Photo tour of Category D6 Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony on Harmony of the Seas

In:
03Dec2016

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas has a lot to offer, including a number of staterooms.  Today, we will look at the category D6  Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony, which will take you through the cabin to provide an idea of what to expect if you book this category stateroom.

On Harmony of the Seas, we reviewed stateroom 10662, which is located on Deck 10 aft, although it is very close to the aft elevators.  The room was very convenient to be so close to the elevator bank. Entry to the room is by RFID scanner, which is above the door handle.

Like all staterooms on Harmony of the Seas, the light controls require a SeaPass card to be inserted into a slot near the entrance.

Staterooms on Harmony of the Seas look more like staterooms on Quantum class ships than other previous Oasis class ships. Plenty of storage space and a great aesthetic.

The bed is joined together but can be split apart if need be. There's a large, flat screen television across from it and two night stands on opposite sides of the bed. Access to the balcony is also on the other side of the bed.

A D6 stateroom features a full bathroom, including a stand up shower.

The room also has a rather large sofa to sit on during the day.

Arguably the best feature of this stateroom is the balcony, which provides a private space to enjoy the view of port or the ocean.

The balcony is 53 square feet in size, with the stateroom measuring 182 square feet. 

Royal Caribbean Australia introduces streamlined cruise fares that include gratuities

In:
02Dec2016

Royal Caribbean Australia announced today a new fare structure that includes gratuities for stateroom attendants and dining room staff in the cruise price.

With this change, guests will pay a single inclusive cruise fare incorporating all main meals, accommodation, kids club, entertainment and activities. Passengers will continue to have the option to provide a discretional additional gratuity.

The new cruise fares begin on new bookings made December 12, 2016 and onwards, on sailings departing on or after January 15, 2017.

The change means free gratuities will no longer be available as one of the perks included in the Go Big, Go Better, Go Best promotion.

"Guests will see no change to the published price of cruises via any Royal Caribbean point of sale, including website, advertising and call centre pricing," the company said.

Friday Photos

In:
02Dec2016

Friday is here and that means so is the weekend and our opportunity to share Royal Caribbean photos that readers sent us!  Every week, we ask our readers to send in their favorite Royal Caribbean photos, so that we can feature them here.

Enjoy this week's photo set!

Our first photo this week is from Scott Shaffer of Oasis of the Seas sailing away from Cozumel.  What a beautiful ship!

Speaking of sailaway, here is a shot of New York City from Thomas while he was onboard Navigator of the Seas.  There is nothing like the Big Apple at night!

Congratulations to Alex and Curtis, who got married recently on Harmony of the Seas.  Nadege Barnes shared this wonderful photo from their special day onboard.

Adrian Tassone sent in this photo of Explorer of the Seas docked in Circular Quay, Sydney.  A beautiful ship in a beautiful city.

I never get sick of sunrise or sunset photos, and here is one by Khadijah that was taken on Harmony of the Seas during her transatlantic crossing.  Simply stunning.

Speaking of Harmony of the Seas, here is another photo of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship when she met Anthem of the Seas in St. Maarten, taken by Daniel.

Our last photo this week is from D J Epstein of Falmouth, Jamaica. I can still remember when the Falmouth port was being built, so it is still impressive to see what it has become in just a few short years.

Thank you to everyone that shared these great photos.  Do you want your photo included in our weekly photo showcase?  Use this form to send us your favorite Royal Caribbean photos and we will be sure to show it off to the world!

Royal Caribbean's North Star makes it into Guiness Book of World Records

In:
01Dec2016

Royal Caribbean's North Star observational pod on its Quantum class ships has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. 

The North Star is a one-of-a-kind and intimate experience that takes guests on an exhilarating journey high above the sea. This glass observation capsule gently rises more than 300 feet in the air and rotates upwards and over the sides of the ship to provide the most breathtaking, 360-degree views imaginable. These views helped the North Star break the record for “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship.”

North Star is available on three Royal Caribbean ships Quantum of the Seas from Beijing (Tianjin), China and Ovation of the Seas from Shanghai (Baoshan), China; Sydney, Australia; and Singapore. The third, Anthem of the Seas, cruises from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in New York Harbor to Bermuda, The Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean offering Kids Sail Free and other special offers for the month of December

In:
01Dec2016

Royal Caribbean has announced a new batch of promotions for December 2016 that can provide some significant savings on new cruises booked.

