Restaurant Review: Silk on Quantum of the Seas

In:
24Dec2014

On Royal Caribbean's brand new Quantum of the Seas, you will find the complimentary restaurant Silk that offers a variety of Asian dishes.

Silk offers Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian dishes in one restaurant.  Being a lover of Asian food, I had to try this on my recent Quantum of the Seas cruise.

Atmosphere

Located on deck 4 on Quantum of the Seas, Silk is located in the aft of the ship across from American Icon Grill.  Walking into Silk is a lot like walking into the other three complimentary restaurants where there is a large foyer that leads into a larger dining room.  

Silk's look encompasses a lot of yellows, oranges and browns in color in a restaurant that has touches of India and the Far East.  When you walk in, you'll definitely know it's an Asian restaurant but without being able to pin point which kind, and that's definitely what Royal Caribbean was going for.

The main dining area is a large room with smaller alcoves on the sides that offer mostly tables and a few booths as well.  Once you dine in any of the complimentary dining rooms, you will start noticing the similar layouts but the decorations and color scheme help keep each from feeling like a copy of the other.

Eats

Once you're seated in Silk, you will get the menu to choose from. There's food from India, China, Thailand and Vietnam but it felt like it greatly skewed towards Thai and Chinese moreso than others.

I was seated at a table with other passengers and we all decided to order one of each of the appetizers to try, which is a great option for the group.  In the middle of the table is a lazy susan that you can put dishes on and share them easily with others.

Each of the appetizers were just large enough to probably be able to share with another person.  For our group, it was great to be able to share these dishes and many of them lent themselves for sharing.  

The big winners were the Vietnamese Tacos, Hot Ramen Noodle soup and chicken wings.  I especially liked the green papaya salad, which was a surprise hit.  I just found myself getting more and more of it.  

When it comes to Asian food, some people are concerned about the food being too spicey.  Most of the food was pretty tame in terms of spice and the dishes are more Americanized versions of these dishes rather than authentic recreations.  You can also tell the wait staff to keep it mild when you order.

For dinner, I had to go with the only Indian dish on the menu, the chicken tikka masala.  I'm a self-described Indian food nut and I always sample a lot of Indian food in the Windjammer when I get the chance.

Sadly, the chicken tikka masala was the only Indian dish on the meny on the evening I was there so it was an easy choice for me.

I really liked my choice because it was a good curried chicken dish that had soft pieces of chicken in a great curry.  The coconut jasmine rice was wonderful with the curry (you have to mix the rice with the curry to really appreciate it) and I ate every single morsel of food off that plate.

The other passengers I was dining with had mixed reactions to their main dishes.  I don't think anyone hated their food, but they weren't favorites.  

Overall

I was a little disappointed in my meal at Silk, perhaps because I had such high expectations for it.  If it were up to me, I'd eat nothing but Asian food at home so hearing about a dedicated Asian restaurant on Quantum of the Seas got me excited.

There were definitely a few dishes that were quite good but I left Silk with the knowledge this wouldn't be my favorite restaurant onboard.

My issues aside, I still think I'd be fine eating here on another night, it just wasn't the home run I was hoping for.  Silk offers a mix of good and average dishes.  Since it's complimentary, I'd suggest over ordering so you can sample a little of everything and figure out what you really enjoy.

Royal Caribbean postpones Dynamic Dining on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas

In:
24Dec2014

Royal Caribbean has delayed the introduction of Dynamic Dining to its two largest cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

There's no new date when Dynamic Dining will be activitated, but Royal Caribbean did indicate it will occur "later this year".

In the meantime, both ships will continue to serve traditional dining experiences in the early and late dining seating.

Royal Caribbean had announced in August Dynamic Dining would expand to Oasis of the Seas and during a recent refurbishment, the ship's main dining room was re-arranged to create the Dynamic Dining restaurants.

Then in October, Allure of the Seas was included in the Dynamic Dining lot as well.

