Review: Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas

In:
19Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Izumi, how do I love thee? Shall we count the ways?

Over the years, I have managed to eat at seven different Izumi locations across Royal Caribbean and review them, here on the blog.  You might think the experiences tend to run into each other, but on Rhapsody of the Seas I found fairly unique Izumi experience. 

Of course, the sushi at Izumi remains very consistent (and excellent) across the fleet, thanks to the hard work of the specialty restaurant's ongoing efforts. The sushi alone is worth my many visits to Izumi, and why I continue to make reservations for Izumi.  It is pretty much one of those spots I visit whenever I have an excuse to do so.

Speaking of excuses, on our Rhapsody of the Seas cruise, there was an advertisement in the Cruise Compass towards the end of the cruise where you could pay $25 and get a $50 credit to use at Izumi. You may not run across such a promotion, but always keep an eye out for specials!

Atmosphere

Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas is not easily stumbled upon, as it is located at the very top of the ship on Deck 12.  In fact, it's kind of on a half hidden deck, behind the Viking Crown Lounge.

Suffice to say, there is not a lot of foot traffic in this part of the ship.

For those that do venture to deck 12 to see Izumi, it is arguably the most beautiful Izumi location I have ever been to across Royal Caribbean's fleet. 

The restaurant sits in a kind of half circle, with an "upper deck" that overlooks the Viking Crown Lounge below.

Out the back of Izumi, you have a perfect view of the aft of the ship, with the Solarium roof providing the perfect viewing angle to the ocean and sky behind it. During our lunch, we spent most of the time just gazing out to the back of the restaurant (when we were not gorging on the terrific food).

Eats

If you are new to Izumi specialty restaurant, it is a specialty restaurant that is priced a la carte.  That means, there is no cover charge and you simply pay for the food you order.

All meals at Izumi begin with a complimentary bowl of edamame, which is a boiled soy beans sprinkled with salt.  A perfect starter to nosh on while you look over the menu.

I always start my meal with a bowl of miso soup.  To me, it is a quintessential Japanese meal starter.

Izumi has a fairly large menu, and their appetizer selection includes some really tasty options.  The gyoza dumplings and chicken kara-age are great shareables (although one person can easily finish them off).  

Having tried the Mixed Poke Taco on Brilliance of the Seas last year, I gravitated right back towards them again on this go around.  Tuna, avocado, albacore and octopus in a crispy wonton shell is a really good combination.

Also somewhat new and already a favorite choice is the Boxed Yellowtail.  When it comes to sushi, yellowtail is never a bad choice.

I also opted for another sushi staple, the Crispy Spicy Tuna.

Overall

I never shy away from an opportunity to dine at Izumi, and when I found that $25 for $50 deal in the Cruise Compass, I found my perfect excuse.

In a nutshell, the food at Izumi is excellent all around.  Their sushi is of outstanding quality, and their non-sushi items are also quite good (if not underrated).  Even if you are not much of a "sushi person" I think you will find something to enjoy on the menu.

By far, if you happen to be sailing on Rhapsody of the Seas (or another Vision Class ship with Izumi on Deck 12), do yourself a favor and go up there for lunch.  The views on worth the price of the food you get.

When it comes to dining at Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas, come for the sushi, but stay for the views.

Royal Caribbean planning to offer cruises to Turkey after two year hiatus

In:
19Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

After canceling all stops in Turkey for the last two years, Royal Caribbean appears to be ready to once again offer sailings to Turkey in 2019.

Travel Market Report is reporting Royal Caribbean has made the decision to begin offering cruises that visit Turkey in late 2019.

After consulting with its safety and security program director, Royal Caribbean has deemed it safe to offer two sailings to Turkey.  Neither sailing is on sale yet.

The sailings will be two 12-day itineraries leaving on October 30 and November 12 out of Rome. Both will be on Royal’s Jewel of the Seas and both will feature stops in Ephesus and in Israel.

Royal Caribbean canceled all cruise stops in Turkey in 2017 and 2018 due to instability and "unpredictability" in the country that followed the attempted coup of 2016.

Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade services, and support, says Royal Caribbean is aiming to make Turkey a regular port of call in 2020.

