Even if you have never taken a Royal Caribbean cruise before, you probably can figure out some basic things to bring on a cruise vacation: sunglasses, swim suits, shorts and flip flops are fairly self explanatory. Beyond the obvious things to pack, there are some other things you really ought to bring along on your cruise that are not things you may think of initially.
After taking quite a few Royal Caribbean cruises, we collected 10 things that inspired at one point or another we thought, "I wish I'd packed that!" when on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
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Ways to ID your suitcase
When your cruise is over and you are headed to the cruise terminal to collect your belongings and get on your way home, the last thing you want to do is play the "where is my luggage" game. Your luggage will be waiting for you in groups that are separated by numbers, but there still can be a lot of luggage to comb over.
In order to simplify finding your own luggage and alert others that the generic black suitcase you own is not theirs is to invest in some way of identifying your luggage. You can use bandanas, string, luggage tags, stickers or whatever else will stay affixed to your luggage. You do not have to be very creative, just come up with a decoration scheme that works for your family.
Changes of clothes for hot days
When packing for that shore excursion adventure in a port that will take you to some historic site or incredible area, you ought to throw in an extra outfit just for your time on shore.
When walking, running, swimming, kayaking, skipping, or power walking through any port you will visit, odds are that all the energy you will expend during the day may lead to some serious sweating. This is especially true when you go on a cruise during the summer months when just walking off your ship and down the pier can lead to epic schvitzing.
Having an extra outfit to change into after you get back to the ship is a really nice cruise hack. After all, once you take that post-shore excursion shower, do you really want to put back on those soiled clothes that you wore around Havana all day?
Snacks for the room
When I first heard about the idea of packing snacks from home to keep in your room, I thought it was the looniest idea ever. I mean, why pack food when Royal Caribbean offers so much food during your cruise?
The reality is kids always want a snack in that time between when they get picked up from Adventure Ocean but before they go to sleep. In fact, the first words out of my kids' mouths when I pick them up is "Daddy, can we get something to eat?". Having a bag of Goldfish, fruit snacks or whatever else your little kiddies enjoy in the room means they can have a quick bite without having to order room service or walk around the ship in search of food. Plus, it allows the kids to nosh on something while getting changed. These snacks are also great for lazy mornings where everyone sleeps in.
Speaking of snacks, be sure to grab a few extra boxes of your kids' favorite cereal from the Windjammer to keep in your room as a snack. Just like snacks from home, they are very helpful and you can only get the cereal boxes in the morning when breakfast is served.
Something you may not realize about your cabin is how little opportunity there is to hang stuff. More often, people end up draping their clothes, swimsuits, jackets and everything else over the back of a chair, couch or balcony. Instead, you ought to invest in a pack of strong magnetic hooks.
Your stateroom walls are made out of metal, which means you can simply stick a magnet onto a wall or ceiling and start hanging your hats, swimsuits or whatever else needs to be hung.
As you head out of your house on your way to the cruise, grab a dozen or so Ziploc bags, because they are really useful for so many reasons.
Ziploc bags are great at keeping what is inside apart from what is outside. This means it can keep wet clothing from your dry clothing, or keep dry clothing from getting wet or sandy. On beach days, these bags are invaluable.
Likewise, Ziploc bags can be useful for things other than just clothes. You can actually stick your smart phone, tablet and any other electronic device in these. I have even seen some people use their phones while in the bag as a "poor man's phone protector".
Portable phone charger
With the proliferation of Royal Caribbean's high speed internet across its fleet and the constant drive to share how much fun you are having with friends and family at home, a portable phone charger can make a lot of sense to have with you on a cruise.
Portable phone chargers are cheap, with basic ones costing less than $20 and heftier packs that can power multiple devices not that much more money. This means you never have to curtail sharing your vacation on social media, streaming videos, or keeping the kids entertained on a bus ride.
I always bring a portable charger with me when I go on shore excursions these days. I love not having to worry about finding a power outlet.
