Royal Caribbean to introduce bid-based stateroom upgrade program

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is introducing a new bid-based stateroom upgrade program, known as RoyalUp.

RoyalUp begins on November 28, 2018. Guests will receive an email if their sailing is eligible and they will have the opportunity to browse through staterooms available for upgrade on their sailing. They will select the dollar amount they are willing to pay for the upgrade and submit their bid.

The RoyalUp offer amount is per person for the entire duration of the cruise. Offers are based on two occupants per stateroom - only the first and second guest will be charged. If there are more than 2 guests in the reservation (between 2 and 5 passengers), the offer amount submitted will be per guest but only for the first and second guest on the reservation.

Guests cannot choose the location or specific features of the upgraded cabin, as it depends on availability.


In terms of groups,  Royal Caribbean cannot guarantee that all reservations traveling together will be upgraded. Under the circumstance that all reservations are upgraded, Royal Caribbean cannot guarantee that all the upgraded cabins will be close together.

Guests can make bids across multiple categories to increase your chances of having an offer accepted. If using a travel agent, they can handle the entire bidding process for you.


Upgrade bids can be accepted anytime from the moment it is submitted up until 2 days prior to voyage departure. You will receive an email notifying you of the accepted offer.

Guests can modify or cancel the offer up until 2 days prior to departure, provided that the offer has not already been accepted by RCI and provided their credit card has not been charged.

What do you think of this new offer? Will you be using it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Royal Caribbean offering fixed price pre-cruise menu option for Izumi

By: Matt Hochberg

Guests looking to dine at Izumi can choose from a new option prior to their cruise that allows them to enjoy prix-fixe menu.

This new option is available to book via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site and is not available onboard.

The prix-fixe menu includes:

  • 1 Miso Soup
  • 1 starter
  • Choice of one 1 Signature Roll or a flavorful bowl of Ramen.
  • 5 pieces of your favorite type of Sashimi or Nigiri
  • 1 dessert 

The cost online appears to be $49.99 per person.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Seven - Nassau

By: Matt Hochberg

The last day of the cruise and the conclusion to nearly two weeks on Symphony of the Seas is here.

Unlike yesterday, I wanted to get up early and take advantage of my remaining time on Symphony.  In fact, we decided to skip going off the ship in Nassau, primarily to get more time onboard.  Moreover, we will be back three times in March on Mariner of the Seas, so there is no shortage of time to explore Nassau in my future.

Weather-wise, the day was perfect.  Bright sunny skies and not very hot.  

We started off with breakfast at Park Cafe.  Park Cafe is my go-to spot for breakfast on Symphony because it offers the basics, is quick, and rarely crowded.  Perfect for grabbing something as you leave to go on an excursion, or just for a relaxed start to your day.

Our goal for today was simple: enjoy as much time on Symphony as possible.  The simple truth of Oasis Class ships is you cannot do it all, but you can certainly try your best to get close.

There are a ton of activities onboard and it is what brings me back time and time again.

After breakfast we went played actor and movie trivia, where you see a photo from a scene in a movie, and have to identify the actor and film title.  I thought we were doing well, but lost badly to another team.  Oh well.

Of course, with it being the last day of the cruise, something everyone has to do is pack.  It is not fun, but I feel it’s best to do it earlier in the day so it’s not looming over the rest of the day or evening.

We decided to grab a bite to eat for lunch at Playmakers.  I like Playmakers for a casual and quick meal, especially if you are in the mood for pub food.

My wife ordered the fresh baked cookie dessert and it was delicious!

With the beautiful weather in Nassau, we enjoyed our afternoon onboard by spending time on the pool deck.  There is so much focus on the activities on ships like Symphony, but taking it easy and having fun by the pool is a great way to spend time on a cruise ship too.

As day turned to night, we enjoyed one last dinner in the main dining room and then bid farewell to friends onboard.

Overall, Symphony was a fantastic ship and I loved every minute onboard.  Symphony continues the tradition Harmony of the Seas started by offering some of Royal Caribbean’s best features and dining.  

Between cruising with my family and the friends that felt like family who joined us for the RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise, I will look back fondly on my time onboard. 

Thank you to everyone who followed along with this live blog.  It was a real thrill for me to share so much about this ship with all of you.

Royal Caribbean Cyber Monday offer has up to 40% off pre-cruise purchases

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 40% off pre-cruise purchases made this weekend during its Cyber Monday offer.

