Royal Caribbean was honored with a silver Effie award at the 2017 North American Effie Awards in the Media Innovation – Existing Channel category for the #ComeSeekLive program.
The awards ceremony was held in New York CIty, and Royal Caribbean was recognized for its work offering a first-of-its-kind live, interactive experience that was showcased on billboards on the streets of New York City, thanks to the livestreaming capabilities of the social media app Periscope.
Designed and executed by Royal Caribbean’s creative agency, Mullen Lowe, and media buying agency, Mediahub, #ComeSeekLive combined traditional outdoor advertising with the then-new social platform, Periscope. Royal Caribbean's campaign enabled consumers to interact in real-time with influencers on board the cruise line’s high-tech ship, Anthem of the Seas, sailing to five idyllic Caribbean destinations. Through the #ComeSeekLive experience, audiences were given the ability to discover and participate in adventures they never expected from the brand.
The North American Effie Awards honor the most effective marketing efforts of the year in the United States and Canada.
Imagine this: You are sitting at home or work, looking around you and realizing that you have reached a point of needing a break from this. Surely you have earned a little break, and a Royal Caribbean cruise seems like the perfect way to escape the day to day doldrums that you are actively lamenting. Some sun, beach and a few trips to the Windjammer sounds like just what the doctor ordered. The only problem is, you do not want to wait 6 months or more for a cruise. You want one now!
Taking a last minute Royal Caribbean cruise may sound a little crazy, but it is doable. Sometimes folks encounter a scenario like we just described, or sometimes they just take advantage of cruises sailing soon as an excuse to get away. While we advocate planning your Royal Caribbean cruise as far in advance as possible, taking a last minute cruise is doable, but you need to plan accordingly in a short(er) span of time.
Here is what you will need to get in order, what to expect, and how you can make the most of a last minute cruise.
Any last minute cruise is going to require purchasing cruise fare, and that means finding a ship, itinerary, stateroom and price that works for you.
When we say "last minute", in cruising that generally refers to a cruise booked no further out than 6-8 weeks in advance. Some cruising veterans might argue a last minute cruise applies to cruises booked 2-3 months before you sail, but that is a debate for another time. The bottom line is, you are past the final payment date for the sailing you are considering and looking to see what is available.
We should be clear, the phrase, "last minute" does not necessarily infer there is a "deal". The cruise industry is red hot these days, and Royal Caribbean ships are sailing full much more often than in years past. Moreover, Royal Caribbean instituted a price integrity policy a couple years ago to combat super-last minute cruise fare reductions. What this means is finding a bargain-basement price on an unsold stateroom just weeks before sailing may not be as simple as it sounds. Yes, there are deals to be found in those last few weeks, but they are significantly rarer than they used to be.
Searching for a last minute cruise fare starts out the same as looking for a cruise months and years in advance. You should contact a travel agent to assist in the search, and you can augment the search by looking through Royal Caribbean's web site for offers.
Each week, Royal Caribbean publishes something called its Going, Going, Gone rates. These are select sailings that have some sort of a discount associated with them because they are generally sailing soon. They go on sale to Crown and Anchor Society members on Mondays, and then the general public Tuesday and Wednesday. How lucrative these offers are, and the variety of choices, will greatly vary.
Of course, some people simply want to get away and finding a deal is secondary to finding a cruise that is reasonably priced. There are some good strategies for finding these sort of sailings that can apply to a variety of scenarios.
Look for a cruise sailing from fly to ports
Cruises that depart from ports like Galveston or San Juan, Puerto Rico, often start out priced lower than other sailings because people have to travel a great distance to reach them.
Considering a cruise from one of these ports might be a good starting point for finding that price.
To help fill in empty staterooms, Royal Caribbean will offer a guarantee room rate. This means you pick a category of stateroom that you are promised you will receive nothing less than that. In fact, you might even be upgraded to something higher. On top of it, you will pay less than someone who picks their stateroom.
