Tag: anthem of the seas

June 2017 Trip Photo Highlights

June 2017 Trip Photo Highlights

I definitely had a great time on this trip, but not just as a ship-going passenger. The photographer in me always loves the chance to snap a great photo, so here are some of my favorites from the whole journey.

I took most of these pictures, with the obvious exception of the ones of me which were taken by the photographers onboard the ship. Since I don’t often like to take the time to set up all of my studio gear and get all dressed up for a selfie, I enjoy taking the opportunity for a nice professionally-shot image like the ones I can get onboard.

I got some great shots of a few guys up on the Flowrider too. I got a chance to chat with them, and made sure to get their e-mails so I could send them the shots after I’d gotten home.

Enjoy these shots – there may be some repeats from the live blogs, but there may be some new ones you might not have seen. Either way, thank you all again so much for taking this trip with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you on my next trips!

 

Trip Day 6: Last Sea Day – Cruise Day 4

Trip Day 6: Last Sea Day – Cruise Day 4

The last day of a cruise is always a weird one, because the whole “getting off the ship” is just around the corner. Tomorrow I will get off this beautiful ship which I’d just gotten on on Thursday for what was a truly incredible long weekend cruise. Still, the day was a great one, and very eye-opening. I’ve found the best vacations are the kind where you get to experience something that’s not a part of your daily routine, and to shake things up a bit.

I had to get up early since my first scheduled activity was moved from Friday to this morning, so I had to be up by the pool for 8:00am. I did a “Try Dive” – which basically gave me the chance to experience what it’s like to scuba dive without expensive gear or a multi-day class. This was a little glimpse into the underwater experience of donning all of the gear and breathing underwater.

It was myself and one other gentleman and the instructor, so it was almost like a private lesson. The instructor showed us the basics of setting up the vest, weight belt, regulator, and air tank. He showed us how controlling our buoyancy helps make it easy to just float underwater without rising to the top. I had no idea how any of this worked until today, and it’s piqued my interest into what it takes to become certified as a scuba diver. It sounds like a fun hobby, for sure.

Right after that was one of my “cruise traditions” – the behind the scenes tour. I always love seeing how stuff works, and seeing what it takes for a ship to run seamlessly. Though many of the facilities and their operations are similar, or exactly the same from ship to ship, there are plenty of differences that make each tour all the more interesting for me. We saw the engine control room (not the actual engine room, which honestly wouldn’t be as interesting), the laundry facilities, food storage, food preparation area (galley), and of course my personal favorite, the bridge.

 

I highly recommend taking this tour if your cruise allows it!

After the bridge tour, I headed to the Windjammer for lunch, and found that they had baked a massive “farewell cake” for all the guests, thanking them for eating in the Windjammer. What was even better, was that this was the best, moist and flavorful chocolate cake I’d ever had; it was made exactly the way I like it. I was half-expecting it to be some exotic crazy cake with flavors I’d never even heard of, but it was my personal favorite and made perfectly.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and relaxing, exactly the way a vacation should be, but I couldn’t pass up my opportunity to have my picture taken with Gigi: Anthem of the Seas’ very own big giraffe.

Gigi evidently weighs the same as 4 Mini Coopers, and is sporting a pink polka-dotted inner tube. Who doesn’t want their picture taken with an inner tube-wearing giraffe?

For dinner tonight I decided to head back to Izumi once again. The food was so good last night, and was just as good again tonight. The food, the service, a fine example of quality and consistency that I’ve come to expect from cruising with Royal Caribbean.

After dinner I picked up some of my pictures that were taken; being a professional photographer I don’t often get a chance to take good pictures of myself without setting up all of my studio lighting and gear. I like getting shots done while on cruises since the pictures usually come out fairly well and don’t take that long.

The last event I attended was another cruise tradition called The Quest, which is an adult game show where the audience is split into a number of teams, and the host requests actions or items to be brought up in order to get points. These items can range from a shoe, to a sock with a hole in it, etc. Occasionally the host will ask teams to bring members of the team up and act out a certain scene… like “re-creating natural childbirth” for example. Needless to say, with a room full of adults and plenty of booze, it sure made for a fun evening.