Royal Caribbean updates bringing a drone policy

In:
18Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has updated its policy on guests bringing drones onto a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean states guests may bring drones on their cruise to be used on land only, and outside the port area.  Drones may not be operated onboard the ship at any time, nor on Royal Caribbean’s private destinations: CocoCay, Bahamas or Labadee, Haiti.

Previously, Royal Caribbean's policy was to store the drone for guests and then allow guests to take the drones off the ship while in port.

Royal Caribbean does warn guests that if they use a drone in port, they assume full responsibility for its safe operation.

"Guests assume full responsibility for understanding all local authority rules related to drone usage and for obtaining any required permissions for drone operations. Different countries may have different rules. Any liability, including environmental damage from drone usage is the guest's responsibility. Royal Caribbean assumes no liability for guest drones that may be confiscated by local authorities for violating local laws or for any accident or injury resulting from a guest drone flight."

Thanks to Fred Block for the heads up on this change!

Symphony of the Seas listener cruise review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
18Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 246 is available for downloading, where Cruise Life Rick joins us to talk about his experience on an inaugural Symphony of the Seas sailing.

Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, and Rick got a chance to cruise on one of her first sailings. Rick shares with us his thoughts on this new ship and what he liked the best.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 246. 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!

All about Royal Caribbean's ship classes

In:
17Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Are you wondering what the differences are between Royal Caribbean's ship classes?  Here is an easy-to-understand breakdown of each class of ship, and what they offer.

Oasis Class

The largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships offer the latest and greatest features found on any ship in the fleet, as well as in the industry.  

The Oasis Class ships can handle just about 5,500 passengers and have a gross tonnage of over 225,000 tons.  

If you are concerned about crowds and navigating a ship of this size, Royal Caribbean has you covered.  Royal Caribbean designed the ship to be easy to get around, and break up crowds.  Seven neighborhoods help distinguish parts of the ship apart to guests, and there are so many activities on Oasis Class ships that everyone will be on their own schedule.

Why choose Oasis Class: You want it all on one ship! The latest features, tons of activities, and great dining.

Oasis Class ships

Oasis Class highlights

  • Neighborhoods
  • AquaTheater
  • 3D Movies
  • Broadway Musicals
  • Waterslides (Harmony and Symphony only)
  • Zip Line
  • Central Park
  • 2 FlowRider Surf Simulators
  • Boardwalk 
  • Carousel
  • Ice-Skating Rink
  • Loft Suites
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • DreamWorks Experience (Oasis, Allure and Harmony)

Quantum Class

The innovative Quantum Class ships were designed to user in the 21st century with a blend of high-tech, and tried-and-true family vacation experiences. These stylish new ships offer incredible views and activities onboard. 

Quantum Class ships have signature features found just on these ships, and are a big hit with families of varied ages.  Quantum Class ships are the sort of cruise ship that has something for everyone to enjoy, whether you are new to cruising or an established veteran.

In 2019, Spectrum of the Seas will launch, becoming the first Quantum Ultra Class ship. The revolutionary Quantum Ultra ship will specifically be designed for guests in China and the Asia-Pacific region, and will feature cutting-edge and unprecedented experiences and amenities.

Why choose Quantum Class: Families looking for lots to do onboard, along with some incredible features.

Quantum Class ships

Quantum Class highlights

  • North Star
  • RipCord by iFLY 
  • Seaplex
  • FlowRider Surf Simulator
  • Two70 Virtual Balcony Staterooms
  • 3D Movies
  • Loft Suites
  • Music Hall
  • Broadway Musicals
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • DreamWorks Experience (Anthem & Ovation)
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area

Freedom Class

Royal Caribbean's Freedom Class ships offer a big ship experience, with plenty to see and do onboard.  In fact, Royal Caribbean has added new features over the years, and plans another round of updates beginning in 2020 (although Independence of the Seas will get her update in 2018).

Freedom Class ships represent an excellent value for families that want to cruise on a large ship, have lots of activities, but not break their budget.  From a pure value standpoint, the Freedom Class ships are a great choice for a fabulous cruise experience.

Freedom Class ships are essentially a slightly larger version of their Voyager Class sisters.

Why choose Freedom Class: Big ship experience, minus the premium price tag that the newer ships in the fleet currently command.

