Sky Diving, Surfing: Is This the Most Over-the-Top Cruise Ship?

Laura Begley Bloom
·Editor-in-Chief

Bumper cars at sea? Yes, please.

Last weekend, my 3-year-old daughter Lucy and I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s new Anthem of the Seas, which — conveniently — is based in the New York City area. (Well, the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in nearby Bayonne, N.J., if you want to be exact.)

You can’t think of a better home port for a ship like this, which practically rivals Manhattan when it comes to over-the-top attractions. The Anthem of the Seas packs it in. There’s a surf simulator, a roller-skating rink, a circus school, and a 30-foot high rock climbing wall.

And that’s just to name a few.

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The Anthem of the Seas. (Photo by islandstock / Alamy Stock Photo. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel)

Even the sail-away party is over-the-top, in perfect New York style. As the ship sailed out of Cape Liberty past the Manhattan skyline, anthemic songs like the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” boomed over the loud speakers, while Lucy and I waved goodbye to the city.

You couldn’t imagine a more spectacular backdrop.

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Lucy and my friend’s daughter, Zoe, at the sail-away party. (Photo: Laura Begley Bloom)

Next time I come on this ship I’m going to make sure I experience the sail-away from the North Star, which is the perfect place to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. This glassed-in pod whisks you 303 feet above sea level, then out over the water. Later in the trip, I checked it out: the 360-degree views of the ship and sea were dazzling. Sadly, Lucy was a couple inches too short to be allowed onboard the North Star.

But she was just the right age for RipCord by iFly, a skydiving simulator. I was actually quite amazed that the minimum age for this adventure was 3, and my intrepid daughter was game to try it out. So we geared up in blue jumpsuits and matching helmets, went for training, and headed up into the clear glass flight chamber on deck 16. Alas, after watching mom flail around — this thing was harder then I expected — Lucy decided skydiving wasn’t for her.

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I’m flying! Sorta. (Photo: Laura Begley Bloom)

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I gave Lucy her own simulated flying experience outside the iFly. (Photo: Lisa McElroy)

But there was plenty to keep kids of any age happy for days at sea. The ship has a water park for toddlers to splash around, as well as an expansive children’s club divided into different age groups and loaded with activities: scavenger hunts, science experiments, and more.

Related: 14 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Cruise Ship Workers

In the Seaplex, an adventure area that transforms itself throughout the day, Lucy got a kick out of roller-skating for the very first time. And while the age minimum was 5 for the bumper cars, she was delighted to crawl around on the stationary cars alongside the Seaplex.

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“Driving” the bumper cars. (Photo: Laura Begley Bloom)

Royal Caribbean also has a partnership with DreamWorks, with characters from Shrek and “The Penguins of Madagascar” (yes, giant penguins) roaming the ship and performing impromptu dance parties. We got to check out Shrek’s pal Fiona boogying amid the bumper cars.

I could keep going — and the Anthem of the Seas sure does. There are 16 decks with experiences at every turn, plus more than 20 dining options, including restaurants from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Biggest Loser star Devin Alexander, and Miami chef Michael Schwartz. Lucy’s favorite was the Seaplex Dog House, a hot dog food truck embedded into the wall of the ship on deck 15.

Related: A 12-Year-Old’s Expert Tips on How to Book a Family Cruise

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Painting the menu at Wonderland. (Photo: Laura Begley Bloom)

And we both got a kick out of Wonderland, an Alice in Wonderland-style restaurant with a menu based on the elements (fire, earth, and so on). You start off the meal with a menu that you have to “paint” with water to read.

And once the kids go to sleep, there are lots of ways to keep mom and dad entertained, like the memorable Bionic Bar, where a robot bartender whips up cocktails. Indeed, this is the ship that never sleeps — perfect for the city that never sleeps.

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