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grod19

Dec 8th Anthem with toddler review

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I planned to write this earlier but I caught the plague and that delayed the review.  I am not going to follow the usual review pattern of giving you a day by day recap of my trip but I will try and go in an order of events.  Much of the review will include some details about traveling with a toddler (17 months).  While there was lots of good information out there on the boards I feel there were some holes.  I will also give my opinion on some of the popular pieces of advice given on CC about must haves/do on a cruise.  I apologize in advance, this is going to be a LOOOOONG post.  Anyway, here goes.

First off I was traveling with my DW (35), my DS (17 months) and myself (37).  We were on the Dec 8th, 12 night Anthem trip.  We have done this trip in the past.  We used to do it every year but we have been on hold the past 3 years due to the pregnancy and our son.  This was our first with the munchkin in tow and as expected it was a very different cruise.  We will get to that shortly.  

 

Since we live about 45 minutes from the port we drove and parked at the pier.  We arrived around 1pm and it was amazing.  No traffic, drove right up, straight to a porter and before my wife had my kid out of the car seat all the bags were unpacked and on their way.  I know people are eager to get their vacations started but if you can hold off slightly I highly recommend getting to the pier later.  The only thing that slowed us down from the car to the ship was how fast we could walk.  While pricey I highly recommend parking at the pier as well.  So easy to check in and out.  Dumped the wife, kid, and luggage at the curb, I parked and met them inside.  No headaches, no hassle, flew through everything.  The other benefit to getting there a little later, the room was ready by the time we made it onboard.  Gave us a change to hit the room and unload the carry on.  Unfortunately traveling with a toddler for 12 days and the first 3 of them being at sea, we had a full sized piece of luggage for a carry on.  I wasn't willing to risk the bag with the diapers getting lost so everything we needed for him was in the carry on.  Diapers, wipes, medicines, lotions, etc.  Also in there were the things my DW and I couldn't afford to lose such as glasses, contacts, medicines, valuables, etc.  We made sure to keep it to one bag.  Allowed one of us to drag him through the check in process while the other handled the bag.  Tip #1 for cruising with an infant.  Take the time to unpack and organize the room.  It really helps.  When the couch is folded out the room is super cramped.  Everything having a place is an immense help.  We haven't done this on past cruises but it was very helpful on this one.  Having been on Anthem before we knew what to expect.  We were in a balcony on deck 11 and loved everything about it.  We were right next to the elevators which was great.  Didn't hear any significant noise outside but being able to get out of the elevator and go straight into the room was great.  It also meant we didn't have to navigate the halls with the stroller.

 

Muster, sail away, layout of the ship, blah blah blah......there is plenty of info on the boards here about all that stuff and I would just be repeating what is out there so I am going to skip it and move on to some specific things I noticed about the trip in general.

 

More to follow.  Fire away with questions about embarkation if you have any

 

 

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As one can imagine there is a very noticeable mood change among everyone on board as the weather gets better.  The first day or so it was as if everyone was just waiting to get to warm weather.  It was almost a stiff feeling.  People were happy to be on vacation but the mood of the ship totally changed once we got to warm weather.  I also noticed not many people out at night until we got to the warm weather.  Not sure why that is.  I would think the cold would be the perfect time to stay out late and have a cocktail or 12 but apparently not.  I will say, there are so many places to enjoy at night on Anthem.  Maybe that is why it did not feel like many people were awake.  Warm weather changed everything though.  Once the sun was shining, the pool was crowded and people were happy and smiling.  I will say that was no thanks to Mitch, the cruise director, and his staff.  I was not a fan of them.  At one point on the cruise there were a bunch of people include RCCL staff up by the pool dancing and singing along to the music being played by the DJ on the P&O ship next to us.  That is not a good look for RCCL when another line is keeping your guests happy because your poolside entertainment is lacking.  I hated that each day a movie started poolside at 4pm.  Dumbo, Toy story, etc.  4pm should be cocktails and smiles time, not cuddle up on a chair and watch a kids show.  Especially since there were few to no kids watching.  It really sucked the life out of the pool area.  I wished they attempted to bring some energy to the pool area.  Play some good music and get some energy going.  

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Just a note about times:

 

Muster Drill is at 2:30; sailaway is at 3.  The 90 minute rule says that you must be checked-in by 1:30.  