The "catch" to a guarantee room is that Royal Caribbean will assign your room number at some point between when you book the stateroom and your sail date. You are essentially trading the ability to pick your stateroom location for a lower cruise fare.
Consider the calendar
The cruise industry is very much based around the concept of demand, with certain times of the year seeing higher or lower demand for a cruise. Someone looking to take a last minute cruise in the middle of January will find a much easier time than someone in the middle of summer.
If you can, try to find a last minute cruise in a time of year when kids are in school and/or there are no major holidays occurring. Employing this strategy may find many more options to consider.
Airfare fluctuates based upon market conditions. Since a seat on a flight is a perishable commodity, sometimes last minute airfare will be cheaper than airfare booked months in advance. However, this is not normally the case. Airlines are pretty good at anticipating demand, and price fares and schedule routes accordingly. It makes sense to hold off on booking any last minute cruise until you can confirm a last minute flight makes financial sense.
To avoid getting burned on last minute airfare price, we recommend checking out ITA Software, which searches every airline (except Southwest) based on parameters you input. If the prices you get at first are not appealing, consider expanding your search to include airports nearby your home or where you're flying to. As an example, if your cruise is going to depart from Port Everglades, it is easy to fly to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach or even Orlando.
If prices are still too insane, consider driving if that is feasible.
If you have gotten this far into your last minute cruise planning, you have gotten over the most difficult hurdles. Where your cruise will go is always an important consideration, but the good news is booking a shore excursion is relatively simple if you are booking close to your sail date.
Arguably the most difficult aspect to booking a shore excursion on a last minute cruise is you have less time to figure it all out. For Caribbean cruises that go to ports that mainly involve some sort of beach activity, the decision can be much simpler than someone taking a last minute European cruise, where there is a wealth of choices.
If you have your heart set on a certain excursion, book it as soon as you can. If you are flexible, or do not see anything right away that jumps out as appealing, you can certainly wait to book something later. Heck, you can even wait to get off the ship in the port and hop into a taxi.
In terms of the onboard experience, the problem most people who book last minute cruises run into problems is dining. Specifically, getting the dinner rotation they prefer.
Royal Caribbean offers My Time Dining and Traditional Dining for dinner. Depending on the sailing, your first choice may not be available. If the dining choice you prefer is not available, the good news is there is a good strategy to still get what you want. Have your travel agent put you on a waitlist for the dining option you want. This puts your name on a list, and once a space opens up, you will be added. In all my time of cruising, this has worked all but once.
If the waitlist fails to come through, then make plans to visit the dining room on embarkation day. There will be a set time in the afternoon where the head waiter will be on duty to take dining requests and changes. Ask to have your dining option changed to the one you prefer, and in our experience, that always comes through.
An alternative to a dining option that may not be available is to forgo the main dining room completely. There are plenty of great complimentary dining choices for dinner, including the fabulous Windjammer buffet. Many guests dine in the Windjammer each evening for dinner and never regret it. Plus, there is far less formality to dining at the Windjammer.
Another option is to eat at specialty restaurants. This comes with an additional cost, but the advent of specialty dining packages has made this strategy far more affordable than ever before.
Basically, doing a last minute trip from the perspective of dining just requires altering your expectations. There is a good chance you won’t get into all of your favorite options, but there likely will be great alternatives. Give those a try instead!
Do you agree or disagree with our advice for planning a last minute Royal Caribbean cruise? Any hacks you use to save money on trips with little planning or advance notice? Any other recommendations? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
Happy Sunday! In case you missed any of the Royal Caribbean news from this week, we have a round-up of it all in one easy to read post!
The big news from this week is the return of the corkage fee for wine guests bring onboard their Royal Caribbean cruise and have opened at a restaurant.
Royal Caribbean updated its policy to charge guests a $15 corkage fee per bottle of wine consumed in public areas. The new policy began this week.
The corkage fee only applies to wine brought onboard on embarkation, and not wine purchased and/or given on board.