I never bothered to include aloe vera in my cruise luggage until the one time I needed it and then it became the thing I always pack on a cruise.
No one wants to think about getting sun burned, and it is really easy to tell yourself that you will apply plenty of sunscreen and sun burns are something that happens to other people. The reality is sunburn can happen to anyone and never fun when it does.
Your cruise ship may sell aloe vera onboard, but it will not be as cheap as when you buy it at home. Moreover, you want to have access to it the moment you realize you need it. The sooner it gets applied, the sooner it helps soothe away the pain.
Tip: stick it in the mini-fridge in your room on embarkation day so it's cooled down for application later.
Wrinkle release spray
Did you know that there are no self-serve laundry options nor any clothing irons on Royal Caribbean cruise ships? The only option if you want your clothes pressed or cleaned is to send them out for dry cleaning.
If you are concerned about your clothes being wrinkle-free after you unpack onboard, invest in a good wrinkle release spray. You simply spray any clothing to remove any unwanted creases or wrinkles. Plus, it has the added bonus of making your clothing smell good again, which can be an issue if your luggage that you store in your basement/attic has an odd odor to it.
If you want an easy low-tech option for letting your friends and family know where you are on a cruise ship, sticky notes are the way to go for staying in touch.
Put a pad in each stateroom, and you can quickly jot down a note of where you will be and place it pretty much anywhere you think that person will read it.
Did you hear the news that Royal Caribbean will eliminate plastic straws on its cruise ships by the end of 2018? Saving the environment is really important, but enjoying your favorite frozen drink should not be neglected either.
If you prefer a straw in your drink, and do not care for a paper straw, investing in a metal straw may be just the right solution for you. They are rather inexpensive, reusable and easy to clean. Plus, metal straws have the structural integrity paper straws cannot match and can stay in your drink for hours and never break apart.
Did we miss something?
Is there something you always bring on a Royal Caribbean cruise that may not be that obvious to bring along? Did you find out list particularly helpful? Share what you think in the comments of this blog post!
It has been a few weeks since our last Friday Photos, but we are back after a few weeks of taking Royal Caribbean cruises (it is really the only plausible excuse, right?), and ready to share some wonderful photos sent in by our readers.
We begin with a photo by Twangster of Radiance of the Seas sailing away from Juneau, Alaska. I particularly like this shot because I was in the same zip code when it was taken.
Speaking of photos I approve of, here is one by Tyler Diedrich and his family decked out in the very best Royal Caribbean Blog paraphernalia!
Marc vanNiekerk sent in this photo of the lighthouse in Nassau, Bahamas.
Bob Rodrigue shared this creative shot of New York City, as seen from North Star on Anthem of the Seas.
Speaking of Anthem of the Seas, here is a photo by Jorge Toache of the pool deck on a cold night.
Danny Paquot decorated his stateroom door for Christmas on one of his cruises.
Ariella took this photo of Navigator of the Seas docked in Curaçao at night.
That's it for this week's edition of Friday Photos. You can always share your favorite cruise photos with us by sending them in via this form.
Have a great weekend!
Royal Caribbean's Primed for Savings sale is offering up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases made this weekend.
The current sale runs through the end of Monday, and applies to select sailings departing July 23, 2018 - January 15, 2019.
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.
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.
A number of cruisers received emails this week informing them that their upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay has been cancelled due to a "minor delay".
Over the past two days, we have received reports from Royal Caribbean guests that certain upcoming sailings towards the very end of 2018 or beginning of 2019 have had their port call in CocoCay cancelled and replaced with a stop in Miami, Florida.
December 29, 2018 Vision of the Seas email
Vision of the Seas January 5, 2019 email
Vision of the Seas January 12, 2019 email
The email explains that work to convert CocoCay to Perfect Day at CocoCay is the reason, "While we are transforming our private destination, CocoCay, into Perfect Day at CocoCay, we have experienced a minor delay. As a result, we've had to replace your visit to CocoCay with the beautiful Miami, Florida."
