Freedom of the Seas Cruise Preview on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
31Aug2016

Hey everyone! Episode 161 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

This week, we're sharing the details about our cruise on Freedom of the Seas to the Caribbean that begins this weekend.  Let's look at why we picked this cruise, the cool things to do on Freedom of the Seas and our plans for each port of call.  

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 161. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS 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!

Freedom of the Seas 2016 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

In:
30Aug2016

Our next adventure is coming up on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas and we will be LIVE blogging every day of the cruise, to share with you what it is like to experience this amazing ship.

Our cruise begins later this week, but here is a cruise preview to share with you what to expect on our trip!

Our cruise

This sailing aboard Freedom of the Seas happens to be the third Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise, which is an event we set up earlier this year to invite everyone that enjoys this blog to sail together on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

We chose Freedom of the Seas because it is a very popular ship.  In fact, Freedom of the Seas is the ship I have been on the most across Royal Caribbean's entire fleet.  She is a large ship that offers a lot of great activities and options, and comes in at a terrific price.  In addition, we are sailing over Labor Day weekend in the United States, which means many of us will only have to take 4 vacation days.

Part of the reason I find myself coming back to Freedom of the Seas time and time again is the great variety of what she offers. Fabulous specialty dining, a fun pool deck and great entertainment every day of the cruise stacks up to offer one of the best values.  It is amusing to consider that despite the ship being barely 10 years old, her pricing relative to the newer ships in the fleet has lead to one of the best bang-for-the-buck anyone can find.

Sharing this cruise experience with my friends from Royal Caribbean Blog means that there will be lots of friendly faces aboard the ship. As I mentioned, this is our third group cruise, and each one has been even more fun than a normal cruise because we run into friends all over and that means we get to cruise with other Royal Caribbean fans that "get" just how fun and amazing a Royal Caribbean cruise can be.

Our stateroom

For this cruise, we are trying something new and different to us, a Promenade view stateroom.  We reserved two connecting Promenade view rooms because we wanted to keep our cruise fare low, without compromising on having a view.  

I have two children, ages 1 and 5, and I think they will love the endless viewing opportunities a room like this offers.  Plus, the bay window in Promenade view rooms provides a little extra living space with that couch near the window.

As a parent, we chose two connecting rooms instead of one larger room to provide extra living space, get an extra bathroom and get separation from our children (especially at night time). We love our kids, but need sharing a room with two young children is not always preferable, so having that extra room means they can sleep on their schedule and they also have their own space to play together.

Our itinerary

We are sailing on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas, that will take us to cruise ports we love.  While there are no ports of call that are new to us, we are getting a chance to re-visit some favorites.

Day Ports of Call Arrival Departure
Sunday, September 4, 2016 Orlando (Port Canaveral), Fl -- 4:30 pm
Monday, September 5, 2016 Cruising -- --
Tuesday, September 6, 2016 Labadee, Haiti 8:00 am 4:00 pm
Wednesday, September 7, 2016 Falmouth, Jamaica 10:00 am 7:00 pm
Thursday, September 8, 2016 George Town, Grand Cayman 8:00 am 4:00 pm
Friday, September 9, 2016 Cozumel, Mexico 10:00 am 7:00 pm
Saturday, September 10, 2016 Cruising -- --
Sunday, September 11, 2016 Orlando (Port Canaveral), Fl 6:00 am --

Two of my favorite Caribbean ports are Labadee and Cozumel.  In Labadee, we rented a beach cabana so that the kids can have a comfortable place to relax and have easy access to the beach.  I love the cabanas at Labadee for the privacy and perks they provide.  I prefer the over the water cabanas for the added privacy, but with the kids being as young as they are, a beach cabana makes it far easier for them to get to and from the beach.

When I visit Cozumel, we just explore San Miguel and do a combination of eating, shopping, more eating and generally wandering the town (with some eating along the way).

On this cruise, we are visiting Grand Cayman for the first time in a while, and we have something super fun planned. I have invited everyone that booked into our Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise to join us on a private yacht excursion.  We found a great chartering service in Grand Cayman, that has a 55' yacht that offers three staterooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, jet ski, sun loungers, stereo and a whole lot more.  Plus, we get to go wherever we want around the island! This is going to be such an incredible experience that I get to share with my friends from Royal Caribbean Blog!