Dynamic Dining is the new twist on traditional cruise ship dining.  Instead of a main dining room with fixed dining times, smaller restaurants are spread all over the cruise ship to offer more choice in ambiance and cuisine.  Some restaurants will be complimentary while others will have a cover charge to dine there.

Royal Caribbean changes Freedom of the Seas December 28 sailing due to propulsion problem

In:
24Dec2014

Royal Caribbean has changed the itinerary it had originally planned for Freedom of the Seas due to a propulsion problem that the ship is suffering from.

As with the last few sailings, Royal Caribbean has changed the itinerary due to a "small restriction on her top speed".  All scheduled ports on the itinerary – CocoCay, Montego Bay, GeorgeTown and Cozumel – will remain, with adjustments made to the time spent in port.

The new itinerary will have Freedom of the Seas

  • December 28: Depart Port Canaveral at 4:30pm
  • December 29: CocoCay from 7:30am to 3:30pm
  • December 30: Sea Day
  • December 31: Montego Bay from 9:00am to 5:00pm
  • January 1: Grand Cayman from 7:00am to 2:30pm
  • January 2: Cozumel from 10:00am to 4:00pm
  • January 3: Sea Day
  • January 4: Return to Port Canaveral at 6:00am

As with other altered cruises due to this propulsion problem, and we've heard Royal Caribbean has given its passengers onboard credit as an apology for the change.  A letter with the credit amount will be delivered to each stateroom.

Labadee vs. CocoCay on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
24Dec2014

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

Episode 73 is available for downloading where friends join Matt to "debate" the ultimate Royal Caribbean fan question: CocoCay or Labadee.

For a little fun, Matt is joined by listeners Michael and Shawn to discuss the virtues of Royal Caribbean's private islands and which one we prefer.  It's a fun spirited discussion of what each offers and why we like it.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 73. 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!

US Government extends Royal Caribbean temporary exemptions to air pollution laws

In:
23Dec2014

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Coast Goard authorized formal exemptions to Royal Caribbean that will give the cruise line time to develop and install exhaust gas scrubber systems on its cruise ships. 

Royal Caribbean announced earlier this week it was adding the scrubbers to 13 of its cruise ships from the current base of six ships that have the technology.

Royal Caribbean’s research program has developed exhaust gas scrubber technology that has the potential to provide greater emission reductions than would be achieved using only ECA compliant low-sulfur fuel, and at a much lower cost.  Under this research program extension, a total of 13 Royal Caribbean ships covering a range of vessel sizes and applications will begin using these scrubbers starting in 2015.

These permits provide a temporary relief from the ECA’s fuel sulfur content requirements. This approach will enable Royal Caribbean to meet its emission requirements through exhaust gas scrubber technology, rather than with engine and fuel system modifications

This advanced emission control technology will be used in waters surrounding U.S. coasts, known as Emission Control Areas (ECAs). Because emissions from ocean-going vessels can harm air quality on land, the U.S. government requires ships operating within the North American and U.S. Caribbean ECAs to reduce harmful air pollution emissions such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, and particulate matter. The ECAs were developed by the United States and Canada through an agreement with the International Maritime Organization in order to protect human health and the environment by significantly reducing air pollution from ocean-going vessels. EPA estimates that by 2020 the low sulfur ECA requirements will have prevented as many as 14,000 premature deaths and relieved respiratory symptoms for nearly 5 million people in the United States and Canada.

Royal Caribbean to add scrubbers to most of its cruise ships to reduce environmental impact

In:
22Dec2014

Royal Caribbean announced today that it will retrofit 13 of its cruise ships with advanced emissions purification (AEP) systems beginning in January 2015 to reduce the fleet's environmental impact as well as meet or exceed important environmental standards.

These new scrubbers will remove more than 97% of the sulfur dioxide emissions generated by the ships' diesel engines. 

Royal Caribbean will now be ahead of all forthcoming International Maritime Organization Emission Control Area emissions standards, and will ensure compliance with existing European Union standards.  Additionally, the decision to install AEP systems instead of switching to a fuel with a lower sulfur content will ensure that RCL's ships can be compliant everywhere they sail, as availability of lower-sulfur fuels is limited.

