrip train tickets on the app Trainline for $70. I booked the “Off-Peak Return” ticket which meant I could take any train during off-peak hours. I liked the flexibility of this ticket as I did not have to rush to the station and I can return to London on any train of disembarkation day.

My friend Samantha and I walked around 15 minutes from the London Hilton Bankside to London Waterloo station. Boarding the train is extremely simple, as there is no security and you simply scan your e-ticket at the appropriate platform. The train was comfortable and air conditioned and it was a brief 80 minute ride through the English countryside to Southampton.

When we arrived, we took an Uber to the port. It would have been about a 20 minute walk, but with luggage we figured it was worth the $6 Uber.

My arrival time was slated for 12:30, but when we got to the terminal no one was checking arrival times. In fact, there was hardly anyone at the terminal when we arrived at 11AM! After the quickest check-in process I've had yet, we were onboard and ready to explore the ship.

First impressions of Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas is a Quantum Class cruise ship and was launched in 2015. The ship is in excellent condition and is basically identical to Ovation of the Seas, which I sailed on to Alaska last year.

In an effort to skip the crowds at the Windjammer, we ate lunch at Cafe @ Two70, one of my favorite quick lunch spots on any Quantum Class ship. Two70 is an amazing venue, both for entertainment and lounging during the day, and it’s my favorite place to relax so far on Anthem of the Seas.

After lunch we opened the Royal Caribbean app to make show reservations for the week. Surprisingly, the only show requiring reservations was Spectra’s Cabaret in Two70. I also made a reservation for the North Star, which is complimentary on port days and $19.99 on sea days.

Our North Star reservation was for 2PM, so we headed to the pool deck after lunch to board the 360 degree observation pod that would take us 300 feet above sea level! The weather was perfect in the afternoon, leading to clear skies and excellent views of the ship from above.

Stateroom impressions

Staterooms were ready at 2PM, so I checked out my stateroom right after finishing the North Star. I booked an interior guarantee stateroom for this cruise and was placed into a deck 9 forward room.

Because Anthem of the Seas is a relatively new cruise ship, the staterooms have plenty of storage and outlets. The decor is modern compared to older ships like Freedom of the Seas, and the room features a virtual balcony, allowing us to see “outside” even from our interior room!

We were able to get our bed separated into two twin beds, which made the room feel bigger due to the extra walking space between the two beds.

Robes, a fruit plate, and San Benedetto water were in the room as a perk of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. A kettle was also provided for tea and coffee.

Sailaway and dinner

We spent an hour or so relaxing in the room to unpack and chill before a busy evening onboard.

Sailaway was at 5PM, so we headed to the Solarium bridge wings to watch Anthem of the Seas depart Southampton and begin her journey to La Rochelle, France.

After sailaway, we made our way to the Main Dining Room for our 5:30PM traditional dining reservation. Initially we were going to be seated at a table for 8-10 guests, so I asked if we could have a small table instead. To my surprise, we were brought to a 2-person table right by the window! I couldn’t have asked for a better table location, and we spent the meal enjoying views of the Isle of Wight and English Channel.

Tonight’s meal in the Main Dining Room was really tasty and the service was prompt. I noticed the Main Dining Room menu had an Indian curry option and a more traditional UK option available, with Chicken Saag and Guinness Pie. This is just one of many differences I’ve noticed on a UK sailing from the US so far!

Evening activities

We finished dinner around 7PM and spent some time in the Solarium hot tubs. I love the Solarium on Quantum Class ships; the area is spacious, climate-controlled, and has plenty of pool areas and hot tubs to enjoy.

We then spent an hour or so in the pub listening to the live guitarist before heading to Two70 for the venue’s signature show, Spectra’s Cabaret.

The show was extremely similar to Pixel’s Cabaret, which I saw on Ovation of the Seas last year. Combining electronic effects, robotic television screens, projection mapping, dance, and vocals, the show was entertaining… although I could not make out any type of storyline at all.

I feel like the Two70 venue has such impressive, immersive technology that a show with a better storyline would be absolutely incredible to watch. The cabaret shows don’t make much sense to me, although I did enjoy the performance overall and the crew member who played Spectra was excellent!

As the show ended around 11PM, we headed to bed. Tomorrow is a sea day as we make our way through the Bay of Biscay to France!

