Mariner of the Seas arrives in PortMiami following $120 million makeover

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas arrived to her new home at PortMiami today after a $120 million upgrade that added new thrills, restaurants, staterooms and entertainment.

Mariner of the Seas will offer short getaway cruises with 4-night weekday and 3-night weekend cruises from Miami to The Bahamas. Her entrance to the short cruise market radically changes the dynamic of what a weekend cruise can offer. Giving millennial travelers more ways to play, the ship’s short itineraries pack more adventure than ever with Sky Pad, a virtual reality, bungee trampoline experience; the cruise line’s first Polynesian-inspired, tiki-chic bar, The Bamboo Room; glow-in-the-dark laser tag, racer waterslides and more.

Royal Caribbean added a lot of new features to Mariner of the Seas, including:

  • Sky Pad – The gravity-defying bungee trampoline experience amped up with virtual reality
  • The Perfect Storm – A thrilling pair of three-story-high racer waterslides called Cyclone and Typhoon
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z – An epic glow-in-the-dark battle for the last planet in the galaxy
  • Escape Room: The Observatorium – Royal Caribbean’s newest escape room challenge
  • FlowRider – The cruise line’s signature 40-foot-long surf simulator, perfect for hanging ten
  • The Bamboo Room – A laidback Polynesian watering hole with a throwback vibe and kitschy-cool craft cocktails like the Island Old Fashioned and Tiki Tea – the first in Royal Caribbean’s fleet
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade – For fans watching their home team on one of more than 25 TV screens, making their own legendary plays at the arcade, or refueling on game-day favorites
  • Jamie’s Italian – Serving fresh, handmade and rustic Italian fare by Chef Jamie Oliver, one of Britain’s most famous food exports
  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi – Asian-inspired dining featuring hibachi, sushi and sashimi and more – made to order with authentic flavors, the freshest ingredients and impeccable presentation

Mariner of the Seas will welcome guests for the first time on Monday, June 25, as it sets sail on a 4-night cruise to The Bahamas. The newly reimagined ship will continue to offer 4-night weekday and 3-night weekend itineraries from Miami, with visits to Nassau and CocoCay. Beginning May 2019, Mariner will sail to the new Perfect Day at CocoCay, the first destination in Royal Caribbean’s recently announced collection of private island experiences around the world.

Mariner of the Seas is the second ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet to undergo the Royal Amplified program, which is a $900 million commitment to reimagine its fleet.

First look at the changes and additions Royal Caribbean has made to Mariner of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas arrived in Miami this morning following a massive bow-to-stern upgrade and we have a glimpse of the new changes the cruise line made.

Mariner of the Seas now boasts the Sky Pad, a first-of-its-kind virtual reality bungee trampoline experience at sea, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, a tiki-chic lounge and a wide range of dining experiences.

Mariner of the Seas recently underwent $120 million revitalization that includes bold, new features and experiences. Mariner will offer exciting 3- and 4-night cruises to from PortMiami to The Bahamas, giving thrill seekers a break from their ordinary routine and adding adventure to their weekends.

Mariner of the Seas is the second Royal Caribbean cruise ship to be upgraded as part of the Royal Amplified program that will add new features to the Oasis, Freedom and Voyager Class ships.

Explorer of the Seas Cruise Preview on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

By: Matt Hochberg

Hey everyone! Episode 255 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

This week, we're sharing the details about our cruise on Explorer of the Seas to Alaska along with many Royal Caribbean Blog readers! This seven-night adventure has lots of fun packed in, and Matt shares why he picked this itinerary, plans for onboard and onshore and some new things he will try on this sailing.

Be sure to also check out our pre-cruise summary of what Matt's plans are for the cruise and for how you can read the live blog each day from the cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 255. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

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!

Royal Caribbean expands triple occupancy staterooms options

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced to travel agents that it will expand the amount of staterooms across the fleet of ships that offer a capacity of three guests per room with the addition of sofa beds. The cruise line hopes the change will greatly improve the availability of higher occupancy staterooms, particularly beneficial during peak vacation periods such as summer and holidays.

