Monday, June 6, 2016

Part 1: A Three Day (Not Hour) Tour on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas

I really thought I was headed to Gilligan's island or an adventure a la Poseidon.

A few months ago, after considering various ways to spend our five year wedding anniversary, we picked a three night "cruise to nowhere" on Royal Caribbean International's Anthem of the Seas. Then things began to fall apart...

First the ship made national news as it got stuck in the middle of a storm in the Atlantic. The storm was quicker than anticipated and by the time the captain made the call to return to New Jersey, it was in the midst of the worst and had to hunker down and weather it. 

The pictures and videos were...horrifying. All passengers were instructed to stay in their staterooms and live off of the items in the mini fridge. Glass was shattered. Waves were splashing over the balconies at the top of the ship. The captain sounded scared. 

Thankfully the ship returned to the port with only superficial damage, passengers who were safe (albeit traumatized) and was able to continue itineraries as planned. 

While I already felt uneasy, I decided that the ship did what she was designed to do.  Then the ship got norovirus

Norovirus (stomach virus) on cruise ships isn't unheard of, but because of my disease (ulcerative colitis) and my subsequent immunosuppression, I am more susceptible to getting it and being severely affected by it. The ship once again returned back early for a top to bottom sanitizing. 

At this point I'm thinking this entire trip was a mistake. I didn't want to leave the baby and I was afraid, for the first time in my life, to get on the ship. Nonetheless we decided to go for it.

While you may opt for a traditional dining experience, we wanted to try mostly specialty restaurants, as such, we booked our dining reservations and shows in advance. You need passes for pretty much everything. Keep this in mind - Anthem of the Seas takes a LOT of pre-planning, so go with a travel agent.

Day 1
I begrudgingly dropped off my son at his grandparents' house and we headed to the Cape Liberty port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The Cape Liberty port is about fifteen minutes from our house, so I love to sail from there. The parking situation wasn't so great this time around, however. With several credit card machines down it took us over two hours to park the car, which was a damper on an already rough morning for us.

A view of the Anthem of the Seas while waiting to park

That feeling quickly subsided as we boarded the beautiful ship. If there had been signs of damage from the storm, we didn't notice it.

There was also a nice surprise in store - because the ship was in port early to be sanitized because of the norovirus outbreak, all staterooms were immediately available upon boarding. Our stateroom, a balcony stateroom toward the back of deck 11, was gorgeous. It was new, clean and spacious compared to other balcony rooms we've stayed in.

Speaking of Norovirus, a quick note:

After we dropped off our luggage and freshened up, we went to do some exploring and grab lunch at the Windjammer Marketplace, the buffet. The buffet was the first time we noticed the increased measures taken to fight the virus. Instead of a simple hand spray or sanitizer station, the Anthem of the Seas crew directed all passengers entering the buffet to a full handwashing station where they ensured each passenger fully washed and dried their hands upon entering.


The crew worked incredibly hard to prevent the virus from spreading. At the entrance of almost all public spaces, there were crew members with sanitizer. Almost every day, we'd see crew members literally soaping and scrubbing walls. I appreciated every measure that was taken, and was a bit surprised by my fellow passengers complaining about this. One day with stomach virus is all that you need to remind you how miserable noro can be. So thank you, Anthem crew, for your hard work.

Following lunch we had an incredibly painless Muster drill in Two70, which did not involve life jackets, and included a fabulous video about washing your hands that we sang for three days straight.



After I signed up for the internet package to check up on my son. the ship took off to "nowhere." The itinerary showed that the ship would sail to Nova Scotia, dock for an hour to meet requirements, and head back to Cape Liberty. As we quietly sailed right by the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, I began getting excited once again.

Sailing past the Statue of Liberty and Downtown Manhattan
We saw the ship's signature show, We Will Rock You. I'm not sure what we were expecting but we both felt it was very strange. The music was fabulous, but I think we were both expecting a better story.

The first cruise I saw snow on deck!
On this first evening, we had reservations at one of the regular restaurants (read: not specialty and free) called American Icon Grill. We decided that out of all of the regular restaurants, this one appealed the most to us, since we were eating at fancier restaurants the next two nights. However, what they failed to tell us as we were making our reservations prior to the cruise was that each regular restaurant would have the same menu each night, and our meal was really just OK. We felt a bit squished, the service was marginal at best, and the food was edible, but nothing to write home about.

Also around this time we hit some major waves. I've cruised over 15 times in the past, and man, this ship was MOVING. At around 11pm, we went back to the room to change before going to grab a drink, and while my husband was in the bathroom I turned on the TV. The live map came up and I noticed the ship was south of Atlantic City, NJ.

Perhaps it was the rocking or the bottle of wine we had at dinner, but it took me a minute to realize we weren't anywhere near where we were supposed to be. We were sailing south when we were supposed to be traveling north and the waves were quite bad. That night when we were going to sleep I was nearly in tears. Things were moving around the room and my husband and I were moving from one side of the bed to the other. I'm positive that our stateroom location played a role with how much movement we felt, but nonetheless, I barely slept a wink.

Why were we sailing south? Stay tuned for Part 2 coming up soon!

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