Friday Photos

By: Matt Hochberg

Are you ready to start your weekend?  We are sharing some fabulous Royal Caribbean cruise photos that our readers have sent in because we think the best weekends start with a quick Royal Caribbean "fix"!

We begin this week with a shot of Anthem of the Seas just offshore from CocoCay, taken by Michael Kho.

Khadijah Ahmad sent in this photo from having dinner at Coastal Kitchen on Anthem of the Seas.

Stuart Etheridge took this beautiful photo from his first Oasis class cruise.

Blake Baldwin caught this sunrise photo on Radiance of the Seas as the ship pulled into Vancouver.

Our next photo is by Traveler of deck 12 on Voyager of the Seas in the South China Sea.

Kinny Lee shared with us this photo of Central Park at night on Allure of the Seas.

We will wrap up this week's photos with a shot of Oasis of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas docked together in Cozumel.  Phot by Ken.

Thank you to everyone for the great photos this week! If you would like to share your best Royal Caribbean photos, be sure to use this form to send them in! Have a great weekend!

Independence of the Seas completes shipwide refurbishment

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship to undergo a refurbishment as part of the Royal Amplified program, Independence of the Seas, has emerged from dry dock and is ready for guests to enjoy the fun new features onboard.

Royal Caribbean completed the multimillion-dollar upgrades on Independence of the Seas, which resulted in the addition of a number of new features onboard, including:

  • A larger interactive aqua park, Splashaway Bay, featuring wild waterslides, water cannons, fountains, pools and drench bucket
  • Addition of Izumi specialty restaurant (with table side Teppanyaki grills)
  • New lounges
  • Panoramic Ocean View staterooms to be added
  • Improved ice rink
  • Revamped Royal Theater
  • Trampoline Park
  • Escape room
  • Laser Tag

Photo by Travis Kamiyama

Photo by Travis Kamiyama

Independence of the Seas is headed to Europe, where she will spend the summer offering cruises out of Southampton before heading back to Fort Lauderdale in fall 2018.

Top things to do after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

By: Matt Hochberg

After you book a Royal Caribbean cruise, you are likely trying to figure out what are the important things to know and do prior to the day when it is your turn to set sail.

Cruise planning can be a very fun and satisfying experience, and we picked the most important things everyone should consider doing prior to their cruise departure.  

Transfer to a travel agent

You took our advice and booked your Royal Caribbean cruise through a travel agent, right? Right?

If you did not, you have up to 60 days after booking a Royal Caribbean cruise to transfer the reservation to a travel agent so that they can assist in ensuring your cruise vacation goes off without a hitch.

Not only is a good travel agent have no cost associated with it, travel agents provide a tremendous amount of service.  They are your sounding board when you need advice on things like upgrading, changing staterooms, itinerary details, etc.  If there is a problem with your reservation, they are your partner in getting things taken care of quickly and easily. And, travel agents are there to help you save money wherever possible, like in the case of a price drop.

Add your reservation to the Cruise Planner

Now that your cruise is booked, you likely want to start the pre-cruise planning process by looking over the shore excursions, drink packages, specialty dining choices and other fun activities you can reserve.  A majority of this can be done by linking your cruise reservation to your Royal Caribbean account.

You can access the Cruise Planner by filling out the necessary fields on Royal Caribbean's web site.  Alternatively, you can log into the site if you already have an account set up.

Once logged in, you will have access to every detail of your sailing, including shore excursions, beverage packages, entertainment, dining reservations and more.

Arrive to the departure port at least one day early


In the grand scheme of travel, there are certain aspects that you have little to no control over, such as mechanical breakdowns, bad weather or other types of delays.

The key to mitigating the effects of these kind of delays is to give yourself more time to get to the departure port area. Instead of arriving to your departure city on the day of your cruise, get in early!

By planning to arrive to your departure port at least one day early, you assure yourself that a travel delay will not impact your ability to get on your cruise. Having an extra day or two provides a buffer to account for travel delays.  The last thing you want to do is put your entire cruise vacation in jeopardy because of a delayed flight or flat tire.

As an added bonus, by arriving to your embarkation port at least a day early, that means you get to start your vacation sooner!  And in many cases, the port you are departing from has its own cultural and historical attractions that you can explore.

Arrive to the cruise terminal early

Nobody likes to wait in a line, so if you want to ensure a smooth and quick embarkation process, we advise getting to the cruise terminal early in the morning to get there before "everyone else" shows up. 

By arriving early, you will beat the big crowds that descend upon the cruise terminal later in the day, and you also get the added benefit of having some extra time onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean may send you an email about boarding times, but those are mostly suggestions and not enforced at all. If you followed our previous advice about arriving to your port city early, then likely your hotel will have a check-out time in the early part of the morning, which is the perfect excuse to head to the cruise port.

If you are wondering what time we mean when we say, "early", we are talking about sometime between 10:30am and 11:30am. The earlier you arrive on embarkation day, the earlier you will board the ship. 

Research the ports you will be visiting

The ports of call you visit are an exciting aspect to any Royal Caribbean cruise, so it is important to educate yourself on what these ports of call offer and what type of activities are available before you leave your home.

