First Time Cruisers

Video: 8 Things Royal Caribbean Pros Do, and You Should Too!

In:
16Jul2018

Hello, friends! We are back with another Royal Caribbean Blog video today, and we are sharing 8 things that Royal Caribbean pros do, and you should too!

The famous saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is a great approach to cruising, because there are a lot of great tips and advice new cruisers can pick up from veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers.  This will will share how cruise pros book their cruises, strategies for saving money, how they learn everything about Royal Caribbean, and a whole lot more!

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

Video: Rookie Royal Caribbean mistakes to avoid

In:
19Jun2018

We hope your week is off to a great start.  We have a brand new Royal Caribbean Blog video to share with you, featuring 10 rookie mistakes to avoid on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

If you are planning your first Royal Caribbean cruise, we think we have some tips that will help you save some time and money to make the most of your vacation. We also included some trip planning strategies to consider when sitting down to plan out your cruise.

Of course, even if you have taken a few Royal Caribbean cruises already, this video could still help you out and better yet, you might be able to share your own planning pitfall to avoid.

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

First time cruisers: Getting ready for your first Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
14Jun2018

After you book your first Royal Caribbean cruise, you may realize that sail away is not too far away and you would like to be prepared for an awesome first cruise experience. There are a few easy steps you can take in the weeks and months leading up to your cruise to ensure it starts off quite well.

Gather your documentation

In order to go on your Royal Caribbean cruise, you will need to have the proper documentation to actually board the ship.  Depending on which country your cruise begins and ends in, the exact documentation will vary.

A good starting point is to make certain you know exactly where everyone's passport, birth certificate and/or state issued identification is located.  Moreover, check expiration dates of these documents and verify that they will not be expiring anytime soon.  Keep in mind that some countries require passports not to expire within six months of visiting (such as Cuba). 

If you are wondering if you need a passport or visa to cruise, here is what you need to know.  U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.) will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a government-issued birth certificate and laminated government issued picture ID, denoting photo, name and date of birth. A U.S. citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original, notarized or certified copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issues by DOS, or Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If you're flying to a port overseas, a passport is almost always needed.

Regardless of the rules, we recommend everyone (including U.S. residents on cruises from the United States) get a passport.  It is simpler and safer, and a fantastic investment for any traveler.

Online check-in

At ninety days prior to your cruise, you can log into Royal Caribbean's web site and complete the online check in.  

The online check in will save you a lot of time at the pier, as well as provide you with the necessary paperwork to expedite your cruise boarding procedure.

You will need a copy of everyone's documentation (passport or birth certificate), travel plans and a credit card to store for incidental charges.

You do not need to do this immediately at 90 days prior to your sailing, but make sure you complete this at least 3 days prior to your sailing.

Pre-cruise purchases

Royal Caribbean allows guests to purchase drink packages, spa appointments, shore excursions, internet packages and more prior to your cruise. In fact, on Oasis and Quantum Class ships, you can even pre-book select entertainment on your ship.

It is a really good idea to purchase anything you can prior to the cruise for two basic reasons: it is often cheaper to book these options before the cruise (instead of onboard) and it helps break up the total cost of the cruise. 

In many cases, Royal Caribbean promises a discount on select pre-cruise purchases compared to the price onboard.  Periodically, Royal Caribbean will run sales on its pre-cruise purchases, which can yield higher savings. The discounted savings can vary, with the price of drink and internet packages varying from ship to ship and sailing to sailing. 

When you purchase anything before your cruise via the Cruise Planner site, you will be required to pay for it at the time of purchase.  This provides the ability to break up the total cost of the cruise.

When you make purchases onboard your cruise, at the end of the cruise you get a final bill with all of the charges tallied up.  By pre-purchasing certain items, you can pay off parts of the cruise months or years in advance, allowing you to reduce the cruise bill at the conclusion of your cruise.

An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.

Packing

Packing for your cruise vacation is something some folks really enjoy and others lament.  Regardless, we all have to do it.

Where your cruise sails to will determine what exactly you need to pack, so it may be a good idea to research the weather in the ports you will be visiting, as well as figuring out if there will be any formal nights or themed nights on your sailing (more on formal nights and themed nights later).

This is also a good opportunity to check your luggage is good to go (i.e. no holes or rips).

In addition, you should start thinking about what clothing and outfits you want to bring with you.  This may trigger a memory that you wanted to replace a suit or shirt or get new shoes.

If you are looking for a good packing list, we recommend one from Cruise Habit or Cruise Tips TV.

What am I not allowed to bring?

You should definitely be aware of the kind of items you are prohibited from bringing on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  Some are pretty obvious (no baseball bats), while others are surprising (no surge protectors or clothing irons).

Refer to Royal Caribbean's list of prohibited item list, as their list changes from time to time.

We should mention a really common question we get asked about bringing and that is drinks and alcohol.

You cannot bring beer, spirits, alcohol, booze, liquor, moonshine or anything else of that ilk on your Royal Caribbean cruise. However, you can bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom onboard on embarkation day only.

In terms of soda and bottled water, this is where things get a bit confusing.  Royal Caribbean lists that guests may not  bring soft drinks or bottled water on their cruise, however, it has been our experience that they tend to look the other way when it comes to guests bringing soda or water onboard.  If you would like to bring soda or bottled water, put it in your carry-on luggage (not the luggage you give to the porters) and do not mention it unless someone asks about it.  Admittedly, this is a gray area of the rules but it does work.

Making special requests

If you have dietary, dining, special needs or other requests, be sure to make it in the weeks and months before your cruise to be certain they are on record and taken care of prior to your cruise.  A common mistake we see is guests waiting to make these requests onboard the ship.

Dietary requests

For any and all dietary requests, contact your travel agent or Certified Vacation Planner and request that the remark be noted in your reservation details. If you made your reservation online at royalcaribbean.com you may add your request to the "update personal information." section. You may also send an e-mail request to special_needs@rccl.com; please include in the e-mail the guests' names, booking number, ship name and sail date. E-mails will receive an automated response.