Looking back on this cruise, let’s take a look at a few of the highlights and lowlights:

Highlights:

  • The Royal IQ app really helped me stay on top of what activities were going on around the ship, and the ability to plan stuff in that day really helped me with attending everything I wanted to do. That being said, having notifications appearing when certain things would start, or possibly a companion Apple Watch app would be a nice addition. The app itself does need some work, but I’m sure improvements are coming our way.
  • Bermuda was so incredibly beautiful.
  • Two70 is, by far, my favorite venue on this ship. Technologically speaking, it’s chock full of innovative features to give live shows new dimension and wow-factor.
  • Izumi & Jamie’s Italian – Two excellent speciality restaurants which helped me really open my eyes to responsibly treating myself  to a nice meal.
  • The Flowrider & Try Dive experiences were a lot of fun, and something I can’t say I’d ever have been able to try if I hadn’t come on a cruise.

Lowlights:

  • Wikipedia indicates that Anthem of the Seas’ passenger occupancy listed as 4,180 at double occupancy, and 4,905 passengers at maximum capacity. That means that, in theory, there are 4,905 people on this ship because it’s completely full and sold out. The ship feels way too crowded, especially in high traffic areas– Windjammer buffet, Elevators, Poolside, Theaters/etc.   If the maximum capacity was reduced I think it would improve everyone’s experiences onboard.
  • The layout of the ship is very different compared to others I’ve been on. It doesn’t feel as open as other ones, which may be a contributing factor to it feeling overcrowded. The ship is designed to sail in both cold and warm weather climates, so maybe it’s all related.
  • The layout of the Windjammer needs an update; it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and the signage doesn’t always correspond to what’s being served there.
  • This one is more specific to cruises in general:   Waiters should be better trained to be more sensitive to those who do not clear their plate.  This is a topic I’ve been meaning to cover in detail. but on this voyage I noticed it most. Rather than go into it now, I’ll just say to stay tuned and watch for either a blog post or video (or both) on this topic in the coming weeks.
  • Cruising solo has its benefits, namely the freedom to do what I want when I want to do so, and having my own room; it’s just not the same as traveling with someone I know. Even if its just one person… I mentioned in another post, I don’t regret taking this trip solo, but I don’t think solo cruising is for me, at least not now.  Perhaps I’ll try another solo cruise on a different ship to see if my opinion changes? We’ll see, but in the meantime I’ve got cruises coming up where I’m not going solo and I’m definitely looking forward to those. It was nice to be able to stay connected with people via social media, but it isn’t the same in the end.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed my trip and do want to sail on Anthem again in the future.  I appreciate everyone who followed along and commented, and watched my live streams on Periscope. You all definitely made my solo cruise feel a little less “solo” and I’m grateful.

I’m going to head to bed, and let the gentle motion of the ship rock me to sleep one last time.

Trip Day 4: First Sea Day – Cruise Day 2

Trip Day 4: First Sea Day – Cruise Day 2

One of my many favorite things about cruising is the sea days. It’s one of the times you get to enjoy the ship and all of its amenities, and believe me Anthem does not disappoint in any way.

I started out with a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer buffet, and then decided to walk around since I had some time to kill before my first planned event. I’m going to deviate for just a moment, and call out something totally new to me in the way of cruising: An App that Royal Caribbean calls Royal IQ.  For me being the “planner type” this app is a godsend. It’s not the greatest app, but it really helps. It’s in dire need of an update, but it does what it does nicely. It allows me to view the Cruise Compass from my phone, and add things to my calendar!  I’m definitely not the “get on the boat and figure it out type” – I need stuff planned in advance.  I even spoke to people who had missed out on certain activities because they didn’t plan in advance. As much as it sucks, for those who don’t like to plan, you may want to open your minds! Anyway, the moral of the story:  Royal IQ is great and I wish it was available on more ships. It seems to only be on Quantum class ships (Anthem, Ovation, Quantum of the Seas) and Harmony/Symphony of the Seas… but I’ll throw a party when they bring Wow Bands and Royal IQ to Majesty. It’s probably not going to happen, but one can dream, right?

