Photos from Christmas on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas


Many people choose to celebrate the holidays on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and we have a look at some of the Christmas decorations onboard Anthem of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean decorates its ships quite nicely for the holidays, and each ship has a different look and feel for this special time of the year.

Special thanks to Christie McLarty for providing these photos.

Happy New Year!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 25, 2016


Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! The holidays are here, and so is our weekly round up of this week's Royal Caribbean news.

The gifts came a little early for Royal Caribbean this week, with Royal Caribbean being named Best Cruise Line Overall by Travel Weekly for 14th consecutive year.

Royal Caribbean also claimed the top spot in a few other categories including Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean, Best Cruise Line Sales & Service, Best Overall Individual Cruise Ship (Allure of the Seas), and Best New Cruise Ship (Harmony of the Seas).

Travel Weekly honored the winners of its Readers Choice Awards at a gala dinner and ceremony on December 15 at the Conrad Hotel in New York. Winners were selected in 78 categories, ranging from hotels to tours to airlines to GDSs to cruise lines, represent the best of the best in travel.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 177th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, we are sharing three wishes for Royal Caribbean.

In this episode, Matt and Billy make wishes for changes we would make if we had access to a genie (and opted not to wish for wealth and a long life).

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.

How you can support Royal Caribbean Blog

So many of our readers have reached out to us to ask how they can help the blog and we are introducing the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders for just that reason.

The Insiders group is a way readers can contribute to Royal Caribbean Blog and help fuel some of the really amazing ideas, projects and new content that we have lined up.

As a way of saying thank you for your contribution, there are some fun rewards for being a member of the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders.

Becoming a member of the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders is completely up to you and you can cancel at any time. No questions asked! 

As always, thank you for visiting Royal Caribbean Blog and being a part of our community!

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

CIO shows how CIOs eye new initiatives in 2017, including Royal Caribbean's CIO.

Cruise Fever has the pros and cons of a Boardwalk balcony stateroom on Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean shares tips on how to pick your first cruise.

In The Loop Travel has tips on how to eat like a local in Cancun, Mexico.

Experiences: Escape the Rubicon on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas


On Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, you will find  unique ways to spend time onboard, but one experience that really stands out is the Escape the Rubicon. 

Escape the Rubicon is an escape room experience, which Royal Caribbean first introduced on Anthem of the Seas (it is also available on Ovation of the Seas). On Harmony of the Seas, the escape room has its own dedicated venue, so it is fully built out for a complete experience.

If you are knew to an escape room game, you might be a little hesitant at the idea of going into a "locked" room for an our and not really knowing what to expect. Take solace in the fact that Escape the Rubicon might have been the most fun we had onboard the ship.  This is truly unlike anything else you have ever done on a cruise ship, and it is incredible appealing.

What to expect

If you are unfamiliar with an escape room game, essentially it is a timed challenge, where you and those in your group have a set time limit to figure out various puzzles and clues to solve an overall solution that provides the means of "escaping" the room. Royal Caribbean teamed up with Puzzle Break to create a special version just for Harmony of the Seas.

When you arrive for your session, a short video will explain some ground rules of the puzzle. A crew member will supervise your group and will go over a few items in the room that are not part of the game, such as fire sprinklers and emergency exits.

The host will then have one member of the team hit the start button and you are off, leaving you with 60 minutes to figure out the puzzles to escape. 

The Puzzle 

The game requires a minimum of six players, believe me when I say this, you need at least six to play. During my experience we only had five and the host would play as the sixth person, but only doing what he told her to do specifically.

At a few points in the game we were moving slower than we should to complete the puzzle. The host would give us basic hints like, "what are we looking for" or "what are we trying to complete" in a way to bring the team on task and focus.

Without giving the puzzle away, the key is to work together as a team and think outside the box.  It is very easy to assume certain elements of the room and ideas are "obvious", but often paying attention to the small details really helps.  In addition, split tasks among members of the group to get things done quicker.  Often there are multiple puzzles to decipher at the same time, so make use of the brain power in the room.

What we liked: A completely different experience from the usual cruise ship activities, and quite challenging too. 

What we did not like: It is not a complimentary activity.

Cost: When we experienced Escape the Rubicon, the game was complimentary but we have heard Royal Caribbean is now charging $8.99 per guest to compete.

