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Anthem of the Seas

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Anthem of the Seas is the second ship in Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class. The 4,180-passenger cruise ship features innovations like RipCord by iFly, a skydiving simulator; North Star, a jewel-shaped glass capsule that rises 300 feet above sea level, providing 360-degree views from high above the ship; and the SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, with attractions ranging from bumper cars, roller skating and video gaming to a circus school, complete with flying trapeze classes.

Anthem has 2,090 cabins, which include several cabin categories that debuted on sister Quantum of the Seas. The ones that have garnered the most headlines are the 375 rooms with virtual balconies (floor-to-ceiling ultra-HD screens with real-time views of the ocean and destinations visited). The ship also features interconnected family staterooms, which prove more accommodating for large groups, and studio staterooms with balconies that spoil solo travellers.

Onboard entertainment is exceptional, highlighted by West End musical, "We Will Rock You," which rivals anything you'd see on Broadway. At night, the ship's innovative Two70 venue blends technology with live performance, including aerialists, singers and dancers.

Art throughout the ship is whimsical, fun and beautiful. It's epitomized by Gigi, a two-deck giraffe wearing an inner tube. We took the time to walk up each set of staircases onboard just to see as much of the art as possible. You can't miss the multi-deck crystal-and-gold cherry blossom piece that begins on the ship's promenade (called the Esplanade) on Deck 4. Another fun piece is an interactive work that allows passengers to place their hands on a podium. Plates on the podium measure your heartbeat, which is then "shown" on a huge chandelier that beats in time. It stores 200 heartbeats, so when someone doesn't have their hands on the podium, the 200 lights blink to reflect each one.

The ship's Esplanade and its adjacent area, called The Via, are the ship's hub of nighttime activity, with bars and restaurants throughout. (The two areas are separated by a stairwell and bank of elevators, and The Via houses high-end shops, as well as bars and restaurants.) In total, the ship features 18 dining venues, including one -- Jamie's Italian -- created in association with a celebrity chef. Also onboard is a restaurant called Wonderland, which is the cruise line's first real foray into molecular gastronomy. You'll pay for a number of the restaurants, but the extra-fee venues by far offer the best food onboard.

Technology-wise, Anthem raises the bar for the cruise industry. Not only does it offer superfast Internet, but it also uses iPad check-in, RFID bracelets, online bookings for restaurants and activities, and robot bartenders -- and the good news is that it all seems to work.

Anthem is a big, bold, beautiful ship, with more restaurants, bars and entertainment onboard than you can hope to experience in a week. It's entertaining and flashy, and it reminds us of being in a Las Vegas hotel for a week. The atmosphere is equal parts modern sophistication and straight-up fun.

In general, our one gripe about Anthem of the Seas is that you could spend a lot of money onboard, and the cruise fares are already pretty expensive. But if you're looking to have a blast on your cruise, and you like a choice of dining, bars and mind-blowing entertainment, this is the ship for you.

Daytime: During the day, virtually anything goes: Swimsuits and shorts poolside are perfect, though shirts for men and cover-ups for women are required for dining indoors.

Evening: At night, casual resort wear is required; for men. That means slacks or khakis and collared shirts, and for women, sundresses, or capris, nice slacks or skirts with blouses. Anthem of the Seas has two formal nights during a one-week cruise. Acceptable formalwear includes evening or cocktail gowns or dressy slacks and blouses for women, and tuxes, suits or slacks with sports coats, dress shirts and ties (optional) for men.

Not permitted: Shoes are required in all dining venues any time of day, tank tops are off limits for dinner except in the buffet, and shorts are discouraged at dinner time in the main dining room and most speciality restaurants.

Theatre

Anthem of the Seas' Royal Theater hosts the ship's major production show, "We Will Rock You." The nearly two-hour musical -- which debuted in London's West End and has toured around the world -- sets Queen's biggest hits to a story set 300 years in the future, on Earth (renamed iPlanet), where rock and roll doesn't exist. A group of "Bohemians" is seeking a rhapsody. The result is an exceptionally performed show, with a plot that can drag at times. (For a taste, catch just the last half-hour, which has the most show-stopping numbers of the performance.) The singers are definitely Broadway-caliber and the price (free) can't be beaten.

When "We Will Rock You" isn't rocking you, various other acts are performed at the theatre. They include a fantastical Royal Caribbean original production called "The Gift," the three-act "In Concert" set to songs of the '70s, '80s and '90s and "Name That Tune."

Daily Fun

The SeaPlex is the one-stop spot for all things fun during the day. The splashiest option is probably the bumper cars, which will have you mercilessly crashing into fellow passengers in no time. When the bumper cars aren't in use, though, the space can be used as a roller rink for actual roller skating. (Bring socks.) It's also where the "circus school" takes place. There, passengers (who must sign waivers) are taught to swing through the air on a flying trapeze -- over a huge, air-filled mat. It's open to passengers 6 and older.

Four SeaPods (small rooms for socializing) are located on the second deck of the SeaPlex. Passengers can play air hockey or table tennis there or try out games in the Xbox video game lounge in one of the Pods. The second level is also a great spot to watch the DJ booth float -- with the assistance of a mechanical arm -- over the roller rink below during skating sessions.

Passengers looking for a mental challenge can try out Puzzle Break, a game that has teams digging for clues, cracking codes and trying to "escape" from a room using only their brains and cooperation. Puzzle Break takes place in Fuel, the teen centre, but it's open to adults. (It will be too challenging for young participants.) Check your daily cruise program to see when Puzzle Break is offered; it runs multiple times on sea days.

Trivia, bingo, "name that tune" and pool games (think belly flop contests) are held throughout the cruise, and crafters can head up to The Workshop in Two70 for things like scrapbooking sessions.

