What you need to know about CocoCay Cabanas

In:
16Jan2014

If you're going to Royal Caribbean's private island of CocoCay and intersted in renting a cabana, here's a guide to what you need to know about renting your own cabana.

Photo by grimoire42

How much are the cabanas?

Cabana rentals are $200 for up to six guests.

Who are cabanas good for

The cabanas at CocoCay are perfect for someone who is planning on spending the whole day on CocoCay and wants to have a a private beach experience.

Photo by mrsfecura

What's included

  • Private ocean view cabana rental for the full day
  • Furnished with 2 luxurious resort-style lounge chairs & a sofa
  • Amenities include a deluxe lunch buffet, beach towels, 2 floating beach mats, 4 bottles of water, and 2 sets of snorkeling equipment
  • Towels for your use during the day

For the mats and snorkel equipment, you will be given coupons to go get the equipment from the rental location.

There is a bar in the cabana area but here are no attendants that will take your order and bring your drinks (unlike Labadee).  There are restrooms near the bar for use by cabana guests.

Some people have reported getting a fruit plate and champagne, although that isn't something that's always been offered.

Photo by cjdixon4

How to rent the cabanas

Suite guests get first access to the cabanas but you can go to the Explorations (shore excursions) desk onboard your Royal Caribbean ship and put your name down on a list.  It's best to put your name down as soon as possible for the best chance at getting a cabana.

We have had luck reserving a cabana on the spot in CocoCay after talking with the attendant who allows admission to the area, but that's subject to availability.

If you are not a suite guest, your best is to put your name on the list at the Explorations desk as early as possible and keep checking back on the status of your request.

Water, water everywhere but no where to swim

Your private cabana area gives you a great, private area to admire the ocean but there is no beach access from the cabanas.  Instead, you will need to walk out of the cabana area if you plan on going swimming.

The closest swimming area is a short walk away, perhaps a few minutes.

Photo by mrsfecura

Which cabanas to rent

All cabanas on CocoCay are great but the cabanas closest to the water offer the most privacy as well as the best view.

Cabanas 1 through 7 are the ones to try for but you shouldn't be disappointed if you end up with a different cabana.

Video: Genevieve Gorder Episode 3: Bringing design details to Quantum of the Seas in the shipyard

In:
15Jan2014

Quantum Experience Advisor, Genevieve Gorder, is back today with a new webisode detailing her trip to Papenburg, Germany, with Royal Caribbean's newbuild and design team to see Quantum of the Seas first hand and finalize the last few details for the Lofts and Suites.

Royal Caribbean Staterooms on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
15Jan2014

We have a brand new Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast to share with everyone, so get your downloads going!

Episode 24 is now available for downloading, where we are looking at the categories of Royal Caribbean staterooms.

This week, Matt discusses the categories of Royal Caribbean staterooms, including the differences between the stateroom categories, the good and bad about each, the importance of location, special categories and more.  We also have more listener comments to share with everyone.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 24.  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!

Royal Caribbean announces its 2013 travel partners

In:
15Jan2014

Royal Caribbean has announced its list of 2013 Loyal to Royal Travel Agent Partners of the Year for the United States and Canada.

The award recognizes the travel agencies that are among the top performers as well as their "loyalty and commitment to the cruise line."

President's Award for Overall Achievement
World Travel Holdings 
Wilmington, Mass. 

Home-based Partner of the Year 
Cruise Planners-American Express Travel 
Coral Springs, Fla. 

Consortia Partner of the Year 
AAA Travel 
Heathrow, Fla. 

Online Partner of the Year 
Cruise.com 
Dania Beach, Fla. 

Corporate Incentive Partner of the Year 
Buy the Sea 
Plantation, Fla. 

Canada Partner of the Year 
Air Canada Vacations 
Ontario, Canada 

Southeast Region Partner of the Year 
AAA Carolinas 
Charlotte, N.C. 

