Royal Caribbean announced today that it will retrofit 13 of its cruise ships with advanced emissions purification (AEP) systems beginning in January 2015 to reduce the fleet's environmental impact as well as meet or exceed important environmental standards.
These new scrubbers will remove more than 97% of the sulfur dioxide emissions generated by the ships' diesel engines.
Royal Caribbean will now be ahead of all forthcoming International Maritime Organization Emission Control Area emissions standards, and will ensure compliance with existing European Union standards. Additionally, the decision to install AEP systems instead of switching to a fuel with a lower sulfur content will ensure that RCL's ships can be compliant everywhere they sail, as availability of lower-sulfur fuels is limited.
The installation of these scrubbers will take place during scheduled dry-dockings and while ships are in service. While preliminary work has begun on several of the ships receiving AEP systems, most will take place between 2015 and 2017. Each installation will take approximately eight months.
This is not Royal Caribbean's first time utilizing scrubbing technology, as the company has invested in AEP technology since 2010. Quantum of the Seas was among the first cruise ships to be built with AEP systems installed during initial construction. Liberty of the Seas has been operating one of its six engines with a retrofitted AEP system for two years. AEP systems "scrub" exhaust gases by injecting high volumes of water spray into the exhaust stream, removing more than 97% of sulfur dioxide emissions.
"AEP technology for maritime vessels is very new, and we expect that by utilizing multiple technological solutions to accommodate the differences among our ships, additional development will ultimately help industrialize AEP technology even more, which will benefit not only RCL but also the larger maritime industry," said Adam Goldstein, President and COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
To ensure the right systems are available for each ship's unique requirements, RCL contracted two different AEP technology suppliers, Swedish company Alfa Laval and Finnish company Wartsila. Additional companies are being hired to execute the installations.
For many families, they have to pick the right cruise for their vacation and there's no doubt two of the titans of the family cruise market are Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line. We get so many questions about this topic that we wanted to look at how they compare to each other.
It should be noted right away that picking a cruise line over another is quite subjective and there's always going to be differing opinions on this, but we try to remain as objective as possible.
What Royal Caribbean does well
Royal Caribbean has a few "core competencies" where it generally exceeds at and these are areas that if important to you, could sway your opinion
Latest and greatest
If you want to cruise on the newest cruise ships with the latest uber-cool cruise ship innovations, then Royal Caribbean is the line for you. They build new ships quite regularly, with another four cruise ships on order as of this blog post.
Besides bragging rights, these new ships offer the latest in cruise ship trends as well as the very best in accommodations, dining, technology and entertainment. We love older ships but there's no beating a brand new ship for what it offers.
World wide itineraries
From the Far East, to Australia to the Middle East, Europe and Alaska, there's lots of Royal Caribbean ships sailing these waters throughout the year. Its ships sail to every continent except Antarctica on cruises ranging from three nights to 18 nights.
Because Royal Caribbean has a substantially larger fleet than Disney, Royal Caribbean has been focusing on serving the international markets to expand its market share and that's resulted in a lot of itinerary variety to choose from. Often, there's a Royal Caribbean ship in one of these major regions in addition to the well-represented North American cruise corridor.
When you're looking for something more than another cruise to the Bahamas, it's hard to beat what Royal Caribbean offers.
Unlimited alcohol packages
Simply put, you can get reasonably priced unlimited alcohol packages on Royal Caribbean ships that give you a fixed price for your onboard consumption.
Adults will be able to know in advance how much this cost will be and even pre-pay it to help break up the cost of the trip. While we personally find the unlimited drink packages to be more than what we need, many adults enjoy the convenience of the packages.
What Disney Cruise Line does well
If you're wondering what Disney Cruise Line does better than most, here's a quick rundown of our experience.
Overall dining experience
Excluding specialty restaurants, we think Disney Cruise Line's complimentary restaurants are quite well planned. Guests get to try a different restaurant each night with the same wait staff "following" them around between restaurants.
In addition, the restaurants on Disney Cruise Line are not just rooms with food. Each restaurant has a unique look and feel to it and they stand out in terms of their atmosphere.
