Royal Caribbean announced a multimillion dollar refurbishment for Independence of the Seas that will take place in April 2018, and we now have a good idea of the full extent of changes coming to the ship.
After receving lots of questions related to how where the changes are onboard the ship, we've compiled a list of the changes coming visually. Note that some stateroom categories may have changed, but we were looking for significant changes to the ship.
- No significant changes
- Alhambra Theatre name changed to Royal Theater.
- The Raven nightclub replaced with new staterooms.
- On Air Club replaced with staterooms.
- Photo Gallery moved to Deck 3.
- Art Gallery area reduced, with more staterooms added.
- Romeo & Juliet Dining Room renamed to Dining Room.
- Alhambra Theatre name changed to Royal Theater.
- The Raven nightclub replaced with Izumi.
- Photo Gallery replaced with Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade.
- Macbeth Dining Room renamed to Dining Room.
- Pyramid Lounge becomes Star Lounge.
- Connoisseur Club becomes Library and RC Online.
- God & Badger Pub becomes Ale & Anchor.
- Cupcake Cupboard replaced with Sugar Beach.
- King Lear Dining Room renamed to Dining Room.
Welcome back to Friday Photos, our weekly showcase of Royal Caribbean photos that were taken by readers of this blog.
Every week, we ask our readers to send us their best Royal Caribbean vacation photos to be considered for this post and you're welcome to send yours in as well. We'd love to feature photos of the ships, excursions, activities onboard and anything else that reminds you of a great time while sailing with Royal Caribbean.
So without further adieu, here is this week's batch of photos.
First up is this photo of Labadee, taken by Geoffrey Straubinger from an overlook on a walking path.
Here is a photo of the beach beds in CocoCay, taken by Gibson.
John Bamber sent in this photo of Oasis of the Seas docked in St. Maarten.
Next is a photo of Empress of the Seas in Cuba by Krisztina Benko.
Dan Kohout snapped this photo of Enchantment of the Seas in Nassau, as seen from his "brief pit stop" at Señor Frogs.
Our next photo is by Chelsey Curry, and it is of Freedom of the Seas docked in Cozumel.
We go back to CocoCay for our final photo this week, and it is from David Ep of the Cabanas.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their photos this week. Be sure to send your photos in as well by using this form.
Royal Caribbean is offering up to 30% off select Cruise Planner purchases this weekend, with its Deck the Deals sale.
The weekend Cruise Planner sale promises savings on certain shore excursions and drink package purchases. Guests can check which discounts, if any, are available for their upcoming sailing by visiting the Cruise Planner site. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.
Based on the countdown timer, the sale will expire at midnight on Sunday night.
To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site and navigate to the Dining & Beverage section to see any available offers.
If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.
Guests sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Cape LIberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey, will have the option to take shore excursions to one of New Jersey’s oldest and most historic cities, Elizabeth.
A new partnership between Royal Caribbean and EMI Global offers passengers the option to book a post-cruise excursion in and around Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is known for its historical precedence of being the starting point for New Jersey (est. 1664) and home of America’s founding fathers, like Alexander Hamilton, Elias Boudinot , Marquis de Lafayette and many others. Additionally, Elizabeth is noted for its rich ethnic diversity, representing more than 50 countries and 37 language groups, authentic cultural cuisine, and as being the 5th best City for Shopping in America due, in part, to being the location of New Jersey’s largest outlet and value retail center, The Mills at Jersey Gardens, a Simon Center.
Guests can get more information about these shore excursions at www.GoElizabethNJ.com/RCCLExcursions.
Hands down the best way to see Alaska is on a cruise. Travelers can experience the awe of the Inside Passage, with its jaw-dropping scenery and diverse wildlife as well as land based thrills on a variety of curated cruisetours. Royal Caribbean is taking Alaska cruises to the next level by offering some of their best ships, including Radiance of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean is offering guests a bonus of up to $100 instant savings on top of its 30% off all guests and kids sail free offer.
The Dashing Deals offer is valid on cruises booked between December 14 - 18, 2017 on sailings departing on or after January 14, 2018. Offer excludes China departures.
