Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas arrives in Syndey

In:
15Dec2016

The newest, largest and most tech-laden cruise ship to ever call Australia home arrived yesterday in her new homeport of Sydney.

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas has pulled into Sydney Harbour, which marks a momentous occasion for the Australian cruise market. Ovation of the Seas becomes Royal Caribbean’s fifth locally-based cruise ship, joining sister ships Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Legend of the Seas, and making Royal Caribbean the single largest cruise line operating in Australia this season.

"Ovation of the Seas is an absolute game changer for cruising down under. SuperCruising is a holiday experience unlike anything else you can find in Australia – and it can only be found on Royal Caribbean," said Adam Armstrong, managing director, Australia & New Zealand. 

"Over the last decade we have committed to bringing the biggest and best cruise ships to our doorstep – and today is the climax of that story. This occasion marks the first time that a cruise line has ever based a brand new ship in this market."

"At 348m long, 18 decks high, weighing in at 168,666 tons and with capacity for 5,000 guests and 1,500 crew, Ovation of the Seas is the fourth largest cruise ship in the world, making her the largest cruise ship to sail Australian waters, and by far the largest ship ever home-ported here."

Ovation of the Seas' two-day visit to Sydney is expected to inject over $3.3 million in passenger spend alone, while her maiden Australian season is expected to inject more than $35 million into the national economy.

CNN to broadcast New Year's Eve festivities from on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

In:
14Dec2016

CNN announced the details of this year's “New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin,” and it includes coverage from onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.

The annual special will air on Saturday, Dec. 31, from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. (ET) and will feature correspondant Randi Kaye on board Harmony of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean and CNN teamed up for a similar broadcast in 2014, when Quantum of the Seas first debuted.

A look at the six Royal Caribbean excursions in Havana, Cuba

In:
14Dec2016

Royal Caribbean is very excited to offer its first cruises to Cuba, and we have a first look at the first excursions Royal Caribbean will offer while visiting Havana.

Within 90 days of sail date, guests that have booked a Royal Caribbean cruise will be able to choose from Royal Caribbean shore excursions as an option to fulfill one of the 12 requirements to visit Cuba.

Havana by Classic American Car

Explore 1950's Cuba in a vintage American automobile on a 3 hour road trip across the Malecón (Avenida de Maceo), which is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km (5 miles) along the coast in Havana, Cuba, from the mouth of Havana Harbor in Old Havana, along the north side of the Centro Havana neighborhood, ending in the Vedado neighborhood.

Easy Panoramic Havana - $49 per person

Travel via motor coach along seaside El Malecón promenade. There are photo stops at both El Morro Castle and harbor of Havana. This includes a stop in Revolution Square.

Best of Havana - $115 per person

Full day tour that lasts 8 hours, and is an all-encompassing trip through bustling Havana.  

Guests will visit artisan market and notable squares, including enjoying an authentic Cuban meal.

Hemingway's Havana - $89 per person

Explore Cuba and the late American novelist Ernest Hemingway.  This is a 4 hour tour that takes guests where Hemingway lived, fished, dined and sipped his favorite cocktail.

Old Havana City Sightseeing - $59 per person

Explore Cuba's Capital city with a 4-hour bus ride through Havana's city center.

Old Havana Heritage Walking Tour - $49 per person

Discover Havana's captivating history and cultural charms.  This is a half-day walking tour adventure.

Top 5: Harmony of the Seas on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
14Dec2016

This week's podcast episode is ready to go, as we present episode 176 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast for your downloading pleasure.

This week, we present a look at the top 5 things to do aboard Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas.  The ship offers a lot to see and do and Matt has  sifted through everything onboard to find the top 5 experiences they enjoy the most.

There's also lots of reader emails and voicemails to share this week about everything Royal Caribbean.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 176. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Packing for a Royal Caribbean cruise in the Winter

In:
13Dec2016

The prospect of escaping the snow, wind and general grayness of winter and going on a warm, Royal Caribbean cruise often sounds like the perfect plan.  Of course, going on a Caribbean cruise in winter means what you will need to think about packing will be different than cruises throughout the rest of the year.

Going on a winter cruise can see quite a swing in temperatures and conditions.  This post will cover a few things you should take on any winter Royal Caribbean cruise, plus some additional items to consider when the weather is expected to be unseasonably cold.

The weather getting to your embarkation port

From the moment you leave your home to stepping foot inside inside the cruise terminal, there are a lot of weather variables to consider along the way. While a summer cruise simplifies packing since it is likely warm everywhere, you can see quite a different in temperatures before stepping foot onboard.