So after breakfast I walked around and did a morning Periscope while looking out over the wake. I’m a firm believer in that the wake view truly is the best view:

I then spent some time checking out the Flowrider, which is something I’d been interested in trying but never got up the courage to do so when I was on Freedom last August. They were doing stand-up surfing, and most of the folks who were doing so were quite good. A few were obvious first-timers, but none with any overly hilarious wipeouts. I chatted with a few nice people there, which is another great benefit of cruising. It’s very easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I mentioned thinking about trying it, and one of the guys encouraged me to do so. More on that later.

It had come time for my North Star experience, and this was really neat. The North Star is an observation pod that extends up about 300 feet above the top of the ship, and gives you panoramic views all around.

The experience was neat, but not something I feel the need to have to do again right away.

When the pod is fully raised, being so high up, the movement of the ship causes the capsule to shimmy quite a bit and it can feel strange. If you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to sit this one out, or ride it on a port day when the ship is docked. Plus, the ride only goes up for about 10 minutes then back down, and doesn’t lower down over the side of the ship. Royal had to cut the rides shorter since so many people wanted to do them. They took the ride length from 30 down to 10 minutes; I think it’d be interesting to be hanging off the side of the ship, that would be very cool. Perhaps some day they’ll offer different options for longer ride experiences.

After the North Star, I decided it was time to try the Flowrider.

Let me just say… I am glad that I did.

What a blast.

Granted, the bodyboarding is the easier of the two options (the other being stand-up surfing). I figured it best to start easy and go from there. After my flow riding experience, I headed to the pool and Solarium for a quick few dips, and had lunch in the Windjammer.

I then headed up to the pool area for the belly flop competition. Even though this is a standard activity on all of the cruises I’ve been on, it’s still fun to see how different cruise directors host the event. There are similarities, of course, but every single time it’s been different, all of them equally enjoyable in their own way. I’ll gladly ride the Flow Rider all day, but don’t think you’d ever catch me belly flopping, especially on purpose.

At this point I’d been outside for most of my day so far, so I wanted to get out of the sun for a bit and decided to partake in the “Battle of the Sexes Trivia” which, I’m told, is a toned down version of a more full-on game show of men vs. women. Evidently things had gotten fairly raunchy on past cruises, so they’ve turned it into a trivia event instead. It was still fun, and the ladies definitely had the dirtier minds on this cruise. Needless to say, while their minds were in the gutter, us gentlemen actually pulled through with the win, and we all received our obligatory Royal Caribbean gold medal.

This cruise marks my first as a Platinum level member in the Crown & Anchor Society, so I was invited to a special “Top Tier” event over in Two70, so I headed there right after trivia. I couldn’t miss this, since Two70 is one of my favorite rooms on the ship. If you are looking for a cruise, be sure to give Anthem (or any other Quantum class ship for that matter (Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, or Anthem of the Seas)) a good look, if nothing else for the experience of the entertainment in Two70. Trust me on this.

The Top Tier event included a cocktail hour with a little meet & greet with the captain and his officers. They also recognized the top cruisers on this particular voyage. There was a guy who looked to be around my age who had done, I believe, around 130 cruises with Royal so far.

Not 130 nights, 130 cruises. All I have to say, is “hashtag goals.”

In reality, I don’t know if I’ll ever take 130 cruises in my lifetime, because as I’m realizing it I don’t love the idea of cruising solo. Cruises are definitely better with at least one person along with you. I have absolutely no regrets about my current trip, and am having a fabulous time, but I now know from my firsthand experience that cruising definitely is better with friends.

After the top tier event, I realized I was running late for dinner and needed to get back to my room to get changed. Tonight’s dinner, was at Jamie’s Italian. It was delicious, and I really enjoyed it.  After a few quick professional photos taken, since tonight was formal night I was dressed up some of my new duds I had to take part, I headed to the Schooner Bar for some music trivia.  I met two sisters who were traveling together, and we did pretty well as a team scoring a 17/20.