Friday Photos


This week's batch of beautiful Royal Caribbean photos is here and it's always fun to share with all of you the great photos our readers take while on their cruise vacation.

The photos we have to show this week are fun and of course anyone can send us their Royal Caribbean photos to use as well!

Our first photo is from Michael Bonham, and it is of sail away from Cozumel on Allure of the Seas.  You can still see Liberty of the Seas docked in the background.

This is a great photo by D J Epstein of the aerial show on Grandeur of the Seas!

Check out the colors in this sunrise photo by Susan Widdowson! It was taken on Harmony of the Seas during the transatlantic crossing.

Dana Hall sent in this photo of savory bites while on Oasis of the Seas.  She noted that they had no savory bites on one night of the cruise, but the next day, the waiter brought over a whole plate full!

Next is a great photo of Liberty of the Seas backing out of Cozumel, taken by Megan Mathews.

Angela Wright shared this photo of Freedom of the Seas, which was taken from her snorkeling excursion in Grand Cayman.

We round out this week's edition with a photo of Anthem of the Seas in Labadee, taken by Thomas Lemmer.

Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos this week and if you have Royal Caribbean photos, well, we want to see them!  You can use this form to send us your photos and we will feature them on an upcoming Friday Photos blog post!

Royal Caribbean offering bonus instant savings on bookings made through the end of the year


Royal Caribbean is tacking on extra instant savings for cruises booked through the end of the year, on top of the December promotion that offers every third night of your cruise free.

The bonus savings are valid on cruises booked between December 23 - 30, 2016 on sailings departing on or after January 21, 2017 (excluding China departures).

Qualifying bookings will be eligible for

  • Bonus instant savings
    • Interior/oceanview: $25 off per stateroom
    • Balcony/Suite: $50 off per stateroom
  • 1,2, Free
    • 3-5 night cruises
      • Includes 1 nights free
    • 6-8 night cruises
      • Includes 2 nights free
    • 9-11 night cruises
      • Includes 3 nights free
    • 12-14 night cruises
      • Includes 4 nights free
    • 15-17 night cruises
      • Includes 5 nights free
    • 17-20 night cruises
      • Includes 6 nights free
    • 21-23 night cruises
      • Includes 7 nights free
    • 24 night cruise
      • Includes 8 nights free
  • Kids Sail Free Bonus
    • Guests 12 & under sail free on 5 nights or longer sailings departing Jan. 5, 2017-Feb 15, 2018 Excludes sailings departing on or between 2/16/17-2/23/17, 3/10/17-3/20/17, 4/6/17-4/16/17, 5/16/17-9/4/2017, 11/16/17-11/26/17, 12/15/17-1/05/18, 2/15/18-2/22/18. (Excludes China, Cuba and Alaska cruises and Harmony of the Seas sailings)
  • ​Anthem Free Upgrade
    • From Ocean View to Balcony on Anthem sailings departing after 1/1/17.

1-2-Free Offer is combinable with adjoining Instant Savings, Kids Sail Free, Anthem Upgrade, Crown & Anchor discounts and rates, Next Cruise offers, and Shareholders benefits. Offer is not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Senior Rates, Resident Rates, Military Rates) or any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, prior promotions, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of the United States and Canada.

Passenger jumps off Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas


A passenger jumped off Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas early this morning, prompting a search by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Local news is reporting the passenger is a 22-year-old man, who jumped off deck 12 of Independence of the Seas just before a.m. when it was 33 miles southeast of Key Largo.

Royal Caribbean issued a statement regarding the event,

"We are saddened to report a guest onboard Independence of the Seas was witnessed intentionally going overboard from deck 12 at 1:45 a.m.

The ship immediately alerted local authorities and turned around to help search for our guest. Two of the ship’s lifeboats and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search."

The Coast Guard is searching for the man.

Everything you need to know about the Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas


Have you heard about the robot bartenders on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas? While there are still plenty of bars staffed by human beings, Royal Caribbean created one bar on Harmony of the Seas that has its drinks created by one of two robots!

If you want to try the Bionic Bar out for yourself, here is what you need to know about how it all works.

Bionic Bar location

The Bionic Bar is located on the Royal Promenade (deck 5) near the aft elevator bank and across the Royal Promenade from Guest Services. 

The bar features a number of tables and couches that surround the robot bartenders that create the drinks.