Depending on where you live, winter can mean packing quite differently for the very beginning and very end of your trip.  Keep in mind that even if it is not that cold on the day you leave, coming back a week or so later could result in vastly different temperatures. Bringing jackets and sweaters makes sense, although it comes at the expense of taking up extra room in your suitcase.  Nonetheless, this may be an unavoidable issue, unless you opt to leave all the cold weather clothing in your car at the airport and hope for the best once out of the elements.

Of course, the weather in departure ports in Florida or Texas can vary considerably.  Some days will be in the upper 70s or even low 80s, but other days can see temperatures drop into the 60s or even lower. Generally speaking, packing in layers is the key.  Cold fronts in these parts of the country are short-lived, and will not last long.  Still, you do not want to be that family purchasing coats and sweaters at the first store you see for full retail price.

If your cruise is out of New Jersey or Baltimore, then it is much more likely that it will be cold for the first day of your cruise and even another day or two. 

Packing a light jacket, like this Columbia Down Jacket, can be perfect because it compresses really well and takes up barely any suitcase room. It is smaller and warmer than fleece, and although a bit pricey, these last a long time and are perfect for cold weather.

Winter weather on your cruise

The issue with most winter cruises is what the weather is like on the first and last day of the cruise. Depending on where your cruise sails from, there is the possibility of it being chilly, or even plain cold.  Anthem of the Seas sailings from Cape Liberty have even been known to have snow in the forecast.  For cruises that leave from ports in the north, it is best to pack different layers.  Onboard the ship, it will be plenty warm inside. The pool deck and other outdoor areas will be cold, but activities will be limited to indoors until the weather improves.  

The good news is the weather in the tropics tends to be very steady throughout the year.  While cold fronts can move through, generally speaking, once your Royal Caribbean ship gets to the various ports on your itinerary, things will warm up quickly.  This means you can pack shorts, t-shirts and flip flops, and forget about the weather at home.

The Bahamas tends to be a bit cooler than the rest of the Caribbean, with warmer temperatures the further south you go.  To give you an idea of what to expect, here are the average high temperatures for popular Caribbean ports in the winter.

Cozumel

  • December: 75 degrees
  • January: 75 degrees
  • February: 75 degrees
  • March: 77 degrees

Nassau, Bahamas

  • December: 72 degrees
  • January: 70 degrees
  • February: 70 degrees
  • March: 72 degrees

St. Thomas

  • December: 85 degrees
  • January: 85 degrees
  • February: 85 degrees
  • March: 85 degrees

Labadee

  • December: 85 degrees
  • January: 85 degrees
  • February: 85 degrees
  • March: 87 degrees

As you can see, the temperature warms up nicely as you get into the Caribbean.  Packing layers is probably the best strategy for avoiding costly last-minute purchases and/or suffering through cold spells.

Winter cruise tips

Here are some general tips for anyone taking a Royal Caribbean cruise in the winter to keep in mind, especially when considering what to pack.

  • Cruises coming from the north will likely see colder temperatures until the ship passes the Carolinas, at which point day time temperatures will start to rise.
  • It is generally warm enough to swim during most winter months.  Water temperatures take longer to change than air temperatures, so the warm summer months will keep it warm enough to enjoy for the most part during winter.
  • Windbreakers are the perfect type of jacket if it is not quite warm enough yet to break out the shorts.  Try one of these jackets for men and women.
  • Anthem of the Seas (and other Quantum class ships) were designed for cold weather, and feature an indoor pool in addition to the enclosed Solarium.
  • Winter is the dry season in the tropics, so while it may not be 90 degrees, the chance of rain during winter drops dramatically, as does the humidity. This means great weather for shore excursions.

Your Thoughts

What you recommend packing for a winter Royal Caribbean cruise? Share some of your favorites in the comments. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below and we will try to help!

Video: Hibachi Chefs Delight Izumi Guests on Royal Caribbean

In:
13Dec2016

Royal Caribbean’s Izumi is known for the freshest sushi and sashimi and, now onboard Harmony of the Seas, guests can also experience a hibachi experience where chefs cook tableside on teppanyaki grills. Chefs show off their meticulous cooking skills entertaining guests with playful tricks, all while preparing an Asian-inspired meal to perfection. From taking their seats to the final bite, guests at Izumi are treated to a multisensory experience.

