It’s always strange going to a festival or event that is in its first year. I mean there are no reviews you can read or photos from the event, so you’re pretty much going in blind. Plus, a few things are bound to go wrong, teething problems and all.
Well that was definitely the case with Anchored, the festival on a cruise ship I attended earlier in the month. Some things definitely went wrong.
Some things I think are totally understandable, being their maiden voyage and all, but I definitely have a bone or two to pick with them on some other things. Nonetheless, I did have fun during the week, so hopefully this will be a fully objective and detailed view on what went down at Anchored 2017.
Anchored by Unique Cruise 2017
Boarding The Ship
Right off the bat, getting on the ship was complicated.
The transfers that Anchored were promoting were pretty expensive so Josh and I decided to get the €5 train from Rome to Civitavecchia, Rome’s port, which took just over an hour. Then I understood it was a 10 minute walk to the actual port from the station… However the reality was that from there we then had to get a minibus to a hub of coaches, and then get on the right coach for the cruise we were boarding. It was a lot. I should mention we only realised all of this after about 45 minutes of walking around the port with our luggage trying to find any kind of sign or anyone that could help.
So word to the wise for any cruise-goers, google where you need to go before you get there. Just saying.
The security part of boarding the ship was much like an airport with the metal detectors and handbag screening shizzle. But it actually went pretty quickly, I had expected massive queues.
And finally, we had arrived!
Our Ocean View Stateroom
First things first, our room.
We had one of the Ocean View cabins on Deck 4, and it was literally everything you needed. A large double bed, a sofa, a TV and a shower. It was a lil cramped when we both had our suitcases out, but I was generally happy with the room. I heard a few people complain that the rooms were too small, but I thought it was cosy.
Plus, having the large porthole window was pretty cool to wake up to every day and see where in the world we were!
Exploring The Bars
The Jewel Of The Seas cruise ship that hosted Anchored boasted 16 bars onboard. However, a lot of these seemed to be closed during this event, like the Sports Bar or any of the 4 bars on Deck 13. Like, they were open to walk into but the bars weren’t manned so there was no-one in there.
The Pool Bar was dominated by party-goers on the top deck, so if you just wanted to have a drink, it was either the Lobby Bar on Deck 4 or the Schooner Bar on Deck 6. The latter one was my favourite – the bartenders were nice, the drinks were made well, it was nautical themed and it seemed to have the most amount of “normal people” in it. I’ll get to that.
First I want to tell you about the drinks package.
Now the price of said drinks package varies massively depending who you talk to. I remember it being around the £300 mark for the week (Anchored have since changed their website so I can’t find it rn), but I’ve read blogs where they’ve said they paid £500. But I think this may be if you bought it onboard. But either way, it’s a lot of money.
But the thing is, drinks were hella expensive. And I don’t mean like London prices kinda expensive. I mean like VIP club in Vegas kinda thing. A bottle of Budweiser was $10. A glass of wine was $15-$25. A glass of prosecco was $25. Oh and they charge 20% tax on top of those prices…
That’s not ok.
People that weren’t on the drinks package were losing their shit over this as soon as they got onboard and instantly made their way to Guest Services to book themselves onto the drinks package. So note, if you read this blog post and still want to go to Anchored, buy the drinks package upfront, pal.
The Worst People
Oh god, the people.
This is the part that I did not enjoy at Anchored 2017. The people were the worst. There were a few people there that seemed kinda like me and Josh, just there to have a good time and see some nice places. But the majority of the Anchored guests were a combination of TOWIE, Geordie Shore and a Pure Gym. Think guys with muscles and shit tattoos and short shorts. Think girls with lip fillers and hair extensions and fake eyelashes.
I realise I sound completely judgemental here, I should emphasise that I don’t actually care about how people want to express themselves in the way they look. But this was the way they behaved. Like they had no respect for anyone else on the ship.
You see, on the first day, we had to do a fire drill, which is mandatory on all cruises. It’s like a legal thing. You go down to your meeting point, tell the guy with a clipboard your room number, wait patiently in line and, as frequently expressed, do not eat, drink or use your mobile phone. They said this lots.
But it was absolute mayhem.
You couldn’t hear the guy talking about safety essentials because there were a group of guys, already pissed, shouting over him and a group of girls posing for a snapchat on their phones.
It was the living worst.
Then there were the Captain’s daily messages over the tanoid… You see, the lovely Captain is used to telling passengers arrival times in ports, what the sailing conditions are like, generally nice stuff. But on this cruise he had to make daily reminders for guests not to smoke inside the cruise ship, maintain guest behaviour expectations and, get this, not to jump between balconies. What the actual fuck. What kind of morons are jumping between balconies, probably drunk, whilst we’re sailing in the middle of the ocean??
Summary: this was Magaluf on a boat.