Freedom Class ships

Freedom Class highlights

  • Aqua park
  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Ice-Skating Rink
  • Royal Promenade
  • British-Style Pub
  • Designer Shopping
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Panoramic staterooms
  • FlowRider Surf Simulator
  • Water slides (Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas)

Voyager Class

When Royal Caribbean introduced the Voyager Class, it revolutionized the industry with features and activities that we cannot dream of not having on a cruise ship these days.  Mini-golf, the Royal Promenade, ice skating and more all had their start on the Voyager Class.

Just like the larger Freedom Class ships, Voyager Class vessels are a terrific value, and offer some incredible itineraries.  Royal Caribbean is not done investing in these ships, having added new restaurants, surf simulators, aqua parks, entertainment and more over the last few years, with another round of updates beginning in 2018 and going through 2019.

Why choose Voyager Class: Plenty to do onboard, newly added features and terrific pricing.  It is a great choice for families looking to save.

Voyager Class ships

Voyager Class highlights

  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Ice-Skating Rink
  • Royal Promenade
  • British-Style Pub
  • Virtual Balcony Staterooms
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • FlowRider Surf Simulator

Radiance Class

Radiance of the Seas combine lots of glass and open areas to provide guests with a classic cruise experience.  

Royal Caribbean's Radiance Class ships are stylish, and get into many of the smaller cruise ports around the world that Royal Caribbean's larger ships cannot.  

Radiance Class ships do not skimp on things to do, offering varied dining experiences, as well as terrific live entertainment. Veteran cruisers enjoy the Radiance Class for the ship's refined offering and easy going atmosphere.

Why choose Radiance Class: Beautiful ships that offer a time-honored cruise experience, with a connection to the ocean itself.

Radiance Class ships

Radiance Class highlights

  • Sunlit Glass-Covered Spaces
  • Glass Elevators
  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Self-Leveling Pool Tables
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Indoor movie theater
  • Mini-golf

Vision Class

Royal Caribbean designed their Vision Class ships to fit into almost any port, which means guests can travel to exotic ports of call around the world.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships combine a small size with many activities that have been added over the years. Whether you are looking to "do it all" or just relax, Vision Class ships are a good choice.

Why choose Vision Class: Impressive itineraries that other ships in the fleet cannot offer. 

Vision Class ships

  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas

Vision Class highlights

  • Adults-only Solarium pool area
  • Bungee Trampoline (Enchantment of the Seas)
  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Specialty Dining Options
  • Outdoor Movie Screen
  • Broadway-Style Shows

Sovereign Class

Do not judge the last Sovereign Class ship by her age or size, because Royal Caribbean has been updating her regularly to keep her in-line with the rest of the fleet's offerings.

Those looking for a quick getaway will find a splendid choice that is perfect for relaxing by the pool, visiting nearby ports of call, and enjoying taking this easy.  

Majesty of the Seas received a large update in 2016, along with regular maintenance work that offer a fun ship experience.

Why choose Sovereign Class: Getaway cruises for folks that want to relax by the pool, have a beach day, and get away from it all.

Sovereign Class ships

  • Majesty of the Seas

Sovereign Class highlights

  • Poolside movie screen
  • Family Jacuzzis
  • Live entertainment and shows

Empress of the Seas

When Cuba opened up as a port Royal Caribbean could bring their guests to, Empress of the Seas returned to the fleet to do just that.

Empress of the Seas is the smallest Royal Caribbean ship, but it is designed for short cruises that bring you to Cuba and other destinations in the Western Caribbean. 

Cuban culture is reflected throughout Empress of the Seas with cortaditos and café con leche in Café Royal, salsa music and dancing in Boleros Latin lounge, and a range of onboard activities developed to bring the spirit of the island to life while at sea.

Why choose Empress of the Seas: Cuba, Cuba, and Cuba.  Plus, a relaxed cruise atmosphere (did we mention she sails to Cuba).

Empress of the Seas highlights

  • Poolside Movie Screen
  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Sunday Brunch every day
  • Poolside party
  • Latin experience infused lounges

The future: Icon Class

Something to keep an eye on will be Royal Caribbean's Icon class ships, which promise to bring us a new evolution in cruising.

Royal Caribbean has been quiet on exactly what the Icon Class will offer, but these new ships will handle about 5,000 passengers and will be built using new fuel technology including liquid nitrogen gas and fuel cells. This technology has been used on space shuttles and satellites for years, and is a much greener way of powering ships.