At Night

There's no shortage of activities at night on Anthem of the Seas. In addition to the entertainment venues and casino, keep an eye out for the "Stowaway Piano Player," who moves around the ship with his piano, "evading" the ship's officers and entertaining passengers in odd spots like elevators and stairwells.

Casino Royale (Deck 3): The casino is fairly large, with a variety of slot machines and table games that include craps, roulette and blackjack. It's a bit off the beaten path; you actually have to look for it, rather than just stumble into it. It's one of the few indoor venues that allows smoking, which permeates even the small nonsmoking section of the casino.

Music Hall (Decks 3 and 4): This is the ship's two-deck live music venue, where you can listen to tribute bands, have a late-night drink, dance the night away and even partake in karaoke. It's a huge space, reminiscent of a nightclub, rather than what its name suggests (an old-fashioned music hall). There's a large square bar on the upper floor and plenty of seating, including less noisy options. There are also seats around the upper level so you can watch the band perform and passengers gyrate on the dance floor below. Between bands, a DJ plays, and you might even stumble upon the odd variety performance; we saw a ventriloquist. Downstairs, you'll find another large bar, a dance floor, the stage and more seating. If you like your music loud (there's a strong emphasis on rock), then this is the venue for you. If you enjoy a more sedate post-dinner drink, you might be better off in the Schooner Bar.

During the day, Music Hall is given over to dance classes and comedy improv workshops. Or just relax with a beer and a game of pool.

Two70 (Decks 5 and 6): On most nights, you can watch the show "Spectra's Cabaret," which is offered twice per night on certain evenings. There's no real storyline or acting; it's really a vehicle to show off the amazing technology in Two70 and is a visual feast for the eyes and ears. Vistarama comes into full play, with geometric shapes and jellyfish beamed onto the HD screens that cover all the windows. Two70 also has six huge TVs mounted on robot arms that dance in tune with the performers, displaying shapes and bright colours along with digital performers. Meanwhile, the human performers dance, sing and execute extraordinary acrobatics. It's fun, exuberant and generally engrossing, but it's 50 minutes long, and certain sections sag a bit.

Here's a tip: Show up early so you can get the best seats -- the first row of the balcony level or the bench seating on the lower level. Unlike those in a typical theatre, the higher seats are better, as you get to take in the entire spectacle and the sheer scale of Vistarama. Also, if you sit on the lower level, you might well end up face to face with a staring singer or dancing with an acrobat.

Two70 also hosts comedians on occasion; check your daily newsletter.

Anthem of the Seas Bars & Lounges

While it's possible to get a drink virtually anywhere onboard Anthem of the Seas, there are only a few bars that don't double as entertainment spaces or restaurants. The vibe of each venue is slightly different, and we found passengers tended to find their favourites and stick with them. During the day, the hot spot is the North Star Bar, while, at night, Schooner Bar is hopping.

Boleros (Deck 4): If you fancy a tucked-away Latin-themed night spot, Boleros is a great choice. It's deliberately dark, with plush seating and themed decor, and it's an ideal spot for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail or two. There's a dance floor to bust some Latin moves, though we never saw it being used, as well as a small stage for musical performances at night.

Schooner Bar (Deck 5): Decorated in dark wood and marble, the Schooner Bar is the ship's piano bar. A piano player takes requests from passengers who sit at a bar that surrounds the piano. It makes for a fun time. It's also a nice spot to grab a drink before having dinner at nearby Chops Grille.

Bionic Bar (Deck 5): Swing by the Bionic Bar to watch the two Makr Shakr bartending "robots" mix up your creations, which you order via tablet. This one is pretty gimmicky, but it's worth trying at least once. After you've ordered, the robotic arms will grab a shaker, mix up your concoction and pour it into your cup. Then, it will set the drink down into a slot atop the bar and push it toward you. Screens on either side of the bar will show you how long until your drink is made and which robot is making it. You can create your own cocktail from a list of ingredients, or choose from the bar's menu; the signature drinks are definitely on the sweet side. The space itself isn't really a bar -- it's more of a walkway -- and seating is limited. Still, it gets crowed -- especially at night, when a DJ starts spinning tunes -- and drink wait times can be fairly long.

Only passengers 21 or older can order drinks. RFID bracelets or SeaPass cards, which are linked to your profile, are required to order.

Vintages Wine Bar (Deck 5): Vintages is an upscale wine bar that's in a prime spot at the top of The Via, the fancier end of the Esplanade, with seating and tables along the walkway. It has a large bar, as well as wine-dispensing machines that allow you to serve yourself with the swipe of your key card. The vibe in Vintages is refined and relaxed; it's a place to make conversation and perhaps discuss different types of wine. If you're hungry, choose from nine tapas-style small plates that run $3 to $5 apiece.  

Sky Bar and Pool Bar (Deck 14): The Sky Bar serves as the main pool bar, while the Pool Bar is the main bar for the adjacent covered pool.

North Star Bar (Deck 15): As the name suggests, this bar is set just below the entrance to the North Star and is an ideal spot to look out over the entire pool deck and out to sea. It has a selection of cocktails starting at $12, as well as Champagne, wine and beer. There's bar seating, and cushioned seats and loungers in a small area in front of the bar.

Anthem of the Seas Outside Recreation

Pools

Anthem's three main pools all are located on Deck 14. For sun-seekers, there's the main pool deck, surrounded by lots of lounge chairs and wicker couches that feature padded seating. There, you'll find two whirlpools -- one on either side of the pool -- and a giant movie screen. There's also a self-service soft-serve ice cream machine, popular on any warm-weather cruise, and the required poolside bar.

Also outdoors near the main pool, you'll find the H2O Zone, dedicated to families with young children. It's not completely separate; it's more an adjunct to the main pools, with a wave pool for youngsters in the centre. On one side, there's a little splash pool for babies (where swim diapers are OK to use) and on the other, a very cool "lazy river" pool. There are also kid-size deck chairs. How thoughtful is that?