- 30% off every guest
- Kids Sail for Free
- Free cruise fare for 3rd guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger on 4 nights or longer Europe, Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Canada, Coastal and Caribbean sailings departing January 9, 2018- December 15, 2018.
- Excluding Symphony of the Seas sailings and sailings departing 2/15/18-2/20/18, 3/10/18-4/1/18, 5/15/18-9/1/18 and 11/17/18-11/22/18.
- Instant savings determined by category booked and sailing length:
- Sailings 5 nights or less
- $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View
- $50 savings for Balconies
- $75 savings for Suites
- Sailings 6 nights or longer
- $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View
- $75 savings for Balconies
- $100 savings for Suites
- Sailings 5 nights or less
30% off is combinable with NRDB OBC, Kids Sail Free, Free Upgrades, promotional OBCs and instant savings, NextCruise offers, restricted discounts (for example, Senior, Resident, Military), Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Dashing Deals is combinable with NextCruise offers, NRDB OBC, and restricted discounts (for example, Senior, Resident, Military) but is not combinable with Shareholder benefits and Crown and Anchor discounts. 30% off bookings made for China departures are combinable with NextCruise offers and Crown and Anchor balcony/suites discounts only. All 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.
Offer available to residents of United States and Canada.
When going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, there are a lot of things that can save you time and money, or improve the quality of your vacation. Here are 50 random tips that our very own Royal Caribbean Blog readers sent in based upon years of taking Royal Caribbean cruises.
The intention of this list is to provide you with idea and strategies for an even better Royal Caribbean cruise experience. Regardless of how much or little they help, all of them can help anyone improve their cruise experience and perhaps even discover a new cruising tradition.
Make sure to also read the additional reader tips in the comments, as some of you readers have some great tips of your own that are really helpful. If you have some good tips, be sure to add them there, too. The more, the merrier!
With that said, let’s get started with the list…
- Go through the entire ship on embarkation day to know where everything is. (Jose Pena)
- On Oasis Class ships, if you wish to miss the crowds in Windjammer and the sometimes extended waiting in the Main Dining Room for breakfast? Try Johnny Rockets. (Ron Lodowski)
- Don't feel pressured to buy the most expensive drink package. Buy the package that makes the most sense for you! I don't drink much alcohol so I only buy the refreshment package which gets me all the non-alcoholic drinks, coffee, and tea. I'd rather pay for 1 or 2 glasses of wine rather than wasting my money on a drink package that I'll never use. (Jenn Kerr)
- Sign up for the Vitality Spa raffle on embarkation day and go to the raffle drawin. May people who sign up, do not show up, which increases your odds of winning. (Jose Pena)
- Try to arrive the day before ship leaves so you don’t feel frazzled and hurried. (Judy Lathon Carson)
- Don't try to do everything or you will enjoy nothing. There is something happening constantly and you can quickly overwhelm yourself. Relax. If this is your first cruise, focus on the "highlights" they publish. They know those things will give most newbies a great vacation and it will allow you to get your bearings for the next one! (Paul Crow)
- To speed up boarding on ship at any port: Before going through security screening, empty your pockets in to your carry bag to be X-rayed, and also if you keep small items(i.e. coins, keys, ect) in a Ziploc bag it makes it easier to empty pockets before metal detectors. (Tom Meyer)
- Bring your swim trunks/bathing suit in you carry on. Embarkation day is a great time to enjoy the pool and Solarium. (Jose Pena)
- Use the pools right away when you board, by the time you get out, your rooms will be ready! (Erin N. Lyons)
- Back-to-back cruises are a great way to get to know the crew and see all a ship has to offer. Be friendly with crew mates and they will be helpful to you. Gotten free drinks and courteous service because of this. (Jose Pena)
- Check out the Main Dining Room for breakfast and lunch. It can be much more relaxing than the Windjammer - you can sit and meet people and relax rather than try to find a table and be back and forth to the buffet. (Brandon Mowry)
- Use the nursery on the ship when you have a infant. A great way to convince your significant other to take a cruise. (Jose Pena)
- Unpack completely. The rooms are small but they have great storage space. Unpacking and keeping things in their place will make your room more relaxing. Also, bring something to store your dirty clothes - worst case, throw them in your suitcase. (Deborah Wolfe)
- Arrive early for all shows to get good seats.(Jose Pena)