As of June 1, 2018, ten ships in total will have added triple occupancy staterooms.  These ships include

  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas

In order to identify which staterooms have these new sofa beds, deck plans will be updated with the introduction of a "partial triangle" as the symbol to denoate sofa bed staterooms. Digital deck plans were updated on-or-before June 17th, 2018; whereas printed versions of deck plans will be refreshed in advance of the next print run.

Sample deck plan from Mariner of the Seas with sofa bed option showing

Despite the the addition of these sofa beds, Royal Caribbean says the maximum guest counts remain unchanged for each of the impacted ships, "This initiative simply allows the opportunity to further maximize the number of guests on each sailing, as well as offer additional triple staterooms for those in need of higher occupancy accommodations."

Video: Rookie Royal Caribbean mistakes to avoid

By: Matt Hochberg

We hope your week is off to a great start.  We have a brand new Royal Caribbean Blog video to share with you, featuring 10 rookie mistakes to avoid on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you are planning your first Royal Caribbean cruise, we think we have some tips that will help you save some time and money to make the most of your vacation. We also included some trip planning strategies to consider when sitting down to plan out your cruise.

Of course, even if you have taken a few Royal Caribbean cruises already, this video could still help you out and better yet, you might be able to share your own planning pitfall to avoid.

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

Live blogging from Explorer of the Seas - Preamble

By: Matt Hochberg

We go on our fair share of Royal Caribbean cruises, so when there is an opportunity to knock something off our bucket list of must-do cruises, it makes the cruise extra special.

After seemingly buying every accessory, specialty apparel, and gadget one might run across while searching for an "Alaska cruise packing list", we are ready to head to Seattle for a 7-night Explorer of the Seas sailing to Alaska.  Going on a sailing that takes to an all-new to us itinerary is pretty special, and on top of it, we are sailing with so many of our friends as part of the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise.

We have been looking forward to this particular sailing for a while, having booked it back in early 2017 at the behest of my wife who really wanted to try an Alaska cruise.  I certainly relished the prospect of heading west and sailing on a completely new itinerary for me.

When you talk about a cruise to Alaska, you are looking at one of the most beautiful places on earth to take visit and cruising is a natural fit. I have probably put off a cruise to Alaska for this long primarily due to the distance required for us to travel (we are flying from Florida), but with my daughters geting old enough to sit on an airplane and remain civil, the time is right to go West.

While the itinerary will be new to us, the ship is a repeat for me.  My very first Royal Caribbean cruise was on Explorer of the Seas out of Cape Liberty in 2006.  Going back on Explorer of the Seas after all these years is a bit of a homecoming for me, and I am looking forward to getting back on her after a large absence.


If you read any kind of blog post, article, infographic, or MySpace post, you will likely see a mention that when you sail to Alaska you must book a balcony room.  It will cost you extra, but it is worthwhile and so I listened to the experts and booked a Junior Suite that connects to a standard balcony for our family. While not as epic is our Grand Suite connecting to a balcony room, it should be a great way to not only see the beautiful Alaskan nature, but also provide separation from our kids at night.

I will be sailing with my wife and two daughters (ages 7 and 3), and my kids are most excited for Adventure Ocean, exploring Alaska, and as much soft serve ice cream they can eat (probably in that order).

Speaking of who I will be sailing with, we have over eighty Royal Caribbean Blog readers joining me on this incredible adventure. Being able to share in the excitement of this sailing and explore Alaska together is an added bonus. As is the case with any Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, we have one or two events each day of the cruise that everyone is invited to join us for.  These events include a pub crawl, Royal Caribbean trivia, photo safari, private ice skating session and more.

Of course, this is a group cruise too, which means we have a large contingent of fellow Royal Caribbean fans joining me and I could not be happier. There is just something so fun about seeing friendly faces all around the ship, and being able to share in the experience in person is second-to-none.


This Royal Caribbean cruise is by far the most intriguing itinerary I have taken to date. When you cruise to Alaska, Royal Caribbean offers three types of sailings: a round trip, a one way northbound and a one way southbound.  

We chose the roundtrip primarily because I did not have vacation time to do two weeks for both one ways and I was not mentally prepared to fly to or from Alaska.  I understand the argument that the one way sailings offer a superior itinerary, but a roundtrip from Seattle is what is in the cards for us this go around and I think it will be a great introduction to Alaska.