Stray observations

There are occasionally rail strikes scheduled throughout the year in the UK. Be sure to keep an eye on if there will be any strikes when you plan to travel to port so you can schedule a backup option for arrival to Southampton.

While I frequently encounter small businesses that do not take card payments in mainland Europe, paying with contactless debit or credit cards is the norm everywhere I've been in the UK. Therefore, it is not necessary to take cash out in pounds when cruising out of England.

From my initial observations, I would say the guest makeup is at least 80% guests from the United Kingdom. I didn't see any UK outlets, so be sure to pack either a mainland European or American-style converter if you're coming from the UK.

Live Blogging from Europe - Preamble

In:
15 Jun 2022

 Greetings from Scotland! I’m currently in Edinburgh after spending the past two weeks vacationing in Spain and Portugal, and later this week I’ll be boarding my first of two European cruises this summer. I'll be live blogging my experiences to share with all of you here, offering recaps and insights of what it's like to cruise in Europe!

Anthem of the Seas aerial

After 7 cruises in the Caribbean, 1 to Alaska, and 1 to Baja California, it was time to head across the pond to discover all that a European cruise has to offer. Of all the cruises I’ve done so far, I’ve been looking forward to these two cruises the most. While I’ve been to Europe several times before, I’ve never experienced a European cruise, and I’m excited to visit multiple cities and countries in just one week that I may have otherwise never visited.

Cruise 1: Anthem of the Seas

The first cruise I’ll be sailing on is a 7-night Spain & France cruise on Anthem of the Seas. Over the course of the week, this cruise will bring me to the following ports:

  • La Rochelle (Bordeaux), France
  • Bilbao, Spain
  • A Coruña, Spain
  • Le Havre (Paris), France

This cruise is a roundtrip sailing departing from Southampton, England.

These ports are located in northern Spain and France, so the culture and lifestyle will be quite different than what you may experience in ports like Valencia, Nice, and Palermo. While I’ve visited southern Spain before, I’ve never been to France or northern Spain. Therefore, every day should bring new experiences and cultural insights to discover.

My friend Samantha will be joining me on Anthem of the Seas! We’ve been friends since the 5th grade but have barely seen each other since she moved to England in 2018, so I am excited for a much-needed reunion while traveling around Spain and France.

Why I chose this cruise

Every time I visit Europe, I tend to travel to Italy. While I absolutely love visiting Italy as I can learn more about my heritage, practice Italian, visit my Italian family, and eat out-of-this-world food, I figured it was time to try something new.

My cruise on Anthem of the Seas will visit less common cruise ports in Europe. While I’ve heard a lot about popular ports like Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Marseille, I do not know much about any of the ports I’ll be visiting on my Anthem of the Seas cruise.

In addition, Northern Nevada, where I live, has quite a bit of Basque influence, with several restaurants, festivals, bars, and museums dedicated to Basque history and culture. I’m excited to learn more about the Basque country while visiting Bilbao.

My plans in port

I haven’t booked any excursions and I don’t plan to do so for this cruise. I generally prefer to explore on my own, especially in Europe where most towns tend to be walkable and offer plenty to see without needing a tour guide.

Plus, Samantha and I are quite happy to simply walk around, hang out by the waterfront, and taste local cuisine and wine in our free time, so there was no need to spend extra on excursions!

The last day of our cruise visits Le Havre, France, otherwise known as the “Paris” cruise port. I find this to be a slightly misleading title due to the fact that Paris is around 2.5 hours away from Le Havre, but that’s fairly common for cruises to Europe.

While I haven’t been to Paris before, I do not think just a few hours will do the city justice, so I do not have plans to travel into the city. Instead I’ll just plan to visit at a later time when I can dedicate several days to exploring Paris.

Instead of Paris, my current idea is to visit the small town of Honfleur located around 30 minutes away from the port of Le Havre. It seems like a small, quaint port city that should make for a relaxing day where I can spend more time exploring as opposed to sitting on a bus for many hours.

My plans onboard

I haven’t sailed on a Quantum Class ship in a while, so I’m excited to get onboard Anthem of the Seas.