There are a number of offers available, and here is a full breakdown of each.

1, 2, FREE

Every third night of the cruise is free. 1,2, Free is valid on all sailings departing on or after January 1, 2017. Excluding China departures.

  • 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

The 1-2-Free Offer is combinable with Kids Sail Free, Anthem Upgrades, Crown & Anchor Balcony & Suite Discount, Cyber Sale, Next Cruise offers, and Shareholders benefits. It is not combinable with any other offer, restricted rate, or promotion.

Kids Sail Free

Kids 12 years and under, sail free on 5 nights or longer sailings departing January 5, 2017- February 15, 2018.

Exclusions: Sailings departing on or after, February 16-23, 2017, March 10-20, 2017, April 6-16, 2017, May 16-September 4, 2017, November 16-26, 2017, December 15, 2017-January 5, 2018 as well as China, Alaska itineraries and Harmony of the Seas sailings.

Anthem Upgrade

Enjoy balcony accommodations for the price of an oceanview on sailings departing on or after January 1, 2017.

Crown and Anchor Discount

From December 1, 2016 – January 4, 2017, Crown & Anchor Society members can enjoy the balcony and suite discount of the tier above them, on Anthem of the Seas. For a limited time, even Gold members can enjoy this benefit– a member benefit usually only valid for Platinum and above members. PLUS, Pinnacle members will receive an additional $25. See discount chart below for the discount amounts per tier .

Cyber Sale

The cyber sale allows guests to receive up to $100 onboard credit, per stateroom, when they book between December 1-7, 2016.

  • Sailings 5-Nights or less
    • Interior/Oceanroom views will receive $25 OBC per stateroom
    • Balcony/Suites will receive $50 OBC per stateroom
  • Sailings 6-Nights or longer
    • Interior/Oceanroom views will receive $75 OBC per stateroom
    • Balcony/Suites will receive $100 OBC per stateroom

Is a Royal Caribbean drink package right for you?

In:
30Nov2016

You may have heard about Royal Caribbean's drink packages and wondered if a drink package is right for you and which package would be a good fit. There are a number to choose from, and here is your guide to knowing what the packages include and if they will benefit you.

Deluxe Beverage Package - $55 per person, per day

If you enjoy a having a few alcoholic drinks per day on your Royal Caribbean cruise, then there is one unlimited alcohol package to consider.

For the person that wants it all, the deluxe beverage package includes virtually unlimited combinations of beverages on their Royal Caribbean cruise.  It includes 

  • Cocktails / Spirits / Liqueurs / Beer
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Wines by the glass
  • Fresh squeezed juices
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Fountain sodas
  • Coca-Cola® souvenir cup and Coca-Cola Freestyle® beverages 

To break even on the deluxe beverage package, you will need to be drinking a lot but it does not all have to be alcohol. As Royal Caribbean describes it, it's virtually unlimited options. Of course, the daily cost of this package means a significant up-front cost.  

It is worth noting that the Deluxe Beverage Package is very commonly discounted when purchased prior to the cruise, via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner.  Discounts of 20-30% off are regularly seen, and anyone considering a drink package would be well-served to pre-purchase the package instead of buying them onboard.

Unlimited beverage packages

If alcohol is not your thing or you are just not old enough to be drinking yet, then Royal Caribbean has a number of beverage packages perfect for you.

Refreshment Package - $26.00 per person, per day

With the Royal Refreshment package, you will get premium coffee, premium tea, bottled water (sparking or still), fresh squeezed juice, non-alcoholic cocktails and a Coca-Cola souvenir cup.

If the drinks Royal Caribbean provides complimentary aren't enough to quench your thirst, this is the best choice for how much you get.  It especially appeals to coffee drinkers because of the premium coffee and tea benefit.

The cost of $26 may not sound like a lot, but for a 7-night cruise it's still a few hundred dollars.  Just like the alcohol packages, it is ideal for those that enjoy having a number of drinks per day.

Classic Soda Package - $8.50 per person, per day

The Classic Soda package is simple, it is all the soft drinks you can drink during your cruise.