Three things I am excited to try

I have a lot of plans for this cruise, but here are the top five experiences and activities that I am most excited to do on this sailing.

3. Eat at Sabor

Hi, my name is Matt and I am a Sabor addict.

Hi Matt.

I make no apologies about how much I really, really love Sabor Modern Mexican, and cruising on Freedom of the Seas means I get yet another chance to eat here a few times. Between the amazing guacamole, hand-crafted margaritas and tuna tacos, not sure how I will be able to bring myself to dine anywhere else onboard.

2. Try the ultimate drink package

For this cruise, I booked Royal Caribbean's ultimate drink package prior to my cruise.  I generally do not buy the drink packages because I do not feel I can get my money's worth from them to make it worth my while.  But I changed my tune for this sailing for a few reasons. 

First, the drink package was discounted 20%, which means the difference in price between the premium drink package and ultimate drink package was $5 per day.  That means I have to drink just one coffee from Cafe Promenade a day to break even.  I was planning on doing that anyway, even before the drink package.  

Second, the drink package allows me to lock-in my beverage costs for this cruise, and that means my SeaPass bill at the end of the cruise will be much smaller. Breaking up the total cost of the cruise is a major benefit of all the drink packages.

Third, I have never tried the ultimate drink package, so this will be an opportunity to see how I do with it.  One of the top reasons I avoid the drink packages is because I feel that I drink for the sake of drinking when I have them, so we will see if that holds up or not.  I plan on documenting in each live blog post how many drinks I had that day to account for the value the drink package provided me.

1. Promenade view room

As I noted earlier, this will be my first time staying in a Promenade view stateroom.  While I have poked my head in a few over the years, this is the first time I will stay in one.  

My hope is the kids will really enjoy the view, especially when there is the first parade on the Royal Promenade that is often late at night. Moreover, I want them to find their own value from being able to see all the action on the Royal Promenade from the comfort of their room.

Personally, I am excited to see what the experience is like and have convenient access to the Royal Promenade. I seem to spend more time on the Royal Promenade than other places onboard, so being close by makes sense.

What's next

Our Freedom of the Seas cruise begins on Sunday, September 4th and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Royal Caribbean releases new Empress of the Seas sailings through the end of April 2017

In:
30Aug2016

Royal Caribbean has released new Empress of the Seas sailings that go through the end of April 2017.

The new sailings are a variety of 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7-night cruises to destinations in the Bahamas, Key West, Belize, Mexico and Grand Cayman.  

Bookings are not yet available on Royal Caribbean's web site for these sailings.

Empress of the Seas is homeported in Miami, Florida and offers signature amenities including a thrilling rock-climbing wall for adrenaline seekers; new pools and whirlpools; a spa with an extensive treatment menu; and a complimentary Adventure Ocean youth program. 

Spotted: Beach Bungalows on Royal Caribbean's Labadee

In:
30Aug2016

Royal Caribbean has been busy adding new options for guests to enjoy on a visit to their private destinations, and today we spotted a new beach bungalow option in Labadee.

Priced at $250 for up to eight guests, these beach bungalows are located at Columbus Cove and offers a tranquil beach experience that is close to the family activities, such as Dragon’s Splash Water Slide, Arawak Aqua Park and a variety of other family-fun activities.

Each beach bungalow rental includes two floating beach mats, stocked water cooler, beach towels and the personalized service of an attendant on hand to bring you beverages.

Transportation to and from Beach Bungalows is via Labadee tram or tender boat service to Nellie's, with a short walk to Columbus Cove.

Royal Caribbean also recently added beach bungalows to its other private destination of CocoCay.

Video: Royal Caribbean Serves Up Mexican Favorites at Sabor on Harmony of the Seas

In:
30Aug2016

Sabor's classic Mexican dishes are crafted with modern twists onboard Harmony of the Seas. The taqueria and tequila bar offers guests the vibrant flavors of Mexico, including tasty guacamole freshly made tableside, signature margaritas and other traditional cuisine in a festive atmosphere.

The cost benefits of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society onboard discounts

In:
29Aug2016

Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society, provides guests with some great rewards for being, "loyal to Royal" and cruising again and again with the company.  The benefits have always been a compelling reason to continue cruising with Royal Caribbean, and great incentive to move up the ranks of the Crown and Anchor Society to enjoy the top-tier benefits available. Of the many Crown & Anchor benefits available to guests, one of the most popular are the onboard discounts that are pre-loaded onto each SeaPass account.

