10 ways to save money on your 2017 Royal Caribbean vacation

In:
10Jan2017

Odds are that you are planning your 2017 Royal Caribbean cruise vacation and this post is designed to help you budget for the trip to make it cost less! To help you get the most out of your vacation dollars, here are 10 money saving tips for your next Royal Caribbean vacation.

Regardless of your budget, it is never a bad idea to consider ways to save more money. Some may find cutting spending onboard is the only way to make a Royal Caribbean cruise financially viable, while others may find cost savings a means of affording more to do onboard (or a second cruise).

Here are some of our recommendations for saving money on your 2017 Royal Caribbean cruise vacation.  Not all of these strategies may be for everyone, but the hope is at least one (if not more) will result in more money in your pocket and that generally makes everyone happier.  

10. Bring your own wine

Did you know that Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on their Royal Caribbean cruise?

Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size and should be brought on in your carry-on luggage. Do not put the wine in your checked luggage.

Wine lovers will be able to bring a couple of bottles of their favorite wine on their cruise at a savings compared to purchasing the wine onboard.  Moreover, bringing your own wine means you will save money on your total bar tab during your cruise.

My favorite aspect of bringing your own wine is if you do not finish the bottle of wine, Royal Caribbean can store the wine for you and deliver it another restaurant at that time.

9. Buy a specialty dining package

Specialty restaurants are an optional way to gastronomically indulge while on your Royal Caribbean cruise, and these days, it seems like specialty dining has never been more popular.  If you have your heart set on trying out places like Sabor, Izumi or Chops Grille, you should consider buying a dining package to save money overall.

Royal Caribbean offers on most, if not all, of its cruise ships specialty dining packages, where guests can dine at 2, 3, 4, or 5 specialty restaurants during their cruise for one low cost. The advantage is these packages cost less than trying to book the same restaurants individually.  Of course, you could forgo specialty dining completely and really save some money, but there is no reason to not save some cash when checking out these favorites.

Your best bet is to purchase the dining packages on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner and to read the terms and conditions of how they function.  There is no question these packages will save you money on specialty dining, provided you were planning on eating out while onboard in the first place.

8. Do most of your drinking on shore

In our experience, Royal Caribbean's drink prices are about what we pay for drinks at many restaurants on land, but there is no question you will save money by drinking at the ports of call you visit compared to onboard.

Bars and restaurants at the ports your Royal Caribbean ship will visit regularly offer cheaper drink prices for beers and cocktails and that can mean big savings if you can wait to enjoy some drinks when on land, compared to on your ship.

Depending on your itinerary, this strategy may be more lucrative than others, but it is a good way to indulge in your favorite mixed drink or cerveza for a lower cost.

7. Look for drink specials onboard

If you are going to enjoy a few cocktails onboard your Royal Caribbean ship, you can avoid paying top dollar for them. When looking at Royal Caribbean drink prices, many guests base their math of whether a drink package makes sense off the regular price for drinks, but in reality, there are drink specials all around the ship that bring that price down.

One of the best ways to get a deal on a cocktail is to order the drink of the day.  The drink of the day is a select cocktail that changes every day, which has about a 20% discount on it and is available from most bars onboard.  You can just ask the bartender or waiter what the drink of the day is and take advantage of those savings.

In addition, individual ships will run their own bar specials, like 2 for 1 deals, drink combo deals and other happy hour discounts.  The exact details of a drink special will vary from ship to ship, and sailing to sailing, but it is important to understand that they exist.  

To find drink specials, consult the Cruise Compass for some advertised deals, as well as walk around bars and look for posted signs.

6. Use credit cards before your cruise

Personal fiscal responsibility aside, proper use of a credit card can definitely save you some money on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Royal Caribbean has its own branded Visa credit card, which allows guests to earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit on future cruises (as well as other rewards too).

For each purchase made with the credit card, you can earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit or even free cruises.

Of course, there are lots of other credit cards out there with various reward programs that can help offset the cost of your cruise.  Credit card reward programs with cash back bonus are popular options. Regardless of which card you use, if you can manage to pay off each month's balance on time, you ought to be rake in the credit card rewards quickly, which can go towards paying for the cruise, or the various costs associated with the cruise (new clothes, airfare, hotels, etc).