I would really like to do the North Star at some point on the cruise as well as RipCord by iFLY. Because these activities are only offered on Quantum Class ships, it’s definitely worth trying them out on each Quantum Class ship!

I also have plans for my first spa treatment onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise and a delicious lunch at my favorite specialty restaurant, Jamie’s Italian. In addition, I am looking forward to seeing Anthem’s Broadway show, We Will Rock You.

Outside of these activities, I plan to spend quite a bit of time hanging out in the Two70 venue, which is one of my favorite places to sit back and relax on any Royal Caribbean ship.

Cruise 2: Rhapsody of the Seas

My second cruise is on one of Royal Caribbean's smallest cruise ships, Rhapsody of the Seas. Departing from Athens, Greece and ending in Ravenna, Italy, Rhapsody of the Seas will visit the following ports on our 7-night cruise:

  • Mykonos, Greece
  • Chania, Crete (Greece)
  • Zakynthos, Greece
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Split, Croatia

My sister Lauren and brother Dominic will be joining me on Rhapsody of the Seas. Lauren and I have talked about visiting Greece together for years, and we are finally getting a chance to island hop the country together!

Why I chose this cruise

My top priority for a European cruise was to book a port-intensive itinerary so I could experience as much as possible in a single week. While I don’t mind sea days, if I am traveling all the way to Europe I prefer to visit as many ports as possible as opposed to spending several days at sea. With five port days and one sea day, this cruise should offer exactly what I am looking for.

I was also interested in visiting not only Greece, but other countries as well. Being able to visit Greece, Montenegro, and Croatia and end the cruise in Italy was simply too amazing of an itinerary to pass up!

I’m also really interested in visiting Croatia. My childhood best friend was from Croatia, so I spent a lot of time hearing Croatian at her house and learning about Croatian culture. I’m excited to finally see the country in person!

I also wanted to end the cruise in Italy to allow for a few nice days of traveling in the country before flying back to the US.

My plans in port

Just like my cruise on Anthem of the Seas, I do not have any plans on shore and did not book any shore excursions. From what I’ve read, most of the ports we’ll be visiting should be easy to explore on foot. We’re also open to take taxis to beaches or wineries, but will likely make decisions on the fly.

I am most excited to visit Kotor, Montenegro. The port looks absolutely stunning, and it’s a country I never thought I would visit before. Sailing into the port should offer fantastic views of the “fjord”, and I’m hoping to do a short hike while in port to see the city from above.

Read more: 15 countries you didn't know you could cruise to on Royal Caribbean

I expect Mykonos will be the port most overrun with tourists, both from cruise ships and land-based travel. I will have to do a bit of research to see which areas to avoid on the island, as this is one of the most visited islands in Greece.

Lauren, Dominic, and I are pretty big foodies when we travel to Europe, so trying local cuisine and pastries will definitely be on the table.

After the cruise, we’ll be spending three nights in Italy before flying back to the United States.

My plans onboard

Because this is my first cruise on a Vision Class ship, I have no idea what to expect! While there may be fewer activities and amenities onboard compared to larger Royal Caribbean ships, I’m excited for the laid-back atmosphere I’m expecting to find onboard.

We do not have any plans to dine at specialty restaurants, so we will have dinner in either the Main Dining Room or Windjammer. Instead of spending money on specialty restaurants or a dining package onboard, we plan to enjoy a nice sit-down lunch every day in port.

I expect we will spend most of the time onboard tired from long days in port, so we’ll likely hang out at a bar or lounge, listen to music, or play cards to pass the time.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experience on Anthem of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas with all of you over the next couple of weeks! We will also be creating full ship tours of both ships for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 9 - Sea Day

In:
13 Jul 2019

Our final day is here, and we are finishing our nine-night cruise with a sea day. The final sea day is that last opportunity to revisit a favorite activity, or finally get around to that one thing you have been meaning to do.

We started off with an exclusive roller skating event in the SeaPlex. Just like the bumper cars earlier in the cruise, we rented out the SeaPlex for a private roller skating session for those that booked with our travel agency partner on this sailing.

This was my first time roller skating, and I think I got the hang of it pretty well.  It helped that I had ice skated quite a few times on other Royal Caribbean ships.

Roller skating worked up quite an appetite, so I took the family up to the Windjammer for breakfast.