If you forgot your sunscreen, you can pick it up at Sea Trek, by the main pool, which offers a choice of sun-related products.

A second pool is located under a retractable roof, just adjacent to the main pool. It is quieter than the outdoor pool and is self-contained; it has its own bar, two whirlpools and a wading pool with loungers in the water.

The adults-only Solarium pool is just next door. This is our favourite pool. It's just beautiful, with three tiers of pools (each spilling over into the next), panoramic forward-facing ocean views, plenty of hot tub space and an air of serenity. On the lowest level, sun loungers sit in the water for those who want to take a dip without making the full commitment to swim. The Solarium also has its own juice/smoothie bar ($9 for smoothies) and a fabulously fun tiled swing that seats two.

Recreation

Only two ships at sea -- Anthem of the Seas and its sister, Quantum of the Seas -- feature skydiving simulation. For anyone who loves adventure, RipCord by iFly is not to be missed. You'll need reservations to ensure your spot, but one "flight" is free for every passenger. Signup is at the back of the ship on Deck 15. There, you'll have to sign a waiver (if you plan to do multiple activities onboard, you can sign all waivers at once) and watch a short instructional video before getting dressed in your jumpsuit, helmet and goggles. (You will need to bring lace-up shoes or socks to complete your ensemble.) Next, you'll pose for pictures and head up to Deck 16 with your group for your flight. Flights last 60 seconds; prepare to be pushed and pulled around by the instructor who is in the simulator with you. You'll also probably be a little sore the next day after working muscles in brand-new ways. Have a friend outside to take photos, or you can buy pictures from the ship's photographer. If you're hooked, seek out a Ripcord experience on land; the activity is so popular onboard, there isn't enough time for people to do it twice. The minimum age for trying out Ripcord is 3.

The FlowRider surf simulator also is on Deck 16 and free of charge. Private, for-fee instruction is available, as well. Height restrictions are in place for anyone trying it out: 58 inches is the minimum for standup surfers; 52 inches is the minimum for those trying boogie boards. A rock-climbing wall is located on Deck 15. Just look for the big giraffe statue, which is placed next to it. Her name is Gigi, and she's there just for aesthetics, so no climbing the giraffe.

Those who don't want to work so hard for their fun might enjoy the North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule attached to a mechanical arm that rises 300 feet above sea level, providing amazing 360-degree views. For the best experience, try it out at sea, where the capsule will both rise and extend over the side of the ship; in port, restrictions might be in place that prevent the capsule from going over the side. Riding the North Star takes 15 to 20 minutes and is free, though you'll want to make reservations. It can be booked for special events, such as weddings, for a fee.

Sun Decks

There's really just one sun deck, located on Deck 15. Be aware that the jogging track runs around the entire deck, and space between the track and lounge chairs is quite tight. An exclusive sun deck for suite passengers is located on Deck 16, just forward of the SeaPlex's upper level.

Anthem of the Seas Services

Guest services is located on Deck 4. There, passengers can book restaurant, show and activity (circus school or iFly, for example) reservations, either directly through the ship's Royal IQ tablets or with the help of a crew member. (The area is always staffed.) This is also where passengers can report problems or leave feedback.

Passengers can book future cruises on Deck 5, near the midship elevator bank, at the Next Cruise desk. The shore excursions space is nearby, so passengers can use tablets or computer stations to research and book ship-sponsored shore excursions. If technology trips you up, you can get assistance from crew members there, too.

Retail space -- including Bulgari, Hublot, Armani Jeans and Prince & Greene -- can be found on the Esplanade on decks 4 and 5. Port Merchants is the ship's duty-free store. Kiosks set out in the main Deck 4 thoroughfare host sales and highlighted merchandise.

Two70 isn't just an entertainment space; its second floor is home to a craft workshop, decent-sized library, board game room and Internet cafe. Internet onboard truly is lightning fast, even allowing for video streaming. Anthem of the Seas is one of a few select Royal Caribbean ships that offer VOOM -- the only Internet package available. It costs $15 per day for one device. Passengers also receive a 50 percent discount when they purchase Internet for a second device; if you want access for your smart phone and laptop, it will cost a total of $22.50 per day.

To eliminate paper waste, the Photo Gallery on Anthem of the Seas, located on Deck 5, is completely digital. Ship photographers take your picture and then pop the images into the photo computer system. When you scan your wristband or SeaPass card at a photo kiosk, your photos will show up on the screen, thanks to face-recognition software. You can purchase digital copies, prints or both; an 8 x 10 is $20.

An art gallery is located next to Two70 along The Via on Deck 5.

A conference centre, equipped with AV technology, is at the back of the ship on Deck 13.

Smokers have their own dedicated areas throughout the ship, including a portion of the pool deck and a sun deck on Deck 5 aft, outside Vintages.

Spa

The Vitality Spa is located at the top of the ship on Deck 15. There are 19 treatment rooms, including two couples' treatment rooms. The decor is muted, with natural tones of light brown and shades of purple, creating an air of calm. But there's not a lot of natural light; half of the treatment rooms are interior with no windows.

The spa contains a thermal suite, which is tiny, considering the size of the ship, and it does not even have a pool. It does have six heated tiled chairs, a rain shower, a sauna and a steam room. Only 30 day passes are available on any given day; pricing is $30 per day ($20 with the purchase of a treatment). Weekly passes also are sold at $99 per person or $179 per couple. There are no free steam rooms in the changing areas, which were rather small.

Pre- or post-treatment, passengers can chill out in the relaxation suite, which has 10 chairs and cups of free ice water, fruit-infused water and speciality teas.

