Craving a no-fly cruise that is jam-packed with family fun? Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas returns to Southampton for a summer of thrill-seeking sailings (skydiving, anyone?) from May and it is unlike any other ship based in the UK this year.
The 4,180-passenger vessel was a game-changer when it debuted in 2015 -- replete with fun, innovative features like the indoor skydiving, robot bartenders and virtual balconies first introduced on its sister, Quantum of the Seas.
The much-loved Indy might no longer be sailing out of Southampton, but Anthem of the Seas is set to offer Brits who prefer not to fly to their embarkation port an exhilarating taste of Royal Caribbean’s signature fun at sea -- without having to set foot inside an airport.
Here are nine reasons we're excited about Anthem of the Seas.
1. You can skydive at sea
While you won't have to jump off a plane 13,000 feet in the air, you can challenge yourself with Anthem of the Seas' RipCord by iFly. The skydiving simulator is an enclosed wind tunnel on the top deck that lets daring cruisers -- jumpsuit, goggles and all -- soar up to 23 feet in the air. Once inside, you'll have a total of two minutes with an instructor. Try to hold your balance for a nice view off the back of the ship. For anyone who loves adventure, [RipCord by iFly](https://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/articles.cfm?ID=2381) is not to be missed. You'll need reservations to ensure your spot, but one "flight" is free for every passenger.
2. Rock out to Queen
If you love rock music and a stomping good show, you'll enjoy the popular West End musical "We Will Rock You," offered in Anthem's Royal Theater. The show, which first debuted in London's Dominion Theatre in 2002, is a 90-minute extravaganza of Queen's greatest hits (plus a few lesser-known songs), while the story of Bohemians seeking to restore the power of rock 'n' roll unfolds.
3. See what the ship looks like from 300 feet above sea
Don't worry; there's no action-packed task to obtain these views (although, a fear of heights could hinder you). All you have to do is step into the North Star, a glass capsule with a mechanical arm that rises and extends over the side of the ship. Its jewel-like shape provides stunning 360-degree views -- especially on sea days. The ride is free, but we encourage you to reserve your spot early.
4. Order drinks from a robot bartender
Makr Shakr is a bartending robot at Anthem of the Seas' Bionic Bar. Once you place an order via tablet, the mechanical arm will mix your drink using a shaker, pour it into a cup and serve you. Gimmicky? Yes. Fun? Absolutely!
5. Jamie’s Italian returns to the UK
If you’ve been craving celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s “the plank” (a platter of cured meats) ever since the closure of his land-based restaurants in 2019, then rest easy, because Jamie’s Italian returns to the UK with an outpost on Anthem of the Seas. Highlights on the three-course menu include the restaurant’s famous cured meats plank, tomato and mozzarella risotto rice balls, truffle tagliatelle, prawn linguine, slow-cooked pork belly and Jamie's famous Italian burger of chuck and flank steak with smoked mozzarella, balsamic onions, tomato, pickles and chilies. This family-friendly for-fee restaurant is likely to be a popular spot onboard, so book early to guarantee your reservation.
6. Ride bumper cars and roller skate at SeaPlex
Unleash your inner kid at the multi-deck SeaPlex amusement park. The multi-purpose venue offers a host of recreational activities, like roller skating and bumper cars, as well as a food truck and floating DJ booth. You also can swing through the air with trapeze lessons or hang out at one of the upstairs lounges, stocked with Xbox video games, air hockey and more.
7. You'll be amazed by the shows in Two70
It's difficult to adequately describe this spectacular entertainment venue -- giant digital screens on robotic arms displaying colourful visual effects combined with pop music, live singers and acrobatic dancers. But, believe us, the result is an immensely enjoyable high-tech show. The main Two70 show on Anthem is "Spectra's Cabaret," in which "the Maestro and his Agents of Rhythm invite you to an electric multi-dimensional cabaret." During the day, Two70 is quieter, but in a fun twist while the ship sails out of Southampton, a full virtual orchestra will appear during high tea.
8. Spacious Family Suites
Royal Caribbean had family cruisers in mind when it designed its Quantum-class ships. We love the interconnected cabins that accommodate grandma and grandad, mum and dad, and the kids. Multigenerational cruisers on Anthem of the Seas can book three interconnected cabins, each with its own living space and bathrooms, to provide together (or quiet) time.
Cabins are connected via a vestibule and can sleep between eight and 10 people. Total square feet is a comfy 575, and when the balconies are combined, you get a whopping 216 square feet of outdoor space. Even those travelling with a smaller brood will like the Family Junior Suites, each with a half bath in addition to a full bath with bathtub -- a must for anyone traveling with toddlers. And yes, there are kids’ clubs, a large pool deck with kid-specific spaces and a massive movie screen.
9. New ports, overnight stays and late-night calls
With so much happening onboard, it’s easy to forget that Anthem of the Seas is sailing some pretty exciting itineraries in 2020 and 2021. This summer you can sail to Portugal, Spain, France and the Canary Islands, while 2021 will see the ship voyage to the gorgeous Norwegian fjords. The ship will make its maiden call at the picturesque port of Stavanger, where passengers can hike to the 1969-foot-Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock), to take in the breathtaking views. Other new ports include Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark in 2021, and Bordeaux in 2020. The ship will also include some late-night calls to Paris, as well as overnights in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Lisbon, Portugal.