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Bars/Alcohol

On to my area of self proclaimed expertise, Alcohol!  Wife and I had the package.  She isn't a big drinker but on vacation she likes to relax and do things she doesn't get to at home.  Mimosa's in the morning, something refreshing by the pool, etc.  On the other hand, I am a royal pain in the butt for the bartenders and I know it.  When I am on vacation I want to try new things.  I walk up to the bar and tell them to make me any drink, on this cruise I used the line "make me the greatest drink ever made"  (long story as to why that line was used so I will skip it).  Some bartenders completely embrace this and make great cocktails, others just sling any crap in a glass and call it a day.  In most cases they all start with the standard drinks, daquari's, Mai Tai, punch, etc.  However the next drink I order I tell them to make something else.  You can imagine how this can be a bartenders worst nightmare on a 12 day cruise.  My usual hang out is Northstar bar and the 3 guys up there were receptive of the challenge I had laid out.  Ironically after they had run out of ideas of drinks to make me and they started to make up new things is when the drinks really improved.  Ironically not a single one of them made me a tequilla drink for 10 days until I pointed it out.  I am not good with names but Sorin, Budi, and Treasure at Northstar bar deserve a shout out.  Not only did they deal with my BS all cruise but they were outstanding with my son.  They did whatever they could to make him smile and laugh.  Mom and I really appreciate that.  It gave us a chance to sit and have a cocktail and relax.  Also worthy of noting was the "boss lady", Dzenana at NorthStar.  

 

The bourbon selection was terrible onboard.  I think they had whistlepig, rittenhouse, and a few others that clearly weren't worth remembering.  I miss the days of Blantons and other good options onboard.  This leads me to a bigger theme I didn't like.  Rccl has really cut back on the items available to their bartenders.  They no longer use island oasis mix, which I couldn't care less about, but the new brand has much less selection.  Banana, strawberry, mojito, peach, mango, pina colada, and dessert mix I believe were the only ones available.  they also had very few creme de _________ available.  Last two trips the bartenders had a ton of those at their disposal which made for a wide variety of drinks.  

 

Speed bullets about the bars/drinks:

- didnt like the beer selection at all

- martinis in boleros were excellent ( chocolate or espresso)

- too many bartenders had to look up the recipe for a signature drink offered in the drink book

- based on cocktail prices, RCCL is pretty much pushing people to get the drink package

- view from Northstar bar is still the best on the ship

- don't let the Jamaican accent confuse you, when the bartender says the drink is called "sex lotion" he is really saying "sexy ocean".  When you go back and order a "sex lotion" from a different bartender they look at you funny.

 

Food

Overall we thought the food was good to very good.  As always opinions varied dish to dish and meal to meal.  We did find the meats to be over cooked often.  Ironically I found the sliced meats (prime rib, etc) to be over cooked, but the unslided (strip) to be right on the mark.  I found this odd because you can see the inside of the meat once sliced!  I was very impressed with windjammer.  We did this most mornings for breakfast and it was much better than 3 years ago.  Waffles and pancakes are recommended.  The bakery had some very nice options.  Plenty of omlette stations.  Enjoyed windjammer for lunch too and we went in for dinner one night to get the kid a snack to hold him over and was impressed with what I saw as well.  Overall I thought windjammer was much better than last trip.  Dining room breakfast was also good.  Eating with a kid is tricky.  Some nights ours did great in the dining room.  Other nights......not so much.  We requested a table away from heavy traffic areas with a spot that we could pin him in so he couldn't escape.  We got just that and had problems getting that table every night.  I really wish RCCL would come up with some sort of standard for the dining room or get rid of the suggested attire entirely.  Gym shorts, t shirts, and flip flops were a common sight.  We will continue to dress up because my wife looks stunning and the munchkin was killing it in his tux. 

 

I did find many of the dishes to be too bland.  Cocktail sauce was essentially ketchup.  Escargots could use more garlic.  I am guessing the older demographic doesn’t like spicy.  I understand that but wish it was offered.

 

Kid tip #2, each night my wife or I would look at the menu ahead of time and tell the other what we wanted.  Our dinner was 715, one would go at 715 and order for both of us.  The other would show up around 730ish with the kid.  At that point the food was coming out so he could eat and then when he was done he could look all over.  Many nights that saved us from "I have been in this chair for too long" breakdowns.

 

Ports

The ports on this trip were great but we were limited in what we did due to traveling with the munchkin.  San Juan we went over by the forts and let him run all over place.  He loved all that green grass to just stretch out and run.  A friend recommended a bar he knows about called “La Taberna Lupulo”.  It is a very good beer bar.  Enjoyed stopping there and getting a real beer because I hated the selection on land.

St Maarten we did not do anything.  I ran to a liquor store while the kid took a nap.  The rest of the day we let him splash around in the kid’s pool.  He had a blast and we got to relax.  With the drink package I find less reasons to get off unless there is something I really want to see/do. 