5. Book a cruise onboard

This tip may not help you with your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise, but looking ahead to the cruises you will want to take later on, booking onboard at the Royal Caribbean NextCruise office is a great way to essentially get free money.

Royal Caribbean incentives guests to book another cruise while already on a cruise through their NextCruise program.  Essentially, Royal Caribbean will give guests bonus onboard credit on top of existing promotions and discounts that are out there. All you have to do is stop by the NextCruise office onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise and book another vacation.

How much onboard credit you receive will depend on the length of the cruise and stateroom category you book. What is so wonderful about the NextCruise bookings is you can stack the NextCruise bonus on top of most Royal Caribbean promotions, which means a lot of spending money to enjoy onboard.

4. Book spa treatments on port days

Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a treatment that is customized for you and feel rejuvenated.  While the spa is a magical place for those looking to relax, it can also be expensive.  The key to saving money on the spa is to wait for port days to book a treatment.

The spa is open everyday of your cruise, but on days your cruise ship is docked in a port, they will often run much better deals to convince guests to stay onboard and indulge in a treatment.  The Vitality Spa is a business, and when the ship is in port, most guests are off the ship exploring, which means the spa is not nearly as busy.  As a result, they will run different specials that are more lucrative than normal to get folks to book something and stay onboard.

You can inquire about port day specials at any point in your cruise at the Vitality Spa desk and see if it looks like a good deal to you.  Often, the port day spa specials are the best overall values found in the spa.

3. Put your phone into airplane mode

This tip has more to do with not incurring a large bill when you get home.  These days, a smartphone is as essential to bring on a cruise as sunglasses or your passport, but if you do not prepare your device properly, it could cost you a lot of money.

Before your ship is ready to sail away, be sure to put it into airplane mode, which disables your phone's ability to use a cellular signal.  The reason you want to do this is once your cruise ship leaves your home country, your phone will look for a signal outside the regular cellular network and connect to the ship's cell tower, which is known as roaming.  Roaming means you are out of network, and will result in high fees for pretty much anything you do that uses the cellular signal.

You should place the phone into airplane mode, and then be confident in using your phone for taking photos, playing games or even connecting to the ship's WiFi without fear of a monster bill later that month.

2. Skip the souvenir glass

Imagine this: you are on the pool deck, enjoying another beautiful at sea and suddenly you see a drink station set up with the cutest glowing/flashing/colorful glasses.  They are cool looking and the drink inside looks even better, but you are better off asking for that tasty cocktail sans souvenir cup.

The souvenir cups are nice, but it tacks on a few extra dollars to the cost.  You can ask for the same drink without the souvenir glass/mug/pineapple and save on the cost of the drink.  This saves you money, but you still get to enjoy drinks by the pool.

1. Use a travel agent

The best way to ensure you are getting the lowest price on your Royal Caribbean vacation is to use a travel agent. Regardless of if this is your first or fiftieth cruise, a travel agent is a worthwhile "investment," and the best part is they are free to use!

Travel agents provide great service to folks looking to take a Royal Caribbean cruise because they are keyed in on the latest promotions and they can be your best advocate for finding promotions that help you, not just the day you book but every day until final payment.

A good travel agent will be able to assist with the booking process, and give you every single permutation of pricing to figure out which itinerary, stateroom or promotion makes the most sense for you.  I cannot count the time I have saved by having the travel agent jump through the proverbial hoops for me to figure out what is the best deal for my family.

The reality is you only stand to benefit from using a good travel agent, both in convenience and time saved.

Your thoughts

Do you have any of your own money-saving strategies when on a Royal Caribbean cruise, or perhaps saving for a Royal Caribbean vacation? Disagree with any of our tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Royal Caribbean's Turtle Walk and Swim allows guests to support World Wildlife Fund efforts

In:
09Jan2017

Guests on a Royal Caribbean cruise can help save the Earth between time at the pool and or enjoying a show.

Last year, Royal Caribbean announced it was teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create a global partnership to support ocean conservation, and those efforts are spreading to onboard the cruise ships for guests to get involved too.

On Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean allows guests to walk or swim as a group to support the efforts of the WWF.  T-shirts and plush dolls are available for sale, with proceeds from every sale going to WWF's global ocean conservation work.  