The first two Icon Class ships will debut in 2022 and 2024.

Excursion Focus: Fury Catamaran in Cozumel, Mexico

In:
17Apr2018
By: Michael Poole

Over the years I’ve visited Cozumel at least a dozen times and always find myself doing the same thing. On my most recent cruise to Cozumel, Mexico I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. So off to the cruise planner I went and I came across an excursion called, Fury Catamaran snorkel and beach break.

The price in the Royal Caribbean cruise planner is listed at $78 for adults and $59 for children. I happen to book during a weekend cruise planner sale and it was listed as 25% off.


 

I should mention you can book directly through their website and it’s the exactly the same excursion. In fact, I think half my boat booked through Royal and others through Fury directly. So I would check both options and see what’s the better price.

The meeting time for our excursion was 8:30AM, so we were up early to meet on the dock. In Cozumel, you have that pier you walk down to enter the shopping area, our catamaran was docked right before that. I would say no more than 100 yards from walking off the ship, so that was really convenient.

We didn’t end up leaving until 9:15AM because we were still waiting on some guest. They do handout soft drinks and water while you are waiting.

Our day was split into three different activities, which I really enjoyed. The first part was snorkeling for an hour, a beach break for an hour and a half, and ending with an hour ride back to the ship.

Stop one was snorkeling; we were only 5 minutes from the pier so it was a quick ride over. During the short ride they explain our day, what to expect, and all the safety tips. They provide you with snorkeling equipment when you board. We were here for an hour and it was actually a perfect amount of time. Beautiful coral and fish all over, I really enjoyed this snorkeling.




 

Our second stop was the beach break; they have a private beach, which is about 20 minutes away. During our cruise over they started serving rum punch, beers, or soft drinks, which are all included.

The beach was nice and everything on the beach was also included. They had beach chairs, aqua park, kayak’s, paddle boards, beach beds, and of course an open bar.



 

The bar served the same thing as the catamaran so rum punch or beer. If you are hungry they also serve hamburgers for $10 and that was the only upcharge option for the day.

The final part to our excursion was the one-hour ride back. During the ride back they keep bringing you drinks and asking if you need anything. I laughed that they don’t let you go 5 minutes without checking in on you, really outstanding service the whole day.


 

They also have some fun line-dancing going on during the ride back, but you can also just sit and enjoy the views.

The excursion lasted 4 hours and I found that to be a perfect amount of time. And since we started early in the morning we had the whole afternoon open in Cozumel. This excursion would be perfect for someone who doesn’t like to sit and do the same thing all day or just looking for something totally different.


 

I was so happy I tried the Fury Catamaran and I plan to return again soon! Feel free to leave any questions below or if you have tried Fury and what you thought.

In-depth look at Royal Caribbean's Royal Refreshment Drink Package

In:
16Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise does not mean you have to "break the bank" to enjoy as many non-alcoholic beverages as you care to enjoy.  The Royal Refreshment drink package offers guests a variety of on-alcoholic drinks for one fixed price.

The Royal Refreshment package includes juices, premium coffees, bottled water and virgin cocktails.  By purchasing the Royal Refreshment package, it ensures you not only get to enjoy as many of these drinks as you like, but it also allows you to lock in the price of your preferred drinks.

What does the Royal Refreshment package include?

Guests can choose between unlimited fountain sodas, non-alcoholic beverages and cocktails, bottled water (500ml), sparkling water (375 ml), fresh squeezed juices, premium coffee and premium tea.  

Guests who purchase the Royal Refreshment package will also receive a souvenir Coca-Cola cup, which can be used with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines on select Royal Caribbean ships.

How much is the Royal Refreshment package?

The price of the Royal Refreshment Package is $26.00 per guest (not including gratuity) per night of your cruise.

When you purchase the drink package, a one-time gratuity (referred to as a service charge) will be charged as well. 

This means the daily price you pay covers all the drinks covered in this package, as well as gratuity.

Is there ever a discount offered on the Royal Refreshment package?

On occasion, Royal Caribbean does offer a pre-cruise discount on certain drink packages purchased prior to your cruise via the Cruise Planner site.

We usually share Cruise Planner sales on this site, which tend to occur once every few weeks or so.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook for notifications when there is a new sale.