Northeast Region Partner of the Year 
American Discount Cruises 
Englishtown, N.J. 

Central Region Partner of the Year 
The World of Travel 
Bloomfield, Mich. 

West Region Partner of the Year         
Morris Murdock Travel 
Salt Lake City, Utah 

How to find which groups are on your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
14Jan2014

For better or worse, plenty of groups plan cruises aboard Royal Caribbean cruises.  These group cruises range from just a few cabins to enough people to actually charter an entire cruise ship.  On any given cruise, there may be a few groups onboard with you and often our readers ask how to find out which groups are cruising with you.

To be clear, groups that cruise are not organized by Royal Caribbean but are instead third-party groups.  As an example, this web site is organizing a Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise on Quantum of the Seas and very much organizing things on our own.  Groups can be centered around sports teams, affiliations, professions, lifestyles and more.

Larger groups can cause some of the public venues to be closed to the rest of the passengers at different times because they've rented it out. Large groups can congregate in areas, making access difficult for others and they can be loud. These are generalizations and more often they do not cause issues that you will likely notice.

Regardless of which group is cruising, some people want to know about this ahead of time because there may be a personal conflict.  As an example, if a Red Sox fans group cruise was being organized on the same sailing that you're going on and you happen to be a Yankees fan, then perhaps you'd prefer to avoid a cruise with a hundred Red Sox fans.  Alternatively, you'd like to know so you can order Derek Jeter banners to post on your stateroom door.  

How to find groups on your cruise

Royal Caribbean does not list nor will they divulge groups sailing on any itinerary.  It's a matter of privacy in the same way you may not want Royal Caribbean telling others when you are sailing.

Thanks to the Internet, there are ways to find out which groups are sailing or at least most groups sailing.  Doing an internet search will do the trick and here's how.

Go to Google and search for a few different search strings related to your sailing.  Here is the syntax of a few search strings worth trying.

"SHIP NAME" "DATE"
"SHIP NAME" "DATE" group
"Royal Caribbean" "DATE"

The quotes around the words tell google to search for that phrase.  So if your ship is Allure of the Seas, it will search for "Allure of the Seas" as one term rather than the words Allure, of, the, and seas.

Example

Let's use my upcoming Navigator of the Seas cruise as an example.  I'm sailing on February 9, 2014 and this is a good way to figure out who else is going.

I did searches for

  • "Navigator of the Seas" "February 9"
  • "Navigator of the Seas" "February 9" 2014
  • "Navigator of the Seas" "February 9" group
  • "Royal Caribbean" "February 9"

You will find a lot of results, most of which aren't relevant but within about five minutes I found 4 groups on our cruise.

None of the groups listed here indicate how many people are in each group but certain group cruises do mention how many people attended last year or how many they expect this year.  

I also found some other travel agent listings for my cruise but nothing that really looked like an organized group of any substantial size would be there.  You may point out not every group has a web site but groups that have enough people attending to make it fairly large usually do have a website for getting important information out there and generating sales leads.

The fact is most groups on cruises are tame and everyone, regardless of group, is subject to the same rules Royal Caribbean institutes for all of its guests.  Groups traveling on a cruise isn't limited to just Royal Caribbean cruise line or even cruises in general.  Since some people want to know, now you know how.

Finding last minute Royal Caribbean cruise deals

In:
14Jan2014

As much as you may try your best to play your cruise vacations well out in advance, the reality is work, school and everything else in life seems to always get in the way.  So when you find a week to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise but it's last minute, what can you do to take advantage of this and make a cruise vacation happen?

What are last minute deals?

First and foremost, you will need to find a cruise deal on Royal Caribbean.  Last minute deals are around but you will need to dig for them and act fast.  

Last minute cruises really refers to any cruise leaving in the next 60 days or so, with cruises leaving in the next 30 days being even more lucrative.  When Royal Caribbean gets past the point of final payment, they get a good sense of how booked (or unbooked) a sailing is and responds accordingly to fill up the rest of the ship.

