Friday Photos

In:
15Jul2016

Every Friday we showcase Royal Caribbean photos that our readers sent in, and we have a great batch of photos to share with you again this week!

What happens when you order nothing for dessert?  Mike Dinsmore sent us this photo proof of what nothing looks like!

Jeff Covello shared with us this photo Explorer of the Seas in Alaska.  Great contrast between the ship and the mountains!

Here is another photo from Alaska, and this one is from John that was taken from his Junior Suite balcony. I cannot get enough sunset photos and this one is beautiful.

Dan Stewart sent us this photo from Oasis of the Seas right before a storm rolled in near Jamaica. Check out the colors in the sky and on the ship!

Dave shared this photo of Jewel of the Seas.  I am not sure which port this was taken in, but it is hard to deny the beauty of the lines of a Radiance class ship.

Matthias & Klaus combined their love for cruising with their love for baking.  This is such a fun idea!

Our last photo is from Tom & Diane Trudnowski and it is of sunset in Tampa, as seen on Vision of the Seas.  Gorgeous!

Thank you to everyone that shared these great photos.  Do you want your photo included in our weekly photo showcase?  Use this form to send us your favorite Royal Caribbean photos and we will be sure to show it off to the world!

Restaurant Review: La Sucrière in Marigot, St. Martin

In:
14Jul2016

Royal Caribbean cruises that stop in the island paradise of St. Maarten/St. Martin will often find guests heading over to the French side of the island to enjoy the many terrific activities, and certainly French cuisine has to be at the top of that list.

Those that want to enjoy an authentic French cafe experience, will absolutely love a stop at La Sucrière in the French capital of Marigot for the fresh foods, cafe atmosphere and little taste of France in the Caribbean.

Atmosphere

Across the street from the ocean are a great many restaurants, including the La Sucrière bakery.

Before you even set foot in this boulangerie, you will have a great view of the harbor in Marigot, with its many yachts and sail boats anchored just off shore.

La Sucrière is set up like an open-air cafe, with plenty of seating underneath a roof that has no walls.  Like many French cafes, dining at La Sucrière is as much about enjoying the ambiance and weather around you, as the food itself.

Inside the bakery is a semi-circle shaped large room with plenty of freshly baked good to consider.  The area is lined with fresh breads, pastries, sandwiches and beverages.

The staff speak French and English, and nearly everything available was made fresh earlier in the day.  In fact, the smells alone as you walk in are worth the visit.

Eats

You will find a fairly wide selection of baked good to purchase at La Sucrière.  The French bakery advertises itself as a boulangerie and patisserie, which means it is a bakery and pastry shop.

Frankly, there is a lot of great choices and we quickly found ourselves in danger of over-ordering because everything looked so good.  You should definitely skip eating on your cruise ship prior to visiting this bakery.

La Sucrière features freshly baked breads, French open-faced sandwiches (known as tartines), quiches, cakes, fruits and more.  

If there is one thing missing, it would be cheeses.  Some of the sandwiches have cheese with them, but if you want to enjoy bread with your favorite kind of cheese, you should consider stopping elsewhere prior to eating here so you can combine it.  

The food can be enjoyed at the cafe or wrapped up for a meal later.  Certainly if you are planning on spending time elsewhere on the island, taking some of the amazing food with you is not a bad option.

In terms of the food, it certainly is fresh and sweet.  French breads, like baguettes and croissants, are always good choices and the fact they are baked on the premises really makes it taste better.

Overall

La Sucrière was a highlight of our stop to Marigot, because of the quality of the food offered here.  Part of the appeal of visiting ports of call on a Royal Caribbean cruise is the opportunity to sample the local cuisine, and La Sucrière is a fantastic example of French baking.

The combination of atmosphere, freshly baked goods (the smells!) and views from the cafe seating area made this a great meal.  There is some great shopping just steps away, so there are some nice activities to do before or after your meal here.

If you are going to visit the French side of St. Martin/St. Maarten, you ought to stop in at La Sucrière for a bite to eat.