Coke, Sprite, root beer and all the other carbonated drinks that are available from the self-serve machines, restaurants and bars are at your disposal. 

To purchase a can of your favorite soft drink onboard otherwise, will cost you about $2, so the package requires the least commitment to get your moneys worth.

One more consideration

The basis for purchasing any drink package is to pay a fixed price for an unlimited amount of drinks, with the plan to drink enough over the course of the cruise to "break even" on the package cost.

Each package is above the cost of just one or two drinks per day and over the course of your cruise, drinking enough to make the packages worth it is critical for the up-front investment required. That up-front investment can actually be a benefit for some, because it allows guests to break up the total cost of their cruise. Rather than end the cruise with a large bar bill, pre-purchasing a beverage package allows for spreading out the cruise cost over different billing cycles.

It's also worth noting these packages work best when you're onboard the ship, so port days when you spend a majority of the day off the ship result in less time to enjoy the package's benefits.

At a minimum, the unlimited alcohol package requires around a half dozen drinks per day, every day to be a good value for you. Reading this, you will have instantly thought to yourself, "That is a lot of drinking" or "That is not really that much" and that is when you know if the packages in general may be a good choice for you.

First time itinerary recommendations on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
30Nov2016

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 174 is available for downloading, which offers advice for someone new to Royal Caribbean on a great first cruise.

There are a lot of ships and itineraries to consider, and so this week, Matt is discussing which options might make the most sense for someone looking to try Royal Caribbean for the first time.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 174. 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!

Spotted: Cafe Select Coffee Card offers specialty coffee beverages

In:
29Nov2016

Royal Caribbean guests can now pre-purchase a Cafe Select Coffee Card prior to their cruise via the Cruise Planner site.

The Cafe Select Coffee Card offers 15 specialty espresso-based coffees for a fixed price that can be used at any time during the cruise. Royal Caribbean claims the coffee card can save up to 50% on individually purchased coffees.

The terms and conditions for the card stipulates that the specialty coffees provided by the card do not include any beverages served inside licensed Starbucks stores/cafes.

The Cafe Select Coffee Card has been available on Oasis class ships since this summer, but this option is now available for guests to pre-purchase on the Cruise Planner site.

Where to eat breakfast on Harmony of the Seas

In:
28Nov2016

When you wake up onboard Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, you will probably be wondering where you can get something to eat to start your day. 

There are some obvious choices, but there is also some other options less passengers visit too. Depending on what you're in the mood for, there is something for everyone.

Windjammer

The all-encompassing Windjammer Marketplace is the most popular choice for breakfast, primarily because it offers the greatest variety of food.

For families or just groups that can't all agree on one thing, this is the best option. There is so much to choose from and also has a rather large seating area.  

The Windjammer is also a very popular choice, so it tends to get the most crowded of any breakfast location available on Harmony of the Seas.  During prime breakfast hours on sea days, it can get quite busy and lines to find a table are not uncommon.

Park Cafe

Located in Central Park, Park Cafe is a great alternative to Windjammer because it has a mix of pre-prepared and freshly made breakfast choices. While Park Cafe may not have the variety of choices that the Windjammer does, it does also include some breakfast stations not found anywhere else on Harmony of the Seas.

The menu here offers a little of everything, including a full bagel bar. There's also cereal, pastries, and some hot breakfast items. 

Johnny Rockets

Did you know that Johnny Rockets on Harmony of the Seas is complimentary for breakfast?  All Oasis-class ships offer this option, but many guests are unaware that breakfast is served here, nor that it is included with your cruise fare (Johnny Rockets has a cover charge for lunch and dinner).

The Johnny Rockets breakfast menu on Harmony of the Seas is a traditional American breakfast, with pancakes, omelettes, French toast and the like.  In fact, Johnny Rockets is one spot onboard Harmony of the Seas to get omelet made-to-order.

Johnny Rockets tends to be not very crowded for breakfast, because many guests are unaware of this option, and it also has a large seating capacity (indoor and outdoor seating options).

Mini Bites

Perhaps the fastest breakfast option that is not named "Windjammer" would be the Mini Bites station on Deck 15.

Mini Bites is kind of like a hotel hot breakfast buffet that merged with the Windjammer.  One particular distinction of Mini Bites is that it offers a custom omelet station.