But the thing is, the boat wankers weren’t the only clientele onboard Anchored. You see, Royal Caribbean had actually sold this as a regular cruise to some guests… Think retired couples, people who like a nice relaxing cruise, you know? And they were subjected to all day all night raves, inconsiderate people dropping the c-bomb in every sentence and hiked up drinks prices.
I felt so bad for them. At least I knew what I was signing myself up to. Sort of.
The Crazy Parties
Ok ok, let’s talk about the main draw of Anchored – the festival on a cruise ship! It’s the music right? The parties, the acts, it’s the reason why most people booked.
Well I’ll be objective here, the parties looked like people were enjoying them. There were lasers and smoke machines and a large screen like you’d find in a club. They had several themed days/nights like the ‘white party’ on the first day (clothing not people, pretty un-PC if you ask me) or the ‘garage special’, and people were definitely having fun.
For me? Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t actually like house music. So I can’t really measure how good most of it was. But I do like garage and I did like the R&B and Hip Hop they were playing between parties.
My bone to pick with Anchored in this area is that, although I’m not into house, I had been looking forward to 2 acts at the event – Tinie Tempah and Artful Dodger.
Neither were there.
Despite Tinie Tempah being the headliner and the main reason lots of people bought tickets, he apparently pulled out the week before. There was no communication about this at all and I met lots of people who were super disappointed about it.
Oh and like I said, I liked the garage party, but it coincided with another one of their events – the champagne spray party. That’s right, the host counts down like it’s NYE and everyone sprays the champagne they’ve just bought. For bants.
I should mention the champagne ranged in price from $60-$100. One guy came back to his hot tub full of almost-naked girls with 4 bottles of the $100 variety, sprayed them at the right moment and didn’t taste a drop. Well that’s one way to spend $400.
Also, I should mention that I had a VIP wristband…
A section of the poolside area was sectioned off – presumably for VIPs – and had lots of white day-beds in it. I went over to go in and the bouncer told me that it was only for people who had BOUGHT beds or tables. Apparently these were up to $1000 to “buy”. So what was the point of the VIP band, huh?
As I’m sure you can gather, this was an “I’ve got money to burn” kind of event.
Oh and I haven’t even told you about Mykonos!
Other than the parties on the top deck, there was one event scheduled in a club in Mykonos. We were docked until 5am so guests could go to this party until late and get back to the ship in time.
Well, on booking, Anchored stated that all events were included in the price. Yet the club night cost $40, obvs you then had to pay for drinks because you weren’t on the boat anymore and it was an extra $10 for the coach transfer from the boat.
Nah, I’ll skip that one, babes.
Ok I’ll give them this one. The food was AMAZING.
I mean I think they slightly exaggerated the restaurants available. I mean there are several speciality restaurants like the Chops Grille steak house and the Izumi Japanese restaurant, which looked fab. But they’re all at an additional fee, from $30 per head.
So really there are only two options available – the Windjammer Cafe which is a buffet and has a more casual vibe, and Tides Dining Room which has table service and a dress code.
Both had awesome food.
I mean I preferred the Windjammer just because I could pile my plate high with a variety of different delicious dishes. Most of which didn’t go together but I can’t help myself. They even had speciality nights where there was a focus on a certain cuisine. And every meal was different. Literally the best buffet I’ve ever been to.
Best thing ever though? They did late night snacks.
Seriously. Between 11pm and 5am a massive spread of my favourite after-drinking dishes were laid out – Chinese, curry, cheesy chips, the works. I BLOODY LOVED IT.
One night we were super tired but stayed awake until 11pm so we could have another meal. That sentence right there says everything about my trip.
Several members of staff on the cruise were exceptional. But it was usually the people who weren’t interacting with the top deck wankers.
The guy that tended to our room everyday (Edwin) was amazing and the bartenders in the Schooner Bar (Lori and Alan) were really cool. But elsewhere the staff were getting increasingly ruder as the week went on. Guest Services in particular were hating their lives and showing it by really not giving a fuck about anyone’s problems.
But you kind of can’t blame them. Like I said, people were dicks on this cruise. A bartender in the Lobby Bar actually told us that he was being treated like a second class citizen and couldn’t take much more of it. Poor bloke.
I think this is one of the areas that you can see the major juxtaposition between Anchored and Royal Caribbean. The cruise staff are not equipped for this kind of customer. I almost think Anchored should get new staff in for the event that can cope with this kind of thing in future.
Facilities & Entertainment Onboard
Ok so I’ve established I wasn’t a massive fan of the top deck parties. They weren’t my thing and the artists I would have seen weren’t even there. So what did I even do on the ship?
Now here’s another area I did like.
Being a cruise ship, there were so many things to do. We played mini golf and basketball in the day, laid out on the sun loungers in the sun, played air hockey in the arcade and swam in the indoor pool in the Solarium (the main pool was dominated by the pool parties every day so were a no-go).
Oh and we did play Bingo one day but only because they were doing a free round, as not enough people turned up. Normally it’s $22 to play.
