First look at Europe Phase II: Summer 2019 sailings

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean released new information about summer 2019 European cruises.

The newly released sailings include:

These new sailings are also being shown as available for booking via Royal Caribbean's web site.

Royal Caribbean previously announced European sailings for summer 2019 on these ships as well.

6 alternatives to a Royal Caribbean drink package

By: Matt Hochberg

A lot of people going on a Royal Caribbean cruise find the idea of getting a drink package quite attractive, primarily due to the convenience and potential value offered by the drink package. However, a drink package is not an option for everyone, and there are some great alternatives to getting a drink package that will not break your budget while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite drinks onboard.

Don't get us wrong, a Royal Caribbean drink package works for a lot of people who really enjoy the options it provides. But we also hear from a number of readers who like to enjoy a few drinks, but fear a drink package will not be financially viable for them.  As a result, we came up with some strategies to enable those people to enjoy drinks onboard without feeling like they are overpaying for drinks.

If you are considering if a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth it, or are looking for other options, here are some good strategies we have used on past cruises.

Drink in port

Within a few minutes of visiting any port your cruise ship goes to, inevitably you will start seeing advertisements for inexpensive alcoholic drinks.  Many ports of calls drink prices are far cheaper than what you may find onboard your ship, and that means you can take advantage of the lower prices on shore.

Finding bars or vendors selling inexpensive beers, cocktails and more is not usually difficult.  Drinking on shore is quite popular, and so, bars and restaurants are usually abound with great drink specials.

Obviously drinking on shore does not help with enjoying a drink onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, but on itineraries that are port intensive it can be a great stategy for offsetting the need to drink onboard in the first place.

Take advantage of drink specials onboard

In this "age of the drink package", it is often lost in discussions that Royal Caribbean runs a lot of drink specials onboard throughout the cruise.  Even before drink packages became a popular choice, drink specials were an option offered for years.

The key to finding a drink special is to spend a little time seeking them out.  Drink specials are most often advertised via two means: a sign on a bar, and/or an ad in the Cruise Compass.  Some drink specials are for certain times, while others are offered for part of the cruise.  The key is to seek them out and take advantage of the drink specials to ensure out of pocket costs are low(er).

One of the oldest, and yet most well-known drink special, is the drink of the day.  This is a cocktail picked out daily that is reduced in price, usually about 25% or so off the normal price.  The drink of the day is a great choice for saving on drinking costs, and something offered throughout the day at all bars.

Hope for a drink card

Have you heard about something where you can pre-purchase 10 drinks for a set price? Usually the price is somewhere between $75-85 and you can share the drink card with anyone you want. That means a $12 cocktail would cost you really about $7.50-$8.50 each with the drink card.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, the drink card is not available on all ships or sailings.  It is something Royal Caribbean can offer, but there is no way to know if it will, nor can it be pre-purchased.  It is a sort of gamble that you need to hope for to become available on your sailing.

If the drink card is available, it usually becomes available around half way through your sailing, so on a 7-night cruise, it might show up on day 3 or 4.  

Again, there is no means of which to know if a drink card will be available on your cruise with any kind of certainty.

Diamond Drinks

This tip only applies to guests that are at least Diamond level in Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society.

Diamond members and above are entitled to complimentary drinks each evening of the cruise.  Primarily, you get unlimited drinks for a few hours in the Diamond Lounge, although Royal Caribbean does allow Diamond members to get an additional 3 drinks per evening at any bar or lounge during the same time period.

The drinks available to Diamond members is somewhat limited, but you cannot beat the price. Usually there is a three hour block of time for Diamond drinks, taking advantage of this perk means not having to pay out of pocket for drinks in the hours leading up to dinner.

Concierge Lounge

If you happen to be a suite guest, you are entitled to take advantage of complimentary drinks in the Concierge Lounge.  Similar to the Diamond Lounge, this is an exclusive area for suite guests, where you can enjoy a variety of complimentary drinks.

Just like the Diamond Lounge, the complimentary drinks are available for a few hours each evening.

Keep in mind you are free to take drinks out of the Concierge Lounge and venture out around the ship (same with the Diamond Lounge).

Bring wine

Did you know that Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on their Royal Caribbean cruise?

Each bottle of wine may be up to 750ml in size and should be brought on in the luggage you carry onto the ship. Do not put the wine in the luggage you hand over to the porters on embarkation day.

Wine lovers will be able to bring a couple of bottles of their favorite wine on their cruise at a savings compared to purchasing the wine onboard.  Moreover, bringing your own wine means you will save money on your total bar tab during your cruise.

My favorite aspect of bringing your own wine is if you do not finish the bottle of wine, Royal Caribbean can store the wine for you and deliver it another restaurant at that time.