After breakfast, there were a series of trivia events in the Schooner Bar. I lost track of how many we did, but it was at least three.

The rest of my afternoon was spent with our friends onboard the cruise.  I think we all took this time to hang out and enjoy each other's company.  We even tried out a new (to me) card game, Moniker.

Later in the day, we got together to record an episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast.  That episode will be available to download next week, but it highlights what we did onboard and talked about our cruise in general terms.

Dinner this evening was in the Windjammer because we wanted to have time to see one of our favorite hidden gem events, where the cast of "We Will Rock You" perform their favorite songs live.

It was held in the Schooner Bar and I broadcast the entire event on Periscope for you to enjoy at home. It is an incredible display of how talented the cast is, and I would love for this event to be held more regularly. 

As a final send off, we headed down to the pub for a final evening of singalongs.

That wraps up our Anthem of the Seas cruise adventure. It was a fantastic vacation, and I am so happy that I got to experience this ship and itinerary with so many other RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com readers.

Thank you to everyone who followed along with this live blog. It was a real treat for me.  Our next live blog kicks off next month for a quick Labor Day Weekend sailing on Mariner of the Seas.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 8 - Sea Day

In:
12 Jul 2019

Second to last day on Anthem of the Seas and it is a sea day.  We are making our way back to Bayonne, and it is hot, hot, hot.

Our first stop is breakfast at Cafe @ Two70, which coincided with a NextCruise presentation and raffle giveaway.

One of my favorite sea day activities is trivia, and we did general trivia as well as cartoon dog trivia. Sadly, no wins to report.

For lunch, we had some of the food at the pub.  There is food available at the pub for an extra cost that is pretty darn tasty.

After lunch, we headed up to the SeaPlex for essentially part two of our lunch at the Doghouse. Their hot dogs are really, really good!

Our next stop was the Royal Theater for a performance of the West End hit "We Will Rock You".

The cast is incredibly talented, and I guess the entire ship knew it because seats filled up so incredibly quickly. 

After the show, I was overdue for a nap and headed back to the room to enjoy a mid-afternoon slumber.

This was our second formal night, and some of us gathered to take a formal photo together.

Dinner tonight brought us to Wonderland. I have been to Wonderland a few times, but this was my parents' first visit and I think we all really enjoyed it.  Service was fantastic and the food had some really good flavor.

Following dinner, I started out in the pub, but opted to call it an early night and grab some extra sleep.

Tomorrow is another sea day.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Labadee

In:
11 Jul 2019

Our final port stop on this sailing brings us to Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee.

I have been to Labadee on numerous occasions, and I have always enjoyed my visits for the natural beauty of this corner of Haiti.

The ship was cleared to begin disembarkation around 9:30am, and I think we walked off the ship at around 10am. 

Prior to the cruise, I had reserved an over the water cabana.  For many years, I have booked cabanas at Labadee because I think it is a terrific value for a family. I love having our own little "refuge" from the elements, personalized service and prime napping spot. 

On this particular visit, we reserved a cabana at Nellie's Beach and it was exactly what we wanted.

The weather today was excellent. It was hot, and less oppressively humid as it was in San Juan yesterday. Moreover, there was more sunshine than clouds. This is the right equation for a day at the beach.

Throughout the day I also noticed some smaller enhancements that I did not recall seeing on past trips. Primarily seating areas along the paths.

Our day in Labadee went by quickly, and around 3pm or so we decided to head back to the ship. 

Back onboard, we showered and napped. The Captain said our weather for the return to Bayonne looks great.

We headed back to the main dining room for dinner, and the wait staff provided another excellent meal.  The service in the dining room is certainly in the upper echelon that I have encountered in recent memory.

After dinner we went to Two70 to see the Vistarama show, however, they played a virtual concert featuring Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns. I asked one of the tech guys and he indicated this was one of the dozen or so Vistarama shows they have, but I think everyone in Two70 was hoping for something else. 

Instead, we headed over to the pub for singalongs.  It was jam packed in the pub, as I think by now the word is out about the talent of the pub singer.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

 

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - San Juan

In:
10 Jul 2019

Next up on our Anthem of the Seas cruise is a stop at one of my favorite ports, San Juan.

