Royal Caribbean to use virtual reality with new marketing campaign

In:
10Jul2017

Royal Caribbean Asia is looking to use virtual reality to help show potential cruisers what a cruise experience is all about.

Using Royal Caribbean's new head-mounted display (HMD) virtual reality (VR) experience, dubbed the "HoliDeck", guests can be transported onto a Royal Caribbean International ship and experience these and other Royal Caribbean’s most popular features, without going out to sea. Viewers can choose a variety of interactive games, videos and images from the ‘HoliDeck’ 360° spherical virtual space to explore in depth the entertainment, accommodation and dining options onboard such as the skydiving simulator, Two70 high-tech entertainment space and Main Dining Room, with highly realistic visual effects.

The ‘Holideck’ will soon be available at Royal Caribbean’s booth at the upcoming NATAS Travel Fair in August and other roadshows, as a demo tool for customers to get a virtual taste of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience. The company is also distributing cardboard VR headsets that play a VR video showcasing key features like the Royal Promenade, ice show, skydiving simulator, SeaPlex and Loft Suite, to its key agents in Singapore as well as its International Representatives in the region as the latest sales toolkit.

This is part of Royal Caribbean’s new marketing campaign ‘Where Everyone Gets What They Need’, launched today with a TVC as well to mark the start of its 10th anniversary celebrations in Singapore. The TVC centers on the concept that a Royal Caribbean cruise is an enjoyable and hassle free holiday that appeals to multi-generational families, couples and singles. The line “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from the Rolling Stones classic hit is playfully quashed here by the truly ‘one size fits all’ Royal Caribbean holiday, where all guests can indeed get what they need with the wide range of activities, from the aspiring North Star elevated glass capsule to bumper cars and DreamWorks Entertainment for instance.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 9, 2017

In:
09Jul2017

The weekend is here and that means we have finished up another week with plenty of Royal Caribbean news to share. If you missed any of it, here is your neatly tied wrap-up of it all!

The big story this week was Royal Caribbean will test a new drink policy on a few upcoming Harmony of the Seas cruises where if one adult gets an unlimited alcohol package, all adults in the same stateroom would be required to buy it as well.

The pilot program will be for eight Harmony of the Seas sailings starting September 30, 2017 through November 18, 2017.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

This week's podcast episode is all about things about the cruise experience we have changed our minds about over the years.

Our good friend, Michael Poole, joins us to discuss ways we have changed our outlook on cruising and things we do now that we never used to, or vice versa.

You can listen to the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast for free and hear all our tips, advice and suggestions for a better Royal Caribbean cruise experience.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Porthole Magazine provided a look at Royal Caribbean's entertainment studio.

Cruise Habit shares how much does it cost to dock a cruise ship.

Cruise Critic created a new video with a look at which cruise lines have the best inside cabins.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
07Jul2017

Our last day on Harmony of the Seas is here, and it is another sea day.

I started off my morning with my usual coffee and breakfast from Park Cafe.  I will definitely miss this morning routine!  I even had it out on my balcony today since the sun was not hitting my balcony directly yet.

After a morning of work, I met my wife for a quick lunch at Sabor.  I just had to sneak in one more bowl of guacamole into my cruise before I left.

Note, not my margarita.

I tried the beef tacos today, but I still think the fish tacos are better.

This afternoon, Crown and Anchor Society invited its members to an ice cream social in the main dining room.  I had never seen this sort of event, so I gave it a try.  

It was an informal event, with various officers serving up every flavor of ice cream available onboard the ship.  I guess you could say I had a coffee ice cream break instead of just a coffee break.

After work, my wife and I strolled the ship to take in as much as we could.  We bar hopped around for a bit to get "one last hurrah."

We had definitely slowed down and with very calm ocean around us, it almost felt like we were standing still.  The breeze was even quite calm.

Our last dinner brought us to Izumi. 

My wife and I tried two of their special cocktails.

I attempted to recoup the value in our dining package by ordering two sushi combos and a special roll.  While I took solace in the fact I conquered this food challenge, I took some time to recouperate after dinner.

Looking back

With this being the end of the cruise, I wanted to share some favorites and highlights of the sailing.

  • Favorite specialty restaurant: 150 Central Park
  • Favorite drink: Kraken with Diet Coke on the rocks
  • Favorite show: Columbus, the Musical

Working from onboard

Overall, I was able to remain productive with my work onboard during the cruise.  The Voom internet worked quite well and aside from the occasional drop out here an there, remained steady and quite fast.  

