Royal Caribbean alters Grandeur of the Seas itinerary to avoid Hurricane Florence

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has made a slight modification to an upcoming Grandeur of the Seas sailing to keep the ship out of the path of Hurricane Florence.

Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet issued an update today that the September 8th sailing of Grandeur of the Seas will switch to an overnight in Nassau, Bahamas itinerary to, "ensure we stay out of any potential NorthEast Quadrant, if the track of Florence unexpectedly shifts."

This means Grandeur of the Seas will skip a scheduled stop at Kings Wharf, Bermuda and instead sail to the Bahamas.

Florence became the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.  Weather forecasters say it's too early to tell if the storm will make landfall somewhere on the East Coast, or if it will turn harmlessly back to sea.

Friday Photos - September 7, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

We love sharing Royal Caribbean photos that our readers send in because they are so much fun to look at.  We want your photos too, so send us your best Royal Caribbean photos to share with the world.

We begin with this photo of Alyssa Morgan enjoying a bridge tour on Independence of the Seas.

Dan Kohout shared this photo of Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona, taken onboard SUNY Maritime’s own Training Ship Empire State VI. 

Here is a photo of Ovation of the Seas at night, taken by Sean.

Next, we have a photo of the sun setting over St. Thomas, as seen from Leigh's balcony on Allure of the Seas.

Travis N. took this photo of Oasis of the Seas docked in Labadee.

Jeff LeBriton captured the changing Royal Promenade sign on Freedom of the Seas.

Traveler sent in this photo of Symphony of the Seas while the ship was docked in La Speza, Italy.

If we didn't include your photo this week, then that means you need to send it in to us for use on a future Friday Photos post.  We want to see your favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos and you can use this form to send them to us.

Save up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases with Royal Caribbean's weekend Cruise Planner sale

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has begun a weekend sale on select pre-cruise purchases that can save guests up to 30% off onboard prices.

The Cruise Planner sales runs between September 7, 2018 - September 10, 2018 on select sailings from September 15, 2018 - February 28, 2019.

The offer is valid on certain shore excursions, drink packages and internet packages.

Royal Caribbean states guests can see:

  • Beverage packages
    • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship
    • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship
    • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices
  • Shore excursions
    • Save up to 25% on select tours on select sailings. Discount varies by ship
  • Internet
    • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship
    • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship
  • Dining
    • 3N Dining Package: Save 20% off. Available on select ships.

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

Royal Caribbean expands new smartphone app to Adventure of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released version 1.10.0 of its new smart phone app, which adds support to Adventure of the Seas.

The new version does not list Adventure as a supported ship in the app store, but opening the app shows both ships on the list.  Some blog readers have reported seeing Brilliance of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas supported in their apps, but we have not been able to see that on our devices.

Independence and Mariner of the Seas were recently added as well.

The new app is being actively developed, which means not all features area available on the app yet.  Moreover, the cruise line is slowly rolling out support for more ships.

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Royal Caribbean signs joint-venture to expand Malaysian cruise terminal

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL) and Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) signed a joint venture today to redevelop the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal with the intention of allowing the terminal to accommodate larger cruise ships.

The cruise terminal work will result in Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal’s existing 400-metre berth extended by 220m and the addition of a 118m long dolphin.

When the work is done, the cruise terminal will be able to accommodate two mega-sized cruise ships simultaneously on the outer berths along with one small and one medium-sized ships on the inner berths by end-2019.

The agreement was signed by RCL Senior Vice President of International Gavin Smith and PPSB Chairman Datuk Syed Mohmad Syed Murtaza.

“Next year, we will bring in Spectrum of the Seas, our biggest ship to be deployed to Asia, with a total capacity of 5,622 guests. With Spectrum of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and two others, Royal Caribbean will make 36 calls to Penang next year, bringing in close to 129,000 guests,” Smith said after the signing ceremony.

Royal Caribbean My Time Dining versus Traditional Dining

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean offers its guests two choices for enjoying dinner in the main dining room: My Time Dining or Traditional Dining. 