Main dining room table requests

If you prefer to dine alone, you can also email Royal Caribbean your table request. Send an email 3 to 4 weeks prior to your cruise to rcldining@rccl.com.

Special needs

If you have a special need, such as wheelchair assistance, service dog, difficulty going up or down steps, hearing troubles, sign language interpretation and more, be sure to fill out the Guest Special Needs form on Royal Caribbean's website. 

Royal Caribbean recommends you do this no later than 30 days prior to your sailing, except for sign language interpreting requests which must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing.

Cribs or pack and plays

Don't worry about bringing a Pack 'n Play, Royal Caribbean provides one for your child to sleep in, free of charge .

While the pack 'n play does come with a mattress, we've found it more comfortable for our child to take a comforter and fold it up to place on top of the mattress to act as a small mattress topper.  The difference was quickly evident in how much longer our daughter would stay asleep versus the mattress alone.

Make sure you or your travel agent reserve a Pack 'n Play in advance so it is waiting in your stateroom when you embark on the first day.

Read a past Cruise Compass

Earlier in this post, we talked about packing for themed nights and formal nights. You might be wondering how to know exactly what to expect, and the simpler answer is there is no definitive way to know.  However, veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers will tell you a great strategy is to read a past Cruise Compass from the ship and itinerary you are sailing on to get a ballpark idea of what to expect onboard your cruise.

Royal Caribbean does not post or publish Cruise Compasses for upcoming sailings in advance. Nor do they publish their entertainment schedules prior to a cruise. There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.

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.

By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything in-between.

You can reference our Cruise Compass archive for a listing of past Cruise Compasses that we have found.

Consider travel insurance

Insurance is one of things that you do not think of until you need it and then it is worth every penny.  The thing is, not everyone needs travel insurance but you should look into what travel insurance offers and if you are at an elevated risk and would benefit from it.

Royal Caribbean offers travel insurance, as well as many third party companies.  Read exactly what the insurance covers and the scenarios in which you can make a claim.  It is important to be aware that travel insurance does not cover every scenario, but issues such as personal illness, death of a family member, airline delays, lost baggage and more are common times when insurance will be of great benefit.

There is no easy way to determine who does and who does not need travel insurance, but you should at least consider the option now to safeguard yourself in the future.  Consider your risk tolerance, health concerns, and of course look at policies and prices to see if it makes sense for you.

Book pre-cruise transportation and lodging

Planning is the key to a fabulous vacation, but despite all your best efforts, there are just some factors that no one has any control over: weather, car break downs, flat tires, etc. If you ask seasoned travelers how they get around these obstacles, the answer is often to give yourself more time.  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.  You really do not want to be that person in the airport losing their mind because the latest delay means the entire vacation is in jeopardy.

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.

More planning resources

In the grand scheme of planning and preparing for your first Royal Caribbean cruise, there are more things you can do to be ready for a great first cruise.  Here are a few more resources to check out:

Your thoughts

Did we miss any critical steps to complete prior to a cruise? Any other tips? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

What's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

In:
31May2018

If you are going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you might be wondering what aspects of the cruise experience are included in the cruise fare that you paid.  After all, there is a lot of components to any cruise vacation and not all of it is included.

We think Royal Caribbean does include a lot of activities, food, entertainment and things to do in your cruise fare.  A cruise remains a really good vacation value, especially when you factor in meals and entertainment.  Over the years, Royal Caribbean has realized some of its guests prefer to add onto the core experience, and began offering more options to tack onto their vacation.  As a result, it may be a bit overwhelming for someone new to Royal Caribbean to know exactly what is included and what carries a fee.

If you have been wondering what is included with your Royal Caribbean fare and what is extra, this breakdown should help clear it all up.

Accommodations

We will begin with something simple, where are you staying on your cruise.  Your cruise fare gets you a stateroom exclusively for your use.  This means you have a room and private bathroom to use throughout the cruise.

Depending on which type of stateroom you book, the exact size, amenities and layout of the room will vary.  But at the very least, you should know that your cruise fare assures you of a room just for you (and any friends or family you invited to stay with you).

Gratuities

Guests sailing on Royal Caribbean have two choices when it comes to gratuities to the dining room wait staff and stateroom attendants that provide services to them.  They may elect to pre-pay gratuities prior to the cruise, or have gratuities automatically charged on a daily basis to the SeaPass account.  Cruise fares in some countries, such as Australia, include the gratuities with your cruise fare.

As of January 2, 2018, guests will pay a $14.50 per guest per day service charge on a daily basis. For guests in a Grand Suite or above, the amount is $17.50.

Purchases and services rendered onboard a Royal Caribbean ship will have gratuities added at the time of purchase.  If you buy a drink, get a massage at the spa, eat at a specialty restaurant, etc, you will be charged an 18% gratuity automatically.  Your receipt will display the cost breakdown.

Drink packages and specialty dining packages will be charged an automatic gratuity upon purchase of the package, which means no additional gratuity is required when taking advantage of the package benefits (i.e. ordering a drink at the bar with a drink package).

In addition to the gratuities listed earlier, there are opportunities to give crew members an additional tip for excellent service.  Even crew members who receive an automatic gratuity can receive additional gratuities if you feel it is warranted.

Meals & Snacks

All Royal Caribbean cruise fares include most meals and snacks onboard your ship, and any private destination you visit (such as Labadee or CocoCay).  This means there will be ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks inbetween without additional cost.

The exact venues included with your cruise fare will depend on the ship you sail on, but here are some common ones that pretty much every ship has:

  • Main dining room
  • Windjammer buffet
  • Grab and go spots for food, such as Cafe Promenade, Cafe Latte-tudes, Sorrento's, Boardwalk Dog House, Park Cafe, etc.
  • Johnny Rockets (for breakfast on Oasis Class ships only)

While this list may seem short, you will find on your exact ship more options.  Moreover, it is quite easy to have plenty to eat at any of the complimentary dining locations onboard.