Whether you choose to enjoy your breakfast at one of the many tables nearby, or take it elsewhere on the ship, Mini Bites is a great choice for someone that wants to get something hot and quick.

American Icon Grill

For fans of the main dining room breakfast experience, American Icon Grill is the next best thing.

Having breakfast at the American Icon Grill means you will be seated at a table (sometimes with other guests) and order off a set breakfast menu.  

What attracts most people to breakfast at the American Icon Grill is the table-service experience that is more formal than a buffet. As such, keep in mind that a breakfast in American Icon Grill is designed to be a bit more leisurely, so those looking for a grab-and-go option may want to dine elsewhere.

Just like the Windjammer, it can get busy here too during peak dining times.

Coastal Kitchen

If you happen to be staying in a suite while on Harmony of the Seas, there is a dedicated spot to enjoy breakfast just for you.  

Coastal Kitchen is a complimentary restaurant that is open to suite guests exclusively.  For breakfast, it is only available for guests staying in Sky or Star Class suites and is similar to the main dining room experience in terms of it being a relaxed, sit down environment.

As a suite guest, the appeal of Coastal Kitchen is that it is your exclusive spot onboard Harmony of the Seas to enjoy breakfast without the crowds.

Solarium Bistro

For something "off the beaten path", try the Solarium Bistro on Deck 15. The Solarium Bistro offers a buffet, but the options vary from what you might find at the Windjammer and it tends to be less crowded than some of the other spots mentioned earlier.

What we like about Solarium Bistro is the fact it is less crowded than the Windjammer or Park Cafe, yet offers a good variety of breakfast choices that should satisfy most palettes.

Cafe Promenade

If your idea of breakfast is coffee and a croissant or donut, then head down to the Royal Promenade and grab something quickly at Cafe Promenade.

Danishes, croissants and muffins are the kind of quick grab-and-go breakfast options available (along with a cup of coffee).

Cafe Promenade is great if you are running off the ship for a shore excursion or just want something simple.

What's your favorite spot for breakfast on Harmony of the Seas? Share it with us in the comments below!

Independence of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4

In:
28Nov2016

I’m not sure who “they” are, but when they said that all good things must end, I wish they’d have exempted cruises.  Today was a sea day, and our final day on Independence of the Seas.  

I woke up around 0830, but to be honest, was not ready to do so.  My head was screaming and all I could wonder was how many caipirinhas Fernanda served me at Boleros the night before.  I stayed in bed just a bit as I waited for Larissa to get moving and then pressed on, as the last day of a cruise is not the time I want to spend in bed.  With the exception of the first full day, the Windjammer was seemed to stay open until 1100 each morning, an hour later than the main dining room.  While we’re never early risers, we stayed up particularly late each night of this cruise, so we opted to again hit the Windjammer today for breakfast.  On this trip we didn’t try the custom waffle station in front of the Plaza Bar (the bar at the entrance to the Windjammer), though it looked awesome.  I wanted to give it a whirl this morning but while the long queue indicated that it must be delicious, it also kept me away.  We grabbed some light breakfast and got some espresso before heading to the stateroom to do a very preliminary packing of our clothing and other wares so we had less of a struggle later.

On the way to our stateroom we came across some friends who invited us back to the Windjammer for mimosas, an invitation I was excited for, though as I was nursing my headache and pondering the need to pack we decided we’d circle back around.

We piled all the dirty laundry into our suitcase, organized clothes for today and tomorrow, etc.  At this point, I almost got stuck in a rut, wanting to take a nap and maybe whine about the cruise being nearly over.  Instead of going down this road we headed back to the Windjammer to meet up with our friends Gabby and Steve for mimosas.  They’d brought some champagne, so we just needed orange juice, which while available, wasn’t fresh squeezed.  I remember they were pushing fresh squeezed juice on past cruises, so I’m not sure if this is part of a bigger shift, or just one of the small differences between ships.

By this time lunch was being served, but realizing that I wasn’t particularly hungry (drink fatigue may not be much of an issue for me, but food fatigue is) and that we hadn’t visited the main dining room for lunch this entire sailing, we headed downstairs for the salad bar that Royal Caribbean offers each day.  I really enjoyed this in the past, as I found the ingredients fresh, and I’m able to completely customize what I want.  Today was no different, though they seem to have run out of spinach, which I’d have preferred.

