Where to watch cruise ships in Seattle


Many of the popular cruise ports have public spots that are great for watching Royal Caribbean ships leave.  While we all wish we could be on those ships, seeing them up close is perhaps the next best thing.

If you are in the Seattle area, there's a great spot for anyone wanting to view Royal Caribbean cruise ships (as well as other cruise line ships) departing and heading up Puget Sound to the Straight of Juan De Fuca before heading to the Pacific Ocean.

Public spots to see cruise ships leave

Probably the best two spots are Carkeek and Richmond Beach parks for the views.  

You can also watch the ships from Elliot Bay Marina (Pier 91 is where Jewel of the Seas departs from).   Golden Gardens is also a good spot to see the ships leave as well.

Myrtle Park & Centennial park are between Piers 66 & 91 along the Seattle waterfront, where can catch views of ships leaving both ports.

Pier 66

Myrtle Park

There is a small park in Ballard suburb of Seattle called Sunset Park, which has a magnificent sweeping view from up high, and is very tranquil.

For the Pier 66 ships (downtown Seattle), head over to Anthony's Bell Street Diner, because you can get close to the ships and wave to the excited cruisers as they sail away.  You will feel liek you're sailing away with them!  

Alaska Cruises on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast


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

Episode 94 is available for downloading where we explore what you need to know about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska.

Alaska cruises have been a staple of Royal Caribbean's deployments for years and this week, we discuss various aspects of planning a cruise to Alaska, including what you should pack, the ports you will visit and differences between an Alaska cruise and other cruises.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 94. 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!

First time cruisers: What you need to know about gratuities on Royal Caribbean


When you take a Royal Caribbean cruise, one of the costs to passengers are gratuities (tips) to crew members during your cruise.  Gratuities are the way guests can recognize great service aboard their cruise.

We provide this guide to help you understand how gratuities work on the cruise, when you can expect to pay them and how much it is.

Automatic gratuities

Royal Caribbean automatically adds a daily charge to each cruise passenger's SeaPass account to reward the great service its passengers receive.  

Each day of your cruise, Royal Caribbean will add a charge per person that will be divided among several people that you interact with likely on a daily basis:

  • stateroom attendant
  • head waiter
  • waiter
  • assistant waiter

As of July 1, 2015, the daily gratuity amount is $12.95 per guest, per day for those guests in standard accommodations.  Guests in suites will pay $15.95 per person, per day in gratuities.  The daily gratuity amount is the same for all passengers, regardless of age.

Guests have the choice to pre-pay their gratuities before their cruise to help split up the cost of their cruise vacation.

If you are a My Time Dining guest, you must prepay your gratuities.  

In addition, if a guest feels they want to alter the amount of gratuity they pay, guests can go to Guest Services aboard their cruise ship and ask to have their automatic gratuity charges changed or removed. 

Beverage gratuities

If you order beverage onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, such as alcohol, you will be charged an automatic 18% gratuity when you receive the bill.

The gratuity amount is for the service you receive from the wait staff to serve your drink.  The gratuity amount is added to what you purchase and indicated at the bottom of your receipt.

You can add an additional tip on the receipt if you wish. 

Specialty restaurants

The surcharge you pay to dine at a specialty restaurant aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise includes the tip.

There is no need to pay a tip on top of the surcharge amount, unless you would like to.

Discretionary gratuities

In addition to the gratuities listed earlier, there are opportunities to give crew members an additional tip for excellent service.  

As the name implies, this is up to you and not expected in all cases.  Even crew members who receive an automatic gratuity can receive additional gratuities if you feel it is warranted.

Some instances where a discretionary tip may be appropriate are for room service deliveries or luggage service by porters.

You can remove the auto gratuities

As previously noted, Royal Caribbean will automatically charge you for every night of the cruise but that does not mean you have to pay it if you are not satisfied with the service. 