You may find a few for-fee items on the main dining room menu, such as a filet or lobster.  Steak and lobster are offered on other evenings of the cruise for no fee, but this is an option for those that want those dishes at other times.

Royal Caribbean does offer in addition alternative specialty restaurants, where you can opt to pay extra for food/meal.  Most specialty restaurants have a simple cover charge that includes most of the food on the menu, although there are a couple of specialty restaurants that forgo the cover charge and simply charge you for what you order.

Here is a list of the specialty restaurants across the fleet.  Depending on the ship you sail on, these restaurants may or may not be available.

  • Johnny Rockets (lunch and dinner. A la carte pricing on Quantum class ships)
  • Chops Grille
  • Giovanni's Table
  • Sabor Modern Mexican
  • Izumi (a la carte)
  • Jamie's Italian
  • Wonderland
  • Rita's Cantina (a la carte)
  • Chef's Table
  • 150 Central Park

Specialty restaurants offer cuisine options not otherwise available onboard your ship, as well as an opportunity to indulge in meals that you may prefer to enjoy at your own pace.  In addition, the ambiance is usually enhanced at these locations and the prices charged are usually not exorbitant.  As stated earlier, you should look at specialty restaurants as a way to enhance or splurge on your cruise, as dining at the complimentary venues is quite satisfying.

Royal Caribbean offers its guests pizza at some of its restaurants and buffets, as well as at Sorrentos on the larger ships.  Pizza here at these locations are included in your cruise fare.

Ice cream can be found at a self-service machine near the pool deck and is in operation for most of the day.  To be specific, it is actually frozen yogurt, but kids do not mind.  The Windjammer and main dining room will also offer their own selection of hand scooped ice cream.  Some Royal Caribbean ships offer Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which does have an additional cost to it.

Drinks

Royal Caribbean provides all its guests on all its cruise ships a few different drinks throughout the day that are included in your cruise fare.  These drinks are available at any time, and 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. And if you are wondering, it is very safe to drink the tap water onboard, as it is of high quality.

Alternatively, if you want alcohol, soda, juices, virgin cocktails and pretty much anything else not listed above, you can purchase them individually for an additional cost during the cruise.

  • soda
  • beer
  • wine
  • liquor
  • cocktails
  • premium coffee and tea, such as Starbucks
  • bottled water (still or sparkling)
  • fresh squeezed juice

For all of these drinks, you may purchase each drink individually or purchase a Royal Caribbean beverage package that will give you either a set allotment of beverages or unlimited access onboard to them.

Royal Caribbean does allow its guests to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom with them onboard a ship.  It must be brought onboard on embarkation day, and it is subject to a corkage fee if opened in a public venue.

Room service

Room service on Royal Caribbean is available 24 hours per day, but there is a $7.95 per order fee.  

A continental breakfast option is complimentary and does not have an order fee.

Child programming and care

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean program offers children between the ages of 3 and 17 years old, complimentary supervised programming during the day and part of the evening. From when Adventure Ocean opens until 10pm, there is no additional cost to use Adventure Ocean. From 10pm to 2am, Royal Caribbean offers an after hour ($7 per hour) option that has an hourly cost for parents that want to let kids stay a bit later.

While in Adventure Ocean, kids take part  in activities lead by the Adventure Ocean staff. There's a lot for kids to do here and the programs specialize for each age group. It's a mix of learning, play time and socializing.

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots program. Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge.

In addition to the Nursery, there is often a open play area set up during the day for parents to bring their young children to and play that has no additional cost. This is unsupervised play time, but does provide an opportunity every day for parents with toddlers to have space to crawl, play, and have some fun.

Activities and Shows

A vast majority of cruise activities are included with your cruise fare.  Your daily Cruise Compass will list a schedule of activities offered onboard, and most have no charge for them. These are the sort of activities you might expect to find on a cruise ship (as well as some that may surprise you).  Cooking demonstrations, pool games, movies, trivia, dance classes, and scavenger hunts are regularly offered on Royal Caribbean and have no additional charge.

There are some activities offered that have an additional fee, such as some fitness classes, bingo, casino tournaments (and pretty much anything in the casino), drink seminars, spa services and more.

The performances in the Royal Theater, as well as the Aquatheater and Two70) are included in your cruise fare.  Likewise, comedy shows, magic shows, live music, audience participation shows and more are included as well.  Even the Broadway shows on Royal Caribbean ships are included in your cruise fare.

There will be shows each evening, along with additional performances during the day on sea days.  Live music is a staple of Royal Caribbean's entertainment and is offered throughout the day at multiple locations.

Signature activities and Games

Royal Caribbean has built a reputation for itself with some of the signature activities offered onboard.  Watch any Royal Caribbean cruise commercial, and inevitably you will see people tackling the FlowRider, rock climbing wall, North Star and more.

Here is a breakdown of Royal Caribbean's top activities and any additional costs.

  • FlowRider surf simulator
    • No cost to use (first come, first served), although private and group lessons are available to book for an additional fee. 
  • Rock climbing wall
    • No cost to use (first come, first served), although private and group lessons are available to book for an additional fee. 
  • Mini golf
    • No cost to use
  • Zip line
    • No cost to use
  • Water slides & Ultimate Abyss
    • No cost to use
  • Aqua parks (H2O Zone & Splashaway Bay)
    • No cost to use
  • Sports Court/SeaPlex
    • Multi-purpose venues that offer basketball, tennis, volleyball, dodge ball, soccer and more.
    • No cost to use.
  • Ice skating
    • No cost to use
  • RipCord by iFly
    • Guests on Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas are able to reserve a complimentary session via the Cruise Planner during their cruise.
  • North Star
    • Guests on Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas are able to reserve a complimentary ride via the Cruise Planner during their cruise.

Fitness and Spa

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a fitness center that offers cardio machines, weight lifting machines, weights and more for no additional cost.  There are also some (but not all) fitness classes included in your cruise fare, such as stretch and abs workouts.