I finished out my night by catching the headliner comedienne, Michele Balan. This was her first performance of the night, which on cruises is usually the “family friendly” version. I enjoyed her set, but it consisted mostly of humor about/geared toward middle-aged women. She didn’t say anything that got the crowd in a wild uproar, but she kept us chuckling for sure.  Her late night performance is coming up in about half an hour, but I don’t think I’m going to make it since I’m getting all the telltale signs that my body is saying “Dude, go to bed.”  I’m an early riser, and thus an early sleeper as well.

Tomorrow, we arrive in Bermuda, and I’m definitely excited to get off the ship and explore one of my favorite places which I haven’t visited in at least 15 years. We’re only in port for half a day, so I’m planning to make the most of the day.

On that note: So long 35, it’s been real.  Here’s to another year and new experiences. What better way to turn 36 than on a cruise visiting an island paradise?

Anthem of the Seas Cabin 11198 – My Home For The Next 5 Days

Anthem of the Seas Cabin 11198 – My Home For The Next 5 Days

Welcome to Cabin 11198, a Category D6 Ocean View Stateroom (with Smaller Balcony)

 

 

 

 

For some reason you have to put your SeaPass card into this slot in order for the lights to turn on. However, I was able to get them to work with a Dave & Buster’s card, and everything stayed on when I didn’t have anything in there… so not sure what the purpose of that is anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another view:

 

Bathroom:

 

Trip Day 3: To The Ship! – Cruise Day 1

Trip Day 3: To The Ship! – Cruise Day 1

What a great day.

I wasn’t sure what time to leave the shore this morning, so I figured I’d best be early rather than be in a rush. My rental car was due back at 9am, and with traffic from the Toms River area to Newark Airport being an unknown I decided to play it safe. I wound up arriving at the car rental dropoff quite earlier than I was expecting, and I was even able to push my transfer to the cruise terminal earlier as well, so it all worked out.

I wound up getting to the cruise port at around 9am or so. This gave me ample time to take some pictures, and I couldn’t have asked for a better area to do so. As it turns out,  Cape Liberty is also the home of the 9/11 teardrop memorial, so I was able to take some pictures there as well.

But, turning around from this beautiful sight, is another beautiful sight:’

This ship is big, and beautiful. I couldn’t wait to board.

I walked back to the terminal around 10:15am or so, and found they had already started checking people in. I went through security, and proceeded to wait. This is my first cruise as a Platinum status member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program, so I was able to board in group #3.

There were 9 groups showing that I could see, and a bunch of chairs (the white ones) with no group number that appeared to handle the overflow. The room appeared to seat quite a few people or so; needless to say, having status does have its perks.

Once getting on board, I headed to the Solarium, which is the adults-only pool area. I know kids can be cute, but not when they are running around causing quite the ruckus. I like my serenity when it comes to relaxing on vacation, and the Solarium is the perfect place to do just that.

 

 

 

After taking a dip in the pools and hot tubs, the announcement was made that the rooms were ready, so I headed down to find my cabin. I’ve got a separate post about my cabin which you can check out here.

I then went exploring the ship for a bit, and taking some pictures.

We had our muster drill which, on this ship being so big, consisted of everyone gathering in their respective stations and then watching a video with some safety information in it. The captain gave us the all-clear just a few minutes before 4pm, and I had just enough time to get outside for sail away!

One downside to large cruise ships, is that they can occasionally be a bit…crowded at the elevators, especially just after the muster drill. Such was the case here, so I opted to just go out by the lifeboats and watch from there. Turned out to be a great spot.

I eventually made my way up to the top deck and started snapping some more pictures. (Do you see a theme here?)

After my picture-taking extravaganza, it was time for dinner. I headed down to Deck 4 where I enjoyed Royal Caribbean’s “My Time Dining” option. Unlike the traditional dining, which has pre-set times, My Time allows you to choose when you’d like to go for dinner.

One of the most impressive experiences I’d had on the ship so far was a venue at the rear of the ship called two70.

As its name implies, one can have a 270-degree view directly out the 2-story floor-to-ceiling windows. This room is a technological wonder, in that it can be transformed into an incredible live performance space. I attended an introductory show there tonight called The Two70 experience, where the cruise director gave us a little sneak peek at the capabilities of the room.