Our shore excursion plans

Here is what we have planned for each of our ports.  We spent a lot of time looking over the various choices and came up with these.

3. Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher's Camp (Juneau) [Link]

My wife insisted we do some sort of excursion that involved Alaskan husky dogs (preferably puppies), so we picked this 2 hour trip.  Besides involving super cute puppies, we think our daughters will enjoy going to the countryside and getting a first-hand look at what Alaska is all about.

We will have some extra time in Juneau after the excursion is over, and may hop into a taxi to visit the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and do some "light weight" exploring.

2. Yukon Hummer Adventure (Skagway) [Link]

I thought this excursion sounded like a really fun one, primarily because it allows us to see a lot of beautiful areas in Alaska and Canada from the comfort of a Hummer.  I have always wanted to drive one of these cars, so I think this is perfect opportunity.  

One caveat is this excursion states my youngest daughter is not allowed to come with us.  I am not entirely certain why and we are guessing it may have to do with car seats.  We will talk with the Shore Excursion staff onboard Explorer of the Seas and get a better sense of what the issue is all about.

1. Craigdarroch Castle And Butchart Garden (Victoria) [Link]

It seems like the two places to visit in Victoria are Butchart Garden and Craigdarroch Castle, so we booked the excursion that brings us to both.  I am slightly concerned my children will be bored by the pace and subject of the tour, but I remain optimistic that they will have a good time...and with a bribe of a present to keep them in line (it's not my first rodeo).

What's next

Our Explorer of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, June 22nd (although we will fly to Seattle a day earlier), and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 17, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! We’d like to wish all the dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day! We hope you get to have a relaxing and fun-filled day with your family!

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the latest Royal Caribbean news!

Royal Caribbean unveiled features and pricing for its next new cruise ship, Spectrum of the Seas.

Spectrum of the Seas will be the newest, largest and most expensive cruise ship in Asia.

Spectrum of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's first Quantum Ultra Class ship, and will boast the cruise line’s first private enclave for suite guests, new stateroom categories, innovative dining concepts, and stunning features and experiences – many of which have never before been seen at sea.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 254th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we discuss the pricing and policies announced for Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean revealed a lot of details related to the guest experience in Perfect Day at CocoCay, and this week, Matt and Billy dive into the news to share what they think it means for guests.

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.

New RCB Video: Spectrum of the Seas features & itineraries revealed

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video – Spectrum of the Seas features & itineraries revealed!  — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

New Royal Caribbean Cruise Compasses

One of the best ways to learn about what sort of events a cruise ship offers is to consult a past Royal Caribbean Cruise Compass. Here is a look at which Cruise Compasses we added this week.

    Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

    Royal Caribbean shared how some of its employees helped rescue a reef off Miami.

    Seatrade Cruise News reported on the upgrades made to Royal Caribbean's travel agent reservation system.

    Cruise Law News reported on a jury verdict in favor of a former Royal Caribbean employee that was hurt on the job.

    Travel Weekly wrote about the demise of cruise ship chapels in favor of more space for guest activities.

    Friday Photos

    By: Matt Hochberg

    When the calendar says it is Friday, that is when we share our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos.  

    We begin with this sunset photo by Stuart Ethridge, taken on Oasis of the Seas.

    Speaking of sunset photos, the sky in this photo by Kevin Neal is amazing.  This was shot on Vision of the Seas in Progresso.

    Emily Knab took this photo of Anthem of the Seas docked in St. Maarten.

    Next is a photo of Quantum of the Seas in Nagasaki Port, taken by Kate and Rich.

    Kevin Collins took this photo of Dawes Glacier in the Tracy Arm Fjord on a recent Explorer of the Seas sailing.

    Anne took this photo from her balcony on deck 11 on Harmony of the Seas.

    Our final photo this week is by Daniela Tulceanu, and it is of sunrise as seen on Navigator of the Seas.

    Thank you to everyone who shared their photos with us this week.  As always, you can share your favorite Royal Caribbean photos with us too.

