Photo tour of Owner's Suite on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

In:
01Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

The Owner's Suite on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas is a popular choice for guests who want to indulge in a suite experience. It offers a lot of living space, and the Sky Class benefits of the Royal Suite Class.

This photo tour comes to us from Royal Caribbean Blog readers Elizabeth & Brian Robinson, who recently sailed on Harmony of the Seas.

These photos are from stateroom 11644. The Owner's Suite offers 556 square feet of living space, along with a balcony that comes in at 243 square feet.

Owner's Suite staterooms on Harmony of the Seas include Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King a private balcony living area with table and sofabed private bathroom with tub and two sinks marble entry large closets an interactive flat-screen TV mini-safe radio telephone and a hairdryer. 

Being a suite, this type of stateroom qualifies for the Royal Suite Class Sky Class amenities, which includes: Concierge Services (Priority reservations priority theater seats access to Suite Sun Deck access to Exclusive Suite Beach on private islands priority boarding and departure and more); luxury pillowtop mattress luxury Hermes Ferragamo or L''Occitane bath amenities all-day access to Coastal Kitchen special in-suite dining Suite Lounge specialty bottled water complimentary: VOOM internet Spa Thermal Room access (1-day pass) exclusive access to Signature Activities in-suite welcome amenity and more.

All photos by Brian Robinson

Friday Photos - November 30, 2018

In:
30Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

If you're ready for a mental escape to a Royal Caribbean cruise, then you're at the right place because we have some great Royal Caribbean photos our readers have sent in.  Each week we ask our readers to send us their best Royal Caribbean photos to showcase right here on the blog so be sure to send yours in too!

Our first photo is by John & Debbie Blahnik of the sun setting as Oasis of the Seas is about to leave Falmouth, Jamaica.

Paul Jordan sent in this photo from Explorer of the Seas, while docked in Melbourne, Australia.

Here is a look at the Grand Suite on Grandeur of the Seas, as seen by David Ep.

Phillip took this photo of Harmony of the Seas docked in Labadee.

Wayne Stephens took a moment to admire the hand-carved carousel on Oasis of the Seas.

Henry Greenfield took a photo in Cozumel of a "living statue".

James Woodward took a photo of the Tidal Wave water slide in action while on Liberty of the Seas.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their photos this week.  Be sure to send your photos in as well by using this form.

El Cozumeleno Beach Resort Day Pass All Inclusive review in Cozumel, Mexico

In:
29Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

One of the most popular ways to spend time in Cozumel is by going to an all-inclusive beach, and there is no shortage of choices.  So when I ran across the El Cozumeleno resort offering day passes, I had to check it out for myself.

Photo by Cruise Life Rick

El Cozumeleno is an all-inclusive resort that offers day passes for purchase, which grant access to the hotel grounds.  This includes the beach, pool, dining facilities, snorkeling, mini-golf and more.  It looks like the total package, but how would it stack up to the many other all-inclusives in Cozumel?

Description

Located on the north end of Cozumel, El Cozumeleno is not in the usual area where you find the most popular all-inclusives.  El Cozumeleno is one of many hotel resorts on the north side that cater primarily to guests who are staying in Cozumel multiple nights.

 

The resort advertises itself as offering a lot for your time and money. There is a huge selection of activities, options and ways to spend your day while on a cruise in Cozumel. Note that this is not a Royal Caribbean excursion, and can be booked via one of many third-party websites that sell day passes.

Checking in at the front desk, you are greeted with a welcome drink and explanation of what's included with your stay.  Essentially, you have access to anything a hotel guest would have, minus pool towels.