The windows along the back can be covered with white screens to create a huge projection surface, with an astounding 12K resolution.  There are also 4′ x 6′ LED monitors mounted to robotic arms, and these screens (called Roboscreens) can be positioned into many different configurations to suit the show.

To say that I was blown away is quite the understatement. It was an unbelievable show, and it was just little snippets of whats to come. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a good bit of time catching more shows in there over the course of this cruise.

After the Two70 experience, it was time to catch “We Will Rock You” – a musical set to the music of Queen. I enjoy Queen’s music; I’m not a superfan by any means, but I know the words to half a dozen or so of their songs. I was more curious to see what they were going to do with it as a musical.

Well… I got my answer.

Let me just say this…I’d have been perfectly happy with a simple concert setting, because the talent was out of this world incredible. Royal Caribbean does an amazing job with entertainment; they didn’t have anything to do with writing this show, it came from London’s West End. Evidently it did very well, but I didn’t care for the storyline. It was ridiculous, and completely inane. It was like 1984 meets The Wiz, with a little bit of Tenacious D’s “The Pick of Destiny” mixed in. It was also presented without an intermission, so over 2 hours it was borderline torture to sit through. What kept me in my seat, though, was the incredible talent from the performers. From a musical performance standpoint, I’m sure Freddie Mercury would be proud.  From a dialogue and story writing standpoint… I don’t know who would be proud of that.

I finished my night by heading back to my room to see a fun surprise:

There was also a pack of Red Velvet Cupcakes waiting for me as well – thanks to Eric for the thoughtful gift! Definitely made me smile, and made me glad to be on this trip celebrating another year.

I’m definitely tired so I’m going to wrap this one up… but thanks to all who had tuned in on Periscope today – see you all tomorrow for more fun!

 

 

Trip Day 2: Walked Around, Swam Around, and Hung Around – Cruise in T-Minus 12ish Hours

Trip Day 2: Walked Around, Swam Around, and Hung Around – Cruise in T-Minus 12ish Hours

I’ve never been great at just slowing down and “doing nothing.”

I’ve always had to keep myself busy and have something to do, but today was a nice change in that it was a very chill and relaxing day. My brother and I started out by heading to the boardwalk at Seaside just to see what was open. Turns out not much was, but it was still a beautiful day for a walk.

The Seaside Boardwalk in the morning

We didn’t go to the beach there, since there was a fee to do so. I believe it was around $8 for a day pass…  We wound up going to the beach later on that day, but I couldn’t help stopping to snap a nice panoramic of the view from there.

I can only imagine what that place looks like at the height of the season, fully packed with beachgoers. It’s funny… I’ve lived in NJ for most of my life, but never really did the beach thing down the shore that much.

After the walk, we headed back to the house and to the beach down the street. Took a nice dip in the water, and then back for dinner, and a quiet night in since I wanted to be in bed early… tomorrow’s a big day.

Tomorrow, I board Anthem of the Seas!

 

 

Less Than One Month Until Cruise Day

Less Than One Month Until Cruise Day

My excitement is building for my trip, I can’t wait! It’s less than a month until I get on board the Anthem of the Seas!

I’ve been doing my research and watching videos about the ship, and it looks like there are a ton of things to do and see onboard.

At the back of the ship is a venue called 270, which has two stories of glass looking out over the rear of the ship. (I’m assuming it has 270 degrees of view? Makes sense… ) It has the North Star, an observation pod that extends up on an arm up to 300 feet above the ship for 360-degree views around the ship.

It even has a Skydiving simulator!!

I’m planning to do it all!

I’ll be writing about it, taking pictures, and posting videos right here on my blog, and over on my Youtube channel.  Be sure to subscribe to my blog here so you don’t miss any updates, and click that “subscribe” button on YouTube to catch all the great forthcoming content!

If you want to follow my live blogs from whatever cruise I’m on at the time, I’ve created a handy link to take you right to that content – it’s johnscruise.live

Also, be sure to follow me on Periscope so you can catch my live streams from the Anthem and also from beautiful Bermuda!

