Good news, we are all one week closer to our next Royal Caribbean cruise! In case you missed any of the Royal Caribbean fun from this week, here is our weekly round up!
During Royal Caribbean's quarterly earnings call, they announced a simpler no last minute discount program, aimed at making the policy simpler to understand.
Royal Caribbean will not offer any new discounts within 30 days of a sailing on all Royal Caribbean cruises, excluding 3 and 4 night sailings.
The policy is in effect in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland markets and protects against last minute discounts in the weeks leading up to a cruise.
We have a lot more Royal Caribbean news to share, so let us jump right in!
Royal Caribbean News
- Royal Caribbean announced its quarterly earnings this week.
- Liberty of the Seas is about to return to service with a lot of new changes.
- Royal Caribbean released new Harmony of the Seas construction photos.
- How to get onboard credit for your Royal Caribbean cruise.
- What you need to know about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise from Baltimore.
- 7 things Royal Caribbean veterans do (and you should too).
- Our blogger Michael Poole is live blogging from Enchantment of the Seas.
- Did you know that you can bring wine on your Royal Caribbean cruise?
Royal Caribbean Blog Reader Finds
Mike Eads took this shot of Enchantment of the Seas docked in Port Canaveral this week.
Ben noted that Apple updated its 3D Flyover maps for the Virgin Islands and Royal Caribbean ships can now be seen from there.
Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast
In this episode, Matt invites the author of a recent ebook onto the podcast to discuss why Royal Caribbean came out at the top of their list for best cruise lines for a family.
How you can support Royal Caribbean Blog
So many of our readers have reached out to us to ask how they can help the blog and we are introducing the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders for just that reason.
The Insiders group is a way readers can contribute to Royal Caribbean Blog and help fuel some of the really amazing ideas, projects and new content that we have lined up.
As a way of saying thank you for your contribution, there are some fun rewards for being a member of the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders.
Becoming a member of the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders is completely up to you and you can cancel at any time. No questions asked!
As always, thank you for visiting Royal Caribbean Blog and being a part of our community!
Royal Caribbean Around the Internet
Beyond Ships has an interview with Anthem of the Seas' hotel director.
ShermansCruise shared what cruisers need to know about the Zika Virus.
Hello friends, my long awaited cruise is finally here.
My group woke up early from Valdosta, GA and headed south around 7am. The drive from there was 250 miles and this my friends is where I started to get really excited. There is just something about the morning of a cruise, which only us addicts can explain.
Before we got on the Enchantment of the Seas, we decided to meet some friends at Grills Restaurant.
This is a local restaurant at the port, and offers the best views of Enchantment, Freedom, and soon to be Oasis of the Seas.
No one ate any food, so no feedback there, but for a few drinks and the view it’s perfect.
Now it’s 12:30PM and you know what time it is… Time to board the ship!
We parked at the brand new terminal 1 parking. The cost for 3 days was $60 and you pay for parking as you enter.
Honestly, this was the latest I’ve ever boarded a cruise, so I didn’t know what to expect. Surprisingly there were zero lines anywhere, walked right up to check-in.
We had a Diamond Plus member with us, so we went into their check-in line, but wasn’t even needed. Once thing I’m curious about the new terminal is how they will seat everyone once the Oasis comes into town.
Once we were on board, he headed right over to the drink package table to purchase the package. I know, Matt and I always say, “Buy the package online to avoid this line” what can I say… The line was around 5-6 people long, so not awful, but this can delay the fun for 10-15mins. The cost on the drink package is $56 per person / per day. This includes all the beers, bottled water, and top shelf cocktails.
After the purchase we went to Park Café for some much needed lunch. As always, they have pork roast out day 1 on Enchantment and not roast beef.
Not really sure why they do this, but the good stuff comes out for the rest of the cruise. They also have salads, fresh fruit, and pre-made sandwiches here. This is a completely free option on board and often goes over looked, I think due to location.
