Royal Caribbean just wrapped up a 24 day drydock session for Freedom of the Seas and the ship is back in service for a quick 2-night cruise starting today. Our good friend Beci Mahnken from MEI Travel is aboard Freedom of the Seas and will be sharing photos throughout her cruise experience.
Be sure to keep checking back for updated photos from all over Freedom of the Seas!
Freedom of the Seas docked in Port Canaveral
Checking into the cruise
Crown and Anchor balloons!
Sabor is located where the old Crypt night club was before the refurbishment
Brand new restaurant, Sabor Modern Mexican, on deck 4
Check-in area for Sabor
One of the larger tables at Sabor
Sign outside Windjammer on deck 11 showing new Giovanni's Table restaurant
Entrance to Giovanni's Table
Check-in area for Giovanni's Table
Inside Giovanni's Table, which replaced Portofino
Fresh Italian coffee, anyone?
Seating inside Giovanni's Table offers a view of the ocean
More of the inside of Giovanni's Table
Friday is here and before you start your weekend, let's take a look at some fun Royal Caribbean photos that our readers sent in to be showcased. Just like you, we love looking at Royal Caribbean photos to get a "quick fix" when it comes to the "I'm not on a cruise" blues.
No Friday Photos is complete without a good sunset photo (or five) and we begin this week with sunset from the pool deck of Quantum of the Seas by John Siegmund. Love it!
Next is this photo by Lily Lee of the Ice on the Big Top show on Mariner of the Seas. The ice shows presented across Royal Caribbean's fleet are always entertaining!
Talk about a perfect view! Here's a photo by Ross and Pam from their Voyager of the Seas Singapore to Sydney cruise. It doesn't get much better than that!
Check out this panoramic photo of Quantum of the Seas in St. Barts with a couple other cruise ships by John McCormack!
Lastly, we have this photo by Gary Kronick of Quantum of the Seas docked in St. Maarten. Great vantage point!
Do you have fun Royal Caribbean photos to share? Send us your favorite photos and we will feature them on an upcoming blog post!
I'd like to officially welcome our newest blog contributor, Michael Poole. Michael has been a number of podcast episodes so far and joins our team to offer some great insight and advice based on his many Royal Caribbean cruise experiences!
Junkaoo Beach is a beautiful public beach located in Nassau, Bahamas. I’ve visited this beach seven times within the last two years, and will go again next time I’m in Nassau.
Once you exit the ship you will see Senior Frogs located to the right. You can’t miss it; if you don’t see it just follow all the people with wild balloons on their heads. Once you get to Senior Frogs, you will stay on the sidewalk and it turns to the left.
This is when you will see the first of 3 signs for Junkanoo Beach (right in front of the Sheraton hotel, which is a free hotspot zone I might add).
The sidewalk will go through the town of Nassau, and takes around 5 minutes once you get to this point.
So the only direction I can give you is just stay on the side walk until it runs into Junkaoo Beach, remember there will be two more signs saying Junkaoo ahead to ensure you are on the right path.
About the beach
Now that you have arrived, you must be asking yourself what should I do first? Well explore, I will say it’s not very large and can get a bit crowded, but then again its FREE!
They have a tiki bar special that includes 3 beers + 4 shots + wifi password (which was Byron98 when I was there) for $10. For that price, it is a steal, if you ask me. I’ve never eaten here but the food looked great. They cook it on a grill right in front of you, made to order.
If you are more into relaxing that’s fine there is plenty of beach area, just remember to bring a beach towel.
If snorkeling is more your style they rent the equipment right on the beach. In fact, they also offer the stand up paddle-boards for rent, which looks quite fun and a great photo opportunity with the light house in the background.
Whether you are a family or simply on a budget, I think Junkaoo Beach is a great way to spend the day in Nassau. And remember it’s only a short walk back to the pier when ever you want to head back.
During Royal Caribbean's fourth quarter financial results earnings call with investors, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain indicated the company was opting to offer promotions that offer passengers added benefits in lieu of discounting cruise fares.
Fain discussed the strategy and said passengers prefer to get things like onboard credit, free gratuities or drink packages instead of reducing the overall price of a cruise to get more bookings.
"One of the things you've seen is that we are doing more and more with value added versus discounts. We really feel that the consumer prefers that. It works out better for the travel agents, " Fain said during the call.
In addition, cruise promos are preferred by travel agents who get a higher commissionable cruise fare to sell.
This strategy did exceedingly well with sister brand Celebrity Cruises, who had a "123 Go" offer that was focused only on offering extras to guests.
"I think those kind of value added packages are proving from the market point of view to be very popular with the consumer, " Fain explained.
"And it means that instead of touting ourselves on price, we tout ourselves on what we are offering. We think that the market is ready for, and we are very much focused on trying to upgrade ourselves, the image and do less price-fighting and more 'this why you are better on this kind of a cruise'."
Royal Caribbean reported fourth-quarter profit of $109.8 million but missed Wall Street expectations, mostly because revenue for the quarter fell two percent. The decline was attributed to weak pricing in the Caribbean, which is the company's biggest market.
