Royal Caribbean holding contest to blog on Allure of the Seas for a month

In:
25Feb2014

Royal Caribbean UK is looking for a guest blogger to report about their experiences while cruising on Allure of the Seas in the Mediterannean in 2015 for an entire month.

Royal Caribbean has started a contest to find this one blogger called "Away With Words", where the winner will be brought onboard Allure of the Seas for one month in summer 2015.  The person will report back on the destinations they haveexplored, and everything the ship has to offer. Royal Caribbean will provide onboard accommodations, meals, a complimentary drinks package and laundry.

To enter, you must answer the question, "Tell us about your most WOW travel experience..." in either 500 word written entry or a 60 second video on YouTube or Vimeo.

Those interested must enter by June 30, 2014 and be 21 years old and a resident of the United Kingdom or Ireland.

More details on the contest and how to enter can be found here.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille on Navigator of the Seas

In:
24Feb2014

Chops Grille on Navigator of the Seas isn't new to the ship but since the ship emerged from drydock in February 2014, they were the first ship to debut a brand new menu that if successful will be rolled out to the entire fleet.  We took it upon ourselves to try out the new menu to evaluate it for all of you (it's a tough job, but someone has to do it!).

A little background first, Chops Grille has been renamed, "Chops Grille: The New American Steakhouse" and is decribed as marrying "contemporary flair to traditional steakhouse offerings".  What this means is Royal Caribbean wanted to match what land based steak restaurants are doing with adding dry-aged steaks to the menu.

Like Sabor Modern Mexican, this new change is part of a larger effort by Royal Caribbean's new head of food operations to bring more contemporary food choices to the cruise line.   And also like Sabor, Royal Caribbean is using Navigator of the Seas as a test for how guests react and if positive enough, will roll the changes out to other ships in the fleet.

Atmosphere

The location and general decor of Chops Grille remains the typical dark wood with reds and gold you may be used to seeing at Chops.  

The restaurant on Navigator of the Seas has two distinct rooms that are connected, the first room is rectangular in shape and is what you see when you walk in, with a circular room attached to the end of the first room.

There was not much, if anything, noticeable that changed here since the refurbishment.  I can only assume the chairs or tables have been updated but it looked like the typical Chops Grille experience.

There is one wall of Chops Grille that is made up of glass that overlooks the ocean, but because it's night, the glare of the lights inside the restaurants makes seeing outside virtually impossible.  

Eats

The menu at Chops Grille is where the changes have really occurred and aside from the dry-aged steaks, there have been minor menu changes.  

We noticed some entrees and appetizers have been removed or changed.  As an example, there used to be two options for the filet mignon (6oz and 8oz) and now there is just one.  Most of the signature favorites remain on the menu.

There are some new options to the menu such as the Veal Chop Parmesan, slow broiled with caramelized shallots and topped with parmesan herb butter, a Slow-braised Short Rib of Beef with Bordelaise sauce, and a Dry-aged Steak Burger served on a brioche bun and topped with melted gruyere and pancetta.

The big change is the addition of the dry-aged steaks. There are two new premium selections, a 16 Oz. dry-aged NY Strip Steak and a 20 Oz. dry-aged Porterhouse Steak (an additional $18 and $19 respectively), each USDA prime beef, dry-aged for four weeks to achieve the pinnacle of flavor, tenderness and aroma.

Royal Caribbean is touting the fact it is the first cruise line to offer dry-aged steaks to its guests.

There are also new sides added to the menu, Truffled French Fries and Gruyere Cheese Tater Tots

Also new is the bread you are served when you are first seated.  Now you get a pretzel bread roll with spread (the salted butter spread appears gone).  Being a fan of pretzel bread, I liked the change and as far as I know, it's the only place onboard the ship to get pretzel bread.

For appetizers, I started out with two favorites from previous trips to Chops Grille: the charred beef carpaccio and french onion soup.

The beef carpaccio is very delicately sliced beef that you literally have to scrape off the plate to eat.  You certainly won't fill up eating this but it's mighty tasty and it's something I seem to always try.