You can go to Guest Services at any point in your cruise and have them reduced or removed from your account if you would prefer to tip a different amount.

WOW Cards

While a monetary tip is always appreciated, if you want to recognize great service by a Royal Caribbean crew member that will have a lasting effect on their career, fill out a WOW card.

Royal Caribbean will sometimes dispense to guests at check-in special cards to write about why a particular crew member went above and beyond the kind of service you might expect.  A guest can fill out the card, give it to the crew member and the crew member will then turn the card into their manager, which will in turn be placed on their permanent file.

WOW cards can help elevate crew members when it comes time for promotions and help their careers in the long run. 

If you do not receive a WOW card at check-in, you can go to Guest Services and request them.

Harmony of the Seas construction reaching a milestone


Royal Caribbean's third Oasis-class cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, will be reaching a milestone in her construction progress that will bring her one step closer to her debut.

Right now, Harmony of the Seas' metal shell is about 80% complete and the last blocks will be installed in early June.  Following that, she should be set afloat later that month.

Once Harmony of the Seas is floating in water, the next phase of her construction progress can begin.

Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's third Oasis-class cruise ship, will have her inaugural cruise in June 2016.

Check out these new construction photos that were posted on Mer et Marine and are all copyright STX France by Bernard Biger.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille on Quantum of the Seas


Royal Caribbean has filled its Quantum-class cruise ships with a slew of specialty restaurant choices and among them is Royal Caribbean's flagship specialty restaurant, Chops Grille. 

Chops Grille has been a fan favorite choice for years and on Quantum of the Seas, we took the opportunity to see if this Royal Caribbean classic holds up on its newest class of ships.

On Quantum of the Seas, the restaurant features an updated menu that offers what you would likely find at any great American steakhouse on land.  There's a mix of choices that have been staples of the restaurant along with some new choices, most notably dry-aged steaks.  Dry-aged steaks are aged for nearly four weeks to enhance the flavor, tenderness and aroma.  Royal Caribbean is particularly proud to be offering dry-aged steaks first at sea and it's a tremendous addition.


Chops Grille is located in the aft section of deck 5, near the Schooner Bar.  Despite being onboard the ship for a few days at the time we dined here, I still found myself wondering where exactly it was located.  Odds are you will not be passing it by often as you walk around the ship (unlike Jamie's Italian or Wonderland) but once you look it up on a map, it's simple enough to find.

If you've been to any other Chops Grille on other Royal Caribbean ships, you will likely feel right at home at Chops Grille on Quantum of the Seas.  The restaurant's familiar use of browns, reds and yellows give the restaurant an "earth tone" decor.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the Chops Grille on Quantum of the Seas to be more well-lit than other restaurants I've been to.

Chops Grille has never had much of a real theme other than looking like a nice steakhouse.  You will find a large room with tables in the center and booths on the edges.  There's some good use of steel or aluminum lighting that seem like they were borrowed from American Icon Grill that give Chops Grille on Quantum of the Seas a little different touch.

For Royal Caribbean fans that been dining at Chops Grille for years, this restaurant will feel a lot like others you have been to.


Once you are seated, you will be served pretzel bread and butter, which is pretty darn tasty.  It's the kind of bread that you will eat more of it than you probably like because pretzel bread, when done well, is a tasty treat.

The menu at Chops Grille offers a wide selection of appetizers and for your entrees, there's plenty to choose from too.  

To start with, I opted for a Chops Grille classic: French onion soup. A microcosm of the difference between a specialty restaurant and the complimentary restaurant can be found in this soup.  At the Grande, there's a French onion soup served but the one at Chops Grille is far superior because of the ingredients used.  At Chops Grille, there's more cheese, thicker cut of onion and in general it just tastes better.

French onion soup at Chops Grille

French onion soup at The Grande

We also ordered a few appetizers to share at the table, such as the charred beef carpaccio and crab and shrimp cake.  Both were tasty and light choices that we enjoyed.