Location: Front de Mer, Marigot 97150, St. Maarten-St. Martin

Staterooms: What are the difference between Royal Caribbean's D1, D2, D4, etc balcony rooms?

In:
14Jul2016

A balcony stateroom on your Royal Caribbean cruise sounds like a great idea, with imagery of fantastic views of the oceans available anytime you want.  So when it comes to booking the stateroom, you may quickly discover there is not just one balcony stateroom, but rather, a number of options to consider.

Royal Caribbean breaks up its balcony staterooms into various sub-categories and this is your guide to understanding what the differences are between them all.

D1, D3, D8... what does it all mean?

When you look to book a balcony stateroom, you will see a variety of cabin designations among the balcony staterooms.  There will be stateroom codes, such as D1, D2, D4, E1, E4, etc.

Essentially, the difference between all the Category D staterooms is stateroom location, and potentially size of the room as well.  The lower the number, the more desirable the location of the room in terms of how close it is (or is not) to mid-ship.

As the numbers get higher, the stateroom location goes further aft/forward and/or stateroom size can change.

The differences can be very subtle from one category to another, but the price tends to drop as the number climbs (i.e. a D8 tends to be cheaper than a D1).

In addition, the difference between staterooms can include rooms that have third and fourth berths.  Rooms with this distinction can result in different pricing compared to staterooms that cannot accommodate third and fourth berths.

Other balcony categories

In addition to balcony staterooms that have the letter "D", there are other categories of balcony staterooms that may be on the same ship.

  • E
    • Usually, Category E balcony staterooms are slightly smaller rooms than Category D balcony staterooms, otherwise very similar. Between E and D, the difference is size -- the D is larger and this results in a sofa instead of loveseat.
  • C
    • On Oasis-class ships, this refers to Central Park facing balcony staterooms
  • B
    • On Oasis-class ships, this refers to Boardwalk facing balcony staterooms

Is a Royal Caribbean Walt Disney World shore excursion a good idea?

In:
13Jul2016

There are many Royal Caribbean cruises that stop in Port Canaveral and offer shore excursions to Walt Disney World. Often, guests wonder if it is worth it to take these trips and how much they can really do in the time they have.  The super-talented Laurel Stewart from TouringPlans.com wrote this guest post about visiting Walt Disney World for those on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you’re cruising between a US East Coast port like New York City or Baltimore and the Caribbean, you may have noticed that Port Canaveral is a stop on your journey. Two of the many port excursions offered here are PC11 - Disney World Express Service (Disney World Express Service - PC11) and PC50 - A Day at Walt Disney World (A Day at Disney World - PC50). We’ll take a look at the differences between PC11 and PC50 and try to help you decide if they are worth your time and money.

Photo by Richard Macko

First the basics. Walt Disney World is not in Port Canaveral. The trip from your ship to the Walt Disney World resort is around an hour (more with traffic) along FL-528. At least two hours of your port excursion will be spent on a bus traveling to and from Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World is four theme parks, two water parks, and the Disney Springs shopping area. There is no admission cost to visit Disney Springs. Guests who choose the Royal Caribbean Walt Disney World port excursions will be dropped off at Disney’s Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC). The TTC is a monorail or ferry ride to the Magic Kingdom, a monorail trip to EPCOT, and the bus transportation hub to all other resort areas. If you plan to visit a park other than Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to factor transportation time (and money, if you choose to take a cab or Uber instead of a Disney bus) into your plans.

Admission prices vary at the parks from day to day, and single day admission to Magic Kingdom is higher than to the other three theme parks. Water park admission costs less than theme park admission. If your excursion does not include park admission, check out https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/tickets/ for pricing.

If you’re interested in visiting Walt Disney World during your cruise, you might wonder how much you and your family can see and do in one day. TouringPlans.com offers tools for planning trips from a one day visit to any length of vacation to help you make the most of your time. A tool that is particularly useful to guests on an excursion is a customized touring plan. As part of the TouringPlans app, Lines, and online at TouringPlans.com, subscribers can enter the dates and times of their visits, schedule time for meals, breaks, and shows, and add the attractions they want to see, and TouringPlans will arrange them in the best order to save the most time in line. Doing this ahead of time, before booking a Walt Disney World excursion, will let you see how much you’ll be able to do during your day in the park.

