Independence of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day


If you are familiar with the contemporary acronym “FOMO”, then you know exactly what a typical first sea day on a Royal Caribbean ship feels like for me. Despite any logical argument, I always find myself wanting to do as much as I can, and today was no different.

We did not set an alarm, but ended up waking up around 8:30am or so. Even though we all got to bed late last night, the drive to get a full day of fun in on Independence of the Seas was too great to ignore.

We headed up the Windjammer for breakfast at 9:30am and it was very busy. In fact, I think the Windjammer on Harmony of the Seas was less busy during this time than on Independence. I think going forward if we want to eat breakfast after 9am, we need to go to the main dining room to ensure getting a table.

After breakfast we did what any sensible Black Friday shopper would do: we went to the NextCruise office! We did not book anything new, just re-booked a sailing or two to take advantage of the Black Friday offer combined with the NextCruise booking bonus.

We then took the kids up to the Teen club, Fuel, where they have an open play area for toddlers from 9am – 5pm. Both kids played together for a bit.

Lunch today brought us to the main dining room. On sea days, they serve lunch in the main dining room and today’s menu was wonderful. The tandoori chicken kabobs were excellent, and they even had coffee ice cream available!

Following lunch, we headed to the pool for the only activity my kids can never get enough of. Even though we rolled in around 1pm, there were still a few lounge chairs here and there near the H2O Zone. In fact, we managed to get three chairs near the pool and in the shade. Perfect!

After lunch, we instituted a mandatory nap for everyone to ensure we all had enough energy later this evening. The kids especially need a nap to recover from all the energy they expelled at the pool.

Walking the ship this afternoon, it turned out to be a really great day weather-wise.

After naps, we all got ready for formal night and dinner. We wanted to take nice photos of the kids this evening, so the kids had to get ready early.

I fed the kids and took them up to the Windjammer for dinner before dropping them off at Adventure Ocean.

My wife took in Grease while I took care of the kids. Today was the only day to see Grease, so we had to split up. One of the nuances of a shorter cruise is you have less time to see everything, and that includes less showtimes than on a seven night cruise.

We had planned to go to the main dining room for dinner, but my wife was feeling a bit run down from a steady stream of fun over the last 48 hours, so we decided to call it an early night and rest up for our time in Cozumel tomorrow.

Stray Observations

  • The onboard internet continues to perform well. One annoyance is after connecting with my phone, if I let the screen turn off for more than about 15 seconds, it will lost the WiFi connection and I usually have to manually re-connect. I don’t have to re-login, but it is not a perfect situation. Still, I will gladly take internet that functions reasonably well.

  • Oddly, Chops was open for lunch today but not Giovanni’s Table.

  • We did not meet our stateroom attendant yesterday, but ran into him this morning. He gladly opened up the balcony divider between our connecting staterooms.

  • One nuance of a sailing less than 7-nights is trying to work in all the entertainment is much more difficult since you have less opportunities to see the shows.

  • The Solarium on Independence of the Seas has these great bench swings, which are not on Freedom of the Seas.

  • There is Izumi Sushi To Go available at Sorrentos.

  • The drink of the day is the Woo Woo.

Royal Caribbean offering one day only Black Friday deals on pre-cruise purchases


In addition to Royal Caribbean's Black Friday deal on cruises booked, the cruise line is also offering up to 30% off everything on pre-cruise purchases made via the Cruise Planner.

The Black Friday Sale runs through the end of Friday, November 24, 2017  and applies to options like beverage packages, shore excursions and more.

The exact discounts available will vary from sailing to sailing, but it may be worth checking which discounts are available for your sailing.

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.

Independence of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day


Happy Thanksgiving! Our weekend cruise is finally here, and we are ready for a fun Caribbean escape.

We drove down to South Florida the night before the cruise to ensure we would be close to the cruise port and not have to wake up super early to get to the port.  Other than my youngest daughter sleeping poorly, this plan worked out quite well.

We left for the cruise terminal right around 9am and got to the cruise terminal around 10am.

We arrived to Port Everglades a bit before 10am, and proceeded to drop the wife, kids, and luggage off at the terminal while I parked the car at the nearby parking garage. It is always a good idea to drop everyone and all the stuff at the pier and then park the car so that you do not have to lug everything from the parking garage, onto the shuttle, and to the terminal.

The doors of the terminal were initially closed, but opened up a few minutes after 10am and we went through a quick security and check-in line. Boarding began fairly promptly, and we were on Independence of the Seas by about 11am.

The Windjammer opened at 11:30am, and we partook in a traditional embarkation day buffet lunch. The variety of food was not as extensive as I am used to, but it was still good food and we enjoyed it.

After lunch, we all changed and let the kids go for a swim in the pool. The kids were beyond thrilled for early pool time, and they basically had the pool to themselves.