My Next Cruise: Anthem of the Seas to Bermuda

My Next Cruise: Anthem of the Seas to Bermuda

I’ve got that jittery feeling of excitement… why? Because another cruise is on the horizon.

Granted, my definition of “on the horizon” happens to mean just under 3 months away, but knowing that a cruise is fully planned, paid for, and ready to experience…well, that’s grounds for excitement either way.

This is going to be something of a special cruise for me for a number of reasons, but before I get into that, let me share a little backstory with you:

The last time I was in Bermuda, I was on a cruise with my mother and grandmother. We were on Celebrity’s Horizon, which was spending part of the trip docked out at King’s Wharf, and the other part docked in downtown Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital city. Mom and I thought it would be great fun to rent scooters, wave goodbye to the ship as it left one end of the island, and then drive the hour-or-so trip to meet the ship when it pulled in to Hamilton later that day.

So, we rented the scooters, and waved to Grandma who stood on the deck of the ship waving back. Just as the ship began to shove away from the dock, we heard a clap of thunder. It was Mother Nature’s way of saying “Here, have some fun with this!”

I remember looking at Mom with the same “Uh Oh” look that she was giving back to me, and we knew we had an interesting trip ahead of us. We decided to make a run for it, since we really had no other choice. We couldn’t get on the ship, it was kind of…in motion.

We headed out of the Royal Naval Dockyard area, and started making our way to Hamilton. Since the island has a fairly sedate speed limit, the journey takes about an hour or so. Did it take us an hour? No… it took about three.

It started raining a few minutes later, and we were making fairly good progress. I was grateful Mom knew where she was going, because I hadn’t a clue. I could barely remember to stay in the left lane after making turns, let alone find my way!

We were getting soaked to the bone, but it was a hot day in (I believe it was) August, so the rain felt refreshing. It was funny, until I saw Mom pull over into a bus stop. I pulled in behind her to ask what was wrong. Her bike had shut off, and she couldn’t get it started.

This was in the era before cell phones and GPS, so we were quite literally, on our own. Here we were, soaked and stranded on the side of the road in an unfamiliar country, without any means to find help. I offered to scoot on ahead to a gas station or find a public phone, but then changed my mind because I didn’t want to leave Mom alone at the side of the road.

Thankfully, the bus stop was a fairly large structure, which we could pull our bikes into, so Mom’s bike actually spent a good 15 minutes out of the rain. That may explain why it randomly decided to start up again after our repeated unsuccessful attempts to get it going. After this wonderful surprise, we knew we just had to make it back to Hamilton ASAP to prevent any future surprises.

I can’t remember how much longer the drive was, but I know we certainly exceeded the speed limit a few times. We finally made it back to Hamilton, where the ship had been there for quite some time. We gave back our bikes, and walked up the gangway on to the ship. By this time, the storm had passed, and the sun was out once again.

I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the crew at the gangway; one asked if we’d fallen into the ocean, another asked what had happened, if we were okay, and if we needed the ship’s doctor to come to our cabin. Mom, being a physician, politely declined and just said we needed a hot shower and dry clothes.

We got back to our cabin where Grandma was waiting for us, and a bit worried. Once we told her of our harrowing tale, we couldn’t stop laughing.  What are the odds of a brief momentary rain shower coming to Bermuda at that time, on that day, right when the ship left, and lasted until just after the ship docked, while we were on our way there!

That’s one of my fondest memories of being on vacation with Mom, and the biggest reason this cruise will be special for me, is that I’m going to recreate that fateful drive from the Royal Naval Dockyard to Hamilton. I’ve rented a scooter, and will drive in to Hamilton from the Dockyard (I’ve already studied the route on the map), this time (hopefully) without Mother Nature giving me a shower along the way. I’m then going to head back toward the Dockyard and stop off at Horseshoe Bay, my favorite beach on Bermuda. Here, I intend to relax, take pictures, and most importantly, take a swim in those beautiful blue waters.

I’ll be posting more as the time gets closer. I’ve got some great activities planned for the day before and after Bermuda, enjoying all that the Anthem of the Seas has to offer. Be sure to stay tuned here, and on my YouTube channel, for those and other bits of content as we get closer, and count down the days!