Royal Caribbean wins Best Cruise Line Overall for 16th year in a row

In:
17Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean was named the “Best Cruise Line Overall” and “Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean” in the Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards for the sixteenth year in a row.

At the 2018 awards ceremony, Royal Caribbean also won “Best Cruise Line Sales & Service” for the eleventh year in a row. In addition, Royal Caribbeantook home the “Best Entertainment” award, while Harmony of the Seas was named“Best Overall Individual Cruise Ship” – both honors received for the second consecutive year.

“All year, we make it a point to hear from and collaborate with our travel partners – their feedback is invaluable. Sweeping the top cruise categories in Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards is such an honor and a testament to the powerful relationships we have with advisors,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Royal Caribbean International. “Being recognized as ‘Best Cruise Line Overall’ and ‘Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean’ since the inception of the awards, as well as the best in sales and service, entertainment and individual ships year after year shows our connections with the community continue to build. We thank Travel Weekly and our valued advisors for their ongoing support, and will continue to deliver on our commitment and promise to seeing them succeed.”

Travel Weekly recognized the honorees at its sixteenth annual Readers’ Choice Awards held at the Conrad New York. Winners were selected in 78 categories in the airline, car, hospitality, rail, GDS, agent education, tour, cruise, destination, loyalty program and theme park sectors. The awards are presented to suppliers considered by Travel Weekly readers who led the way in product and service during the past year.

2019 Royal Caribbean Cruise Planning Guide

In:
17Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Our 2019 Royal Caribbean trip planning guide includes all the tips you need for a vacation, whether you’re a first-timer or regular cruiser. This blog post was written to help anyone cruising in 2019 save time and money, as well as get a good sense of the intriguing onboard activities, where to eat, and fully plan your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

It may come as a surprise to first-time cruisers just how much goes into planning a cruise vacation.Sure, you can plop yourself at the pool everyday and call that a great break, but in reality, Royal Caribbean offers its guests so many great things to see and do that it can be overwhelming without a plan.  There is a ton to know before you take a Royal Caribbean cruise, and while planning requires a bit more time, the payoff is worth it.  After taking dozens of Royal Caribbean cruises, we have learned a lot, and try to distill it into something easy to absorb to make your planning easier.

Think of this post as "Royal Caribbean 101," with everything organized into the most important considerations of planning a cruise. This page is a jumping off point to give you some background information on each aspect of the cruise, with a ton of links to other blog posts that offer much more detailed information.

What's new for 2019

Without a doubt, Royal Caribbean's biggest change in 2019 will be the launch of its upgraded private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay

A new pier is scheduled to become operational in January 2019, which means more ships can call on CocoCay since docking at a pier makes it easier for ships to get to the island, instead of relying on tender boats that are subject to weather and sea conditions.

The bulk of Perfect Day at CocoCay's $200 million transformation will occur in May, when a number of new and exciting additions open up for guests. Royal Caribbean is adding a tethered helium balloon,  Thrill Waterpark, with the tallest waterslide in North America, Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool, new dining options, Splashaway Bay aquapark and more. In short, Royal Caribbean is planning for Perfect Day at CocoCay to become an instant hit with families, and the kind of destination you want to visit on any Caribbean sailing.

Royal Caribbean will also launch a brand new cruise ship in 2019, its fourth Quantum Class cruise ship, Spectrum of the Seas.  Designed specifically for the Chinese market, Spectrum of the Seas will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when she sails from Shanghai, China starting in June 2019.  Spectrum is scheduled for delivery to Royal Caribbean in April 2019.

Speaking of ships, Navigator of the Seas will undergo a $115 million modernization in early 2019 that will add some significant changes, including an awe-inspiring Caribbean poolscape, waterslides, the first blow dry bar at sea, nightlife and dining, and thrilling activities for the whole family. Navigator will get two new waterslides that have never been offered on any other ship.  Royal Caribbean also decided to completely reimagine its pool area, with a Caribbean feel.  


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Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 16, 2018

In:
16Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Good news, we are all one week closer to our next Royal Caribbean cruise!  In case you missed any of the Royal Caribbean fun from this week, here is our weekly round up!

Royal Caribbean made headlines this week when it announced its 2020-2021 Northeast sailings and revealed Oasis of the Seas will sail from the New York City area in 2020.

Oasis of the Seas arriving to Cape Liberty on May 6, 2020 and staying through October 25, 2020.  Oasis of the Seas will return to Florida on November 4, 2020.

When Oasis arrives in Cape Liberty, she will offer a quick 4-night Canada Getaway cruise on May 6 before offering 7-night sailings down to the Bahamas, with stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau and CocoCay.  On August 1, 2020, she will offer an 8-night sailing that adds a stop in Miami.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 280th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, Matt talks with Colleen from Cruise Critic about the awards Royal Caribbean recently won.