You can find the Park Café in the back of the solarium pool, so as far aft on deck 9 and you can find the best food at sea (free food).
Once lunch was over we explored the ship, and I also did a full periscope tour with all of you. I hope you enjoyed watching as much as I enjoyed sharing. The ship looks great; the only sign of wear I’ve seen is a few chairs with tears in them.
At 3:30, they started shutting down all the bars around the ship to get ready for the muster drill. This is the only part about the Enchantment that isn’t so much fun, they require you to stand on the outside decks. This doesn’t last very long, but you are packed in tight, so make some new friends!
Once the drill is over, that’s when the ship really comes to life.
My suggestion is going straight to the pooldeck for sail-away. In fact, I’d put this in my top 5 things to do on Enchantment of the Seas. It’s a lot of live dancing, drinks, and fun as you sail out of port.
One of the local restaurants, Fishlips, has a webcam set ip on it to give anyone a view of the cruise ships in port. My good friend Emmy got with the operators of the webcam PTZTV and had them zoom up on us at sailaway.
This was so much fun, even Matt happened to be watching and got to see me on cam.
Dinner – Chops Grill
For dinner we wanted to enjoy a nice dinner at Chops Grill.
On the Enchantment the cost is $30 per person, but on night one, they offer a 20% off sale. I would recommend making reservations on board with the discount.
The restaurant was actually full, I’ve never seen the Chops on this ship even half full before, so the discount must be working.
I ordered my favorite soup, the French Onion, and if you haven’t tried this soup it’s a must, you can thank me later!
For our main course they just brought out all the sides, which was fun to sample everything. Since our group was 6, some of the sides were all gone and they just fill them up as needed.
I ordered the classic filet and you can’t go wrong there.
My friend Shawn ordered the NY Strip and it was huge, so if you are really hungry that might be something to try.
To wrap up my meal, I went with the cheesecake and a specialty coffee. The coffee was no charge, so not sure if that’s usually included or not, but I loved it.
The service was great, they were always filling our wine but that’s likely because we were ordering Caymus.
After dinner we played in the casino, well I watched since I’m not much of a player. It’s just as much fun for me to watch everyone than it is to play. A little before midnight, I called it a night.
Okay friends, that's a wrap on my day 1. Tomorrow we are headed to Nassau, so more to come!
Please let me in the comments below if you want to know anything about the Enchantment of the Seas or if you want any pictures.
Live Blog Index
As you start to learn about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise and hop on message boards, social media and other avenues of talking about cruising, you may start to notice other guests talking about free money they are getting in the form of onboard credit.
The natural reaction to this is: what is onboard credit and how do I get onboard credit?
What is onboard credit?
Onboard credit is essentially free money that you can spend onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise.
When a guest receives onboard credit, their SeaPass account is credited with that amount of money to offset any onboard purchases, such as shore excursions, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, drink purchases and anything else you can charge to your SeaPass account.
Once onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, a guest's SeaPass account will receive a credit that corresponds to the onboard credit value they were promised.
A common misconception is you can take onboard credit and apply it towards a specific purchase. Your onboard credit is applied against any and all onboard purchases you make in general. So there is no need to worry about ensuring you use it for one purchase or another.
You can only spend onboard credit once you are on your Royal Caribbean ship, so any purchases made in advance of your cruise cannot be applied towards your onboard credit.
How to get onboard credit
There are a lot of ways to get onboard credit, and not all means of getting onboard credit will always be available, but it is important to understand all the possibilities.
The simplest answer on how to get onboard credit is you have to be given onboard credit from someone else, either Royal Caribbean or another entity.
Let us explore the possibilities.
Onboard credit from a Royal Caribbean booking promotion
The most common way guests receive onboard credit is to receive it from Royal Caribbean as part of a deal to book a cruise.
Royal Caribbean regularly offers onboard credit as an incentive to get guests to book a cruise.
