Is Cruising Travel? - My Royal Caribbean Experience

Ah, summertime. Good food. Good beaches. Lots of sunshine. Summer is right up my alley. And this summer my family decided to go on a cruise! A cruise wraps up all of those great things about summer into one nice, tidy package. Today I decided to unpack the best and worsts about our Royal Caribbean cruise (because heaven knows I just finished unpacking my suitcase yesterday…) with an Anthem of the Seas review.

My Thoughts on Cruising

Let’s get this out of the way first: cruising IS traveling. Sure, it’s not the slow, immersive travel that everybody and their brother (and…uh, me) is into these days. BUT. It absolutely 100% “counts” as travel. Turn your nose up if you want, but I am all about making travel accessible. Do you hate planning or need to just relax? Hmmm...an all-inclusive (more or less) ship that takes you to destinations you’ve dreamed of? Ahh, yeah that’s a pretty sweet deal.

I was unsure of how I was going to feel about cruising (see aforementioned style of travel), but as it turns out I had a fabulous time. It was just so EASY to coordinate all of my family members that were heading on vacation. Never you mind that Royal Caribbean’s website sucks, everything will totally work out.

And. I gave up wi-fi for ten days. Talk about a travel blogger’s vacation, am I right?

Anthem of the Seas Review

Now on to the good stuff - where we actually went!

We chose the 9 Night Bermuda & Caribbean cruising option. Our cruise left out of Bayonne, New Jersey — no airfare? Now that was a huge plus. From there we went to Bermuda, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico (Old San Juan), and Haiti (Royal Caribbean’s private area - Labadee). There were a handful of sailing days in between that we just spent on the ship.

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas belongs to their second largest class of cruise ships. And honestly, I can’t imagine a bigger cruise ship. There’s a skydiving simulator, surfing experience, roller rink/trapeze area/sports plex, an observation tower that can extend alongside the ship, a handful of theaters, and just so much more. It’s insane.

Fun fact: during production this class was codename "Project Sunshine." Coincidence? I think not.

And yes, before we go any further, this was definitely the ship that got caught in those bad storms back in February of 2016. I’m going to hedge a bet and say that was user error. Everything ocean-wise was smooth sailing on our journey.

The Bests (and Worsts) of Royal Caribbean

Let’s call this an Anthem of the Seas review, not a review on Royal Caribbean in general. Because that would be really hard to do based off of just one cruise. But hey, if they want to invite me back I’ll be right here waiting. For now - onto the accolades.

Best Food - Wonderland (extra cost)

There are so many places to stuff your face aboard Anthem of the Seas, but for an extra $80 Paul and I were able to go to three specialty restaurants on board. And this place ALONE was worth that extra money. Food is one of our favorite things about travel and Wonderland was totally amazing. They have the restaurants broken down into elements and the waiter reminded us that this was an “experience,” not just dinner.

Oh, I was hooked.

The food was so delicious and interesting! I think Paul and I had about 7 small plates, 3 main courses, and 3 desserts between the two of us. Call the gluttony patrol now, but I regret nothing.

If you’re going on a Royal Caribbean cruise and you see Wonderland on board? GO.

Worst Food - Chic (complimentary)

Other members of my family are willing to give this one a slide, because it was the first day of the cruise. Our dinner was scheduled for 9:15 pm and Royal Caribbean had to take care of something drastically more important than worrying about our dinner reservation.

However.

The waiters were reading over our shoulders to explain menus, giving us 30 seconds to decide on food, and endlessly (rudely) reminding us to rate them well in our end of cruise survey (which I did…poorly). Less than stellar service would have been easy enough to swallow had the food not been extremely subpar. My French onion soup was slimy with bread that must’ve been soaking in the soup for an hour or so. Jello (and from the taste of it, the sugar free kind) was on the dessert platter. It just wasn’t a good first impression for our first day of cruising!

Let me just finish this by saying - this is by no means because it was complimentary. This was the only restaurant where this happened. Everything else was delicious! Try the vegetable pot pie at American Icon Grille for some complimentary deliciousness.