For sailing of 4-nights or more there are different themed menus. So, even though you eat in the same dining room again you'd have a different dinner. At times they are themed to the region for example Mediterranean or Taste of Alaska.
If soft drinks are your thing, there's no beating the complimentary soda available on Disney Cruise Line.
Royal Caribbean charges per soda or offers beverage packages that cover them, but on Disney Cruise Line offers unlimited fountain soda, regular coffee, tea and water.
For kids and those that just love a good Coke, it's a big cost savings when you consider how much Royal Caribbean would charge to drink the same amount onboard their ships.
Stateroom size and offerings
Since it's inception, Disney Cruise Line has offered more space and options in its staterooms than anyone else in the cruise industry,
While Royal Caribbean has narrowed the gap in recent years with its newer ships, Disney Cruise Line offers more square footage and bathtubs in the majority of staterooms.
Inside staterooms on the Disney Dream (one of Disney Cruise Line's newest ships) have square footage of 169 square feet, whereas on Oasis of the Seas inside staterooms begin at 150 square feet).
Blurred Lines: How the two compare in other areas
Both cruise lines do a lot of things well and it's harder to pick a winner among the two without getting into some real personal opinions.
Disney came into the cruise space with its well known ability to create compelling shows. Disney puts on a lot of stage shows that garner rave reviews and they also offer character meets with Mickey, Minine and many other characters and princesses.
Disney Cruise Line also offers fireworks at sea, whereas Royal Caribbean does not.
Royal Caribbean has really upped its game in recent years. Many Royal Caribbean ships feature Broadway shows such as Cats, Mamma Mia, Chicago and more. Royal Caribbean has also partnered with DreamWorks Animation to offer just as many character meets, film showings and general character interactions as Disney.
For adults, Royal Caribbean's entertainment may be a stronger choice given their shows gravitate to them more so than children and there's also a greater variety of shows to choose from. In addition, Broadway shows are of a higher caliber display than Disney's shorter shows based on their films.
You will find plenty of onboard activities for both cruise lines. Bingo games, dance lessons, demonstrations, tours and more can be found on both cruise lines. Both lines also offer swimming pools, sports courts, spas, gyms, shows, bars and entertainment lounges.
Royal Caribbean offers ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, surf simulators, mini-golf, movie theaters and a lot more. Oh and did we mention there are no casinos on Disney Cruise Line?
Disney Cruise Line offers a water coaster, water play areas for kids, and slides in their pools. There's also scavenger hunts, trivia, tasting classes, and more on Disney Cruise Line.
Both cruise lines offer child care included in the price of the cruise.
Both lines offer kids clubs for children, young teens and teens. In general, Royal Caribbean's clubs are more structured in terms of their daily routine but Disney Cruise Line has a more "open" policy to their child care programs, that encourage the children to explore and try what they find interesting.
Both lines do have nursery options that have a per-hour cost.
Both cruise lines have private islands the cruise line operates that offer a very well-maintained and beautiful destination. With good weather, it's hard to really which is more beautiful than the other (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?).
Disney Cruise Line has Castaway Cay in the Bahamas that is widely regarded as a beautiful island with lots to do for adults and children. We also find the beach sand to be softer and less rocky than Royal Caribbean's.
On Castaway Cay you will find 5k races, great snorkeling, and a private beaches for adults.
Royal Caribbean has two private islands, Labadee in Haiti and CocoCay in the Bahamas. Both islands are gorgeous and a great place for a beach day. Given their respective locations, western and eastern Caribbean itineraries usually include a stop at one.
Labadee also offers an aqua park, zip line and roller coaster for an additional cost. CocoCay is more basic in its offerings and also requires tendering to get to the island.
Both crews do an admirable job at keeping their guests happy. From customer service, to wait staff to the people that turn down your bed, both cruise lines work hard to keep guests smiling.
Disney has built a reputation over many decades for a hard working staff that is always looking to improve. From its theme park origins, the Disney Cruise Line crew members want to make your cruise better and offer tremendous service.