Thus far, we have received reports just of sailings going to CocoCay in late December 2018 and early January 2019 and all on Vision of the Seas.
Any pre-paid shore excursions scheduled for CocoCay will be refunded to the original form of payment.
Perfect Day at CocoCay is a $200 million upgrade to Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas and is scheduled to open in phases that will last into the end of 2019.
Many people visiting Cuba on a Royal Caribbean cruise are very likely visiting Havana for the first time, and for those that want to see the highlights of the Old City of Cuba's capital, Royal Caribbean's Old Havana City Sightseeing tour offers just that.
We were also one of those first timers in Cuba on a recent Majesty of the Seas cruise, and picked this tour as a way to cross off some of the most famous landmarks in Havana. It is impossible to see all of Havana in just one day, but this tour aimed to take us to the more popular spots.
The Old Havana City Sightseeing tour is listed as a 4 hour bus tour that drives through much of Havana and offers stops at four places along the way.
This tour is offered directly by Royal Caribbean, and we booked the tour prior to the cruise. The list price for this excursion is $99 per adult and $79 per child.
In the case of this tour, guests are instructed to meet onboard the cruise ship in the ship's theater.
Royal Caribbean splits up guests among different buses, with each bus on its own schedule and with its own tour guide. When it is time for your tour group to depart, Royal Caribbean escorts guests off the ship, through Cuban Customs and onto a waiting bus.
This may sound simple, but it does take quite a while. Going through Cuban Customs, security and money exchange goes at a snails pace in a very un-air conditioned building. I estimate it took us 90 minutes to go from when we arrived at the theater to actually boarding a bus.
Once on the bus, your tour leader will introduce themselves and welcome you aboard. By far the best part of the tour is the fact you will go all around Havana in an air conditioned coach bus. I cannot understate the value of having an air conditioned base of operations to fall back on. Havana is quite a hot and humid place to visit, and unlike so many other spots in the Caribbean, air conditioning is quite rare in Cuba.
While on our tour, we had the same bus, bus driver and tour leader for the entire duration of the excursion. This meant we could leave anything we wanted onboard the bus and it would be waiting for us when we got back.
The Old Havana City Sightseeing tour makes four stops as it navigates the streets of Havana. These stops include:
- Morro Castle
- Plaza de Revolucion
- Cristo de la Habana statue
- Colon Cemetery
The exact order you visit may vary, as our tour guide optimized the tour to visit spots with little to no shade earlier in the day and save the spots with shade for later in the day.
A great deal of other sights will be visible from the bus as you drive through Havana and your tour guide will narrate the entire trip. Many blog readers asked us after the tour if there were any restrictions on what we could see or photograph and there really were none. Our tour guide was more than happy to answer any and all questions we had and helped shed some light onto the Cuban way of life.
Our first stop was the Colon Cemetery, which is where a great deal of Cuba's most famous filmmakers, politicians and baseball players are buried. The bus dropped us off towards the entrance, and then a special guide escorted us through the cemetery and pointed out some of the more famous mausoleums.
The cemetery is massive, and there is not enough time to even see half of it, but it was incredible to see the detail in some of the burial spots.
Our next stop was Revolutionary Square, where some of Cuba's most famous speeches were given. Odds are if you watch an old news reel of some of Cuba's early days following the Communist Revolution, you will see someone speaking from this area. It is basically a very large parking lot, with some government buildings surrounding it.
There is also a fleet of classic American cars (or at least the exterior of classic American cars) that double as taxi drivers show off in the area.
After a quick introduction to the history of this area, we were given some time to walk around on our own and check it out. Most people tended to flock towards the classic cars to see them up close and take photos with them. There is no cost to any of this (unless you opt for a ride), although if you get into the car, a tip is customary.