The plus doll available is a sea turtle, which is indicative of the type of animals the WWF is working to protect.

A look at what's new in 2017 for Royal Caribbean

In:
09Jan2017

Each year, Royal Caribbean offers its guest new and interesting ways to see the world.  Like so many companies, they continuously look for new ways to innovate and capture the attention of the public in changes to their plans.  With 2017 here, Royal Caribbean is continuing with that tradition some new and notable itinerary and deployments this year.

Notable homeports in 2017

In 2017, the state of Florida will be home to the three largest cruise ships in the world year-round. Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will call Ft. Lauderdale home, and Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral, which is close to Orlando.

Royal Caribbean will also offer expanded Caribbean itineraries from the Northeast in 2017, with Rhapsody of the Seas joining Anthem of the Seas in Cape Liberty, New Jersey. This will be the first time that two Royal Caribbean ships will be sailing from Cape Liberty, offering guests in the New York more ways to explore the award-winning cruise line. 

The largest ship to sail to Cuba from the United States, Empress of the Seas will provide vacationers with the opportunity to discover the timeless sights, sounds and culture of this island nation. The newly revitalized Empress of the Seas will make history for the cruise line with its first visit to Cuba during a 5-night sailing departing Miami on April 19, 2017. 

New and notable itineraries in 2017

In 2017 Royal Caribbean will be offering several new itinerary options. 

  • Empress of the Seas will homeport in Tampa for the 2017 summer season – the cruise line’s first-ever summer program from the destination – offering a series of 4- and 5-night sailings, including port calls in Cuba. 
  • Explorer of the Seas will sail roundtrip from Seattle, and Radiance of the Seas will sail from Vancouver, BC to Seward, AK and then from Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC.
  • Freedom of the Seas will host guests on seven-night sailings through the Western Mediterranean, while Brilliance of the Seas will navigate eight European destinations with a 12-night itinerary, both departing from Barcelona, Spain.
  • Independence of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas will sail the Mediterranean and the Spanish Canary Islands from Southampton, England with itineraries that extend from 7 to 14 nights.
  • Serenade of the Seas and Vision of the Seas will head to northern Europe with a checklist of ports that includes Copenhagen, Denmark, home to the 100 year old Tivoli Gardens amusement park.
  • Adventure of the Seas will sail from Puerto Rico to the most sought-after Southern Caribbean islands on 7-night itineraries, and Liberty of the Seas will remain in Galveston, Texas in 2017, offering a variety of 7-night escapes to the Western Caribbean.

Will you be sailing on any of these new itineraries? Tell us what you have booked for 2017 in the comments below!

Spotted: New Royal Caribbean drink menu design

In:
08Jan2017

Check out this new drink menu design that is available on Independence of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas.

These photos come from the Olive or Twist bar on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. This appears to be a new design for the generic bar menu that is available at a number of different locations onboard the ship.  It offers a variety of cocktails, liquors and beers. 

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 8, 2017

In:
08Jan2017

Happy Sunday! We hope you are having a great weekend and staying warm! Brew yourself a cup of tea or cocoa and get ready to check out this week’s summary of Royal Caribbean news!

If you happen to be a resident of the United Kingdom or Ireland, there is a job opening at Royal Caribbean that you definitely want to check out.

Royal Caribbean UK is looking to hire a summer "intern" to showcase all the fun of a Royal Caribbean cruise on a daily basis.

Royal Caribbean describes this "intern-ship" as a hybrid between being a photographer, documentary maker and a storyteller. A typical day will see the successful candidate immerse themselves in the extraordinary moments, experiences and stories that take place on land and at sea, and share them with the world via Instagram.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 179th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where our podcast listeners share which Royal Caribbean ship is their favorite.

In this episode, listeners call into the podcast to talk with Matt about which Royal Caribbean ship is their favorite and why.

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

Royal Caribbean showcases the career of its SVP of Global Marine Ops.

This Time Tomorrow shares a look at a day in Santorini while aboard Jewel of the Seas.

Eat Sleep Cruise shares why they are excited to cruise on Harmony of the Seas.

E-deliciou-S has a tour of Explorer of the Seas.