Treatments start at $125 for a facial; a 90-minute bamboo massage is $235 -- not cheap. Men's services are more reasonable: A 55-minute grooming treatment with shave starts at $95.

You'll find the hair salon and nail bar for manicures and pedicures ($50 for 45 minutes) near the reception desk, and a teeth-whitening area is hidden away nearby. Note that it's quite easy for people on the Deck 15 track to look through the windows into the salon.

The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fitness

There's no need to forgo your fitness routine on Anthem of the Seas, which boasts one of the best-equipped gyms we've ever seen on a cruise ship. The fitness facility on Deck 16 is huge. (No kidding, it's bigger than many land-based health clubs.) It has a multi-tiered design that provides amazing ocean views from virtually anywhere you're sweating.

Those passengers who are gym-curious will feel comfortable with the range of beginner-friendly cardio options like treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, while fitness buffs will appreciate the free weight variety (up to 90 pounds) and large number of weight machines.

A spacious aerobics studio hosts classes, including TRX ($20 per session) and Body Sculpt ($30 per session), while a cycling studio is designed for spinning ($12 per session). Classes like stretching and "fab abs" are free. Personal training and nutrition consultations are also available for extra fees.

Those who don't mind getting up early or running at odd hours will love the two-lane jogging track, located on Deck 15. One lane is designated for walkers, the other for runners. You'll run a mile in just under three laps as the track winds through tightly packed lounge chairs. If you hit the track before the sun rises or when other people are eating, you'll spend more time focusing on your run and less time avoiding chair creep. A sign indicates the starting line, and you can measure a 5-kilometre (9.12 laps) or 10-kilometre run.

Free Dining

Passengers on Anthem of the Seas have plenty to choose from when it comes to included dining, with multiple options for light bites, as well as sit-down meals in the evening. Reservations for all restaurants -- fee or free -- can be made ahead of your cruise online. Though reservations aren't required, they're definitely recommended to ensure you get to eat where you want, when you want. If you don't make reservations before you sail, you can always do so onboard at Guest Services or via the ship's free app, Royal IQ. Within the first two days of your cruise, you can make a permanent reservation for each night (i.e. 8 p.m. at Silk at Table 555). For one-off nights check with Guest Services for available dinner reservations.

Food and service at the four main restaurants onboard -- Silk, Chic, The Grande Restaurant and American Icon -- are the same and include options for appetizers, soups and salads, main courses and desserts. Appetizers might include a soup of the day, salad and shrimp cocktail. Grilled chicken breast, oven-roasted salmon, strip steak and pasta dishes are featured as entrees. Each restaurant also offers "Signature" dishes -- two appetizers and two entrees -- that are available the entire week and represent greatest hits. Kids' menus are available in all restaurants.

Anthem of the Seas features Royal Caribbean's My Time Dining concept, where guests can choose to dine in one of four dining rooms each night. There are designated lines on Decks 3 & 4 for guests with and without reservations. In our experience, guests without reservations never had to wait longer than 5 minutes for a table. Depending on your preference, you can choose the same dining room (and table and servers) each night or switch it up throughout your cruise.

Breakfast and lunch are served in The Grande; for set seating, you'll need to dine at Chic or The Grande, while My Time Dining is available in Silk and American Icon. 

Vegetarian dishes and healthy options are indicated on the menus. Waiters also ask about allergies and special requests at the start of every cruise. Information is added to your profile (via tablets), and all waiters will subsequently have that information so they can help passengers select appropriate meals.

Our favourite meals of the free variety came at Cafe Two70, where grab-and-go sandwiches and paninis hit the spot.

The Grande Restaurant (Deck 3): Passengers who simply love formal night will adore The Grande, where formal dress is required every night. The space is large but feels luxe, with lots of gold and mirrors, and waiters in white gloves make every course feel special. Piano music (though no actual piano) plays as diners enjoy European-inspired food. 

Chic (Deck 3): Chic is billed as the hip restaurant when compared with the formal atmosphere of The Grande, located just opposite. It has a cosmopolitan, stylish and contemporary feel, with lots of gold, silver and glass decor. There's a wide mixture of seating options, from tables for two to large banquette-style seating. 

Silk (Deck 4): The decor at Silk is lots of red and gold, with sheer curtains used to divide spaces and give the impression that this is a far smaller space than it is.

American Icon Grill (Deck 4): The decor in American Icon has a South Beach vibe, with funky room dividers depicting iconic U.S. sights. 

Cafe Promenade (Deck 4): Located right beside Sorrento's (a door connects them), this is the place to grab a free freshly brewed coffee, pastry or small sandwich. Do not miss the chocolate chip cookies. Cafe Promenade is open 6 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Sorrento's (Deck 4): Sorrento's, which is in a great spot right on the main promenade (Royal Caribbean calls it the Esplanade), is a perfect place to grab a quick bite if you're feeling peckish. There is no menu, just four different pizzas and plenty of tables. Two types of pizza -- Margherita and pepperoni -- are available every day; the other two change daily. You can also have them whip up a custom-ordered pie, including gluten-free pizza. (The pizza is not great, and tastes much better when hot than when it's been sitting under the lights.) Two soda vending machines offer a bewildering number of soda types, and you can order beers from behind the bar. You'll need to pay extra for both drink types. Sorrento's is open 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.