Each Royal Caribbean ship has a jogging track, which is available to use throughout the day and at no additional cost.

The sports courts (referred to as the SeaPlex on Quantum Class ships) also offer complimentary use of the facilities, with organized games often held throughout the sailing.

The fitness center will offer fitness classes for an additional fee, such as spinning, yoga, Pilates and more. The fitness center also offers personalized training and other services for an additional fee.

The spa is nearly available exclusively at an additional cost.  Spa treatments, salon services and day passes all come with an additional cost.

Some Royal Caribbean ships will have a sauna, hot tub and/or steam room available for no additional cost.

Tours of the spa are available at any time during your cruise and have no additional cost or obligation.  In fact, these tours are a great way to learn about what the spa offers.

Pool and sun decks

Access to Royal Caribbean's pools are included in your cruise fare, including the lounge chairs, hot tubs, water slides, aqua parks and more. The Solarium area has no additional cost, but is limited to adults only.

Some areas of the pool deck are reserved for suite guests only.  If you are a suite guest (Grand Suite and above), you will have complimentary access to these areas.  Depending on the ship you are sailing on, the suites-only areas can be reserved loungers or an entire deck area.

Miscellaneous services

If not mentioned in the post, here are a few more services that are not included in the cruise fare

  • Gambling (Including Bingo)
  • Art Auction
  • Any purchases made in the gift shops onboard
  • Shore excursions
  • Photographs
  • Video Arcade
  • Medical Services
  • Internet Access
  • Transfers (Unless guest has purchased our air/sea package)
  • Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
  • Ship to Shore Telephone calls

Video: 19 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do on Royal Caribbean

In:
30May2018

Summer vacation is right around the corner and we are kicking off the summer season with another Royal Caribbean Blog Video, where we are sharing 19 things you (probably) didn't know you could do on a Royal Caribbean cruise!

There are certain things you can count on doing on pretty much any Royal Caribbean cruise, such as lounging by the pool, enjoying some fabulous evening entertainment and eating some tasty food.  What you may not have been aware of is Royal Caribbean offers a lot more experiences that are not only incredibly fun, but also surprising that it is available on a cruise ship.

Did you know you could meet your favorite DreamWorks characters, take a tour of the bridge and galley, go zip lining on your ship or try an escape room?  We will tell you about all of those things, plus another 15 more really cool and fun activities you can do in our latest YouTube video!

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

Video: What I wish I'd known before taking a Royal Caribbean cruise!

In:
17May2018

Ever wonder what lessons someone new to Royal Caribbean might be able to pick up from veteran cruisers?  If so, we have the perfect video for you.

No matter if you are planning your first Royal Caribbean cruise or your twentieth, there are always a lot of factors to consider when it comes to planning your vacation.  In fact, Royal Caribbean cruise planning practically has its own language.

While a lot of these tips will be especially helpful for first-time cruisers, even repeat guests can always gather more information when it comes to Royal Caribbean vacation planning to make your next experience even more fun. So please join us while we discuss all sorts of helpful hints for your next Royal Caribbean cruise!

And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

5 common myths people use to avoid trying a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
26Feb2018

There are many reasons why people who have not cruised yet cite why they have avoided taking a cruise.  As a past cruiser, if you ever talk to someone who has never cruised before, they will likely mention some commonly cited reason they have not tried a cruise yet.  In most cases, these fears or concerns are largely based on untrue speculation.

If you have never cruised before, here is a list of some common reasons we often hear from people not to cruise that is frankly untrue.

It's expensive

Not only is cruising not more expensive than other vacation options, they typically offer more value for the dollar than any other international vacation option.

One thing someone who has never cruised before is to take into account how much is actually included in the cruise fare.  Accommodations, plenty of meals (and snacks), entertainment and transportation between ports is all included.

According to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, the cruise industry’s establishment of over 30 North American embarkation ports provides consumers with unprecedented convenience, cost savings and value by placing cruise ships within driving distance of 75% of North American vacationers. By providing significant cost savings through the convenience of avoiding air travel, the new homeports have introduced leisure cruising to a wider customer base.

Often I see people who price shop a cruise to a land vacation failing to account for the meals and entertainment they will inevitably have to pay for when going on any land vacation. 

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has offered more options to get guests closer to a true all-inclusive option that has many of the added expenses guests may encounter, pre-purchased prior to the cruise.

Lots of kids

Going on a family cruise line, like Royal Caribbean International, is sure to find a ship full of kids running around like they were part of Peter Pan's Lost Boys group, right?

Of course there will be children on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but the reality is a Royal Caribbean cruise is not dominated by children.  

According to Cruise Critic, the demographic often seen on Royal Caribbean are families, plus couples and singles in their 30s to 50s. The median age is low 40s, but it's slightly lower on shorter cruises and slightly higher on cruises of 10 nights or more.

The bottom line is there is a healthy mix, and the idea that a Royal Caribbean cruise is equivalent to a floating Chucky Cheese's, is just not true.

Not enough for kids to do

You might think this myth directly conflicts with what I just spoke about in the previous myth, but often a person citing one will not mention the other.  Regardless, there is plenty for kids to do on Royal Caribbean.

In the last two decades, Royal Caribbean has significantly increased its programming for children and widened the amount of space dedicated to them. 

Starting with the staff, all children’s activities are supervised by male or female youth staff that must have a four year University degree or international equivalent in Education, Recreation or a related field. All staff also has at least three to five years qualified experience in working with children ages six months to 17 years. Nursery staff must have the same above qualifications as well attend a 30 hour Nursery Training where the curriculum and hands on experience is in line with Florida State Standards of care.

On the ship, kids will have a variety of options open to them. These include:

  • Movies for children and teens.
  • Supervised and complimentary programming for children ages 3-17 years old (Adventure Ocean).
  • Royal Babies & Tots 6 mos – 36 mos. (drop off nursery offered on select ships).
  • Art, science, theater and story time in Adventure Ocean.
  • My Family Time Dining, where parents can have a complete dinner with their kids in the main dining room, with the kids escorted up to Adventure Ocean, leaving parents to enjoy the evening at their own pace.