These are typically periodic promotions, where the amount of onboard credit you receive is tied to the stateroom category you book, as well as the exact promotion offered. Some promotions will offer more onboard credit than others.
The amount of onboard credit will vary from promotion to promotion and it is important to read the deal's rules and conditions. In a best case scenario, Royal Caribbean offered up to $400 onboard credit for Balcony & Suite guests in a recent Cyber Monday promotion.
This may not be the most lucrative source of onboard credit, but it is regularly the simplest way of getting some.
Onboard credit by booking another Royal Caribbean cruise while onboard
If you happen to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise and cannot wait to reserve space on another sailing, then take advantage of Royal Caribbean's onboard booking bonus.
Royal Caribbean incentives its guests to re-book another cruise while still onboard by offering them extra onboard credit on top of whatever promotion is currently running.
Guests can visit the NextCruise office and get up to $500 in onboard credit to spend on their current sailing or defer it to an upcoming sailing.
The onboard credit you get at the NextCruise office is free money, because Royal Caribbean is rewarding you for reserving another sailing and is one of the best, and most lucrative means of getting a lot of onboard credit.
Onboard credit from a travel agent
We love using travel agents to book our Royal Caribbean cruises for the wonderful value they provide in terms of service, but travel agents are also a great source of onboard credit.
In general, many travel agents offer their own booking bonus for working with them.
The amount of onboard credit a travel agent can give you on top of whatever Royal Caribbean is offering will vary greatly, and depends on the agency size and the stateroom category you book.
Onboard credit is one way travel agents differentiate themselves from one another and take steps to earn business.
Onboard credit from the Royal Caribbean Visa card
Royal Caribbean has its own branded Visa credit card, which allows guests to earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit on future cruises (as well as other rewards too).
Each purchase you make with the card earns you points, and as you save those points, you can redeem them for onboard credit.
As an example, the Royal Caribbean card will net a guest $100 in onboard credit for 10,000 points.
Onboard credit from a Royal Caribbean mistake
No one is perfect, certainly not Royal Caribbean, and while you probably will not like the mistake itself, the silver lining is often Royal Caribbean offers guests onboard credit as a means of making it up to them.
Incidents like poor service, billing inaccuracies and other frustrations are often handled with onboard credit (in addition to remedying the situation as best they can).
The exact amount of onboard credit will depend on the nature of the incident.
Onboard credit by referring friends
If you refer a first-time Royal Caribbean cruiser and they book a stateroom, Royal Caribbean will offer you onboard credit as a reward.
You will receive $25 in onboard credit for each stateroom your friends reserve on your cruise booked. You may refer up to a maximum of 5 staterooms for any length of cruise.
The first-time guest must be sailing on the same ship and sail date as you, the Crown and Anchor member.
You can register for this credit by going to RoyalCaribbean.com/BringAFriend.
How have you gotten onboard credit in the past? Share your best tips in the comments!
This week's batch of beautiful Royal Caribbean photos is here and it's always fun to share with all of you the great photos our readers take while on their cruise vacation.
The photos we have to show this week are fun and of course anyone can send us their Royal Caribbean photos to use as well!
Our first photo this week is from G.Spindler and it is entitled, "I have a dream...". Right now, my dream is to be in that kind of a scenario!
Here is a neat photo by Dave Rimington of the reflections of Cozumel, as seen on Allure of the Seas. Very original photo!
We are going down under for our next photo. It is from Mike and it is of Voyager of the Seas, as seen from the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. What a beautiful city to sail from!
Denny Allen sent this great photo from Labadee, and to him, it just says, "I'm on vacation." I love that feeling!
Let us wrap up this week's photos with one more from Labadee. Shannon F sent us this photo of an early morning shot pulling into Labadee, while on Liberty of the Seas. Can't beat those colors!
Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos this week and if you have Royal Caribbean photos, well, we want to see them! You can use this form to send us your photos and we will feature them on an upcoming Friday Photos blog post!