How the Bionic Bar works

The Bionic Bar is as appealing to watch as it is to enjoy a cocktail crafted here. You will find quite often many guests simply watching the robots in action, although there is usually plenty of folks ordering drinks as well.

To order a drink, guests need to use one of the tablets found at any of the tables in the Bionic Bar.  

Thanks to Ashley Arbaugh-Chipps for providing many of these photos

Activate the drink ordering system by placing a SeaPass card or WOWband near the scanner on the top of the tablet.  The tablet will verify the guest's age to ensure they are old enough to order drinks.

Once in the Bionic Bar menu system, guests have the choice of selecting from pre-defined drink recipes, or creating their own concoctions.  You can name your drink, save it for later and customize the drinks to your liking, with the ability to define how many shots of liquor, soda or other beverages in the drink.  Keep in mind that the Bionic Bar is limited to liquids that are non-refrigerated.

Once the drink order is complete, guests will verify and submit the order.  At this point, the guest's drink will appear on the electronic display located to the side of either robot.  These displays act as virtual queues, and explain which drink the robot is making and how long until your drink is created.

After the robot creates your drink, the robot will place it on the table, at which point you must walk up to the bar, swipe a SeaPass or WOWband at the scanner location, and the drink will be delivered to the end of the bar.

What is the price of drinks at the Bionic Bar?

The price of drinks at the Bionic Bar is about what you would pay anywhere else for a cocktail on the ship.

Drinks ordered by guests will be charged to their SeaPass account.  Alternatively, guests with a Royal Caribbean drink package may order drinks at the Bionic Bar and it will be included with their package benefits.

Any drinks ordered at the Bionic Bar still come with the automatic 18% gratuity, which is later pooled and distributed to the bar staff.

5 things you need to know before buying a Royal Caribbean drink package


Royal Caribbean's drink packages are quite popular with guests, and we get lots of questions from our readers if a drink package purchase is worth it.  The unlimited drink packages offer a lot of convenience, flexibility, and a wide variety of drinks to enjoy.  

Before you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package, you will want to consider these five important factors to ensure a drink package purchase makes sense for you.

1. Package prices

Royal Caribbean's drink packages are priced on a per-day and per guest basis, which means once you purchase a drink package, you will be charged for every day of the cruise going forward. The exact price of the drink package can actually vary from ship to ship.  Over the last year or so, Royal Caribbean has been offering its drink packages at various prices depending on the ship, itinerary and time of year.

There is one universal truth about the drink packages, and that is they are often discounted if purchased prior to cruise, but will come with a full price onboard.  These pre-cruise discounts are available from Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site, and discounts are regularly offered on the Deluxe unlimited alcohol drink package.  Other non-alcoholic drink packages have had discounts offered in the past, but the availability of discounts seems to vary.

Anyone interested in a drink package should check what discount is available for a drink package prior to the cruise, and understand what the costs will be.  While drink packages will be sold onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, they are rarely discounted.  Moreover, purchasing the drink package online will ensure less time spent waiting to purchase it onboard.

2. Drink prices onboard

It greatly helps if you have a good idea of how much drinks will cost onboard the ship if you were to purchase them a la carte, instead of using a drink package. After all, one of the key benefits of a drink package is to pay a fixed cost and be able to enjoy as many drinks as you like, often saving money versus buying those same drinks individually.

You can refer to this list of Royal Caribbean drink prices for a good idea of how much the popular drinks cost.  Drink prices may vary from ship to ship, but it will provide a good ballpark of estimating how much your indulgences onboard may cost you. It is entirely possible that you may find your drinking habits may not make a drink package purchase a financially suitable arrangement.

3. Your itinerary

An often overlooked consideration for purchasing a drink package is your Royal Caribbean cruise itinerary.  The drink package benefits are only useful to you while onboard a Royal Caribbean ship (or private destination), which means if your itinerary is port intensive, you will have far less time to take advantage of the drink packages. Conversely, if you have many sea days, a drink package may make more sense since you will have ample time onboard to take advantage of the package.

As mentioned earlier, beverage packages do work at both CocoCay and Labadee, which are Royal Caribbean's private destinations. If your cruise happens to stop at one of these ports, that is another full day of drink package value to reap.

It is important to weigh how many sea days versus port days you will have, if any of those stops include a private destination, and what your plans are for any ports you visit.  You may find with touring onshore, a drink package purchase will not be so conducive to getting a good return on your package investment.