There is plenty more, such as dedicated pool areas, water slides (on select ships), kids and teens-only events and more.

I'll be bored

A common misconception about cruises is they will run out of things to do and be bored.  I think they imagine a cruise ship is a bunch of hotel rooms, with a dining room in the middle.

Royal Caribbean builds its cruise ships to be floating destinations.  The best way to understand what is available to do on a cruise is to look at a past Cruise Compass.  The Cruise Compass is the daily newspaper distributed to all guests that lists everything happening on the ship that day. From pre-dawn to the the late night hours, there is lots going on.  

Of course, these activities are optional to attend, and that means you can do as much or as little as you like. 

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), J.D. Power conducted a web-based survey in August 2016 from its Consumer Panel, targeting consumers who:

  1. Earn more than $50,000 annually
  2. Had taken a vacation within the past three years

When these people were asked if cruises are better or worse than land-based vacations in terms of…

  • Variety of Activities: 77% thought cruises were better than land vacations
  • Having good activities for children: 76% thought cruises were better than land vacations
  • Offers something for everyone: 80% thought cruises were better than land vacations

In short, a vast majority of people who try cruising find more to do on a cruise than on a land vacation.  

Getting sea sick

If there is one thing many first time cruisers ask a lot of questions about it, it is about getting sea sick.

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise is nothing like going out on your buddy's fishing boat.  Royal Caribbean ships are massive vessels, equipped with precise GPS and stablizing technology. Moreover, the Captain will regularly plot courses that take optimal routes for guest comfort.

For those extra sensitive to motion, there are certain steps you can take to mitigate the risk of getting sea sick, such as over the counter medications and homeopathic treatments

The bottom line is while one could get sea sick on a cruise, it is a very low risk.  In fact, if you ask veteran cruisers, they will likely tell you their concern over getting sea sick is ranked somewhere around the feature film selection shown onboard.

Your thoughts

Have you been avoiding taking a cruise for one of the reasons listed here?  Did some family member or friend send you a link to this, with bold letters to "read this now"? Were you someone who felt this way about cruising, but has since come to see it is not what you expected? Share your experiences, concerns, and questions in the comments below!

Should you buy pre-cruise purchases now or wait to buy it onboard?

In:
25Jan2018

With your Royal Caribbean cruise coming soon, you might be wondering if you should buy a drink package, specialty restaurant reservation, spa massage or internet package now or wait until you get onboard.

There are a few considerations for deciding whether to make a pre-cruise purchase, so here is what you need to know.

Why pre-purchase

In general, buying drink packages, dining packages, spa reservations or internet packages before your cruise gives you a few advantages.

Discounted Price

In many cases, Royal Caribbean promises a discount on select pre-cruise purchases compared to the price onboard.

The discounted savings can vary, with the price of drink and internet packages varying from ship to ship and sailing to sailing. 

Break up total cruise cost

When you purchase anything before your cruise via the Cruise Planner site, you will be required to pay for it at the time of purchase.  This provides the ability to break up the total cost of the cruise.

When you make purchases onboard your cruise, at the end of the cruise you get a final bill with all of the charges tallied up.  By pre-purchasing certain items, you can pay off parts of the cruise months or years in advance, allowing you to reduce the cruise bill at the conclusion of your cruise.

Save you time onboard

An intangible benefit to pre-purchasing anything is it saves you time onboard from doing the exact same thing, which means more vacation time back to you.

Taking the time to purchase anything onboard does not take very much time, but every little bit helps, and some purchases on the first day of the cruise can require waiting in a line, such as drink packages.

You can use (some) onboard credit

Since 2017, Royal Caribbean allows guests to use their onboard credit towards pre-cruise purchases.  This alleviates a primary concern among cruisers in the past that wished to use onboard credit towards any purchases first.

One thing to consider is the onboard credit available for use in the Cruise Planner is limited to onboard credit provided by Royal Caribbean.  This means, if you are receiving onboard credit from a travel agent or other source, it may not be available for use online.  Granted, while I have never had any trouble using up onboard credit on a Royal Caribbean cruise, some guests prefer to save their credits for on the ship.

Pre-purchase or wait?

There are a variety of items you can purchase before your Royal Caribbean cruise, and the advantages of buying now or waiting will depend on your situation. Here is what to consider.

Beverage Packages

These days, Royal Caribbean offers some sort of drink package discount to all guests who purchase it before their cruise. The exact discount amount, as well as the drink package price, will vary from ship to ship and sailing to sailing.

If you are new to Royal Caribbean or a Gold member in Crown and Anchor Society, you are almost always better off financially to purchase the drink package before your cruise compared to paying the price onboard.

It should be noted that if you are a member of Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program, Crown and Anchor Society, you are entitled to onboard discounts that cannot be combined with pre-cruise discounts.  If you are wondering if it is more lucrative to wait to buy onboard with your Crown and Anchor discount, it depends on your status level and what discount you are seeing online.  Generally, if you are Diamond Plus or Pinnacle, wait to purchase onboard.  Diamond members can see more of a wash financially, and Emerald and below will benefit more by pre-purchasing.

Internet Packages

Just like the drink packages, Royal Caribbean offers a discount to internet packages purchased before a cruise.  These packages are good for the duration of your cruise, and are limited per device (not per person).

If your goal is to have internet access for the entire duration of your cruise, pre-purchasing an internet package will get you the best savings.

Just like the drink packages, Royal Caribbean offers a discount on internet packages to its returning guests.  The amount varies depending on your Crown and Anchor Society level, but Emerald and below should consider pre-purchasing.  There is a trick to maximizing your internet discount, which is wait until day two to purchase onboard.

Dining Packages

There is not usually a discount offered on dining packages, so deciding to pre-purchase a dining package or wait until you are onboard largely depends on how important it is to you to break up the total cost of the cruise.

By pre-purchasing a dining package online, you will avoid having that cost on your end of the cruise bill. Financial flexibility is always a nice perk.