There is no risk in purchasing a drink package now and taking advantage of a price drop later. 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.

Does the Royal Refreshment package include espresso-based coffee?

Royal Caribbean defines "premium coffees" as cappuccinos, espressos, and lattes. Thus, espresso based drinks are included with the Royal Refreshment package at any restaurant, bar, or cafe that serves espresso beverages.

On non-Oasis class ships, the Royal Refreshment package does include Illy or Starbucks beverages from locations like Cafe Promenade or Cafe Latte-Tudes.

On Oasis-class ships (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas), the Royal Refreshment package does not include any drink from the free-standing Starbucks kiosk.  Instead, guests can enjoy premium coffees and teas from Cafe Promenade or Park Cafe with their Refreshment package.

Does the Royal Refreshment package include milk shakes?

No, none of the drink package includes milk shakes.

Who is the Royal Refreshment package best for?

We believe the Royal Refreshment package is a great choice for guests who are not interested in (or are not old enough to purchase) alcoholic beverages, but still want to have premium non-alcoholic beverages while on their cruise.

Typically, this package is popular with guests that enjoy premium coffees, virgin cocktails and soft drinks. Teenagers especially gravitate towards the Royal Refreshment package, because they can enjoy the lots of drinks without fear of a large bill later.  Adults also find the package worthwhile, for the premium coffee and fresh squeezed juices option.

Essentially, it tends to resonate as a good choice for guests who are not interested in alcoholic beverages, but want to still enjoy many drinks that cost extra.

What is the difference between the Royal Refreshment package and the Classic Soda Package?

The Classic Soda package only includes soft drinks and a souvenir Coca-Cola cup, whereas the Royal Refreshment package includes soft drinks, a souvenir Coca-Cola cup, and many other varieties of drinks.

Instead of just sodas, the Royal Refreshment package includes virgin cocktails, premium coffee, fresh squeezed juice and more.

Can I purchase the Royal Refreshment package and share drinks with someone I know onboard?

No, sharing beverages on any of Royal Caribbean's unlimited drink packages is strictly prohibited.

If I buy the Royal Refreshment package, are others in my stateroom required to purchase the same drink package?

No, unlike Royal Caribbean's Deluxe Beverage package, Royal Caribbean does not require other guests in the same stateroom to purchase a Royal Refreshment package.

Friday Photos

In:
13Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Are you ready for a virtual escape to a Royal Caribbean cruise? Every Friday we share our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos in a showcase of why we love going on Royal Caribbean.

Kinny Lee took this long exposure photo of the Carousel at night on Allure of the Seas.

Tony Oleszczuk took this photo from his aft cabin on Vision of the Seas, as the ship passed the entrance into St. John's Newfoundland harbor.

Here is a carved up watermelon on Freedom of the Seas, taken by Bill Barber.

Here is a shot of Anthem of the Seas docked off the coast of CocoCay, taken by Anoop while onboard the tender.

This photo taken of Anthem of the Seas from the top of Cadiallac mountain in Bar Harbor, Maine by Jill Snyder.

Jesse Mickelson shared with us this photo of Anthem of the Seas in Barbados.

We wrap up this week's photos with a look at Anthem of the Seas, as seen from North Star.  Photo taken by Matthew Hull.

Thank you to everyone who's photos were featured this week, and if you want to share your best Royal Caribbean cruise photos, you can send them in via this form. Have a great weekend!

Video: Symphony of the Seas Arrives in Naples Timelapse

In:
12Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas arrived in Naples, Italy, for the first time and there's a great timelapse video of the world's largest cruise ship.  

Royal Caribbean testing expedited boarding

In:
11Apr2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is inviting select guests to try out a new way to board the ship that aims to improve the embarkation process.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader, Steve, shared with us an email sent with the invitation to try the expedited check-in for an upcoming sailing on Allure of the Seas.

Guests simply need to download the new Royal Caribbean smart phone app and then check-in on the mobile app prior to the cruise.

Once the mobile check-in is complete, guests might see an Expedited Arrival choice on their mobile boarding pass, which means they have been selected to participate in our boarding trial.

Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, there will be an Expedited Arrival lane for these guests, who may present their mobile boarding pass. 

Since this is a test, the exact process may change.  This may be a precursor to the "frictionless" check-in Royal Caribbean announced late last year

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