The installation of these scrubbers will take place during scheduled dry-dockings and while ships are in service. While preliminary work has begun on several of the ships receiving AEP systems, most will take place between 2015 and 2017. Each installation will take approximately eight months.

This is not Royal Caribbean's first time utilizing scrubbing technology, as the company has invested in AEP technology since 2010. Quantum of the Seas was among the first cruise ships to be built with AEP systems installed during initial construction. Liberty of the Seas has been operating one of its six engines with a retrofitted AEP system for two years. AEP systems "scrub" exhaust gases by injecting high volumes of water spray into the exhaust stream, removing more than 97% of sulfur dioxide emissions.

"AEP technology for maritime vessels is very new, and we expect that by utilizing multiple technological solutions to accommodate the differences among our ships, additional development will ultimately help industrialize AEP technology even more, which will benefit not only RCL but also the larger maritime industry," said Adam Goldstein, President and COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

To ensure the right systems are available for each ship's unique requirements, RCL contracted two different AEP technology suppliers, Swedish company Alfa Laval and Finnish company Wartsila. Additional companies are being hired to execute the installations.

First time cruisers: Comparing Royal Caribbean to Disney Cruise Line

In:
22Dec2014

For many families, they have to pick the right cruise for their vacation and there's no doubt two of the titans of the family cruise market are Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line.  We get so many questions about this topic that we wanted to look at how they compare to each other.

It should be noted right away that picking a cruise line over another is quite subjective and there's always going to be differing opinions on this, but we try to remain as objective as possible.

What Royal Caribbean does well

Royal Caribbean has a few "core competencies" where it generally exceeds at and these are areas that if important to you, could sway your opinion

Latest and greatest

If you want to cruise on the newest cruise ships with the latest uber-cool cruise ship innovations, then Royal Caribbean is the line for you.  They build new ships quite regularly, with another four cruise ships on order as of this blog post.

Besides bragging rights, these new ships offer the latest in cruise ship trends as well as the very best in accommodations, dining, technology and entertainment.  We love older ships but there's no beating a brand new ship for what it offers.

World wide itineraries

From the Far East, to Australia to the Middle East, Europe and Alaska, there's lots of Royal Caribbean ships sailing these waters throughout the year.   Its ships sail to every continent except Antarctica on cruises ranging from three nights to 18 nights.

Because Royal Caribbean has a substantially larger fleet than Disney, Royal Caribbean has been focusing on serving the international markets to expand its market share and that's resulted in a lot of itinerary variety to choose from.  Often, there's a Royal Caribbean ship in one of these major regions in addition to the well-represented North American cruise corridor.

When you're looking for something more than another cruise to the Bahamas, it's hard to beat what Royal Caribbean offers.

Unlimited alcohol packages

Simply put, you can get reasonably priced unlimited alcohol packages on Royal Caribbean ships that give you a fixed price for your onboard consumption.  

Adults will be able to know in advance how much this cost will be and even pre-pay it to help break up the cost of the trip.  While we personally find the unlimited drink packages to be more than what we need, many adults enjoy the convenience of the packages.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST EPISODE COMPARING ROYAL CARIBBEAN TO DISNEY CRUISE LINE

What Disney Cruise Line does well

If you're wondering what Disney Cruise Line does better than most, here's a quick rundown of our experience.

Overall dining experience

Excluding specialty restaurants, we think Disney Cruise Line's complimentary restaurants are quite well planned. Guests get to try a different restaurant each night with the same wait staff "following" them around between restaurants.

In addition, the restaurants on Disney Cruise Line are not just rooms with food.  Each restaurant has a unique look and feel to it and they stand out in terms of their atmosphere.

For sailing of 4-nights or more there are different themed menus. So, even though you eat in the same dining room again you'd have a different dinner. At times they are themed to the region for example Mediterranean or Taste of Alaska.

Free soda

If soft drinks are your thing, there's no beating the complimentary soda available on Disney Cruise Line.  