It is important to be aware that Royal Caribbean will charge you a corkage fee for personal wines opened at any restaurant or lounge onboard.  Even with the corkage fee, you will still save a significant amount of money compared to purchasing a bottle of wine onboard.

Video: Royal Caribbean Makes Finishing Touches on the Ultimate Family Adventure on Symphony of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Symphony of the Seas is days away from completion; here's an inside look at her final phase of construction. The world's largest and most innovative cruise ship is coming to life with a combination of new first-at-sea experiences and signature Royal Caribbean favorites that will excite and inspire guests of all ages. From the Ultimate Abyss -- the tallest slide at sea, to new dining concepts and original aerial, ice and aqua entertainment, the whole family is in for a cruise vacation experience unlike any other.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 3 – Grand Cayman

By: Michael Poole

Our first port of call was Grand Cayman and we arrived bright and early at 7AM. At this port you don’t dock, since they have no docks for ships. They operate on small tender boats that take passengers over. I went down to deck 1 to leave the ship and they had a small line but it went very smoothly.


The tender ride takes around 10-15 minutes to get over to land. We had four ships here today and we were the furthest away. They have taxi’s right outside, but they wait until they can fill their vehicles before they leave. I wanted to spend the day at the Royal Palms and the taxi over was $4 per person each way.


Once you arrive to Royal Palm’s they charge you $2 per person to enter their facility. That covers access to the beach, restrooms, swimming pool, etc. However, if you want a beach chair those are $12 and the umbrellas are $15. The beach was getting so busy, I decided to hangout by the swim-up pool bar.

I ordered the local beer and it was $6.75, so it’s not the cheapest place to order drinks. The grounds itself is beautiful; they have done a lot of upgrades here since my last visit. I would recommend this place if you are visiting Grand Cayman, just plan on spending a few dollars on everything you want to do

Our day in Grand Cayman was short, all on board was 2:30PM. I decided to leave around 12:30PM to give me plenty of time to get back. Once I was back on board I slept for a few hours, so nothing from the afternoon to report.


At 5PM up to the Concierge lounge I went for a few drinks, I’ve met so many nice people during this cruise in the lounge. I only stayed for an hour and jumped over to the Diamond lounge to watch sunset.


Dinner tonight was in Giovanni’s Table, I just love this place so much I decided to go back. I arrived a little early but they seated me no problem. I was glad I came early because they have 48 people coming at 8PM.


For my starter I had vegetable soup, I didn’t think I’d like it but it was so yummy. The main course I had the filet again, this time they had the sauce already on the steak. I love the sauce, so I was happy with it, but if you don’t I’d recommend asking for it on the side.


After dinner I decided I needed to show some love to the Pub. On Brilliance the pub is on deck 6 beside the casino. It’s kind of out of the way, so I hadn’t really spent much time here. Now I know where all the college kids have been all cruise, they take over the pub in the evenings.


They didn’t have a sign up for the 10 draft beer cards, but I asked about them and sure enough they sold me one. The price is $49 + 18%, so I spent a total of $57 and this will carry me through the rest of the cruise. I had a few beers and listening to the singer, it was a really fun evening. I have a feeling I’ll be back at the pub at some point this cruise.



Around midnight I called it a night, when I arrived in my cabin I saw a crystal block. Crown and Anchor gives out the first block at 140 points and again every 70 after. Tomorrow is our next port of call in Cozumel, Mexico!

Symphony of the Seas concludes second set of sea trials

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas wrapped up her second set of sea trials, meaning she is one step closer to being ready to enter service.

Symphony conducted her second set of sea trials, which ran between March 3 and March 4, 2018. Ouest France reports Symphony of the Seas returned to STX Franch shipyards in Saint-Nazaire after about 24 hours of being at sea and is now ready for delivery to Royal Caribbean on March 23rd.

During these sea trials, the tests aimed to finalize the performance of the ship.

Between now and the delivery date, finishing work will be done onboard the ship.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 2 - Sea Day

By: Michael Poole

Today was our first sea day as we sail to Grand Cayman.  I didn’t have any set plans today other than relaxing poolside.  No idea why, but I woke up before the sunrise this morning.  Since I was up I decided to get a run in at the gym.  The Brilliance has a really nice fitness center, with a lot of equipment.  They did have clipboards lined up to sign up for classes, but I noticed many were full. 


After my run I noticed the sun was just starting to come up so I rushed to the room to grab my camera.  This is a must for at least one morning of the cruise, seeing the sunrise is pretty incredible at sea. 


At 7:30AM I decided to make my first visit to the Windjammer.  It wasn’t very busy at all, since I guess majority of the ship was sleeping in, it is vacation after all.  I saw they had an omelet station, so I got a made-to-order omelet.  It wasn’t noticeable for those not looking for it, so be sure to ask if you don’t see it. 

