Royal Caribbean ranked as top cruise line for the money

In:
12Dec2013

U.S. News & World Report's Best Cruises rankings are out, where the magazine looked at 15 cruise lines across a number of categories and Royal Caribbean came out on top for "Top cruise line for the money".

The report compared how the cruise lines were regarded by travel experts, how they were rated by cruise travelers (using data collected in collaboration with Cruiseline.com) and how they fared in health and safety evaluations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Royal Caribbean was named best value because of what you get for what you pay for.  The report says Royal Caribbean, "doesn't sacrifice a quality experience for affordability: Royal Caribbean's fares cover lodging, dining and onboard activities ranging from youth-focused exploits like swimming and ice skating to enrichment programs like language classes and cooking demonstrations."

Royal Caribbean did well in other categories as well.  Royal Caribbean came in second place for "Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean" as well as "Best Cruise Lines for Families".

In terms of ships, U.S. News and World Reports ranked Royal Caribbean's ships in this order

  1. Oasis of the Seas
  2. Liberty of the Seas
  3. Allure of the Seas
  4. Freedom of the Seas
  5. Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean could return to Dubai in 2015

In:
12Dec2013

Royal Caribbean is considering sending a cruise ship back to Dubai in 2015.  Royal Caribbean had ships in the area for a number of years before deciding to remove ships from the Gulf this year.

Gulf News reports Royal Caribbean regional director for Europe, Middle East & Africa, Helen Beck, says there is potential for a return.

“We’re evaluating it right now … [we’re] right in the middle of discussing opportunity for the potential for the 2015/2016 season,” she said.

Beck said she was pleased with the “positive progress” across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries towards supporting cruise tourism and investments in infrastructure.

Adding to the push to bring cruise ships back to the Middle East is the double digit passenger growth in the Middle East, according to Lakshmi Durai, Executive Director – Middle East at Royal Caribbean.

Beck admits that the UAE and Middle East region is still an emerging cruise market. She said passengers from the United States, China, and other markets still dominated bookings.

Any return to the Arabian Gulf is likely to see similar operations as before with Royal Caribbean likely to dock in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Muscat.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas set for maiden voyage from New Orleans

In:
12Dec2013

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas arrives at Port of New Orleans’ Julia Street Cruise Terminal today to begin weekly cruises through April.

Serenade of the Seas replaces Navigator of the Seas and is fresh off a recent refurbishment last December.

Serenade of the Seas will sail offer her first cruise today, December 12, with a nine-night Caribbean adventure cruise to Key West, Fla.; Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and George Town, Grand Cayman. The ship’s regular itineraries will feature seven-night Bahamas cruises to Key West, Fla.; Nassau, Bahamas; and CocoCay, Bahamas. As well as seven-night western Caribbean cruises to Falmouth, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. 

Royal Caribbean senior Vice President Vicki Freed is excited about Serenade's arrival, "We are excited to be back in New Orleans with a newly revitalized Serenade of the Seas.  Guests sailing from New Orleans will enjoy a Caribbean vacation like no other aboard one of our unrivaled and most innovative ships."

New Orleans Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange commented on Serenade's arrival, "We are happy to have Royal Caribbean return this year and bring this magnificent ship to New Orleans.  Royal Caribbean is a perfect fit for the New Orleans tourism demographic and offers a wide variety of itineraries throughout the Bahamas and the Caribbean."

 

Video: Dhani Jones Episode 2: Stretching The Limit In Fitness

In:
11Dec2013

Royal Caribbean Quantum Experience Advisor Dhani Jones has released a second episode all about how he is working with Royal Caribbean to develop new and innovative fitness activities for Quantum of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean to build new rehearsal facility for shipboard performers at FIU

In:
11Dec2013

Royal Caribbean signed an agreement today with Florida International University to build a new rehearsal facility for shipboard performers.  Once complete, it will offer FIU students unprecedented access to training, internships and exclusive research opportunities in hospitality and the cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean will break ground this week on the 130,000-square-foot, $20 million facility on the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus and is expected to open its doors in January 2015. The facility will be outfitted with full automation capability, where performers can train in either of two leading rigging systems.

Royal Caribbean Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard D. Fain said his team is pleased to have been able to find the ideal conditions right in South Florida to build a new state-of-the-art facility that will make it possible to produce the increasingly sophisticated shows Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises passengers have come to expect. The partnership provides Royal Caribbean with the opportunity to help train FIU students in other areas of the business through internships in operations and management.