Dates: November 23, 2018 - November 27, 2018
Sailing Window: Sailings from November 30, 2018 - December 30, 2019

  • BEVERAGE: Up to 40% off
    • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
    • Deluxe Beverage Package. Discount Varies by Ship.
    • Refreshment Package: 40% off onboard prices.
  • SHORE EXCURSIONS: Save up to 25% off
    • Save up to 25% on select tours on select sailings. Discount varies by ship.
  • INTERNET: Up to 60% off on select sailings
    • 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: Save 20% off
    • Chops Grille Dinner: Save 20% off. Discount varies by ship.
    • Izumi Dinner: Save 20% off. Discount varies by ship.
    • Ultimate Dining Package: Buy One, Get One 50% off. Discount varies by ship.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Six - Sea Day

By: Matt Hochberg

Having our last sea day not be the last day of the cruise as well is kind of odd, but on this sailing we have that scenario.

After three port days in a row, this day started off with sleep. Lots of sleep. The kids and me and my wife slept in quite a bit, but it felt like a much needed re-charge event.  On the one hand, I think we all needed a few extra hours of sleep to get our energy levels back up.  On the other hand, sleeping in makes it feel like the day is much shorter, and when it is your second-to-last day of the cruise, every hour seems extra precious.

Of course, today is Thanksgiving and this is the third time I have celebrated this holiday on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  As the day progresses, it feels more and more like Thanksgiving. 

When I walked down the Royal Promenade in the morning, it certainly started to feel like Thanksgiving with lots of guests at NextCruise looking to book a cruise.  A new Cyber Weekend sale debuted today and it looks like it grabbed a lot of attention.

One of the RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise events I was really looking forward to was our version of the classic game show, Match Game.  We held the event in a conference room, and had a few different contestants try to match our six panelists.  In our version, we try to give the game a Royal Caribbean spin.

Here’s an example of one of the rounds we played: John said, "I set the new world record for Ultimate Abyss riding: I did it 3000 times in a row. And the minute I got off, I set the new world's record for _______ ing."

After the game, we headed up to the Solarium to enjoy some time outdoors. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so not exactly a lovely sight to enjoy.  Nonetheless, it was mostly dry out and the cloud cover meant comfortable temperatures.

With it being formal night and Thanksgiving, we decided to get ready a bit earlier than usual.  We wanted to take some family photos and enjoy the holiday looking our best.

Our group met in Dazzles for a Thanksgiving toast, and enjoyed some champagne along with an opportunity to take a photo together.

For dinner, we headed to the main dining room.  Being Thanksgiving, there was a special menu for the holiday.

I opted for as many Thanksgiving dishes as possible, including pumpkin ravioli, butternut squash soup, turkey and pumpkin pie.

After dinner, we had reservations for Flight, arguably the premiere show on Symphony of the Seas.  I had heard such positive reviews that I was quite excited to see it for myself.

Flight is an original Royal Caribbean production and is a tribute to the history of aviation and to the people who dared to make manned flight and space travel a reality.

Unlike the original production on Harmony of the Seas, Columbus the Musical, this is less a story and more a historical celebration.  

There is no doubt that the visuals, technical aspects and theatrical presentation are incredible.  I dare any cruise line, anywhere to rival the visual effects of this show.  Heck, I doubt there is another stage production on land that comes close.  Some of the effects in this stage performance felt like I was on a Disney World ride rather than in a theater.

After seeing the show, I had a couple of drinks at the pub but decided to head to bed so I could have a full day of fun on my last day.

Tomorrow we are in Nassau, Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean's Black Friday offer has up to $300 in bonus instant savings

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal could save you up to $300 off a cruise vacation.

Cruise must be booked between November 22, 2018 – November 27, 2018. Offer applies to sailings departing on or after December 22, 2018.

  • 60% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full-fare paying guest.
  • 30% off cruise fare for third guests and higher booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualified guests. 
  • Cyber Weekend Sale offers instant savings of up to $300 per stateroom determined by category booked and sailing length:
    • On sailings 5 nights or less, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $125 for Suites.
    • on sailing 6 nights or longer, $75 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $200 for Balconies and $300 for Suites.
  • Kids Sail Free: provides free cruise fare for 3rd guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger on 4-night or longer Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, CaribNE, Coastal, Cuba, Europe and Hawaii sailings departing between December 1, 2018 – December 14, 2019. Offer excludes Holiday sailings (Sailings between December 18, 2018 – January 1, 2019), President’s Day sailings (Sailings between February 15 – 18, 2019), Spring Break sailings (Sailings between March 16 – 30, 2019), Holy Week/Easter sailings (Sailings between April 13 – 22, 2019) Summer sailings (Sailings between May 15 – August 31, 2019) and 2019 Thanksgiving sailings (Sailings between November 23 – 30, 2019). 

Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean. 

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Five - Cozumel

By: Matt Hochberg

Our third port stop took us to Cozumel, Mexico and if my math is correct, it marks my sixth time to the  island in 2018.

After waking up, we grabbed a very quick breakfast and headed off the ship right at 9am.  The weather was perfect today, with low humidity and plenty of sun.

Prior to the cruise, we had booked Mr. Sanchos Beach to try out one of the most popular all-inclusive beach break spots in Cozumel.