Individual specialty restaurants

In general, the price of a specialty restaurant online is the same as onboard.  The exception is when Royal Caribbean runs a Cruise Planner sale, in which case pre-booking a specialty restaurant online is cheaper.

Ultimately, the decision to pre-purchase a specialty restaurant or not depends on how important these factors are to you:

  • Desire to pre-purchase and break up total cost of the cruise
  • Desire to dine at a specific restaurant at a specific date/time

Diamond Plus and above members are entitled to purchase one cover charge in a specialty restaurant on the first or second night of your cruise and the second cover charge is free.  In that case, you are better off waiting to purchase onboard.

Spa services

Deciding to book a spa service before or after your cruise is not always a crystal clear decision, primarily because the spa services offered online do not always match up with the total services offered onboard.

Spa services are often discounted on the Cruise Planner, with the discount percentage depending on the day and time you select for the service.  The most lucrative discounts are usually earlier in the cruise.

The challenge in figuring out whether to purchase or not prior to the cruise, is each day of your cruise will have some spa specials offered.  These spa specials are usually combination offers, which are not offered as an option in the Cruise Planner before the cruise. In my experience, the Cruise Planner offers individual services which are good for those that just want a massage, service or therapy.  

Royal Caribbean offers an onboard discount on an individual spa service, which varies depending on your Crown and Anchor Society status level.

Shore excursions

Any pre-cruise discounts manifest themselves during a Cruise Planner sale most often.  Outside of a sale, the price for a Royal Caribbean shore excursion is often the same online or onboard.

The primary reason to book a shore excursion before your cruise is not necessarily to lock in a discount, but to reserve a spot. With the exception of spa services, other pre-cruise purchases do not sell out.  With shore excursions, tours are limited to a certain head count and as a result, popular choices can sometimes sell out.  In the Caribbean, shore excursions selling out is not very common, but if there is a tour or experience you absolutely want to see/do, then you ought to pre-purchase to ensure a spot for you.

Watch the price online

Regardless of which pre-cruise purchase is of interest to you, you are best served by watching the price online in the months leading up to your cruise in case there is a price drop (or increase).

Royal Caribbean allows its guests to cancel and rebook any Cruise Planner purchase without a penalty.  This means that if you purchase something online, and then the price drops before your sailing, you can log back in and cancel the purchase and then immediately rebook to take advantage of the lower price.  Similarly, booking in advance protects against a price increase.

Moreover, if you decided to buy something online but change your mind later, you can get a refund on the pre-cruise purchase prior to your sailing.

Cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean

In:
09Jan2018

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a great family vacation choice, where both they and you can enjoy plenty of fun at sea and on shore.

Royal Caribbean welcomes children of all ages, and you will find plenty of other families on all Royal Caribbean sailings.  In fact, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of activities and programming for children and their families to ensure there is plenty to do onboard.  Royal Caribbean has dedicated facilities for children, where trained crew members supervise the children and guide them through different daily offerings.

What's available for kids on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean offers programming for children as young as six months old, all the way through the teenage years.

Infants and babies

For most cruises, infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise. For transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, select South American and other selected cruises, the infant must be at least 12 months old as of the first day of the cruise. Moreover, any cruise that has 3 or more days consecutive at sea will require infants to be 12 months old on the first day of the cruise.

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6-36 months) program.  Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge. Young children can enjoy soft play areas and age-appropriate toys, as well as cribs and cots for napping or sleeping.

If you have children under the age of three, be sure to book a Royal Caribbean cruise that offers a nursery.  For child and parent alike, the nursery is a wonderful resource.

In addition to the Nursery, there is often a open play area set up during the day for parents to bring their young children to and play.  This is unsupervised play time, but does provide an opportunity every day for parents with toddlers to have space to crawl, play, and have some fun.

Children 3 years and older

Royal Caribbean's primary program for kids is Adventure Ocean and is offered in three segments

  • Aquanauts (3-5 years old)
  • Explorers (6-8 years old)
  • Voyagers (9-11 years old)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary and is offered for most of your day onboard your ship, whether the cruise is in port or at sea.  From when Adventure Ocean opens until 10pm, there is no additional cost to use Adventure Ocean. From 10pm to 2am, Royal Caribbean offers an after hour option that has an hourly cost for parents that want to let kids stay a bit later.

There's a lot for kids to do here and the programs specialize for each age group.  It's a mix of learning, play time and socializing.  

Kids are checked in and out by parents and it's fully supervised by Royal Caribbean staff. The requirement for children to participate is to be at least 3 years old and be fully potty trained.  There are after hours programs offered as well in Adventure Ocean for an hourly fee if parents want their kids to have supervision later into the evening.

On sea days, Adventure Ocean is typically open

  • 9am - noon
  • 2pm - 5pm
  • 7pm - 10pm

On port days, Adventure Ocean is open for the entire duration your Royal Caribbean ship is in port.  Once the ship leaves port, it resumes the normal schedule described in sea days.

In addition, Royal Caribbean will open Adventure Ocean early enough for guests booked on Royal Caribbean shore excursions to drop children off.  Check with the staff on exact times.

Tweens and Teens

Tweens and teens have their own programming on Royal Caribbean ships. Just like the younger children, there is crew member supervision, but the activities are designed to be more open and less restrictive to the kids. Royal Caribbean built the teen programs to be about empowering teens to do their own thing but still offer activities and fun events to help introduce everyone.

There are teen-only spots onboard the ship where they can come and go as they please. Each day there are teen only events planned in the Cruise Planner, where teens can have dedicated time to enjoy special activities. Royal Caribbean ships are known for their amazing features, like ice skating rinks, surf simulators, bumper cars, and more, so teens will have opportunities to enjoy these activities exclusively.

Sample Activities by Age Group

If you want to get an idea of the kind of activities offered by Adventure Ocean, here is a sampling from previous cruises.  This list is not indicative of everything offered by Royal Caribbean, nor is it a guarantee that it will be offered on your sailing.  It is merely an example of the sort of programming available in the past.