If there's a lot of unbooked space, often Royal Caribbean will reduce prices to encourage bookings.  The closer to sailing you get, the deeper the price cuts until they reach a good sales point.

With last minute deals, there's a fine line between good prices and the swing back up to expensive prices.  One week there may be a deep discount available while next week, prices may be back to "normal".

Where can I find last minute Royal Caribbean deals?

To find last minute Royal Caribbean cruise deals, there are a few places to look.

  • Royal Caribbean's Limited-Time Offers page
  • Royal Caribbean's Deals Twitter
  • Contact a travel agent
    • Royal Caribbean sends travel agents deals and offers each week, so they may have knowledge of a deal out there.
  • Search popular cruise booking sites
    • There's lots and lots of web sites that claim to offer the best deals on cruises.  Comparing prices on a few of them is also a good way to see what's out there.

What do I need to be aware of with last minute deals?

Last minute deals are fickle and go quickly.  The best deals may only be available for a day or two, or even just a few hours.  

Once you know you want to book a cruise, it's best to book once you find something to your liking.  Royal Caribbean prices tend to rise more than they tend to drop, so book while you can.

Booking last minute also means you will need to make full payment at the time of booking.  That may or may not be a deal-breaker for some people, but it's worth noting.

Also note that select sailings will be on sale with one sailing deeply discounted and the next regular price.  Often, the discounted rate is low because most people can't or are unwilling to take time off for a vacation then.  As an example. the two weeks after New Years Eve are often discounted last minute because a lot of people just took vacation the week earlier and don't want to dip into vacation time so soon.

The harder thing to find than last minute cruise deals? Last minute airfare

Often you will find great last minute deals on Royal Caribbean cruises only to discover the airlines are not as cheap.  In fact, last minute airfare can be prohibitively expensive, to the point it negates any savings the cruise fare had.

The easiest way around high airfare prices is to drive.  There's no question last minute cruise deals benefit those within driving distance of cruise ports, such as those living in the southeastern United States.

If driving is out of the question, look at other airports to fly out of or into.  If your cruise is out of Fort Lauderdale, consider flying into West Palm Beach, Miami or Fort Myers.   Likewise, if you are flying out of New York City, try all the city airports as well as Westchester, Philadelphia or Hartford.  A little drive can save a lot of money.

Also consider flying to or from your cruise a day or two earlier/later to see if prices change.  It's a fun way to extend your vacation while saving money too.

Hotels and rental cars

Unlike airfare, getting a last minute hotel room and rental car for your trip is usually easier to find assuming you aren't that picky. 

If you can fly into your cruise port at least a day early, take a look at last minute hotel booking sites such as TravelZoo and Priceline.

Both of those sites are also good for rental cars but you ought to be able to find rates at many popular sites.  

Like airfare, if you aren't finding much, try other pickup locations for cars or nearby cities for hotels.  Being flexible can open up a lot of other deals to you.

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise: Cozumel

In:
13Jan2014

We're wrapping up our trip planning process for our upcoming Navigator of the Seas 7-night western Caribbean cruise on February 9, 2014 by taking you along for the planning process.  Today, we're looking at our last port visit in Cozumel, Mexico.

You can read all about the plans we made for our other port stops of Roatan and Belize City too.

Photo by abiodork

Background

Cozumel is a port I've been to many times, perhaps as many times as four or five, and yet I really like it.  I know some people don't care for it that much but I have enjoyed my time there.  

What I like about Cozumel is the value of my money as an American, the food (I love me some Mexican food) and the exploring the city.  In the grand scheme of Caribbean beaches, Cozumel's beaches are middle of the road because they aren't the best or the worst.  So I tend to gravitate towards spending time in the city.

We've done a lot in Cozumel over the years and I'd like to try to hit some favorites while trying something new.  One nice thing about Cozumel is it's a very easy place to explore.  In a perfect world I would rent a car for the day, but Mexico's laws about car rentals and liability scare me too much to be able to enjoy it.