If you have to give presentations or conduct mission critical meetings, I would probably not advise to do it onboard.  However, if the majority of your work can be done with just VPN, email and localized development, working from on the ship is quite easy.

The biggest drawback to working onboard is the knowledge everyone else is having fun and you are stuck doing work.  It is akin to being in summer school while everyone else is out playing.

Central Park stateroom

I loved our Central Park stateroom for the great ambiance.  Having the extra large balcony is nice, although I would have liked to have had a lounge chair to really take advantage of the space.  The room was quiet at night and we never lost any sleep due to noise.

St. John

I was nervous about trying to get to St. John but I am so glad that we tried it out.  The beach was beautiful and the trip was much simpler than I had thought.

We definitely left far too early, but the Carnival celebrations on the island forced our hand.  We could have easily stayed another 2-3 hours and made it back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.

Ultimate Dining Package

I will write up a full review of this soon, but I think the ultimate dining package makes a lot of financial sense, even if it is a lot of food.  On sea days where you get lunch and dinner at specialty restuarants, my wife and I found ourselves overwhelmed with the amount of food.  

For our next cruise on Harmony, I think we will go with a 4 or 5 night dining package just to provide a break in the day-to-day eating.  However, when you break down the costs and what you get, the best bang for the buck is with the Ultimate Dining Package.

Deluxe Drink Package

My wife and I definitely got our moneys worth from the drink package.  Even on days where I did not start drinking until 5pm, hitting 5-6 drinks is easier than it sounds.  Plus, having two premium coffees per day makes hitting that break-even point even simpler.

I am a fan of the drink package for a few basic reasons and it is why I will likely continue to buy it

  1. I pre-paid it before the cruise, thus breaking up the cost of the cruise.
  2. I never had to think, "Do I really want to order a drink? Or should I save my money?".  After a day or two, that mind game infuriates me and having the drink package makes it so much simpler.
  3. Having a drink package means when waiting for a show or event to start, you always have something to do.

Of interest, most of the time waiters would ask us for our room number and look up our drink package that way.  Rather than take our SeaPass cards and individually run the charges and give us a receipt, they would return to the kiosk to mark down the purchase, but never give us a receipt.  It was certainly more convenient for us, but I was surprised to see this almost the norm on the ship.

Stray Observations

  • I walked into Starbucks to look around and noticed this sign posted.  I guess there is a bit of confusion among guests as to what their drink benefits gets them.
  • Check out this stateroom, where a guest set up a hammock. 
  • If you connect a device to the Voom (like a phone) and then log off but keep the phone connected to the wifi, notifications will continue to work.  In fact, my iPhone could still send and recieve iMessages.  I would not advocate relying on this method, but all week my devices would show notifications despite not being actively logged in to Voom.
  • I stumbled on Bingo, so here are the bingo prices

Our next cruise is in September 2017 on Harmony of the Seas for the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, and I will take this opportunity to invite you to join us for that sailing. I cannot wait to start that journey with friends who read this blog.

Thank you to everyone who followed this live blog. I never had so much fun staying up late to write blog posts!

Royal Caribbean testing new unlimited alcohol package rule that requires all adults to purchase a package

In:
07Jul2017

Royal Caribbean is testing a new policy change for its unlimited alcohol package,where all adults in a stateroom will be required to purchase an unlimited alcohol package if one adult in the room purchases it.

Cruise Critic is reporting Harmony of the Seas will test out the new rule over the course of a few sailings, where all passengers 21 years old and older will be required to purchase a beverage package, if at least one other person in their cabin has one.

This pilot program will be for eight Harmony of the Seas sailings starting September 30, 2017 through November 18, 2017.

Evidently the program is being tested as a counter-reaction to too many guests sharing drink package benefits with other guests who have not purchased the drink package.

When Royal Caribbean first introduced their drink packages, they included a stipulation that all adults in the same stateroom must purchase a drink package if one did, but they dropped that requirement shortly thereafter. 

What do you think of this policy change test? Tell us in the comments below!

Symphony of the Seas construction photo update

In:
07Jul2017

We have another batch of fresh photos to share of the construction progress being made on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean released new photos of Symphony of the Seas, which will be the cruise line's fourth Oasis Class ship.  