Disney Cruise Line Blog has a full review of the 2017 Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean raising prices of certain drinks above what the drink package includes

In:
07Jan2017

Many Royal Caribbean Blog readers have reported recently prices of certain alcoholic beverages have increased to the point they are no longer included with the unlimited alcohol package.

This first reports occurred on Royal Caribbean cruises that sailed around Christmas and New Years, and it was thought the price increase was a result of holiday demand.  Yet, the drink price changes remain in effect on cruises beginning after the holidays.

Royal Caribbean's deluxe drink package only covers beverages that are $12 or less ($13 on Oasis class ships).  Drinks priced higher than the included threshold are charged the difference to the guest.

Pub drink menu on Allure of the Seas. Photo taken January 4, 2017

Pub drink menu on Independence of the Seas. Photo taken January 5, 2017

Olive or Twist bar menu on Independence of the Seas. Photo taken January 6, 2017

Pub drink menu on Adventure of the Seas. Photo taken January 7, 2017

The drink package policy may change in the days or weeks to come to match these drink price increases. However, this is the first time since Royal Caribbean introduced its drink packages that we are seeing a notable amount of drinks priced outside the drink package allowances.

Photo tour of Category CV Central Park View Stateroom on Allure of the Seas

In:
07Jan2017

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, with many different categories of staterooms onboard this magnificent ship.

Today, we have a photo tour of the Category CV Central Park View Stateroom.  Somewhat similar to the Central Park Balcony staterooms, these rooms offer a view of the Central Park neighborhood, but without the balcony experience.

On Allure of the Seas, the stateroom used for this tour is stateroom 9593, which is located closer to the forward elevators on deck 9.

Walking into the room, you will immediately notice the light shining through the large window.

The layout of the room is very similar to a Promenade View stateroom, with a bay window at the end of the room.

Central Park View staterooms measure 194 square feet in size and have two twin beds that convert to a queen-sized bed, considerable closet space, a private bathroom with shower, as well as an expanded living area with desk, drawer space, vanity, and sofa. Each stateroom also has its own flat-screen television, thermostat controlled air-conditioning, internet access, direct-dial telephone, radio, mini bar, individual safe, and 24 hour room service.

The Central Park View staterooms offer a seating area to view Central Park from, which doubles as a couch.

Thanks to Dr. Kris Leppien-Christensen for providing these photos.

Friday Photos

In:
06Jan2017

The new year is here, and with it comes our first Friday Photos of 2017!  Each week, we invite our readers to share with us their favorite Royal Caribbean photos so that we can showcase them right here.

Our first photo this week is from Susan Widdowson, and it is from the bridge wing on Harmony of the Seas.  Definitely a great spot for photos!

Next we have a photo of Harmony of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas in St. Maarten, taken by Ken.  Two giants in one port!

Here is a photo by Ethel Crawford of Adventure of the Seas in Barbados.  Ethel took this shot while onboard Jewel of the Seas.

Our next photo is of Anthem of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas in Cozumel.  Thomas Lemmer shared this photo, and you can see North Star is in the raised position too!

Check out this amazing shot by Bob Carpetner from onboard Harmony of the Seas, when all three Oasis class ships met in one spot.  

We go from the largest ship in the world to one of the smallest in Royal Caribbean's fleet.  Here is Majesty of the Seas, as seen from CocoCay.  John Kreidermacher shared it with us and it is a great perspective!

Navigator of the Seas is playing "peek-a-boo" in this photo by Jose Pena, taken while in Labadee.

That wraps up this week's edition of Friday Photos. If you would like to share your best Royal Caribbean photos with us, use this form to send them in!

Royal Caribbean working on new mobile app to improve guest experiences

In:
05Jan2017

Royal Caribbean is working on revamping its customer's mobile experience with a new mobile app.

Skift is reporting Royal Caribbean is working on a new mobile app that will launch by "mid year" that enables passengers to, "better control their cruise before and during the trip." Speaking with Royal Caribbean CIO Michael Giresi, Skift reports later in 2017, the app is expected to include more features for e-commerce, itinerary planning, conflict management and other options.

Royal Caribbean developed a smartphone app, Royal iQ,  in conjunction with the launch of Quantum of the Seas back in 2014, and has since expanded to a handful of other Royal Caribbean ships.