Let’s look at the differences between the two excursions:

  PC11 PC50
Cost per person $39 $134
Duration 10 hours 9 hours
Time in park (approximate) 7 hours 6 hours
Includes admission no yes
Meals included no no

So what can you do in 6 hours at Magic Kingdom? Check out a sample day at http://touringplans.com/plans/print?id=2020916. This plan was optimized for a particular day at Magic Kingdom, with moderate walking speed, and no FastPass+ reservations. This includes the three “Disney Mountains,” three more attractions, and a break for lunch.

Recommendations

Photo by Richard Macko

If this is your only chance to visit Walt Disney World for awhile, these opportunities are a decent way to get a taste of the vast resort. But be aware, 6-7 hours is not much time to spend in the park. The cost of transportation is reasonable given the distance traveled, but paying for entire day’s admission (and single day admission is the most expensive admission on a per day basis) is somewhat expensive, not to mention that you’ll need to budget for meals during the day.

If you do decide to visit, we recommend PC11 and purchasing your park admission before your cruise. Why? Because you’ll be able to make FastPass+ reservations ahead of time, which will definitely save you time in line during your short trip. You should also create a MyDisneyExperience account, download Disney’s app, and link your park admission to your accounts before your cruise.

Other options

Book PC11 and visit a water park instead. This is less expensive. Allow one additional hour for transportation between the TTC and water parks, and pack a dry change of clothes.

Book PC11 and visit Disney Springs instead. Disney Springs offers dining and shopping in a themed environment without an admission cost. Again, allow time for transportation.

Visit Kennedy Space Center instead. KSC is much closer to Port Canaveral and can easily be experienced in a day.

For all Port Canaveral/Orlando Shore Excursions, check out these Royal Caribbean options.

TouringPlans loves RoyalCaribbeanBlog! Click this link for a special RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers discount. Discount code is automatically applied and is good for new subscriptions only.

Listener Email on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
13Jul2016

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

Episode 154 is available for downloading where I will be reading more of your questions this week all about Royal Caribbean.

Matt is diving into the email bag this week to answer your emails all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise, including where to be romantic on a cruise, where the best steak is, Cozumel excursion ideas, how to book a cruise that is not available yet and a whole lot more.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 154. 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!

Video: 1887 ice show transports Harmony of the Seas guests on a Magical Journey

In:
12Jul2016

Royal Caribbean’s latest ice skating show, 1887, takes guests on a magical journey inspired by Jules Verne, legendary author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This exhilarating, time-traveling journey blends fantasy with reality with an incredible combination of projection, lighting, video and theatrics in Harmony of the Seas’ high-tech entertainment venue, Studio B.

Royal Caribbean adds new Empress of the Seas sailings through September 2016

In:
12Jul2016

Royal Caribbean has released new sailings for Empress of the Seas that extends the booking window through September 2016.

The new sailings are for destinations in the Caribbean and Bahamas.

  • 5-night Key West and Cozumel
    • Ports of Call: Miami, Florida; Cruising; Key West, Florida; Cruising; Cozumel, Mexico; Cruising; Miami, Florida
    • September 3, 12, 17, 26, 2016
  • 4-night Key West and Nassau
    • Ports of Call: Miami, Florida; Key West, Florida; Cruising; Nassau, Bahamas; Miami, Florida

The new sailings are available for booking immediately.

4 Royal Caribbean dining hacks

In:
11Jul2016

Dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise is a favorite activity, because Royal Caribbean put so much into its dining options.  There is plenty of great cuisine to enjoy on every Royal Caribbean cruise, and we have four great tips for getting a little bit more out of your dining experience onboard.

These tips are designed to give you the knowledge ahead of time to be properly prepared for your cruise, rather than perhaps running across one or more of these tips in the course of your vacation.

Order off-menu food in dining room

Each evening in the main dining room, there is a printed menu that guests can order from, but there are many more options you can consider beyond what is written on the menu.