The french onion soup is always a good choice at Chops Grille too, especially when you compare it to the french onion soup offered one of the nights in the main dining room.  It doesn't taste like soup that came from a vat, and the baked cheese that sticks to the side of the bowl is just perfect.  

My wife opted for the crispy goat cheese salad, something new to her, and found it good as well.  I prefer my goat cheese au natural (not fried) but I sampled a few bites and found it a good salad choice overall.

For the entrees, I felt obligated to try the dry-aged steak to see what the big deal was all about. For those unaware, dry-aged steaks is the process of hanging the meats and letting time and microbes do their magic to enhance the flavor of the beef.  

Dry-aging beef takes time, usually 21-28 days, and as a result costs more money because the restaurant ties up cash in inventory that’s just sitting around, losing water weight and literally shrinking.  The benefit is the flavors get concentrated, similar to how a reducing sauce becomes richer.  It's become a big fad among steakhouses these days and Royal Caribbean wanted in on the action.

It will cost you extra to try the dry-aged steaks, about another $20 to be exact.  So your $35 meal jumps to $55 for just one person, but you are getting an opportunity to sample arguably one of the best cuts of steak at sea and when you factor in the appetizers and desserts you also get for the price, it's still not a bad deal overall.

I chose the dry-aged NY strip steak and as you might imagine it tasted really good.  Sometimes when I order steak I get halfway through and start to feel "steak fatigue", but this cut was quite good and I really enjoyed the whole thing.  

I'm by no means a steak expert or someone who knows steak well enough to really know if the extra cost was worth it but I figure if you are going to order steak, go with their best choice.  It certainly among the better steaks I've ever eaten.

My wife, far less adventurous than me, stuck with her tried and true filet mignon.  She reported it tasting as good as ever and that's one thing I really enjoy about Chops.  It's a very consistent experience and one place you can count on for an excellent meal.

As I mentioned earlier, there were two new sides and we ordered both the tater tots and fries, along with mushrooms.  The tater tots weren't as good as they sounded but the truffle fries made up for the difference.  The mushrooms were great as always and remains one of my favorite sides at Chops Grille to have with my steak.


 

Dessert was next and of course I felt so full by this point, like I do every time I eat at Chops.  Nonetheless, we ordered some dessert to try.  

My wife wanted to order just the fresh baked cookies but our waiter actually warned her to order something else too.  He didn't say the cookies were bad by any means, but that they were not nearly as good as some of the other dessert options.

The cookies were better than what you could get anywhere else on the ship but the waiter was correct in that they were not overly special.

I went with my tried-and-true red velvet cake.  There had been rumors it was removed from the menu but it was available, although it did seem smaller and with less frosting than other red velvet cakes I've had at Chops.  Nonetheless, it's hard to go wrong with red velvet cake and I enjoyed it.

My wife ultimately chose the huckleberry cheesecake, which the waiter reported was not only new to the menu but also quite popular.  What I liked about it was the huckleberries were not baked into the cake, but just adorned on top.  Once again, the waiter was right that this is a great choice for dessert.

Overall

This visit to Chops Grille was about evaluating the new menu and seeing if this is something we think Royal Caribbean should expand to other ships and I think the answer is a definite yes.  I think the new menu offers quite a bit of choices that do not cost extra but for steak lovers, the dry-aged steaks are a real treat.

For me it came down to the cost of paying extra to eat at Chops Grille to begin with and then adding more cost for the dry-aged steaks.  Considering a very good steak on land would likely cost around $50 alone, it's still a good value overall considering you get your other food with it.  

For Royal Caribbean, it will come down to how many people opt for the dry-aged steaks versus do not and if there are enough people ordering them, then perhaps we will see this option on other ships soon.

Otherwise, eating at Chops Grille was a treat and as good as any other Chops Grille I've dined at.  

Royal Caribbean joining cruise line-wide mixology competition

In:
24Feb2014

Royal Caribbean is one of four cruise lines participating in the biggest ever Diageo Reserve World Class™ program, where 5,500 cruise line bartenders will try to be one of the four selected to compete head-to-head in a stiff competition.

