Last minute cruises on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
19Jul2017

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

Episode 207 is available for downloading, in which we provide an overview of last minute cruises.

Have you ever thought of taking a Royal Caribbean cruise close to the date it sets sail? On this week's episode, Matt talks about the nuances of booking a last minute cruise and what challenges and strategies you will encounter.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 207. 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 WOW Sale offers extra onboard credit and 50% off second passenger

In:
19Jul2017

Royal Caribbean's WOW Sale begins today, with stackable savings that provide bonus onboard credit and reduced deposit on top of the current July BOGO 50% offer.

Cruises booked between 7/19/17 through 7/23/17 on sailings on or after 8/9/17 are eligible for the WOW Sale (excluding China departures).

The WOW Sale includes:

  • 50% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full fare guest
  • Kids Sail for Less
    • 25% cruise fare savings for 3rd and 4th guests booked in the same stateroom as first two qualifying guests 
  • Onboard credit determined by sailing length 
    • $50 to spend onboard on sailings 3-5 nights
    • $100 to spend onboard on sailings 6-9 nights
    • $200 to spend onboard on sailings 10 nights and longer
  • Deck the Holidays Deals
    • Sailings departing from 12/19/17 through 12/31/17 and 12/18/18 through 12/31/18.
    • Includes an instant savings determined by category booked and sailing length:
      • $25 off per stateroom for Interior and Ocean View on sailings 5 nights or less
      • $50 off per stateroom for Balconiess and Suites on sailings 5 nights and less
      • $50 off per stateroom for Interior and Ocean View on sailings 6 nights and longer
      • $75 off per stateroom for Balconies on sailings 6 nights or longer
      • $100 off per stateroom for Suites on sailings 6 nights or longer

WOW Sale is combinable BOGO50, 25% Savings for 3rd and 4th Guests, NextCruise offers, NRDB OBC, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military). WOW Sale is not combinable with Shareholder Benefits and Crown and Anchor discounts. All offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of United States and Canada.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean offering swim lessons for kids onboard the ship

In:
18Jul2017

On select Royal Caribbean some kids can spend part of their cruise learning to swim (better) with some new swim lessons available for booking in the Cruise Planner.

On Harmony of the Seas, two shore excursions listed under the Cruising location offer two PADI Swim School options, for level 1 and level 2. 

A team of professionals teaches beginning stroke techniques and more to little swimmers ages 6-8 and cost $49 per child. Up to 6 children can attend the class per swim instructor.

Level 1: Aqua Stars

Little ones from 6-8 years old can learn safety skills and enjoy water thrills during PADI Swim School’s Aqua Stars course. Within the safe hands of a friendly and highly qualified team of professional instructors, young swimmers can get a feel for the water while learning resting positions and forward movement techniques in a small-group setting. Before the lesson, swimmers will be assessed to ensure they can jump into the pool, completely submerge, recover for air and return to the pool’s wall. They will then learn how to tread water, float, swim, rest and breathe properly. After successfully rolling over to rest and breathe, they’ll be taught side breathing and the survival float. The shallow waters of your ship’s pool is the ideal space for new swimmers to learn the basics — all while having some splish-splash aquatic fun.

At course’s end young swimmers will know how to float, tread water, swim, and rollover to breathe.

Level 2: Splash Pros

Calling all little swimmers, ages 6-8: Here’s your chance to soak up new aquatic skills with PADI Swim School instructors during our Splash Pros course. Enjoy an interactive in-water swimming lesson amid the safe hands of professional trainers and the shallow waters of your ship’s onboard pool. For this small-group, intermediate-level lesson, your instructor will first evaluate your skills to ensure you can jump into the pool, completely submerge and swim at least 15 feet. Then learn how to properly reach, pull and roll to the side for rest and to catch your breathe. You’ll get a feel for the freestyle and backstroke while focusing on maintaining correct techniques for swimming short distances. Not only will you build confidence in the water, but you’ll also have tons of fun along the way.

At the end of the lesson young swimmers will know how to freestyle and backstroke around the water.

If your kids are old enough for the classes, is this something you would consider? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Review: Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar on Harmony of the Seas

In:
18Jul2017

I believe it was the great American thinker, Cher, who postulated, "do you believe in life after love" and I had to consider the same conundrum when it came to trying Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar on Harmony of the Seas following a recent menu change.

Ever since the Sabor specialty restaurant debuted on Navigator of the Seas in 2014, I fell in love with the whole menu, but the tuna crudo tacos held a special place in my heart.  They were as flavorful, and my go-to order each and every time I dined at Sabor.  