I mentioned earlier there are a lot of entrees to choose from but considering Chops Grille is a steakhouse, I feel obligated to choose a steak. Since updating Chops Grille's menu, Royal Caribbean offers a number of dry-aged steaks that have an extra cost in addition to other steaks that are included with the price of the restaurant.

I tried the dry-aged steak when I was on Navigator of the Seas and I'll be honest and say I really could not tell much of a difference between the dry-aged steaks and a less expensive steak.  Personally, my palette can appreciate a steak up to a certain level and after that, they all taste the same.  Clearly, I am not a connoisseur of steaks by any means.

We both decided to order from the regular steak menu.  I went with the "petite" New York Strip Steak (6oz) and my table mate opted for the "petite" filet mignon (6oz).

Both steaks tasted great and my only regret is I ordered too little steak.  I went with the petite cut because I always left the restaurant feeling stuffed but not the case this time!

I think we both agreed the steaks were great and by far it's the best cut of beef we had onboard the ship.  

The hidden gem of any Chops Grille visit are the sides. There side dishes are designed to be shared among the people at your table and they are generally really, really good.  So good that I leave some room for them because at my first few visits years ago, I would stuff myself before realizing the sides are so darn good.

We ordered gruyere cheese tater tots, roasted mushrooms, mashed potatoes and grilled jumbo asparagus.  All were quite good except for the tater tots.  The cheese gave it a very odd texture and next time I will go with the french fries instead.  

For dessert, I always order the same thing at Chops Grille and for good reason.  The red velvet cake is something I always pick and I've never been disappointed with it.   On this visit, the cake was as good as I remembered and I can continue to recommend it as a great choice.


The reason I go to Chops Grille on almost every Royal Caribbean cruise I go on is because of how consistently good it is.  Some restaurants are a bit of a gamble in the sense that they can be hit or miss but Chops Grille has been always a good experience and on Quantum of the Seas, it's more of the same.

If you have dined at Chops Grille many times as well, you will find Chops Grille to be a familiar choice and very similar to other Chops Grille restaurants across the fleet.  If you're new to Royal Caribbean, Chops Grille is a solid choice for anyone that wants a really good specialty restaurant experience.  Great food, good service and a moderate cost are what you will find at Chops Grille.

There's many online that will debate the merits of the dry-aged steaks on the menu and if they are worth it.  If you want to sample the very best steaks out there, there's no question dry-aged are in style and perfect for you.  But if you just want a good steak without the additional cost, the steaks included on the menu will do you just fine.

I think on my next trip to Chops Grille, I will sample some non-steak choices just to mix things up.  

Friday Photos


Welcome back to Friday Photos, our weekly showcase of Royal Caribbean photos that were taken by readers of this blog.  

Every week, we ask our readers to send us their best Royal Caribbean vacation photos to be considered for this post and you're welcome to send yours in as well. We'd love to feature photos of the ships, excursions, activities onboard and anything else that reminds you of a great time while sailing with Royal Caribbean.

So without further adieu, here is this week's batch of photos.

First up is this photo of sunrise at Royal Caribbean's private island of Labadee by Jeff Poole.  Yup, looks like paradise!

Here's another sunrise photo, this one taken by Tom and Diane Trudnowski of sunrise while headed to Key West, Florida.  I never get sick of these sun rise or sunset photos!

Next up is a photo of Anthem of the Seas by Neil Barnes on her first day in Southampton.  She's a beauty and I can't wait to sail aboard Anthem sometime soon!

Here we have a clear sunset photo from Quantum of the Seas taken by Kim Olsen.  Looks gorgeous, doesn't it?

Last, but not least, we have a photo by Keith Davis of a "sand man" that his daugher created in Megan's Bay.  What a neat idea!

Thanks to everyone who sent in their photos this week.  Be sure to send your photos in as well by using this form.