The taxi ride down to the beach was perhaps 10 minutes and then we checked-in with the staff.  The cost is $55 per adult, and it includes unlimited food, drink and beach and pool access. There’s a few add-ons available, such as an aquatic park pass for $12, beach beds, massages and more.

Mr. Sanchos is significantly larger than I was expecting in terms of its footprint.  There are at least three large pool areas, a couple of buffet restaurants, multi-story spa, shopping plaza, and more.

The advantage Mr. Sanchos offers is a ton to do.  You have swim up bars, the aquatic park, snorkeling, swimming in the beach and pools, and more.

Without a doubt, the service offered by the Mr. Sanchos staff is quite impressive.  They are not just attentive, they approach the point of almost being annoying in their consistent dedication to ensuring you have enough to eat and drink.

My kids had a great time swimming in the pool and beach, although I think they found the bar swings particularly fun. 

The food was good, but nothing special.  The guacamole almost certainly came out of a bag, but their chips were good and I enjoyed my ceviche and fish taco meals.  You will not go hungry at Mr. Sanchos, but I feel the food quality was better at other Cozumel all-inclusives.

By the afternoon, we decided to pack it up and head back a little early today to give the kids time to nap today.  We headed back to the ship and my wife took the kids back onboard.  I grabbed a cab and headed to run “an errand” and go to La Mega supermarket with Billy and Larissa from

Something I have come to really enjoy in Cozumel is stopping by a supermarket to pick up a few items that are either unavailable in the United States, or significantly cheaper.

On this occasion, I picked up a few bags of tortilla chips because the type of tortilla chips offered in Cozumel are not really sold in the US, plus they cost less than one dollar.

Back onboard the ship, I enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the aft of the ship and then headed back to the room to get ready for dinner.

Our evening routine was in full-force today, with taking the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner, dropping them off at Adventure Ocean at 7, and then enjoying a pre-diner drink or two.  We even found the stowaway pinao player!

Dinner this evening was at the main dining room.  One observation about the main dining room menu is that Symphony has been offering a somewhat augmented menu compared to other ships in the fleet. Essentially, there are some items missing, added or swapped across each day’s menu from what we are accustomed to.  Nothing bad, just different.

After dinner we headed to the AquaTheater to catch the HiRo show. Unfortunately, the show was canceled due to motion in the ocean.

Instead, we enjoyed music in the pub, followed by some late night fun at a few different spots before finally calling it a night.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Four - Costa Maya

By: Matt Hochberg

Our second port stop brings us to Costa Maya, Mexico and the weather today started off gloriously.

Our plan for the day was to head over to one of my favorite all-inclusive day pass places, Maya Chan Beach.  In fact, I invited other Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders on the cruise with me to join me for this adventure.

We all met up and walked off the ship and down the giant pier.  Getting on and off the ship in all our ports has proven to be quite easy and seamless.

Maya Chan is booked independently via their website, so like all third-party tours, you have to walk through the port are and then into town to pick up taxi cabs. There, a representative from Maya Chan met us and got us on our way.

The taxi ride to Maya Chan is about 25 minutes long, although it is on a very bumpy road that is mostly made of dirt. The ride over is not wonderful, but it’s also not long enough to be a problem. I was surprised how much bumpier it was today versus back in March, but we got there and it was all quickly forgotten.

Maya Chan is a beach resort run by a family of American ex-pats who operate in my opinion, some of the best service you will ever find at an all-inclusive spot.

In honor of our group’s visit, they debuted a brand new feature to Maya Chan, a new pool.  The pool is located on the right side of the beach and is a great alternative to the beach.  

Our group got to “test out” the pool and it was fantastic.

Of course, the beach is still the main attraction and this time around, there was no sea grass problem on the beach. The owner mentioned Costa Maya set up a barrier up the coast to collect the sea grass before it hits the beach and I was very happy to see that working.

We spent our day lounging at Maya Chan, enjoying the picture perfect weather, terrific food and time with friends.  It was really the kind of day that I never wanted to end because of all the fun we were having.

Alas, at 4pm it was time to head back to the port.  We boarded the bus and “enjoyed” another ride back into town.

Back on the ship, everyone in my family engaged in some form of shower, nap, get dressed (although not necessarily in that order).

We took the kids to eat at the Windjammer for dinner before dropping them off at Adventure Ocean.

Dinner this evening brought us back to the main dining room and the service was fantastic today.  Everything moved smoothly and we had a great meal.

After dinner, I headed down to The Attic to see the comedy show.  The opening act, which is performed by Simeon, is terrific.

Tomorrow we head up the coast to Cozumel.


Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Three - Roatan

By: Matt Hochberg

Our first port stop is Roatan and when we woke up, it certainly did not seem like it would be a great day.   Cloudy and lots of rain started off our morning, but we were committed to our plans so off we went.

