Two Royal Caribbean ships in Tampa for the first time, at the same time

In:
23Nov2014

For the first time ever, two Royal Caribbean cruise ships were docked at the Port of Tampa, which local officials were celebrating as a "historic day".

Vision of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas were both in port yesterday, which port executives marked as a first for Royal Caribbean.

Paul Anderson, president and CEO of the Port of Tampa port authority, commented on the news, "This is absolutely a beautiful day, a historic day for our port.  We are so proud to be partners with Royal Caribbean."

To celebrate this occasion, a plaque was given to Vision of the Seas' captain, Lis Lauritzen, in a ceremony that took place onboard the ship.

“I’m very proud that we were able to welcome her,” Anderson said afterward.

Vision of the Seas will depart every Saturday through April 11 on seven-day cruises to the western Caribbean. Brilliance of the Seas offers four- and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: November 23, 2014

In:
23Nov2014

Hope you had a great week (maybe one week closer to your next Royal Caribbean cruise?) and you had a chance to keep up with what's new with Royal Caribbean this week. But if not, here's a roundup of this week's news.

Royal Caribbean announced this week that its oldest ship in the fleet, Majesty of the Seas, will be transferred out by April 2016.

Majesty of the Seas' final voyage will be on April 29, 2016 and afterwards, will undergo a dry dock session before heading to join Pullmantur cruises.

Here's the other Royal Caribbean news you might have missed this week

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The sixty-eighth episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and we've got a roundtable review of Quantum of the Seas to share with you.

In this episode, Matt and a few friends that recently sailed on Quantum of the Seas share their collective thoughts on this brand new ship and review what Quantum of the Seas offers and if Royal Caribbean hit a home run with her.

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.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Conde Nast Treveler reviewed Quantum of the Seas, focusing on the tech.

The Verge declared Quantum of the Seas is the ship of tomorrow.

Cruise Critic posted their full Quantum of the Seas review.

In The Loop Travel wrote about seven things you'll enjoy on Quantum of the Seas.

From the Deck Chair has their full Quantum of the Seas recap.

Quantum of the Seas inaugural merchandise roundup

In:
22Nov2014

Buying something to commemorate your Royal Caribbean cruise is always a popular idea and with Quantum of the Seas, it's brand new to the fleet and Royal Caribbean is commemorating it's inaugural year with a line of merchandise available to purchase.

The merchandise listed here was available on our recent Quantum of the Seas cruise and we've heard the inaugural merchandise will be available for the first year the ship is in service (translation: you still have time to buy it).

Inaugural Season Quantum of the Seas shirt

Quantum of the Seas inaugural season tumbler

Quantum of the Seas long sleeve shirts.  These aren't inaugural but they are a Royal Caribbean tradition.

Quantum of the Seas Inaugural Season t-shirt

Kids "I love Quantum of the Seas" shirt

Men's Quantum of the Seas "Cruising King" t-shirt

Women's Quantum of the Seas "Cruising Queen" t-shirt

Friday Photos

In:
21Nov2014

If you're ready for a mental escape to a Royal Caribbean cruise, then you're at the right place because we have some great Royal Caribbean photos our readers have sent in.  Each week we ask our readers to send us their best Royal Caribbean photos to showcase right here on the blog so be sure to send yours in too!

First up this week is a photo by Ken Slusser of the view he had from his balcony on Allure of the Seas. Now that is a great suite!

I really like this photo by John Siegmund of Legend of the Seas docked in Saguenay, Quebec, Canada earlier this year.  That water reflection and calmness is amazing!

Here's a sunset photo by Steve Lebkuecher from Navigator of the Seas while taking a stroll on Deck 12 after dinner at Chops.  Is it possible for an evening to be better than that?

Here's a great photo of Larry and Marcia McGraw from an Explorer of the Seas cruise back in 2002 when they visited Labadee.  I can almost taste the Labadoozies!

Our friend Michael Poole has gone artsy with this photo of Enchantment of the Seas.  I'm no art ciritc but I'm pretty sure if it's got a Royal Caribbean ship in it, it's a work of art.

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 will transfer Majesty of the Seas out of the fleet

In:
21Nov2014

Royal Caribbean announced today that Majesty of the Seas will be transfered out from Royal Caribbean to a sister company in 2016.

Majesty of the Seas will join Pullmantur in 2016.  Pullmantur is owned by Royal Caribbean Internernational's parent company.