The Cafe @ Two70 (Deck 5): The Cafe @ Two70 serves casual bites all day -- including a variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options. It's designed to look like a bistro, and the food reflects that. Counters serve ready-made (but warmed on the spot) sandwiches, desserts, and made-to-order fare, such as salads. There's no seating in the cafe itself. Instead, passengers order food in the cafe and carry it out to Two70 -- which has tall tables, standard tables and booth seating -- or outside the venue, where you'll find a couple of farm tables and cosy seating nooks. Open for Continental breakfast, served from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., this was our favourite spot to grab a bite before starting the day. Items include bagels (made on the ship), pastries, oatmeal and parfaits -- a number of which catered to special dietary needs. The cafe reopens for lunch/dinner at 11:30 a.m. and closes each night at 7:30 p.m. Lunch and dinner options are salads, soups and sandwiches. It's a refreshing change from more formal or buffet options, and while components are premade, food is served hot (if it's a hot item). There's also an extensive beverage bar in the cafe that includes tea, coffee, flavoured water (like strawberry kiwi and mango) and juice.

Solarium Bistro (Deck 14): After getting its start as Devinly Decadence, this dining venue was rebranded in December 2015 after celebrity chef Devin Alexander and Royal Caribbean parted ways. Breakfast and lunch options include light fare, such as yoghurt and fruit in the morning and a variety of mixed salads at lunch.

Windjammer Marketplace (Deck 14): Windjammer Marketplace is Royal Caribbean's buffet, and on Anthem of the Seas, it's extensive. The space is broken up into stations, such as "Bread" and "Mediterranean Specialties." Seating options include many tables for two or four, as well as larger tables that encourage socializing. A small hand-washing area greets passengers at the entrance, and a crew member reminds diners to use it. Breakfast (6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.) includes virtually everything you can imagine, from pastries and yoghurt to eggs. A made-to-order station allows passengers to order items like omelettes and crepes. Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) is a solid combination of sandwiches and burgers, as well as items like pork loin or broiled fish. Dinner (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) has a broader array of hot entrees and often includes specialities like a prime rib carving station. While we loved the variety of hot and fresh breads at the bread station, we were disappointed by the small selection at the salad bar.

Coastal Kitchen (Deck 14): Coastal Kitchen is a Mediterranean "fusion" restaurant; the menu items are a blend of both classic Mediterranean food and cool California-style cuisine. This restaurant is open only to suite passengers. Those booked in Grand Suites and above can dine there for breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.), while passengers in Junior Suites and higher can enjoy dinner there (5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.). The room is light and airy, though there's a rather unusual set of high tables connected to those at normal height. You end up looking down on your fellow diners, which makes for slightly uncomfortable conversation. For breakfast, passengers can choose from made-to-order omelettes, frittatas, eggs Benedict and smoked salmon, as well as a Mediterranean Plate that includes hummus, prosciutto and cheese. Pancakes, French toast and a variety of cereals also are available. Lunch includes a selection of sandwiches (smoked mozzarella or grilled chicken, for example) and salads (such as antipasti or wedge). At dinner, don't miss the flatbread options -- something of a blend between pizza and pita, where personal-sized thin-crusted breads are topped with sauces (barbecue or marinara, for example), veggies and/or cheese. Try the standard Margherita or salmon variations.

SeaPlex Dog House (Deck 15): SeaPlex Dog House is basically a food truck at sea, located in the SeaPlex complex on Anthem. The selection is fairly limited, in that only hot dogs are served there. Still, they're good hot dogs, and passengers who don't eat red meat will be happy to see chicken options. The SeaPlex Dog House is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours a day but only continental breakfast is free; all other orders carry a $7.95 surcharge per order. Tipping for room service is not required, but delivery people always appreciate it when you fork over a buck or two for the service.

Fee Dining

If you're looking for more attentive service, intimate surroundings or just want to try something completely different, you'll find a good variety in the for-fee restaurants, including Italian, Japanese, steaks and molecular gastronomy.

Overall, the quality of food at the upcharge restaurants is better than you'll get at the included restaurants, but a for-fee sit-down venue on Anthem is as much about the overall ambience and quality of service as it is about the cuisine.

The for-fee restaurants have been well considered, and all are pitched at a reasonable price point.

If you expect to dine at a number of the sit-down alternative restaurants, you can save some money by booking online ahead of your cruise. If you book three restaurants, you get a 20 percent discount, four gets you a 25 percent break, and five reservations will save you 30 percent. Reservations are recommended for all sit-down fee dining.

Children 5 and younger dine for free at these restaurants, while those ages 6 to 12 order off a special menu at each restaurant at a cost of $8 per child. Children 13 and older will be charged the full adult price.

La Patisserie (Deck 4); a la carte pricing: Set on the main promenade in a bright, open space, this cafe serves genuine Starbucks coffee -- but at a price. A tall latte will set you back $4.50. It also serves divine hot chocolates from $4.50 and a lovely selection of pastries (from $1.95), cupcakes ($2.95), truffles ($1.25), macarons (called "stackarons," $1.25 each) and chocolate bars ($3.75). It's open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver (Deck 5); $20 for lunch, $30 for dinner: Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver is known for promoting family-style Italian dining. He brings that onboard Anthem of the Seas, where the menu at his restaurant includes items like "planks": boards filled with cured meats, cheeses, olives and capers or vegetables, designed to be shared as a starter. Oliver says his food onboard is held to the same quality standards as that in his land restaurants (sustainable produce and high animal welfare, for example). The decor, designed by Oliver's team, is rustic Italian with pops of colour and a modern twist. Dried peppers and sausages hang from the walls, and cans of tomatoes are strewn throughout. They're also used to prop up the planks when they're brought tableside. Menu highlights include the planks, burger, lasagna and the slow-cooked pork belly. Jamie's Italian is open for lunch (with a similar but more limited menu) from noon to 1:30 p.m. and for dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine (Deck 5); $45: Wonderland is Anthem's most innovative restaurant, using a molecular gastronomy style of cooking -- dry ice, unexpected flavours and aromas, tiny portions, dishes that aren't what they appear to be -- in a setting that's meant to be reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. From the decor and the seating to the waiters (who aren't really waiters, more "guides") and the menu itself, Wonderland is designed to be fun, imaginative and quirky. The physical menu starts off blank (we won't give away how it's revealed) and is divided by six elements: sun, sea, ice, earth, fire and dreams. You can opt to pick for yourself or let your waiters do it for you. It's also, incidentally, the only venue on the ship where you'll find candles with real flames.