Did you know that Royal Caribbean allows its guest to bring wine on their cruise? Not only is this a great way to save money, but it allows guests to enjoy their favorite wines while onboard.
Before you go on your next Royal Caribbean cruise, all wine lovers should consider these guidelines to ensure a great Royal Caribbean cruise complimented by your favorite wines.
How many bottles of wine can you bring on Royal Caribbean?
Royal Caribbean allows its passengers to bring up to two bottles of wine per statertoom onboard their cruise on embarkation day.
Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size and should be brought on in your carry-on luggage. Do not put the wine in your checked luggage.
No beer or hard liquor may be brought onboard for consumption. Guests may only bring the wine onboard on embarkation day.
What is the corking fee?
Since October 2014, Royal Caribbean no longer charges a corkage fee for guests that bring their own wine.
This means, guests bring their wine to any specialty restaurant, main dining room or bar to have it opened for them.
What if I do not finish the bottle?
If you do not finish the bottle of wine, Royal Caribbean can store the wine for you and deliver it another restaurant at that time.
Whether you buy a bottle of wine onboard your cruise or bring your own, if you do not finish that bottle in one night, have your waiter store it for you.
And if the next night you choose to have dinner elsewhere, like the Windjammer or a specialty restaurant, just tell your new waiter you have a bottle of wine stored for you. They will ask your stateroom number and within a few short minutes your wine will appear.
Can I bring more wine if I am on back to back sailings?
Yes, guests are allowed to bring two additional 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom, for each individual sailing.
Additional bottles beyond two, will be stored by the ship and delivered, two bottles at a time, to the stateroom on the first day of each new voyage.
Royal Caribbean notes that guests bringing four bottles at the start of the first sailing should have documentation for both sailings available to share with security.
Are you planning to bring wine onboard your next Royal Caribbean cruise? Tell us about it in the comments!
It is natural when you are new to Royal Caribbean to want to learn all the tips, secrets and hints you can so that your Royal Caribbean cruise experience can be the best. These tried-and-true strategies are something many Royal Caribbean fans have come to learn after taking many cruises over the years.
If you are new to Royal Caribbean, here are seven things Royal Caribbean insiders know about taking a cruise that you might want to consider doing too.
1. Sign up for Crown and Anchor Society
This may not seem like that much of a secret, but the truth is guests that have cruised time and time again with Royal Caribbean embrace Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program known as Crown and Anchor Society.
Essentially, Crown and Anchor Society rewards guests for taking multiple Royal Caribbean cruises with special discounts onboard, priority embarkation and check-in, offers on upcoming cruises and exclusive events.
There is no cost to join Crown and Anchor Society and the discounts you receive onboard alone are worth signing up for.
2. Arrive to port very early
Your Royal Caribbean cruise may not depart your port until sometime in the afternoon or evening, but Royal Caribbean veterans always show up early for two good reasons.
First, the earlier you arrive means the earlier your vacation begins. Whether you arrive at the port at 11am or 2pm on embarkation day, the price you pay does not change, so you may as well show up earlier to get more time from your cruise.
Second, by arriving early, you will avoid the longer lines at embarkation that typically occur on embarkation day when a majority of guests show up in the afternoon. Arriving in the morning allows you to get through security and check-in with less wait.
If you are wondering what constitutes early, usually this infers any time before noon. Depending on your cruise, embarkation port and other factors, the check-in process can begin as early as 10am.
3. Book specialty dining in advance
These days, Royal Caribbean ships offer some amazing specialty dining options and if you want to ensure there is a table waiting for you, then you ought to book something before you set foot onboard.
Royal Caribbean allows guests to make reservations for its specialty restaurants online, via the Cruise Planner site.
By making reservations online, you will guarantee yourself not just a table, but the day and time that fits your schedule.
This is especially important on formal nights or holidays, when many guests wish to do something special.
4. Book their cruises years in advance
Royal Caribbean recently announced their deployment schedule of when guests can see itineraries for 2017-2018 cruises and begin making reservations. Royal Caribbean veterans know the key to getting a good deal on a cruise and the perfect stateroom, is to book as far in advance as possible.
