Sail Date: November 30, 2015
Reviewed: 1 year ago
Traveled As: Couple
Room Type: Balcony
** IMPORTANT NOTE: Very few islands on this itinerary accept American Express. I did not know that prior to sailing. Avoid having to ask total strangers you've never spoken to, but have seen once on the ship, for a loan to pay for your meal at one of the restaurant/bars...TAKE YOUR VISA OR MASTERCARD (or everyone gladly accepts cash, too)!! Although introducing yourself with, "Hi - I know we don't know each other, but we're on the same ship and all I brought was my AmEx - the rest of my cards and cash are in my cabin safe...and this place won't take AmEx, but we've already eaten the food and had the drinks...is there anyway I can PLEASE borrow $25 until we get back to the ship??" makes for an interesting - and memorable - situation! **
This was our second cruise - after our first on the Norwegian Getaway this summer, we couldn't wait to go on another. Everyone we met said Royal Caribbean was incredible and suggested we give them a try. We booked this cruise the same day we got home from the last.
Overall, things were "meh" - but the ship crew made for a pretty awful experience. I'm not usually one who complains - our last cruise received a 5 star rating from me, and I think I may have 4-5 negative reviews out of 487 on Amazon. However, to say this was a great time would mislead people. It wasn't just us - the discussions regarding the poor service were common on the ship.
For the cost of this cruise I expected good service - not poorly trained staff on their first contract, unhelpful bar servers who would rather stand in the corner and talk to each other rather than help passengers, billing issues every single day, crew working in the Windjammer (buffet) who can't locate things like ketchup or Parmesan cheese, bartenders who charge for your Cokes even though you have the Ultimate Beverage Package, or chefs who work the make-your-own-pasta station, but can't make spaghetti noodles with butter. (No kidding - the head chef overheard the chef tell me that was impossible to make - as they turn out all sorts of pasta with meats and veggies added - and came over to make it himself. Rather than just boiling the noodles and then adding some butter, the "head chef" cooked the noodles in a sauté pan with oil. I kid you not - I couldn't make that up!)
It's too bad, really - the Anthem is a beautiful ship. She's HUGE! Lots to do and some very inventive, cool features. The ship was wonderful - beautifully kept up and very clean. I didn't realize she was still in her inaugural year - but it was fun being some of the first to sail on her.
The problems really revolved around the staff. It was impossible to find anyone to assist you. Out of 12 days, the ONLY day we were able to get bar service was on our last day. I know we made several complaints, as did many of the new friends we made. When I stopped one guy dressed as a bar service employee and asked for a Coke, he told me - and I quote: "the bar is over there - go get it!". Yeah. We are not "experienced cruisers", having only taken one cruise in the past - but this was the complete opposite of our experience with Norwegian.
I was at Guest Services at least twice every day of our trip. Why? Because they couldn't manage to get our billing straight. I was charged for mini bar drinks we didn't consume. (At $2.66 a Coke, I threatened my daughter with swimming home if she even thought about touching anything in the mini bar!) We were charged for drinks we got at a couple of different bars (especially the pool bar), even though I had the Ultimate Beverage Package and my daughter had the Premium Package. We've been home for 3 days now and I am still dealing with erroneous charges. The promises of removing incorrect charges did not materialize. It's frustrating to spend so much of your vacation dealing with billing problems. We had purchased the texting package through the Royal IQ app when we first got on board - but it wasn't working. We would text each other, but not receive the texts for 8+ hours, if we received them at all. I can't tell you how many times I had to request a refund for that app (after I had cancelled it - which they managed to shut off immediately). I still have not gotten those charges removed.
We just ate in the Windjammer for most of our meals - it's quick and easy. The first few days the food was really good - we enjoyed all the fruit and different selections. However, by day 6 (of 12 days), the food had been reheated too many times - so the flavor wasn't there. Everything was bland and...over done. In a big way. Many items were dried out and unappetizing. I love new potatoes - the first night they were incredible and cooked perfectly. When I got them again toward the end of the cruise, they were so hard I could not cut them - and when I finally managed to make an indentation with my knife, the whole potato shattered. I'm not a picky eater - as long as I don't have to cook it, life is awesome! That changed as the cruise went on, and we finally took advantage of the restaurant dining for the remaining nights. Also, toward the end of the cruise, many things began to run out - if you weren't there before 9:30 (breakfast stops at 11) the bacon was gone and only small pieces of dry sausage remained. Several of the cereals were also gone by then. Throughout the cruise the oatmeal was soup. Not only runny, but truly soupy.