Our next stop goes to check out Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera’s Cristo de la Habana statue, which keeps watch over the bay from a hilltop.
The Christ of Havana statue is a large sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth that was commissioned in 1953. The statue was carved out of white Carrara marble, the same material used for many of the monuments of the Colon Cemetery. The statue is about 20 metres (66 ft) high including a 3-metre (10 ft) base.
The park where the statue is located provides a great view of Havana, your cruise ship and the harbor.
The final stop took us to Morro Castle, a stately fortress at the mouth of Havana harbor.
Not only is the castle a fine example of Spanish colonial defenses, but there is also a bit of shopping you can do inside and outside the fort.
The tour does not actually include admission to the fort, but you do get to go inside a small part of it that leads up to the entrance. You are free to walk the grounds of Morro outside and explore without any cost.
When you get off the bus, there are a number of shops set up outside the fort you can browse. In addition, you will be taken into a rum and cigar shop inside the fort that is optional to visit.
Most of the stops are 15-30 minutes in length. The stop at Morro took about one hour and the Colon Cemetery was closer to 30 minutes.
At the conclusion of the tour, the bus returns to the port area, although you are free to tour on your own after that.
Going to any port of call for the first time means you likely have your own list of landmarks you would like to see, and Havana certainly has plenty of good candidates. The Old Havana City Sightseeing does a good job at providing an introduction to Havana and overview of some of the more notable spots.
Of course, this is a group bus tour, which means the pace of the tour is largely dictated by the tour leader (and whomever shows up last to board the bus) and it does not leave a lot of room for personal exploration. That is not necessarily a bad thing either, but do not expect a hands-on walking tour of the city.
The best part of this excursion is the air conditioned bus. Having a bus to go back to between stops and relax, recuperate from the heat and humidity, and rest makes for tackling a city as large as Havana much easier. Everyone's patience is higher when air conditioning is involved and after taking this tour in July, I do believe it helped make the overall experience better.
Our tour guide was also very knowledgeable about Cuba's history and current role today. He encouraged us to ask questions and always took the time to explain concepts and programs that are not something you may find elsewhere in North America.
Between the places we stopped to see and the many other places we saw from the bus, I felt the Old Havana City Sightseeing excursion provided a great starting point for my first visit to Cuba. I may have preferred slightly more time on my own to explore, but the tour was perfect for anyone who has never been to Havana previously.
Cost: $99 per adult, $72 per child.
We have a quick look at the progress Royal Caribbean is making in adding a pier to its private destination of CocoCay.
Royal Caribbean Blog reader Paul Crow took these photos on July 11, while on a Mariner of the Seas cruise to the island.
The new pier will open in November 2018.
Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!
Episode 258 is available for downloading, where Matt shares his cruise review of Majesty of the Seas.
Matt is back from his first time sailing on Majesty of the Seas and his first time visiting Cuba. In this episode, Matt shares his thoughts on Majesty of the Seas as well as his experience going to Cuba.
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!
From rock climbing to waterslides and even a virtual reality bungee trampoline, Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas has an activity for every member of the family. Take a tour of the ship's newly amped up sports deck and all it has to offer.
Exploring the vast wilderness of Alaska can take you to so many places along the way, and Royal Caribbean offers one way to do in some serious style.
On a recent stop in Skagway, Alaska on a Royal Caribbean cruise, we tried out the Yukon Hummer Adventure so that we could not only see large swaths of Alaska and the Yukon Territory, but do it in a really fun way.
The Yukon Hummer Adventure is a 4 hour tour that takes you from Skagway deep into the heart of the Yukon Territory in Canada. Your group gets to drive a 4-wheel-drive Hummer H3 as part of a caravan that will see a lot of the countryside.
We booked our excursion directly with Royal Caribbean and took an early time to ensure we had time after the tour to explore Skagway upon return. The tour cost us $152 per adult and $104 for our 7-year-old daughter. We are pretty sure nearly all of that cost pays for the gas for the H3.