These four will go head-to-head at the glamorous Diageo Reserve World Class Global Travel semi-final event in Miami, Florida on June 5, 2014. The winner will compete at the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year global final, pitted against bartenders from the world.

Following a successful partnership with Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line last year, the program is doubling in size and welcoming Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises in 2014.

Brian Abel, Vice President of Food & Beverage for Royal Caribbean, commented on Royal Caribbean's inclusion in the competition this year, "Royal Caribbean International is glad to be part ofDiageo Reserve World Class mixology program.  The program will help enhance the on board beverage experience and deliver the WOW to our guests like never before. It will help showcase our talented bartenders and beverage staff, as well as their individual creativity and skill in serving delicious cocktails to guests on a Royal Caribbean vacation."

You will be able to follow the competition online at http://www.facebook.com/WorldClass.

Penghu planning to build new cruise port for Royal Caribbean ships

In:
24Feb2014

The Penghu islands, off the coast of Taiwan, are the subject of new construction plans to build a cruise port to meet increasing demand by cruise lines as outlined by Taiwan's Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

The new plans will be proposed soon with the hopes the new port would make Penghu a destination for international cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean.  The plans aim to accomodate Royal Caribbean because the company has expressed interest several times to dock in Penghu.

Penghu has long fought for the relocation of the military base on the archipelago in order to make way for an international harbor.

The plan is to enlarge and add infrastructure to the current harbor and should take two years from the start date.

Royal Caribbean sales event for the week of February 24, 2014

In:
24Feb2014

Each week Royal Caribbean posts new sales for various cruises across its fleet that can offer great discounts on specific sailings in the near future.

This sale runs between February 25 through February 26, 2014, with early access for Crown and Anchor Society members on February 24.

Adventure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7-night Southern Caribbean A Cruise
Departure Port: San Juan
Sail Date: 03/02/2014

Inside: $699 per person (Category Z)
Ocean-view: $749 per person (Category Y)
Balcony: $849 per person (Category X)
Suite: N/A

Adventure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7-night Southern Caribbean B Cruise
Departure Port: San Juan
Sail Date: 03/09/2014

Inside: N/A
Ocean-view: N/A
Balcony: $949 per person (Category X)
Suite: N/A

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 03/09/2014

Inside: $669 per person (Category L)
Ocean-view: $799 per person (Category F, H, I)
Balcony: $899 per person (Category D3)
​Neighborhood Balcony: N/A
Suite: $2199 per person (Category JS)

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 03/16/2014

Inside: N/A
Ocean-view: $799 per person (Category CV, F)
Balcony: $1099 per person (Category D2, D3)
​Neighborhood Balcony: $999 per person (Catetgory B1, B2, C2)
Suite: $2299 per person (Category JS)

Allure of the Seas
Itinerary: 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise
Departure Port: Fort Lauderdale
Sail Date: 03/23/2014

Inside: N/A
Ocean-view: $799 per person (Category F, H)
Balcony: $899 per person (Category D3, D4)
​Neighborhood Balcony: N/A
Suite: $2599 per person (Category JS)


Continue Reading

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: February 23, 2014

In:
23Feb2014

Hope you had a great week (maybe one week closer to your next Royal Caribbean cruise?) and you had a chance to keep up with what's new with Royal Caribbean this week. But if not, here's a roundup of this week's news.

This week Royal Caribbean signed a deal with the port of Port Canaveral to keep a cruise ship presence there for the next 10 years.

Royal Caribbean will also provide an additional $48 million to Port Canaveral over the next 10 years as part of an agreement to become the primary user of the new Cruise Terminal 1, scheduled to open in November.

For Royal Caribbean, the new agreement will allow for more flexibility to move ships into Port Canaveral and even open the door to the cruise line bringing even larger ships to Port Canaveral.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The twenty-ninth episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and we're reviewing our recent cruise aboard Navigator of the Seas.

In this episode, Matt is back from his cruise aboard Navigator of the Seas and has a lot to talk about.  We review the changes made to Navigator of the Seas, the ports we visited, the new restaurants we tried and lots more.  It's an in-depth review of why the changes to Navigator of the Seas are really exciting.