Here is exactly what is included with your day pass:

  • All food and open bar
  • Snorkel gear
  • 5 swimming pools, Jacuzzis and wading pools
  • Restaurant a la carte and buffet style right on the beach
  • Restaurant a la carte (air conditioned)
  • 5 Bars
  • Diving class in the pool
  • Mini golf & tennis court
  • Game room - pool table, table games, table tennis, table soccer
  • Fitness Center
  • Beach chairs
  • Swimming pool lounges
  • Sandy beach and great snorkel area
  • Kids club activities program in a special designed kids club
  • Wi-Fi in lobby area

As is the case with many all-inclusive resorts, you head outside and pick a few chairs to be "your spot" for the day.  There is ample seating along the beach, or in one of the pool areas. 

There are two main beach areas at El Cozumeleno, with one being primarily for enjoying the sun and surf, and the other beach used more for snorkeling (although there is plenty of seating there as well).

In addition, El Cozumeleno has a sprawling pool complex, which is also split up into two areas. The main pool is massive, with various depths and even part of the pool completely under a shaded area for those that want refuge from the sun.

There is a swim-up bar, as well as roaming waiter service.  The wait staff will consistently stop by to bring you any food or drink you would want.

If you prefer, there is a buffet restaurant between the two pools that is convenient to the beach or the pools.  

Speaking of food, there is a lot of it with a good mix of Mexican favorites and more familiar American fare.

El Cozumeleno offers programming and services beyond the usual beach and pool activities.  There is a child care facility adjacent to the pool, such as programming for all guests (Spanish language lessons, water aerobics, etc).

There is also a mini-golf course and playground near the pools.  The pools, beach and facilities mentioned are all relatively close to each other, which keeps things manageable in terms of not venturing off too far from anyone.

Comments

In my opinion, there are four components that make a great all-inclusive beach experience:

  1. Well-kept and appealing aquatic facilities
  2. Excellent waiter service
  3. Freshly made and tasty food
  4. Fair price

Having visited a number of all-inclusive resorts in Cozumel, often there is one or two of those components that a resort struggles with and it ends up dampening the experience.  I was pleasantly surprised to find El Cozumeleno bucked that trend and hit all four targets.

First and foremost, the resort is quite lovely.  It is large without feeling overwhelming, and offers plenty of space on the beach and by the pool.  Their pool facility is particularly impressive, with a large amount of space and nicely set up.  We found ample seating, both in the shade or in the sun. 

The beach offers palapas, hammocks, beach chairs and like the pool, there is lots of seating.  Between the two beaches, you should find a spot to enjoy the day.

Equally impressive was the food and service at El Cozumeleno.  We had a team of two waiters who were essentially "assigned" to our group and would regularly come around to see if we needed anything.  In my opinion, you want waiter service that is borderline annoying just so that you are not the one hunting them down to make a request. The waiter team was quite attentive and always had a smile when taking a new drink order, or bringing us our fifth order of chips and salsa.

Speaking of chips and salsa, the food came out fresh and tasted great.  Being in Mexico, I expect a certain level of authentic fare that should exceed the kind of Mexican food we can get in the United States. Their ceviche and fish tacos were excellent, along with fresh salsa.  They offer food like pizza or burgers, which were nothing special but certainly not inedible either.

After spending a day at El Cozumeleno, I believe I have found the new gold standard of all-inclusive beach days in Cozumel.  Their facility was superior to Nachi Cocum, and their service definitely equaled it.  The food offered rivaled any other all-inclusive beach in Cozumel, and I was all too willing to order multiple dishes while there.

At the time of our visit, the price was $54.99 per adult and $25.99 for children aged 3-11 years old (2 and under are free). The price mirrors most other all-inclusive beaches in Cozumel, and is an excellent value.

In short, El Cozumeleno is the best overall all-inclusive resort we have visited in Cozumel to date. Between the beach, pool, food and service, it is "the total package" and I instantly wanted to go back on a future visit to Cozumel. It offers enough for families to enjoy, while still retaining a sense of relaxation if you want to find a quiet corner of the resort.

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade restaurant review on Symphony of the Seas

In:
28Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

From time to time, Royal Caribbean tries out a new specialty restaurant concept, with Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade the latest addition to the fleet.