How lucrative are these Crown and Anchor discounts and how much money could they save you on your next sailing? These are the sort of questions you might be wondering too, so here is our cost benefits of the Crown and Anchor Society, broken down by each level.

In order to calculate these benefits into dollars and cents, we looked at the perks available to members before and during their cruise and tried our best to assign a monetary value based on what they offer. Some benefits are a bit too intangible to assign an exact amount to, but we estimated as fairly as possible.  In many cases, there are discounts that can very greatly depending on what you actually order (internet package discounts, spa treatment discounts, etc) and we did the best job to offer a median discount, or something close to average.  We did note in these situations what we picked to be clear. For any discounts related to specialty restaurants, we picked Giovanni's Table as our example because the price is the same across the fleet.

Please note all discounts listed were accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of posting and these discounts can change at anytime.

Gold

  • Buy any wine, beer or soda by the glass and get a second free: $6.95 (beer)
  • Purchase any glass of wine, beer or soda and receive a 10% discount: $0.69
  • Buy one, get one free Johnny Rockets milkshake: $4.50
  • Receive 25% off any coffee beverage (not valid at Starbucks): $1.06
  • Buy a Bingo Package and get 1 free Jackpot Card: $6
  • Buy any internet package and receive 10% off your purchase: $12.59 (7-night 1 device Surf + Stream package)
  • Spend $25 or more on Royal Caribbean logo products and receive 10% off: $2.50
  • Buy one photo and receive 50% off discount on a second photo: $9.99
  • Get 10% off any one spa or salon service: $9.90 (60 minute Swedish massage)

Total average savings: $54.18

Platinum

  • Buy any wine, beer or soda by the glass and get a second free: $6.95 (beer)
  • Purchase any glass of wine, beer or soda and receive a 10% discount: $0.69
  • Buy one, get one free Johnny Rockets milkshake: $4.50
  • Buy any coffee beverage and get a second free: $4.25 (hot latte)
  • One complimentary non-alcoholic specialty coffee drink with the purchase of dinner in any specialty restaurant: $8 (coffees from Chops Grille)
  • Buy a Bingo Package and get 3 free Jackpot Card: $11
  • Buy any internet package and receive 15% off your purchase: $18.88 (7-night 1 device Surf + Stream package)
  • Two free Spin to Win at the Casino: $0 (Most likely prizes are trinkets of nearly zero value like keychains, and even then getting a "prize" is unlikely).
  • 20% off Casino tournament entrance fee (excluding Poker tournaments): $5 ($25 slot tournament)
  • Spend $25 or more on Royal Caribbean logo products and receive 10% off: $2.50
  • Buy one photo and receive 50% off discount on a second photo: $9.99
  • Get 15% off any one spa or salon service: $14.85 (60 minute Swedish massage)

Total average savings: $86.61

Emerald

  • Buy any wine, beer or soda by the glass and get a second free: $6.95 (beer)
  • Purchase any glass of wine, beer or soda and receive a 10% discount: $0.69
  • Buy one, get one free Johnny Rockets milkshake: $4.50
  • Buy any coffee beverage and get a second free: $4.25 (hot latte)
  • One complimentary non-alcoholic specialty coffee drink with the purchase of dinner in any specialty restaurant: $8 (coffees from Chops Grille)
  • Buy a Bingo Package and get 6 free Jackpot Card: $15
  • Three free Spin to Win at the Casino: $3 (We assume one wins a keychain with three spins, we'll give a $1 value).
  • 25% off Casino tournament entrance fee (excluding Poker tournaments): $6.25 ($25 slot tournament)
  • Buy any internet package and receive 15% off your purchase: $18.88 (7-night 1 device Surf + Stream package)
  • Spend $25 or more on Royal Caribbean logo products and receive 10% off: $2.50
  • Buy one photo and receive 50% off discount on a second photo: $9.99
  • Get 15% off any one spa or salon service: $14.85 (60 minute Swedish massage)
  • Receive $5 off a $30 bag of Wash and Fold Laundry on 5 or more nights: $5
  • $5 off any dry cleaning or pressing services of $25 or more: $5