“We are excited to partner with FIU on our new entertainment facility, not only because it will enable Royal Caribbean to continue to produce world-class entertainment for our ships, but because it will provide an opportunity for FIU students to receive a unique and hands-on education in the hospitality industry,” said Fain. ”Royal Caribbean considers South Florida home, and what better way to give back to the community than to be able to enrich the education of FIU students.”

The new training facility will feature a number of capabilities that will make it unique in the cruise industry:

  • The building will contain two three-story high studios outfitted with state-of-the-art rigging systems. One will feature aChicago Flyhouse system, while the other will have a Flying by Foy system.
  • 10 other rehearsal studios
  • A 300-seat black box theater
  • 20,000 square feet dedicated to costume creation and storage

The partnership will open extraordinary opportunities for students and faculty in the College of Architecture and the Artsand the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management:

  • 20 internships (corporate and shipboard)
  • Access to the unique training facility
  • Access to data and other proprietary information to be used for research purposes
  • Royal Caribbean performers will live in existing student housing, making it possible for FIU to build new housing for students. New student housing will also open in 2015.

Dress codes on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode 19

In:
11Dec2013

It's cold outside so stay indoors and enjoy this week's brand new episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast!

Episode 19 is now available for downloading where we look at what what dress codes Royal Caribbean has for venues aboard its cruise ships.

In this episode, Matt explores what guidelines Royal Caribbean has in terms of what to wear during different times of the day.  We will look at dress codes during the day and evening, as well as what each dress code means and what to do if you don't want to dress up at all (which is okay too).

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 19. 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!

Cruising 101: Bringing an infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
10Dec2013

Having an infant is a pretty big adjustment to anyone's life but it doesn't mean you can't take a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation.  In fact, going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with an infant is a great way to take a meaningful vacation with your new bundle of joy.

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has really changed how they accomodate very young kids with new facilities and activities just for them.  Having brought my own toddler onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise a few times, I can tell you it's very doable but it always helps to be prepared.

Is your infant old enough to cruise?

It is important to note that Royal Caribbean requires infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise. For transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, select South American and other selected cruises, your infant must be at least 12 months old as of the first day of the cruise.

Bring lots of supplies

Any parent can tell you there is no such thing as too many diapers or enough formula.  On a cruise, the same rule holds true so bringing enough diapers, wipes, formula, and other baby-centric items is critical because buying these items onboard is limited and in port you may have difficulties in finding the brand you prefer.

A few weeks before your cruise, start getting a sense of how many diapers, wipes, formula your child goes through in an average week.  That will give you a ballpark idea of what you need to pack and then probably add another 25% to give yourself some room.

Babies 2 Go!

Royal Caribbean offers a program called "Babies 2 Go!", where parents can pre-order Huggies diapers, wipes, and cream, as well as organic Gerber baby food to their room both before and throughout their cruise. 

I haven't used this program personally as bring ample supplies yourself is likely the most cost-effective solution, but it is good to know this program is available.

You can purchase the packages by calling (800) 722-5443 in the U.S. or Canada.

Flying? Be prepared for air pressure

Just like adults, if you are taking an airplane to your cruise, the air pressure change during takeoff and landing can cause pain in your toddlers ears.  Unlike adults, they don't know the basic strategies to alleviate the pain.

We've often found bringing a bottle is the perfect solution.  Ideally, try to withold food prior to your flight from when you arrive at the airport until you get on the plane.  Once seated on your plane and the plane begins taxing to the runway, give your child a bottle and let him/her eat through takeoff until you reach at least 10,000 feet.

Bring a stroller

Onboard the cruise ship you may not necessarily find a need for a stroller and it definitely takes up room in your small stateroom, but having a stroller is worth it.  In and around ports of call, having a stroller makes everyone's life easier.

It's also smart to bring a stroller that reclines so your child can sleep in the stroller.  Making it easier for your child to nap is always a plus for parents and it allows you to keep doing what you had planned without being confined to the stareroom.

Cribs are available in your room

Don't worry about bringing a pack-and-play, Royal Caribbean provides a crib for your child free of charge to sleep in.