In this episode, Colleen shares what catapulted Royal Caribbean ahead of other cruise lines to win three distinct awards at the Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Cruise with Matt to New England and Canada!

We are so excited to announce the next group cruise for readers and staff of RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com aboard Brilliance of the Seas!  This is an exclusive group where we are inviting you, our readers, to join us on a fantastic Brilliance of the Seas sailing on an 7-night cruise to Canada & New England.

This Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise is all about enjoying a fun Royal Caribbean cruise along with other fans who are big fans of Royal Caribbean.  Don't miss this opportunity to check out the amazing ship as well as be a part of exclusive events for those that book with our group!

For more details on booking the cruise, the itinerary and prices, check out the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise page and if you have any questions, email me!

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Eyewitness News reported Royal Caribbean hired more than 200 Bahamians.

Beyond Ships reviewed Terminal A cruise terminal in PortMiami.

Cruise & Ferry shared why Royal Caribbean worked with Elation Professional to provide lighting to Symphony of the Seas.

Marine Insight reported that Royal Caribbean was named Best Cruise Line at the 2018 National Geographic Traveler Awards Russia.

Eat Sleep Cruise shared their restaurant menus on Symphony of the Seas.

Friday Photos - December 14, 2018

In:
14Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

If it's Friday, that means we are sharing our reader's best Royal Caribbean photos in this week's Friday Photos showcase.  As always, we want to include as many of our readers photos as we can, so be sure to send us your best Royal Caribbean photos too!

Joe Moran starts us off with a look at the Solarium at night while on Freedom of the Seas.

Kinny Lee took this beautiful photo of a calm and clear night on Liberty of the Seas.

Ken shared this classic view of Oasis of the Seas docked in Labadee.

Check out this photo by Drew Christy of the sun rising in front of Oasis of the Seas, while the ship was docked in Port Canaveral.

Here is a photo by Angela Sarcone taken during the lobster catamaran lunch excursion in Antigua.

Greg Seah shared this photo while on Voyager of the Seas.

Our final photo this week is by Susan Garrett, and it is of Navigator of the Seas while in Labadee.

Do you have Royal Caribbean photos that you want to share?  We'd love to feature them so send them in by using our nifty submission form and maybe your photos will show up in next week's edition!

Royal Caribbean offering bonus instant savings on cruises booked this weekend

In:
14Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Season's Savings Sale is offering 30% off all guests, plus bonus instant savings of up to $150 off the cruise fare.

The Season's Savings Sale is valid on new cruises booked December 13, 2018 – December 17, 2018 on all sailings departing on or after January 13, 2019. 

The promotion includes:

  • 30% off cruise fare for all guests in the same stateroom
  • Up to $150 instant savings per stateroom determined by category booked and sailing length:
    • On sailings 5 nights or less, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
    • On sailing 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $150 for Suites

30% Off All Guests is combinable with Season’s Savings Sale, promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Season’s Savings Sale is combinable with promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers and Free Upgrades but not combinable with Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.  Promo Code driven offers are based on select ships and sail dates and must be applied at time of booking, limit one promo code per booking.

Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean. 

DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay Hotel Review

In:
13Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida is located in the heart of downtown Miami, a mere few miles from PortMiami.  We tried out this hotel as a pre-cruise hotel stay before a Royal Caribbean cruise and have our thoughts on what the hotel offers and our experience staying here.

Being in downtown Miami, the DoubleTree is located quite close to PortMiami.  In fact, many of the rooms in the hotel offer a view of the port. The proximity to PortMiami makes this a compelling choice for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

This particular hotel is a waterfront condominium hotel located next to Sea Isle Marina.  What this means is as you enter the building, you will notice two entrances.  One entrance is for hotel guests and the other for condo residents.  Evidently this is a thing in Miami, where the building owner can invest in multiple revenue streams (hotel guests and tennants).  

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay offers 152 guest rooms, along with 50 condominiums for short or extended stays. Since it is downtown, you can easily walk out the hotel and explore some nearby attractions and restaurants.  Miami is more spread out than some other major American cities, so expect to rely on taxis or ride sharing to truly get around town.

One nice aspect of the hotel is attached to the lobby area is a small shopping plaza, which has coffee shops, restaurants, convenience store, hair stylist and more.  There was a surprising amount of shops in this area, and it is extremely convenient to not have to leave the hotel building and have access to a lot of services.

The hotel does have a large outdoor pool for guests to use during their stay, along with a fitness center and 24-hour business center.

The room itself is quite large, with lots of living space.