Royal Caribbean selects Mullen Lowe to handle creative efforts


Royal Caribbean announced it has selected of Mullen Lowe of Boston, Massachusetts to handle the cruise line's creative marketing efforts.

Pending successful contract negotiations, Mullen Lowe will will become Royal Caribbean's creative agency, replacing J. Walter Thompson.  Mullen Lowe was selected after an extensive agency review process that began back in February 2015.

“After an extensive search we are thrilled to announce our partnership with Mullen Lowe,” said Michael Bayley, President & CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “We are impressed by their strategic and creative thinking, which matches the energy and innovative imagination of our brand."

Mullen Lowe, an award-winning agency which was named to Ad Age’s Agency A-List in three of the past five years and also named a CreativityInnovator of the Year in 2014,  is part of the Interpublic Group of agencies.

In the first nine months of 2014, Royal Caribbean spent $58 million in measured media, according to Kantar. For all of 2013, the brand invested $81 million.

Top 10 Family things to do on Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships


Join us in welcoming back Don from EatSleepCruise! He’s treating us to his list of the best activities for families on Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class cruse ships!

There is so much to do and see onboard Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Anthem of the Seas,  that it is an ideal vacation for families. Whether your family is the outgoing type, or likes to vacation in a relaxed, casual style, Quantum class ships offer a great mix of amenities and public spaces to please everyone from 2 to 92!

If you vacation like us, we know you want to make the most of every minute. But, no matter how many days you are onboard a Quantum class ship, it seems like there is never enough time to get everything done. But, don’t stress. We have outlined the top 10 family activities for your next Anthem of the Seas trip to ensure you have the perfect family vacation. 

Soar to New Heights – Quantum class ships offer some amazing “firsts” at seas, among them are Ripcord by iFLY, a skydiving simulator, and North Star, an aerial gondola that takes you 300 feet above sea level.  Both are must-do activities for families. While North Star is first come, first serve, you can make iFLY reservations in advance of your trip on the Cruise Planner!

Have Some Four Wheeled Fun- The kids are in for a real treat on Anthem of the Seas as they can experience the first ever roller skating rink at sea. Some roller skating events have themes, like 70s disco night or 90s pop night, so check the cruise compass to find a time that will entertain all members of the family. Then, gear up for a rock and rolling good time! And, yes mom and dad you also have to get out on the rink!

Throw your Own Personal Pizza Party – Most cruise ships have the same boring pizza selections: cheese, pepperoni, and that unidentifiable specialty pizza. However, Sorrento’s Pizza shop on Quantum class ships allows cruisers to make a fresh, custom pie by selecting from a wide array of toppings. So, while everyone else is at dinner, head to Sorrento’s with the kids, and let them be in charge of the menu one night.  

Go Head First into Oncoming Traffic – At the multi-use SeaPlex on Anthem of the Seas, there is so much you can do! On several days of your cruise, this venue offers select times for you and your loved ones to let out a little aggression, safely, with some bumper cars.  Don’t be fooled by the location, these cars are armed for a mighty good collision. Check the compass for times and restrictions as little ones do need to ride with a parent.

Plan a DIY Scavenger Hunt – There are so many beautiful paintings, digital photographs, and sculptures onboard that Quantum class ships are like floating museums-don’t tell your kids that.  So, you can create your own fun by hunting down some of these “rare artifacts” Indiana Jones style.  See who can find the most pieces of art in a pre-determined time frame. Hint: the elevators are a great place to start.

Sing Your Lungs Out – A cruise ship staple for young and old alike is karaoke. Happening at different times throughout your Anthem cruise, there are scheduled family karaoke sessions. So, why not get the whole family together for a sing-a-long? Who cares if your 13 year old daughter is embarrassed! Grab her hand and head up to the stage to “Shake it Off” along with Taylor Swift.