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 Around the Internet

Royal Caribbean has a look behind the scenes with world-class #athletes at the Caribbean Cup Challenge

Kuki is writing about things no one knows about cruising.

Excursion Focus: Parrot Tree Beach Resort in Roatan

In:
21Feb2014

Roatan, Honduras is one of the prettiest islands in the Caribbean to visit and Royal Caribbean has more and more cruises stopping at this island paradise on their western Caribbean voyages.  If you're looking for a less crowded, yet beautiful beach to visit, it's hard to go wrong with Parrot Tree Beach Resort.

Description

Roatan's west end is well known for its beaches but because of its popularity, the beaches fill up fast and feeling like a sardine on a beach isn't my idea of fun. Enter, Parrot Tree, which is a beach resort on the east end of the island, about a 20 minute car ride from Royal Caribbean's dock without traffic.

Parrot Tree is a resort that offers day passes to cruise guests.  This isn't an all-inclusive resort, just provides access to their facilities.  Like all day-pass destinations, the advantage is smaller crowds and well-manicured grounds.

Arriving at Parrot Tree is like driving into an exotic and exlusive resort you might see in a James Bond movie set.  The road is paved with bricks that resemble something Cortes would have seen on his way to Tenochtitlan (Aztec capital city).  

Parrot Tree is on the ocean but they have built a lagoon that lets sea water in without all the waves.  The lagoon is surrounded by a white sandy beach with palapas and chairs laid out perfectly every dozen or so yards, giving each group their own private space.

Each palapa location offers 3 beach lounge chairs, a table and a beach bed.  There's also waiter service to bring you food or drink.  You can also walk to the nearby bar to get your own food and drink as well as use the free internet WiFi.

The food at Parrot Tree is a blend of traditional American food and a few local creations.  Burgers, fries and chicken nuggets are available along with the fresh fish of the day.  There's also plenty of drinks to choose from, including drinks that come in a hollowed out coconut.

The lagoon offers little to no waves, which is great for those who aren't strong swimmers or just someone who wants to relax in the water without fear of a large wave surprising them.

Because it's a private beach, there aren't any beach vendors offering you things to buy although we did see a woman offering massages, whom we assumed worked for the resort.

Comments

Given the price of admission ($15 per adult), it's really hard to beat what you get for the money.  Having your own private beach spot and far less crowded than other beaches is a wonderful treat.

The hidden gem here is the beach bed, which is perfect for laying down to enjoy the breeze, read a book or even take a nap.  For our 3 year old daughter, it made for the perfect nap spot and that isn't easy since she rarely naps at the beach because there's rarely anywhere comfortable for her to lay down.

In terms of the food and drink, we found the food to be quite good and good prices.  The chicken fingers were breaded in something quite good and the fried fish was particularly delicious.  You can charge food and drinks to a credit card, which means less of a need to carry as much cash on you.

The lagoon is quite nice to splash around in or just sit down and enjoy.  It's not very deep but great for wading and enjoying the view.  While the ocean is on the other side of the lagoon, there is no beach to speak of, just a lot of rocks so swimming there is likely not an option.

The web site for the resort claims your admission also includes access to their pool, although we were not aware of that and did not use it. 

The appeal of Parrot Tree is somewhere to go for a relaxed, low-key beach day.  For those that like to have a drink and enjoy a day in the sun, this is the place for you.  The grounds are beautiful and the value for the cost is really quite high. 

Address: Parrot Tree Plantation Roatan, Bay Islands Honduras, Central America

Cost: Adults: $15; Children 6-11: $5; Children 0-5: Free

Friday Photos

In:
21Feb2014

We love sharing Royal Caribbean photos with all of our readers and so each week we ask our readers to send us their favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos to be featured right here on the blog!

Our first photo comes from Kayla (who loves to send us photos of her husband) from her Radiance of the Seas cruise, which was her first cruise and she credits that cruise for making her an avid cruising fan.

Speaking of husbands at a balcony, Kathy Geiger sent us this photo of her husband, John Geiger, on the balcony of his cabin on the Navigator of the Sewas last spring while docking in Turkey.