Royal Caribbean's chairman and CEO Richard Fain commented on the move, "Majesty of the Seas has created wonderful memories for millions of guests, and we expect this record of success to continue as she transitions to Pullmantur.  The vessel's transfer is an excellent business opportunity for both Royal Caribbean and Pullmantur. We are fortunate that our mix of brands allows us the flexibility and opportunity to expand in key strategic markets."

Majesty of the Seas' last 3-night sailing for Royal Caribbean International will depart on April 29, 2016.  She will then enter dry dock before joining the Pullmantur fleet, allowing her to be tailored to fit Pullmantur's brand standards and offerings.

Former Royal Caribbean vessel and sister ship to Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas, was also transfered to Pullmantur back in 2013.

Restaurant Review: Wonderland

In:
20Nov2014

I can't think of any restaurant openings on a Royal Caribbean ship I was looking forward to more than Wonderland.  Ever since I saw a preview of it at the Quantum of the Seas dining reveal earlier in the year, the concept fascinated me.

When the opportunity to check out this new restaurant on Quantum of the Seas came to me, I jumped at the chance with great enthusiasm.

Part of the Dynamic Dining endeavor, Wonderland is open for dinner and here's my first hand look through the looking glass at this new dining concept.

Atmosphere

Wonderland is a brand new specialty restaurant on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas that hass loosely based its decor and atmosphere after the Alice in Wonderland tales.

Located on deck 5 on the upper deck of the Royal Esplanade, Wonderland is hard to miss given its location and over-the-top decor.

Outside you will find odd props and statues that look like they are fresh off a movie set.   Inside, you will find an intimate space filled with chairs that don't match any other chair at the table, chandeliers, candelabras and glasses and cups that are so bizzare if you saw it in a store, you'd wonder who would actually buy that.

The restaurant feels like it's straight out of the scene from the 1951 Disney film, where the Mad Hatter invites Alice to tea.  Essentially, the restaurant is purposefully designed to evoke a "I don't know what to expect" reaction from its guests.

The servers in the restaurant all dress the part too, with velvet jackets and multi-colored outfits.  

Eats

The slogan for Wonderland is, "imaginative cuisine" and you will quickly discover why when you dine here.

As you are seated, each person is given an easel with a blank menu and a paintbrush.  

The waiter instructs you to dip the paintbrush in water and then paint the canvas with your brush to reveal your menu.  As you paint, the menu appears magically and you can see what's offered.

The menu isn't conventional either.  You will find the menu divided up by elements (sun, ice, fire, sea and earth) and pretty much everything on the menu is not something you would ever have seen on a menu at home.  

Most of the menu items are what I'd consider appropriate for adventurous eaters.  As you will see later, the food served isn't crazy by any means but it's not burgers and pasta either.

We dined in a group of nine and the waiter suggested ordering for us and we agreed.  Looking at the menu, it was tough to really know what we were ordering so why not just try a little of everything?

Appetizers came out first and each appetizer was served with a different pizzazz than the last.  Buffalo chicken eggs, slow cooked baby beets, liquid manzanilla olives are just a few of what we ate and I can't say any are my favorite new dishes but seeing them and then trying them was an adventure in of itself.

The two appetizers that surprised me were the beets and hard boiled eggs. If asked, I'd say I don't care for either but at Wonderland they were impressive and tasty.  

The entrees did not disappoint either.  Most of the servings are on the small side, so you should order multiple entrees and appetizers per person to be safe.  

My favorite was the terroir beef, which I believe was one of the best slow-cooked beef dishes I've ever had (sorry mom)!  The halibut was quite good too and everyone else at the table really liked the Cuban pork shank.

Wonderland's desserts were truly wonderful and we all sampled a little of everything.  The yogurt pops and baked Alaska were the kind of desserts I'd have if the Earth was about to explode and I didn't care about gaining weight.

Overall

Eating at Wonderland was a great experience because of how odd the place is from a decor and presentation standpoint.  The food was good, maybe not the best I've ever eaten on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but definitely met my expectations.

I think Wonderland is the kind of restaurant you have to experience for yourself at least once.  I'm not sure it will become the kind of restaurant like Chops Grill or Izumi, where I'd want to dine there multiple times per sailing.  

I love the concept of Wonderland and I think it will resonate with cruisers who want to try something different.  If you are cruising in a group, this is definitely the place to go and I'd advise sharing everything to sample it all.  I can definitely say it's a one-of-a-kind experience.