What you need to know before taking a Royal Caribbean cruise to Cuba

In:
12Dec2016

You might have heard that Royal Caribbean is now offering cruises to Cuba, but before you step foot in Havana, here are some important bits of information to know.

Who can travel to Cuba?

It is true Royal Caribbean now offers cruises to Cuba, but there are still United States regulations in place that allow for certain types of travel by U.S. persons to Cuba.

Permitted travel is generally classified into 12 categories. If a trip to Cuba meets all of the requirements of one of these 12 categories, you are authorized by OFAC to travel under a “general license,” meaning that you may travel without any additional government approvals.

The general license categories include:

  • Educational activities, including people-to-people travel
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Religious activities
  • Professional research and meetings
  • Family visits
  • Official government business
  • Journalism
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions and athletic competitions
  • “Support for the Cuban people”
  • Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
  • Exporting or importing information or “information materials”
  • Travel related to some authorized export transactions

All guests traveling to Cuba must meet the requirements of one of the 12 categories of permitted travel authorized by the United States government. 

People-to-people tours are education-based trips designed to promote interactions between travelers and the Cuban people. People-to-people travel allows for little, if any, free time, as your time will be spent experiencing Cuba at its most authentic, through visits to Cuba’s most sought after destinations.

What about international guests not from the United States?

All guests regardless of country of residence will be required to meet one of the twelve general license categories while onshore in Cuba.

How will I certify I have met one of these requirements?

In accordance with U.S. law, all guests (including children) traveling to Cuba will be required to complete a travel affidavit identifying the category of travel under which they are visiting. This must be completed prior to boarding the vessel.

For ease of completion, Royal Caribbean has arranged the affidavit Into 3 parts:

  • Part A: Guests exclusively participating in the Royal Caribbean tour program should select Part A and complete the identification information in the last section.
  • Part B: Guests traveling on a self-guided people-to- people exchange program should select Part B and complete the identification information in the last section. Part B does allow for guests to split their full-day schedule between tours purchased from Royal Caribbean and activities organized on their own.
  • Part C – Guests that have not certified in Part A and B, including those passengers who plan to split their schedule between people-to-people activities offered by Royal Caribbean and activities otherwise meeting the requirements of one of the 12 general licenses, should select Part C and complete the identification information in the last section. 

You will need a Visa to enter Cuba

Guests are required to purchase a visa to travel to Cuba. Royal Caribbean will facilitate this for our guests at a cost of $75 per person.

This fee will be added to your onboard account on Day 1 of the cruise. Each guest will receive their Visa during embarkation in Miami and will be responsible for providing their Visa to the Cuban authorities upon arrival in Cuba.

If a guest loses their Visa, they will be able to purchase a new Visa onboard at an additional cost of $75.

Do I need a passport to visit Cuba?

A passport will be required for all guests sailing to Cuba with us. Guest passports must be valid for six months after their travel date to Cuba.

In order to travel to Cuba, all guests, including children, will be required to have a passport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not allow U.S. guests to travel to Cuba with a driver’s license and birth certificate. Guest passports must be valid for six months after their travel to Cuba.

Can Cuban-Americans cruise to Cuba on Royal Caribbean?

Yes. Cuban-American persons born in Cuba are permitted to arrive in Cuba by vessel. However, if you are a Cuban-born traveler, you may need additional documentation.

Those who left Cuba prior to January 1, 1971, must travel to Cuba with their U.S. passports. But unlike U.S. born Americans, they will need a special type of visa; an H1 visa, which they need to apply for prior to travel. The visa application process can take up to 90 days. Cuban-born citizens who came to the U.S. after January 1, 1971, must travel to Cuba using their Cuban passports. They do not need a visa. They do however need to complete a One-Page Entry Request Application.

To learn more, you can visit the Cuban Embassy website (http://www.cubadiplomatica.cu/sicw/EN/ConsularServices.aspx). 

What is it like in Cuba and what can I bring home?

Here is Royal Caribbean's description of Cuba: You will be among the first to explore Cuba with Royal Caribbean. Infrastructure is at a minimum and authenticity is at a premium. The food is rich in culture, but potentially unfamiliar. Walking surfaces may be uneven, and depending on the time of year, the intensity of the heat can be significant.

Guests are generally authorized to bring into the United States merchandise acquired in Cuba for personal use as accompanied baggage.

Any additional tips for visiting Cuba?