Royal Caribbean News
- Royal Caribbean announced a special solar eclipse cruise on Oasis of the Seas.
- Royal Caribbean opened bookings for the 2018-2019 Australia cruise season.
- Royal Caribbean debuted its June sales promotion offer this week.
- Guests can expect to see a new muster drill safety video.
- Uber and Lyft returned to the Galveston cruise market.
- We shared a look back at how Royal Caribbean dealt with Hurricane Andrew.
- Take a look at these seven fun facts about Radiance of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast
In this episode, Matt opens the phone lines to podcast listeners to share their favorite cruise tips for someone who is taking their very first cruise.
Royal Caribbean Around the Internet
CNBC shared a video of Jim Cramer talking cruise stocks, including Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean recapped how 2,000 volunteers from its company helped show up for a weekend of hard work, for a good cause.
Cruise Critic interviewed Royal Caribbean's chief meteorologist.
Cruise Habit discusses what the start of hurricane season means to those going on a cruise.
Alpha looks at the record breaking buildings and structures from around the world.
Royal Caribbean shared insider tips for going to Cuba.
Royal Caribbean has apparently brought back the corkage fee for wine and champagne guests bring onboard.
According to the Royal Caribbean website, as well as reports from guests on ships sailing this week, there is a $15 corkage fee per bottle of wine consumed in public areas.
Guests wishing to bring personal wine and champagne onboard may do so only on boarding day, limited to two (2) 750 ml bottles per stateroom. No beer or hard liquor may be brought onboard for consumption.
Hi, Michael. Yes, the fee will apply.
— Royal Caribbean (@RoyalCaribbean) June 3, 2017
Royal Caribbean removed its corkage fee in 2014 after previously charging it for many years.
UPDATE: It now appears that the corkage fee only applies to wine brought onboard on embarkation, and not wine purchased and/or given on board.
This only applies to personal bottles brought onboard on embarkation day.
— Royal Caribbean (@RoyalCaribbean) June 3, 2017
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!
Our first photo is from Jeff L., and it is of the spools of thread artwork in the aft portion of the Royal Promenade on Independence of the Seas. Very cool!
Ron Britt sent in this photo from a stingray excursion in CocoCay, while aboard Anthem of the Seas.
Bret Chafe shared this photo of friends from the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise on Navigator of the Seas.
David Berenbaum took this photo of Czech Sculptor' David Cerny's moving head sculpture in different lighting conditions on Harmony of the Seas. The constant movement of people is represented in the three-dimensional rotating head - and the fact that the sculpture is made from more than five tons of steel and embedded motors is amazing!
Markita Brown shared this photo of her husband, son, and daughter's boyfriend dressing up for formal night on Harmony of the Seas. Who says people do not love dressing up for formal night?
Here is a photo of Navigator of the Seas, as seen while Kyle Ritch was taking a tender into Grand Cayman.
Our final photo this week is by Ryan Feuerstein of Adventure of the Seas docked in Curaçao.
Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos this week and if you have Royal Caribbean photos, well, we want to see them! You can use this form to send us your photos and we will feature them on an upcoming Friday Photos blog post!
There is good news for cruise passengers that are looking for more options to get to the Port of Galveston from nearby airports. A new Texas law will allow ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to offer their services to the Houston market.
Uber and Lyft and the primary competitors in this space, and Lyft has already indicated it returned to Houston on May 31. Uber has re-opened operations in Galveston on May 29.
Uber had left the Galveston market in 2016 following city ride share ordinances. Lyft pulled out of Houston market in 2014 after similar local laws created a problem for their operations.
Lyft made its return to Houston on May 31.
According to Galveston Cruise Tips, estimated fares for Uber and Lyft are $42-56 from Houston Hobby to the cruise port each way. The estimated cost is $73-96 for a ride from Bush Intercontinental to the Galveston port. It is important to remember the cost is per car, not per passenger.