Wonderland is open for dinner and we reviewed Wonderland aboard Quantum of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean WOWbands: What you need to know

In:
19Nov2014

What is a WOWband?

Worn on the wrist, WOWbands are bracelets that come in a variety of colors that allows passengers to connect with a number of Royal Caribbean experiences.

You can use your WOWband to enter your stateroom, purchase beverages, merchandise and anything else Royal Caribbean sells.  Plus, WOWbands serve as an easy way to distinguish which muster station you are assigned to.

Because you can wear your WOWband on your wrist, you do not have to bring your SeaPass card along anymore and this frees you up from trying to find the SeaPass card when you need it.  Just like the SeaPass card, you will not need cash or other credit cards because all charges go right to your SeaPass account.

What does a WOWband look like?

WOWbands are silicone bracelets that come in a variety of colors: white, yellow, black and blue.

You are limited in color choice to the muster station you are assigned to.

How does it work?

WOWbands use Radio Frequency (RF) technology that can be read by Royal Caribbean's readers that are found at kiosks, tablets and mobile scanners that Royal Caribbean crew operate.

Your WOWband is linked to your SeaPass account and holds all of your information related to your cruise vacation such as your stateroom information, dining reservations and more.  

Who can use a WOWband?

Any Royal Caribbean cruise passenger can use a WOWband, but they are optional.  You can still use SeaPass cards in conjunction with or in lieu of, WOWbands.

How do I get a WOWband?

When you enter your stateroom, you will find a WOWband for everyone in that stateroom. They are already activated and ready for use as soon as you get it.

How much do WOWbands cost?

The WOWbands in your stateroom are complimentary and provided to all guests.

Royal Caribbean will be offering in the near future additional WOWbands that are most customizable and offer unique designs.  These WOWbands will have an additional cost.   Designs and cost have not yet been announced.

What if I don't want to use a WOWband?

WOWbands are optional and you may keep your SeaPass card instead to use.  Even if you get the WOWband, you can use both.

Royal Caribbean is encouraging all guests to use WOWbands but they are not required.

What ships offer WOWbands?

Currently only Quantum of the Seas offers WOWbands. 

When Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas launch, they too will offer WOWbands. 

Royal Caribbean does have plans to roll out WOWbands to all ships across the fleet, but that will take several years before it's all ready.

 

Guest Review: The Essentials of St. Kitts Tour

In:
19Nov2014

Please welcome guest blogger Don & Heidi! DB and the Princess are a husband and wife duo with 10+ years of cruising history. Their blog, EatSleepCruise.com, provides valuable cruise planning tips and strategies. With reviews on cruise ships and shore excursions, along with a complete photo gallery, they help you “sea the world one port at a time.

During our visit to St. Kitts on our 8 night Independence of the Seas cruise, we wanted to make the most of our time on the island as this would be our first visit to this port. Comparing the tours offered through various companies, The Essentials of St. Kitts Tour, which we booked through Royal Caribbean pre-cruise, seemed like the perfect way to see all of the major highlights of the island.

Overall Impressions

If you have never been to St. Kitts and you are looking to take in the island’s most recognized attractions, including Romney Manor and Brimstone Hill National Park, then this tour is perfect for you. You are allotted plenty of time at both landmarks to tour the grounds, learn the history, and of course grab plenty of memorable photographs. Our bus driver and tour guide was excellent- very informative and answered everyone’s questions about the history of the island and modern life. After seeing all St. Kitts has to offer, we can’t wait to go back to experience more of this untapped Caribbean gem.

Heading Through Downtown Basseterre

Like most organized tours booked through the cruise line, we met our tour operator at the pier immediately after disembarking the ship. The small pier made it easy to find our guide; we were quickly grouped together and put on a small bus to begin the journey around the island. Not even a minute into the tour, a great narration began as the main downtown section of Basseterre is within walking distance of the port.

This city center includes the famous Independence Square, which was once home to the slave trade in St. Kitts. Other governmental buildings and historic landmarks can also be seen early in this tour, including the Berkley Memorial clock, still a hub activity for locals who congregate there to talk business and socialize during the day. 

A few more twist and turns through other noteworthy areas of the town and we were on our way to one of our first two stops, Romney Manor.

Romney Manor and Caribelle Batik 

The tour allows you thirty minutes to discover Romney Manor and learn more about the unique process of making fabrics at Caribelle Batiks. This 10 acre resort offers plenty of great picture ops, including the gigantic Saman Tree. This 350 year old beauty will make you feel very small when you are posing in front of it. 

