1,112 feet long, 15 passenger decks high and bursting with the most innovate features at sea, Independence of the Seas raised every industry bar when she made her grand entrance in 2008.

This floating master-piece by Royal Caribbean has dominated the Mediterranean since her arrival. Gaining the title of Southampton’s most popular ship she has docked with pride in this busy UK port. Boasting a host of industry firsts she gives British cruisers the chance to experience one of the most innovative ships afloat - right from their doorstep.

With various cruise line’s bringing ships to Southampton to take advantage of the fascinating cities that line the sun-drenched Mediterranean during the summer, she has helped cater to the rapidly growing UK cruising market. Independence of the Seas, commonly known as Indy, has been the largest ship to sail from here and docked alongside other popular ships including Celebrity Eclipse, P&O Cruises Azura and Emerald Princess.

With British holiday-makers craving to cruise and experience new ships, it was no surprise that when the largest ship in the world Oasis of the Seas announced a one off sailing from Southampton, it sold out in record time. Did this spark an idea in Royal Caribbean’s head - Do we need a newer ship in Southampton?

A couple of months ago the big announcement was made - new ship Anthem of the Seas will call Southampton her home. It did not take long for speculation to start – will she replace the much loved Indy?

With no 2015 itineraries being released for Independence of the Seas and calling the 13th October 2013 sailing her 'farewell' cruise, we know Anthem is set to be the new 'cool kid' of Southampton.

With this in mind, I wanted to make a short comparison for you to see the changes you can expect in Southampton for 2015…

Stats

Independence of the Seas

Gross tonnage: 154,407 GRT

Length: 1,112 feet

Width: 185 feet

Passenger Decks: 15

Guest Capacity: 4,375

Anthem of the Seas

Gross tonnage: 167,800 GRT

Length: 1,141 feet

Width: 136 feet

Passenger Decks: 16

Guest Capacity: 4,905

Entertainment

Independence of the Seas – Home to one of the largest entertainment programmes at sea, Independence of the Seas has you covered from morning to night. The Alhambra Theatre seats 1,200 guests and showcases the best in musicals, Broadway style shows, comedians and other exciting productions. Studio B, the innovative ice-rink boasts spectacular ice-shows from a world-class international cast. The Olive or Twist Jazz Club enables guests to simply sit back and take in the idyllic sounds of a live pianist. As-well as a large casino, pub with live music, karaoke, nightclub and intimate champagne bar, the entertainment programme caters for every single taste.

My entertainment rating – 9/10

Anthem of the Seas – Set to raise every bar in cruise ship entertainment, Anthem of the Seas is expected to boast the most exciting array of entertainment at sea.  The main theatre will showcase the smash hit musical, MAMMIA MIA! Making its debut at sea it is set to unveil the best singers and dancers the fleet has had. Music Hall will be a bold, spacious venue with an electric atmosphere. This will be the place to experience great bands, fantastic solo acts, party nights and world-class Dj’s. The place I am most excited about it Two70. A venue like this has never been built on land, let alone at sea. A panoramic venue to admire 270° ocean views during the day, then turn into a spectacular entertainment venue in the evening. As the sun goes down the walls will transform into hi-tech digital projection screens with breath-taking performances from gymnasts, aerialists and dancers. As-well as these new venues, she will boast Royal Caribbean favourites such as the nightclub, casino, cocktail bars and more.

My entertainment predicted rating - 10/10

Synopsis - Whilst Independence of the Seas offered a feast of entertaining options, Anthem of the Seas will utilise the very latest in entertainment technology to bring onboard experiences like you've never seen before. Balancing innovative developments with classic favourites are sure to strike the right chord with passengers.

Dining

Independence of the Seas – One of the first ships in the fleet to feature such a large dining selection, she sends guests on an exciting culinary journey. The three-tier main dining room with its deep red and gold décor is the perfect place for cherished family meal times. For alternative dining the options are endless, from a casual burger in Johnny Rockets to a juicy steak in Chops Grille. After her upgrade in April 2013 she gained my favourite onboard restaurant, Italian bistro - Giovanni’s.

My dining rating – 10/10

Anthem of the Seas – Royal Caribbean appear to remain tight-lipped about the dining onboard Anthem of the Seas, which makes me think they have something amazing up their sleeve. I wonder if she will boast more of a British cuisine experience as she will be sailing from Southampton? I am sure she will offer a host of restaurants, cafes and dining rooms to stun us once again.

My dining predicted rating – Hard to predict at the moment.

Things to do

Independence of the Seas – The Freedom class ships really changed things in the cruising industry, making the impossible possible. From wave machines, ice rinks and water parks, so much adventure can be had. The first ships to introduce the H2O Water Park, she allows children to have as much fun as adults. The rock climbing wall, mini golf, Flowrider and ice-skating are great for adventure-seeking families, couples and singles. For the more relaxing cruiser, she is home to a large spa, whirlpools, cupcake classes and the adult-only Solarium.