The main dining room dinner menu is designed to appeal to a great majority of guests, but perhaps you have a dietary restriction, or you just really want something else.

Guests can ask to speak to the head waiter at any point and order something special, provided the chef in the galley has the ingredients to make it.  

The example I often share is Royal Caribbean used to offer Indian dishes on its old main dining room dinner menus, but the current version does not offer it.  As a result, I always speak to the head waiter and ask to have an Indian dish prepared for me each evening.  Sure enough, my waiter brings me that special dish every night.

Starbucks is (sometimes) included with the drink package

Royal Caribbean's Ultimate and Royal Replenish drink packages include premium coffee and tea, and on select Royal Caribbean hips that includes Starbucks beverages.

On non-Oasis class cruise ships, Starbucks beverages are brewed at Cafe Promenade or Cafe Latte-tudes locations, which gives guests with these beverage packages the ability to order drinks from the Starbucks menu.

Keep in mind, Royal Caribbean ships that have a free-standing Starbucks location (Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) do not allow for use of beverage packages to order Starbucks.

First night discount

Royal Caribbean's specialty restaurants are incredibly popular, but an under-advertised special offer is some specialty restaurants will offer a discount for guests who dine there on the first night of the cruise.

There is something about the first night of the cruise, where it seems to be the least desirable evening to eat at a specialty restaurant. Perhaps guests prefer to explore or dine in the main dining room on day one, but for whatever the reason many specialty restaurants offer a first night discount.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to reserve a time at a specialty restaurant in advance of your cruise for this discount.  Most of the time, you just go to the restaurant on embarkation day and inquire about the availability of the discount.

Ice cream in a cup

This tip is something I learned from someone on Periscope, and it is sheer genius for someone that loves ice cream.

On all Royal Caribbean ships, there is complimentary soft-serve ice cream on the ship.  Usually, it is near the pools and there are ice cream cones available to pour the ice cream onto.  Ice cream cones are great and all, but you really cannot load them up too much without an incredibly elevated risk of it falling over and you becoming that guy.

For those that want to load up on ice cream without multiple trips to the machine, grab a drink cup from somewhere onboard.  Usually, the water cups in the Windjammer are perfect for this.  Take the cup and fill up the cup with as much ice cream as you can handle.  The result is that ice cream fix you have always dreamed of!

Your tips

Do you have any Royal Caribbean food hacks to share? Post in the comments below the tips and tricks you have learned over the years!

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 10, 2016

In:
10Jul2016

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 Miami-Dade County Commission approved Royal Caribbean's proposal to build a new cruise terminal at PortMiami earlier this week.

The $247 million terminal was unanimously approved by the Board of County Commissioners. 

The new terminal, Terminal A, will be able to handle even Oasis-class cruise ships and open in Late 2018.

Terminal A would house an angular glass center and a parking garage with about 1,000 parking spaces at the northeastern side of the port, designed by England-based global architecture firm Broadway Malyan.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

This week's podcast episode is all about what it is like to cruise on Explorer of the Seas to Alaska.

Our good friend, Beci Mahnken, joins us to discuss her recent cruise on Explorer of the Seas and shares how a Voyager-class ship fares with an intimate experience like an Alaska cruise.

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

Cruise Critic has a virtual tour of Harmony of the Seas' Royal Promenade.

Royal Caribbean UK has a list of 10 things you will love about the Boardwalk.

Moms of the Seas answers the question of does her husband have to wear a suit on formal night.

Photo tour of Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas

In:
08Jul2016

Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas has rejoined the fleet  and has been offering regular sailings to destinations around the Caribbean, and one of our blog readers was lucky enough to be onboard a recent sailing and shared photos with us.

Empress of the Seas might be the smallest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but she is still an elegant and beautiful ship and these photos by Brian Owens shows off that grandeur in a great way.

Empress of the Seas is currently sailing out of Miami, Florida offering short 4- and 5-night getaways from Miami to Nassau, The Bahamas; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Grand Cayman and Key West, Florida.

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