I love visiting Puerto Rico, and we got into port a bit early. Our hours were 7am to 3pm, so it was a "front-loaded" day in port.

We dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean and then were off the ship right around 9am.  Even at 9am, it was quite warm.

We had no plans for the day, just to walk around and explore Old San Juan. Since the ships visiting Old San Juan for the day dock right in the city, it is super easy to walk off the ship and walk around.  There is so much great history, art and dining around the city.

We started off with a visit down Fortaleza Street for the famous street with all the umbrellas. Getting there early was great, because once the crowds hit that area, it was swamped later.

We checked out a few art shops along the way, and actually picked up a couple pieces that we will bring home.  I am not much of an art connoisseur, but the paintings of Puerto Rico are quite vibrant and beautiful to admire.

By 10am it was getting quite warm out and we sought refuge in a coffee shop to reevaluate our day (and enjoy some much needed air conditioning). We thought perhaps to go back to the ship since it was so warm, humid and muggy.  Ultimately, we decided to take a short taxi ride to visit one of the synagogues in San Juan.

Temple Beth Shalom is in San Juan, and has about 80 or so families part of their congregation. We met the administrator of the building, and he graciously took us around and told us about what it is like to be Jewish in Puerto Rico.  

It was really insightful, and a nice quick visit.

We took a taxi back to Old San Juan and went to find somewhere to eat lunch. We wanted Puerto Rican food in a restaurant with good air conditioning. That proved to be more difficult to locate than I anticipated, but we eventually found a great spot with fabulous air conditioning and great food too.

I opted for the berenjena (eggplant) with a side of mofongo.  The mofongo may not have been the absolute best on the island, but it was all very tasty and I enjoyed it.  

My wife ordered the skirt steak and that was a real winner.

All aboard was 2:30pm, so we got back on the ship by 1:30pm and took the most refreshing shower of my life.

Freshly showered and having regained the will to live, it was time for today's RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise event! We rented out a private session on the North Star, exlusively for those in our group that booked with MEI Travel and are RoyalCaribbeanBlog Insiders.

We managed to get in four rides on North Star, and despite the hazy conditions, we got a great view of the ship.

Dinner was back in the main dining room, followed by a rousing game of Jenga in the pub.

Tomrorow we will be in Labadee.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - St. Maarten

In:
09 Jul 2019

Our second port stop takes us to St. Maarten, but we will get to that later.  We were not scheduled to dock in St. Maarten until noon, so we had a half sea day to start out.

I slept in a bit and then headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast with the group at my favorite hidden gem, the outdoor dining deck at the aft.

The outdoor dining area at the back of the Windjammer is easily overlooked, so we decided to head there for a beautiful morning view with our breakfast.

Soon enough we began docking in St. Maarten and came alongside Freedom of the Seas right on time.

Our plans for today were to travel around St. Maarten and visit a few of our favorite spots.

We started out with a quick trip to Maho Beach to see the planes land. This is a famous spot where airplanes land very close to the beach below. Unfortunately it was incredibly hot and we managed to time it during a lull in the schedule, so we missed the big planes. Plus, it down poured on us to top things off.  Oh well, onto the next stop!

We were going to go to Grand Case beach, but opted to go to Mullet Bay instead since they had umbrellas and chairs for rent.

This was my first time here, and the water was beautiful.  Very rocky in some spots, but we found areas to enjoy a swim.  The current was also very strong, so we had to keep a closer eye on the kids.

The beach was nice, although there was a significant drop off in the beach from where the chairs were located to the water. Nonetheless, we had a great time.  The cost of two chairs and an umbrella was $10.

After our swim, we piled back into the van for a ride to the capital of the French side, Marigot.  

We wanted to make a quick stop at a French bakery and our driver recommended a good one.  They had bread, pastries, chocolate and of course, beer. 

We decided to head back to the ship to shower and relax before dinner. Another fun day in St. Maarten was in the books.

We showered and changed to get ready for dinner and headed back to the main dining room for dinner.

The dining room wait staff outdid themselves with the assortment of Mediterranean small plates. It was like our own little specialty restaurant!

After dinner, many of us in the group enjoyed drinks in Vintages, followed by a few good songs in the pub.