My activity rating – 9.5/10

Anthem of the Seas – Anthem of the Seas will completely redefine what there is to do on a cruise ship. Boasting a whole range of industry firsts, guests are sure to be impressed when they see what they can do onboard. Fly onboard? Why not! In true Royal Caribbean style, they just had to push boundaries even further by adding an indoor skydive onboard. RipCord by iFly will allow guests to experience a once in a lifetime skydive simulator. If that has not excited you enough, on top of the ship will be North Star, a pod like capsule that will slowly lift you 300 feet above sea level to enjoy 360° panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding areas. Become a kid again in SeaPlex, the biggest sports and entertainment complex at sea. This ground-breaking venue will home a full sized basketball court, circus school, roller-skating, floating DJ and bumper cars.

My activity predicted rating – 10/10

Synopsis - As industry leaders in onboard innovations it's no surprise that the newest member of the family offers even more unique experiences never attempted at sea before. With so much in one place the ship shall be a new destination in herself.

Staterooms

Independence of the seas – The accommodation on Independence of the Seas offers the perfect selection of stateroom types for every cruiser. From interior, outside, balcony and suite there is something for every taste and budget.

My stateroom rating – 8/10

Anthem of the Seas – As expected, Anthem of the Seas will even spice up the staterooms. Offering the well-known outside, balcony and suite rooms, as-well as a range of new room categories. Interior staterooms will feature virtual balconies that project real-time video footage of the ocean onto an LED screen – a truly innovative design, I cannot wait to see what these look like. Set to have more family accommodation than any other ship, she will be home to the ground-breaking family connected staterooms that allow families the option to be together, as well as take some alone time when needed. The suites are set to raise the bar even further with the hugely spacious two-storey loft suites that give sensational views with their floor-to-ceiling windows.

My stateroom predicted rating – 10/10

Synopsis - Anthem of the Seas is set to offer innovations in stateroom design to cater for all budgets and party arrangements and pays particular attention to families.

Itineraries

Independence of the Seas – Based in Southampton for almost eight years, she has spent many summer months in the UK. Sailing to the fascinating cities that line the charming Mediterranean sea, she has continuously proved to be a popular choice for those wanting a sun-drenched getaway without having to fly. The Norwegian Fjords itineraries have also proven popular with the British market.

My itinerary rating – 10/10

Anthem of the Seas – Much anticipation was circulating about Anthem of the Sea’s itineraries and when they were released last week, everyone was delighted by her sailings. Her schedule includes a range of 2 to 14 night cruises to the popular Mediterranean cities and Canaries. No Norwegian Fjords itineraries will be offered, but Adventure of the Seas is set to return to Southampton in 2015 and offer a range of Mediterranean and Fjord itineraries.

My itinerary predicted rating – 9/10

Synopsis - Whilst Anthem will offer more of the Med, those looking to view the heights of the Fjords from the North Star will have to wait for another season.

Will Anthem of the Seas Fill Indy’s Shoes?

From my comparisons it is clear to see both ships are a floating resort of fun, adventure and new experiences. With both ships carrying almost the same amount of passengers, it will not affect the amount of people that can cruise on Royal Caribbean from Southampton during the summer.

Independence of the Seas has become such a popular ship with the British market that I do wonder if Anthem can match the strong opinion.

I think British cruises will love the fact we are finally getting a new ship debut here, instead of having to fly to experience a new ship. It will be great for us to experience amazing Europe itineraries on a new and innovate ship.

It will be an extremely exciting time to have the most innovative ship right on our doorstep. With the British cruising market rapidly growing I expect Anthem of the Seas to be very successful here and open even more eyes for those new to cruising. Royal Caribbean predict 80,000 will holiday on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton during 2015 alone and expect this will contribute around £50 million to the local economy.

Anthem of the Seas will be an excellent ship for families. To sail from Southampton during the school summer holiday months is a huge advantage for family holiday-makers that prefer not to fly. Independence of the Seas is already a family favourite, so I expect Anthem to easily live up to this with her fantastic array of activities.

I think those who sail on Independence of the Seas that have grown to love her size and onboard amenities may now opt for Adevnture of the Seas from Southampton or some may even fly to reunite with their much-loved Indy. One thing is for sure, I think it will hard for anyone to be disappointed by any Royal Caribbean ship they choose.

With Anthem of the Seas pre-registration proving hugely popular, it appears the whole of England are eagerly waiting to welcome the new sister to their home.

Bring on 2015....


By Sally Grimes