Royal Caribbean veterans will tell you that the best way to get a good deal on a cruise is to book as early as you can. Ideally, years in advance.
By booking early, you will often find the best rates available because cruise fares operate on a supply and demand basis. The less supply there is (i.e. staterooms available to book), the higher prices. So by booking one to two years early, you will find the best rates.
If you ever strike up a conversation with a Royal Caribbean veteran, ask them when they booked their cruises, because the answer is often measured in years.
5. Read old Cruise Compass' to know what to expect
You just picked the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for you and your family and it sounds like it will be a blast, but you might be wondering what events, activities and specials may be offered on your cruise.
There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.
Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered. There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.
By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything inbetween.
6. Take cruises on the smaller ships
These days, any Royal Caribbean commercial you see on television probably shows off the amazing things its newest, and biggest cruise ships offer and they are really, really stunning. But Royal Caribbean veterans know that it is just as fun and important to consider the smaller ships in the fleet.
Royal Caribbean has a fleet of 23 ships of various shapes and sizes. While the largest ships gain the lion's share of attention, many veterans will tell you the virtues of the smaller ships in the fleet.
Radiance, Vision, Sovereign and even Voyager class ships all offer some amazing experiences that cannot be matched on the larger ships.
These smaller ships can get to ports of call that larger ships cannot, as well as offer a more intimate experience in relationship with your fellow guests. Not to mention, these smaller ships also come with a lower price tag!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sailing on an Oasis or Quantum class ship, but consider every class in the fleet for your next Royal Caribbean cruise, because Royal Caribbean super fans love them all.
7. Learn from others
Let's face it: no one knows it all and that is why veteran cruisers often look for ways to congregate online and share in their experiences.
The internet is perfect for sharing our collective Royal Caribbean knowledge, and there are some great resources you should consider when looking to learn more about Royal Caribbean.
At the risk of sounding self-serving, this web site offers more than just blog posts as means of helping others have a better cruise. Read our message boards, listen to our podcast and chat with us on Periscope for some easy and fun ways to learn more about Royal Caribbean.
In addition, Facebook has become a wealth of Royal Caribbean information, and here are a few of our favorite Facebook groups that you might consider joining.
- All about Royal Caribbean Cruises
- Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society
- Royal Caribbean Cruises
- Royal Caribbean Dining
- We Love Royal Caribbean International
We would also be remiss if we did not mention the Cruise Critic message boards as another great online resource of Royal Caribbean information.
Are you a Royal Caribbean veteran? What advice would you give to someone new to Royal Caribbean? Share that tip in our comments!
There's also lots of reader emails to share this week about everything Royal Caribbean.
Hi Royal Caribbean Blog readers, its Michael Poole here for another live blog from Enchantment of the Seas. This is going to be a short three-day cruise, but I’m excited to take you along with me.
As many of you already know, Enchantment of the Seas is my favorite ship in the fleet, and this will be my 7th time sailing on her.
This sailing is going to special for a few reasons, she is headed down to her new home in Miami this year, so I’ll likely visit Majesty of the Seas more often. Also, I have some Royal Caribbean Blog fan’s joining me on this cruise!
Finally, this cruise is going to be over Super Bowl weekend, so I’ll be able to watch the big game while at sea!
For the past year, I’ve been active on twitter with Royal Caribbean Blog and started conversation with some other blog readers. Since then, we have always talked about doing a cruise together, but never really found a time that works.
Well, my friends we have finally found that time! I’ll be going with my brother, Jason Poole and his husband Caleb Jones. From Florida our good friend Nick Vitani, who can be found on the Enchantment a few times a month! Also my good from Atlanta, Shawn Wallace and his wife Michelle are coming along; Shawn also has a deep love for the Enchantment.
I will mention my brother Jason and Caleb have never sailed on any cruise less than 7 days or a smaller ship, so I’m excited for their feedback as well.