Tomorrow we are in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

In:
08 Jul 2019

It is another sea day on Anthem of the Seas, and we also got back that hour we shifted ahead for the other day.  Ordinarily that would be the recipe for sleeping in, but we had morning plans.

One of our group cruise activities for today was bumper cars in the SeaPlex.  In fact, we rented out bumper cars for an hour, so our group was able to enjoy unlimited bumper car rides for an hour.  

The kids in the group absolutely loved all the time to enjoy bumper cars, and they took exceptional pride in ganging up on hitting me in there. I think everyone really enjoyed this exclusive event.

After our session was up, we grabbed breakfast at Cafe @ Two70. It is proving to be our preferred breakfast spot onboard.

While enjoying breakfast, there was a speaker in Two70 who discussed the naval blockade during the U.S. Civil War. Always nice to see learning opportunities onboard.

There was time for a quick trivia session, which was called "table trivia", where you have 25 words that end in the letters "table" and you have to figure out which words they are based on their definition. For example, stable, relatable, et al.

We met Natalie and Frank, and managed to win trivia!

Many of us in the group organized a cabin crawl, where we get to see different stateroom types of those in the group.  We saw solo cabins, junior suites, balconies and even a Grand Loft Suite that culminated with a snack and drink reception by the Royal Genie. 

I opted for a light lunch in the Windjammer.

After lunch, we went back to the room for a bit to relax.  Later in the afternoon, we grabbed drinks in Two70 while the American Philharmonic performed virtually with songs such as Rhapsody in Blue, musical selections from West Side Story and John Williams.

By this point, I was in need of a nap and headed back to the room for a wonderful afternoon slumber.

Dinner this evening was at Jamie's Italian.  They seem to have the "original" Jamie's Italian menu, which means they still have two plank options (meat and veggie), various bruschettas and more entree options.  

The meal itself was great, and our waiter was excellent in his attentiveness.

After dinner, we enjoyed more time in the pub.

Tomorrow, we will be in St. Maarten.

Stray Observations

  • The US/Netherlands world cup final game was shown at the pool deck and in the pub. While I did not watch the game, it was incredibly popular activity today.
  • During the cabin crawl I stopped by the Concierge Lounge. As a Diamond Plus guest, I have access to this venue in addition to the Diamond Lounge. It is located aft on deck 12 and has a great view.

 

Anthem of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Bermuda

In:
07 Jul 2019

Our first port of call brings us to Bermuda, and Anthem of the Seas arrived into port fairly early in the morning. I certainly was not awake for it.

We got up around 7:30am and got everyone ready for a day at the beach, then headed down to Cafe @ Two70 for a quick breakfast. 

Cafe @ Two70 is not only quick, there are barely any lines there and the view you get with your meal is fantastic.

We walked off the gangway at about 9am and met up with our group, which was headed to Horseshoe Bay beach.  In fact, everyone who booked with our travel partner, MEI Travel, was provided with complimentary transportation to and from the beach.

The bus ride to the beach is about 30 minutes, and one added benefit of not taking the public bus is we were not dropped off at the top of the big hill that leads to the beach.

Once dropped off, it is a short walk to the beach. There is no admission fee for the beach, but chairs, umbrellas and other amenities cost extra. Two chairs and an umbrella will run you about $45.

Horseshoe Bay is beautiful, with stunning blue water, extra fine sand and just a few waves to make things interesting.

In addition to the main beach, there is a smaller cove to the right that is protected from the surf and ideal for young children.

There is also rock formations that everyone seems to climb, despite warnings against it.

If you walk all the way down the beach, you will find caves and other rock formations that are quite far from the crowds.

We had perfect weather for a picture perfect beach day. 

At 1pm we loaded back into the bus and took a ride back to the ship. I thought I would go into the Naval Dock Yard shops, but with only an hour and a half before all aboard, I thought it best to take a shower and relax onboard.

Relaxation time was short lived, as it was time to head up to the pool deck to enjoy sail away. The view was fantastic, and we hugged the coast of Bermuda, which provided some wonderful views.

For dinner, we were back in the main dining room. On day one we noticed a table next to us had some great Mediterranean selections and today the head waiter provided us with our own assortment of hummus, olives, babaganoush and more.

We rounded out our evening with the pub singer. The singer has a great stage presence, along with great vocals.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

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