- On embarkation day, I suggest you do the things that will be harder to do once everyone find their way around, such as the Flowrider, zip line, bumper cars, hot tubs, etc. (Scott Stein)
- Pre-purchase and pre-book everything you can via the Cruise Planner. Less time wasted in lines while onboard and less stress. (Karah Ryan Smith)
- On Anthem of the Seas, ride the North Star on embarkation day and right after rooms open, no lines or reservations required. (Ron Hiller)
- If something’s not quite right, mention it to someone. The crew’s ultimate goal is for you to have a great trip, and they’ll do whatever they can to make that happen.(John Bamber)
- Get to know your room attendant right way. I always make a request for more pillows and to always have ice in my room at all times. (Jose Pena)
- After packing your bag, repack and eliminate half of what you packed! (Judy Lathon Carson)
- Go to the spa on port days or early in the morning or late at night for discounts. (Christie McLarty)
- If you are staying in a suite visit the Concierge Lounge early in the cruise and introduce yourself. I find out that in all cases the better he knows you the more he will bend over backwards to make your cruise totally memorable. (Ron Lodowski)
- If you can’t afford a balcony, go for a inside room. It’s better to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise than none at all. (Jose Pena)
- Use a travel agent, arrive at the embarkation port the night before your cruise begins, buy a specialty dining package (Tracy Tompkins)
- Reserve your dinners/shows that you could not do online right when you board the ship. (Erin N. Lyons)
- Tip beyond your thoughts. Tip with your feelings. If a crew member moved you in some way, they enhanced your cruise experience and that deserves to be compensated. Don't over-calculate. Just show your appreciation. Give! Karma will take care of the rest! (Scott Stein)
- Take pictures of the crew and name tag that way you have it on ur phone and readily handy when completing the survey. (Judy Lathon Carson)
- When in doubt, always ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no. (Jose Pena)
- Just remember, you aren't going to be able to do everything. Just relax and have a good time. It's vacation! Don't worry about fitting everything in, just have a good time and do what you want to do. There's no need to stress over FOMO, that's what another cruise is for! (Lance Millican)
- Doing a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean is the only way to ensure that the ship won’t leave without you if your excursion is late getting back to the pier! (Jenn Kerr)
- If you’ve never been to a particular port before but want to experience it, definitely book shore excursions through Royal Caribbean. Best way to see a new place, so you can then go back later and do things on your own. (John Bamber)
- Start a Vacation account (aka Royal Caribbean cruise fund) to save for your cruise. I have money deposited every week from my paycheck for this purpose. (Jose Pena)
- Look at travel rewards credit cards to help fund your trip. Chase Sapphire Preferred, Bank of America Travel Rewards, etc. These cards have the potential to be very lucrative. (John Bamber)
- Plan and get as much information ahead of time. Be prepared. Royal Caribbean Blog is a good place to start (and other sites). (Jose Pena)
- Participate! Go to trivia and dance class and other activities in sea days. So much fun. (Deborah Wolfe)
- Also, don’t be afraid to have fun and make a fool of yourself you’ll most likely never see most of those people again! (John Bamber)
- A shoe organizer that hangs on a door is a great way to help store items in your stateroom. Put it on the outside of bathroom door. (Marc Van Niekerk)
- Want to dance Spanish music? Boleros is the place for you. If you have a song you want played, request it to the musicians. They will play it. (Jose Pena)
- Take advantage of the BOGO Promotion on the first two nights to experience Specialty Dining. The price of this specialty dining package is a great value and means of which to try them and determine which ones really appeal to you. (Ron Lodowski)
- Make sure you have a good travel agent who checks for price drops regularly. (Cheryl Knipe Brinson)
- For ladies, take a pashmina. It doesn't take up much room in your suitcase and it comes in handy to keep you warm on the deck or at shows and to put over you head when it is windy. Even the Caribbean sailing can be chilly at night. (Dawn Johnstonbaugh)
- Listen to as many podcasts /periscopes on cruising as you can and become a member of Cruise Critic. (Deb Veerkamp)
- Don't over plan/organize too much. You don't need a activity every island every hour. You may stumble across something fun and want to do it, or you may just want to relax. (Jerel Donovan)
- Take your swimwear in your carry-on luggage on the first day... You can be in the hot tub with your cocktail before lunch (Pippa Madden)