Interestingly, I haven't done the two biggest things Cozumel is well known for: snorkeling or Mayan ruins.  I don't love snorkeling (well, I like snorkeling but I do not like fish) and I've been saving the ruins for something to do someday with my dad (who is not on this cruise).  

The Options

Isla de Pasion

I wanted to see what's new to try in Cozumel and ran across Isla de Pasion after seeing favorable reviews on TripAdvisor.  Basically it's a beautiful private island with unlimited adult beverages and buffet lunch included.

Photo by bayouscrubs

I've done many all-inclusive excursions and generally liked them, although they can be pricey.  A little research found the cost is about $70 per person and more research found that the reviews of food wasn't great.  And since my daughter will be with me, it's not like I can really drink $70 worth of alcohol to get my moneys worth.

The beach definitely looks great and it would be something nice to do perhaps with a group of people.  

Pros: Beautiful beach; Lots of drinks
Cons: Expensive; Will take up most of the day; Reviews of food not great

Chocolateria Isla Bella

If I can, I like to do things in port I know my wife will enjoy and I think a stop at this chocolate shop might be just that.  It's ranked as the number one restaurant on TripAdvisor for Cozumel and that really stood out to me.

Photo by eg2002

From the looks, a stop here could be quick and something to try for not a lot of money.  Because I enjoy exploring Cozumel on foot, it's always nice to have a few things to do to fill up the day and who doesn't enjoy a chocolate break?

Of course, the only way I can really see going here is if I do a city tour and if we opt to do a full day excursion elsewhere, then we won't have time to stop by.  

Pros: Inexpensive; quick stop;  happy wife
Cons: Not the most exciting thing to do; Not going means unhappy wife

Diego's

If I go with the explore the city choice for Cozumel, where we eat for lunch will be a highlight for me.  Every trip to Cozumel I've tried a new restaurant in an effort to find the most authentic local food.  I love Mexican food but I really love authentic Mexican food.  Diego's is listed as #3 on TripAdvisor and the photos and reviews point to this as being an authentic experience.

Photo by Brucrew

It will be hard to top my current favorite Cozumel restaurant for authentic food, Comidas Caseras Tonita, but Diego's looks promising.  Chips, salsa, guacamole and fajitas seem to be big here and I love to try a little of everything.

There are two downsides I can see by trying Diego's. First, on a map it's quite a way from the cruise ship and the main hub of downtown Cozumel.  I don't mind walking but it will be a hike.  Second, there is always the chance the food will not live up to my expectations.  I enjoyed Comidas Caseras Tonita so much last time that other places will have a lot to live up to. 

Pros: Authentic food; inexpensive; good reviews
Cons: Far away from city center; How good the food is remains to be determined.

Mezcalitos Restaurant & Beach Bar

Inevitably, a beach break in Cozumel is a must and we've tried a number of beaches in the past in Cozumel, including Paradise Beach and Playa Palancar.  Mezcalitos is a beach bar on the east side of the island that sounds like the perfect combination of relaxation, uncrowded and a little bit authentic.

Photo by Hawkfish

What appeals to me about Mezcalitos is it's off the beat path.  In fact, this bar has no electricity but is pretty to look at and may be a good place to get a little bit of a beach break plus some food and drink.  When we were in Bikini Beach in St. Maarten, I liked having a restaurant, bar and beach tightly integrated and this sounds like more of the same.

The downside to Mezcalitos is the surf appears to be much stronger, which may be an issue since I have a 3 year old.  Granted, she has fun playing in the sand where the waves come in so it's not th end of the world.  Also, it's a bit of a drive to the east coast and once again will require a taxi fare.

Pros: Great scenery; Good food; Relaxing atmosphere; Good reviews
Cons: Relatively far away from cruise ship; Surf is strong(er)

The Decision

After considering our options, we ended up choosing.... Chocolateria Isla Bella + Diego's + Mezcalitos.