While the crib does come with a mattress, we've found it more comfortable for our child to take a comforter and fold it up to place on top of the mattress to act as a small mattress topper.  The difference was quickly evident in how much longer our daughter would stay asleep versus the mattress alone.

Make sure you or your travel agent reserve a crib in advance so it is waiting in your stateroom when you embark on the first day.

Royal Babies and Tots Nursery

The best place for your child for when you need or want a break is the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery.  It's not available on all Royal Caribbean ships yet, but if you are cruising with an infant, be sure to look for a cruise that features one.

The Royal Babies and Tots Nursery is for children between the age of 6 and 36 months old.  These faciltiies are made just for young ones and my daughter loved going here. In fact, we always had a hard time convincing her to leave.  For a small charge per hour, you can do what you want while your child is supervised by trained professionals.  

Dinner time alone is well worth paying for it because you can enjoy a meal in the main dining room or specialty restaurant without constantly dealing with your child becoming bored or making a mess.  

In-room babysitting

If the nursery isn't an option, you can always fall back on in-room babysitting.  It's far more expensive than the nursery but allowing your toddler to stay in your room may be a simpler and more ideal solution.

In-room babysitting is provided by the ship's crew on an availability basis.  You will need to go to Guest Services during your cruise and inquire about availability.  I've had good luck with getting a baby sitter but keep in mind it's on a first-come, first served basis and there are limited baby sitters.

At the time of this posting, in-room babysitting costs $19 per hour.

Group Play Time

On all Royal Caribbean ships, you will find Fisher-Price sponsored play time.  These events require parental supervision where lots of fun toys are available for kids to play with.

On some Royal Caribbean cruises, there was a room with set hours that allowed kids and their parents to play with the toys most of the day while other cruises had set times.  In both cases, a few luggage bags full of toys are brought for kids to play with.

This is a communal event, so other toddlers may be present and it's yet something else for toddlers to do onboard. 

Naps, naps, naps

While having your child nap in a stroller is always the best-case scenario, often times it doesn't work.  However it's very important for your sanity and your child's enjoyment to keep their nap schedule going.

On days when your ship is docked, getting back onboard for a nap while in port can be rather simple.  If your ship is tendered, you may need to hold off morning plans in port just because of the slow nature of tenders.

I've often fallen prey to the thought of "we can just power through their nap time" and what ends up happening is an afternoon filled with temper tantrums by child and parent alike.

Bring backup

If it's in the cards, bring grand-parents, friends, aunts, uncles and anyone else with you on your cruise that can lend a hand now and then.  

We all love our kids but getting a break is always welcome and it provides your loved ones with an opportunity to spend time with your child while you can do other things.

No diapers in the pool

Royal Caribbean prohibits any children that wear diapers (even swim diapers) in their pools.  The exception is the baby pool, which is available on a few ships such as Freedom of the Seas.  

This baby pool is about ankle deep on a baby and a few feet across.  Infants and toddlers I've seen in it love it, but that's the only allowed space for swimming.

Another alternative is to bring your own inflatable pool with you.  I've found a few inflatable travel pools that can accomodate an infant (diaper or not) that you can bring onboard.  This may be an alternative for toddlers sailing on Royal Caribbean ships that do not have a baby pool.

Washing infant clothing

It isn't a question of if your infant will soil their clothes, but how often they will.  Royal Caribbean provides laundry services to guests for a fee but you can wash infant clothing in your stateroom for a better price.

You can purchase single use detergent powder packets and wash a few baby clothes at a time in your sink.  Then air dry the clothes in your shower using the laundry line.  

So parents of teeny tots, what have been your best strategies for cruising on Royal Caribbean with a baby? What do you wish someone had told you when you first visited as a parent? Let us know in the comments below.

Royal Caribbean sales event for the week of December 09, 2013

In:
09Dec2013

Each week Royal Caribbean posts a number of cruise deals available to the public and they're changing things up during the month of December.   During this month, the deals are available all week long.

This sale runs between December 9 through December 15, 2013.

