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This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).
|Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas|
Well, let's start by saying this: I sailed, for the first time on the Anthem of the Seas and for the second time with Royal Caribbean, right after the infamous episode when the ship was caught in a storm and turned around to return back to Cape Liberty, NJ. The next scheduled voyage was ours.
|Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, docked at Cape Liberty, NJ.|
Unfortunately Royal Caribbean did not handle disseminating information very well. Originally, we received no email nor any other communication that our trip would sail as scheduled. I finally called them. The representative was very pleasant and cordial if not taken aback by the fact that there was no information available regarding the upcoming voyage. Coincidentally, or maybe not, almost 24 hours after that conversation, there was a notice on the website that the Anthem would sail as scheduled. I am not sure if Royal Caribbean was planning their strategy or if they were waiting for confirmation from some higher authority but we literally did not find out that we were really going to sail until three days prior. In addition none of the Twitter accounts ever mentioned that the next trip would go on as scheduled.
|Cape Liberty, New Jersey|
So, we arrive at Cape Liberty. Parking was a bit pricier than some ports ($20/day, but this is considered a NYC area port, so there you go). However, parking for the week is still cheaper than flying to Florida for two during peak season. Presidents Day week, mid-February, is considered peak season for New York because schools are closed for mid-winter recess. Advice: bring jumper cables in case your car sits in zero degree weather for nine days. We didn't need it, but it's been known to happen.
Royal Caribbean has a very nice check-in system, if you take advantage of the online process. Upload your photo when you check in online and all you have to do is have your ID, show your boarding pass, get it scanned and you're checked in (keep the boarding pass out until you get to your cabin). Your cabin key/card is on the ship in the mailbox outside of your room. Normally, boarding would be quick, but we were delayed while the ship and crew went through a full drill. However, Royal Caribbean/Cape Liberty gave us snack boxes and provided extra seating. The port is big enough to seat everyone if necessary and it turned out to be needed. They added chairs in the area where you disembark and even had enough heat (it was one of the 9 degree days). They also boarded in groups to avoid a huge backlog and made periodic announcements about the progress of boarding. We got more communication at that time than we did the whole week prior.
Warning: if you are used to bringing a travel electrical strip, Royal considers that an extension cord and it will be confiscated. You can get it back at the end of the voyage. I brought the same one on the Jewel of the Seas but they have changed their permitted items on board. You will get a ticket and if you don't want to go back to your car, they will hold it for you. Also, they sell some items in the port. They tell you that if you buy a lanyard, they will punch a hole in it on board so that you can use the clip attached. This is not true. You can't punch a hole because it will disable the chip in the card. You need to use the plastic sleeve. If you want a souvenir lanyard, buy it onboard.
|Boarding the Anthem of the Seas|
Also: most cruise lines are now prohibiting bottled liquids except wine, including water and your own soda. They are selling 12 packs of water at discounted prices but honestly, just bring a nice wide mouth empty bottle and fill it up at the buffet. Some still allow canned sodas. This is because people are sneaking liquor on board, most notably the 18-20 year-old crowd. This includes when you re-board at ports en route. You have to finish all drinks, even water, before coming back on the ship.
|Greeted with champagne|
After we boarded, Royal greeted us with glasses of champagne and a free bottle in our cabin. I am not sure if this is standard or because of the incident the week prior.
|Complimentary bottle of champagne|
PS: we were surprised at the number of people who will drive from as far away as 8 hours to sail from the NYC area. Apparently, no-fly cruises are very big in the North as the South, even in the winter. Also, there is the allure of touring New York either before or after. As for the rest of us, getting to a port in a half an hour (and home again) is worth the parking fee alone.
Next up: the ship itself.