Total average savings: $102.86

Diamond

  • Buy any wine, beer or soda by the glass and get a second free: $6.95 (beer)
  • Purchase any glass of wine, beer or soda and receive a 20% discount: $1.38
  • Buy one, get one free Johnny Rockets milkshake: $4.50
  • One complimentary non-alcoholic specialty coffee drink with the purchase of dinner in any specialty restaurant: $8 (coffees from Chops Grille)
  • Buy a Bingo Package and get 6 free Jackpot Card: $15
  • Three free Spin to Win at the Casino: $1 (We assume one wins a keychain with three spins, we'll give a $1 value).
  • 25% off Casino tournament entrance fee (excluding Poker tournaments): $6.25 ($25 slot tournament)
  • 1 free day of internet usage or $30 off any Internet purchase: $30
  • Spend $25 or more on Royal Caribbean logo products and receive 15% off: $3.75
  • Free any size photo of your choice from your existing printed photograph selection: $19.99
  • Get 10% off a digital photo package or photo book: $19.90 (All inclusive digital photo package)
  • Get 20% off any one spa or salon service: $19.80 (60 minute Swedish massage)
  • Receive $10 off a $30 bag of Wash and Fold Laundry on 5 or more nights: $10
  • Receive $10 off a $30 bag of Wash and Fold Laundry on 8 or more nights: $10
  • $5 off any dry cleaning or pressing services of $25 or more: $5
  • Stateroom phone discount of $2 per minute: $11.90 (assuming a two minute phone call)

Total average savings: $173.42

Diamond Plus

  • Buy any wine, beer or soda by the glass and get a second free: $6.95 (beer)
  • Purchase any glass of wine, beer or soda and receive a 25% discount: $1.73
  • Buy one, get one free Johnny Rockets milkshake: $4.50
  • One complimentary non-alcoholic specialty coffee drink with the purchase of dinner in any specialty restaurant: $8 (coffees from Chops Grille)
  • Purchase one cover charge in a Specialty Restaurant on the first or second night of your cruise and the second cover charge is free: $25 (Giovanni's Table)
  • Three free Spin to Win at the Casino: $1 (We assume one wins a keychain with three spins, we'll give a $1 value).
  • 30% off Casino tournament entrance fee (excluding Poker tournaments): $7.50 ($25 slot tournament)
  • Buy a Bingo Package and get 6 free Jackpot Card: $15
  • $39.98 discount off any Internet purchase: $39.98
  • Receive $10 off a $30 bag of Wash and Fold Laundry on 8 or more nights: $10
  • $5 off any dry cleaning or pressing services of $25 or more: $5
  • One free $30 wash and fog bag on 5 or more nights: $30
  • 20% off one tuxedo rental package: $17.80 (Traditional package)
  • Spend $25 or more on Royal Caribbean logo products and receive 15% off: $3.75
  • Free any size photo of your choice from your existing printed photograph selection: $19.99
  • Get 10% off a digital photo package or photo book: $19.90 (All inclusive digital photo package)
  • Get 20% off any one spa or salon service: $19.80 (60 minute Swedish massage)
  • Book a signature spa service while in port and receive a complimentary add on treatment: $25 (Frangipani Scalp Massage)
  • Stateroom phone discount of $2 per minute: $11.90 (assuming a two minute phone call)

Total average savings: $272.80

Pinnacle

  • Purchase one cover charge in a Specialty Restaurant on the first or second night of your cruise and the second cover charge is free: $25 (Giovanni's Table)
  • Buy any wine, beer or soda by the glass and get a second free: $6.95 (beer)
  • Purchase any glass of wine, beer or soda and receive a 25% discount: $1.73
  • One complimentary non-alcoholic specialty coffee drink with the purchase of dinner in any specialty restaurant: $8 (coffees from Chops Grille)
  • Three free Spin to Win at the Casino: $1 (We assume one wins a keychain with three spins, we'll give a $1 value).
  • 30% off Casino tournament entrance fee (excluding Poker tournaments): $7.50 ($25 slot tournament)
  • Buy a Bingo Package and get 6 free Jackpot Cards: $15
  • Free unlimited internet for the length of your voyage: $125.93 (7-night Voom Surf & Stream at $17.99 per day for one device)
  • Receive $10 off a $30 bag of Wash and Fold Laundry on 8 or more nights: $10
  • $5 off any dry cleaning or pressing services of $25 or more: $5
  • One free $30 wash and fog bag on 5 or more nights: $30
  • 20% off one tuxedo rental package: $17.80 (Traditional package)
  • Spend $25 or more on Royal Caribbean logo products and receive 15% off: $3.75
  • Free any size photo of your choice from your existing printed photograph selection: $19.99
  • Get 10% off a digital photo package or photo book: $19.90 (All inclusive digital photo package)
  • Get 20% off any one spa or salon service: $19.80 (60 minute Swedish massage)
  • Book a signature spa service while in port and receive a complimentary add on treatment: $25 (Frangipani Scalp Massage)
  • Stateroom phone discount of $2 per minute: $11.90 (assuming a two minute phone call)