    First time cruisers: Getting ready for your first Royal Caribbean cruise

    By: Matt Hochberg

    After you book your first Royal Caribbean cruise, you may realize that sail away is not too far away and you would like to be prepared for an awesome first cruise experience. There are a few easy steps you can take in the weeks and months leading up to your cruise to ensure it starts off quite well.

    Gather your documentation

    In order to go on your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will need to have the proper documentation to actually board the ship.  Depending on which country your cruise begins and ends in, the exact documentation will vary.

    A good starting point is to make certain you know exactly where everyone's passport, birth certificate and/or state issued identification is located.  Moreover, check expiration dates of these documents and verify that they will not be expiring anytime soon.  Keep in mind that some countries require passports not to expire within six months of visiting (such as Cuba). 

    If you are wondering if you need a passport or visa to cruise, here is what you need to know.  U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.) will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a government-issued birth certificate and laminated government issued picture ID, denoting photo, name and date of birth. A U.S. citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original, notarized or certified copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issues by DOS, or Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    If you're flying to a port overseas, a passport is almost always needed.

    Regardless of the rules, we recommend everyone (including U.S. residents on cruises from the United States) get a passport.  It is simpler and safer, and a fantastic investment for any traveler.

    Online check-in

    At ninety days prior to your cruise, you can log into Royal Caribbean's web site and complete the online check in.  

    The online check in will save you a lot of time at the pier, as well as provide you with the necessary paperwork to expedite your cruise boarding procedure.

    You will need a copy of everyone's documentation (passport or birth certificate), travel plans and a credit card to store for incidental charges.

    You do not need to do this immediately at 90 days prior to your sailing, but make sure you complete this at least 3 days prior to your sailing.

    Pre-cruise purchases

    Royal Caribbean allows guests to purchase drink packages, spa appointments, shore excursions, internet packages and more prior to your cruise. In fact, on Oasis and Quantum Class ships, you can even pre-book select entertainment on your ship.

    It is a really good idea to purchase anything you can prior to the cruise for two basic reasons: it is often cheaper to book these options before the cruise (instead of onboard) and it helps break up the total cost of the cruise. 

    In many cases, Royal Caribbean promises a discount on select pre-cruise purchases compared to the price onboard.  Periodically, Royal Caribbean will run sales on its pre-cruise purchases, which can yield higher savings. The discounted savings can vary, with the price of drink and internet packages varying from ship to ship and sailing to sailing. 

    When you purchase anything before your cruise via the Cruise Planner site, you will be required to pay for it at the time of purchase.  This provides the ability to break up the total cost of the cruise.

    When you make purchases onboard your cruise, at the end of the cruise you get a final bill with all of the charges tallied up.  By pre-purchasing certain items, you can pay off parts of the cruise months or years in advance, allowing you to reduce the cruise bill at the conclusion of your cruise.

    An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

    Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.


    Packing for your cruise vacation is something some folks really enjoy and others lament.  Regardless, we all have to do it.

    Where your cruise sails to will determine what exactly you need to pack, so it may be a good idea to research the weather in the ports you will be visiting, as well as figuring out if there will be any formal nights or themed nights on your sailing (more on formal nights and themed nights later).

    This is also a good opportunity to check your luggage is good to go (i.e. no holes or rips).

    In addition, you should start thinking about what clothing and outfits you want to bring with you.  This may trigger a memory that you wanted to replace a suit or shirt or get new shoes.

    If you are looking for a good packing list, we recommend one from Cruise Habit or Cruise Tips TV.

    What am I not allowed to bring?

    You should definitely be aware of the kind of items you are prohibited from bringing on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Some are pretty obvious (no baseball bats), while others are surprising (no surge protectors or clothing irons).

    Refer to Royal Caribbean's list of prohibited item list, as their list changes from time to time.

    We should mention a really common question we get asked about bringing and that is drinks and alcohol.

    You cannot bring beer, spirits, alcohol, booze, liquor, moonshine or anything else of that ilk on your Royal Caribbean cruise. However, you can bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom onboard on embarkation day only.

