Cruises oftentimes summon thoughts of retirees gambling what’s left of their 401ks and painfully awkward organized “icebreakers” for singles aboard an overpriced floating shopping mall.
But last week we had the chance to hop on board Anthem of the Seas, where cruisers who won’t be withdrawing from those 401ks for decades to come are spoiled for choice. The 4,180-passenger ship is the second of three Quantum Class cruise liners commissioned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean International, which all cater to younger, technologically-minded and evermore active thrill-seekers. Keen to expand beyond senior vacationers, Anthem boasts top-notch food and drinks plus innovations like RipCord by iFly (a skydiving simulator), the Bionic Bar (where two robotic arms mix up two drinks a minute from 30 spirits and 21 mixers) and the SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports complex at sea. So guys, if you’re looking to eat your weight in braised lamb shank, broiled lobster tail or slow-cooked halibut, sip high-end cocktails or zip line the world’s longest course over the ocean (maybe not in that order), Anthem of the Seas is worth a look.
And for any cruise, really, check out our best tips for being a young dude on any ship on the high seas. Do it right and you’ll expend your energy, not your dollars.
1. Don’t bring too much cash.
You really won’t need cash for much of anything at all, unless you’re one of those people who actually purchase souvenirs. Otherwise, tipping and gambling at the casino are the only reasons you’ll want it. When you board the ship you should instead set up an expense account, which, in Anthem’s case, is a Seapass—basically, an adult version of a Dave & Buster’s cashless card that allows you to pay for all of your drinks, food and everything else on the ship, and then pay your bill only when you disembark. Guests can set up either a credit card or a cash account, and receive their final statement at the staterooms on the last night of their cruise. Oh and to keep things from getting too out of control, you will get receipts, so we suggest you hold onto those. Royal Caribbean also has a free app called Royal IQ where you can also check your balance at any time right from your phone.
2. Purchase a drink package.
What’s a cruise if not a booze cruise? While booze adds up, unlimited drink packages can cut down the cost in the long run, and you won’t have to think twice about having just one more–because who needs hard decisions on vacation? Typically the packages are broken down by selection, with higher-priced ones offering a greater selection of beverages. So before you buy, think about what kind of drinker you are and how much you really drink. If you’re a beer and house wine type, for example, you may be better off with one of the lower tier options, whereas a cocktail fiend will be shelling out a little more. With Anthem’s least expensive option, you’d need to drink six or seven beers to break even. It’s a cruise—don’t even pretend like you won’t.
3. Treat yourself to fine dining.
Feeding yourself can be one of the priciest parts of vacationing, but cruises almost always have all-inclusive dining options. Anthem, for example, offers multiple options for light bites and sit-down meals at restaurants like The Café @ Two70 or the huge buffet-style Windjammer Marketplace. Our advice? Enjoy the included dining options for most meals, so you can treat yourself to fine cuisine at least once. Anthem’s Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, which uses a molecular gastronomy style of cooking—dry ice and unanticipated flavors and aromas—in a convivial setting reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was probably our best decision. We’re talking tempura caviar, liquid lobster, crispy crab cones and duck liver fritter galore. Side note: Make sure to pack something formal, as most fine dining restaurants aboard cruises do have formal nights and/or regularly require the appropriate attire.
4. Don’t just hang around.
Sure you could spend your days sipping Cabaretes by the pool, but if you’re an active guy, boredom will inevitably ensue. Instead, take some time to try the ship’s amenities. One of our favorites on Anthem of the Seas was the skydiving simulator, a vertical wind tunnel with speeds topping more than 100 miles an hour to cushion riders, no parachute necessary. You can also catch some waves at FlowRider, an artificial wave that simulates surfing. (Pro tip: If you just sit back and watch people try this thing, you’re to see at least one girl lose her bikini top.) And while Anthem also boasts SeaPlex—the largest sports facility at sea, replete with basketball courts, boxing rings, trapeze lessons and, um, video game pods—most ships have free workout facilities for you to burn off some of those buffet calories.
5. Choose package-deal excursions.
Once you’ve made it to a port, the number of excursions available to you can be overwhelming—scuba diving, kayaking, fishing and beach parties. While some or all of these sound appealing, time is limited and the boat will leave without you. Check out excursion packages, which are cheaper than buying every excursion individually and composed of crowd favorites. The people working these excursions have become accustomed to the amount of time their guests have and therefore know when to get you back. We opted for an Ultimate Thriller Pass in Jamaica, for example, and were able to go on a three-course zip-lining adventure, ride ATVs through the jungle, enjoy a complimentary lunch and some rum punch before drinking more rum on our tasting tour of the Appleton Estate, and then go tubing down the Falmouth River, mildly tipsy… alright, very tipsy. Like we said, every cruise is a booze cruise.