The idea is simple, capitalize on the popular sports bar and pub food trend and offer Royal Caribbean guests some simple, yet tasty food with plenty of opportunity to watch or play.

Royal Caribbean felt so strongly about Playmakers, that the restaurant is at the heart of the re-deisgn of the Boardwalk neighborhood on Symphony of the Seas.  With as much buildup as this restaurant as had, I had to try it out for myself.

Atmosphere

When you hear of a sports bar that offers great food, tons of televisions and games abound, undoubtedly land-based restaurants of similar ilk must come to mind.  It is only natural for any new restaurant one may try to be compared to other similar venues.

Located in the Boardwalk, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade takes up one entire side of the neighborhood and features an open-air venue that is designed to tempt guests to walk in and check things out.

The restaurant features plenty of seating, inside and outside.  The outdoor seating is your typical table and chairs, while indoors there is a variety of seating.  Bar seating, booths, benches, high tops and more.  This is a casual dining venue, first and foremost.

At each table, you may find a game like Connect 4 or a peg game board.  Speaking of games, Playmakers is also home to a mini-arcade.  Skeeball, video games and more are part of the restaurant experience.  

Given the name, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of televisions around the restaurant to watch sporting events. Royal Caribbean says there are 30 televisions around Playmakers.

Eats

Playmakers wants you entertained while you are there, ordering plenty of food and drinks.  Royal Caribbean created a whole new menu to enjoy while you spend time inside.

When you talk about a sports bar, beers and cocktails are going to be a big part of the experience.  Playmakers offers a lot of domestic and international beers, including a good amount of craft beers.  

If beer is not your style, there is a full bar at Playmakers as well.  Any guest can drop in by the bar and grab a drink without having to dine there.  A large bar allows guests to stop in to get a drink and go, or stay and enjoy a game or two.  You can also order food from the bar, which provides flexibility if “just one drink” turns into “I can’t believe this game went to double overtime!”.

While the drinks are a big component to what Playmakers offers, the food served up is what will likely bring many to try Playmakers.

Being a sports bar, Royal Caribbean came up with a menu that reflects the kind of casual comfort food you might find at popular restaurants of a similar theme.  Burgers, wings, fried chicken and the like are at the heart of the menu.  No surprises on this menu, but that should not be a surprise in itself.

The Playmakers menu is priced a la carte, which means you only pay for what you order.  Like Izumi, that means you can drop in for a snack, or opt for a full meal.  That kind of flexibility is a major strength of Playmakers, since not everyone who wants to enjoy specialty dining wants a drawn-out meal.  

We stopped by Playmakers on a few occasions to sample some of the menu.  Depending on if you are going for just a small bite or a big meal, there is plenty to choose from.

The best item on the menu has to be the Playmakers Burger.  A double beef patty on a brioche bun makes arguably the best burger served on Royal Caribbean’s fleet.  Yes, better than even Johnny Rockets across the Boardwalk.

If wings are your thing, you can choose between 12, 24 or 50 wings across four different buffalo sauces.  If you are feeling dangerous, try the Playmakers Challenge: 100 of their hottest wings to be eaten in 45 minutes or less.  If you can do it all by yourself, you can get a special t-shirt to commemorate the accomplishment.

A perfect option for eating at the bar for part of a game might be their sliders. Choose between a portobello mushroom, pulled pork or meat patty, or go for a combination of them all.

In addition to all of that, there is still nachos, loaded potato skins, chicken sandwich and more.

In addition, there is a mini-arcade that comprises part of the restaurant.  The appeal may be a combination of giving the kids something to do while their parents watch a game, or perhaps an opportunity for adults to engage in some competitive shenanigans after a few drinks.  Eitherway, there are plenty of games 

Overall

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade is not a revolutionary idea, but it is a great representation of what a modern sports bar is all about.  Royal Caribbean seemed to have read the tea leaves of what is popular these days, and came up with a fun casual experience that fits nicely into the Boardwalk.