However, with the recent menu change the tuna tacos were removed and I began to wonder if the food at Sabor would be able to stack up with my previous experiences.  On our recent Harmony of the Seas sailing, I had to investigate the new menu change and determine if anything could fill the void in my heart that the tuna tacos once occupied.

Atmosphere

While the Sabor menu and pricing has changed, the look of Sabor remains intact.  Sabor is located in the Boardwalk neighborhood and encompasses a large area, with ample indoor and outdoor seating.  The restaurant is open air, although there is some air conditioning blowing on guests inside, there are no walls to contain it.  The restaurant is safe from rain (unless it is really blowing in sideways), but the temperature and wind can still be felt.

Sabor is imbued with bright colors, primarily blue, magenta and yellow.  Sabor has that feel of a Mexican restaurant, but without the over the top common motifs. After all, Sabor is meant to be more a more modern take on Mexican cuisine.

Much of the seating in Sabor is at standard tables of varying sizes, but there are booths along the back wall as well.

Unlike Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas, the Sabor bar is attached to the main restaurant, and offers additional seating on the left side of the restaurant.  

Most guests opt to grab a beer or cocktail from the bar, but you can also order off the menu.

Eats

As I mentioned, Sabor changed from an a la carte menu to a cover charge menu earlier this year on Oasis class ships, which mirror the pricing found on Voyager and Freedom class ships.  With the pricing change came a new menu, with some items removed from the old menu, others added and most of the menu remaining the same. I would estimate half the menu contains the same items as before, but the other half has seen items swapped it out in some manner.

Many Sabor fans relished the margarita menu for the creative and extremely tasty beverages offered.  I am pleased to report the margarita menu has not changed at all, and guests can continue to order their favorites. The avocado and Sabor Grand margaritas are my wife's and my favorite drinks, but I encourage you to try them all, especially if you have the deluxe beverage package that includes them.

The new Sabor menu on Harmony of the Seas has a lot to offer, and with your cover charge, you are at liberty to order as much as you like.  We have met no resistance in ordering multiple entrees, appetizers or anything else on the menu.  With larger groups (more than 4 people), your best bet is to order a lot and share.  Much of the menu comes in a very shareable manner.

No meal at Sabor is complete without a bowl of handmade guacamole.  Sabor's reputation has been built on its guacamole, and while the guacamole is no longer crafted at your table (health regulations emerged last year that curbed that practice), your server will still ask you how you like it and prepare it in the kitchen.  Our favorite is medium spice, extra lime juice.

Suffice to say, the guacamole is still exceptional and the pico de gallo salsa is especially good.  The only downside is all too often I fill up on this stuff before my food arrives.

Moving onto the appetizers, you will find some good starters offered.  The menu refers to them as "small plates" and it is appropriately named, as these are great for sharing and wont fill anyone up on their own.

The red snapper ceviche is a light starter that goes great with the chips they serve at your table, or just enjoy on your fork.  

The spicy beef empanadas are terrific.  The flaky crust they are baked in is lovely, and it has just the right amount of "kick" to set the tone for the meal.  

Many of our readers swear by the chicken-stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon, and while we did not order them, we would be remiss if we did not mention them as something to try if you are a bacon lover.

Moving onto the tacos, it was time to find a new love.  The tuna tacos are no longer available on the Sabor menu on Harmony of the Seas, but there is still a fish taco option in the grilled cobia.  Over the course of my cruise, I decided to employ the Love Connection methodology and try out three different tacos: the shredded beef short rib tacos, the spicy chicken tacos and the grilled cobia tacos.

Shredded beef tacos

Spicy chicken tacos

Grtilled cobia  tacos

Another change to the tacos from the old menu is the tacos are now build your own.  This means you are served the protein of your taco in a bowl that you can fill your soft tortillas with, along with an assortment of toppings, such as lettuce, salsa and sauces.  Be sure to save some guacamole for this part of the meal to use that too (or just ask your server for some more if you lack the ability to not eat every last ounce of guac in your bowl).

I was not too sure about the build your own tacos, but I ended up really enjoying the idea.  I am the kind of person that goes into "mad scientist" mode when it comes to crafting my own food, and I loved lopping on as much as I can into my tacos before eating them.  Granted, my tacos probably ended up looking more like burritos, but making them was half the fun.