The staterooms were ready promptly at 1pm and maybe 30 minutes later, we dried off and headed downstairs to our room.

We have two connecting balcony staterooms on deck 7, near the forward elevator banks. These rooms have lots of space for everyone, and it gives my wife and I some separation from the kids. Plus, we have two bathrooms, which is great when we are all trying to get ready.

We also took the opportunity to register the children for Adventure Ocean. Oddly, the nursery was not taking any reservations, and said to return at 8pm when they open to not only drop kids off, but make reservations.

Muster drill was I think the quickest I can recall, and before we knew it, it was time to start the cruise. There were passing showers in the afternoon, but it all cleared up in time for sail away. Having taken a number of cruises this summer, it felt so good to have a sailaway where I was not super sweaty.

After departing Port Everglades, we headed to the room to get ready for dinner.

Everyone took a shower, and then I took the kids up to the Windjammer for their dinner.

It was not very crowded, and the spread of food was quite extensive. I was particularly impressed with the Jade section this evening.

After dinner, we took the kids down to the Royal Promenade for ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s.

Adventure Ocean and the Nursery opened at 8pm, and we had no issues dropping the kids off. In fact, the nursery allowed us to book each evening of the cruise (usually on 7 night cruises they make everyone book just a few hours at first, and then open up reservations later in the cruise).

After dropping the kids off, we had some time before dinner and headed to the Diamond Lounge for drinks. To our surprise, there was literally no one in there. I have never seen the Diamond Lounge empty during Diamond drink hour, let alone not bustling.

Dinner this evening was in the main dining room, and we had a special Thanksgiving menu.

Our assistant waiter warned us that since it was day one, the kitchen was likely going to run into issues with speed, but it felt like an average main dining room experience in terms of speed. It may have taken a bit longer than normal, but I am not sure I would have complained or even noticed an issue.

I started off with the pumpkin ravioli, which while good, had little pumpkin flavor that I could detect.

The butternut squash soup was also very good. My wife prefers this soup, compared to the butternut squash soup from 150 Central Park for the lighter consistency, but I would prefer the opposite.

The turkey was moist and perfect serving. It could have used more stuffing, but I am not certain there is ever enough stuffing at any meal.

If I can be critical, the pumpkin pie was neither orange nor edible. Otherwise, a great meal.

Following dinner, we took in the ice show in Studio B known as Strings. I can best describe the show as a tribute to many classical music in the public domain. Well-performed (I do not think anyone fell or missed a trick) and a fun performance all around.

We decided to check out the Labyrinth dance club on deck 4 for old times sake. It certainly still has the eclectic décor I recall from other ships.

Tomorrow is our first sea day, or as my kids see it, a day with non-stop pool action with Windjammer snacks sprinkled in.

Stray Observations

  • The Adventure Ocean staff member said there about 900 kids on this sailing.
  • During the nursery registration process, I had to fill out a form to use a dect phone. In all our cruising with our kids, I have never had to fill out such a form. Always interesting to see how policies differ from ship to ship.
  • It is kind of weird seeing a Royal Caribbean ship with its nightclub still intact. Granted, it will be removed during the April 2018 refurbishment, but it was still interesting to see one after all the other ships had theirs removed.
  • The Christmas decorations are up on the ship.

  • Check out this kids section of the general gift shop on the Royal Promenade. I have never seen anything so ornate on any other Royal Caribbean ship.
  • Here are the drink package prices if you bought them onboard. I certainly saved some money pre-ordering it online.
  • There is still a number of items on the ship leftover from the European season, like this candy.
  • They showed all the Thanksgiving Day football games at the pool, as well as at the Pub and some other places.
  • The drink of the day was the margarita azul.
  • The internet speeds with the Surf & Stream package thus far are better than I expected. Even fast enough for a few Periscope broadcasts.

  • Since I have them, here are the boarding day tips

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas returning to Australia


Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas will return to Fremantle, Australia on Wednesday November 29, 2017, marking the ship's second season down under, as well as Royal Caribbean’s 10th season in the region.

Making her way from Singapore to her Sydney summer home, Fremantle is Ovation of the Seas’ first Australian port of call for her second and significantly longer season down under.

At 348 metres long, 18 decks high and weighing 168,666 tons, Ovation of the Seas is the world’s equal-fourth largest cruise ship and the largest cruise ship to ever sail Australian waters, with capacity for 5,000 guests and 1,500 crew.

“The return of our billion dollar baby, Ovation of the Seas, marks a particularly special milestone for us at Royal Caribbean and for Australian travellers, because it also marks our 10th season down under,” says RCL Cruises managing director, Adam Armstrong.