Royal Caribbean charges per soda or offers beverage packages that cover them, but on Disney Cruise Line offers unlimited fountain soda, regular coffee, tea and water.  

For kids and those that just love a good Coke, it's a big cost savings when you consider how much Royal Caribbean would charge to drink the same amount onboard their ships.

Stateroom size and offerings

Since it's inception, Disney Cruise Line has offered more space and options in its staterooms than anyone else in the cruise industry,

While Royal Caribbean has narrowed the gap in recent years with its newer ships, Disney Cruise Line offers more square footage and bathtubs in the majority of staterooms.

Inside staterooms on the Disney Dream (one of Disney Cruise Line's newest ships) have square footage of 169 square feet, whereas on Oasis of the Seas inside staterooms begin at 150 square feet).

Blurred Lines: How the two compare in other areas

Both cruise lines do a lot of things well and it's harder to pick a winner among the two without getting into some real personal opinions.

Entertainment

Disney came into the cruise space with its well known ability to create compelling shows.  Disney puts on a lot of stage shows that garner rave reviews and they also offer character meets with Mickey, Minine and many other characters and princesses.

Disney Cruise Line also offers fireworks at sea, whereas Royal Caribbean does not.

Royal Caribbean has really upped its game in recent years.  Many Royal Caribbean ships feature Broadway shows such as Cats, Mamma Mia, Chicago and more.  Royal Caribbean has also partnered with DreamWorks Animation to offer just as many character meets, film showings and general character interactions as Disney.

For adults, Royal Caribbean's entertainment may be a stronger choice given their shows gravitate to them more so than children and there's also a greater variety of shows to choose from.  In addition, Broadway shows are of a higher caliber display than Disney's shorter shows based on their films.

Activities

You will find plenty of onboard activities for both cruise lines.  Bingo games, dance lessons, demonstrations, tours and more can be found on both cruise lines.  Both lines also offer swimming pools, sports courts, spas, gyms, shows, bars and entertainment lounges.

Royal Caribbean offers ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, surf simulators, mini-golf, movie theaters and a lot more.  Oh and did we mention there are no casinos on Disney Cruise Line?

Disney Cruise Line offers a water coaster, water play areas for kids, and slides in their pools.  There's also scavenger hunts, trivia, tasting classes, and more on Disney Cruise Line.

Child Care

Both cruise lines offer child care included in the price of the cruise.  

Both lines offer kids clubs for children, young teens and teens.  In general, Royal Caribbean's clubs are more structured in terms of their daily routine but Disney Cruise Line has a more "open" policy to their child care programs, that encourage the children to explore and try what they find interesting.

Both lines do have nursery options that have a per-hour cost.  

Private islands

Both cruise lines have private islands the cruise line operates that offer a very well-maintained and beautiful destination.  With good weather, it's hard to really which is more beautiful than the other (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?).

Disney Cruise Line has Castaway Cay in the Bahamas that is widely regarded as a beautiful island with lots to do for adults and children.  We also find the beach sand to be softer and less rocky than Royal Caribbean's.  

On Castaway Cay you will find 5k races, great snorkeling, and a private beaches for adults.

Royal Caribbean has two private islands, Labadee in Haiti and CocoCay in the Bahamas.  Both islands are gorgeous and a great place for a beach day.  Given their respective locations, western and eastern Caribbean itineraries usually include a stop at one.

Labadee also offers an aqua park, zip line and roller coaster for an additional cost.  CocoCay is more basic in its offerings and also requires tendering to get to the island.

The crew

Both crews do an admirable job at keeping their guests happy.  From customer service, to wait staff to the people that turn down your bed, both cruise lines work hard to keep guests smiling.

Disney has built a reputation over many decades for a hard working staff that is always looking to improve.  From its theme park origins, the Disney Cruise Line crew members want to make your cruise better and offer tremendous service.

Royal Caribbean's crew is just as good, with their service always looking to "WOW" its guests.  For the crew, wow is more than a marketing slogan, it's the group mantra.  You will find smiling faces and a can-do attitude onboard Royal Caribbean that is always asking how can they make your cruise better. 