A representative from the tour company will meet you at the end of the pier and provide van transportation to the tour departure point. Here, you hop into a H3 (4 people per vehicle), do a quick radio check and set out on the road.
The Hummers provided had some mileage on them (149k miles on the one we drove) but were in good working order. The cars were comfortable and have an automatic transmission. There is also climate control and a sun roof.
All guests planning to drive must be at least 25 years old, bring a valid driver's license and name of insurance company, and must sign a liability/insurance waiver.
Each car has a two-way radio that you can use to communicate during the drive. The tour leader drives first, which everyone in the group following. The tour leader regularly comes on the radio to share driving strategies, point out animals, and provide history of the region, the gold rush, and what life is like there today.
During the tour, you will reach White Pass Summit and pass through subalpine terrain, en route to the narrow Caribou crossing at the headwaters of the Yukon River and see Emerald Lake.
We made a few stops along the way, which include
- The Yukon Territory welcome sign
- Emerald Lake
- Village of Carcross, Yukon Territory
- The Alaska welcome sign (on the return trip)
The exact route you go on will depend on road and weather conditions. We also stopped to see a bear that was alongside the road. We would have made more stops for wildlife, such as moose or porcupine, but we never saw any.
Since this excursion crosses the U.S.-Canadian border, guests must carry their passport, and if applicable, their visa.
We booked the Yukon Hummer Adventure because it allowed us to cross off two bucket list items: see lots of the countryside in and around Alaska, and drive a Hummer. We certainly accomplished both.
Much of the tour is conducted as you drive, and there is a lot of places along the way that you will see, but will not have time to stop at and explore. In order to reach Carcross and Emerald Lake, much of the tour time is required in getting back and forth.
When you do stop, there are often beautiful vistas to enjoy and the kind of scenery you might imagine Alaska and the Yukon are known for historically. I certainly would have liked to have made a few more stops on the way at other spots, but I did feel we saw a lot more of the Yukon than anyone else on similar tours. Seeing the mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes, even at 55 miles per hour, is better than not seeing them at all.
Our tour guide briefed us early on the tour about what to do when we see a bear, and I was very happy we did find one along the way but that was the extent of the wildlife on the tour that we spotted. Obviously which animals you see or do not see is left to chance, but it is worth noting that our driver was willing to stop for other animals if they were spotted.
Driving the Hummer was very easy, and as someone who does not know how to drive a manual transmission, it was simple enough to operate the Hummer. If you can drive a pick up truck or mini van, you can drive a H3.
The best part of the tour is we covered so much ground and came across so many beautiful views along the way. Being able to drive the H3 was also really fun, and I do believe half the appeal of this tour is you have to be excited to drive a Hummer in the first place.
The two major stops along the way are Emerald Lake and Carcross. Emerald Lake is a beautiful freshwater lake that is known for its intense green color. It looks like it belongs in the Caribbean, and not in the sub arctic.
Carcross is a small village just before Emerald Lake and you will have your longest stop. There was just enough time to use the restroom and grab coffee and a snack. I would have loved to have had an additional half hour to explore the town a bit more.
More time is really at the heart of my only complaint about the tour. You spend a vast majority of the time doing exactly what the tour promises: driving a Hummer. While neat and a great way to inflate your manly ego, I can think of 3-4 places I really would have liked to visit along the way. It should be noted you can book a private tour with the tour operator and basically go wherever you want, as an alternative for those that also like the idea of exploring on foot and driving an awesome car along the way.
Our tour guide, Ben, was very helpful and conveyed the story of the gold rush and life in Skagway and the Yukon today. Ben was insightful, knowledgeable and happy to help take photos at any stop.
Overall, we had a great time seeing a lot of Alaska and Canada on this tour. If the idea of driving a Hummer and exploring the Yukon sounds like a great combination, then this is the tour for you.