“Ten years ago, our philosophy was to bring the world’s most cutting-edge cruise product to Australia’s doorstep. In 2007, we embarked on a cruising revolution with the mighty Rhapsody of the Seas. Today, we continue this proud tradition of delivering Australians with the world’s best holidays at sea, with the ground-breaking all-new Ovation of the Seas, one of our four Australian-based megaliners,” Armstrong said.

Her visit to Fremantle is expected to inject over $800,000 in passenger spend alone.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia welcomed the return of Ovation of the Seas to WA: “Fremantle was Ovation of the Seas’ first Australian port of call on her maiden voyage down under last year. It’s a privilege to welcome her back again,” Mr Papalia said.

“Cruise shipping is crucial for the State’s tourism industry. In 2016-17, WA’s nine port destinations had 143 cruise ship visits, an 18 per cent increase from 121 calls the previous year. Those 143 visits generated $387.4 million for the WA economy and supported 1,300 jobs.

“The State Government recognises the importance of cruise shipping to WA, recently announcing improvements to some regional port destinations to ensure the sector’s sustainability in the future,” Papalia concluded.

Ovation of the Seas arrives in Fremantle at 8am, cruising from Singapore to Sydney with 4800 guests onboard hailing from more than 30 different countries. She will dock in Fremantle until 5pm, before making her way to Adelaide on 3 December and Hobart on 5 December, en route to her Sydney home on 7 December 2017.

Honeymoons on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast


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

Episode 225 is available for downloading, which offers tips and advice for anyone looking to take a Royal Caribbean cruise for their honeymoon.

Kayla and Matt share their honeymoon experiences on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and offer ideas and ways to make any honeymoon on a Royal Caribbean cruise even better.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 225. 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!

Royal Caribbean Three-Day Cyber Monday Sale offers up to $400 onboard credit per stateroom


Royal Caribbean announced its upcoming Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal, which will offer 50% off second guests and up to $400 onboard credit per stateroom.

The Three-Day Cyber Monday Sale is valid on cruises booked November 24-27, 2017 11:59 p.m. EST for sailings departing on or after December 24, 2017. Offer excludes China departures.

The deal includes:

  • 50% off second guest
  • 25% Savings for 3/4 guests “Kids Sail for Less”
  • Up to $400 Onboard Credit per stateroom:
    • 5 Nights or Less:
      • $50 Onboard Credit for an Interior/Oceanview Stateroom
      • $100 Onboard Credit for a Balcony Stateroom
      •  $150 Onboard Credit for a Deluxe Stateroom
    • 6 Nights or More:
      • $75 Onboard Credit for an Interior/Oceanview Stateroom
      • $200 Onboard Credit for a Balcony Stateroom
      • $300 Onboard Credit for a Deluxe Stateroom
  • Guests can get an additional $100 onboard credit if they elect to book a sailing more than six months in advance with the Non-Refundable Deposit program.

Offer is combinable with select promotions. Offer open to residents of U.S. or Canada. 

Royal Caribbean adds Cuba cruises from Fort Lauderdale on Majesty of the Seas


Royal Caribbean released a new batch of 2018-2019 sailings to Cuba on Majesty of the Seas from Fort Lauderale, Florida.

These new sailings are available for booking and begin in November 2018 and extend through March 2019.  There are also a number of other Majesty of the Seas sailings from Fort Lauderdale, that visit destinations in the Western Caribbean.

Majesty of the Seas will offer 4- and 5-night sailings to Cuba, including some overnight stays.

First look at Royal Caribbean 2019-2020 Short Caribbean itineraries


Royal Caribbean will be putting on sale this week its 2019-2020 Short Caribbean itineraries, and we have a look at the various itineraries that will be available.

The new bookings will go on sale tomorrow, November 21st, 2017.

You can view each ship's sailings here:

The opening schedule for the 2019-2020 sailings is as follows:

  • Northeast, Canada & Bermuda: Summer 2019: Week of December 4, 2017
  • Europe Phase I & Alaska: Summer 2019: Week of December 11, 2017
  • Remaining deployment: Spring 2018

Live Blogging from Independence of the Seas - Preamble


Welcome to our next Royal Caribbean adventure, onboard the beautiful Independence of the Seas! Each day, I will be LIVE blogging to share with you what it is like to cruise on a ship as feature-packed as Independence of the Seas.

We are taking a four-night Western Caribbean cruise from Port Everglades on Independence of the Seas.  On this cruise, we will celebrate Thanksgiving on a Royal Caribbean ship for the second time, and take a sailing on Independence of the Seas for the first time.

Why we chose this cruise

Believe it or not, taking a cruise over Thanksgiving was not my first idea.