The bathroom is large as well, and offers a great deal of space for toiletries and a shower/tub that does not feel confined at all.

The rooms have a balcony, and if you are lucky enough to have a room that faces the water, you not only get extra living space to enjoy, but a fantastic view of the ships in port.

Thanks to John Bamber for providing these photos

Overall, the DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay is a clean, safe and well-appointed hotel suitable for anyone that needs a hotel before or after their cruise.  It may not be the least expensive hotel in downtown Miami, but it is likely to be a mid-range priced hotel and not one you have to be concerned about compromising on the quality.

If you are just staying one night, I think this hotel is just fine for a place to rest and relax until you depart on your cruise. 

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Royal Caribbean announces 2020-2021 Northeast, Bermuda & Caribbean sailings

In:
12Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced today its 2020-2021 Bermuda, Northeast and 7-night Caribbean sailings.

As we reported earlier, Oasis of the Seas will become the first ship in her class, and the world's largest, to sail from the Northeast.  Oasis will arrive in May 2020 and  transport travelers to the clear blue waters of The Bahamas all summer with 7-night itineraries, as well as a select number of short cruises north to New England and Canada.

Adventure of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, sailing a variety of 5- and 9-night summer and fall itineraries to Bermuda, New England and Canada, The Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Vision of the Seas will offer three 10- to 11-night open-jaw itineraries between Bayonne and Quebec City with an overnight in Quebec’s capital.

Symphony of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas will return to PortMiami and Port Canaveral, Fla., respectively, offering 7-night itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Both ships will feature visits to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Brilliance of the Seas will sail 7- to 10-night cruises to Canada starting in September 2020, while Grandeur of the Seas continues to offer 9-night itineraries to Canada and New England for fall foliage from her year-round homeport in Baltimore, Md. Grandeur will embark on a combination of 5- and 9-night itineraries to Bermuda and The Bahamas in the summer months, and transition to 9-night Southeast Coast & Bahamas and 12-night Southern Caribbean cruises for the winter. Northeast, Canada and Bermuda itineraries will be available to book as of Dec. 13, 2018.

In 2020, San Juan, Puerto Rico will welcome what will be the newly modernized Freedom of the Seas. Freedom will return for the third consecutive year to sail 7-night itineraries year-round throughout the Southern Caribbean, traveling to destinations like Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis; St. Johns, Antigua; Castries, St. Lucia and Bridgetown, Barbados.

Liberty of the Seas  will continue to sail from Galveston to the Western Caribbean ahead of her own highly anticipated amplification in early 2021. 

Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members can begin booking sailings on December 12, 2018, with the general public available to begin booking on December 13, 2018.

Northeast

Bermuda

7-night Caribbean

Royal Caribbean will homeport Oasis of the Seas from New York City area in 2020

In:
12Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

For the first time ever, an Oasis Class ship will offer sailings from the New York City area when in 2020 Oasis of the Seas spends the summer offering cruises from Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

Royal Caribbean's 7-night 2020 itineraries for Caribbean and Canada were posted to the website yesterday, and it shows Oasis of the Seas arriving to Cape Liberty on May 6, 2020 and staying through October 25, 2020.  Oasis of the Seas will return to Florida on November 4, 2020.

When Oasis arrives in Cape Liberty, she will offer a quick 4-night Canada Getaway cruise on May 6 before offering 7-night sailings down to the Bahamas, with stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau and CocoCay.  On August 1, 2020, she will offer an 8-night sailing that adds a stop in Miami.

Oasis will sail one New England & Canada sailing on June 21, 2020 when she offers a 6-night cruise to Portland, St. John and Halifax.

Adventure of the Seas will also sail from Cape Liberty and alternate between 5 and 9 night itineraries to Bermuda and the Caribbean.  Adventure of the Seas will also offer a nine-night New England/Canada sailing a few times during the summer and fall 2020.

Royal Caribbean offering up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases during Deck The Deals offer

In:
11Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases made this weekend with the Deck The Deals offer.

Dates: December 11, 2018 - December 20, 2018
Sailing Window: Sailings from December 22, 2018 - May 31, 2019

BEVERAGE: Up to 30% off on select sailings.

  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices. Discount varies by ship.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Save up to 25% off

  • Save up to 25% on select tours on select sailings. Discount varies by ship.

INTERNET: Up to 60% off on select sailings

  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4, Device(s): Discount varies by ship

DINING: Up to 50% off on select sailings.

  • 3 Night Dining Package. Discount varies by ship.
  • 3 Night, 4 Night and 5 Night Ultimate Dining Package. Discount varies by ship.