Michael Poole sent in this photo of Freedom of the Seas while they sailed away from Falmouth, Jamaica in March 2013. Ya mon!

Paulette and Lee Herron sent us this photo of yoga on the beach at Cococay.  They mentioned, "Wonderful excursion from Freedom of the Seas!"  I'd contort myself into a pretzel right now if that meant I could be on CocoCay too!

Next we have a photo from Woodrow Herron with the Captain of Freedom of the Seas. They write, "First time we felt really, really little. He gave us a great cruise!"

Lastly, we have this photo from Connor De La Pena, who included no description so I'm guessing this is on a Royal Caribbean cruise taken before today.  You don't get to write blogs without being this smart!

Is your Royal Caribbean photo not here? Well, send us your favorite Royal Caribbean photos and we will include them in a future Friday Photos post!

New state-of-the-art data management system installed on Allure of the Seas

In:
20Feb2014

The world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, has received a new state-of-the-art, customized data management system that operates over a global, secure and highly scalable infrastructure called K-IMS.

K-IMS includes a number of applications in one package that gives engineers and management access to high level vessel data. The user interface is available on board and on the Royal Caribbean office network in Miramar, Florida. K-IMS data is also accessed on board using tablets and is displayed on a large screen in the Engine Control Room on Allure.

K-IMS was installed during a significant upgrade to the existing Kongsberg Maritime K-Chief automation system on board. The new K-Chief on Allure of the Seas is one of the most extensive ever installed by Kongsberg Maritime, consisting 76 Remote Control Units (RCUs) controlling over 40,000 Input/Output (IO) points. K-IMS replaces the exiting K-Chief History Station and as the data logging system of choice on board, will provide data from 21,000 I/O points (up from 14,500) and data storage for seven years (up from one year). This provides Royal Caribbean with extensive data and statistics with which to improve vessel operational performance.

K-IMS provides the ability to review statistical data, condition based monitoring, alarms and events and ship performance monitoring data. Condition Based maintenance on Allure provides a long term overview of the equipment performance and mechanical degradation, which supports preventative maintenance. Alarms and Events reporting provide the ability to review the most commonly repeating alarms and fix issues with equipment before they become emergencies.

The K-IMS solution on Allure is a triple redundant data access and storage system with servers located in three zones – two on board and one in a hosted cloud service. This configuration enables Royal Caribbeanmanagement to access the vessel’s data without having to use satellite communications, thereby saving on communication costs. A malware protection system to filter out any malicious attacks from the web or via USB on board is included whilst an admin server allows secure remote access to the vessel from authorized locations including the Kongsberg Maritime customer support team.

Royal Caribbean becomes first autism-friendly cruise line

In:
20Feb2014

Royal Caribbean has become the first cruise line to be certified as "autism-friendly" by Autism on the Seas.

USA Today is reporting the certification means Royal Caribbean will take specific measures to help its guests with autistic families enjoy their cruise.

Royal Caribbean's entire fleet now has Bronze Level certification, which means it will provide sensory-related toys, autism-friendly modification to youth activities (where appropriate), autism-friendly movies, priority boarding and dietary offerings (including gluten-free and dairy-free).

One tool is a personalized story book folder called a social story that will help explain to autistic children what to expect on a cruise. It covers everything from finding the stateroom to the muster drill, which can be crowded and chaotic. This can help children adapt to the unfamiliar surroundings of a cruise.

Another addition will be autism-friendly movies, which will be offered on any trip with at least five autistic passengers. These films, based on accommodations offered by some land-based theaters, will feature family-friendly films. The lights will not be completely turned off, the sound will be lower and it will be acceptable for guests to talk or walk around during the films..

Royal Caribbean plans to reach silver level certification for each of its ships by the end of the year, which will ensure that all youth staff have received basic awareness training in autism and other developmental disabilities. There are also higher-standard gold and platinum levels.

The certification standards examine several areas, including staff training, youth programs, pre-vacation planning and services, dining and dietary, disability accommodations, guest satisfaction and feedback, and willingness to work with Autism at Sea staff.

Pages