I wanted to eat outside on the aft sitting area, since it was such a nice morning.  If you go out the side doors you will see plenty of seating in the aft of the ship.  This was pretty amazing to be eating breakfast with the view of our wake.  I just sat here for a while taking in the views.  It made me even that much more excited for my aft balcony on the next cruise. 


I did walk through Rita's the former mexican resturant on board.  I have a feeling this will be removed next month during the dry dock.  For now they only serve drinks in the afternoon, even a $40 jumbo margarita. 


After breakfast I wanted to grab a pool chair because I saw many already be reserved.  I noticed the pool attendants putting time stamp on people’s chairs, with a note saying they will be removed in 30 minutes.  Great job by Royal Caribbean ensuring all guests will have a seat out by the pool.  


I just relaxed and read my book until noon by the pool.  This was when I noticed how many college spring breakers were on board.  To my surprise they were just enjoying some sun like everyone else.  Cruising this time of year for a while now, it’s pretty common to see the spring breakers on board.


For lunch I went back to Park Café, I guess everyone read my day 1 blog post, because it was packed! Many people couldn’t get tables to eat, so I rushed to eat to give up mine.  I went with a large salad today, I asked him to put double lettuce since I wasn’t getting a roast beef sandwich today. 


Most of the afternoon I just walked around the ship, did a little casino time and happy to report I’m up $5.00! I was going to attend an event at the pub to learn about beer but it was $30 + 18%, and you only got to sample a few beers, so I passed. 


Tonight I made it to the Concierge lounge right before 5PM, because last night was so busy I wanted to get a seat.  How funny, because only 7-10 people showed up tonight.  I like that they have a bar with seating in the lounge, I got to make new friends in the lounge and have fun with the bartender. 


Tonight was formal night so I only stayed in the lounge for an hour and I wanted to get out and explore the ship some.  They has some nice formal music playing in the centrum beside the R Bar.   Since it was the captains party they were also handing out free champagne! This is from 7:45PM-8:15PM, so make sure you don’t miss this. 


Dinner this evening was in Chops Grill with my BOGO, but the cover charge is $35 without.  They were busy tonight since it was formal night, but I’ll say my service was really slow.  I noticed my waiter had so many tables and was doing everything he could to keep up. 


I ordered the mushroom soup, crab cake, and the NY Strip.  The soup was outstanding, maybe the best soup at sea!  The steak was good, I asked for red wine sauce and he put another on it by mistake, so I just went with it.  I skipped dessert; honestly I was just ready to leave.  I had them open a bottle of wine for me and I took it over to Giovanni’s after for them to hold for me until the next night. 


I ended up going to the nightclub on deck 13, they were playing 80’s & 90’s music for an hour.  I really enjoyed hearing the old tunes, but when it switched to current pop music I decided to call it a night. 

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: March 4, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Welcome to March! We hope you are having a great weekend and are ready to sit back, relax and catch up with all the latest Royal Caribbean news!

Royal Caribbean announced this week that Jewel of the Seas will be repositioned to Miami in January 2019.

The move meant a number of sailings had to be cancelled, with guests who had booked one of those sailings receiving letters to inform them of the change and to provide rebooking options.

It appears Jewel of the Seas will sail out of PortMiami between January and April 2019.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 239th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, all about Matt's favorite spots to enjoy sail away from while on Royal Caribbean.

In this episode, Matt counts down the places on a Royal Caribbean cruise he thinks are the best for when it is time for your cruise ship to depart a port.

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

GTP Headlines reports Royal Caribbean has registered its cruise ships with HELMEPA.

Orlando Sentinel wrote about Symphony of the Seas debuting this month.

Loop shared 9 things to know about Symphony of the Seas.

Brilliance of the Seas Live Blog – Day 1 - Embarkation Day

By: Michael Poole

My cruise day has finally arrived; of course I woke up at 6AM to watch the Brilliance of the Seas pull into the port of Tamp Bay. I never set an alarm to do this; I just naturally wake up, due to all the excitement.

I was planning to walk over to the ship this morning, but my girlfriend was heading out at 10:30AM and offered to drop me off. arrived at 10:30AM down at the new terminal 6 in Tampa.

Royal Caribbean is almost always at this terminal now; my expectations were very low, based on recent reviews. However, it might have been the smoothest boarding process ’ve ever seen. think it helped that it was so early in the morning, but I didn’t wait in a line during the whole process, I just walked right on board.


My first hour on board was exploring the ship, taking it all in. It’s been two years since I’ve sailed on Brilliance, so I was trying to take it all in.


I went into the Solarium around 11:30am and noticed the pool was closed due to some repair work and fresh paint. I relaxed and waited until noon when Park Café opened in the Solarium.


For those of you that might be looking for a more relaxing day 1 meal, I highly recommend Park Café. It’s included in the cruise fare and surprisingly I was the only one here. I had a salad and the favorite roast beef sandwich.