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Sea Day

In:
06Jul2017

Day six is here and it only our second sea day, which is kind of hard to believe because I am used to having more sea days earlier in the cruise.

Today was another work from the ship day, and I grabbed a latte from Cafe Promenade before going up to Park Cafe for my vegetable breakfast sandwich.  I definitely enjoy mornings where I can walk in Central Park to grab my coffee, rather than just walking to my kitchen at home.

My wife spent her morning reading in the Solarium while I spent the morning doing work.

For lunch, I decided to try a different quick option: the main dining room.  Usually the main dining room may not jump out as a quick choice, but for lunch they have two options: the usual a la carte table service, or a special buffet in the middle of the room.

I opted for the buffet and had a choice of many great hot and fresh foods.

In addition, the buffet has a custom chopped salad station, where you tell the crew member what ingredients you want in the salad and they chop it all up on the spot.

My favorite dish of the buffet was the vegetable Indian curry.  It was a potato based curry, so I grabbed some steamed cauliflower from another buffet station and created my own aloo gobi curry.  Glorious!

Before heading back to "the office," I took a stroll through Central Park.  With the breeze running through Central Park, it was a great time to be onboard and enjoy some fresh air.

I had a quiet afternoon in my stateroom doing my work, while my wife headed up to the spa to have her hair done at the salon.  

I happened to find the stowaway piano player again.  He is a really fun act, where he literally wheels his piano anywhere on the ship and performs.  His piano has some hidden tricks too, which adds to the show.

It was formal night, so we took some photos around the ship at the various photo stops.  Being Diamond members, we each get one free 8x10 print, so no need to let that go to waste!

We decided to grab drinks on the Rising Tide bar because taking a ride is always enjoyable.  In fact, we ended up taking the ride back too.  Each sequence was faster than I remember, and it is still quite fun to experience now and then. 

Our entertainment for the evening was 1887, which is an ice skating show. The performances were quite impressive, and "the bubble guy" is astounding.

For dinner, we headed up to deck 12 for Wonderland.

Wonderland is a specialty restaurant loosely based on the Alice in Wonderland tales.  The food never looks like anything you may have had before, and yet tastes great.  My favorites are the terroir beef and reconstructed caprese salad.

Also the desserts are amazing.


 

Tomorrow is our last day, and it is also a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • We had barely any movement on the first 3 days of the cruise, and since leaving St. Kitts there has been a bit of movement.  It is really minor, perhaps 1 or 2 out of 10, but it is funny how you notice it just because we were used to no movement at all in the ocean.  All in all, another very smooth cruise.
  • My wife purchased a few items in the shops onboard and asked to use her Diamond level Crown and Anchor discount.  The crew member said she needed to see my wife's SeaPass card, despite my wife having her WOWband.  It is a bit surprising because looking up the WOWband should show her Crown and Anchor status in the computer.  
  • As a matter of personal preference, I think I prefer to stay on a deck that is lower than our current deck 12.  I say that because I feel I spend more time on the Royal Promenade, Boardwalk or Central Park.  My wife disagrees, and says if the kids were with us, having quick access to pool, Windjammer and Adventure Ocean would change the dynamic.  I think we all know who's right in this situation.
  • Here is the portrait of Harmony of the Seas' Godmother, Brittany Affolter.  She is super nice and you can find her photo near the Guest Relations desk.
  • The array of Indian-inspired pizza continues at Sorrento's with the Chicken Tikka pizza.
  • I do not believe I have ever dined at Wonderland yet where the waiter did not insist on ordering for us.  Menus at Wonderland seem to be just for decoration.

Royal Caribbean Secrets: hidden lounge deck on Harmony of the Seas

In:
06Jul2017

Along the jogging deck on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas are two lesser-known areas for guests to sit back, and enjoy the view of the ocean from the comfort of a lounge chair.

Many guests may know that on the aft of Oasis Class ships are lounge chairs to enjoy the view of the wake, but on Harmony of the Seas there is a small seating area on both sides of the forward section on deck 5 of the ship to relax in.

These areas do not have a name mentioned to reference them, but they are just off the running track on both sides.  Some runners choose to use these areas as a break point, while others simply bring their coffee or book to enjoy the view.

This area is open to all guests, and can be a secluded spot on Harmony of the Seas to get away from lots of other guests.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - St. Kitts

In:
05Jul2017

Our fifth day brings us to the island of St. Kitts, and it is also our last port stop.