Royal Caribbean's crew is just as good, with their service always looking to "WOW" its guests. For the crew, wow is more than a marketing slogan, it's the group mantra. You will find smiling faces and a can-do attitude onboard Royal Caribbean that is always asking how can they make your cruise better.
The X-Factor: Cost
There is a big difference between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean that is hard to ignore and that is the cruise fare price.
Royal Caribbean is usually considerably cheaper in cruise fare compared to Disney Cruise Line. In a study by the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean's prices were on average 60-70% less than Disney for very similar cruise experiences.
To put this in perspective, seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises out of Port Canaveral in the second half of 2015 were over $7200 for an inside cabin (depending on date) compared to Royal Caribbean's prices of about $2200 - $3000. That's a lot of money.
We are the first to admit the onboard experience of a Disney Cruise and a Royal Caribbean cruise are very similar, so it's hard to justify the prices Disney Cruise Line charges for their product.
After reading all of this, you have to start deciding which aspects of your cruise vacation are more important to you to pick the right choice.
Given the fact this blog is centered around Royal Caribbean cruising, it's obvious where our allegiance lays but it's important to recognize what the competition does well too. Royal Caribbean is far from perfect and when you look at the right cruise for you, it's always important to have as much information as possible.
In a nutshell, Disney Cruise Line offers a wonderful product with lots of entertainment and plenty for the kids. Royal Caribbean counters with phenomenal ships, lots of options to choose from at a great value.
I also wanted to give a big thanks to Scott from Disney Cruise Line Blog for making sure I was fair to Disney Cruise Line in this post. Check out his blog for some really good coverage of all things DCL.
When you get closer to your cruise sailing date, you will have to start packing and that means you will need to mark your luggage for Royal Caribbean and that brings us to luggage tags. What are they? How do I get them? What options do I have? These are all questions we will answer here.
What are luggage tags?
Luggage tags are pieces of paper you attach to each piece of luggage you plan on checking at the pier to have delivered to your room. Luggage tags are the way Royal Caribbean knows which piece of luggage belongs to which stateroom.
It's just like how airlines add tags to your checked luggage to make sure they go to the right plane.
How do I get luggage tags?
Luggage tags are provided in your online check-in print outs. You can print out as many copies of luggage tags as you need.
The luggage tags are included in the eDocs that are issued about 49 days before your cruise sailing.
Simply cut out the luggage tag as described on the print out, loop around the handle of your luggage and staple together.
Guests who are Crown & Anchor Society Pinnacle members as well as Suite guests (Grand Suites and above) will still receive baggage tags in the mail.
What happened to the luggage tags Royal Caribbean used to mail me?
Royal Caribbean discountinued issuing its own luggage tags by mail back in 2012 (except for the aforementioned Pinnacle members and suite guests).
Can I still order the preprinted luggage tags?
Yes, you can get the preprinted luggage tags with the adhesive strips if you order paper documents for $35.
These documents will include luggage tags.
How can I protect my luggage tags?
As you might guess, paper luggage tags could be ripped off or torn accidently and there are a few ways to protect them from damage.
You can tape both sides of each luggage tag with packing tape to allow them to be easily seen while avoiding easy rips and tears.
Alternatively, we've used for many years Cruisetags, which are plastic holders custom created for Royal Caribbean's luggage tags.
The best part is you can re-use the luggage tag holders again and again to give added value.
Does it matter if I print my luggage tags out in black and white?
No, your luggage will still be directed to your stateroom correctly.
The color does help the Royal Caribbean staff arrange the luggage quicker, so colored tags are preferred but not required.
What if I forget my luggage tags?
Don't worry, the porters at the pier can affix luggage tags to your luggage on the spot for no additional charge.
Porters constantly run into passengers who forget their luggage tags or decide at the last minute they want to check more baggage.
Just show them the tag in your set sail documents and they write them on high quality airline grade luggage tags and stick them on for you.
What about the new RFID luggage tags on Quantum of the Seas?
To make use of the RFID luggage tags, just bring your luggage to the pier and have the porters check your luggage for you.
Just like if you forgot your luggage tags, the porters will affix a RFID chip to your luggage and give you a tracking receipt.