- Explore the ship and don't be shy to meet people from different places. Cruisers come from around the world to cruise. Find the unique things on your cruise ship that makes cruising more enjoyable. Try different foods that you normally would not try. Remember it is a vacation and go with the flow. (David Quainton)
- Once on the ship go straight to the Main Dining Room to see your table, if you don't like it they will get you somewhere else. The sooner you go the higher on the list you are for changes. (Jerel Donovan)
- Go see all the productions shows and try at least one food item you've never had before at some point during the cruise! (Clayton Jackson)
- Get a lanyard for your SeaPass card. (Erin N. Lyons)
- If you have medical issues, or questions, always ask in advance via Special Requests. I was provided distilled water and an extension cord for my CPAP machine, free of charge, which was a blessing not having to fly with a gallon of water in my checked luggage. (Lance Millican)
- If you need to go speak with Guest Services, avoid long lines by going during quiet hours. And try to avoid first and last days, when they’re the busiest (Karl Schlenther)
What do you think of our tips for enhancing your Royal Caribbean cruise experience? If you have solid Royal Caribbean tips that aren’t mentioned here, please post them below! If you have any other comments or questions, please feel free to post those, too.
Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!
Episode 228 is available for downloading, where Matt discusses everything you need to know about the Solarium pool area on Royal Caribbean ships.
The Solarium is an adults-only enclave on most ships, and this week Matt talks about what the experience is like, what the Solarium offers, and what makes the Solarium so desirable.
Here’s the podcast page for Episode 228. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS, Stitcher 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 released new information about 2019 Alaska and select European cruises, as well as when guests can expect to begin booking these adventures.
Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members can begin booking sailings on December 12, 2017 at 9:30am - 1:30pm EST, with the general public available to begin booking at 1:30pm EST.
2019 Alaska Sailings
2019 Europe Sailings
- Brilliance of the Seas
- Jewel of the Seas
- Oasis of the Seas
- Rhapsody of the Seas
- Serenade of the Seas
- Vision of the Seas
The remaining deployments will be released sometime in Spring 2018.
Every Royal Caribbean cruise offers some great live shows to enjoy onboard. Musicals, ice skating performances, and comedy shows are just a few of the performances to enjoy on Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean has created a number of impressive shows for its cruise ships, as well as reached out to some very talented performers to round out the entertainment on every ship in the fleet.
Planning for shows
One thing several people have ask is whether it is worth it to see the shows. Our answer is always a qualified “absolutely.” We absolutely recommend the shows because these are a big part of what separates Royal Caribbean from the rest of the industry. In recent years, Royal Caribbean has invested heavily in its onboard shows, and the result has been a number of must-see performances.
Our thought process goes like this: entertainment on your Royal Caribbean cruise is included with your cruise fare, so why not see a couple of shows. Not only is it very likely to be a fun time, it is a great way for family and friends to enjoy high quality entertainment together with little risk other than your time.
The big impediment you might have in seeing all of these shows is dinner. Often trying to balance show times with your dinner times can be difficult to time properly. The rise in popularity of specialty dining and My Time Dining has resulted in some scheduling challenges. Depending on your dinner schedule, this may or may not be an issue. Those who are on traditional dining typically have less of a problem making show times work since many shows are scheduled opposite traditional dining schedules.
We have some recommendations if you potentially run into one of these planning risks: The key is to check for additional performances that work better for your schedule, or be prepared to make alternate dining plans. Changing dining plans is not a major hassle, but something to be aware of to ensure you see as many shows as possible. Consult a prior Cruise Compass, as show times rarely change much (if it all) between sailings on similar itineraries. Once onboard, you can often get a entertainment schedule from Guest Services and better coordinate dining changes at that time. Making dining changes is always easier early in the cruise, than later on, because reservation spots tend to fill up quickly.
Booking shows before your cruise
A common question among those new to Royal Caribbean is about when can they begin to reserve shows tickets prior to their cruise, and the answer is it depends on which ship you are sailing on.