At this point I decided we needed to enjoy some time on the open deck.  The weather has, for the most part been perfect.  Reasonably cool air and warm sun.  I’m not sure if it was just timing, but when we arrived to the Solarium either the chair-hogs were out in force or half of the guests had been raptured...leaving only their towels.  We managed to find two chairs out of the sun (Larissa’s preference) and just laid down listening to the relaxing sounds of the cruise.  I’d love to make a soundtrack, “sounds of a cruise”, but really when I combine distant reggae and the sound of exhaust coming out of the stack, it may not sound as awesome as I’m imagining.  There is a certain feeling when you’re out on deck that just can’t be replicated any other way.  Eventually, Larissa had enough indirect sunlight and we went back to the Champagne Bar for some scotch.  

I can’t emphasize enough that the Champagne Bar staff are not only incredibly pleasant and efficient, but are fantastic craftsmen - it’s entertaining just watching them make drinks.  After a few rounds it was time to go clean up, do a little more packing, and get ready to watch Grease.

This July Independence of the Seas started featuring Grease in the Alhambra Theatre.  It’s not a mash-up, but a full ninety minute show on a stage a bit smaller than that which hosts broadway shows on the Oasis class ships.  Several scenes took advantage of the booths just above and to each side of the stage, and actors occasionally came from the house too, making good use of the available space.  Every performer in the show held their own, though I didn’t feel the “wow” factor that I got seeing Mama Mia on Allure.  I can’t quite put finger on why I feel that way, but it was high energy and a lot of fun, so I certainly don’t mean to knock it and you should absolutely see it when on Indy.  In this show, Royal Caribbean carried on in it’s wonderful tradition of using live music, with the orchestra below the stage but very much a part of the show.  I really hope they never stop this.  The show let out just in time for us to grab another drink before heading for a chat with Jamie Fentiman, Cruise Director on Independence of the Seas.  He was very generous with his time and really gave me a better appreciation for the hard work he and his team do to make our cruises fantastic.  We’ll share more soon from our conversation with Jamie.

After our talk, which ran a bit later than planned, I didn’t want to miss the Windjammer like we did a few nights ago so we sprinted.  If you’re keeping track, you’ve noticed that we only had dinner in the main dining room once this cruise, and even then it was really just an encore to what we had first in the Windjammer.  Up until a couple years ago we almost never hit the buffet for dinner, but it’s becoming a habit, and I’m pleased with it.  It’s casual and offers so many choices it’s hard for us to go wrong.  There were an assortment of curries once again, including cauliflower.  We stuffed ourselves and then kept going with some key lime pie.

Now we’re all packed and I’m back at the Champagne Bar, but after the long nights I’m bushed.  Larissa is down at On Air where it seems karaoke has somehow turned into a variety show.  Once we disembark in the morning it’s straight to the office for us, so as much as I like to milk the last moments of our cruises I think I’ll be turning in before midnight tonight so I’m fully functional at work, and making more cruise money.  I’ll post an update about our disembarkation process, but this is the last full update for the Independence of the Seas Live Blog.  

Today’s take-aways:

  • I noticed I didn’t sleep well on this cruise, and you know what?  It’s my fault.  The mattress was harder than on some ships, but simply asking for a topper would have helped, our friends already had on their bed.  Further, we had a lot of whistling/wind noise around the verandah door.  I finally called maintenance and they easily remedied the issue.  The real takeaway here is that if there is something that can be improved upon, just ask!

  • It seems the last night on any cruise is always the most lively, contrary to what you’d think.  This should be our motivation to sail back to back (a “consecutive cruise”) sometime.  It would be nice if we had five nights more ahead of us...

  • I heard many people on this sailing discuss wanting to sail on smaller ships - which I haven't heard much on longer sailings.  I think maybe these shorter sailings leave people feeling like they missed many things on the ship, and perhaps the size means that by the time you’ve made new friends on the cruise it’s time to part.  

  • Every time I walk by the Schooner Bar I wonder why I don’t spend more time there (this has been true of all of our RCL sailings.  I think maybe I just don’t pass by them as much - out of sight, out of mind.  I’ll make a conscious effort to visit more on future cruises, though I do love the Champagne Bar staff...and my scotch they store here.

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