You can then track the progress of your luggage via the Royal iQ app that is available for smartphones.
It wont be long before you start seeing souvenir Coca-Cola cups on your Royal Caribbean cruise and it seems like they are everywhere! The cup design changes over the course of the year and they come in bright colors in a stylized design that is the perfect way to get refills of your favorite soda anytime you want. Here are six things that you will want to know if you are thinking about buying one.
You can purchase it from many places onboard the ship
If you want to get the souvenir cup, you can purchase the non-alcoholic drink package that is right for you. Especially on embarkation day, you will find stations around the ship offering to sell you the package and the fun cup!
Simply pick between the Royal Refreshment Package and the Royal Replenish Package and you will get a complimentary Coca-Cola souvenir cup with each package purchased.
Often you will find the packages for sale outside the Windjammer and on the Royal Promenade.
The cups work with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines
Of course you can have bartenders fill the cup up and there are automated machines near the pool, but the best way to use your Coca-Cola souvenir cup is with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines!
Located on select ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, you can use these amazing machines exclusively with the souvenir cups and choose from over 100 flavor combinations!
In order to use the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines guests must purchase an all-inclusive beverage package or the Royal refreshment package and use their complimentary Coca-Cola souvenir cup. The Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip in it which activates the machine.
You can only refill the cup once every 15 minutes
As mentioned earlier, the Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip that prevents people without the cup from using the self-service refill stations.
The machines do "lock down" your cup for about 15 minutes after you refill your cup to ensure the cup isn't shared with people that do not have the drink package.
You get a free cup with any unlimited alcohol package purchase
Of course you can get the souvenir Coca-Cola cups with the non-alcoholic packages, but if you prefer to go with the unlimited alcohol packages, you get the souvenir Coca-Cola cup too!
Each of the unlimited alcohol packges (select, premium, ultimate) come with a complimentary souvenir cup that you can use to get unlimited soft drinks during your cruise when you're looking to get something with a little less punch.
The cup is accepted almost everywhere
The souvenir cup can be refilled nearly everywhere onboard the ship. Bars, self-service stations, restaurants and lounges will all gladly refill the cups for you.
However, the souvenir Coca-Cola cups do not work with room service or the drinks in your mini-fridge. Keep that in mind before you order something that will cost you extra!
You can pre-purchase the mug online before your cruise
You don't have to wait to get on your cruise in order to purchase your souvenir Coca-Cola cup. In fact, you can pre-purchase online at royalcaribbean.com and have your cup waiting for you.
After you purchase the package online, the souvenir cup should be waiting for you inside your stateroom once you get in there. That way, there's no waiting in line for you and you can start taking advantage of the benefit immediately!
Have you bought the Coca-Cola souvenir cups before? Do you think they are worth it? And will you buy one on your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
If you're looking for a Royal Caribbean "fix" on television, there's a series of episodes about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise that's airing frequently on the A Wealth of Entertainment network.
AWE is carrying the first season of "Dream Cruises", which features a look at select Royal Caribbean ships and what a cruise ont hem is like.
Here are the episodes that are available
- Navigator of the Seas - Western Caribbean
- Vision of the Seas - Brazilian coast
- Rhapsody of the Seas - Australian coast and Bali
- Explorer of the Seas - Western Caribbean
- Legend of the Seas - South China Sea
- Brilliance of the Seas - Mediterranean
- Voyager of the Seas - Adriatic Sea
There are multiple showings over the next few days, so check your local listings. Just today, you can find episodes on at 9:00am, 11:00am, 6:00pm and 8:00pm eastern time.
The series originally aired in 2011 but it's still a fun way to get a little Royal Caribbean in your life.
Here's a quick preview of the Allure of the Seas episode
O3b Networks succesfully launches four more satellites to add additional support for Royal Caribbean cruise shipsIn:
O3b Networks launched four more satellites out of the Space Center in French Guiana that will provide more coverage of its super-fast internet to cruise ships like Royal Caribbean's.
The launch yesterday was a complete success and adds substantial capacity and performance to the O3b constellation that is already powering high-speed internet to select Royal Caribbean ships.