Mr Sanchos Beach Club all-inclusive day pass review in Cozumel, Mexico

In:
11Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Odds are if you are reading this review of Mr. Sanchos, then you probably heard about it from a friend, colleague or some online who recommended as a good choice.  Mr. Sanchos is among one of the more well-known all-inclusive beach spots in Cozumel and it is why we decided to try it out after hearing so much how others enjoyed it.

Description

The staff at Mr. Sanchos recommends making a reservation in advance to ensure a spot for you and your family.  It is not uncommon for Mr. Sanchos to sell out, and reservations can be made via the Mr. Sanchos web site. Reservations require a small deposit at the time of booking.

Mr. Sanchos is located south of where the cruise ships dock, and is roughly a 15 minute cab ride away.

Mr. Sanchos offers two admission options: A la Carte section (Pay as you Go) or the All Inclusive Day Pass. The resort claims there are two separate areas, and they do not mix All Inclusive Guests with Pay-As-You-Go customers.  For the purposes of this review, we opted for the all inclusive day pass option.

Upon arrival, you check-in and pay the remainder of the cost owed for the day.  Your admission gets you unlimited access to the beach, pool, food and drink for $55.. There is optional aquatic park add-on that costs $12 extra per person.

After checking in, you are escorted to the spot of your choice along the beach. Your admission gets you beach chairs, a table and umbrella. 

Mr. Sanchos has a rather large footprint, with at least three large pool areas, a couple of buffet restaurants, multi-story spa, shopping plaza, and more.  Something I have never seen at an all-inclusive beach resort is a small shopping district at the front of the resort where you can buy a lot of the typical Cozumel souvenirs found downtown.

After picking your chairs for the day, the wait staff will introduce themselves to you and they are your go-to point for any beverage or food order you want. On our visit, we were introduced to two waiters, with at least one of them usually around to take any order.  Mr. Sanchos offers unlimited food and drink, so there is no limit to how much you can order or how often.

The beach area is where most guests will spend their time, with lots of space to lay out and enjoy the water.  Entering the water, there is a good mix of sand and rocky areas and lots of fish swimming about.  

Speaking of the ocean, the aquatic park is a popular option with families.  The $12 aquatic park entrance gets you all-day access to the inflatables located just off shore.  Swim vests area available upon request.

The aquatic park includes:

  • Large climbing Iceberg
  • Climbing rock
  • Two large trampolines
  • Two medium trampolines
  • Pyramid slider
  • Two water totters
  • Moonwalk with two bouncers
  • Rock slider
  • Stadium ball

There are three pools, two of which feature a swim-up bar, in-pool seating and even swings around the bar to enjoy as you sip a drink.

The menu at Mr. Sanchos offers quite a variety of food, with a mix of Mexican favorites (tacos, ceviche, fajitas, guacamole, etc) and American fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc).

Comments

Mr. Sanchos has earned a reputation over the years for being a premier all-inclusive choice in Cozumel and after spending a day here, I can see why that is the case.  

The sheer amount of offerings included (and not included) in your admission stood out to me instantly from arriving at Mr. Sanchos.  They have a very large beach area, multiple pools, aqua park, water sports, bars and more to choose between.  Where other all-inclusives in Cozumel may offer a pool or a beach bar, Mr. Sanchos has multiples of each, which means you never have to stray far to run into something to do.

The service at Mr. Sanchos is impeccable, with the waiters almost hounding you if you need anything else.  While in the pool, the pool bartender got to know my name and had beers ready for me the instant my current beer dropped below half.  He wrote my name on it and whistled to inform me it was ready when I was.  That is some serious attention to customers.

Perhaps the greatest asset Mr. Sanchos offers is possibly its largest detractor, in that its sheer property size and capacity had me questioning what it would be like in Mr. Sanchos if they ever came close to selling the place out.  To be perfectly honest, we had no crowding issue on our visit.  But I could not help but notice the amount of seating offered at Mr. Sanchos and contemplated what the experience would be like on a day where they surpassed 75% capacity.

A big draw for a lot of families is the aqua park, which features a number of inflatable objects a short swim from shore on the left side of the beach.  If someone in your family is interested in climbing up inflatable pyramids or platforms and jumping back into the ocean a lot, then this is a great add-on to consider.  I bought passes for me and my 7 year old daughter, but I quickly realized she was a bit too young to enjoy the activity.

Overall, Mr. Sanchos offers a compelling all-inclusive spot to enjoy a day in Cozumel.  Mr. Sanchos is a great choice for larger groups, especially if some or all are interested in more than simply lounging by the ocean or pool.  The activities and aqua park seem to resonate with a lot of our readers who travel with kids or young adults. The all-inclusive option allows for a lot of indulgence while visiting the beach club, so it behooves you to sample as much as you can.

How to book: Reservations can be made online via the Mr. Sanchos website or third-party reseller.

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