Also, I had totally planned to do the sunset yoga, because doesn’t that sounds dreamy, but all exercise classes were an extra $12. Stop charging for everything, Anchored.
In the evenings, we would drink cocktails in the Schooner Bar then watch the karaoke in the Safari Lounge and dance in the cheesy disco they put on at the end. That was a lot of fun.
Some nights we also went to the Casino or even to the theatre. I mean I think promoting the theatre as “West End Shows” was a bit much, these aren’t expensive productions. But we saw some acrobats one night which was neat and then an 80’s band called the Wild Boys another night. Wild Boys played all the 80’s bangers and we were actually dancing in the aisles. SO FUN.
So you see, despite my ranting, I did have a good time on the ship. But I think that was more to do with the facilities of a Royal Caribbean cruise in general you know? I’m basically an old lady.
Okay, so here’s the main reason I went on Anchored 2017: the wonderful destinations it stopped off at!
I’ll go into more detail in a destination post, but I absolutely adored our stops in Santorini and Mykonos. The Greek Islands are just amazing. Like I said it was a long stop in Mykonos, from lunchtime until 5am the next morning, but the Santorini stop was quite short, with just an afternoon there. But I still very much enjoyed the 2 days we spent on the Greek Islands.
All I would say is that the itinerary was very misleading. I mean, this was how the days were described:
- Sunday: Rome
- Monday: At Sea
- Tuesday: Santorini
- Wednesday: Mykonos
- Thursday: Mykonos
- Friday: At Sea
- Saturday: South Of France
- Sunday: Rome
What they fail to mention is that the Thursday was actually also at sea as the ship departed at 5am. Also you board in Rome at lunchtime so that’s another half-day at sea. It was just a lot more sailing time than I think the itinerary suggests.
Also, the France stop was incredibly misleading. The strap line on the poster for Anchored 2017 actually looked like this:
ROME – SANTORINI – MYKONOS – MONTE CARLO – CANNES
To me this suggested there were two stops in the South of France – Monte Carlo and Cannes. But in reality there was only one stop. And it was at neither of these destinations.
The boat actually stopped in Villefranche in Nice. I was pleasantly surprised with this town, it was so quaint and lovely to explore. Again, I’ll do another post about that. But I still felt duped.
The stop was only for an afternoon again, so there was hardly any time for guests to get a train to Monte Carlo or Cannes. So actually the only way you could even visit one of these advertised destinations was through a paid-for ‘Shore Excursion’.
I heard quite a few people complain about this so I think this one is a learning experience for Anchored. Hopefully next year they won’t advertise destinations they’re not actually going to be docking at…
Hidden Charges Though
Ok, here is my main issue with my experience at Anchored 2017… I realise you may be sick of me bitching about everything at this point, but this one is a biggie.
You may have clocked on by now that most things are at an extra charge on this boat. From yoga classes and bingo, to cocktails over $12 and champagne to spray for no reason. But it was all optional up until this point. I had a lovely time sticking to my delicious buffet and basic cocktails and free rounds of mini-golf.
But then came the bill.
I mean I had expected a couple of things on the bill – I’d spent $20 on the slots in the casino and $8 on Room Service (the food is free but there’s an $8 delivery charge each time). But lo and behold my bill was over $200. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.
It seems Royal Caribbean add $95 of gratuities per person onto your account. I wasn’t phased at first because I know lots of people who have been on cruises before and have told me that if it’s a bit much, you can ask them to take it off and pay the amount you wish to pay. But Guest Services very rudely told me – nah, babes. It’s MANDATORY.
In what world are gratuities mandatory?
I was just mad that the Royal Caribbean website had said they were optional and there was no mention on the Anchored website. I overheard so many people on the boat saying they didn’t know how they were going to pay their bill because they didn’t know about the extra gratuity fees.
Another miscommunication from Anchored that could really easily have been avoided with some transparency on their website before booking.
I feel like this review has been a lot rant-ier than I had planned. Soz about that.
But really, I did have a good time on this cruise. I loved the destinations, the food was fab and I spent lazy days playing ping pong and sunbathing on the top deck. It was lovely. But maybe I should just have gone on a regular cruise, you know? The company would probably have been nicer.
But a lot of this was down to the organisation and communication of the event in my opinion. If the headline act was still there, if there was transparency over the itinerary, if I knew what to expect on my bill? Maybe I wouldn’t be so ranty rn.
No actually, I still would. It was extortionate when you consider people paid upwards of £700 just to be there without the drinks package and all the added extras.
Anyway, despite my whining, I definitely think that some people would really like this event. There are plenty of ravey people who like house music and partying and have a large amount of disposable cash to burn. This is the event for them.
But if you’re looking for festival vibes, cool people or cheap beers? Stick to Glastonbury.
Would you go to Anchored 2018? Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!
Total Blogger Transparency: I attended Anchored 2017 on a complimentary press ticket, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I wouldn’t play you like that shorty. (I think that’s quite clear from this post…)