Readers can sign up for Lyft and receive a free ride credit by using this special link. Please note that we receive a small commission for new sign-ups from links on this website.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins on June 1st, and the start of this potentially impactful time of year got us thinking about a major hurricane that directly impacted much of Royal Caribbean's operations. Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Florida, and the story of how Royal Caribbean responded to the storm is an insightful reminder of the lengths at which the cruise line goes to keep its guests and employees safe.
The story of how Royal Caribbean dealt with Hurricane Andrew is documented in the book Under Crown and Anchor: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: The First Twenty-five Years, 1970 - 1995. This blog post borrows greatly from the author's retelling of historical events, as the events that unfolded that summer in 1992 are incredible to read about again.
Before the storm
Weather forecasters at the National Weather Service had been following the path of Andrew long before it would strike Florida, with a prediction of landfall at four o'clock on August 24, 1992. Majesty of the Seas was on her usual schedule of being docked at Berth 5 in Miami the day before. Majesty departed port an hour late, but Captain Eigil Eriksen stayed with his plan to get away from the storm's path as quickly as possible.
Shortly after Majesty left, Miami's port and airport were closed, along with Royal Caribbean's headquarters building. Royal Caribbean's Vice-President, Purchasing, Properties & Logistics Ed Bollinger headed up a a small group of 15 employees from reservations and operations that flew to Atlanta to set up a contingency headquarters at the Hyatt Hotel. The plan was for them to maintain communications in the event Miami's facility was incapacitated or destroyed. Royal Caribbean had adopted a hurricane preparedness plan after seeing the destruction Hurricane Hugo had leveled upon the United States Virgin Islands in 1989, and this was plan unfolded precisely as was laid out for the impending arrival of Andrew.
In the meantime, other Royal Caribbean workers spent the weekend before the storm preparing the headquarters building at 1050 Caribbean Way. Royal Caribbean's headquarters is the only major Miami cruise-line office positioned within reach of its vessels. Ordinarily, this helps provides a tremendous ship-to-shore link, but with a storm heading directly for Miami, it was now a liability. Literally everything that makes Royal Caribbean function is in that building: operations, reservations, ticketing, public relations, corporate offices, human resources, entertainment. The building was considered, "hurricane proof," but Director of Facilities Barbara Cirino described the risk posed succinctly: "Our data center was surrounded by water in a building made of glass." Ultimately, Richard Fain made the decision to take the facility down completely.
Forty-eight hours before the storm, a Hurricane Team Meeting was called. At thirty-six hours, ground-floor files were removed and plastic bags and labels distributed. At thirty hours, mail delivery was halted, food removed from the cafeteria, and filing cabinets wrapped. Over 4,000 sandbags were filled and on standby in a neighboring warehouse.
Photo by Chris&Steve
While all of Royal Caribbean's ships were at sea by now, Nordic Empress (later known as Empress of the Seas), was moored for the day in Nassau. Ordinarily, Nordic Empress would spend the next day off CocoCay before arriving in Miami on Monday morning. Prior to Royal Caribbean shutting down headquarters, the plan was for her Nordic Empress to return to Miami and disembark her passengers before conditions deteriorated.
However, with the change in plans back at headquarters, Captain Kjell Smitterberg agreed to depart Nassau hour hours early. Nordic Empress left at midnight, leaving behind three passengers who were unwilling to sail anywhere near a hurricane. She skipped CocoCay and raced for the mainland.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Andrew moved closer. A week earlier, Andrew had been clocked at forty knots, but the day Nordic Empress sailed from Miami, Andrew's winds had accelerated to sixty-five knots. Nonetheless, the National Weather Service claimed Andrew was, "remaining poorly organized."
The following day, Andrew's winds escalated to ninety knots and its center began moving westward at fifteen knots. Wind speed accelerated to over one hundred knots.
Photo by National Hurricane Center
By Sunday, the lobby entrance was chained and padlocked, with a sandbag rampart laid across the still. The team of Royal Caribbean employees evacuated the area to secure their own homes. Later that afternoon, Dodge Island (the location of Royal Caribbean's headquarters) was evacuated and closed down.