Best Excursion

Paul and I only bought two excursions - a horseback ride on the beach in St. Maarten and a zipline/canopy tour in Puerto Rice that we did with my Mom, Dad, and sister. So we ourselves didn’t have a ton of excursions to choose from, but through other members of my family I can at least give you a recommendation.

Out of the two we purchased, the zip lining I believe was a family favorite. It doesn’t hurt that I am, as it turns out, a spectacular zip liner. The one negative about this excursion is that it eats up a ton of your time in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. To be fair, though, our ship was only in port for about 5 hours. So that’s not hard to do.

Best Port

Bermuda. Done. That’s it. No competition.

And in case you missed it, I already posted about how I recommend you spend your time here. If you're loaded, you can rent a private car to take you around all of Bermuda. I hear that's how you get really deep into one specific port. But alas, I did not have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to toss around.

Worst Port

Labadee, Haiti. As I mentioned before, this is Royal Caribbean’s own private getaway so many of the ships dock there. They’ve got the longest zipline over water, a mountain coaster, jet skis, kayaks, etc. Of course, you have to pay an extra fee to use these (my dad’s suggestion — jet ski all the way).

I rented out a kayak with my cousin, which was $15 for however long we wanted it, but there was not really anywhere interesting to go with it. There’s a lot of lounging here, which I might have been okay with had we not been stacked on top of each other like sardines. Also, go to the beach on the RIGHT side of the island. The beach we stopped at was covered (covered!) in rocks. It hurt to walk in the water and I did not have a great time.

I think ports like this might be why people turn their noses up at cruising. Even for a gal who can appreciate a relaxing port - this was not it for me. Swing and a miss, Royal Caribbean! And it’s your own beach!

Best Towel Animal

I think the number one question I got asked before I departed was, “Are you going to get towel animals everyday?” And these towel animals did not disappoint. We had a fabulous stateroom attendant named John who really did his best to make our towel animals great.

For those of you who are REALLY jazzed about towel animals - there is a demonstration too. But it's unfortunately not hands-on. You'll have to fold napkins for that experience.

Best On-Board Activity

Alright, I actually don’t have a “worst” for this one either. You caught me. Plus there were so many activities on board that it is so hard to choose just one. So can we call this an “Anthem of the Seas Top 3 On Board Activities?” We can? Thanks.

  • Nations Scavenger Hunt - This was on the second to last day of the cruise. We got a list of nations and our job was to find a crew member from each of these nations. If we found one that wasn’t on the list that was five bonus points.  You guys - I loved this activity. Talking to the crew is definitely the way to go for this one, that’s all I’m saying. Don’t be those teams that just saunter up, look at their name tag and slink away. Talk to them! And you’ll want to follow this advice too, because we demolished the challenge and won!
  • Finish the Lyric Show - This was SO fun. What I thought was going to be a little diddy of a show was actually a full-fledged game show. Singers, dance numbers, audience participation…it was all there and I highly recommend it! I took my cousins and even though they didn’t know all the songs, they still had a blast.
  • Dance Classes - Please, as if this retired dancer (still in denial) is not going to put this on her list. We took ballroom dancing classes! Shout out to the best dance partner around: Paul. We learned the Rumba and East Coast Swing. When the ship had sailing days, Sonny and Dave taught us how to boogie. So fun!

Phew! And that’s not even including the massage I bought myself! Or the Family Silent Discos. Go to them. Laugh with your family.

So there you have it, my initial thoughts on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Keep an eye out, because I’m contemplating another post about tips and tricks - from packing, to using that dang website, to what to spend your money on (and some other Royal Caribbean secrets I have up my sleeve). I know it won’t apply to absolutely everybody reading this blog, but I think it might be helpful for those of you that decide to cruise in the future!

Let’s Chat!

  • Have you been on a cruise before? What would your dream itinerary be…and who would you take?
  • Do you have any questions about cruising?