The great and bad thing about Cozumel is there are so many choices of what to do, more so than any other island we are visiting on this cruise.  With so many good choices, it's hard to just pick one or two.

What I love about Cozumel is how easy it is to explore the city and the island.  I think our basic plan will be to explore San Miguel and try the chocolateria, shop and have lunch at Diego's before taking a cab to Mezcalitos for the afternoon.

I think what we have here is a good, open ended day with opportunities to try something different if it comes up.  While Isla de Pasion looks great, in Cozumel I know how much there is to choose so I'd prefer to sample as much as I can rather than spend my day in just one place.

Royal Caribbean sales event for the week of January 13, 2014

In:
13Jan2014

Each week Royal Caribbean posts new sales for various cruises across its fleet that can offer great discounts on specific sailings in the near future.

If you're looking for a quick escape, there are some great deals on Liberty of the Seas.  Likewise, if you'd like to try Royal Caribbean's premier class of cruise ships, Oasis class, there's a number of Oasis of the Seas sailings with good prices as well.

This sale runs between January 14 and 15, 2014 with an exclusive preview sale open to Crown and Anchor Society members on January 13, 2014.

​Freedom of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Port Canaveral
Sail Date: 01/26/2014

Inside: $529 per person (Category K)
Ocean-view: N/A
Balcony: N/A
Suite: N/A

Freedom of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Port Canaveral
Sail Date: 02/09/2014

Inside: $579 per person (Category K)
Ocean-view: N/A
Balcony: N/A
Suite: N/A

Legend of the Seas
Itinerary: 11 night Southern Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 02/032014

Inside: $899 per person (Category M)
Ocean-view: N/A
Balcony: N/A
Suite: N/A

Liberty of the Seas
Itinerary: 4 night Western Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 01/23/2014

Inside: $164 per person (Category M, N)
Ocean-view: $274 per person (Category G, I)
Balcony: $344 per person (Category D2, D3)
Suite: N/A


Continue Reading

Quantum of the Seas bow sections towed to shipyard

In:
12Jan2014

There's a new video that shows a few of the Quantum of the Seas bow sections being towed into the German shipyard where Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship is being built.  

Cruise Ind reports that two of Quantum of the Seas' bow sections were outsourced to be constructed at Marine Projects Ltd. in Poland. 

Quantum of the Seas will officially launch in Fall 2014 and be based in New Jersey.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 12, 2014

In:
12Jan2014

Hope you had a great week (maybe one week closer to your next Royal Caribbean cruise?) and you had a chance to keep up with what's new with Royal Caribbean this week. But if not, here's a roundup of this week's news.

This big news this week is Royal Caribbean's CEO Adam Goldstein spoke to CNBC about what Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry have been doing to keep passengers safe.

Goldstein says the negative events of the last two to three years have been "an anomoly" and in his more than two decades at Royal Caribbean, safety has always been a big priority.  

"And so there's no question in our minds, in my mind, that the last two or three years have been an anomaly, and that given the foundation of discipline and attention to detail, the cruise industry will resume its long-term very safe track record. "

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The twenty third episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and we're previewing a listener's cruise on Liberty of the Seas.

In this episode, Matt is joined by Chad from Kentucky, who is sailing on Liberty of the Seas this week.  Todd shares why he booked his first Royal Caribbean cruise, his plans for things to do onboard and what he hopes to do when they visit ports.  Matt also has lots of great listener emails, tweets and Facebook posts to share.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

The Motley Fool thinks Royal Caribbean's stock is looking good, thanks to Quantum of the Seas anticipation.

CruiseRadio has a new podcast episode with a review of Allure of the Seas.

The Economist claims Royal Caribbean and Carnival's market share has dropped from 77% to 72% in last few years.

Sherry Laskin has an introduction to nine popular cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean.

Adam Goldstein's Blog post last week speaks about the importance to Royal Caribbean of shipyard visits.

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