Two years ago, we took a cruise on Brilliance of the Seas over Thanksgiving and found it to be a great getaway cruise.  Four nights is short, but since the kids are off of school and I even have a few built in days off, so it is an easy logistical vacation.  The issue, however, is telling my family we are going to go on a cruise instead of a traditional Thanksgiving holiday.

As it turns out, my parents informed us they would be travelling this year over Thanksgiving and so, the gears in my head began turning and to no one's surprise, we began looking for a cruise.

Independence of the Seas was a great choice for us, because the sail dates lined up well with the built-in days off and trying a ship that was new to us sounded like a great combination.

Our plans onboard

This is our first time on Independence of the Seas, but not our first time on a Freedom class ship.

Of all the Royal Caribbean ships, I have been on Freedom of the Seas the most, and we have really enjoyed our time on the Freedom class.  While Independence of the Seas has not yet had a recent refurbishment like her two sister ships (it is coming in April 2018), we are excited to try a different Freedom class ship.

We booked two connecting balcony staterooms, which means the kids can sleep in their own room.  That is important to us, because it gives us all a bit of separation, and we can ensure the kids get to sleep on time while allowing my wife and I to stay up later.

Being that it is a shorter sailing than we usually take, I think our family is looking to enjoy some time simply relaxing onboard.  I know my kids are mostly concerned with getting in plenty of swim time, ice cream, and Sorrentos pizza.

I am most curious to see how Independence of the Seas compares to her sister, Freedom of the Seas.  Based on reputation, I know they are very similar ships, but I am looking forward to trying the ship for myself. Plus, with so much attention on the new ships in the fleet, it is great to spend some time seeing an established and well-loved ship like Indy.

Our plans on shore

We only have one port call, Cozumel, and wanted to try something different for our visit.

Usually, we visit Cozumel on longer sailings and opt to leave the kids onboard while my wife and I do some shopping and dining.  On this cruise, however, Cozumel is our only port stop, so we wanted to ensure everyone in the family got a chance to spend some time together on an excursion.

Ultimately, we chose to visit a very well reviewed all-inclusive resort in Cozumel, Nachi Cocom. Over the years, I have heard a lot of favorable reviews of Nachi but have never had a chance to see it myself.  We were surprised to find very reasonable prices for our kids, and it offers the three most important things I look for in any beach excursion: pool option, shade, and good bar/food service.

Based on reputation, I am looking forward to what I expect to be a new adventure in the cruise port I have been to the most times.

Our Itinerary

Three things I am excited to try

3. Grease

Did you know that Independence of the Seas features the Broadway musical, Grease?  In addition to Harmony of the Seas, Grease is offered on Independence of the Seas.  

Not only am I excited to see Grease again, I am curious to see how the production stacks up on Independence of the Seas after seeing it on Harmony of the Seas.  My expectation is that it should be indistinguishable from the Harmony version, but this is the first time I have been able to compare show productions across ships.

2. Self disembarkation

Let me be clear, I am never excited for disembarkation day. However, there is a new Royal Caribbean experience wrapped up in this otherwise depressing last morning of the cruise.

Our cruise ends on a Monday, and I have to get back home for work and my oldest daughter needs to get home for school.  Thus, we are going to take our own luggage off the ship and attempt to get off the ship early so that we can drive home and make it back in time.

1. Swim on embarkation day

We have never taken the advice of bringing our swim suits for an embarkation day swim, but I think we are going to give it a try this time around.  My kids love to swim, so we are going to pack swimsuits in our carry-on luggage and try it out after we get onboard and eat (waiting 30 minutes after eating, of course).

The only way this may not happen is if the weather does not cooperate.  This time of year, it is a bit cooler than usual in Florida, but while my kids will not mind at all, as the supervising adult, I will definitely mind if it is cool out!

What's next

Our Independence of the Seas cruise begins on Thursday, November 23rd, 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: November 19, 2017


We wrapped up a busy week of Royal Caribbean fun, but if you missed any of it, we have it all wrapped up nicely for you in this weekly news round-up!

Royal Caribbean began releasing its 2019-2020 itineraries, starting with the 7-night Caribbean sailings across six ships.

Bookings opened up earlier this week for Allure, Freedom, Harmony, Liberty, Oasis, and Symphony of the Seas.  Bookings will open next week for short Caribbean summer 2019 sailings.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Podcast

The 224th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which features Matt's take on Royal Caribbean's recent tech announcement.

In this episode, Matt reviews what was announced by Royal Caribbean in its Project Excalibur reveal.  Matt talks about why each of these new innovations represent a major shift in the guest experience.

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

Travel Agent Central talks with a Royal Genie, to get a sense of what to expect from Star Class.

The Cruisington Times shared what they saw at Royal Caribbean's tech announcement.

Eat Sleep Cruise has a list of 10 foods you must try on Harmony of the Seas.