After lunch I went to explore the ship more, that’s when I noticed people were lined up buying the drink package on board. The price was $63 per day, plus 18% service charge. I’m always so surprised people don’t buy the package in the cruise planner online when they run discounts. If you didn’t want to purchase the drink package they had the drink of the day for $8.


At 1pm the cabins opened up and mine is just a few feet from the centrum. I booked a solo cabin on this cruise, room 4587. They have three solo cabins on Brilliance of the Seas and they are a great value for solo passengers.

The room reminds me of a college dorm room almost, just a twin bed, closet, small desk, and the bathroom. I love the location of the cabin since it’s maybe 5 seconds away from the centrum. The cabin itself has plenty of storage and the bathroom is standard like all the other cabins.


Muster drill was at 3:15pm, nothing exciting to report just the usual standing on the outside decks. I was in my cabin when the alarm went off and my cabin attendant kindly reminded me it was time to go.

After the drill I went looking for my luggage since it still hadn’t arrived. Since my solo cabin is off on a small hallway by itself of only 9 total cabins it takes a little longer for them to bring the bags. They actually come up on the other side of the ship and they must pass through the centrum to bring them over to us. I wanted to get unpacked and ready for the night. I was able to find them and get ready for the evening.

Tonight I wanted to take advantage of some free cocktails, since I don’t have a drink package. I went into both the Concierge lounge and Diamond Lounge tonight.


The Concierge lounge is large; they have outside seating, a lot of tables, and even a sit-down bar in the lounge. I stayed in the lounge for two hours just making friends with everyone; it’s one of my favorite parts of cruising all the new people you get to meet from all over the world.


At 6:30PM we passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, everyone in the lounge rushed out to the outside deck to see it.  It's always exciting to see this and right at sunset made it even better.  


The Diamond lounge was much smaller with maybe 10 tables, however they have a view over looking the pool deck. So I guess it’s a give and take on which lounge I like better.

Dinner tonight was in Giovanni’s Table at 8PM. I purchased the BOGO offer online for $30 that lets you dine night 1 & night 2. I made my reservations right when I got on board at Chops for both restaurants. When I arrived I first noticed it was empty, other than two other tables and myself that was it.



The service was outstanding; it was like I had the whole staff waiting on me. I had a few starters and my favorite the filet. They suggested I come back tomorrow night, but I told them I’ll be in Chops.


But, they did talk me into coming back night 3 and 4! The manager gave me a discount offer to come back later during the cruise.

I wish I had some entertainment updates but I didn’t see any shows or enjoy any music around the ship. After dinner at 9:30PM I actually went to bed! I was pretty tired from my full day and decided to get some sleep before my sea day tomorrow.


My bar tab for the day was $14 without the drink package, I purchased a beer and another using my BOGO coupon pre-loaded on the sea pass card.

Royal Caribbean cancels shore excursions requiring ferries in Mexico

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has cancelled all shore excursions requiring a ferry ride in Mexico today, following a safety warning issued by the U.S. State Department.

Guests aboard Liberty of the Seas and Allure of the Seas recieved notices that their shore excursions scheduled to take place on Friday, March 2 in Cozumel were cancelled. 

Royal Caribbean informed guests of the new State Department warning, which discouraged travel on tourist ferries in Cozumel.

The letter adds, "The U.S. State Department remains confident of the Mexican government's efforts to ensure the safety of all tourists in the country.  However, in an abundance of caution we are cancelling sponsored shore excursions that involve tourist ferries.  We also discourage guests from taking part in independent excursions that involve ferry travel."

Letter to guests on Allure of the Seas. Photo by Gears

Letter to guests on Liberty of the Seas. Photo by Twangster

We reached out to Royal Caribbean to get a sense if this cancellation of shore excursions involving tourist ferries will extend to other scheduled stops in Cozumel, but have not received a response.

Friday Photos

By: Matt Hochberg

The start to another weekend has arrived and we like to kick off our Fridays with our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos!

Our first photo this week is by Kinny Lee of two Oasis Class ships in St. Maarten, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

Travis N. sent in this photo of Allure of the Seas arriving in Nassau.

Here is a shot of Vision of the Seas docked in beautiful Akureyri, Iceland, during its once-a-year transatlantic cruise from Copenhagen to New York. Photo by John McCormack.

Jarrod Quantrelle took this photo of Harmony of the Seas while the ship was docked in Costa Maya.

Take a look at this towel animal display on Explorer of the Seas, taken by Gary Brown.

Debi Speed shared this photo taken in Lisbon, Portugal while visiting aboard Navigator of the Seas.

We finish up with this photo by David Donnelly of Independence of the Seas arriving in Southampton.

Thank you to everyone for sharing photos with us this week.  If you want to share your best Royal Caribbean photos, use this form to send them in!