Each option allows for a style of meal aimed at the individual cruiser's preference and if you are wondering if My Time Dining is a better choice or if traditional dining is the way to go, then this blog post should help sort it all out.  

Traditional Dining

Traditional dining is an option for dinner where you choose between an early or late seating (sometimes referred to as "first seating" or "second seating").

In traditional dining, you are assigned the same table to dine at for each evening of your cruise and you will have the same dining time, table mates, and wait staff for each evening of the cruse.  

In some cases, you may be seated with other guests from the cruise (especially if you are traveling in a smaller group).

The advantages of traditional dining are:

  • Simple planning: Same time each night for dinner, so nothing to plan ahead
  • Personalized waiter service: Since you will have the same wait staff each evening, they will make an effort to get to know your habits.
  • Great for larger groups.
  • Evening show times are often scheduled around traditional dinner times.

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a choice you have to have dinner at the Main Dining Room, where there is no assigned time or table.  Rather, you have the choice of making reservations in advance or simply showing up and waiting for an available table.  

You can make reservations for My Time Dining either before the cruise on Royal Caribbean's site, or once you are on the ship.  My Time Dining is a lot like dining out in your local town, where you can opt to call ahead and make a reservation or walk up to the restaurant and see what availability there is.  Moreover, the flexibility in dining times means being able to eat dinner on your schedule.

With flexibility comes responsibility, as it is up to you to make reservations when to dine.  While you can show up and wait for a table, we highly recommend making reservations in advance to limit wait times.  

If you like, you can request the same wait staff each evening, but it may result in a longer wait for an available table.

The advantages of My Time Dining are:

  • Greater choice of dining times: My Time Dinner is available each evening between the hours of 6:00 and 9:30 p.m.
  • Great for scheduling around shore excursion plans.
  • Getting a table is simple for smaller groups.  
  • Less likely to be seated with other guests.

Choosing between My Time Dining and Traditional Dining

Ultimately, the decision of which option is better will come down to your personal preferences, as well as some other factors related to your group.

In a nutshell, My Time Dining offers greater flexibility in what time you eat, but there can be waits for to be seated.  Sometimes the wait can be as long as 45 minutes during peak times.  This can be mitigated by making reservations in advance, although for some people planning ahead defeats the point of My Time Dining to some extent.

Traditional dining is a simpler approach to dinner in the main dining room since it requires very little work up front.  Traditional dining requires you to adhere to one of two dining times, which may be too early or too late for your taste. Moreover, you may be seated with other guests and that has been hit or miss in terms of personalities clashing.

Larger groups (more than six people) will find it significantly easier to stick with traditional dining so that they can have the same table assignment each evening.  Getting larger groups seated near each other at the same time in My Time Dining is not a simple task.

If you place a high priority on seeing the shows each evening onboard, you can go with both, but traditional dining times are usually already scheduled around the entertainment.

Both My Time Dining and Traditional dining adhere to the main dining room dress codes each evening, which includes formal night.

Your thoughts

Which dinner option do you prefer? Is there an advantage to one over the other, in your opinion?  Share your experiences and post your questions in the comments below.

Freedom of the Seas listener cruise review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

By: Matt Hochberg

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

Episode 266 is available for downloading which has a review of a listener's experience on Freedom of the Seas.

Podcast listener Jose shares his family's experience on Freedom of the Seas.  Jose talks about the ports he visited, his stateroom and everything he did onboard Freedom of the Seas.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 266. 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!

Royal Caribbean cruise terminal in PortMiami photo report - Labor Day 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is actively working to complete its brand new cruise terminal at PortMiami, which will be the new home for Symphony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

Michael Poole took these photos from Mariner of the Seas, as the ship passed by for a Labor Day Weekend cruise.

The new cruise terminal will be Terminal A at PortMiami that is nicknamed the ‘Crown of Miami’ because of its distinct shape. The design evokes the points of the symbolic headgear when viewed from the water; the ‘M’ of Miami when viewed from the east or western approaches; and a sense of waves rising or ships passing when viewed from the terminal side. At night, the terminal’s facade will be lit ensuring that the building makes a striking impression and providing a dynamic addition to the PortMiami landscape.