Total average savings: $354.25

Conclusions

It should be noted that barely any guests will ever use every single discount on a cruise. In fact, many discounts go rarely used by guests.  However, this blog post aimed to consider how much potential savings one can take advantage of, as well as the sheer number of discounts Royal Caribbean rewards its loyal customers with.

Not surprisingly, the potential savings jump the most when guests reach Diamond level.  The lucrative savings really add up in the top-tier levels, providing further incentive to return for another cruise.  There are plenty more benefits provided by Crown and Anchor Society that are arguably more important than those listed here.

How to get to Port Canaveral for your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
29Aug2016

Port Canaveral is one of the more popular cruising and vacation destinations in Florida, and is the gateway to cruise that many guests embark and start their adventure.  If you're looking to get to Port Canaveral, here is a quick guide to knowing how to get there quickly and easily.

Royal Caribbean operates two cruise ships from Port Canaveral currently, Freedom of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas. In November 2016, Oasis of the Seas will take Freedom of the Seas' spot to offer cruises from Port Canaveral.

Directions to Terminal 1

Royal Caribbean operates mostly out of the brand new Cruise Terminal #1, which is is located at 9050 Discovery Road Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920.

Driving to Terminal One is simple enough from most spots in Florida.  Most routes will take you to the Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area via State Road 528, which is a toll road.  You should be prepared and either pre-purchase a SunPass or have exact change in your vehicle.

Directions from Orlando International Airport (MCO)

  1. Take the North exit from the airport, staying to the right on SR 528 East.
  2. Take SR 528 East all the way to Port Canaveral.
  3. Upon approaching the port area, follow the signs indicating Port Canaveral Cruise Terminals B Side.

From Melbourne International Airport (MLB)

  1. Exit east (left) out of the airport onto NASA boulevard and follow to U.S. Highway 1.
  2. Turn left (north) onto U.S. Highway 1.
  3. Travel approximately 20 minutes on U.S. Highway 1 passed the intersection of S.R. 520 in Cocoa about one mile to the S.R. 528 exit.
  4. Exit and travel east on SR. 528 for approximately 10 miles, crossing the Indian River, Merritt Island and the Banana River to reach Port Canaveral.

From Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)

  1. Exit the airport south to the Central Florida Greenway (Toll Road 417).
  2. Go south 23 miles to S.R. 528 (the Beach line Expressway) eastbound exit.
  3. Go east (37 miles) to the Port. 

From Space Coast Regional Airport (TIX)

  1. Exit and drive east three blocks
  2. Turn south onto U.S. Highway 1 to the Beach line Expressway (S.R. 528) and follow this east to the Port.

From Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)

  1. Take I-95 south to S.R. 528 East and follow to the Port

Parking Information

You can park directly at Port Canaveral with pre-paid parking options. Please note that rates are subject to change without notice and were accurate as of the day of this posting. 

There are also select hotels that offer a discount on parking at Port Canaveral. If you are staying at a qualifying hotel, you can get a discount at check-out for the parking fee.  Inquire with your hotel.

  • 3 Nights / 4 Days cruises
    • Regular vehicle: $64.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $112.00
  • 4 Nights / 5 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $80.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $140.00
  • 5 Nights / 6 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $96.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $168.00
  • 6 Nights / 7 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $112.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $196.00
  • 7 nights / 8 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $128.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $224.00
  • 8 Nights / 9 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $144.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $252.00
  • 9 Nights / 10 Days
    • Regular vehicle: $160.00
    • Oversized vehicle: $280.00

Taking a taxi

There are lots of taxis at Port Canaveral, as well as the airports in the area that can easily take you to/from Port Canaveral.