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to get off the ship and see the island because I had to work today.  From the looks of it, I would say the weather made for another beautiful day for many that chose to take various excursions around the island.

My morning began with coffee and breakfast at Park Cafe.  I opted to go there to enjoy my favorite breakfast food on Harmony: the vegetable breakfast sandwich.

My wife spent her morning doing some shopping in the Port Zante dockyard area.  She picked up some clothing for our daughters and a bag for herself.

I had a productive morning of coding, which culminated with my wife's return from on shore to enjoy lunch together.

We went up to the Windjammer for lunch.  Being this is a port day, there were not many options to consider other than the Windjammer.  I particularly liked the Thai Chicken Curry, while my wife opted for the pasta station.

After lunch my wife tried her hand at the Perfect Storm slides. She said the champagne bowl slide was not open (slated to open later in the afternoon), but she did try the racer slides.


 

She found the blue to be faster than the yellow.  With both slides, she found them to be a longer ride than she expected and she too got stuck in both. She did find it was better to push off the top of the slide with your hands than doing the "butt scootch" because you can vault yourself with your hands to get back up to speed.

I had a quiet afternoon, with the highlight getting more coffee from Cafe Promenade.  

I also got a nice dessert delivery in the afternoon.  Thank you snack gods!

I wrapped up my workday and headed down to the On Air Club to try something brand new: A Royal Mystery escape room game.

This is a new escape room game that was added to Harmony of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.  The show is or will be added to other ships too.  

Essentially, it is a game where teams compete to solve a number of riddles, clues and games that will lead them to solving a murder mystery. Think the classic game of "Clue", mixed with puzzles.  

Our team did not win, but it was still a fun time.  I found some of the puzzles in A Royal Mystery to be quite difficult and after learning the solutions later on, would have never figure them out.  Unlike Escape the Rubicon (the other escape room experience on Harmony of the Seas), there is no additional cost for A Royal Mystery.

The escape room worked up an appetite, so we headed to Central Park for our dinner at Jamie's Italian.

This is my first time dining at Jamie's Italian on a non-Quantum class ship and one thing I noticed is the menu has a few variations from other Jamie Italian locations on Royal Caribbean.  That is a welcome change, since seldom do we find menu differences between specialty restaurants across the fleet.

For my entree, I picked the spaghetti puttanesca (minus the anchovies).   It was terrific!

Our server, Caterina, was wonderful and made very good recommendations.  She did, however, warn me before I ordered a drink she did not like but I insisted on anyway.  I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for drinks, but it tasted so bad! Alas, some folks on Facebook indicated they enjoyed it, so I suppose negroni is an acquired taste. 

We grabbed a few cocktails after dinner around the ship, and even met the characters from Trolls (to the chagrin of our kids back home).

Our evening entertainment is my favorite show on any Royal Caribbean ship, Columbus, the Musical.

Much of the cast has changed since we saw it in November, but this cast absolutely nailed it!  The show is such fun, and I love the songs and comedy mixed in.  Hoping we can catch the final showing tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another sea day onboard the world's largest cruise ship.

Stray Observations

  • There is just one coffee size at Cafe Promenade and Park Cafe. I would call the one size "medium".
  • According to the crew member at Cafe Promenade, they added the coffee menu behind the bar on this sailing.
  • Our cruise director, Abe Hughes, had a cameo in Columbus.
  • Check out the line for guests to see Trolls.  I spoke briefly with the crew members escorting them out, and they indicated it is just the Trolls that get this kind of reaction.  If you do not have kids under the age of around 12, you wont understand.  
  • The drink of the day is the margarita azul.

A change of heart on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
05Jul2017

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

Episode 205  is now available to listen to, where Matt and Michael discuss ways their cruising habits have changed over the years.

As time passes, people discover new experiences and may even change their minds about past ones.  When it comes to cruising, the same basis holds true.  In this episode, the cast discuss how their own cruising preferences have evolved .

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 205. 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!

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - St. Thomas

In:
04Jul2017

Our second port stop brings us to St. Thomas, a beautiful island in the United States Virgin Islands.

We got up at about 7:30am and got ourselves ready. We knew we had to be ready to go early to take advantage of our time in port.  We grabbed a quick breakfast in Park Cafe, which coincided nicely with Harmony of the Seas arriving into Charlotte Amalie harbor. 