You certainly can book shore excursions onboard the ship, but lines tend to develop at the shore excursion desk.  By researching excursions at home, you afford yourself more time to compare different options and learn about what each port is known for.

You can view all the shore excursions available by logging into Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner and browsing the shore excursions by port.  Each excursion will list the price, details of the activity and any physical or age restrictions.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of shore excursions in every port and on top of that, you can also consider shore excursions through third party groups to further expand your options.

Read a past Cruise Compass

After booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, you may have questions about themed nights, activities offered onboard, show times and more.

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, because Royal Caribbean does not publish its activities or entertainment in advance. What you can do to learn about what to expect on your sailing is to consult a past Cruise Compass to see what was available on those similar sailings.

A Cruise Compass is Royal Caribbean's daily newspaper that is distributed to guests on each day of the cruise.  Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered. There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

Your thoughts

Did we miss any critical things to do after booking a cruise? Any other tips? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Live blogging from Adventure of the Seas – Preamble

By: Michael Poole

Hello blog readers I’m excited to share its time for another live blog!  This time I’ll be cruising on 5-night cruise on Adventure of the Seas, sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  This is a unique cruise they call a repositioning sailing. 


We are leaving out of one port and finish the cruise in another port.  I’ve never sailed on Adventure of the Seas or on any repositioning sailings, so this is going to be a lot of fun to share!

Why I chose this cruise

I have a few reasons for booking this cruise, but the main factor was the price.  The repositioning sailings don’t tend to be very popular among cruisers.   The price dropped so low it was under $100/day, so I did the YOLO book it!  I’ll be in the cabin alone, trying my very first promenade room on deck 7. 

However, the price wasn’t the only factor; I’ve never sailed out of San Juan, as all my cruises are usually departing from Florida, okay 99.9% of them!  Also, the Adventure of the Seas recently went into dry dock getting a lot of upgrades and for the name of research I had to pull the trigger!

(Photo by: Halee Whiting)

I know this not a popular reason, but having three sea days on a five day cruise, sold me too.  I wanted time to explore the ship and report everything she has to offer. 

Plans onboard

The week I booked this cruise, I reached out to a few blog readers and asked if they would be interested in booking too? I was surprised to see how many people actually booked this sailing.  This has turned into a mini-group cruise with the amount of Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders sailing with me. 

We have planned a few group activities for our time spent on board.  Ranging from a pub meet up day 1, cabin crawl, pub-crawl, and a slot pull, etc.  So not to worry, my sea day blog post wont be the usual, “laying by the pool doing nothing all day!”   

For dinner I’m planning to use my diamond plus BOGO dining coupon night one and two.  I’m not sure about the order yet, but it will be dining in Chops and Giovanni’s table.  Outside of those two nights I’m not sure where I’ll be eating, but I have a feeling I’ll be back a few more times.  I’ll be on the lookout for on board specials to come back throughout the cruise. 

Our itinerary

Our sailing leaves out of San Juan with only one port day in St. Maarten.  Because we only have one port day, I’ve decided to go into San Juan a day early to make it feel like two stops.  I land early afternoon on Friday and will be out exploring the whole day. 

I suppose you are wondering where our cruise ends up, we will be heading North to Bayonne, New Jersey.   I’ve never cruised North before, so this is going to be a totally different experience for me. 

Pre Cruise

I mentioned I was going into San Juan a day early.  I’ve booked a room at the Hyatt House San Juan for $200 for the night.  The hotel is fairly new and walking distance from where the cruise ship docks. 

If you have ever sailed into San Juan, they dock in old San Juan for port days, and the cruise terminal for sailaways is a few miles away.  Getting around in San Juan I will use Uber, I used it here last year and had no issues (other than they all speak Spanish).

 I don’t have any set plans so far for my day here other than exploring the city. I will include a short recap in my day 1 post.  Then come Saturday morning when I board the ship, I’ll be walking over and in line by 10AM!  

Stay tuned this is going to be a great cruise with a lot of friends.  I’ll be posting daily photos on my instagram account, if you would like to follow along.  Feel free to post questions about Adventure of the Seas below and I will comment back throughout the cruise! 

What you need to know about European cruises 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 248 is available for downloading, which features an in-depth look at taking a Royal Caribbean cruise to Europe.

Whether you are new to cruising, or just taken a number of Caribbean cruises, Matt and Colleen McDaniel share tips and advice for taking your first Royal Caribbean cruise in Europe.  Cruising in Europe is a bit different than in the Caribbean, and Colleen offers some excellent insight into how to best prepare for a European sailing.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 248. 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!

Video: Cruising with Robot Bartenders

By: Matt Hochberg

Run by robots, Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr, is a marvel of modern technology. Guests can watch in awe as their drinks are made to order with precision and flair. See for yourself!

Royal Caribbean's offering 50% off second guest, up to $300 onboard credit and kids sail free

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's WOW Sale has begun, with 50% off the second guest, up to $300 to spend at sea and kids sail free.