Antigua – Beachlimerz, everything that has been said on the boards is true.  Great time. 

St Lucia – We just did a quick tour through someone outside at the pier.  Kid’s nap time was coming and we didn’t want to be gone long.  It was actually a very nice tour, worth the $25.

Barbados – Harbour Lights.  A few years ago when we came here it was nice a quiet, well that secret is out.  It was crowded but we had reserved chairs and they had people come around and offer drinks and food so we didn’t have to get up for anything.  A very nice day.

St Kitts – The kid loves animals so we brought him out to hold a monkey on the pier.  The monkey went to go back to its owner, the kid didn’t want him to leave so he grabbed hold of the monkey.  Monkey retaliated by biting the kid on the arm.  Didn’t break skin but munchkin wasn’t happy.  Parents of the year winner right here.  Took my kid to a foreign country and let a monkey bite him

We did not get to do as much as we would have liked on the islands but we needed to monitor the sun for the little one.  He loved the beaches and the sand and had a blast everywhere we went. 

 

Kid’s Day Care (Royal Tots or something like that)

He loved it.  He spends all day at day care at home so this was nothing new.  Also they had the secret weapon that we did not have in the cabin…..Elmo.  They have access to better TV programs and he can watch Elmo all day long.  I hated a few things about the day care though.  Signing the kid up was a nightmare.  They only let one family in at a time.  When you get in there they hand you a few papers to fill out and then they wait for you to finish.  Why not give them out to us while we are waiting and this way when we come in we are all set to go.  Seemed foolish.  Also we got there around 3:00 to sign him up.  After they told us the wrong place to go we went down to the right place at 3:30.  At 4:00 the lady just left.  Said they close at 4 and come back later.  There was a line of about 5 families waiting.  I thought that was very poor taste. 

At his age you need to reserve times.  On our cruise this was not an issue.  We always got the time we wanted.  They told us there were only 49 kids onboard under 3 so they were slow.  I am not sure how well it would work with a bigger crowd.  I also hated that everytime you dropped the kid off you had to answer about 6 questions and the answers are always the same.  He was just there yesterday, do you think he magically developed an allergy overnight.  They could use some process improvement in this area but at the end of the day, he enjoyed it and that meant Mommy and Daddy could hit the gym, relax in the hot tub, have a drink, enjoy dinner or whatever else without having the kid for a few hours.  We normally put him in for about 4 hours a day. 

Kid tip #(I lost count) Budget for some day care costs if under 3.  It was really a life saver for us.  Even if your little one flips out when you drop them off, most of them stop before you make it to the elevator so don’t worry.

 

Picture Package

On black Friday we got the ‘all digital picture package’ for $120.  It was a great value to us.  We tried to get a few pictures each night with him before he lost his interest and ran away or flipped out.  Ended up with about 220 pictures and they range from perfect smiles to full on temper tantrum.  At that price I highly recommend it.  Don’t leave the ship without your pics though.  It has been almost 2 weeks and still no email.  Additionally there is a way to download them to your phone.  I had to click each picture individually to download it and wait for it to complete.  Luckily I had some bar time to sit there and click while I had a cocktail.

 

Demographic

The fellow cruises were older on this trip but all age groups were represented.  For all the people that my son cut off or crashed into, I apologize again for it.  For those that helped out with getting him to smile for a picture or you stopped to say hi to him because he was grumpy I truly appreciate it.  Sometimes that helping hand, even if only for 5 seconds, makes a world of difference to a parent.  For the most part everyone was very nice and we appreciated all the comments about our little guy.  For those that cut us off and then stopped in the middle of a walkway or pushed in front of us to get on an elevator and I ran over your heels with the stroller, you are welcome.  You deserved it. 

General thoughts

So I have sprinkled some thoughts throughout the review but here are some other items that can really help. 

-As you walk around take note of anything that flashes, beeps, moves, shines, etc.  When my kid got moody those things come in handy. 

- The light switch wall by Boleros is hours of entertainment for a kid.  They should have a bar next to that thing for the adults while the kids play.  The same can be said of the fireworks screen across from the light switch wall.

- There are poinsettias all over the ship for the holidays, while pretty they can be deadly for young kids.  Keep an eye on the little one. 

- my son loved dancing at Bolero’s and Music hall.  Second floor of music hall was a great place to let him run around.

- The over the door shoe holder works really well to keep your bathroom organized.  I also brought the magnet hooks people rave about.  Didn’t find them as useful.  I did bring some string. 

- Stroller wheels did get a little noisy, sticky but a quick spray in the bath helped.  I coated the whole thing in wd40 when we got home.  Not the best option to shower your stroller but I was working with limited assets. 