Tampa Cruise Port: Embarkation, parking, directions & more

By: Matt Hochberg

The Tampa cruise port is a very convenient port of embarkation, located on the west coast of Florida and offering many Royal Caribbean cruises, primarily in the fall and winter months.  If you are taking a cruise out of the Port of Tampa, here is what you need to know to get there quickly and easily.

Directions to Port of Tampa

The Tampa cruise port is is located at 1101 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602.

Driving to the Port of Tampa is accessible via many major highways, and is located conveniently near downtown Tampa. It is also a short drive from Tampa International Airport.

Directions from Orlando

Take I-4 West to Exit 1. Go south on 21st Street and turn right on Adamo Drive (Hwy 60) then left onto Channelside Drive.

Directions from I-275

Take I-4 East to Exit 1. Go south on 21st Street and turn right on Adamo Drive (Hwy 60) then left onto Channelside Drive.

Directions from Tampa International Airport

  1. Get on FL-60 E (3.2 mi)
  2. Head northeast on George J Bean Inbound Pkwy/George J Bean Pkwy
  3. Continue to follow George J Bean Pkwy (2.3 mi)
  4. Use the right lane to take the ramp to FL-60 E (0.5 mi)
  5. Keep right at the fork, follow signs for Tampa and merge onto FL-60 E (0.4 mi)
  6. Take I-275 N to McKay St  (7.0 mi)
  7. Turn right onto McKay St 

Directions from Clearwater

Take Hwy 60 East across Tampa Bay and follow signs to I-275 North. I-275 will merge with I-4 East. Follow I-4 East to Exit 1. Go south on 21st Street and turn right on Adamo Drive (Hwy 60) then left onto Channelside Drive. 

How far is the cruise port in Tampa from Tampa International Airport?

The Tampa International Airport is approximately 15 miles from Port of Tampa, and it usually takes about 20 minutes to reach the Port of Tampa by car.

Taxi service by Yellow Cab and United Cab is available at the curbside outside the Baggage Claim Level. Both companies charge a flat rate fee of $28 to the cruise terminal.

For more information, contact Yellow Cab at (813) 253-0121 or United Cab at (813) 777-7777.

You can also take advantage of ride sharing services, such as Lyft or Uber.  Not only are these services simple to reserve, often the prices may be a better deal.  

How much is parking at Tampa cruise port?

The Port of Tampa provides parking options across the street from Terminals 2 and 3 at Channelside Parking Garage.  

You can pay for the parking once you arrive to the port, or opt to pre-pay online.

Passengers can pre-pay online for valet and self-parking. The self-serve parking rate is $15 per day (oversize vehicles cost $30 per day). The upgrade fee for valet parking is $20 more than the self-serve parking rate.

Parking fees are payable upon entry into the parking area with cash or credit card.

Where do Royal Caribbean cruises depart from in Tampa?

Royal Caribbean offers cruises from Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.

What time to arrive to Tampa cruise port

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean opens the check-in and embarkation process in the late morning and keeps it running through the early afternoon.  When you complete online check-in, you will have a check-in time assigned to you, although these times are more a suggestion than a requirement.

In most cases, you can check-in as early as 10:00am.  You may arrive at any time in the morning or early afternoon, but we recommend checking in earlier than later to avoid longer lines.  Not only will checking in before noon beat the rush of other passengers who arrive later, but you will board the ship sooner.

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 expands new smartphone app to Independence of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has added Independence of the Seas to the list of ships supported by the cruise line's new smart phone app.

While the app store updates do not list Independence of the Seas, the app itself lists Independence among the list of supported ships.  

Independence is the seventh Royal Caribbean ship to be added to the list of ships that can take advantage of the new smart phone app, following Mariner of the Seas, which was added in August.

The new smart phone app is still under development, which new features rolling out periodically.  In addition, not all ships have the same features supported quite yet.  Expedited arrival, folio management, deck plans and Cruise Planner are just a few of the features the new app provides.

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.