Aquanauts (3 - 5 years)

  • Finger Painting
  • Camp Aquanaut
  • Building Blocks
  • Play dough sculptures
  • Music Activities
  • Dot Dancing
  • Games – animal, color and shape BINGO 

Explorers (6 - 8 years)

  • Pirate Night
  • Backstage Tour
  • Nutty Nicknames
  • Carnival Night
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Wide World of Sports Night
  • Autograph Hunts 

Voyagers (9 - 11 years)

  • Karaoke
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Adventure Challenge
  • GaGa Ball
  • H20 Thunder Races
  • List-o-Rama
  • The Art Walk 

Navigators (12 - 14 years)

  • Sports Tournaments
  • Pool Parties
  • College Night
  • Challenge Series
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Karaoke
  • Disco Dancing
  • Video Games 

Teens (15 - 17 years)

  • Dancing
  • Pool Parties
  • DJ Training
  • Battle of the Sexes
  • Karaoke
  • Coffee Talk
  • Talent Show
  • Formal Night
  • Survivor Series 

Cruise pricing for kids

A common question is if kids are charged the same as adults on Royal Caribbean, or if there is a cost to bring infants onboard.  

Like most of the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean charges all of its guests the same regardless of age. Cruise line pricing is based on double occupancy in a stateroom, and this has to do with the pricing model the cruise industry relies on to be profitable.

If your children will be the third or fourth (or more) passengers in the same room as two adults, their cruise fare is usually far less than the first two adults.  Occasionally, Royal Caribbean offers discounts on third and fourth passengers, as well as Kids Sail Free deals.  Be sure to consult your travel agent for guidance on taking advantage of these deals when they are available.

Staterooms

Most families book a single stateroom for their family during the cruise.  Royal Caribbean has staterooms that can accommodate three and four passengers easily, along with some stateroom configurations that can handle even more guests.

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has begun offering family staterooms, which provide extra space and are designed to handle families of five or six passengers.  If you need more space, some suites can handle even more guests.

Depending on your family size, age of your children, and your comfort level, booking multiple staterooms can often be the same or cheaper than booking a large room.  Multiple rooms provides not only additional living space, but extra restrooms and separation from parents and children. Royal Caribbean does offer some rooms with a connecting inside door between rooms.  

If you need a crib, Royal Caribbean can provide a pack 'n play upon request.  You can request this prior to your cruise by contacting Royal Caribbean or your travel agent, however, you can still get one once onboard the ship.

Speaking of toddlers and young children, you will need to bring your own supply of diapers, bottles, and other supplies.  Royal Caribbean provides milk to all guests without an additional charge (skim or regular).  Some parents prefer to bring their own kid-friendly snacks and food, which is permissible by Royal Caribbean. Refer to our Taking an Infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise article for more information.

Kids activities on Royal Caribbean beyond Adventure Ocean

There's lots going on onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise regardless of if your kids are in the kids club or not.  There are pools and even dedicated pool and splash areas on select ships.  Known as the H2O Zone or Splashaway Bay, these areas offer water spouts, slides, colorful decorations and lots of areas to get soaked and the perfect place for kids to run around.

Speaking of fun in the water, Royal Caribbean has begun offering water slides on some of its cruise ships.  Water slides are open to all guests, provided they are tall enough to enjoy the slides safely. We do not have to describe the virtues of water slides, but families with older children may want to ensure they book a cruise that offers water slides.

Oasis, Quantum, and select Freedom and Voyager Class cruise ships offer the DreamWorks Experience, which incorporates the DreamWorks film characters into meet-n-greets, parades and character breakfasts.

Each day of your cruise, the Cruise Director's staff offers many family-friendly activities in the Cruise Compass. Families can join in trivia, scavenger hunts, tournaments on the sports deck, pool games and more. 

The signature activities on many Royal Caribbean ships is also open to children, such as mini-golf, the FlowRider, the rock climbing wall, ice skating and more.

Eating with kids on Royal Caribbean

Every parent knows that dining out with their kids is an adventure that can never be predicted.  Luckily, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of culinary choices that are sure to appeal to all palates.  Whether your child is a pizza and chicken fingers kind of kid, or enjoys the finer foods in life, there is lots available.

The main dining room has a special menu just for kids (adults can order off of it too), which has plenty of kid-friendly fare.  This includes pasta, hot dogs, burgers, mac and cheese, and more.  Of course, kids are free to order off the regular menu too. 

The dining room staff is usually very accommodating to families, and can work with parents to find something that their child will eat.  On past cruises, we have had instances where the waiters went to other restaurants onboard the ship to bring our kids a food not offered in the dining room.  That level of service is what makes dining (and cruising) with kids on Royal Caribbean such a pleasure.

My Family Time Dining

There is a special dinner option in the main dining room known as My Family Time Dining, which is offered for the first seating time in the main dining room, for children ages three to 11.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Prior to the cruise, you can can contact Royal Caribbean or travel agent to book it. Alternatively, guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­-cruise reservations are encouraged.

Windjammer

The holy grail of kid friendly dining is the Windjammer, which is Royal Caribbean's buffet style restaurant.  Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, it offers the greatest variety of food that includes many different types of food.  

Most importantly, there is lots of ice cream available on Royal Caribbean! In fact, there is usually a self-serve ice cream station conveniently located near the pool for anyone to enjoy throughout the day.

Specialty Dining

If you want to take your children with you to a specialty restaurant, they are more than welcome to eat there as well.  Kids ages 6-12 can dine at specialty restaurants for a $10 cover charge. Kids 5 years old and under eat free.

Kids 5-12 have a modified adult menu,which is a round-up of kid-friendly favorites from the regular menu. Kids under 5 are free and have a kiddies menu similar to the kids menu in the main dining room. Some restaurants do not have kids menus and so kids order off the regular menu.