The food isn't to everyone's taste, so prepare to be challenged: Chicken liver balls were tasty but slightly oily; Japanese breadcrumbs, designed to represent soil, were dry; and the spicy Korean battered kimchi was a bit like cardboard. Some of the playful starters included a wood-smoked egg (complete with wood smoke emanating from a glass lid) and a "liquid" olive. Some of our party described this as "nonsense food"; others were entranced. For us, the tiny portions dragged on (it's a long meal), but they were redeemed by a quartet of some of the tastiest large dishes we have had on a ship: 12-hour braised beef on the bone, succulent chicken, slow-cooked halibut in the bag and pan-fried sea bass. Desserts were similarly out of this world: Arctic Equator Chocolate (a riff on the traditional baked Alaska) and The English Box (an unusual version of traditional sticky toffee pudding) were outstanding.

Wonderland is open for dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Izumi Japanese Cuisine (Deck 5); a la carte pricing: Decor at Izumi is similar to what you might find at any high-end sushi restaurant on land -- sleek and modern, with Asian art and a huge open sushi bar in the middle. Located on Deck 5, it overlooks the Esplanade and is separated from foot traffic only by a series of red glass screens. Cuisine, of course, leans heavily toward sushi and sashimi, which tastes fresh. Speciality rolls include an innovative truffle creamy lobster tempura roll with asparagus, salmon and tempura lobster, as well as the Izumi Ryu Futomaki roll with assorted sashimi, cream cheese and wakame salad. The menu is fairly limited for those who don't eat seafood or sushi, with only a couple of noodle dishes (udon or ramen, for example) and salads. Pricing is less than you'd pay on land for sushi. Lunch is served noon to 1:30 p.m., while dinner is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Chops Grille (Deck 5); $35: Chops Grille is Royal Caribbean's steak restaurant. It's a staple -- and a favourite -- on many of the cruise line's ships. On Anthem of the Seas, it's located just off of the Schooner Bar. It's decked out as you might expect: low lighting and chunky, dark wood furniture. Don't even think about going there if you're a vegetarian; the emphasis is on meat, meat and more meat. However, there is a number of delicious fish dishes, such as grilled branzino (sea bass), snapper Veracruz, crusted tuna and spicy jumbo shrimp. Cuts available are filet mignon, N.Y. strip and slow-braised short rib of beef.

There are also some excellent sides, such as mushrooms, grilled asparagus, creamed or steamed spinach and truffle-coated fries (you can ask for no truffle), served family-style. For those who really want to splurge, Anthem offers dry-aged steaks at sea (for an additional $18 or $19, depending on the cut) and Maine lobster ($21). Service is highly attentive and accommodating, and it's great value for the money. Chops is open only for dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Prime Table @ Chops Grille (in Chops Grille, Deck 5); $95: Save your appetite for this experience. It's offered every night on Anthem of the Seas and gives passengers a chance to try a five-course meal, complete with specially selected wine pairings. It's held in a private area of Chops Grille. Food options are reflective of a high-end steakhouse, so items like lamb cutlets and premium cuts of beef might be served. The dinner accommodates 12 to 16 people; if it doesn't hit the minimum, it could be cancelled.

Johnny Rockets (Deck 14); a la carte pricing: Johnny Rockets is a mainstay on the Royal Caribbean fleet. It's back on Anthem, right beside the pool area, so you can just turn up in any attire and order a burger, fries, sodas and shakes. The key difference is that, rather than a flat $4.95 fee (only charging extra for shakes or malts), you get charged by the item ($2.50 for a burger, $4.50 for a shake, $1.50 for a soda and $1.50 for fries). You place your order at the counter and are notified via a ticketing system when your food is ready for pickup. There's limited seating in the restaurant (and only two of the famous red booths), but it feels more like a carryout joint. The food is acceptable -- nothing special -- and its proximity to the free Windjammer does make you question why you'd spend money there at all. Johnny Rockets is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Anthem of the seas has 2,090 cabins, and a whopping 1,570 of them have balconies. All of the ship's 373 interior staterooms boast surprisingly cool "virtual balconies" -- essentially floor-to-ceiling flat-screen HDTVs that give passengers real-time views of what those with genuine balconies see. The remaining 147 rooms are ocean-view cabins. Those who use wheelchairs can pick from 34 cabins across a variety of room categories, and passengers travelling solo can pick from 28 studio cabins, a number of which have balconies.

Cabins onboard Anthem of the Seas are well thought out, keeping in mind the modern traveller, who wants to vacation but might not want to be completely cut off from the rest of the world. Most cabins include the basics: twin beds that can be combined to create European kings, small sofas (many of which can be pulled out for additional sleeping space), desks/vanities with chairs, lighted mirrors, deep closets, dressers with deep drawers, flat-screen TVs, over-bed storage and small nightstands. But what stand out are little things that have a big impact, such as the inclusion of more outlets than are standard on most ships. Passengers will find three outlets (two U.S., one European) over each desk, as well as one bedside -- a touch we love because it makes for easy overnight charging for those who use their cell phones as alarm clocks. Also, passengers will love two USB ports for additional charging; this is still rare in the cruise industry, even as travellers grow more attached to their devices.

All cabins include refrigerated mini-bars, small digital safes and hair dryers. (They're fairly low voltage and require the user to hold down a button continuously while drying.) The ship was designed with environmental efficiency in mind, so all cabins have digital thermostats and rely on energy-saving electricity; lights and power are activated by inserting your cabin keycard into a slot by the door. If you remove it, lights and power -- but not the air-conditioning -- shut off.