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 01/05/2014

Inside: N/A
Ocean-view: $999 per per person (Category CV, F)
Balcony: $1199 per person (Category X)
Neighborhood Balcony: N/A
Suite: N/A

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 01/12/2014

Inside: $779 per person (Category Q)
Ocean-view: $849 per per person (Category CV, F)
Balcony: $999 per person (Category X)
Neighborhood Balcony: N/A
Suite: $2699 per person (Category L1)

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 01/19/2014

Inside: $799 per person (Category Q)
Ocean-view: $999 per per person (Category CV, F)
Balcony: $1199 per person (Category X)
Neighborhood Balcony: N/A
Suite: N/A

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 01/26/2014

Inside: $749 per person (Category Q)
Ocean-view: N/A
Balcony: $999 per person (Category X)
Neighborhood Balcony: $899 per person (Category B1, C1)
Suite: $2749 per person (Category L1)


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Splendour of the Seas arrives in Brazil for 9th cruise season

In:
05Dec2013

Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas arrived today in Salvador for her ninth season in Brazil after travelling from Europe.

Splendour of the Seas' first cruise in Brazil this season will begin on December 8th and offer three to seven night cruises to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

As part of Splendour's return to Brazil, a small commemorative event was held announcing the ship's arrival.

Splendour of the Seas is returning after having had a revitalization that breathed fresh life into the ship, which added a number of new ammenities to the ship such as restaurants and onboard activities.

Royal Caribbean stateroom options for larger families

In:
05Dec2013

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with four people or less is pretty easy in terms of picking out staterooms, with the only difficult question being how much can you afford.  But what about those families with five or six or even more people in a family?

There are a few different options available to your family to consider, each with advantages and drawbacks.  Not every option may be available on every cruise, but you should be able to find something that works for you.

Family Oceanview Stateroom

If you'd like to have everyone in one stateroom, the Family Oceanview Stateroom can be a great choice.  It boasts room for six people and anywhere from 265 to 328 square feet of space, there's a lot of room here.

The stateroom has a king size bed with additional bunk beds in separate area and separate sitting area with sofa bed.  

Royal Caribbean requires a minimum of five people for this stateroom, so it doesn't sell out that quickly although they will open it up to less people if the room is still vacant close to its sailing.

The chief drawback to this stateroom is its location, which is all the way forward.  Staterooms in the very front (or rear) of the ship are subject to feeling more motion of the ship.

Royal Caribbean ship classes available: Radiance, Voyager, Freedom, Oasis (as well as Vision of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Enchantment of the Seas)

Family Interior Stateroom

The most inexpensive stateroom for up to six guests will be the Family Interior Stateroom.  This inside stateroom offers no view but can accomodate larger families.

It features two twin beds that convert to a Royal King along with a sofa that converts to a double bed, two Pullman beds, private bathroom and sitting area.

Royal Caribbean ship classes available: Freedom, Oasis

Family Promenade Stateroom

Photo by APDMOM

Like the Family Oceanview Stateroom, the Family Promenade Stateroom offers a lot of space (327 square feet) with a view of the Royal Promenade.

These staterooms accommodate six guests in its twin beds, sofa or pullman beds and sitting area.

The advantage of this stateroom is that it's in a better location (closer to mid-ship).

Royal Caribbean ship classes available: Freedom

Royal Family Suite

If you have more money to spend, take a good look at the Royal Family Suite, which boasts 560-580 square feet of space along with a private balcony.

This family room can accomodate up to eight guests and is perfect for those who want the most space for their families. 

Each stateroom has a Royal King,one room with third and fourth Pullman beds, two bathrooms (one with a tub) and living area with double sofa bed. 

Needless to say, this stateroom can be expensive and out of many families' price ranges.  But if you can afford it, there's no better way to stay in one stateroom with a lot of people.

Royal Caribbean ship classes available: Voyager, Freedom, Oasis, Quantum

Family Connected Junior Suite with Balcony

New for the Quantum-class, is the Family Connected Junior Suite that has 575 square feet of space along with a private balcony.

What makes this room type unique is it features three different categories of staterooms, connected through a vestibule to form a special layout that provides 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a balcony for all your family needs. Sleeps 8 to 10 guests.

Royal Caribbean ship classes available:  Quantum

If all else fails: Two staterooms

Photo by Wendy Perrin

If no other option will do, booking two staterooms is always an option.  Often, the cost of two staterooms can be cheaper than some of the family staterooms and can offer more seperation between family members (a plus for families with teenagers).

Booking two staterooms also allows for connecting staterooms, in which there is a door between the staterooms that allows for easy flow between them.  This can be convenient during the day to keep the doors open, essentially creating a two room stateroom.

Royal Caribbean ship classes available:  All ships

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