The X-Factor: Cost

There is a big difference between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean that is hard to ignore and that is the cruise fare price.

Royal Caribbean is usually considerably cheaper in cruise fare compared to Disney Cruise Line.  In a study by the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean's prices were on average 60-70% less than Disney for very similar cruise experiences.

To put this in perspective, seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises out of Port Canaveral in the second half of 2015 were over $7200 for an inside cabin (depending on date) compared to Royal Caribbean's prices of about $2200 - $3000.  That's a lot of money.

We are the first to admit the onboard experience of a Disney Cruise and a Royal Caribbean cruise are very similar, so it's hard to justify the prices Disney Cruise Line charges for their product.

Summary

After reading all of this, you have to start deciding which aspects of your cruise vacation are more important to you to pick the right choice.

Given the fact this blog is centered around Royal Caribbean cruising, it's obvious where our allegiance lays but it's important to recognize what the competition does well too.  Royal Caribbean is far from perfect and when you look at the right cruise for you, it's always important to have as much information as possible.

In a nutshell, Disney Cruise Line offers a wonderful product with lots of entertainment and plenty for the kids.  Royal Caribbean counters with phenomenal ships, lots of options to choose from at a great value.

I also wanted to give a big thanks to Scott from Disney Cruise Line Blog for making sure I was fair to Disney Cruise Line in this post.  Check out his blog for some really good coverage of all things DCL.

Royal Caribbean luggage tags: everything you need to know

In:
21Dec2014

When you get closer to your cruise sailing date, you will have to start packing and that means you will need to mark your luggage for Royal Caribbean and that brings us to luggage tags.  What are they? How do I get them? What options do I have?  These are all questions we will answer here.

What are luggage tags?

Luggage tags are pieces of paper you attach to each piece of luggage you plan on checking at the pier to have delivered to your room.  Luggage tags are the way Royal Caribbean knows which piece of luggage belongs to which stateroom.  

It's just like how airlines add tags to your checked luggage to make sure they go to the right plane.

How do I get luggage tags?

Luggage tags are provided in your online check-in print outs.  You can print out as many copies of luggage tags as you need.

The luggage tags are included in the eDocs that are issued about 49 days before your cruise sailing.

Simply cut out the luggage tag as described on the print out, loop around the handle of your luggage and staple together.  

Guests who are Crown & Anchor Society Pinnacle members as well as Suite guests (Grand Suites and above) will still receive baggage tags in the mail.

What happened to the luggage tags Royal Caribbean used to mail me?

Royal Caribbean discountinued issuing its own luggage tags by mail back in 2012 (except for the aforementioned Pinnacle members and suite guests).

Can I still order the preprinted luggage tags?

Yes, you can get the preprinted luggage tags with the adhesive strips if you order paper documents for $35.

These documents will include luggage tags.

How can I protect my luggage tags?

As you might guess, paper luggage tags could be ripped off or torn accidently and there are a few ways to protect them from damage.

You can tape both sides of each luggage tag with packing tape to allow them to be easily seen while avoiding easy rips and tears. 

Alternatively, we've used for many years Cruisetags, which are plastic holders custom created for Royal Caribbean's luggage tags.

The best part is you can re-use the luggage tag holders again and again to give added value.

Does it matter if I print my luggage tags out in black and white?

No, your luggage will still be directed to your stateroom correctly.

The color does help the Royal Caribbean staff arrange the luggage quicker, so colored tags are preferred but not required.

What if I forget my luggage tags?

Don't worry, the porters at the pier can affix luggage tags to your luggage on the spot for no additional charge.  

Porters constantly run into passengers who forget their luggage tags or decide at the last minute they want to check more baggage.  

Just show them the tag in your set sail documents and they write them on high quality airline grade luggage tags and stick them on for you.

What about the new RFID luggage tags on Quantum of the Seas?

To make use of the RFID luggage tags, just bring your luggage to the pier and have the porters check your luggage for you. 