WOW Sale has been extended through May 8, 2018!

The WOW Sale is available on new bookings made between May 1 and May 6 May 8, 2018 on all sailings departing on or after June 1, 2018, excluding China departures.

The promotion 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.
  • Up to $300 onboard credit if booking a non-refundable rate 6 months or more prior to cruise departure date and up to $200 OBC if booking a sailing less than 6 months prior to cruise departure date
    • Sailings 5 nights and less
      • $50 OBC for Interior and Ocean View
      • $75 OBC for Balcony
      • $100 OBC for Suite
    • Sailings 6 nights or longer
      • $75 OBC for Interior and Ocean View
      • $125 OBC for Balcony
      • $200 OBC for Suite
  • Kids Sail Free
    • Kids Sail Free qualify for 4-night or longer Europe, Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Canada, Coastal and Caribbean sailings departing September 1, 2018 through May 31, 2019.
    • Offer excludes Thanksgiving sailings (departures between November 17 – November 23, 2018) and Holiday sailings (departures between December 17, 2018 – January 1, 2019), President’s day sailings (departures between February 15 – 18, 2019), Spring Break sailings (departures between March 16 – 30, 2019), Holy Week/Easter sailings (departures between April 13 – 22, 2019).

BOGO and Kids Sail Free are combinable with each other as well as with WOW Sale, NRBD OBC, promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits.

WOW Sale is combinable with 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.

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

    Royal Caribbean releases Royal Amplified fleet upgrade schedule

    By: Matt Hochberg

    Royal Caribbean has released a new document that provides a clearer picture on the ships that are scheduled to receive new upgrades and when they will occur.

    After announcing plans to upgrade the Oasis, Freedom and Voyager Class ships in March, Royal Caribbean has posted a new document that offers a look at the schedule for the changes, and upgrades coming to the Freedom and Voyager class ships.

    Royal Amplified will cover 10 ships over four years. Further details on upgrades coming to the Oasis Class is still forthcoming.

    Royal Caribbean describes the goal of the Royal Amplified program as something that will, "innovative attractions, pools, bars, and dining."

    The Royal Amplified program will focus on three main areas:

    • Pool Deck & Attractions: A re-imagined outside pool deck to discover everything under the sun – from pools specifically designed with prime ways to lounge, to those programmed with diverse activities day and night, plus the boldest attractions and first-of-a-kind thrills on deck. Examples of these experiences are: Sky Pad, The Perfect Storm, Laser Tag and Escape Room.
    • Bars & Nightlife: We will give your clients the chance to drink, clink and live it up in distinct new bars and nightlife spots that deliver on the three tenets of a great night out: unique drinks, ways to be entertained, and good food. Examples of these experiences: The Bamboo Room and Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.
    • Dining Mission: We will make delectable strides in delivering the cornerstone cuisines that guests have told us they crave – like great seafood, Mexican food, and Italian food – while upping our game in the fast, casual, grab & go category to keep our guests fueled between their adventures. Examples of these delicious culinary options are: El Loco Fresh, Hooked and Jamie’s Italian.

    Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas returns to Singapore for longest season yet

    By: Matt Hochberg

    Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas arrived in Singapore to begin her longest-running Southeast Asia cruise season ever.  Voyager of the Seas will call Singapore home from April 2018 through June 2019.

    She will be offering as many as 90 sailings of 3 to 9 nights from Singapore to a variety of popular regional destinations.

    Voyager of the Seas’ itineraries that start from Singapore for this period include:

    • 3-night weekend cruise to Penang/ Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang)
    • 4-night cruise to Penang/Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) and Phuket
    • 5-night cruise to Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang), Penang and Phuket
    • 5-night cruise to Bangkok (Laem Chabang) with an overnight stay
    • 7-night cruise to Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang), Penang, Langkawi and Phuket (with an overnight stay)

    Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: April 29, 2018

    By: Matt Hochberg

    Did you miss any of this week's Royal Caribbean news? No worries, because we have you covered with our wrap-up of cruise news!

    Royal Caribbean announced this week it will homeport Jewel of the Seas in Dubai for a few months in 2019-2020.

    Jewel of the Seas will call Dubai home, and offer 7-night sailings out of Dubai to destinations in the Middle East, including maiden calls to Sir Bani Yas, Doha, and Bahrain.

    Royal Caribbean is returning to Dubai, following a two-year absence. Jewel will sail to Dubai, following a summer season in the Mediterranean that will also see Royal Caribbean return to Turkey.

    Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

    Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

    The 247th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, which debate the virtues of staying onboard your Royal Caribbean ship while in port.

    Does it make sense to stay onboard your Royal Caribbean ship while docked in a port of call? This week, Matt shares why you might want to try it out and how to best take advantage of being one of the few onboard.

    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

    Moms of the Seas answered how to link Royal Caribbean reservations online.

    Royal Caribbean shared a look at convenient departure cities across the United States.

    CNN compiled a list of the best cruises for family travel (and Royal Caribbean made the list).

    Seatrade Cruise News shared Michael Bayley's thoughts on the state of cruising from China.