    In terms of soda and bottled water, this is where things get a bit confusing.  Royal Caribbean lists that guests may not  bring soft drinks or bottled water on their cruise, however, it has been our experience that they tend to look the other way when it comes to guests bringing soda or water onboard.  If you would like to bring soda or bottled water, put it in your carry-on luggage (not the luggage you give to the porters) and do not mention it unless someone asks about it.  Admittedly, this is a gray area of the rules but it does work.

    Making special requests

    If you have dietary, dining, special needs or other requests, be sure to make it in the weeks and months before your cruise to be certain they are on record and taken care of prior to your cruise.  A common mistake we see is guests waiting to make these requests onboard the ship.

    Dietary requests

    For any and all dietary requests, contact your travel agent or Certified Vacation Planner and request that the remark be noted in your reservation details. If you made your reservation online at you may add your request to the "update personal information." section. You may also send an e-mail request to; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date. E-mails will receive an automated response.

    Main dining room table requests

    If you prefer to dine alone, you can also email Royal Caribbean your table request. Send an email 3 to 4 weeks prior to your cruise to

    Special needs

    If you have a special need, such as wheelchair assistance, service dog, difficulty going up or down steps, hearing troubles, sign language interpretation and more, be sure to fill out the Guest Special Needs form on Royal Caribbean's website. 

    Royal Caribbean recommends you do this no later than 30 days prior to your sailing, except for sign language interpreting requests which must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing.

    Cribs or pack and plays

    Don't worry about bringing a Pack 'n Play, Royal Caribbean provides one for your child to sleep in, free of charge .

    While the pack 'n play does come with a mattress, we've found it more comfortable for our child to take a comforter and fold it up to place on top of the mattress to act as a small mattress topper.  The difference was quickly evident in how much longer our daughter would stay asleep versus the mattress alone.

    Make sure you or your travel agent reserve a Pack 'n Play in advance so it is waiting in your stateroom when you embark on the first day.

    Read a past Cruise Compass

    Earlier in this post, we talked about packing for themed nights and formal nights. You might be wondering how to know exactly what to expect, and the simpler answer is there is no definitive way to know.  However, veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers will tell you a great strategy is to read a past Cruise Compass from the ship and itinerary you are sailing on to get a ballpark idea of what to expect onboard your cruise.

    Royal Caribbean does not post or publish Cruise Compasses for upcoming sailings in advance. Nor do they publish their entertainment schedules prior to a cruise. There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.

    Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered.  There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

    By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything in-between.

    You can reference our Cruise Compass archive for a listing of past Cruise Compasses that we have found.

    Consider travel insurance

    Insurance is one of things that you do not think of until you need it and then it is worth every penny.  The thing is, not everyone needs travel insurance but you should look into what travel insurance offers and if you are at an elevated risk and would benefit from it.

    Royal Caribbean offers travel insurance, as well as many third party companies.  Read exactly what the insurance covers and the scenarios in which you can make a claim.  It is important to be aware that travel insurance does not cover every scenario, but issues such as personal illness, death of a family member, airline delays, lost baggage and more are common times when insurance will be of great benefit.

    There is no easy way to determine who does and who does not need travel insurance, but you should at least consider the option now to safeguard yourself in the future.  Consider your risk tolerance, health concerns, and of course look at policies and prices to see if it makes sense for you.

    Book pre-cruise transportation and lodging

    Planning is the key to a fabulous vacation, but despite all your best efforts, there are just some factors that no one has any control over: weather, car break downs, flat tires, etc. If you ask seasoned travelers how they get around these obstacles, the answer is often to give yourself more time.  Instead of arriving to your departure city on the day of your cruise, get in early!

    By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

    As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

    More planning resources

    In the grand scheme of planning and preparing for your first Royal Caribbean cruise, there are more things you can do to be ready for a great first cruise.  Here are a few more resources to check out:

    Your thoughts

    Did we miss any critical steps to complete prior to a cruise? Any other tips? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

    Analyzing the Perfect Day at CocoCay offerings on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

    By: Matt Hochberg

    Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

    Episode 254 is available for downloading and features an in-depth discussion of the prices and options available at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

    Last week, Royal Caribbean announced prices for all the new things to do at Perfect Day at CocoCay and this week, Matt and Billy discuss the prices and policies announced.  

    Here’s the podcast page for Episode 254. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

    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!