The grilled cobia tacos ended up being my favorite of the three I tried, and I suppose it shows I am truly a fish taco lover at heart.  The spicy chicken was also quite good, and a close second. 

In addition to tacos, there are a few quesadillas to try.

My advice is take the quesadillas and top them off with guacamole, salsa and anything else on your table to essentially make them into Mexican pizzas.  Regardless of how you eat them, they are really good and flowing with melted cheese.  

If there is one area of the Sabor menu I never bother with anymore, it is the sides.  I have never found them particularly compelling, but perhaps you will find them to be different.  The new menu features a grilled corn on the cob option, so if you have tried that, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

By far the most under appreciated aspect of Sabor's menu are the desserts.  No meal is complete without a few, and you should save room for them, even if that means turning down another serving of guacamole.

If you are new to Sabor, order them all and sample them.  

Our favorites are the banana and chocolate chimichanga and café con leche.  

Overall

Looking at the new Sabor menu and pricing, I really enjoyed the new offering.  As a repeat cruiser, getting some new choices on the menu is a welcome change and I found the menu to remain true to what made Sabor so wonderful all these years.

It seems the biggest issue some folks have with the new menu is not the food, but the pricing.  There are a number of vocal guests that enjoyed Sabor, but preferred the a la carte pricing structure so that they could drop in for quick bites to eat at a cheaper price than the all-inclusive model.  I cannot deny the virtue of that concept.  Frankly, I do not mind the cover charge pricing, perhaps because I first tried Sabor on Royal Caribbean ships that had a cover charge so I was indoctrinated into that concept early on. For those that refuse to pay a cover charge, you can still grab some guacamole and chips during happy hour.

For the cost, I feel guests can get a lot of value out of the meal.  Sabor is still among the least expensive specialty restaurants on Harmony of the Seas, and I cannot complain I have ever left Sabor hungry.  Moreover, the strength of the appetizers and guacamole make for a compelling dining experience.  

Cost: The price for Sabor on Harmony of the Seas is $19 per guest for lunch and dinner.

Video: Royal Caribbean’s Innovation Lab Fuses Technology and Creativity

In:
18Jul2017

Royal Caribbean’s new Innovation Lab takes the ship design process to new heights by bringing the best creative minds and the latest technology together under one roof. From engaging virtual reality rooms to collaborative work spaces, the cruise line’s new facility in Miami helps accelerate innovation and gives experts the ability to tangibly play and push the envelope before construction even begins.

Guide to visiting St. John on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
17Jul2017

Many Royal Caribbean cruises make a stop in St. Thomas while on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, but the nearby island of St. John is an enticing and exotic destination cruisers should consider in their shore excursion plans.

St. John is just a few miles away by ferry from St. Thomas, making it an easy commute between the two islands.  Regular ferry service means getting back and forth is a mere formality and that means the pristine beaches of St. John are easily accessible.

On a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, we decided to try a visit to St. John and the good news is it is a great option to consider, especially for those that may feel St. Thomas is a "been there, done that" situation.

St. John Overview

St. John is the smallest and least populated island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  It tends to be a refuge for cruise visitors and local residents alike, who seek a place to "get away from it all."

The Virgin Islands National Park takes up roughly two thirds of the island, which means visiting St. John is really about taking time to enjoy a beach, nature hike or combination of the two.  The beaches of St. John offer plenty of sun and surf, along with the typical beach activities like snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding.

There is a small town where visitors arrive via ferry, Cruz Bay.  This town has some basic offerings, such as restaurants, bars and some shopping.  However, unlike St. Thomas or St. Croix, the offerings in Cruz Bay are limited.  Essentially, people come to St. John for the natural beauty.

Getting to St. John

There are two primary means of getting from your Royal Caribbean cruise ship to St. John.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and which option you pick depends on your personal preference.

Royal Caribbean excursion

Royal Caribbean offers a few excursions to St. John that will depart from near the cruise ship and take you directly to St. John.  There are tours that will provide round-trip ferry transportation, as well as some sort of an organized tour while in St. John.  In addition, there is also a "on your own" St. John excursion that brings you just to the island and lets you go on your own.

The primary consideration with the Royal Caribbean excursions to St. John is the fact you will take a longer ferry ride.  The ferry from Crown Bay is roughly 40 minutes in length, which is about double that of the other ferry.  

Of course, booking with Royal Caribbean has an added bonus of the guarantee of return, where you know you will absolutely get back to the ship, no matter what.  For many, that peace of mind is important.