Ride-sharing programs, such as Uber or Lyft are also options that can save a lot of money compared to traditional taxis. These ride-sharing services allow people to use their own personal automobiles to provide car rides. Uber and Lyft are gaining in popularity among people headed to the cruise port as a less-expensive way of getting private car transportation to the port.

In either case, get a fare estimate before choosing which service is right for you.

Renting a car

In so many cases, a one-way car rental is the best optional economically because of the flexibility it offers, as well as the per-person cost. Most major rental car facilities have locations in the Cocoa Beach area and provide complimentary shuttle service to the port.

The larger the group, the better sense renting a car makes.  Check what the rental car rates will be for the time you are looking to go, but having a rental car offers not just a means of getting to the port, but also a way to see local attractions, enjoy a greater variety of restaurants and stock up on last-minute supplies prior to getting to the cruise terminal.

When reserving your car, be sure to indicate that you will return the car in a different location and look for locations in Cape Canaveral or Cocoa Beach.  The major rental car companies have locations within 5 miles or so of the cruise terminals.

A good tip for those renting a car is to first drive the car to the cruise terminal, drop off the luggage and everyone else in your party there.  Then, the driver should drive the rental car back to the car rental location and take the free shuttle back to the pier. The reason for this is many people opt to bring the car to the car rental location first and lines can develop for the shuttles since the shuttles aren't very big.  If just one person needs a ride back with no luggage, it can be much easier to hop into the first shuttle back to the terminal since you don't have to worry about fitting luggage or family.

Royal Caribbean Transfers

Royal Caribbean offers a bus service of its own (called transfers) to bring you to the port from Orlando International Airport (MCO). Royal Caribbean offers transfers in one way increments (you can book two one-ways to create a round trip). 

To purchase a Royal Caribbean Guest Transfer or for additional information consult your travel agent or the Royal Caribbean reservations department at 1-800-327-6700.

From an area hotel

If you are staying in a hotel prior to your cruise, the hotels in Port Canaveral and Coco Beach are very convenient to the port.

Take route A1A north and follow A1A all the way until you reach the port area.  Follow the signs for the terminal of your cruise.

Some hotels in Cape Canaveral will offer cruise and park deals, where you can pay for a one night stay at the hotel and receive complimentary parking for the duration of your cruise as well as shuttle service to the pier terminal.

What time to arrive to Port Canaveral

In general, Royal Caribbean allows guests to arrive to the port anytime in the late morning to early afternoon.  Check with your cruise documents for the exact time window.

It is our opinion that arriving to the cruise port earlier (rather than later) is advantageous in a few regards. First, you will beat the crowds at check-in that usually arrive between noon and 1:30pm. Second, you will board the ship sooner, which means you have more time onboard. 

There is no right or wrong time to arrive, as long as you are within the window of time Royal Caribbean lists for your sailing. Arriving early does add a risk of extra waiting around to be let on and staterooms are not accessible onboard until 1:00pm. However, the majority of guests tend to arrive in the early afternoon, which can lead to longer lines.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 28, 2016

In:
28Aug2016

Thanks for joining us for another weekly look at all of the Royal Caribbean news from this week.  The late-summer heat is still on, and we have plenty of Royal Caribbean news to share from this week.

A tropical storm in the Atlantic caused three Royal Caribbean ships to change itineraries in order to avoid being impacted by the storm.

Royal Caribbean announced changes for Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Empress of the Seas that resulted in some variations to the pre-set plans.

The changes for each ship were made to ensure the safety of every guest and crew member aboard.  There have been no futher itinerary updates announced for other ships.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 160th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we talk with travel expert Dan Moore about Harmony of the Seas.

Harmony of the Seas is generating a lot of attention with all of its amazing features and Dan Moore recently sailed on her while in the Mediterranean.  Dan shared with us his the favorite aspects of the ship, as well as his tips for a great time.

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 Blog Reader Finds

If you are on a Royal Caribbean cruise and spot something cool, new or just fun, share a photo with us on Facebook or Twitter so we can add it to our Royal Caribbean Blog Reader Finds each Sunday!

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

My Travel Monkey shared a trip report from Independence of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean lists the reasons a balcony stateroom is the best choice for a room.

Cruise Hive is reporting 3 cruise ship passengers injured on an excursion.