What we love best about Playmakers is the extensive menu, ample television viewing opportunities, and inclusion of games.  It is a dead simple concept, and it works.

Price-wise, there is decent value with the offerings on the Playmakers menu.  Other than the sliders, everything on the menu offers a large serving and I think in many cases, you can easily share the food with others.  

Without a doubt, the experience is as critical to the draw of Playmakers as the food.  Royal Caribbean bills Playmakers as the spot to watch your favorite team play.  

While there are a lot of televisions and ample spots to watch a game, the realities of television contracts, blackout rules and international viewerships limit how much you might want to actually watch.  Without getting into a lengthy discussion of how Royal Caribbean can legally show a game, it is important to note that the television programming tends to show primarily international competitions that most Americans may find less than enticing.  Cricket, soccer, and international basketball are quite commonly shown.

Thanks to Ron Hiller for this photo.

That being said, on football Sundays, college football Saturdays and other evenings, you will find more familiar games shown.  It is impossible to know which games will be shown on your sailing, but Royal Caribbean does make an effort to showcase the more popular sporting events, especially during the playoffs.

In a nutshell, Playmakers is a good choice for a casual meal, preferably while watching a sporting event.  The clichéd saying, "come for the game, stay for the food" holds up, and I think the food stands on its own even if there is only cricket or curling on the TVs. 

What are your thoughts on Playmakers? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

Royal Caribbean invests in biometrics to streamline check-in and boarding for cruises

In:
28Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has partnered with an industry leader in the field of biometrics to provide frictionless arrivals for guests in the boarding procedure.

Tascent, Inc. announced it has been selected by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to deliver an end-to-end biometric solution utilizing face recognition to streamline the check-in and boarding process for its travelers. To take advantage of Royal Caribbean’s new face recognition-enabled Expedited Arrivals process, passengers can register from the comfort of their own home and then breeze through check-in and boarding upon arrival at the terminal.

The goal of this technology is a streamlined, efficient process and personal welcome for travelers.

Tascent has been working with Royal Caribbean's Excalibur team, and has already implemented the first phase of its work, which was first utilized by the new Celebrity Edge in Terminal 25 of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Integrated with Tascent Enterprise Suite and Royal Caribbean's passenger systems, this enables seamless, “on-the-move” recognition of registered passengers as they arrive for their cruise. In combination, this capability will result in a streamlined, efficient process and personal welcome for travelers.

Spotted: Casino and slot play credits for pre-cruise purchase

In:
27Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean recently added a new casino and slot play pre-cruise purchase option to its Cruise Planner site.

Located under the Internet & More section, guests can buy $500, $1000 or $2000 in credit and receive bonus slot or Casino free play credit, along with a bonus scratch card.

Royal Caribbean to introduce bid-based stateroom upgrade program

In:
26Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is introducing a new bid-based stateroom upgrade program, known as RoyalUp.

RoyalUp begins on November 28, 2018. Guests will receive an email if their sailing is eligible and they will have the opportunity to browse through staterooms available for upgrade on their sailing. They will select the dollar amount they are willing to pay for the upgrade and submit their bid.

The RoyalUp offer amount is per person for the entire duration of the cruise. Offers are based on two occupants per stateroom - only the first and second guest will be charged. If there are more than 2 guests in the reservation (between 2 and 5 passengers), the offer amount submitted will be per guest but only for the first and second guest on the reservation.

Guests cannot choose the location or specific features of the upgraded cabin, as it depends on availability.

   

In terms of groups,  Royal Caribbean cannot guarantee that all reservations traveling together will be upgraded. Under the circumstance that all reservations are upgraded, Royal Caribbean cannot guarantee that all the upgraded cabins will be close together.

Guests can make bids across multiple categories to increase your chances of having an offer accepted. If using a travel agent, they can handle the entire bidding process for you.

 

Upgrade bids can be accepted anytime from the moment it is submitted up until 2 days prior to voyage departure. You will receive an email notifying you of the accepted offer.