On your own

Many residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands regularly go back and forth between St. John and St. Thomas, which means there is regular ferry service offered for a small fee.

There are two primary points of taking a ferry to St. John: Crown Bay and Red Hook.

The Crown Bay ferry is the same ferry Royal Caribbean excursions take.  The benefit is this ferry departs and returns very close to the cruise ship, which means taking a taxi is either unnecessary or significantly cheaper.  Of course, the ferry ride is about double the length and there are less ferries offered throughout the day.

Red Hook is an area on the east end of St. Thomas, with a short 15-20 minute ferry ride to St. John.  While it requires a taxi ride to reach Red Hook, we felt the shorter and more frequently offered ferry rides were worth it.  Ferry service from Red Hook runs every hour, on the hour.  You can consult the ferry website for exact fare and schedules. 

The taxi ride to Red Hook is fairly short as well, although often you will get lumped into vans other other guests, where the driver makes a few stops along the way.  Your experience will vary, but the one way trip should take about 30 minutes (if not less).

Once at the ferry terminal, you can purchase round trip fare.  Be sure to bring plenty of cash, because taxis and the ferry regularly take cash only.

If you are wondering how long it takes to get from Crown Bay to Red Hook and then take the ferry to St. John, it depends largely on timing.  How long it takes you to get into a taxi, for the taxi to drop you off and what time you arrive before a ferry departs are all factors you may not have a lot of control over.  If you time things out perfectly, it should take just around an hour.  If you just miss the ferry, figure another an extra 30-60 minutes on top of that estimate.

Arriving in St. John

The ferry will drop you off in Cruz Bay, which is on the west end of the island. There are a few shops and restaurants, but the real attraction of going to St. John is to see the beaches.  You ought to be able to take a taxi to any of the beaches nearby.

There is a primary road, North Shore Road, that runs along the Northwest coast of St. John and has easy access to the beaches. Most day visitors opt for taxis, but you could also rent a car.  Keep in mind that vehicles drive on the left side of the road in St. John.

St. John is largely set up as a National Park, and that means lots of beaches to consider.  By far the most popular is Trunk Bay, which is about a 10 minute taxi ride away.  There are lots of other beaches, including Cinnamon Bay Beach. We chose Cinnamon Bay Beach for the lack of crowds.  

For the purposes of this blog post, we will be discussing Cinnamon Bay Beach, but the experience of visiting any of the beaches in St. John is likely very similar: a beautiful and scenic coastline with white sand and clear, turquoise waters.

At Cinnamon Bay Beach, there is no beach fee, so feel free to grab any spot you choose.  We were able to rent beach chairs from a company that offers surf rentals as well.  There is not a lot of natural shade, but if you retreat to the back edge of the back, there was some shade provided by trees and shrubs.

Most of the taxis in St. John make regular stops at each of the beaches, so getting a taxi back is fairly simple and just a matter of timing.

If you are a United States resident, your cell phone will likely work normally in St. John because the island is part of the United States.  We found cell phone coverage to be a "light" the further away from Cruz Bay and the main road you get, but placing phone calls (like to a taxi driver) usually works.

Your Thoughts

Have you visited St. John? What did you think of the experience? If you have visited other Caribbean islands, how do you think St. John compared to those? Any tips of your own to add about visiting St. John? Any questions? Hearing from readers is part of the fun (and is helpful to others), so please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 16, 2017

In:
16Jul2017

Happy Sunday! We hope you’re having a wonderful weekend and are ready to catch up on all the Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Royal Caribbean announced this week a list of changes coming to Independence of the Seas in an upcoming refurbishment.

Independence of the Seas is scheduled for a refurbishment in April 2018, at which point she will receive several new features including a trampoline park, water slides and more.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 206th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we are answering your Royal Caribbean emails

In this episode, Matt reviews his recent sailing on Harmony of the Seas and shares the different experiences onboard and onshore that he tried.

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

Cruise Fever has a look at how Oasis of the Seas changed cruising forever.

Cruise Habit has a look at how cruise ship design impacts guest expectations.

Royal Caribbean is celebrating 25 years of saving the ocean.

Blog reader Jason Percival took a stateroom tour of his Royal Family Suite on Anthem of the Seas.

MarineLink shares how Royal Caribbean will install NavBox across the entire fleet.

Travel Pulse lists some major headaches your travel agent can remedy.

PR News shares how Royal Caribbean's Communications Team handles a real-time crisis on social media.