Inside the Caribelle Batik, you can learn how artisans craft these beautiful pieces of clothing through an intricate process involving dye and wax.

The stop seemed just long enough as we felt like we had seen everything within the thirty minute time frame. Waiting a few extra minutes to get everyone back on the bus, we set off a bit further west on the island to our second stop.

Explorations of Brimstone Hill National Park

While the roads to the Fortress seem manageable, once you get to the base of the Brimstone Hill, the ascent up the windy, and very skinny, road begins. It was quite a driving feat to make it up this curvy road in one piece. Along the way, we were able to capture a few photos of the island’s famous inhabitants, the vervet monkeys.

Once at the top of the fortress, we had about 45 minutes to see the remains of this over 200 year old UNESCO World Heritage site.  This gave us enough time to view the remains of Fort Charlotte and the Prince of Wales Bastion in addition to the main attraction, Fort George Citadel. The seemingly endless staircase to the top of Fort George was well worth it. Once atop of the fort, there are many great photo opportunities to be had, including a must-have pose of me pretending to fire some cannons into the Caribbean Sea. 

This fort also contains some museum exhibits that depict what life was like during the late 17th and early 18th century during the heyday of the fort. A quick stop into these exhibits was plenty for us. After a few more scenic pictures, we started our descent back to the bus, and before we knew it, we were heading back to the port.

During the return ride to Port Zante, the bus driver took us through some other areas of the island, to see some additional sites, including the Carib Brewery. The island surroundings really were picture perfect--too bad we were on a bus. Once we were back to the port, we had plenty of time to sightsee on foot, do a little souvenir shopping, and get back on the ship to enjoy the sun and relax before sail away. 

The Essentials of St. Kitts tour was a great introduction to a beautiful island which we will be sure to visit again soon!

More Information

You can book the Essentials of St. Kitts tour though Royal Caribbean’s website: The three hour tour currently costs $49.75 per person.

Quantum of the Seas roundtable review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
19Nov2014

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

Episode 68 is available for downloading where friends join Matt to discuss their recent cruise aboard Quantum of the Seas.

Matt is back from Quantum of the Seas and there's so much to talk about that he's invited a few friends who were also onboard to discuss their experiences on this impressive new ship.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 68. 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!

Best places to party on Quantum of the Seas

In:
18Nov2014

If I may quote an under-appreciated Dutch eurodance group from the late 1990s, "We like, we like to party".  If those lyrics strike a chord with you, then this blog post is for you.

Finding a good party on Royal Caribbean is something a lot of people look to do and hey, who doesn't want to have a good time while at sea? 

Perhaps you want to meet someone special or just get your groove on (do people actually say that still?) and get down and the good news is, there are places on Quantum of the Seas to dance, sing and just plain party on this brand new cruise ship.

Best place for club dancing and music: Music Hall

If you want to jump into a crowd of people and raise your hands into the air like you just don't care, then Music Hall is for you.

This hip spot features live music in the evenings to get things started and that gets a crowd in of itself.  But after the band is done, the DJ comes out and then Music Hall really comes alive.

We've seen crowds on Royal Caribbean cruise ships before at various dance locations but Music Hall really gets the people going.  So if you want to dance to your favorite dance hits, Music Hall is the place to go.

Honorable mention: Bionic Bar & SeaPlex

Best place to sing along to music: Schooner Bar

If you love great bar music and you even like joining in singing from time to time, then check out the Schooner Bar on Quantum of the Seas.

The Schooner Bar has been a staple of Royal Caribbean cruise ships for a while and on Quantum of the Seas, there's a prominent piano where live music is played and it always draws a good crowd.

Unlike the Music Hall, people are usually sitting at the tables, booths and the bar and it's calmer but there's still a great time to be had here.  We loved hearing "Piano Man", "Sweet Caroline" and other classics and after a few drinks, who doesn't feel like singing along too?

Best place for live lounge music: Boleros

Like the Schnooner Bar, Boleros has become a fan favorite on Royal Caribbean ships. This latin-themed lounge is the perfect place for a live band to play some toe-tapping tunes.

There's something about latin music that just appeals to everyone.  Maybe it's the smooth melodies or the intoxicating will to dance but Boleros is always full and always a good spot for an evening drink while you enjoy the band play.

Yo amo Boleros!

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