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.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: September 2, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Labor Day weekend! We hope you are having a wonderful weekend and we cannot wait to share with you all the exciting Royal Caribbean news from this week!

Royal Caribbean updated its beverage policy to allow all guests to bring non-alcoholic beverages on a cruise.

The cruise line announced that guests will be able to bring small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages in a carry-on or hand luggage onboard only on boarding day. Checking in non-alcoholic beverages will no longer be permitted.

Specifically, non-alcoholic beverages brought onboard may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Distilled water or specialized beverages such as, milk for medical purposes, dietary or infant use, are permitted.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 265th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we share first time cruise tips.

In this episode, Matt gives tips and advice for anyone going on their first Royal Caribbean cruise (or cruise in general).

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

Seatrade Cruise News reports of a new sales director appointment for RCL Cruises Australasia.

Cruise Critic looked at San Juan one year after Hurricane Maria.

Cruise Radio shared advice on how to convince an anti-cruiser to go on a cruise.

KVAL shared an update on the status of Royal Caribbean's call center in Oregon, following a Cruise Law News report.

Frommers does not like the plans for Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean Drink Package Information and Planning Tips

By: Matt Hochberg

A Royal Caribbean drink package is available for guests to purchase for their cruise vacation on most sailings.  With a drink package, guests can take advantage of unlimited beverages included with the package for a flat cost.  Not having to worry about racking up a large bar tab, as well as making out-of-pocket costs fit better into a budget makes drink packages quite a popular option.

Royal Caribbean includes plenty of drinks with your cruise fare, but if you are interested in having plenty of beers, lattes, cocktails, wine by the glass, bottled water and more, then a drink package might be what you need. 

What are the beverage packages on Royal Caribbean?

Royal Caribbean offers three primary drink packages on its cruises.

The Deluxe Package includes unlimited:

  • Cocktails
  • Spirits
  • Liqueurs
  • Beer
  • Bottled still and sparking water
  • Wine by the glass
  • Fresh squeezed juice
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Coca-Cola souvenir cup
  • Milkshakes at Johnny Rockets (only available while dining at Johnny Rockets)

The Deluxe Package includes any single beverage item with a value up to $12. Plus, receive a 40% discount on bottled wines priced up to $100, and 20% discount on wines priced above $100.

The Refreshment Package includes:

  •  Premium coffees and teas
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
  • Coca-Cola souvenir cup included
  • Milkshakes at Johnny Rockets (only available while dining at Johnny Rockets)

The Classic Soda Package includes unlimited fountain soda and refills in any venue, Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages, and a Coca-Cola souvenir cup.

Royal Caribbean drink package prices

The Deluxe Package is Royal Caribbean's unlimited alcohol package and its prices begin at $57 per day, per person excluding gratuity. 

The Refreshment Package offers unlimited non-alcoholic drinks and begins at $26 per person, per day excluding gratuity.

    If you want just to have as much soda as you like, Royal Caribbean's Classic Soda Package is for you.  The price for the Classic Soda Package begins at $8.50 per day, per guest excluding gratuity. 

    You can pre-purchase your drink package online or via the phone.  Onboard, the drink packages are available for purchase throughout the voyage with at least 4 days remaining. A drink package must be purchased for the duration of the cruise; prorated price based on date of purchase.

    How to get a drink package discount

    The best way to get a drink package discount is to pre-purchase your Royal Caribbean drink package before the cruise begins, via the cruise line's Cruise Planner site.

    The Deluxe Package (unlimited alcohol package) is always cheaper online than it will be onboard your ship.  Moreover, the discount you see listed is the discount off the onboard price.  

    From time to time, Royal Caribbean will run a limited-time sale on select pre-cruise purchases, and the drink packages often have an additional discount too.  Discounts are available regularly during these sales on the Deluxe Package and the Refreshment Package (non-alcoholic beverage package), but the soda package is rarely discounted.

    Not all sailings have discounts available, but if they are available, guests can log into their My Cruises section of the Royal Caribbean web site, navigate to the Cruise Planner section for their sailing and check if there are any discounts available on the Royal Caribbean drink package prices. 

    What drinks are free on Royal Caribbean?

    Your Royal Caribbean cruise will come with certain beverages included in your cruise fare, which means you can enjoy as much of these beverages as you like throughout your cruise at no additional cost.

    The free drinks on your Royal Caribbean cruise include:

    • tap water
    • milk
    • tea
    • coffee (regular and decaf)
    • lemonade
    • iced tea
    • flavored waters
    • juices (at breakfast and not fresh squeezed)
    • Hot chocolate (via instant packets)

    These drinks are available throughout your cruise at a number of locations, so there will always be somewhere to get something to drink for free.

    Is there a limit on Royal Caribbean drink packages?

    There is no limit on a Royal Caribbean drink package in terms of how many drinks a guest may consume in a day or throughout the cruise.

    The only limit on a drink package is that you may only order one drink per order, per drink package.

    If multiple people are ordering a drink with a drink package, the bartender or waiter may take each guests' SeaPass card to place the order.

    There are a few other drink package rules that you should be aware of as well.

    Is a Royal Caribbean drink package worth it?