Royal Caribbean has faced stiffed competition in the Caribbean from smaller rivals such as MSC Cruises, who offer cheaper packages. The good news is pricing is expected to be up low single digits for the remainder of 2015.
Royal Caribbean's net income rose to $109.8 million, or 49 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 from $7.02 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier.
Royal Caribbean reported $0.32 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $0.43 by $0.11.
In addition, passenger ticket revenue rose 1% to $1.303B in the fourth quarter but revenue fell to $1.82 billion from $1.85 billion.
Looking forward to 2015, bookings over the past three months have been higher than prior year levels, and the company is experiencing a good, but typical WAVE season.
Royal Caribbean's third Oasis-class cruise ship has quietly been under construction at the STX shipyard in St. Nazaire, France for a little while now and today we have some new photos of her progress.
Royal Caribbean took some official shots of this new ship, wich is shceduled to debut in April 2016.
We still do not know her name or where she will be homeported, but this is a good indication of her progress.
Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!
Matt invites Kris back to the podcast to discuss his recent southern Caribbean cruise and discuss what Kris enjoyed about his Royal Caribbean adventure.
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!
When Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas visits St. Thomas on Tuesday, it will be a record breaking day on the ship's maiden voyage to the island.
On Tuesday, a Quantum and Oasis-class ship will be docked at the same time. In total, five cruise ships will be in port, including Oasis of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas.
St. Thomas saw a record breaking day of passengers last Wednesday when 20,000 visitors came to the island and Tuesday should break that record.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said to prepare they have opened the public restrooms next to the new Tourism office location in town by the USO building and are in communication with the V.I. Police Department and other government agencies.
The department's greeters will be out in full force, leaving the Crown Bay and Havensight areas to have a presence throughout the island.
"The greeters will be out on the streets," she said. "You'll see the bright purple shirts all over town on Tuesday."
One of the highly touted experience on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas is the jewel-like capsule that takes passengers more than 300 feet above sea level for stunning views of the area around you. Today we review this new onboard activity and look at why you might want to try it too.
North Star is available on Quantum-class cruise ships.
To ride North Star, you just have to get in line for it. Unlike some other onboard experiences, Royal Caribbean offers no means of pre-arranging North Star time, unless you happen to book it as part of a special event (like a wedding).
The line for North Star begins on deck 15 and there is an extended queue that can be used if the line gets long enough. Royal Caribbean provides signs at different intervals in the line to let you know about how long your wait is from that point.
Getting onto North Star is a first come, first served basis. You will climb a set of spiral stairs to the loading area on deck 16 (there is a handicap elevator as well) where the doors to North Star open and you may enter.
Once inside the 3.6 meters x 4.5 meters space, you can move around to any vantage point you can find. There are no seats and you will stand the entire time.
North Star accommodates 13 guests, plus there will be room to accommodate a wheelchair passenger as well, for a total of 14 guests, and one operator.
Once the doors close, North Star will begin to ascend, giving you a wide view of your ship as well as the area around you. The North Star pod is attached to a 135 foot arm that can extend up to an 80-degree angle and move around. When the ship is in port, the arm only goes up and down due to local laws and will not move over the side of the ship. While this limits the views somewhat, it does make for quicker ride experiences, which is good if you are waiting in line.
At its apex, North Star delivers some really amazing views of the area around you. You're free to bring cameras to take photos or video and there's enough room in the pod to move around to get a view of everything.
The entire ride lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.
North Star is one of the highlights of any Quantum of the Seas cruise and it seems like it's a must-do experience given how popular it is. We think Royal Caribbean delivers a really cool opportunity to see not just your ship but the area around you in a way that could only be replicated by taking an airplane or helicopter.
Considering North Star is complimentary, it's something we recommend doing at least once for the fun. North Star moves quite slowly and despite the 300 plus foot statistic, it's hardly a thrill ride. Unless you have a crippling fear of heights, this should be a great bit of fun for all.
The issue many guests run into are the lines for North Star. Long lines will develop for North Star, especially on sea days. It's a testament to its popularity and we've seen lines for upwards of two or three hours.
Our tip for avoiding these lines is to see North Star right as it opens in the morning or try for port days when there are less passengers onboard to compete with. The line will also move faster on port days because North Star is restricted to only go up and down while in port.
A water pipe burst onboard Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas yesterday that caused electrical problems onboard the ship and delayed the ship's departure from New Orleans.
Royal Caribbean indicated the ship's critical systems, including navigation, were operational. But some areas - including the main theater and medical facility - were without power.
In addition, some guest staterooms have been affected by the flooding and an undetermined amount of guests had to have their cruises cancelled. Royal Caribbean will offer them a full refund and a certificate towards a future cruise.
— Stewart Chiron (@CruiseGuy) January 25, 2015
Royal Caribbean is working on restoring power to the ship but it's unknown when Serenade of the Seas will be able to leave New Orleans.
UPDATE: The United States Coast Guard cleared Serenade of the Seas for departure shortly after noon today. It had been scheduled to leave yesterday (January 24) but had to wait for the Coast Guard to okay the ship.