  • Drink only bottled water
  • Due to the tropical climate, wear loose fitting airy clothes, comfortable shoes and a hat
  • Only a few places are air conditioned; bring a fan and/or mister
  • Purchase items only from authorized sellers o Exchange money only at CADECAs (Currency exchange houses) or hotels
  • Carry with you
    • Passport
    • Visa
    • SeaPass card
    • Cash

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 11, 2016

In:
11Dec2016

Happy December! We cannot believe that we are already one full week into the month – there is so much going on with holiday preparation and shopping and baking!

It was a busy Royal Caribbean news week, with Royal Caribbean finally getting permission to offer cruises to Cuba.

On Thursday, Royal Caribbean revealed it had received permission from the Cuban government to offer cruises, which resulted in the company promising cruises would become available soon.

The very next day, Royal Caribbean posted its first batch of Cuba cruises available for booking.  As expected, Empress of the Seas was the ship to take Royal Caribbean guests to Cuba, although Royal Caribbean added bonus news, when it was revealed Empress of the Seas will spend the 2017 summer season in Tampa, Florida.

Empress of the Seas will homeport in Tampa for the 2017 summer season offering a series of 4- and 5-night sailings, including port calls to destinations in Cuba.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 175th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, Matt and Billy discuss the last day of a Royal Caribbean cruise.

The final hours of a cruise can be busy with a lot going on, so this week, we go through what is involved on disembarkation day.

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 guest blogger review of their first cruise.

Cruise Habit looks at if the new Mobile Passport app will save you time.

WLRN interviewed Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley.

Cruise Critic has 9 reasons to pack duct tape for your upcoming cruise.

Royal Caribbean offering Green Monday sale with reduced deposit and instant savings

In:
10Dec2016

Royal Caribbean is kicking off its Green Monday Savings Sale with a weekend of reduced deposit and instant savings.

The Green Monday Savings Sale is available on cruises booked December 10 - 12, 2016 and valid on all sailings departing on or after January 8, 2017 (excluding China).

Guests that book a qualifiying cruise will recieve

  • 1•2• Free – Every Third Night is Free
    • 3-5 night cruises
      • Includes 1 nights free
    • 6-8 night cruises
      • Includes 2 nights free
    • 9-11 night cruises
      • Includes 3 nights free
    • 12-14 night cruises
      • Includes 4 nights free
    • 15-17 night cruises
      • Includes 5 nights free
    • 17-20 night cruises
      • Includes 6 nights free
    • 21-23 night cruises
      • Includes 7 nights free
    • 24 night cruise
      • Includes 8 nights free
  • 50% reduced deposit
  • Up to $100 instant savings
    • 5 nights or less: $50 savings per stateroom
    • 6 nights or longer: $100 savings per stateroom

In addition, the Green Monday deal is combinable with the free upgrade from Ocean view to balcony on Anthem of the Seas sailings.

Additionally, the Green Monday offer provides for free cruise fare of third and higher guests who are 12 years or younger as of cruise departure date, booked in the same stateroom as the first two Offer qualifying guests in a triple or quad occupancy stateroom on a 5 nights sailings that depart Jan. 5, 2017-Feb 15, 2018 excluding sailings departing on or between 2/16/17-2/23/17, 3/10/17-3/20/17, 4/6/17-4/16/17, 5/16/17-9/4/2017, 11/16/17-11/26/17, 12/15/17-1/05/18 as well as China, Cuba and Alaska cruises and Harmony of the Seas sailings.

1-2-Free Offer is combinable with adjoining Instant Savings, Kids Sail Free, Anthem Upgrade, Crown & Anchor discounts and rates, Next Cruise offers, and Shareholders benefits. Offer is not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Senior Rates, Resident Rates, Military Rates) or any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, prior promotions, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of the United States and Canada.

If you are wondering, Green Monday is an online retail industry term similar to Cyber Monday. The term was coined by eBay to describe its best sales day in December, usually the second Monday of December.

Spotted: Christmas Coca-Cola souvenir cups on Royal Caribbean

In:
10Dec2016

Just in time for the holidays, Royal Caribbean is offering guests who purchase an unlimited drink package new souvenir Coca-Cola cups that have a Christmas design to them.

Over the year, we have seen a number of cup designs that coincide with certain holidays and events, and this batch is ready for Christmas.

Photos by Jerel Donovan

Photos by Earl McGrath

The cups prominently feature Santa Claus on them, and say "Share a Coke this holiday".

These souvenir cups are compatible with the self-serve soda machines on the pool deck as well as the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. The Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip in it which activates the machine.

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