Currently, only Oasis Class and Quantum Class ships offers guests the ability to get a virtual ticket for select shows and they are available via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. All other ships, will have seating available on a first-come, first-served basis and/or complimentary tickets once guests are onboard.
If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary. The truth is, there is no rule about when these kinds of activities become available for booking, and every sailing can be different.
The best reason to book certain activities, entertainment and dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise. There is limited capacity for shows, dining and other activities and Royal Caribbean tends to offer guests the option of reserving them prior to their cruise. By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.
The exact lineup of entertainment will vary from ship to ship, but there are some common genres that span certain classes of ships and some are even fleet-wide.
The theater performances are arguably the flagship entertainment on any Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean invests heavily in Broadway-inspired performances, with some ships actually offering full Broadway shows. Classic shows such as Grease, Mamma Mia, CATS and more grace the stage of Royal Caribbean's newest ships.
Royal Caribbean has made a name for itself with the high-diving shows on its Oasis Class ships that are held in the Aquatheater. This space is an outdoor amphitheater, which features acrobatic and high diving stunts in the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea.
Royal Caribbean also offers ice skating shows on ships that have an ice skating rink (Oasis, Freedom and Voyager Class ships). Each ship has its own unique ice skating show, which matches incredible ice skating performances with music and a loose story line. These shows are not only a means to see some very talented skaters perform some of the most difficult ice skating moves, there is also a great story to enjoy.
In addition, Royal Caribbean's entertainment staff will host their own live shows onboard, including fan-favorites such as the Love and Marriage Game Show, Battle of the Sexes, The Quest, and more. These shows involve select members of the audience, and have been a staple of the cruise industry for years.
Most Royal Caribbean cruises also feature comedians, magicians, and/or entertainers that offer family-friendly and adult-oriented shows onboard. These performers put on their act to augment the regular entertainment line up, and can offer something a little different than stage productions.
Another popular activity is taking in a newly released or classic film. Royal Caribbean mixes up the offerings, but will show multiple films each day of the cruise, usually on the large screen by the pool. On the larger Royal Caribbean ships, there are even 3D films shown in the Royal Theater for no additional cost. Regardless of venue, these films can be the perfect way to finally see that new movie you have been meaning to watch, or a fun movie to see again while you enjoy a swim.
Dancing and singing
If your idea of fun is live music, with or without you dancing along to it, then you will plenty of that on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Each ship offers multiple venues each evening that offer live music, sing alongs, dance parties and more.
Each evening, your Cruise Compass will list a multitude of venues that offer live bands playing. There will be shows at the ships' pubs, lounges, night clubs and even by the pool. Walk in, and take a seat (or find a spot on the dance floor) and take it all in. As mentioned, there are often many different live musical opportunities around the ship, appealing to different styles of music. Guitar sing alongs at the pub, salsa dancing in Boleros lounge, DJ spinning, and more.
On select evenings of your cruise, there are themed parties held, where guests are invited to join in on the fun. Some parties are themed to the 1970s or 1980s, Caribbean themed nights, and more. These are essentially large dance parties, where the entertainment staff dress up for the occasion and guests are encouraged to do the same.
Naturally, you may be wondering how to know which themed nights will be on your sailing and when, but Royal Caribbean does not publish that information in advance. Your only option is to consult a prior Cruise Compass and see what was offered on previous sailings. In our experience, the themed night lineups do not change much.
Teens & Kids
Younger travelers will find lots for them to do onboard as well. Royal Caribbean has significantly invested in the dedicated space and entertainment options for the under 18 age set over the last decade or so.
Kids 3 to 11 years old have daily programming provided for them in the Adventure Ocean program. Adventure Ocean is more than just a day camp experience. Kids will find classes, parties and activities offered each day of the cruise.
On select ships, younger kids will love the DreamWorks Experience, where they can meet their favorite characters from Madagascar and Shrek, watch 3D movies, and enjoy themed breakfasts and parades.
Teenagers also have their own rooms onboard to hang out, play games, listen to music... or whatever it is teenagers enjoy doing. Royal Caribbean also schedules private sessions of popular onboard activities just for teens, such as time on the FlowRider surf simulator.