Just like if you forgot your luggage tags, the porters will affix a RFID chip to your luggage and give you a tracking receipt.

You can then track the progress of your luggage via the Royal iQ app that is available for smartphones.

What you need to know about Royal Caribbean's refillable Coca-Cola cups

In:
20Dec2014

It wont be long before you start seeing souvenir Coca-Cola cups on your Royal Caribbean cruise and it seems like they are everywhere!  The cup design changes over the course of the year and they come in bright colors in a stylized design that is the perfect way to get refills of your favorite soda anytime you want. Here are six things that you will want to know if you are thinking about buying one.

You can purchase it from many places onboard the ship

If you want to get the souvenir cup, you can purchase the non-alcoholic drink package that is right for you.  Especially on embarkation day, you will find stations around the ship offering to sell you the package and the fun cup!

Simply pick between the Royal Refreshment Package and the Royal Replenish Package and you will get a complimentary Coca-Cola souvenir cup with each package purchased.

Often you will find the packages for sale outside the Windjammer and on the Royal Promenade.

The cups work with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines

Of course you can have bartenders fill the cup up and there are automated machines near the pool, but the best way to use your Coca-Cola souvenir cup is with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines!

Located on select ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, you can use these amazing machines exclusively with the souvenir cups and choose from over 100 flavor combinations!

In order to use the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines guests must purchase an all-inclusive beverage package or the Royal refreshment package and use their complimentary Coca-Cola souvenir cup. The Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip in it which activates the machine.

You can only refill the cup once every 15 minutes

As mentioned earlier, the Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip that prevents people without the cup from using the self-service refill stations.  

The machines do "lock down" your cup for about 15 minutes after you refill your cup to ensure the cup isn't shared with people that do not have the drink package.

You get a free cup with any unlimited alcohol package purchase

Of course you can get the souvenir Coca-Cola cups with the non-alcoholic packages, but if you prefer to go with the unlimited alcohol packages, you get the souvenir Coca-Cola cup too!

Each of the unlimited alcohol packges (select, premium, ultimate) come with a complimentary souvenir cup that you can use to get unlimited soft drinks during your cruise when you're looking to get something with a little less punch.

The cup is accepted almost everywhere

The souvenir cup can be refilled nearly everywhere onboard the ship. Bars, self-service stations, restaurants and lounges will all gladly refill the cups for you.

However, the souvenir Coca-Cola cups do not work with room service or the drinks in your mini-fridge.  Keep that in mind before you order something that will cost you extra!

You can pre-purchase the mug online before your cruise

You don't have to wait to get on your cruise in order to purchase your souvenir Coca-Cola cup.  In fact, you can pre-purchase online at royalcaribbean.com and have your cup waiting for you.

After you purchase the package online, the souvenir cup should be waiting for you inside your stateroom once you get in there.  That way, there's no waiting in line for you and you can start taking advantage of the benefit immediately!

Have you bought the Coca-Cola souvenir cups before?  Do you think they are worth it?  And will you buy one on your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

DVR Alert: Dream Cruises featuring many Royal Caribbean ships

In:
20Dec2014

If you're looking for a Royal Caribbean "fix" on television, there's a series of episodes about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise that's airing frequently on the A Wealth of Entertainment network.

AWE is carrying the first season of "Dream Cruises", which features a look at select Royal Caribbean ships and what a cruise ont hem is like.

Here are the episodes that are available

  • Navigator of the Seas - Western Caribbean
  • Vision of the Seas - Brazilian coast
  • Rhapsody of the Seas - Australian coast and Bali
  • Explorer of the Seas - Western Caribbean
  • Legend of the Seas - South China Sea
  • Brilliance of the Seas - Mediterranean
  • Voyager of the Seas - Adriatic Sea

There are multiple showings over the next few days, so check your local listings.  Just today, you can find episodes on at 9:00am, 11:00am, 6:00pm and 8:00pm eastern time.

The series originally aired in 2011 but it's still a fun way to get a little Royal Caribbean in your life.

Here's a quick preview of the Allure of the Seas episode

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