- The kiddie pool is outside and not open on bad weather days.  This is a design flaw.  My son wasn’t happen when he saw older kids in the indoor pool and he had no pool he could play in.

 

 

Most important piece of advice:  Every cruise will be different, I spent the first few days wishing this cruise was the same as my last one.  This will never happen. Every trip is different.  Make the best of this trip.  Traveling with my son was the most fun I have had on a cruise.  By no stretch of the imagination was it easy but it was a world of fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

 

I am sure I will think of other things to add but for now enjoy reading the textbook and let me know about any questions you might have.

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Agree about  Mitch and his staff.  They are too involved with themselves and really don’t come up with too many fun things to do.  Lots of downtime on this ship when there could be so much more to do.  Definite lack of energy.  The other ships we have been on kept us, all ages, busy all day and night.  Anthem just has too much wasted space, they must have had plans for it at one time.

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16 hours ago, DaniDanielle said:

Agree about  Mitch and his staff.  They are too involved with themselves and really don’t come up with too many fun things to do.  Lots of downtime on this ship when there could be so much more to do.  Definite lack of energy.  The other ships we have been on kept us, all ages, busy all day and night.  Anthem just has too much wasted space, they must have had plans for it at one time.

I don't think it is a ship/space problem.  I just think they failed to put together an enjoyable entertainment plan.  I remember one pool side event they had people playing rock paper scissors against each other.  Who wants to watch that?  With the screen by the pool and the speakers there is no reason they couldn't have some music or music videos playing to liven up the crowd.  

 

I am having an internal debate regarding the nightlife on Anthem.  Is so many venues with different entertainment a good thing because it gives less crowded space, or do they make the ship feel dead since there isn't one main spot for the party'ers.  Side note I wasn't a huge fan of the Royal Swedes either, great variety of songs, great crowd interaction but they were just a little flat to me

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10 hours ago, DaniDanielle said:

Sorry we missed rock, paper, scissors🤪

that was the second round of the game.  The first round a member of each team picked a number between I believe 1 and 500.  Then the bozo running the game told them the number he had written down.  Closest one wins.........kill me

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11 hours ago, grod19 said:

I remember one pool side event they had people playing rock paper scissors against each other.  Who wants to watch that?

 

They should have played the "enhanced" version instead; rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock! 😄 

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10 hours ago, grod19 said:

that was the second round of the game.  The first round a member of each team picked a number between I believe 1 and 500.  Then the bozo running the game told them the number he had written down.  Closest one wins.........kill me

 

We were on the sailing prior to yours and that same guy on the cruise director staff did rock paper scissors for everything, it was ridiculous.  He never got a game finished in the allotted time and talked nonstop instead of letting the games happen.  We stopped attending anything that he ran because he was so terrible.  We made sure to mention him in our survey too.  Forget the guys name.

 

We have had Mitch before as a cruise director and that time, we thought he did a decent job.  This time, we were not impressed.  There were a couple on his staff that were decent but overall, we felt it was the weakest group we have every had on any ship.  We felt the music offerings were lacking too.  We have sailed Anthem a bunch of times and have always enjoyed the musicians and singers from WWRY performing in the Via or the Schooner Bar throughout the cruise.  There were a few sessions, but nothing like we are used to.  We did see a Pink Floyd tribute by the new WWRY guitarist in Two70 and that was awesome!  We are big Joyce Kuo followers but she was not on our sailing and this guy had just replaced her.  We would definitely go see him again.

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I forgot to mention, I think the bands in Bolero's did a nice job.  I am not a big fan of piano music or acoustic music so I avoided both of those places and can't really comment on the quality.  When I walked by the people seemed to be enjoying it.  

 

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Posted (edited)

Really enjoyed your review. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

 

We cruised on Anthem with our then 9 month old son and it was very challenging to say the least. He wasn't able to walk yet and just learned how to crawl.  The Royal Tots daycare saved the trip for us.  After that trip we looked at each other and said "we are never going on another cruise with kids. At least until he's MUCH  older."  Well, guess what? We're headed back on Anthem in March with our going to be 19 month old! 😂

 

My question for you revolves around the bar/nightlife.  I imagine you tried to relax and have a few cocktails and take in a few music acts with the little one.  How did that work out?  Was your kid content to watch the band? How long was their attention span good for until they started to melt down and you had to move on?  The tips about the second floor of Boleros and the ordering dinner ahead of time are excellent.  One of our fears was him being able to tough out a real dinner. Last time we ate mostly in Windjammers when he was with us. (and everywhere else when he was in daycare for the evening).