The new satellites will now go through a period of in-orbit testing before being fully integrated into the O3b network early in the new year.
The O3b system delivers fiber like performance, with throughput exceeding 1 Gbps per connection and latency comparable with terrestrial networks, but retains the flexibility and ubiquity of satellite. The company has now launched 8 satellites in 5 months, adding more than 80 Gbps of capacity and growing the fleet capacity to over 100 Gbps.
This week's batch of beautiful Royal Caribbean photos is here and it's always fun to share with all of you the great photos our readers take while on their cruise vacation.
The photos we have to show this week are fun and of course anyone can send us their Royal Caribbean photos to use as well!
Our first photo this week comes from Michael Poole and it's of Enchantment of the Seas docked in Nassau back in October 2014. Love the contrast of colors!
Next up is this photo by Paul Westbrook of Freedom of the Seas "hallway art". I dare you not to always stop and rotate that lever!
In this photo by John Siegmund off Key West you have a beautiful sunset, a helicopter, bi-plane and schooner. Not bad!
I really love this shot by Peyton Buhler of Voyager of the Seas in Sydney harbor. Great perspective!
Here's a photo by Chris Davis onboard his Oasis of the Seas transatlantic cruise. I firmly believe there are no bad photos of Central Park at night and this one proves my point.
This photo by Barry Rupp is called "Valley of Cruise Ships" and it totally makes sense. It was taken in St. Maarten with Adventure of the Seas docked alongside Explorer of the Seas.
Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos this week and if you have Royal Caribbean photos, well, we want to see them! You can use this form to send us your photos and we will feature them on an upcoming Friday Photos blog post!
Propulsion problem forces Royal Caribbean to modify Freedom of the Seas December 21 Christmas cruise itineraryIn:
Royal Caribbean has changed the itinerary it had originally planned for Freedom of the Seas due to a propulsion problem that the ship is suffering from.
The last few Freedom of the Seas itineraries have also been changed and while the ports the ship was planning on visiting remains unchanged, the amount of time in port is being reduced.
The new itinerary will have Freedom of the Seas
- December 21: Depart Port Canaveral at 4:30pm
- December 22: Sea Day
- December 23: Labadee from 10:15am to 4pm
- December 24: San Juan from 2:30pm to 8pm
- December 25: St. Maarten from 8am to 1pm
- December 26: Sea Day
- December 27: Sea Day
- December 28: Return to Port Canaveral at 7:15am
As with other altered cruises due to this propulsion problem, Royal Caribbean will give passengers onboard credit as an apology for the change. A letter with the credit amount will be delivered to each stateroom.
There is no word on what caused the propulsion problems. Royal Caribbean maintains the ship is perfectly safe. Freedom of the Seas is scheduled for a dry dock session in January 2015.
Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!
Matt is joined by Victor this week, and we're previewing his Quantum of the Seas cruise later this week. Victor shares what his onboard and onshore plans are and what he's looking forward to doing.
Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!
With 2014 nearly complete, it's time to look back on the year and see which news stories generated the most interest. There's no doubt that 2014 was a busy year for Royal Caribbean and so it's interesting to see which stories rose to the top of people's interest.
This year's top ten list of Royal Caribbean stories is based on our statistics of most viewed stories. There's some stories that made the top ten list that surprised me and others I'm more surprises did not make the list. Let's dive in!
10. Royal Caribbean confirms Quantum of the Seas will feature Royal Esplanade
There was a lot of rumors swirling but Royal Caribbean confirmed less than a month before the ship launched that there would be a Royal Esplanade instead of a Royal Promenade onboard Quantum of the Seas.
The Royal Promenade had been a staple of new Royal Caribbean ships since the Voyager Class but proving just how different Quantum of the Seas is from ships before it, the company went in a different direction.
The concept of the Royal Esplanade is similar to the Royal Promande: a central indoor area on the ship where you can find shops, restaurants and entertainment. The difference is the Royal Esplanade had more of a shopping district feel to the Royal Promenade's canyon-like strip.