Make a Memory – One of the untapped gems of Quantum class ships is The Workshop, a secluded space located in the upper level of Two70. With a variety of complimentary classes available, family members can work with cruise staff to create personalized scrapbooks for all those vacation memories. Even if you have never made one before, there is no better time than the present to start a new tradition. No previous experience is necessary; all you need to bring is your imagination and your DIY skills! And the kids get to play with glue sticks!

Pose with Shrek – Not only Shrek, but many members of the Dreamworks family are onboard, and they want to meet you and the kids. During most sea days, there are scheduled “meet and greet” times to take pictures with all of your favorites, from Princess Fiona and Shrek, to Gloria and Alex from Madagascar, to the cast of How to Train Your Dragon. So, grab your camera and make sure to bring your smiles! Most of these “meet and greets” do allow you to use your own camera for pictures, whereas some of them are for professional portraits only, so check the compass for details.

#SelfieAtSea with Shrek! #QuantumOfTheSeas

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

Stay in Shape – There are so many organized and unorganized fitness related opportunities onboard Anthem of the Seas that there is no excuse for not staying active during your cruise. Perhaps, just a walk around the sports deck every afternoon for some old fashioned “family time”. Or, you may want to up the ante by challenging your kids to a rock climbing race, or even a boogie board showdown on the surf simulator known as the Flowider. Remember, it will help work off some of those extra calories too!

Make it a Family Movie Night – I know, the last thing you might be thinking on your Caribbean cruise is that you want to sit indoors for 2 hours to watch a movie. Well, lucky for you, Anthem has extra-large outdoor movie screens located on the pool deck, playing family friendly movies. Depending on the length of your cruise, there will probably be two or three different movies playing in rotation.  With showings during the early evening, it might be the best time to snuggle up on a deck chair with your personal crew.

Now, all you need to do is book that vacation and get ready for some family fun. If you need some help arranging your Quantum class cruise, our exclusive planning guide might best place to start!  

Royal Caribbean wins Best Cruise Operator in China for 7th year in a row


Royal Caribbean was awarded Best Cruise Operator for the seventh year in a row by Travel Weekly China and TTG China.

Both awards honor the best in the travel industry and recognize leaders in many aspects of travel, such as hotels and resorts, travel destinations, cruise lines, online travel and more.

Royal Caribbean Vice President of North Asia & China Dr. Zinan Liu commented on the award, “We are absolutely thrilled to receive these two prestigious trade awards once again.  As these awards are voted on by travel agents and consumers across the country, it is an honor to have the support and confidence in our brand from our valued travel partners and the market. This is a great accomplishment for the Royal Caribbean International team and we will continue to offer our partners and guests the best products and service.”

“These awards identify the industry’s finest,” said Rebecca Zhang, Travel Weekly’s Publisher in China. “The professionals who read and rely on trade media have the expertise to select those business, destinations and hotels that provide higher level of service to their clients. Our readers can be confident that these winners represent the best this industry has to offer.”

Royal Caribbean raises its automatic gratuities


Royal Caribbean will be raising its recommended gratuities for sailings that depart on or after July 1, 2015.

The new recommended daily gratuity amount will be $12.95 per day, per guest for those occupying standard accommodations and $15.95 per person, per day for those in suites.

The new gratuity rate takes effect on sailings that depart on or after July 1, 2015.  Guests that pre-pay their gratuities for existing reservations before June 1st will be able to lock-in the current rate of current guideline of $12.00 per day, per guest in standard accommodations, and $14.95 per day, per suite guest.

Royal Caribbean says the new gratuity amount, "will help recognize the exceptional work that Royal Caribbean's staff and crew does to deliver unforgettable vacations every day."

Tip of the hat to Katina Bradley for alerting us to this change.

EDIT: For clarification, any reservations that you have already made you can have Pre Paid Gratuities added prior to June 1, 2015 if you haven't already and still pay today's current rate for Junior Suites and below of $12.00 per person per day or $14.95 per person per day for suite guests.