 

And that light switch wall is one of the things I'm most looking forward to. Our little guy begs to be picked up so he can play with the switches in our house!

 

Edit: also, if you don't mind me asking, how did you work sleeping arrangements? Last time we got a pack and play from RCCL in our standard size balcony room and it took up such a large amount of room it was hard to walk. Our cabin steward had such a difficult time getting it together (we failed) that we didnt want to break it down between sleeps.   I think I read you pulled the sofa bed out. Did you use a blow up toddler mattress (forget what they are called) and have him sleep on that? Or did you use the pack and play?

Edited by dslucas

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53 minutes ago, dslucas said:

Really enjoyed your review. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

 

We cruised on Anthem with our then 9 month old son and it was very challenging to say the least. He wasn't able to walk yet and just learned how to crawl.  The Royal Tots daycare saved the trip for us.  After that trip we looked at each other and said "we are never going on another cruise with kids. At least until he's MUCH  older."  Well, guess what? We're headed back on Anthem in March with our going to be 19 month old! 😂

 

My question for you revolves around the bar/nightlife.  I imagine you tried to relax and have a few cocktails and take in a few music acts with the little one.  How did that work out?  Was your kid content to watch the band? How long was their attention span good for until they started to melt down and you had to move on?  The tips about the second floor of Boleros and the ordering dinner ahead of time are excellent.  One of our fears was him being able to tough out a real dinner. Last time we ate mostly in Windjammers when he was with us. (and everywhere else when he was in daycare for the evening).

 

And that light switch wall is one of the things I'm most looking forward to. Our little guy begs to be picked up so he can play with the switches in our house!

 

Edit: also, if you don't mind me asking, how did you work sleeping arrangements? Last time we got a pack and play from RCCL in our standard size balcony room and it took up such a large amount of room it was hard to walk. Our cabin steward had such a difficult time getting it together (we failed) that we didnt want to break it down between sleeps.   I think I read you pulled the sofa bed out. Did you use a blow up toddler mattress (forget what they are called) and have him sleep on that? Or did you use the pack and play?

Nightlife varied by night and his mood.  He loves music and dancing so that really helped.  Boleros seemed to be his favorite but he also liked music hall.  I am not sure watching the band was his cup of tea but colorful bright lights on/around the stage definitely helps.  Melt down times varied greatly.  Some days he was in day care 2-6 so we had him for dinner.  Those nights he normally passed out before we got to get to a bar.  The nights he was in 6-10 he usually had a second burst of energy when we picked him up.  

 

Sleeping, our room had the pull out couch.  We used that.  It was nice because it vanished during the day.  At night when it is out it takes up a lot of space.  Who slept there varied.  Some nights me, some the wife, and I think for part of a night he slept there alone.  It is low to the ground which is nice for him.  Granted at home he sleeps with us so he is used to that.  At day care at home he sleeps on a cot so again, that helps.  No toddler mattress, no pack and play, and we didn't even bring a baby bath.  He just stood up and got a shower with the wife and I.  

 

I think I hit all your questions

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This is really interesting and helpful, thank you! Anthem is our favourite ship (We board Sunday) but I am 3 months pregnant so this will be our last trip just the two of us for many years. Great to hear it from the perspective of a parent as we plan to cruise with our little one going forward!

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Posted (edited)

Don’t give up on cruising just because you have kids. We have 3 children and the two youngest have been on cruises since they were 1. It can be a challenge but always fun and any holiday is what you make it. Our youngest is almost 5 and she looks forward to the kids club, swimming pools, the pizza, the shows, etc, etc. 
 

There’s also the satisfaction of knowing that you’re bugging the small number of people out there who don’t think children should be on cruises 😎

Edited by Billy Baltic

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On 1/2/2020 at 6:20 PM, Billy Baltic said:

Don’t give up on cruising just because you have kids.

 

Never

 

On 1/2/2020 at 6:20 PM, Billy Baltic said:

There’s also the satisfaction of knowing that you’re bugging the small number of people out there who don’t think children should be on cruises 😎

 

Glad I am not the only one sick enough in the head to think this way

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Really appreciate this post.  We are cruising with our daughter who will be 14 months old at the time of our trip.  Just a 5 night on Independence to Labadee and Coco Cay, which should be easier port stops to get some beach time.

 

Several questions for you:

1) Did the nursery indicate how much capacity they would have for kids under 3 years old?  It's not a huge concern, but I have read other places to go straight to the nursery to lock down times just to make sure you don't get blocked out. 

 

2) Any other tips, complaints, or things we should know about the nursery?

 

Thanks!

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