The bumper cars weren't open very often, even though the schedule said they would be available during certain windows. Out of the 4 times we went up to ride them (during scheduled availability), they were open once. The Flow Rider was fantastic and my daughter became quite good at that. The crew working the Flow Rider were some of the best we encountered - very helpful and patient, and both had a great sense of humor. The skydiving was good - we live very close to one of those facilities so we decided not to do it on the ship. (There was always a decent line so we wanted others to have a chance to ride it.) The pools were terrific - big and plenty of them. In this aspect, this ship totally kicked the Getaway out of the sea. The rooms are nice and we thought ours was pretty spacious. (We had a balcony.) The activities are fun - although we never did see the captain or the cruise director. (Except on the tv.) The casino staff - especially one of the hosts - was rude and acted put out if you asked him even the most basic question. (I'm not a gambler and did not know where to cash in my chips - he acted highly annoyed that I would bother him with that. No one else was with him or waiting to speak with him - he was all alone at the desk.) It was also difficult to find bar service throughout the casino - whether at the tables or the slot machines.
It is frustrating for the passengers (AND crew!) if the crew isn't well-trained. Everyone has to start at the beginning and everyone begins with their first contract - which has to be difficult. Filling a ship with brand new crew and not training them on other ships with experienced crew members, is just asking for disaster. And that's pretty much how it was.
I really hope Royal Caribbean listens to all the complaints they received about this voyage. The Anthem has the potential to be an incredible experience - it really does. However, if they don't train their crew better and change a few things, they will have to start paying people to stay on her - rather than raking in the money she could be making.
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|Cabin / Stateroom||This says we were in cabin 6588, but that's wrong. We were in 558 on deck 7 (so 7558). It was centrally located and easy to get to. We were almost dead center in the ship - so it was quiet and far enough away from the action that resting was easy. Beautiful accommodations - the room was nice and spacious. The balcony provided some breathtaking views and gave us the option of leaving our door open (while we were in the room) so we could hear the sea. (Our cruise was Nov 30-Dec 12, so the heat wasn't an issue. In fact, we FROZE the first 2 days!) There is plenty of space to unpack and a comfortable couch by the balcony. The desk/dressing table was convenient. We both truly enjoyed the location and the decor of our cabin...best one on the ship! (Ok, maybe the suites are a little better...) ;)|
|Embarkation and Disembarkation||Both were extremely easy. Bayonne was recently remodeled and the area is now so easy to get around. It's a beautiful pier. The process is exceptionally easy IF you check in prior to leaving. That makes all the difference!|
|Ship Quality||The ship is just beautiful! There are so many activities to do and countless ways they presto-change-o things from one surface to another. I love seeing how they can turn a bumper car rink into a roller skating rink, or whatever. It's like living with Inspector Gadget. lol The ship's art was interesting, there are loads of elevators (but they are still always busy), tons of gorgeous locations to just sit and read, nap or just take it all in. The Anthem was very clean and well cared for. Although we were extremely disappointed with the staff, the ship was wonderful and one that has infinite potential. Get a new crew and you'll have a floating paradise!|
|Destinations and Excursions||
I could skip Roatan, Honduras - as two women traveling alone, the place didn't feel very safe or secure. There is even a large sign on the pier advising you to leave valuables on the ship and to be careful. (I'd never seen that in any other port.) The locals literally accost you while trying to get you to take their taxi rides outside the main port area. We received a lot of catcalls and many rude/gross comments were made in Spanish by the local men. They put a lot of pressure on you to go with them - even following you down the street if you ignore them or politely decline.
Labadee was fantastic - we really enjoyed that beautiful place. The zip lining was SO fun - and the beach is beautiful. I recommend you get to the beach early - one of the guys will set up 2 chairs and a little cabana for you for a nominal charge. (I think I gave him $20 - everyone else said they gave their guy $10.) MAKE SURE you take water shoes or wear shoes you don't mind walking into the ocean with. The beach is full of sharp coral and most found it almost impossible to walk over the coral to get in the water. Water shoes helped significantly!!
Jamaica was beautiful - I suggest doing the horseback excursion if you are at all interested. That was our favorite excursion EVER! Chakka guides were phenomenal riders and extremely fun. They made the excursion indescribably awesome - you will not regret meeting Nickelo! They even took our cameras and took tons of photos of us and the area for us. (We're not the best riders - I hadn't been on a horse in at least 20 years.) It's a slow trail ride while you look at the beautiful scenery - and you have saddles. However, the horses you ride in the water do not have saddles - and it's tough to stay on! I was sore for DAYS - but it was totally worth it. We both want to just fly back into Jamaica and stay for a few days, only because we want to go to Chakka again. The horses love the swimming - and it's a lot harder than it looks. WAY TOO FUN!!