Pre – Cruise
My group of six will be leaving Atlanta, GA. Thursday night and staying at Holiday Inn in Valdosta, GA.
This is only three hours south of Atlanta, but due to work, and others traveling from Tennessee, we won’t be hitting the road until 8:00PM Thursday night.
I’ve stayed at this hotel a few times over the years, and I’ve never had any issues. The rates here are also very reasonable, usually a little under $100/night.
Our plan is to be on the road by 7:00am, from Valdosta, GA. We have around 4 hours to be on the road before we arrive in Port Canaveral, Florida.
Before the cruise we have planned a small meet and greet at a restaurant beside the port.
We have a few friends that live in the area, which can’t join us, so we are going to visit with them until noon. I picked the restaurant Grill’s because it’s right beside the Enchantment, and we can look at the ship while enjoying some morning mimosas. They also have a great patio on the water, and often have live music in the afternoons, but we will be on board by then.
Port’s of Call
Our first stop Saturday is in Nassau, Bahamas from noon until midnight. I enjoy this day the most, because you have a sea morning, poolside bbq lunch, and then a full day in Nassau. It’s like the best of both worlds all in one day.
I don’t have any plans here yet, might walk over to Junkanoo Beach for a few hours, and then stroll over to Starbucks to use their fast wifi ($3.00) to upload my Day 1 blog post!
Sunday we are in Coco Cay, which is my favorite port of call in the Caribbean. I love Coco Cay, because it feels like paradise to me. I’ve cruised here during this time of year a few times before and often miss Coco Cay, so my fingers are crossed that doesn’t happen.
That wraps up my preamble for my 3-day Cruise on Enchantment of the Seas!
I hope you enjoy the post all weekend and feel free to ask any questions you may have on the Enchantment of the Seas.
Live Blog Index
Royal Caribbean has released four new Harmony of the Seas construction photos that show off the progress the ship is making.
All photos are copyright Royal Caribbean International.
Harmony of the Seas is under construction at the STX ship yard in France.
Royal Caribbean will begin offering cruises on Harmony of the Seas in Spring 2016.
During its fourth quarter earnings call today, Royal Caribbean announced it was expanding its price integrity policy to not offer any new discounts within 30 days of a sailing, on all Royal Caribbean cruises (excluding 3 and 4 night sailings).
The price integrity policy has been in place for about a year in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland markets and protects against last minute discounts in the weeks leading up to a cruise. Up until now, the exact time of when the policy became effective depended on the sailing, and could be within the last 10, 30 or 40 days.
In December 2015, Royal Caribbean decided to alter the policy, as a means of simplifying it, by stating there will be no price drops 30 days before any Royal Caribbean cruise, not including 3 or 4 night cruises.
Royal Caribbean Ltd Chairman and CEO Richard Fain explained that the price integrity policy is easier in the public's point of view, as well as the revenue managers and that it is important to have a clear policy that everyone can understand.
"All of this makes the policy easier to understand and to implement. We are a strong believer that clarity and specificity in a program like this is important because otherwise, the exceptions undermine the integrity of the program, even if they are in fact very rare. "
"During this time, we have granted no exceptions to the policy since its adoption, and we have no intention of doing so now. Nevertheless, we have seen a double digit percentage improvement in the booking window over this period, and we believe that the policy helps solidify brand preference. "
"An unforeseen benefit we have found is the reduced number of bookings taken at a discount before we get to the focus period. Living the spirit of the policy has helped our revenue managers make better pricing decisions and it has been roundly applauded by the travel agents that are so central to our success."
"When we introduced the policy, we were transparent with you all that an upfront cost would result in some cabins going empty rather than being filled at deep last minute discounts. We know that in 2016 we will still see some residual impact relating to these empty cabins, but by 2017, we feel comfortable that the impact will be positive."
Fain also added that they feel they have the policy right, and they do not expect to make any further changes to the policy in the near future.