The world's newest cruise ship has had its first taste of water, and is now taking a leisurely trip up the river.
Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas on Tuesday began its 20-mile trip up the Ems River from the Meyer Werft shipyards in Papenberg, Germany to the North Sea, where it will undergo a series of sea trials before being handed over to Royal Caribbean in mid-April. The 10-hour trip brings out thousands of spectators as the massive vessel travels in reverse with the aid of two tugboats at about 2-3 knotts.
The sister ship to Quantum of the Seas has been under construction since August 2013 and will have its naming ceremony on April 20, after which it will begin service from Southampton for a summer of Mediterranean cruises. In the fall, it will make its North American debut serving the New York market from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, N.J., taking over duties from the Quantum of the Seas, which is headed to China in May. Several of its sailings will include port of call stops at Port Canaveral.
A third Quantum-class ship, Ovation of the Seas, is still under construction at Meyer Werft, having the keel laid last week. It's due in April 2016 at the same time as the line's new Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas, which is being constructed at STX France along with a second unnamed Oasis-class ship due in 2018.
The Quantum-class ships are among the largest in the world, at 168,666 tons, and the trip down the river will be a tight one, with as little as a few centimeters on either side of the ship to make the passage.
When in service, the 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas will feature the same unique offerings that Quantum debuted last fall including the North Star pivot-arm ride that takes cruisers up and out over the sea 300 feet up. Also on board will be the Bionic Bar with robotic bartenders, skydiving simulator and the Seaplex, an indoor activity center that has a full-size basketball court, circus school, nighttime bumper cars and roller skating accompanied by a floating DJ booth above the action.
The ship's signature gathering space is called Two70, as in 270-degree panoramic views through three-story, glass walls that uses projection technology at night to allow for digital scenery to accompany entertainment options such as aerial performances.
Also new to the Quantum class are virtual balconies in inside staterooms, expanding on the idea Disney Cruise Line brought with their virtual portholes.
All of these features are on top of other Royal Caribbean mainstays such as the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing wall, fitness center, spa, pools, outdoor movie screen and other amenities.
Entertainment will include the main show slated for the Anthem, "We Will Rock You" featuring the music of Queen and an original production called "The Gift" coming in summer. In addition, an original production titled "Spectra's Cabaret" will be performed in the Two70 space on the ship.
Dining on board Quantum-class ships is different than most. The line rolled out what it calls Dynamic Dining, that offers five complimentary among 18 dining options on board. There's no set seating time or reserved seats.
"One of the things that's really going to astound people is the new type of dining and all of the culinary work that has gone into it," said Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. when the Quantum of the Seas debuted last fall. "It fits the ergonomics of the ship and it fits in terms of the way people operate so it really allows us to move the whole culinary experience to an entirely new level"
The five main restaurants are American Icon Grill, Chic, The Grande Restaurant, Silk, Coastal Kitchen. On top of that, cruisers can choose complimentary dining at Devinly Decadence partnered with author and chef Devin Alexander, Sorrento's, Windjammer Marketplace, Seaplex Dog House, The Cafe @ Two70 and Cafe Promenade.
Specialty dining at extra cost includes an Italian option from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver called Jamie's Italian.
"I never ever thought I'd open a restaurant on the high seas," said Oliver last year. "So it's really exciting and a massive challenge. What we wanted to create was the most incredible experience - hand-made, homemade food at scale you know with atmosphere and balancing great service with really great food but with an energy which is kind of not uptight and we wanted it to be a modern expression of Italian food."
Also on board is a gastropub concept from James Beard Award winning chef Michael Schwartz, who runs Miami-based Michael's Genuine Food and Drink and will now have Michael's Genuine Pub on board both Quantum ships.
"Michael's very passionate about what he does," said Cornelius Gallagher, director of culinary operations for Royal Caribbean International. "He's very ingredient driven as a chef and we're excited to see how he's going to bring that to life in his new pub concept."
Other specialty dining includes Wonderland, which services experimental cuisine, Chops Grille, Izumi Japanese Cuisine, Chef's Table and Johnny Rockets.
"The degree of flexibility is unprecedented in the cruise category," said Royal Caribbean Chief Operating Officer and former line president and CEO Adam Goldstein last fall. "The range in culinary offerings is unprecedented in the cruise category and it's going to be a lot of fun."
The addition of Anthem of the Seas brings the Royal Caribbean fleet to 23 ships with three more under construction, but also two ships due to transfer owners in April 2016.
By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
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