It was a downpour in Cozumel. We had tickets to Playa Mia, but wound up not going. It was really wet. I had a small zippered pouch I kept my stuff in - and when we returned to the ship after a short trip to the pier, everything in the pouch was soaked! It seems beautiful, but I can't give you an unbiased opinion since it was just so wet.
We hit Grand Cayman right after a large storm swept through, so the water was really rough. We had been looking forward to snorkeling. but you couldn't see anything. Just trying to get out of the ocean was difficult - the surf kept pulling you back in. I wound up with "sand rash" (instead of "road rash") while trying to get out of the water and back on the beach. lol A few people had to have help getting out of the water. I think I'm still picking sand out of my hair from Grand Cayman! haha That was a fun place and 7 Mile Beach is truly gorgeous!
|Onboard Activities||Lots and lots to do! Skip the lengthy lines for the really popular activities (Flow Rider, iFLY, etc) the first day or two - the lines will decrease dramatically. During that time, take advantage of some of the other fun activities. My daughter is 15 and at a tough age to entertain - I didn't hear the ear-grating "I'm boooored!!" one single time on this trip! We both constantly found things we wanted to do - it was hard to decide when to just chill because we always wanted to participate in all the different things going on!|
|Entertainment||The shows weren't all that great - the acrobats were absolutely fabulous, but the Gift and We Will Rock You were just...lackluster. (And I'm not a big theater person.) There were a couple of singers on the ship who could blow the speakers apart - they were awesome! One of the entertainers we were looking forward to never got to perform because they kept saying his props didn't arrive.|
|Service and Staff||Everyone on the ship - at least those we spoke with, which was many - was disappointed and angry at the very poor service. Most of the people we befriended had taken many Royal Caribbean cruises in the past - and every single one of those people said the staff and service on this cruise was not indicative of how RC normally is. Based on my own experience, I have no desire to cruise with them again. In fact, I'm annoyed I spent so much for the trip when I could have spent those 12 days at a fast food restaurant and received better service.|
|Food and Dining||We enjoyed the convenience of the Windjammer (buffet) - but avoid it during the last half of your journey! The food gets reheated way too many times, and the leftovers become really unappealing. (I don't mind leftovers at all...so long as they don't last forever, and aren't dry and flavorless.) The restaurants are amazing and Chops is PHENOMENAL!!|
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|Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey||Beautifully redone. If you follow the heard of people, it's easy. Check in prior to leaving home for a much smoother experience. A Cadillac taxi (they wait by baggage claim) from Newark to Cape Liberty was $85 for 2 people, including a nice tip. Regular taxi from Cape Liberty to Newark was around $65 for two people, without tip.|
|Labadee (Cruiseline Private Island)||Beautiful island! Royal Caribbean has done a great job of adding basic amenities without disrupting natural beauty. Zip line was super fun! Go early to get chairs and a little cabana set up for you in a good spot. Getting in the water almost requires some sort of shoes. Lovely island - look in the water when you get off the ship. Lots of jelly fish next to the pier. (Not where you swim.)|
|Falmouth, Jamaica||Very fun! Gorgeous island, people are kind and fun. Good shopping. Horseback riding excursion (at Chakka) is SO incredible. We highly, highly recommend it!|
|George Town, Grand Cayman||We arrived right after a storm so the sea was rough. Snorkeling was impossible due to no visibility. (Not usual from what I've heard.) 7 Mile Beach is nice.|
|Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico||Nice place, dancers in native garb meet you at the land end of the pier. Limitless photo opportunities. Just like the rest of the islands - tons of shopping, friendly locals, LONG pier! *** NOTE: No one on this island accepts American Express - including the bars/restaurants. ***|
|Coxen Hole, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras||I don't care to ever visit Roatan again. It's much nicer if you stay on the main pier portion. Great shopping and a nice bar in that area. Go past that area (lots of little huts where men offer taxi rides and personal tours) and you are accosted by the local men trying to get you to take their "deal". Two women traveling alone did not feel safe - we did not leave the pier area to explore the island due to the pushiness of the men and the intuitive feeling of uneasiness. Many catcalls and disgusting/vulgar comments from the local men (in Spanish).|
|Cozumel, Mexico||It's tough for me to leave an objective review of this island, or provide any tips. It rained SO much, SO hard, and for SO long, our excursion to Playa Mia was cancelled and we didn't get to explore much of the island. Beautiful place, though!|
* The North Star is a lot like a glass elevator - we thought it was much cooler to watch it move from the deck, than it was to be inside of it. (We're not big fans of heights.)
* WATER SHOES are important if you want to get in the water on the islands.
* Not all activities are open when scheduled.