Guests can modify or cancel the offer up until 2 days prior to departure, provided that the offer has not already been accepted by RCI and provided their credit card has not been charged.

What do you think of this new offer? Will you be using it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Royal Caribbean offering fixed price pre-cruise menu option for Izumi

In:
26Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Guests looking to dine at Izumi can choose from a new option prior to their cruise that allows them to enjoy prix-fixe menu.

This new option is available to book via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site and is not available onboard.

The prix-fixe menu includes:

  • 1 Miso Soup
  • 1 starter
  • Choice of one 1 Signature Roll or a flavorful bowl of Ramen.
  • 5 pieces of your favorite type of Sashimi or Nigiri
  • 1 dessert 

The cost online appears to be $49.99 per person.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Seven - Nassau

In:
24Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

The last day of the cruise and the conclusion to nearly two weeks on Symphony of the Seas is here.

Unlike yesterday, I wanted to get up early and take advantage of my remaining time on Symphony.  In fact, we decided to skip going off the ship in Nassau, primarily to get more time onboard.  Moreover, we will be back three times in March on Mariner of the Seas, so there is no shortage of time to explore Nassau in my future.

Weather-wise, the day was perfect.  Bright sunny skies and not very hot.  

We started off with breakfast at Park Cafe.  Park Cafe is my go-to spot for breakfast on Symphony because it offers the basics, is quick, and rarely crowded.  Perfect for grabbing something as you leave to go on an excursion, or just for a relaxed start to your day.

Our goal for today was simple: enjoy as much time on Symphony as possible.  The simple truth of Oasis Class ships is you cannot do it all, but you can certainly try your best to get close.

There are a ton of activities onboard and it is what brings me back time and time again.

After breakfast we went played actor and movie trivia, where you see a photo from a scene in a movie, and have to identify the actor and film title.  I thought we were doing well, but lost badly to another team.  Oh well.

Of course, with it being the last day of the cruise, something everyone has to do is pack.  It is not fun, but I feel it’s best to do it earlier in the day so it’s not looming over the rest of the day or evening.

We decided to grab a bite to eat for lunch at Playmakers.  I like Playmakers for a casual and quick meal, especially if you are in the mood for pub food.

My wife ordered the fresh baked cookie dessert and it was delicious!

With the beautiful weather in Nassau, we enjoyed our afternoon onboard by spending time on the pool deck.  There is so much focus on the activities on ships like Symphony, but taking it easy and having fun by the pool is a great way to spend time on a cruise ship too.

As day turned to night, we enjoyed one last dinner in the main dining room and then bid farewell to friends onboard.

Overall, Symphony was a fantastic ship and I loved every minute onboard.  Symphony continues the tradition Harmony of the Seas started by offering some of Royal Caribbean’s best features and dining.  

Between cruising with my family and the friends that felt like family who joined us for the RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise, I will look back fondly on my time onboard. 

Thank you to everyone who followed along with this live blog.  It was a real thrill for me to share so much about this ship with all of you.

Royal Caribbean Cyber Monday offer has up to 40% off pre-cruise purchases

In:
23Nov2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 40% off pre-cruise purchases made this weekend during its Cyber Monday offer.

Dates: November 23, 2018 - November 27, 2018
Sailing Window: Sailings from November 30, 2018 - December 30, 2019

  • BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off
    • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
    • Deluxe Beverage Package. Discount Varies by Ship.
    • Refreshment Package: 40% off onboard prices.
  • SHORE EXCURSIONS: Save up to 25% off
    • Save up to 25% on select tours on select sailings. Discount varies by ship.
  • INTERNET: Up to 60% off on select sailings
    • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship
    • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4, Device(s): Discount varies by ship
  • DINING: Save 20% off
    • Chops Grille Dinner: Save 20% off. Discount varies by ship.
    • Izumi Dinner: Save 20% off. Discount varies by ship.
    • Ultimate Dining Package: Buy One, Get One 50% off. Discount varies by ship.

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