Royal Caribbean specifies restaurants such as Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, 150 Central Park, and Chef's Table do not have kids menus, as those experiences are better suited for guests age 13 and older.

More cruising with kids info

You may have additional questions about cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean, or simply would like to learn more tips and advice.  Here are some good resources to consider:

Your thoughts

Now that you have read over our guide to taking kids on Royal Caribbean, let's hear from other parents. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

First time cruisers: What to know before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
03Jan2018

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a fantastic family vacation choice, but before you book, you should arm yourself with some knowledge to ensure your cruise is terrific.  The saying "you don't know what you don't know" is certainly true when it comes to cruising.  First time cruisers make a lot of mistakes and there are many things that are simply impossible to know until you go.

With that in mind, we have written this guide with some important things that first time cruisers ought to know before they actually book a cruise.  There is plenty of planning to be done after booking a cruise, but here are some good things to consider prior to picking a ship and sailing.

Use a travel agent

Whether this is your first cruise, or you have cruised a ton, I always recommend using a travel agent.  Simply put, travel agents work to make your vacation planning easier on you and they are paid by the cruise line (not you) for your business. You literally have nothing to lose by using a travel agent.

For first time cruisers, a good travel agent is a great resource of information on Royal Caribbean in general.  Moreover, they can answer the kind of personal questions that no blog can ever tackle.  Often, many first time cruisers have questions about their particular circumstances, and a good travel agent can leverage their own experience to provide the right answer for you.

In addition, travel agents are knowledgeable about the many discounts and offers available by Royal Caribbean. If there are pricing questions, or changes to be made to the reservation, they are the ones that call Royal Caribbean and sort out the details for you.  That frees you up to do something far more interesting and fun.  Essentially, a travel agent is your advocate for any concerns you may have, including when you are on the ship.  All too often, new cruisers try to do it themselves because they can, and it leads to time and effort that could have been saved by using a travel agent.

When considering which travel agent to use, ensure you pick one that is deeply knowledgeable about Royal Caribbean, and does not charge any fees to you for changes.  Talk to them before even committing to book with them and ask questions about their experience and level of service they provide so you can feel comfortable in how they will work with you.

Try to learn the lingo

If you have not been on a cruise before, you may quickly run across terms, options, and phrases that are unfamiliar to you.  Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Thankfully, we have taken precautions to help you adjust to a Royal Caribbean cruise in advance.  Our Royal Caribbean cruise ship term glossary will break down everything from Adventure Ocean to WOWband so that you understand everything in the cruise planning process.

Compare ship features

Royal Caribbean has 24 ships in its fleet, and while they share a core experience across them all, the ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet vary from class of ships and even between individual vessels.  This means, you need to be aware of what each ship offers, and which features each ship you are considering has and if it is important to you.

In short, Royal Caribbean breaks up its many ships into classes.  Ship classes are groupings of ships that share a common structure and layout.  Think of ship classes like types of cars: you have pickup trucks, sedans, minivans, etc.  Within each type of cars, you then have individual car models.  That is fairly similar to how Royal Caribbean categorizes its ships.

In addition to just size and tonnage, each ship class tends to include similar entertainment, activities and onboard amenities.  What you want to do is think about which features you want on your cruise ship, and then see if that class has what you want.  If water slides are important, then Oasis or Freedom Class ships would be a good pick.  If you want a nursery, then skip Majesty of the Seas.   Again, a good travel agent can greatly assist with narrowing down the choices for you.

You should also be aware that while ships within each class are similar, Royal Caribbean has added new features to some ships over the years that have differentiated them more than in the past.  Basically, do not assume one ship in the class is identical to another ship in the class (especially on the newer ships).

Book as early as you can

A very common question before you book a cruise is, "when is the best time to book a Royal Caribbean cruise" or "when should I book my Royal Caribbean cruise."  The simple answer is: as early as you can.

For years Royal Caribbean has urged its customers to book early. It is a mantra that used to be simply marketing, but these days, is absolute gospel. 

The best prices for cruises on Royal Caribbean are when the cruise line first starts taking bookings. Prices tend to rise as you get closer and closer to your sailing date, so waiting to book can actually cost you more money.

Why does the price increase as you get closer to the sail date? For one, it's a matter of supply and demand. The more people that book, the less supply there is and therefore, the price rises. In addition, Royal Caribbean wants people to book early so it can fill up their ships and by giving early birds financial incentive to book early, it helps Royal Caribbean accomplish that goal. These days, Royal Caribbean cruises are incredibly popular and ships sail full routinely.  So trying to wait for a "deal" is not advisable because it may never actually show up.

Time and time again, the lowest pricing for all sailings comes when they first go on sale.  

The caveat to this tip is you have to be prepared to book a cruise 1-2 years in advance.  For a lot of folks, that is not very practical since work and school calendars are rarely published that early.

Your best bet is to book something with just a deposit and have the flexibility to change it later.  Even if you book only 7 or 8 months in advance, that is still better than trying to book 4-5 months in advance.

Check airfare prices

Odds are that you may not live close enough to be able to drive to the cruise you will eventually book, so that means you will need to book a flight to get there.  Before booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, consider airfare costs because that may make or break your cruise plans.

Airfare prices are anything but predictable, so you will want to start looking into flight options to ensure the best possible price. Just like cruise fares, the best prices for airfare seem to favor those that book well in advance.

What you want to do is when considering different cruise choices, check on airfare for each cruise to ensure you are not picking a great sailing that will come with an expensive or impractical flight choice.

Be sure to also consider nearby airports that could save you a lot of money. As an example, if your cruise leaves from Port Everglades in Florida, nearby airports of Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach are close enough to be an easy car ride over, especially if that helps bring your total airfare price down.

Read an old Cruise Compass

When trying to pick the right ship and sailing for you, you will likely have questions about what there is to do onboard.  In fact, the available activities may play a major role in which ship you end up booking. 

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

Are you looking to book a cruise and have a question or concern?  Have you taken many cruises and want to share something you wish you have known before your first cruise? Share what is on your mind in our comments!

Pages