Cruise companies are going to new heights to entertain and delight a growing number of cruise fanatics. Take Royal Caribbean, one of the largest operators in the cruising sector, and the first to introduce skydiving at sea. Ripcord by iFLY has to be seen to be believed, a thrilling skydiving experience inside a glass cylinder with cyclonic winds that will make your cheeks flap like a Shar-Pei's.
There's a strong focus on entertainment on the ships in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class. In addition to skydiving, cruisers can take in the view from on high in the North Star glass viewing pod, attend circus school, and order a cocktail from a robot at Bionic Bar.
SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, features bumper cars, sports courts and more. The youthful nature of many of these activities attracts younger travellers, families with children and anyone who is young at heart. The Royal Caribbean vibe is about as far from fuddy-duddy as you can get.
Anthem of the Seas, the second ship in the innovative Quantum class (and sister ship to Ovation of the Seas, which is sailing in Australia), is home-ported year round at Cape Liberty, New Jersey, the port for New York cruising. Anthem sails regularly to the Bahamas and Caribbean, popular destinations for New Yorkers, especially in the winter.
A growing number of Australian travellers are combining a visit to the Big Apple with an island cruise. Cruising is the perfect way to experience the diversity of the Caribbean islands, with the comfort and convenience of unpacking once and leaving the navigation to the experts.
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In San Juan, Puerto Rico, we walked the cobblestone streets of the old town and drank rum cocktails at open-air bars filled with Puerto Ricans toasting the good life. In Barbados, it seemed everywhere we went the locals wanted to discuss cricket. “You know Ricky Ponting?” I was asked again and again.
In Antigua, I could have stayed forever to swim in some of the bluest, cleanest, clearest ocean water I have ever seen. It seems the Caribbean islands – St Kitts, St Maarten, St Lucia – are in a competition to prove which has the most glorious white sand and picture-perfect waters. We, the visitors, are the winners.
After a day exploring under the meltingly hot sun, it’s a pleasure to retreat to the comfort of a beautiful ship. Anthem of the Seas was launched in 2015 and features reimagined dining with 18 unique restaurant concepts, including Jamie’s Italian, Michael’s Genuine Pub and Royal Caribbean favourites like Chops Grille steakhouse and Izumi Japanese.
With more than 2,000 cabins – more than 75 per cent with balconies – there are many cabin classes and configurations. Worth noting, studio cabins are available for solo travellers, and interior staterooms feature cool ‘virtual balconies’, floor-to-ceiling flat-screen HD TVs that screen real-time views of the passing scenery.
Technology has been embraced by the Royal Caribbean team, who understand that cruisers want to stay connected at all times. The ship’s high-speed internet offering features the fastest bandwidth at sea so guests can connect and stream as quickly as they would onshore, while the Royal iQ app makes keeping track of your onboard schedule simple, with all bookings and cruise details stored and updated automatically.
Several Caribbean itineraries are available from Cape Liberty, ranging from four to 12 nights. On the longer sailings, expect to visit Puerto Rico, St Maarten, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados and St Kitts & Nevis. On the seven-night sailings, explore Bahamas and its beautiful beaches and vibrant local culture.
* Featured image: The North Star viewing pod.