    In a nutshell, a Royal Caribbean drink package can be worth it, provided you drink enough every day of your cruise.  The beverage packages definitely offer a value-savings proposition, but it is up to you to drink enough to make it worthwhile.

    The basis of any drink package is that you will drink enough to "break even" each day to make the packages worth it.  If you are not a big drinker, or someone that wants to indulge in many drinks, you may be better off paying for each drink individually.

    If you are wondering what the break even point is, it is around 5-6 drinks per day, every day to recoup the cost of the unlimited alcohol drink package. The non-alcohol packages have a lower break-even point, that is closer to 3-4 drinks. 

    Royal Caribbean Drink Package Articles

    Friday Photos - August 31, 2018

    By: Matt Hochberg

    This week's batch of beautiful Royal Caribbean photos is here and it's always fun to share with all of you the great photos our readers take while on their cruise vacation.

    The photos we have to show this week are fun and of course anyone can send us their Royal Caribbean photos to use as well!

    We begin with this pholto of Harmony of the Seas docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, taken by Maarten Goldstein.

    Jill Arslanian shared this photo of a lovely evening on Oasis of the Seas.

    Check out this photo of Harmony of the Seas in Labadee, taken by Rebecca Thibert.

    David J. sent in this photo of his Grand Suite from aboard Grandeur of the Seas.

    Here we have Explorer of the Seas "peeking" through the palm trees while moored at Mystery Island, Vanuatu. Photo by Lovina McKenzie.

    Jason took this photo of Symphony of the Seas all lit up at night.

    Our last photo this week is by Brian Robinson of the sunrise, as seen from on Oasis of the Seas.

    Do you have Royal Caribbean photos that you want to share?  We'd love to feature them so send them in by using our nifty submission form and maybe your photos will show up in next week's edition!

    Kids Sail Free with Royal Caribbean's Labor Day Weekend Sale

    By: Matt Hochberg

    Royal Caribbean announced its Labor Day Weekend Sale, which offers guests 50% off the second guest, kids sail free and up to $100 instant savings.

    The Labor Day Weekend Sale runs between August 30 - September 4, 2018 and is valid on all sailings departing on or after September 30, 2018.

    It includes:

    • 50% off cruise fare of second guest booked in the same stateroom as first full-fare paying guest.
    • 25% off cruise fare for third guests and higher booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualified guests.
    • Kids Sail for Free Offer
      • Free cruise fare for 3rd guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger on 4 nights or longer Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, CaribNE, Coastal, Cuba, Europe and Hawaii sailings departing between September 30, 2018 – May 14, 2019 and September 1, 2019 – December 14, 2019.
      • The Kids Sail Free Bonus excludes sailings between November 17 – November 23, 2018, sailings between December 18, 2018 – January 1, 2019, sailings between February 15 – 18, 2019, sailings between March 16 – 30, 2019, sailings between April 13 – 22, 2019 and sailings between November 23 – 30, 2019. Kids Sail Free is not combinable with Deck the Holiday Deals.
    • Instant savings of up to $100 per stateroom determined by category booked and sailing length:
      • Sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $50 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
      • Sailing 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $100 for Suites for all ships excluding Anthem of the Seas as it offers: on sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior, $50 for Ocean View, $50 for Balconies and $75 for Suites; on sailing 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior, $75 for Ocean View and Balconies and $100 for Suites for only Anthem of the Seas sailings.
    • Free Upgrades Promo:
      • Free upgrades from ocean view to balcony when sailing on Anthem of the seas for all sailings departing on or after September 1, 2018.
      • Free upgrades refer to purchasing a Balcony at the price of an ocean view at standard/full fare.
    • Fall/Winter Sailings Promo Code
      • Offers up to $50 instant savings for any Empress, Enchantment, Majesty, Mariner, Liberty and Freedom of the Seas sailings determined by category booked: $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View and $50 savings for Balcony and Suites for those guests’ sailing between September 1, 2018 and December 17, 2018. Must be added through promo code: SAVE.
    • Deck the Holiday Deals
      • Instant savings of up to $150 per stateroom determined by category booked and sailing length:
      • Sailings 5 nights or less, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
      • Sailing 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $150 for Suites for those guests’ sailing between December 18, 2018 – January 1, 2019 and sailing between December 19, 2019 – December 31, 2019.
      • Deck the Holiday Deals is not combinable with Kids Sail Free.

    BOGO and Deck the Holiday Deals are combinable with each other as well as with Labor Day Weekend Sale, Free upgrades, Fall/Winter Sailings Promo Code Driven Promotion, NRBD OBC, promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. BOGO and Kids Sail Free are combinable with each other as well as with Labor Day Weekend Sale, Free upgrades, Fall/Winter Sailings Promo Code Driven Promotion, NRBD OBC, promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Kids Sail Free and Deck the Holiday Deals are not combinable with each other. Labor Day Weekend Sale is combinable with Free upgrades, Fall/Winter Sailings Promo Code Driven Promotion, NRDB OBC, OBC, instant savings, NextCruise offers, restricted discounts (for example, Senior, Resident, Military) but not combinable with Shareholder benefits and Crown and Anchor discounts. All offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.