Photo tour of Category 2J Central Park View Balcony Stateroom on Harmony of the Seas

In:
15Jul2017

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas has a lot to offer, including a number of staterooms.  Today, we will look at the category 2J Central Park View Balcony Stateroom, which will take you through the cabin to provide an idea of what to expect if you book this category stateroom.

On Harmony of the Seas, we reviewed stateroom 12629, which is located on Deck 12 nearly in the middle of the deck.  The room was very convenient since it was roughly equidistant to both elevator banks.

Entry to the room is by RFID scanner, which is above the door handle.

Like all staterooms on Harmony of the Seas, the light controls require a SeaPass card to be inserted into a slot near the entrance.

The decorations you see hanging from the ceiling and around the room are not a standard amenity to staterooms on Harmony of the Seas. They are an optional decoration package that you can purchase to celebrate a special event.

The bed is joined together but can be split apart if need be. There's a large, flat screen television across from it and two night stands on opposite sides of the bed. Access to the balcony is also on the other side of the bed.


 

The room also has a rather large sofa to sit on during the day.

The best feature of this stateroom is the extra large balcony, which provides a private space to enjoy the view of Central Park.  This balcony is roughly double that of a standard Central Park balcony room, but does not cost any more than any other Central Park room.  It is a bit of a secret among Royal Caribbean fans, and something we have shared on the blog before.

A 2J stateroom features a full bathroom, including a stand up shower.

Friday Photos

In:
14Jul2017

When the calendar says it is Friday, that means we are sharing our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos.  Sit back, and enjoy this week's batch of Royal Caribbean photo goodness!

Our first photo this week is from Dan, and it is of Empress of the Seas in Havana, Cuba. Dan took this photo from El Morro fort.

Randy Wilson took this photo in San Juan while sailing on Freedom of the Seas.

This photo is from Independence of the Seas, taken by Elaine Scotti.

Here is another photo from San Juan, this one of Anthem of the Seas taken by Jason Nolan.

Here is a shot of Adventure of the Seas taken by Mark Harrison while docked in St. Maarten.

Laura took this photo of Tim on Serenade of the Seas.  The resemblence is uncanny!

Our final photo this week is by Jeff L.  It is a photo of the Royal Promenade on Navigator of the Seas on embarkation day.

That wraps up this week's edition of Friday Photos.  If you would like to share your own Royal Caribbean photos with us, send them in via this form.  Have a great weekend!

Royal Caribbean's Summer Seeker Sale offers BOGO 50% off, plus bonus instant savings and onboard credit

In:
14Jul2017

Royal Caribbean's new offer this weekend allows guests to get 50% off the second guest, plus a bonus of up to $250 instant savings and up to $100 onboard spending money.

To qualify for this deal, the cruise must be booked between 7/14/17-7/17/17 on sailings on or after 8/14/17. Offer excludes China departures.

The Summer Seeker Sale includes

  • 50% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full fare guest and 25% cruise fare savings for 3rd and 4th guests booked in the same stateroom as first two qualifying guests.
  • Deck the Holidays Deals offer provides savings for guests who book a holiday sailing.
    • Sailings departing from 12/19/17 through 12/31/17 and 12/18/18 through 12/31/18.
    • Instant savings determined by category booked and sailing length
      • $25 off per stateroom for interior and oceanview on sailings 5 nights or less
      • $50 off per stateroom for balconies and suites on sailings 5 nights and less
      • $50 off per stateroom for interior and oceanview on sailings 6 nights and longer
      • $75 off per stateroom for balconies on sailings 6 nights or longer
      • $100 off per stateroom for suites on sailings 6 nights or longer
  • Additional savings determined by category booked and sailing length
    • $25 off per stateroom for interior and oceanview on sailings 5 nights or less
    • $50 off per stateroom for balconies and suites on sailings 5 nights and less
    • $50 off per stateroom for interior and oceanview on sailings 6 nights and longer
    • $100 off per stateroom for balconies on sailings 6 nights or longer
    • $150 off per stateroom for suites on sailings 6 nights or longer.
  • Non-refundable deposit bookings that are booked six months or more prior to the cruise departure date are eligible to receive a per stateroom onboard credit in the following amount
    • Sailings 5-nights and less
      • $25 OBC for interior and oceanview,
      • $50 OBC for balcony and suite
    • Sailings of 6-nights and longer
      • $50 OBC for interior and oceanview
      • $100 OBC for balcony and suite

 Offer open to residents of U.S. or Canada. 

Refer to royalcaribbean.com for complete terms and conditions.

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