9. Royal Caribbean to bring Broadway show "Cats" to Oasis of the Seas
As part of Oasis of the Seas' refurbishment, Royal Caribbean announced the Broadway musical CATS would replace Hairspray onboard the ship.
Based on T.S. Eliot's “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,” CATS was one of the longest running productions on Broadway and is the winner of numerous awards including seven Tonys, two Oliviers and a Grammy.
What was interesting about this announcement was the fact CATS has been off Broadway fro many years but the show has been resurrected on Oasis of the Seas.
8. Royal Caribbean will offer RFID WOWbands for free to all guests
Royal Caribbean changed its mind on charging money for its new RFID wristbands aboard Quantum of the Seas right around Quantum of the Seas' launch.
When the WOWbands were announced, they came with a small $2 per band fee but Royal Caribbean decided to waive the fee and give them away to all guests.
The decision to change the bands to be free is a move, in part, to increase their adoption rate. Royal Caribbean expects at least half its guests to use the WOWbands on any given cruise.
7. Giant wave hits Explorer of the Seas
Last month, cruisers aboard Explorer of the Seas reported that a 40 foot wave struck Explorer of the Seas and caused damage to a few of the ship's lifeboats.
The wave caused two life boats to be torn from their position along side the ship and struck the Promenade deck.
The wave had very little impact on the cruise and repairs fixed the damage quickly but people love reading about giant anything hitting cruise ships.
6. Royal Caribbean announces Dynamic Dining will expand to Oasis of the Seas
Royal Caribbean announced its ground breaking Dynamic Dining program will expand to Oasis of the Seas back in August and it certainly generated a lot of opinions on the matter.
Following the Quantum-class cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas will become the first cruise ship in the fleet outside the Quantum-class to get the Dynamic Dining makeover.
I think the news was a bit of a shock considering Royal Caribbean had previously said they wanted to wait and see how Dynamic Dining was received before expanding.
5. Royal Caribbean posts updated Quantum of the Seas cutaway
Before Quantum of the Seas launched, we were all desperate for any and all information about this new ship and this released cutaway gave us all a good sense of what to expect.
The giant cutaway showed off many venues on the ship and gave us an idea of where everything is relative to the ship.
4. Royal Caribbean to send Quantum of the Seas on 53-night around the world cruise
Royal Caribbean had previously announced it would send its newest cruise ship to China but then it announced an epic around-the-world journey on its way there.
The 53-night cruise will leave Cape Liberty in the New York area and then eventually end up in Shanghai (Baoshan), China. Along the way, guests can enjoy cruises across the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean.
If 53-nights is a bit too much, you can also choose from five other mini-sailings built into the 53-night affair, ranging from three to 16 nights.
3. Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas suffering from propulsion problem
Propulsion problems forced Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas to skip two port calls back in March.
Oil loss from the ship's fixipod propulsion unit had to have the crew shutdown the pod. The incident occured just before the ship's scheduled drydock later that month.
Royal Caribbean attempted to make repairs in St. Kitts but they could not fully repair the unit and had to leave the unit offline.
Since Adventure of the Seas' drydock, the problem was fixed and there have not been any other incidents since.
2. Oil spill in Galveston delays Navigator of the Seas
Thanks to a 160,000 gallon oil spill near Galveston, Texas, Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas was delayed from getting back into Galveston port.
The unfortunate incident delayed the passengers onboard Navigator from getting off the ship and of course also delayed the new cruisers from embarking.
The oil spill was something outside of Royal Caribbean's control but luckily it was taken care of in a timely manner and things got back on schedule after the ship got back into port.
1. Royal Caribbean offering kids sail free on select May to December cruises
Back in March, Royal Caribbean offered a great promotion that allowed guests to have the third and fourth passengers sail free on select cruises along with offering complimentary upgrades and reduced deposits.
The kids sail free (which was really any third and fourth passengers) was for all triple or quad occupancy staterooms and people seemed to really get excited about it.
I think once it was established the promotion was not just for kids, people really jumped all over it. Heck, I was able to use it for my upcoming Freedom of the Seas cruise and it saved me a lot of money too!