4. What the drink package does not include

While the drink packages do include quite a lot of beverages, not everything can be had with a package.  Depending on your habits and preferences, this may or may not be a deal breaker.

Royal Caribbean's deluxe drink package allow for guests to enjoy drinks such as Labadoozies, Coco locos, after dinner shots or the drink of the day with the but does not include the souvenir mugs/glasses they are often served in.

Likewise, milkshakes from Johnny Rockets, Starbucks on Oasis-Class ships and those little bottles of alcohol in your minibar are not included either.  

5. You can (usually) cancel the package

If you find yourself with buyer's remorse when it comes to a drink package, there are options available for cancelling and getting your money back.

The simplest means is to cancel the drink package prior to your cruise.  If you followed our advice and booked a drink package but want to cancel it, this can be easily done via the Cruise Planner site. Just follow these steps

  1. Log into your Royal Caribbean account and proceed to the Cruise Planner for the sailing you have in mind.
  2. At the top right corner of the pick, click Order History.  You will want to cancel the item you bought first, and then re-book it later.
  3. Once at the Order History page, you will be able to see everything you have reserved or purchased for your cruise. From here, find the item you want to cancel and click cancel.
  4. Follow the next few steps to confirm the cancellation.  You should find yourself at a screen that displays a confirmation message with the exact refund to the form of payment used.  It may take a few business days for the refund to be made.

If you decide to cancel the drink package onboard the ship, usually Royal Caribbean will allow it, but not always.  You will need to go to Guest Services onboard and ask to cancel and refund the drink package.  Keep in mind that if they do cancel your drink package purchase, any drinks you purchased will be charged to your SeaPass account individually.  We have heard from lots of guests this has worked, but cannot guarantee cancelling a drink package onboard will be available for you.

Your best bet is to consider the drink package prior to your cruise and make any cancellations before you get onboard.

Three Royal Caribbean wishes 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 177 is available for downloading, in which Matt and Billy share three wishes they would make if they were in charge of Royal Caribbean.

With the new year right around the corner, Matt and Billy dreamed up some changes to Royal Caribbean they would like to make if they were in charge of the company. 

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 177. 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 2017 Cruise Planning Guide


Planning a 2017 Royal Caribbean cruise can be intimidating for first-time cruisers. This guide provides free tips & tricks to save money and time, avoid common mistakes, and fully plan your Royal Caribbean cruise vacation.  Think of this post as "Royal Caribbean 101," with everything organized into the most important considerations of planning a cruise.  

As complicated as planning might seem right now, the ultimate payoff is worth it.  After dozens of cruises over the years, a lesson we have learned is you only stand to benefit from being prepared.  Many first-time cruisers do not realize the various "layers" of the cruise experience until they arrive. While we believe anyone can enjoy a fun cruise vacation, knowing the important information ahead of time really makes a difference in ensuring you get all the important aspects of the cruise you want done.

This page is a jumping off point to give you some background information on each aspect of the cruise, with a ton of links to other blog posts that offer much more detailed information.

What's new for 2017

While we do not know everything that will happen in 2017, there is already a lot to be excited about for taking a Royal Caribbean cruise this year.

For the first time ever, Royal Caribbean will offer cruises to Cuba onboard Empress of the Seas. The United States and Cuban governments are now allowing for American guests to visit, and that means a whole new experience for many guests. The cruises will begin in April 2017, and are expected to continue through the summer. It is worth noting that Empress of the Seas is the smallest, and oldest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet.  This means it lacks many of features found on cruise ships that the cruise line has introduced over the last twenty years.  Regardless, a cruise on Empress of the Seas is about simple relaxation by the pool, and fun on shore visiting a place like Havana.

While there are no new Royal Caribbean ships joining the fleet this year, there are a number of ships scheduled to receive a refurbishment.  Five ships are on the schedule, although we do not yet know the scope of their changes.  Some refurbishment work is limited to general maintenance and small upgrades, while others take longer and encompass a much more wide-ranging scope of improvements.  As the year progresses, we may get more information about what each ship will receive, but at the very least updates are coming to

  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Legend of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas

Of course, Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas are the newest Royal Caribbean ships and will turn one year old during the course of 2017.  These ships represent the latest and greatest entertainment, innovations and onboard fun of any ship.  If you are looking to "make a splash" with trying a Royal Caribbean ship, either of these ships would be excellent choices.

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