We reached out to Royal Caribbean for further information on which ships will receive the new app, and if the new app is truly new or an extension of the Royal iQ app that already exists. They declined to provide any details at this time.

What to do when a new Royal Caribbean sale is announced

In:
05Jan2017

Royal Caribbean regularly comes out with a number of new promotions throughout the year, aimed at getting folks to book a cruise. Whether it is their first or fiftieth cruise, these promotions will vary in different ways to incentive guests to give a Royal Caribbean cruise a try.

When a new promotion is announced, here are a few things you should do to ensure you get the best possible deal.

Look at the booking incentives offered

Each promotion Royal Caribbean releases is going to be different, and each promotion has its own set of booking incentives included with the offer.  It is important to understand what the deal offers, and if it might be of benefit to you or not.

As mentioned earlier, Royal Caribbean trots out a number of booking promotions throughout the year, and no one deal will be of great benefit to everyone.  In our experience, different deals benefit different folks, so it is important to evaluate each offer for which benefits mean the most to you.

There are lots of possible booking incentives that Royal Caribbean can include, but the most common kinds are

  • Reduced deposit
  • Onboard credit (money credited to your SeaPass account to be used onboard the ship)
  • Instant savings (money taken off the cost of the cruise fare)
  • Percentage discount off cruise fare
  • Kids sail free (third and fourth passengers are free when sailing with two other passengers in same stateroom)

There are plenty more booking incentives out there, but depending on your cruising party, time of year you choose to cruise, and whether you prefer to get savings off the cruise fare or onboard the ship, the various promotions will be more or less valuable.

Book a cruise (that you've been considering)

The most common step is to put down a deposit to take advantage of a new promotion and it is what often compels many people to jump on a given deal. 

Whether you have been considering a cruise in the past and a new promotion is the "final straw" in convincing you to book, or you ran across a deal and think it is too good to pass up, booking a new cruise reservation with the promotion can make a lot of sense. 

Royal Caribbean's cruise deals are largely regional, with specific offers aimed at residents of certain countries.  The good news is in most of these cases, there are no special discount codes to remember.  Rather, the promotion is automatically applied at the time of booking.  The only booking promotions that may require a special code are discounts offered to residents of certain states or guests in certain occupations that qualify for a discount.  Keep in mind these sorts of discounts are often incompatible with national promotions Royal Caribbean runs, which means you will have to pick which works best for you.  Check any promotion offer's terms and conditions to see combinability rules.

Re-price an existing cruise

Residents of certain countries (such as the United States and Canada) are able to re-book an existing cruise reservation under a new sales promotion, without penalty up until final payment date.

This can sometimes be referred to as "re-pricing", or "price adjustment", or "applying the new promotion" but in reality your previous reservation is being canceled and a new booking is made.  The reason for this is most sales promotions Royal Caribbean releases are for new bookings only, so a quick cancelation and booking gets around that deal.

Keep in mind that if you do cancel and rebook, you may only do so up until the final payment date without incurring a penalty. After the final payment date, Royal Caribbean incurs a penalty for cancelations that often offsets any savings from a new booking promotion.  In addition, any booking incentive made under the prior reservation will be lost and replaced with the new booking incentives that come with the current promotion.  Be sure to evaluate the total cost savings, especially when onboard credits are involved.

The secret weapon: use a travel agent

Regardless of if you are brand new to Royal Caribbean or been on many cruises, this entire process is much simpler if you leverage a good travel agent to help you out.  

A good travel agent is the one that can crunch the numbers, provide options to you and advice on what might be the best course of action.  When it comes to re-pricing a cruise, there are so many factors involved and many guests worry about making a bad decision.  Having a travel agent to provides peace of mind to you, as well as quality service. Here is one such recommended travel agency that specializes in Royal Caribbean. If you are not convinced using a free travel agency that is recommended by Royal Caribbean is right for you, read our post discussing the benefits they offer.

If you are wondering, a travel agent should cost you nothing extra to use.  Royal Caribbean pays their commission, which means their services are complimentary to you.  When choosing a travel agent, be sure to look out for agents that charge any kind of reservation change fees.  It is not a widely used practice, but it can occur in some cases and frankly, you should steer clear of them and rely on knowledgeable travel agents that are here to help you every step of the way, regardless of how many questions or changes you have.

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