Cruise Habit has a look at cruising during hurricane season.

Royal Caribbean shares a look at the Wayfinders on its ships.

Spotted: Beach Bed rental on Royal Caribbean's CocoCay

In:
27Aug2016

Earlier this week, we found new Beach Bungalows available for guests to rent at Royal Caribbean's private destination of CocoCay, and stumbled upon another way to relax: beach beds.

Full-day beach bed rentals are now available on CocoCay, which allow you and those in your group to enjoy your own beach bed, nestled among the palm trees of South Beach. They provide a relaxing view of the ocean, while allowing for privacy with adjustable curtain walls.

Each beach bed includes two floating beach mats, a cooler stocked with four bottles of water and beach towels. Transportation to and from Beach Beds is via private Cocolimo.

The cost for each beach bed rental is $150 and has a maximum of six people per beach bed. 

Thanks to Kayla for alerting us to this addition.

First time cruisers: Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa

In:
27Aug2016

Cue the lavender scented oil, because we are talking about the ultimate means of relaxation on a Royal Caribbean cruise: the Vitality Spa.

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a Vitality Spa location, which offers guests services, seminars and treatments that are aimed at making you feel better, look better and be healthier.  The exact size and range of services will vary from ship to ship, but there are important considerations to know before stepping foot inside.

Spa services

Royal Caribbean's Vitality Spa offers quite a variety of services.  Typically, the spa is split into three main areas: the salon, the treatment area and the fitness center.  

The salons will typically offer manicures, pedicures, waxing, hair styling, barber services for men and more.

In the treatment part of the spa, guests can choose from deep-tissue massages, acupuncture, bamboo massages, teeth whitening, Botox, detox services and much more.  

A full list of spa services will be available once onboard your ship, although you can also get a pretty good idea of what is available by browsing the spa services listed on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

Booking spa services

Royal Caribbean allows guests to reserve spa appointments either online before a cruise or once onboard.  

Booking spa services online in advance of your cruise will help break up the total cost of the cruise, as well as guarantee an appointment for a specific day and time.  It is important to note that spa services are rarely discounted prior to the cruise.

Most guests tend to book spa reservations once onboard the ship.  Slots do tend to fill up as the cruise progresses, but if you are flexible with appointment day and times, you can often find availability.  Each day, the Vitality Spa will offer some sort of discount or package deal, with the most lucrative deals often on port days.  Regardless, these specials are only available for booking the day they are offered. 

Reservations for the spa onboard the ship can be made at the spa entrance, by calling the spa directly from a courtesy phone or by contacting suite or Diamond concierge attendants.

If you want to have a service performed on a certain day or time (such as getting your hair or nails styled prior to formal night), reservations made as soon as possible are recommended. 

Gratuities

Keep in mind that it is customary to provide an additional gratuity for services performed at the spa.  Generally, Royal Caribbean will add an 18 percent tip to the receipt when paying for the service.

You do have the option of providing an additional tip if you choose, but it is not required.

Thermal Spa

Select Royal Caribbean ships offer a thermal spa, which is a collection of services that can be enjoyed on your own.  The exact options will depend on your ship, but usually it includes

  • hot stone chairs
  • rainforest shower room
  • infrared sauna
  • steam room

Royal Caribbean sells day-passes for this service, which offer unlimited access to the thermal spa.  These passes are limited in quantity to prevent overcrowding.

The Thermal Spa option is available on Radiance, Oasis and Quantum class ships.

Teen services

On Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center includes a separate YSPA (teen spa) area.

The YSPA offers treatments and services for guests that are 13-17 years old.

YSPA menu has facials, massages, nail and hair treatments. Sample treatments available in the YSPA are Acne Attack facial, Beach Babe deep conditioning hair treatment, Sole Mate pedicure and more.

Just like the adult area of the Vitality Spa, treatments at YSPA have an additional charge per service.

Spa tips

  • Tours are available at anytime of the spa, but try to take a tour on embarkation day when they are the easiest to take.
  • You can often ask the Spa staff what the specials will be in the days ahead.  You might not be able to book it, but at least be aware of what specials will be available later to book.
  • There are certain activities held at the spa with no additional charge.  Theses events may have a sales-pitch to them, but there are some complimentary seminars and evaluations offered.
  • Note the name of a crew member that performs a service at the spa that you like, so if you return, you can request that person again.

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