Out at sea, Nordic Empress was seemingly followed by Hurricane Andrew, with both taking a westward track towards Miami. At nine o'clock, Nordic Empress received new instructions to change course ninety degrees, taking her south. Captain Smitterberg headed through the Straits of Florida and spent the next two days idling along Cuba's northern coast through calm seas.
Of course, the guests aboard Nordic Empress were still worried, since many of them were from the greater Miami area. The ship's radio-telephone capacity was taxed with everyone trying to call home. Smitterberg understood the concern, and circulated a printed document advising guests of Miami's shutdown and that were were well out of harm's way. Additionally, he announced, Tuesday, rather than Monday flights home were being booked at that very moment.
Luckily for Miami, Hurricane Andrew missed Miami from the worst damage.
Monday morning, it was discovered the port had suffered minimal damage, and Royal Caribbean's headquarters had weathered the storm beautifully. Remarkably, power had never been lost. It was essential that the Data Center be air-conditioned before the computers be turned back on, which the team did, all the while with just the windows and doors open until the air conditioning could kick in. Tap water was undrinkable because an above ground main had been fractured and no city water was potable.
Royal Caribbean's team worked through until 2:00am Tuesday morning, bringing the building back up. In all, the facility suffered approximately $200,000 worth of damage with mostly wind damage causing leakage of subsequent rain.
After the storm
Photo by Ed Bollinger
The day after the hurricane, Tuesday August 25, Nordic Empress was due at Miami's pilot station at 0600 hours. Miami was under a citywide curfew until 7:00am, which meant Royal Caribbean employees dealt with a number of delays reaching the terminal because of the police.
Pier 5 had been damaged, so Nordic Empress moored at Berth 4 instead. Passenger disembarkation was slow. Line handlers were scarce and Customs and Immigration personnel arrived late for the vessel's return.
Nordic Empress would remain tied up at Pier 4 for the rest of the week. Her next scheduled 4-day cruise was canceled. While disembarking Florida passengers could drive home, those with air destinations were stranded: Airport schedules were chaotic, partly because evacuated planes from Miami had to return before service could resume. So many out-of-state passengers simply remained on board. Reservations had alerted most Miami-bound passengers of the cancelation of their 4-day Nordic Empress cruise, however, those who showed up were permitted to embark.
Yet a third category of impromptu passenger was welcomed on board, homeless company people. Their houses and possessions had been destroyed, and all sense of stability had vanished. For those directly impacted by the storm, Nordic Empress was their temporary home.
Richard Fain organized a great deal of Royal Caribbean's response effort in those hours after the storm. At an early emergency meeting, Fain called for a company day-care center within twenty-four hours. The plan was put into place the following day at the adjacent Terminal 12. By week's end, a hundred children were accommodated. In the company cafeteria, the distribution of donated clothing was organized.
Additionally, company-subsidized assistance programs were established for employees in need. For those without insurance, Royal Caribbean underwrote low-cost construction loans; storage was arranged for household goods; counseling was offered for the traumatized; a check-cashing service was instituted until damaged ATM machines were repaired; generators below cost were provided; and special car-rental rates were established for employees without working automobiles.
In addition to being a hotel, Nordic Empress proved to be an irreplaceable source of ice. Miami had none. All employees received a daily ration of a gallon of ship's fresh water and five pounds of ice. Twice daily, ice and food were sent from the vessel up to the day-care center and to the cafeteria, where employees ate free for the week. Other Nordic Empress ice went to hospitals.
So taxing was the demand on Nordic Empress's freshwater supplies that Captain Smitterberg had to return to sea. The city's water mains were still tainted and the vessel's reverse osmosis converter needed pure seawater to operate. Royal Caribbean requested permission from U.S. Customs for Nordic Empress to depart temporarily, so passengers on board enjoyed a bonus cruise to nowhere. The vessel sailed Wednesday evening and returned the following morning. Overnight, she sailed 374 nautical miles up and down the coast, and her freshwater tanks were brimming.