We also love how spacious all cabins are. Most are larger than the industry average, and balconies are plenty comfortable, with room to easily accommodate two people. Storage is ample, and suitcases fit easily under the beds.

Decor across the ship is modern, and most cabins feature blue and brown colour palettes with bold -- but not overwhelming -- geometric patterns.

Bathrooms, too, are comfortable and include sinks, vanities and small glass shelves for storing toiletries. Showers are encased in glass and offer foot rests for leg shaving. Most cabins don't feature tubs. There are lots of hooks for hanging wet clothing or towels, which smartly feature loops for easier hanging. Tubes of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and shower gel, as well as bars of soap, are standard for all cabins. Each bathroom also includes a nightlight. You don't need to turn it on; it's part of the main bathroom lighting system and is activated automatically when the light switch is turned off.

Interior: Passengers in interior cabins will feel like they're in balcony rooms on Anthem of the Seas. That's because the 80-inch high-definition screens that serve as virtual balconies are surprisingly believable. The screens reflect what is fed in by cameras mounted externally throughout the ship, so if it's raining, you'll see rain, and if it's night, it will be dark. They also include sound (which can be turned off), so passengers can enjoy the sounds of the waves. Interior cabins are 166 square feet, and 18 of them are interconnected cabins.

Ocean-view: Ocean-view cabins feature windows, though they can't be opened. Sizes vary widely depending on which type you book. The smallest, at 182 square feet, are found on the lower decks of the ship. The largest (302 square feet), called Superior Ocean View cabins, are the eight corner cabins located on decks 8 through 11. In between, Anthem has 36 front-facing Large Ocean View cabins, located on decks 8 through 10. These cabins are 256 square feet. Be aware that cabins in the Superior and Large category have great views and locations but might feature some oddities in layout as a result. Don't be surprised if you have a support pole close to the end of your bed, for example.

Balcony: Balcony cabins come in two varieties: Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (177 square feet with an 82-square-foot balcony) and Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony (198 square feet with balconies ranging from 55 to 119 square feet). In either category, balconies are spacious and comfortable. Standard furniture on each includes two mesh chairs, two foot rests and small, stool-sized tables that are large enough to hold a couple of cocktails.

Mini-suite: Junior Suites with Balconies are available as part of 16 Family Connected Suites (see below) or on their own. They come in at a spacious 276 square feet, which includes extremely generously sized 161-square-foot balconies (which should be commended in this age of ever-shrinking verandas).

The bathrooms are a good size, though lacking in storage space. They are decorated in marble and feature a tub and shower combo, with the same generic products you'll find in the non-suites.

The ship also offers 46 Spa Junior Suites with Balconies, which bizarrely have no link up (via discounts or exclusive access, for example) to the ship's spa. They are the least expensive cabins in the junior suite category, probably because they are slightly smaller at 267 square feet; balconies are significantly smaller at 81 square feet.

The main difference apart from size -- and probably why these suites have the "spa" moniker -- is in the bathrooms, which have rain showerheads and separate tubs. They also have split-bath arrangement: A water closet with toilet and sink is separate from the shower and bath areas. While bathrooms don't include upgraded toiletries, balconies feature the faux wicker furniture you'll find in top-tier suites. All Junior Suite passengers have access to the Coastal Kitchen restaurant for dinner.

Suite: There are seven categories of suites on Anthem, excluding family suites. All have living rooms with sofa beds. All suites come with access to the Concierge Lounge on Deck 12; exclusive access to the Coastal Kitchen restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner; priority check-in; reserved seating in the main theatre for shows; priority tender tickets; spa bathrobes for onboard use; free pressing service on formal nights; and priority departure in each port.

There are 12 Grand Suites, which are the smallest suites at 351 square feet. Each features a living room with sofa bed, a small writing desk, a large wardrobe, a cabinet with mini-bar, a glass coffee table and a large flat-screen TV. The room is separated from the bedroom by a half wall and a pull-back curtain, which is great for privacy or watching TV while someone else sleeps in the other room. The downside with this layout is that the living room feels a bit cramped.

The bedroom has a large double bed (convertible to twins), plenty of storage space and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide lots of light. There is a separate dressing area with its own entrance to the bathroom.

The bathroom is all marble, with a tub and two sinks, and it has two entrances -- one from the bedroom and one from the living room. It features upgraded Gilchrist & Soames or L'Occitane bath amenities.

The large balcony (109 square feet) has room for two loungers and a small table with chairs for dining.

Identical, save for balcony size, is the Superior Grand Suite. The balconies in these suites are each an impressive 259 square feet.

The Owner's Suite is a whopping 541 square feet, and it features a master bedroom, a living room and a huge amount of storage space (in the form of closets, drawers and cubbyholes) -- more than you'll be able to fill. The master bathroom has a tub with water jets and two sinks.

There are six Sky Loft Suites at the rear of the ship on decks 9, 10 and 11. They are either 673 or 740 square feet and feature 183-square-foot balconies. The Sky Loft Suites are split level, with the living area on the lower floor and the master bedroom on the upper.

The living area has a dining table and chairs, a sofa bed, a sideboard, double-height windows and a shower room on one side, and a water closet with a toilet on the other. The balcony has enough space for two loungers and a dining table with four chairs.

Stairs lead up to the master bedroom, which is on a gallery looking down onto the living area. You can draw a curtain to give the bedroom privacy from the living area below, but in doing so, you lose the stunning vista through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The master bedroom has a flat-screen remote-controlled dropdown TV over the bed, as well as a walk-in closet. The upstairs bathroom has a large rain shower and twin sinks but, oddly, no bathtub.