Cost: $152 per adult, $104 per child. Children must be at least 5 years old. Booster seats are available.
Our last day on Majesty of the Seas is our first sea day and after three port days of activities, we decided to take this day slow and simply enjoy some time to relax.
Naturally, we started off the day by missing most of the morning. We slept in and eventually got up to the Windjammer for breakfast. I wish I had something more interesting to share for our morning activities but it was a nice relaxing morning.
We decided to check out the main dining room for lunch. The Tutti Salad station offered make your own salads and a crepe station and it was our preferred choice. The kids wanted to grab something from the Windjammer and I may have helped myself to the Mongolian grill station while up there.
Our afternoon was a combination of pool time and napping. In my live blogs I have to remind folks that relaxing sea days for me make for not so interesting live blogs.
Rather than recalling everything else we did on a relaxing last day, I thought I would summarize our experience on Majesty of the Seas.
As someone who has cruised extensively on other, larger ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, it took a couple of days to really acclimate myself to the layout and flow of Majesty. What I mean by that is other ships in the fleet have very similar set ups, but Majesty is old enough that she pre-dates those guest flows. As a result, I legitimately had no idea where certain venues were and was almost like a new cruiser in that respect.
Friends of mine have said that Majesty of the Seas is a small ship but does not feel like a small ship and I do agree with that sentiment. The large venues and expansive decks hide the fact she is a smaller ship and onboard I do not think I ever felt the ship was as small as I perceived it to be.
I like having the promenade deck on a higher deck (deck 7) and the pool deck is nicely set up and if blindfolded and put on Majesty’s pool deck, I am not certain I would ever know whether I was on Majesty or a larger ship. The kids especially liked having Splashaway Bay.
I do want to dis-spell the notion that only the large ships have crowds and lines, because there were plenty of them on Majesty. For the record, I enjoy the larger ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet and have come to realize that lines and crowds are just part of the game. But when I see people complaining about lines on Oasis or Freedom class ships and talk whimsically about the smaller ships that do not, I have to disagree with that notion. Just like on the larger ships, if you roll into the Windjammer at 9am you will have to do a few laps before finding a table. Chairs by the pool are probably gone by 8am. The forward elevator bank is always busy and it can be difficult at times to get a seat in certain lounges depending on the entertainment.
If you are reading all of this and now worried about going on Majesty of the Seas, don’t be. Lines and crowds are a fact of travel and any mass market cruise line will have them now and then. None of the lines or crowds I mentioned are a big deal, just something I observed because I have often heard from cruisers who prefer the small ships (like Majesty) for less crowds. I simply do not think that is the case and that crowds and lines are all relative, and no ship is “crowd free”. Come in with an open mind and some patience and you will have a great time.
Our oceanview staterooms were more than adequate and very quiet. Not having a connecting room was a bit more of an inconvenience than I anticipated but manageable. Our stateroom attendant was fantastic and probably has done the best job of cleaning up after us.
The Voom internet was quite possibly the fastest Royal Caribbean internet I have had not on an Oasis or Quantum class ship. I was quite impressed.
In terms of our itinerary, Cuba was the highlight and likely the reason most people on this ship booked this sailing and it did not disappoint. If you like Old San Juan, you will love Havana. Havana has much more history and culture than San Juan and I am glad we took this opportunity to visit. I really hope my next visit to Cuba is not too far off, because there is a lot more to see and do there.
Overall, I really enjoyed our cruise on Majesty of the Seas for the relaxing, yet fast-paced itinerary we booked. I am really happy I did not let my back injury stop me from sailing (it has gotten better every day of the sailing) and after all the fun on Explorer of the Seas in Alaska last week, it was nice to take things down a notch.
Thank you to everyone who followed along this live blog and shared their comments with me. I had a great time sharing this cruise with all of you and hope you will join me for upcoming virtual escapes on a live blog. My next Royal Caribbean cruise is scheduled to be on Brilliance of the Seas in late September.