Nordic Empress would sail on her regular 3-day cruise Friday afternoon, leaving in her wake a port and company headquarters returned to operational status.
The story of Hurricane Andrew and how Royal Caribbean dealt with the storm is a testimony to the resilience of the people that survived and rose beyond that cataclysmic event. At the time, it was America's worst natural disaster and yet Royal Caribbean handled each phase of the event remarkably well.
Every June, hurricane season approaches and the preparedness program devised and enacted for Hurricane Andrew continues to be a diligently rehearsed plan.
On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the United States will see nature's most wondrous spectacle — a total eclipse of the Sun. If you want the perfect vantage point, Royal Caribbean is offering a special cruise just for you.
Dubbed the, "Total Eclipse Cruise," Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas will offer a 7-night Caribbean sailing, which will cruise to the optimal spot at sea for guests to witness the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. During the sailing, the sun will be entirely covered by the moon.
The Total Eclipse Cruise will feature a bucket-list-worthy viewing party with a live concert performed by a major headliner – to be revealed at a later date – to celebrate the celestial phenomenon that is poised to become the most photographed, most shared and most tweeted event in human history.
- dance parties, trivia
- enrichment lectures
- interactive science fun for kids
- tasty cocktails and dishes with names like the Cosmic Cosmo, Planetary Punch and Moon Pie
The 7-night Total Eclipse Cruise on board Oasis of the Seas will set sail on Aug. 20, 2017 from Orlando (Port Canaveral), Florida and visit Eastern Caribbean destinations: Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Nassau, Bahamas.
More information can be found at RoyalCaribbean.com/TotalEclipse.
Seven other Royal Caribbean ships will be in the Caribbean during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, on itineraries ranging from 3 to 9 nights, offering guests extraordinary partial views of the phenomenon to make for a memorable experience. The seven ships are Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Empress of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas.
Guests aboard Royal Caribbean ships can look forward to seeing a new film during muster drill.
Cruise Critic spotted a new safety film that evokes a secret agent vibe that guests can watch in their stateroom prior to the mandatory safety drill that takes place before the ship can sail away.
The film is named "Operation: Little Bear," and will roll out to Royal Caribbean's fleet in June.
Guests aboard Oasis of the Seas reported seeing the film already as recently as last week.
Royal Caribbean released its June Offer, that has 60% off the second guest, 30% off third and fourth guests, kids sail free and instant savings.
Cruises booked June 1-30, 2017 on sailings departing on or after July 1, 2017 (excluding China departures) are eligible for this promotion.
The offer includes
- Buy One Guest, Get Second Guest 60% Off
- 30% cruise fare savings for 3rd guests and higher booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests
- Kids Sail Free Bonus: Guests 12 & under sail free on 5 nights or longer Bahamas and Caribbean sailings departing Sep. 1, 2017-May 31, 2018.
- Excludes sailings departing 11/17/17-11/27/17, 12/17/17 – 1/8/18, 2/15/18-2/20/18 and 3/10/18-4/1/18.
Sail Away Sale
For cruises booked between June 1-5, 2017, Royal Caribbean is also adding up to $150 bonus instant savings.
Sailings departing on or after July 1, 2017 (excluding China departures) qualify for bonus instant savings
- 5 nights or less
- Inside/Oceanview : $25 per stateroom
- Balcony/ Suite : $50 per stateroom
- 6 nights or longer
- Inside/Oceanview : $50 per stateroom
- Balcony/ Suite : $150 per stateroom
BOGO60 does not apply to third and higher occupancy guests. BOGO60 and Kids Sail Free is combinable with adjoining 30% Savings for 3rd and 4th guests, Instant Savings Offers, Crown & Anchor discounts and NextCruise offers. BOGO60, Kids Sail Free, Instant Savings Offers and 3rd and 4th Guest Savings are not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, and Military). 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, Shareholder Benefits.
Offer available to residents of United States and Canada.