We grabbed some coffee from Cafe Promenade to watch our docking in Crown Bay.  I do not recall if I have ever been on a Royal Caribbean cruise that docked in Crown Bay, and not Havensight.  

Being that it is the Fourth of July (Independence Day for the United States), the ship and crew are in the spirit of the holiday.

The ship pulled into port right on time and we were cleared to go ashore shortly thereafter.  No lines at all to get off the ship.  In fact, I was literally the first person off the ship!  

Once off the ship we took a taxi to Red Hook to catch a ferry to St. John.  The taxi dispatcher warned us of long lines and possible delays due to the Fourth of July celebration in St. John.  We decided to try it anyway, and off we went.

The taxi to Red Hook is perhaps 20 minutes long, although it goes over some steep mountains that offer quite a view, or a lot of anxiety (depending on your mood).

The line for tickets at Red Hook looked long, but it moved quickly and we purchased our tickets and boarded a ferry.  Usually ferries leave every hour, on the hour, however due to the demand to go today for July 4th, they were running ferries continuously.

The ferry ride itself was short. I think it is listed at 20 minutes, but I think it is closer to 10-15 minutes. There was a slight chop on the water, but no issues with getting sea sick at all.

In St. John, the entire town was engulfed in its Fourth of July celebration, which more closely resembled Carnival.  Nonetheless, we went to find a taxi. 

It took us a while to find one, because we were unaware where to go to find one.  Many streets were closed off for the festivities, so we had to do some searching.  We found the taxi stand and hopped on a taxi to bring us to the beach.

St. John is mostly a large U.S. National Park, and there are many beaches to visit.  We picked Cinnamon Bay beach based on the recommendation of Disney Cruise Line Blog writer, Scott.  While Trunk Bay is often the popular choice, Cinnamon Bay is very close by and far less crowded.

Walking into Cinnamon Bay, it looks more like a forest than a beach.  You walk down a path to the beach area, which is open for all to enjoy.  There was no beach entrance fee either.

There is a small restaurant, gift shop and beach facility store.  We rented two chairs for $10 each and went to find a spot on the beach.

I have to say, I was really impressed by Cinnamon Bay.  The beach is pristine, water crystal clear and a warm 80-something degrees.

It was pure bliss relaxing at Cinnamon Bay.  My wife and I enjoyed the surf, along with just relaxing on the beach.  We even grabbed a lunch from the food truck that serves a couple of choices, plus plenty of snacks and drinks.

After a few hours, we decided to head back to the ship. We would have liked to stay longer, but we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get back.  No sense in adding a heart attack for fear of missing the ship to our list of activities.

The return trip was essentially just like the way there, but reversed.  All in all, a great time!  I think all the great things people say about St. John is absolutely true and I would love to return.  My wife even said we could easily bring the kids with us next time.

My only complaint on the beach we went to was there is no food/drink service, and little to no shade.  Keep that in mind when planning your day.

On our way back to the ferry, we got a sampling of the celebration happening in St. John.

We got back to the ship around 3:30pm, and did the usual post-shore excursion shower and dressing.  

We had dinner reservations at 8pm at Izumi, but our light lunch earlier left us quite famished, so we asked if we could dine earlier at Izumi. The staff could not have been more accommodating.

With the Ultimate Dining Package, each guest gets $50 to spend. Plus, you can combine the stipend for the table.  Fifty dollars is a lot for Izumi, and it afforded me the opportunity to indulge even more than I would if I was paying cash.

Following dinner we went to the Schooner Bar to enjoy music that was right up my wife's alley.  She is a major Broadway fan, and the musical conductor for Grease and Columbus the Musical was playing jazz music for an hour, followed by a series of Broadway songs sung by the cast of Grease.

We had seen similar performances on Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, and it is one of our favorite shows to see. Royal Caribbean has so much wonderful live music onboard, and seeing this kind of a performance is always a treat.

The Royal Promenade transformed into Fourth of July central, with lots of decorations and live performances to coincide with holiday.

All the fun in the sun started to catch up with us, so we called it a night.

Tomorrow is another sea day.

Stray Observations

  • There were special Fourth of July cocktails available at all bars.


  • As an Indian food lover, I was pleased to see chicken tandoori pizza at Sorrentos.
  • Voom performance has been exquisite thus far.  That puts my mind at ease with three more work days coming up.
  • Check out this Fourth of July cake. Note the car in the background that provides scale.

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