One of the RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise activities is an exclusive shore excursion for those that booked into the group with our sponsor, MEI Travel.  Our thought was if you supported the group by booking into it, we were going to give back to you with some special offerings.

Today we are headed to Mayan Princess beach resort, which is a Royal Caribbean shore excursion.  About 80 of us met in the Royal Theater and were escorted onto waiting buses to head to Mayan Princess.

Along the way, the tour guide on our bus explained what life is like on Roatan, the island’s history and other cultural norms.  It was a quick 25 minute drive from the port to the beach.

Once we arrived, we were all given a welcome drink and escorted across the resort grounds to the beach.  

Mayan Princess is a beach resort, and our admission got us unlimited beverages (including alcohol), beach access, pool access, buffet lunch and buffet snacks.

There were two primary areas you could spend time at, the beach or the pool.

The pool area is large, although seating is a bit limited.  Still, there are lounge chairs surrounding the pool, which is beautiful.

The beach is vast and a lots of seating in the shade towards the back of the beach, as well as seating in the sun.  Most people tend to sit at the beach.

Regardless of where you sit, there is waiter service to bring you drinks.  In fact, some waiters will wade into the ocean to bring you drinks.

It was a fun and relaxing day and the weather cleared up considerably.  By the time we left, the sun was out and there were barely any clouds. Luckily it never rained on us while there.

After a few hours, the bus took us back to the ship to relax and clean up.

We got back to the ship a bit early, so the kids took a nap in the room. I might have partaken in the napping too.

We left Roatan and I caught a glimpse of the sunset from the Suite Sun Deck area.

While the kids got ready for dinner, I grabbed a quick bite to eat in Izumi.  I call it “pre-dinner” because it is just something small to hold me over until dinner later in the evening.  Izumi is perfect for this because I can order just one roll and be on my way.

I headed back up to grab the kids and feed them dinner before dropping them off at Adventure Ocean.

For dinner tonight, we dined with a few Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders at Jamie’s Italian.  The food was terrific and we had a great time chatting about, well, Royal Caribbean!

After dinner we caught the late show of Hairspray. As it turned out, it was the final performance of Hairspray by the cast, which had been performing for 8 months.  There was a ton of energy in the show and it was fantastic.

Tomorrow we will be in Costa Maya, Mexico.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Two - Sea Day

By: Matt Hochberg

Our first sea day of the cruise and second day overall means lots of different things going on.  On an Oasis Class ship, a sea day means picking between a lot of great activities.

I set my alarm for 9am thinking there would be no way we would all sleep that late, but clearly the first day took a bigger toll on all of us than I thought.  The alarm went off at 9am, but I think we all felt like it was 6am.  Still, it is much easier to get up and go in the morning when on a cruise than anywhere else.

We all had breakfast at Park Cafe. The kids opted for cereal and my wife and I got a breakfast sandwich.  Those breakfast sandwiches are really good!

We dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean for the rest of the morning while we took relaxed up on the pool deck.

Speaking of the pool deck, it was a picture perfect day to be on a cruise. Clear skies, calm seas, plenty of sun but not too hot.  

For lunch, I headed up to Hooked to try out their lunch offering.  The lunch menu at Hooked is primarily a slimmed down version of the dinner menu.

I went with the grilled halibut, which was fantastic.

My tablemate opted for the lobster roll.

Our first RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise event of the day was a welcome aboard event in Dazzles, where we hosted a cocktail hour reception for everyone that booked the group cruise and booked it with our sponsor, MEI Travel.

It was great enjoying some drinks and seeing friendly faces.  Plus, Dazzles is such a fun spot.

Next, we headed to the Bionic Bar for a bar crawl.  This has become a regular RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise event where we have a drink at about a half dozen bars are so. Great not only for chatting with others in the group, but also for trying out a lot of bars.

We progressed between Bionic Bar, Schooner Bar, Solarium Bar, Wipeout Bar and Playmakers.  

It was great enjoying some afternoon drinks with friends!

Tonight was formal night, so we gathered together for a formal night photo.  I think I nailed it.

We got ready for our evening out and I enjoyed some pre-dinner cocktails at Wonderland.

Dinner this evening was in Izumi hibachi, and my kids were super excited for this meal.  They tried hibachi on Harmony of the Seas and loved it.

Our chef, Roque (pronounced “Rocky”), was very good and got my oldest daughter really involved.

My youngest daughter somehow fell asleep at the start of the meal.

I loved the Izumi hibachi and the meal did not disappoint.  There is no question why hibachi is so popular on Royal Caribbean, and that is because of the top quality product offered, both in food and service.

After dinner, the kids did a quick trip up Adventure Ocean and then we opted to call it a night.  We have an early start tomorrow in Roatan.

Stray Observations

  • We found the gnome in Central Park