Next up are the six Grand Loft Suites, all varying by size and number of balconies. All are two decks high, with the master bedroom, a sitting desk area and a walk-in closet on the upper level. The lower level features a living room with sofa, a dining area and a shower room.

The two Grand Loft Suites on Deck 8 (795 square feet) each have one balcony (216 square feet), while those on Deck 10 are either 696 square feet with three balconies totalling 361 square feet or 840 square feet with one 216-square-foot balcony.

The two Grand Loft Suites with three balconies each have a large veranda at the back (236 square feet) with space for two sun loungers and a small dining table; a smaller one on the side at 72 square feet; and a third 53-square-foot balcony off the bedroom area, complete with hanging chair (a wicker one-person porch swing with a rounded back). There is a large bed with a retractable TV and a shower room with two showerheads -- but again, no bathtub.

There is just one Owner's Loft Suite. It comes in at a vast 975 square feet, and, like all loft suites, it's two decks, with the master bedroom (king-sized bed) on the upper level. Also on the upper level is a writing desk, an enlarged walk-in closet and a master bathroom with two sinks and a shower with two showerheads.

On the lower level, you'll find a large living room, separate dining area and split bath setup -- one with toilet and sink and another with shower and sink.

There's 501 square feet of balcony space spread over three balconies (one on the upper level), including one with a large table for dining alfresco.

The largest suite (there's only one) is the Royal Loft Suite, situated at the back of Deck 8. At 1,640 square feet (with 613 square feet of balcony space across three balconies), it's twice the size of its nearest rival and is breathtaking in both scale and design.

On the lower level is a living room with a large L-shaped sofa, a bright red chair in the shape of a budding flower and a vast flat-screen TV. There is also a dining table that can fit eight people. The living area leads out onto a 415-square-foot balcony that boasts a full-size hot tub and wet bar.

There's also a separate second bedroom off the main room with an attached shower room and a side balcony (109 square feet).

The master bedroom is on the upper level, looking down on the living room. As with other loft suites, you can close a curtain to conceal the master bedroom from the living area below. The master bathroom is simply separated from the bedroom with a partition; there is no door, but the setup still offers privacy. The master bathroom includes an oval bathtub, dual sinks (one on each side of the tub) and a dressing table, complete with a mirror that's ideal for applying makeup. Beyond that, there's an oversized walk-in closet that's beyond belief. There's also a separate shower with dual showerheads and a porthole looking out to sea. Next to the shower, a door leads out to a third balcony, which includes a small hot tub and faux wicker hammock chair.

Family: Royal Caribbean has a good instinct for what families need -- suites that allow for family time, as well as some privacy.

Anthem of the Seas offers a multitude of family cabin options, including cabins with multiple rooms, interconnecting cabins and rooms that cater to larger families or extended family groups.

There are 28 Family Junior Suites with Balconies, which are 301 square feet with 81-square-foot-balconies. Slightly larger than the standard Junior Suite, these cabins can sleep up to five people (two adults and three wee ones). In addition to the bed, there's a sofa that can be pulled out to create either a double bed or, if the kids don't get along, a two-tier sleeping arrangement with a trundle bed below the main bed. The third child would use a porta-crib or a rollaway bed, which you can request from reception. Each Family Junior Suite includes a full bathroom with a tub, as well as a separate half bath -- all with basic toiletries.

Each of the ship's four Royal Family Suites with Balconies comprises two bedrooms and two full bathrooms, and can sleep eight people. (A minimum of six is required for a booking.) Each master bedroom has a king bed, a marble bathroom with tub and a separate dressing area. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the balconies, but there are no separate entrances. Royal Family Suite bathrooms feature upgraded bath amenities.

The second bedroom in each has two twin beds, two beds that drop down from the ceiling and, opposite, a second bathroom with shower. However, despite being inside, there's no virtual balcony -- just a small frosted window that looks out onto the living room.

The living area has a coffee table and chairs and an L-shaped sofa that converts to a double bed. There's an impressive marble entrance hall and a fancy entertainment centre. These 543-square-foot suites each come with a 259-square-foot wraparound private balcony with seating area and private outdoor dining.

Perhaps the most innovative cabins are the Family Connected Junior Suites with Balconies, which are actually three cabins combined: a Junior Suite, a Studio cabin and an ocean-view with balcony. There are 16 of these, each of which is 575 square feet (combined) with a 216-square-foot balcony (also combined). The cabins share a vestibule, thus making the whole area one big family suite; it's also suited for a large group of friends and can sleep up to 10 people. The balconies are interconnecting.

The studio cabin is on the small side (101 square feet) but is ideal for kids, with a full-size bed (so it can technically sleep two), small desk, wardrobe and a virtual balcony; it even has its own en suite shower room. A door opposite leads to the ocean-view cabin, and a corridor leads onto the living area and bedroom of the Junior Suite.

The Junior Suite (which incorporates the interior studio cabin), and the ocean-view can be booked separately or as a combination of two.

Studio: Industry-wide, passengers travelling alone long have had to pay a fee, called a "single supplement," which can nearly double the cruise fare. To make cruising less expensive and more comfortable for solo travellers, Anthem of the Seas includes 28 studio cabins, and 12 have balconies -- a rarity in the industry. Cabins are compact but comfortable, ranging from 101 square feet to 119 square feet. The smallest are interior cabins, featuring virtual balconies and full-size beds. They include small desk/vanity combos and wardrobes for hanging clothing. The bathrooms are smaller than standard; each has a tight shower, toilet, small sink and shelving for toiletries. The largest rooms (Super Studio Ocean View with Balcony) include 55-square-foot balconies. These also feature full beds, sofa seating areas, desks/vanities, dressers and wardrobes. Bathrooms for the larger studio cabins are identical to those in other standard cabins; they include glass-door showers, toilets, vanities, glass shelving and no tubs.

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